Green Hill Arts in Moretonhampstead has been rounding up some dreams and wishes to share with you throughout July and August. Mythic art by Alan Lee, Brian and Wendy Froud, Virginia Lee, Marja Lee, Pauline Lee, Paul Kidby, Hazel Brown, Neil Wilkinson-Cave, Danielle Barlow, Terri Windling, Angharad Barlow, Rima Staines (and me).
Terri (who sprinkled her bag of quotes most effectively over the proceedings) has more pictures here.
What an unimaginable honour to be included in such an excellent line-up. Again!
Roughly the same time I was working on Podkin (see last blog instalment), another interesting job turned up from Bloomsbury Books. As my plan of easing back into illustration by mostly drawing trees seemed to work well with rabbit-based adventures, I decided to apply the same wheeze for the first few pictures of this compendium of mythical beasts.
Here’s the first little rough for a Harpy family portrait – it has a swoopy liveliness that didn’t make it to the final picture.
As the image developed, it took on a late-Victorian aspect, which is surprising as the initial inspiration was from a William Blake painting. He had illustrated a scene from Dante’s Inferno, showing the Harpies roosting in the forest of suicides. I did a further rough that had the trees all twisty and writhing like tormented bodies, but I scared myself with that so it probably wouldn’t have been suitable for the nippers. Gustave Doré also had a crack at a similar scene.
Last of the overtly tree-based images: a lovely werewolf caught mid transformation. For absolutely no reason other than I found it amusing, I made him a Hussar. There isn’t any mention of it in the brief; in retrospect I think I must have been channeling the film A Company of Wolves which features a fine lycanthropic gentleman with a similar outfit. It probably would have been more fun to get hold of the film and use the exact same uniform, but I can’t think of everything, unfortunately.
I have completed several more pictures for the book, but these ones fit my tree narrative better so I’ll stick with these for the time being. Kev Walker is also working on the project (we are linked in that we have both worked for 2000AD at some point); it is due out in October.
Lastly, if you are in Dartmoor this summer you could do worse than visit Widdershins 2016, which is the sequel to Widdershins from a couple of years ago. I blogged about it at the time, here. The exhibition is being put together as I type so I’ve yet to see it, but I’m fairly sure it’s the same artists but with different artwork. Unless you’ve been in my kitchen, you certainly won’t have seen the originals of the six Local Characters that I’m displaying.
About a year ago I decided to have a spell of time away from illustration, as I suddenly had the feeling I might prefer to eat my own kidneys than ever draw another picture. I had been doing it for quite a while, so I suppose a change was long overdue. I’m happy to say I didn’t spend the days lolling about in a dressing gown watching television (luckily I own neither), although now I’ve typed that, I find the idea disturbingly attractive. I may do that next time. But as it turns out, not earning money is rather inconvenient if you want to eat, replace shoes, fix broken windows, etc.
Luckily, a pleasant job popped up courtesy of writer Kieran Larwood. The publishers were keen on using double page spreads for the illustrations, which meant I could get my teeth into some tasty environments. I was still a bit fragile in the visual image department; the only subjects I could contemplate drawing without utter despair were trees, so the first few pictures were basically woods with little figures in them somewhere. Gradually I could ease myself out of my twig-based comfort zone and attempt some rabbit-on-rabbit action. To make life even more bearable, I was allowed to use pencil, which was scanned and beefed-up with a spot of Photoshop craftiness. Here are a few of the pictures…
The book is called Podkin One Ear, published by Faber & Faber in October.
Coming soon to this blog: A Miscellany of Mythical Beasts, in which I do some paintings of trees that happen to have mythical beasts in them, and What I Did During My Year Off.