Imp Interuptus

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Work on the Tale of the Crippled Imp had to be set aside recently as a number of jobs needed attention. I haven’t decided whether being interrupted on a big project is for the greater good, or a pain in the fundament. On the one hand, it’s good to step away for a while and return with a clearer eye, on the other hand it rather damages the flow of things. Certainly my right hand is grateful for the rest, as the method I’ve chosen to execute the Imp with is physically demanding – I have to press quite hard with the pencil to achieve a nice clean line for scanning and it can result in achey knuckles.

Achey Knuckles – good name for a dodgy East-End character?

Achey doesn’t appear in the latest Ben Kingdom book (a detail of the cover appears above), but there are plenty of other interesting protagonists with cool sounding names. As well as the cover, I’ve just finished some illustrations for the inside. The world of Ben Kingdom is set in Victorian times, infused with a heady aroma of Steampunk (it’s not about cooking so that little metaphor is rather redundant), so I like to revisit my Larklight style of old. This pen and ink technique conjures up the feel of old etchings, but is primarily borrowed from Franklin Booth, an American illustrator from the early 20th century. It was also used to great effect by Berni Wrightson in his amazing version of Frankenstein made in the seventies.

Here’s a picture from the previous Ben Kingdom book, the Feast of Ravens by Andrew Beasley:

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I also squeezed in a couple of book covers, Nightmares and Magic Park 2:

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And a map for the Spook’s Apprentice series, featuring the county of Lancashire. I used an old John Speed map from the 17th century as a guide; it was interesting to see which place names had changed. For example Liverpool was called Lerpool. I’m not sure when the ‘Liver’ bit was added. See? Children’s book illustration can be educational as well as fun!

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Smatterings

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It’s been a peripatetic kind of month, both with living arrangements and work, so there’s a lot to get through.

First up, The Forbidden Library debacle. Every now and then, a book cover just doesn’t work out; despite every effort. I had to abandon the project in the end as I needed to get on with the Crooked Imp, but luckily the publishers weren’t too disgusted with my failure and let me do some illustrations for the inside (hence the girl in the library above – more books! I can’t get enough of them…). Here are some of the roughs for the cover:

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Then it was back to Oxford, where the landscape had changed somewhat since my last visit.

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These are the same willows as in my previous post; a couple of days after this was taken the tow path was completely submerged which curtailed my walks somewhat. I quite enjoyed watching surprised looking Coots and Grebes plop into the water only to zoom off down the river, which had become a fast flowing lake/bird motorway.

Coots and Grebe. Sounds like a firm of solicitors from a Dickens novel.

Like the Thames, Alfie the cat had expanded too.

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Luckily he still had kittenish tendencies and was a fun, if occasionally psychotic, companion.

People often ask me advice about how to become an illustrator, or how to draw, etc. My usual answer is to demand they draw a lot, especially from life; it really helps develop the artist’s powers of observation. Do I follow my own advice? Do I heck.

But I did do a little sketch in the Sheldonian Theatre whilst waiting for the Elias Quartet to show up and swathe me in lovely music…

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Not a particularly interesting image, but it meant I had a really good look around and absorbed things into my visual memory that would normally slip away very quickly. Having said that, I’m not sure if a host of golden cupids parping away on trumpets will be particularly useful in the future, but you get the idea…

When sketching in these situations, I always think to myself I should make more of a habit of it so I feel less of a hypocrite when I suggest others should do likewise. The evidence of my slackness is manifest in my sketchbook – here is the last picture I did in situ, which was at least 3 years ago, I think.

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Meanwhile, The Crooked Imp progresses (hobbles?) further to completion. I’ve just finished page 34, and begun some promotional bits and bobs.

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To avoid spoilers (and the fact I want people to actually buy it) I can’t show too much in the way of finished pages, but here’s one (minus speech balloons) featuring the Jellicoe gang in their hideout… 

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