A Crone for Christmas

Or, if you like, an Old Seer for the New Year.

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This Yuletide I was mostly drawing Vikings for Janina Ramirez, who has written her first children’s book. You can find out what Janina normally gets up to here.

The deadline was particularly aggressive, so I took the chance to experiment with what I like to call my ‘rough’ style, which is supposed to be speedier than usual. The idea is to do quick, minimal line drawings and let the diluted indian ink do most of the work. Sometimes this worked out; for example the smokey atmosphere around the Crone was done in one watery daub, and likewise below, the crashing waves. Unfortunately I had to spend a lot of time fixing things in Photoshop when I’d drawn a nose in the wrong place or the tone had bled into places it shouldn’t and various other speed-related horrors.

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Anyway, they’re all finished now – these are just a few of the thirty or so illustrations from Riddle of the Runes (out in May!).

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Mythic Guernsey

About a year ago I started a project for Guernsey Museums. If you’ve not seen any of the finished pieces, go here, here and here as humanly possible.

The Post Office borrowed several paintings and turned them into stamps:

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And next, some photographs of the exhibition itself. I’m told it will be around for ten or twelve years, so do pop in if you are visiting the Channel Islands and tell me how it looks in real life.

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Quiet, please.

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This is a view of the Unseen University Library, which the puzzle-minded of you might enjoy assembling in the form of a jigsaw.

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As you can imagine, there was a monumental amount of work involved in creating the image and packaging, but luckily Ian at the Discworld Emporium has done an in-depth blog post so I don’t have to re-live the horror of it all (I’m fibbing, it was good fun – I’ve done another one since and am currently working on jigsaw no.3 but I’m not allowed to talk about that yet).

Have a read here.

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The photographs of the box are from an early prototype and I’ve yet to see the finished version, but you can get a better idea of what you’re getting yourself into if you check out the Discworld Emporium shop.

Return of the Rabbit

Next month sees the release of Podkin part two, The Gift of Dark Hollow. Here are some of the interior pictures (pencil with some Photoshop improvements). This time I had some help with drawing the main character (who proved a little tricky last time on account of his bandaged-up head) courtesy of Virginia Lee.

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Ghostly Goings-on in Guernsey

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As part of the Guernsey Museum Folklore project I produced a dozen or so pencil drawings. Many feature specific places on the island and the legends that have become attached to them; here are some of the more phantasmic ones…

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That last chap is actually a werewolf, not a ghost. Here’s a spectral goat to make up for it.

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And I did a painting of the same pesky apparition menacing some innocent kelp farmers:

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Pictures for Geoffrey

Geoffrey Bayldon 1924 – 2017

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Along with The Clangers, The television program that captured my young imagination the most was Catweazle (played by Geoffrey Bayldon). Only two series were made, but it was regularly repeated throughout the seventies so it seemed to be on all the time – very handy in those pre-video recorder days.

In 2003 I did some Catweazle drawings for a charity that Geoffrey was involved in (details of which as lost in the mists of time) and I was fortunate to have several long chats with the man himself. I wish I had a record of them as he was charming and full of stories from his long career as an actor.

Still, modern electrickery means Geoffrey lives on – both series are available on DVD

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Fight(s)!

battle1We’re back in the world of Guernsey folklore for this post, featuring epic supernatural battles from medieval times.

Big battle scenes are always complicated – getting a balance between a pleasing, readable image and the chaos of violence requires a fair bit of planning. To add to the difficulty there were loads of historically accurate details to include, such as armour, coats of arms, etc.

The legend tells of a plucky enclave of English islanders who were attacked by elves and thoroughly trounced. It turned out that their attackers were actually French, but the defeated soldiers told everyone they had supernatural powers in an attempt to appear less feeble.

Here’s how the painting developed…

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…from the first scribbled layout, to a tonal rough (which was found to be useless as I did the flags black by mistake – they were supposed to be yellow) to a more finished pencil drawing. Later I had to add a bit more action to the bottom of the picture as it was deficient in the height department.

Once the painting was finished (pen and ink and watercolour), there was a request to alter the French/Elves’ hair to brown. Terrified of making a mess on the actual painting, I did that digitally, as it had a knock-on effect to rest of the image. The tonal balance was thrown out of kilter so I had to darken and lighten other parts to make it work better.

