Over the past few years I’ve been pecking away at a series of works I’m collectively calling The Devil Tree. Some of these might be familiar—at least two have been offered as prints, and another was reproduced in my Darkling Lands 1 booklet. The picture below is a collection of these works. All of them are done in ink, with dip pen, brush or both. There are a couple of larger works associated with this project, which aren’t shown here. Once I hit a critical mass of images, maybe 20 or so, I plan to produce a kind of free form graphic novel. Free form in the sense that there is no over-arching narrative. Instead, the works are intended to evoke rather than instruct. I believe that physically collecting them together will create a unified experience. Anyhow, that is a while off, so I thought it would be fun to lay them out to show what I have so far. Hope you enjoy them.
For those who might be interested, this was a good week for the novel in progress. I wrote through a major part of the story and this coming week I hope to write the climax. Someday I’ll write a listicle of the myriad tricks I employ to keep multiple projects going at the same time.
One of the things that has kept me motivated in the studio is music. Always music. Right now I am loving The Insects, Loscil, Ben Lukas Boysen and Lingua Ignota.
After studio hours this week I’ve been rewarding myself with a drip feed of Devs by director Alex Garland. Not for everyone, but I love the stark tech and the surrealism of this series. Even makes me love teal again.
This past week was filled with drawing, writing, reading, torrential rain, flooded libraries—not mine—and patches of sun. Some of these things are related. I’m calling this post Little Summer, because so many small wonders seem to come our way during Ontario’s short pause in what can seem like an endless winter. Here’s one.
While I was admiring the pattern on the shell, a cicada landed beside my foot at interstellar velocity—though she seemed no worse for it. Here she is.
Earlier in the week, I was standing under one of my crab apple trees when I happened to notice one of the branches was acting strangely. It turned out to be a stick caterpillar. I’ve been in this house for 30 years and have never seen one before. It’s nice the place still has a few surprises. Can you see it?
But, other than bothering the denizens of the micro-kingdom, I have been pouring it on to get my illustrations done for my novel TAILOR OF ECHOES. Here is one that is currently on the table. As you can see, it’s pretty on brand. I can’t wait to share the finished book, to be published by PS Publications.
Finally, this weekend I had cause to dig through some old photographs and came across this promotional image for the Russian translation of my novel Necessary Monsters.
Okay, enough show and tell for this week. Check back next Sunday for another post. In the meantime, don’t forget to look down. You just might find some treasure.
Another busy week in another weird summer. My new novel finally reached the point where the main character is calling the shots. If you write fiction, you know that this is the magical moment. It’s certainly the point I wait for with great anticipation, when I start keeping a Moleskine near the shower and fill my phone’s note app with cryptic comments like Does M have any residual fear of trains!!? It’s also the point where my family does a check in to see if I’m still breathing or just THINKING ABOUT THE NOVEL.
I reached 57K words this week, a little better than half way by my estimation. It’s less like a first draft than one of those progressive digital images that gradually comes into focus. I’ve been back over those 57K words quite a few times as I refined the story. For this new project I am writing a female protagonist. I really enjoyed the challenge of writing female characters in my other novels, and this particular piece called for a certain voice. I’m working hard to avoid the tropes to create a truly unique and believable character. So, the book is progressing well and plot things are layering in quite nicely. Oh, and I finally got a haircut.
This week I also finished a new illustration for my “Big Illustration Project”—sorry, can’t share yet. I’m creating these illustrations with a combination graphite, carbon and charcoal. Tools of choice are Blackwing 602s, and Pearls, Wolff’s carbon and Generals charcoal. All of them are a complete headache to keep a point on! I think I spend as much time sharpening as I do shading. No matter, every technique has its challenges and the results in this case are interesting indeed. Using the Blackwings for the light and medium values and the Wolff’s and Generals for those areas where I really need to lay in the darks.
August is going to be busy AF. I need to turn in my illustrations for my last novel THE TAILOR OF ECHOES to PS Publications by the end of August. Those illustrations will be inked.
In lieu of an image from the Big Illustration Project, here is an older drawing I did with the Wolffs, called Nightdress.
Among other things, I’ve been working away at a new fantasy novel. Looking back, it appears I started it in 2018. Lately I’ve taken it up in a more focused way. The first draft is now sitting at about 30 thousand words, which means I have quite a bit more bridge to build. With this one I decided to do something I’ve never done before, work on text and image simultaneously, letting one inform the other to create something that wouldn’t have appeared otherwise. This is a bit dangerous, as anyone who has written a novel knows they tend to change from one draft to the next, sometimes quite dramatically. But, I am prepared to create some drawings that may, or may not, make final cut, in exchange for the energy they inject into the process. I’ll share a few here as I go along, using the tag “newthing”. Here is the first image, and having said what I said above, I think he’s a keeper.
I’m a couple of days late with this week’s post. Most of the past week was spent marshaling supplies needed for a couple of big illustration jobs, making sketches and basically getting into the creative headspace needed to immerse myself in a multi-month task. I’ve also been in the workshop assembling strip frames for my 8×8 oils, varnishing and trying not to amputate any essential digits. At some point in there I cleaned up the digital file of the Harbinger drawing so that it is ready for the printer in January.
This week I’ll get going on the aforementioned illustrations, and start a couple more of the 8 inch oils. I have an idea for another large ink, so I may spend some time on that as well.
On the writing front, I am almost finished working through the copy edit of Tailor of Echoes. My morning writing project (new novel) is making progress as well. I’ve edited everything I’d written earlier in the year, and now I’m producing new text. It’s very motivating to see that word count climbing.
Currently reading the Quincunx by Charles Palliser and listening to Cluster. If you haven’t seen the Brian Eno documentary called Man Who Fell to Earth, – an odd title given its association with Bowie – it’s on Amazon Prime. I stumbled on it a couple of days ago and it reminded me of a ton of amazing music I’d all but forgotten about.
It’s been a busy week. I’ve been working steadily on Harbinger (see previous post), and on this series of oils (below). These are rough and ready iPhone images off my drawing table and once they are properly finished I’ll put some better shots on my website. Birds and flight seem to be the central theme. I hope you like these in-progress views. I’m really enjoying interspersing my other work with these color pieces. The largest, Cardinal, was actually started the summer of 2019 and had to sit in the studio for a while while I attended to other things. It’s great to finally get back to it. These works will be available for purchase once they are finished, dried and varnished.
Late this week I received the copy edit of Tailor of Echoes from PS Publishing. It doesn’t look too onerous, so I’ll be working though that in the coming weeks, as I also begin work on the illustrations. Progress on the new novel is slow but steady. I have a great sense of my protagonist and the story is unfolding nicely.
What else, oh yes, this week I need to get back to my book blog Amnesiac’s Library. It has been badly overlooked in the past few weeks.
Finally, if you aren’t listening to The Dark Art Podcast, hosted by Chet Zar, get on it. I’ve been listening to some of the recent interviews while I work in the studio. The most recent is Chet’s interview with Kris Kuksi! I had the pleasure of showing with Kris a number of years ago when we were both with Strychnin Gallery in Berlin. Kris’s interview is fascinating. The interviews with David Stoupakis, Matt Levin, Erwin Tschofen, Cris Velasco, Dos Diablos and EGO are also highly recommended.
Truly, finally, if you have a few minutes, please check out my studio sale on Big Cartel. If you use the code ECHO on checkout, you can get a 20% discount on your order.
For the past few weeks I’ve been working on this large drawing called Harbinger (24″ x 18″). Check out the images below. I’m rendering with Pigma Micron 005 pens on 140lb Arches hotpress. I haven’t done a lot of finished work with Microns, so I wanted to give them a real workout to see what they could do. I still have a way to go, but generally speaking I really like these markers on the smooth Arches paper. I don’t think they could replace my trusty Rapidograph pens, but they do permit things the Rapidographs will not, like brushing the pigment onto the paper as the tips deplete, which is kind of interesting, so I’ll definitely use them again. My plan is to offer this piece as a giclee print, in the new year.
In other updates, I am just starting work on the illustrations for Tailor of Echoes, my forthcoming fantasy novel, from PS Publications in the new year. Really excited to start on this project. The novel is currently being copy edited. I also have another book illustration project, a “big” book, but I can’t talk about that yet, so I’ll just vaguepost for now. I’m also making good daily progress on the first draft of a new novel. 28K words in. It’s a healthy start and I hope to get a first draft over the winter.
Finally, Atropa (below) is still available from Copro Gallery. I think the show Roadside Attractions IV (curated by Cris Velasco) is probably over now, but if you are interested in this piece, please reach out to the gallery. I’d also like to thank Erica from that gallery and Cris, who rescued this piece when it went astray on route. You guys are the best!
And it’s snowing, while the Jack O’ Lanterns are still rotting on my porch.
One might be forgiven for thinking this piece a surrealist response to Aubrey Beardsley’s illustration, The Examination of the Herald from Lysistrata, but it is in fact a meditation on vision (see previous posts). I hope you have enjoyed watching this process. This work is available for purchase. Please message me with any questions.