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Next up, a valiant monk sees off a pesky devil…

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On the coast lies a large granite boulder named La Pied au Boef. It has a hoof-shaped hole in it, said to be the last mark left by the devil as he legged it having been giving a severe ticking-off, Christian-style. This was one of the easier pictures in the series to do; the only time I got into difficulty was with the colour. It’s a little hard to see from this jpeg, but the painting is particularly speckly as I used my trusted technique of splattering watercolour using a toothbrush to adjust large parts of the image. I could then lift paint off with a cotton bud to get more contrast in.

Not much in the way of development for this one – I went straight from this first rough to penciling directly onto the board, aided by a handy bit of posing from Jason of England as the devil and me in a bath robe as the monk.

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To finish things off, slightly off-topic, here’s a demonic hound – one of the fifteen pencil drawings I made for the project.

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Le P’tit Colin and Le Grand Colin do Mischief

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Back to Guernsey and a few illustrations of some crafty customers known locally as Le Petit Colin and Le Grand Colin; supernatural creatures that enjoy meddling in the domestic affairs of their human neighbours, much like a Hobgoblin or Boggart.

Here’s the very first thumbnail I did for the above painting, scribbled between the paragraphs of the brief. Unusually, it’s quite close to the final in terms of its basic layout. I wanted to paint the spectral horses look like they were made of the same stuff as the moon, but for some reason I couldn’t make it work so I had to settle for a subtler approach.  Often, what’s in my head (and looks marvellous in there) refuses to plop out onto the paper. This is a very annoying thing to have to put with.

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Next up, an unfortunate householder rescues someone from a storm, only to find it’s a pesky Colin. Once invited in, Le Colin is a tricky guest to extricate…s428kitchen

Next, a rough for the incident at La Longue Roque, a megalithic standing stone that can still be found on the island. Naturally, its particular placement is down to a quarrel between the Colins.

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Lastly, the Colins like nothing better to creep in and steal bread from your furze oven. A furze (or gorse) oven is a small cubby hole in the fireplace, common on the Channel Islands and also here in Devon. They are stuffed full of furze that is sealed in and burnt until the oven is red hot, whereupon the bread (or cake or joint of meat) is slow cooked within. In the following image, Le P’tit Colin has trouble hanging onto the scalding loaf with his thieving hands.15

Disabled Rabbit Storms Book Awards

Thought I’d go for a tabloid-style heading for maximum impact, if you don’t mind.

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Yes, Podkin One-Ear has won the 2017 Blue Peter Book Award. This Thursday, author Kieran Larwood will be on the programme to talk about his creation – you won’t be seeing me accompanying him as I’ve been on telly before and it’s a frightful experience that I’m not after repeating. In my absence, they were quite keen on some kind of representation of me, so I went round to Todd and Carol’s for an impromptu photoshoot – I imagine the results will scare the nippers, so our efforts will probably have been in vain. UK viewers can catch the programme on the BBC iPlayer.

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Besides, I’ve been too busy reading Podkin Book 2 to be galavanting on the media circuit; making lots of (in retrospect) completely unintelligible scribbles that I assume will have some relevance at some point…

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The triumphant book is out in paperback very soon here, or, one would hope, your local high street bookshop.

Suicidal Faerie Squad

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Since December I’ve been working on a pile of illustrations based on the folklore of Guernsey. Here’s a cheery little tale called Lé Gibet des Faies.

All the paintings are in the style of my Mythic Village pictures – pen and ink and watercolour (with assistance from Prismacolor pencils when things get out of control).

Unusually, I didn’t make a colour rough before commencing any of the pictures, just the usual tonal pencil/Photoshop preparations.df

That’s not to say I didn’t think very hard about the colours I wanted to use – so much so I had quite a strong mental polaroid* of what I was aiming for before I started flinging paint about. Several of the other pictures involve various nocturnal shenanigans so it was important they didn’t look too similar colour-wise.

Along with eight paintings, I’ve made thirteen pencil drawings. I had already conceived the central characters to this tale (there’s a little bit of a homage to Susanna Clarke in the depiction of the ‘Gentleman’ with his thistledown hair). The client wasn’t happy with the original elaborate hairstyle of his companion, but it wasn’t too difficult to re-style her. I love working in pencil – it really is the least stressful of mediums (assuming your eraser hasn’t been eaten by a dog).

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Here’s the altered version:

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Currently I have two more paintings to do, plus a little bit of last-minute fiddling on the ones that are supposedly finished. I hope to show a few more of them in the near future; meanwhile, here are some of the paintings from a distance…

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*Mental Polaroid – good name for a band?