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wormwood rides again

Started by marc_chagall, December 02, 2011, 03:45:05 AM

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'wormwood, earth and honey' is being e-booked. The poems have been subjected to mostly very minor tweaks (to remove punctuational peculiarities and a small number of wince-making phrases) so it's still fundamentally the same book. Now the hard work begins. This is to be an illustrated version. My view is that people's eyes light up when you tell them something has got pictures in it. I've tested the water on facebook and twitter and received very encouraging responses. Even people who already have the paperback have said they'll buy an e-version with pics.

All I have to do is draw the pictures.

This is going to be a sort of mini-blog in which I chart my progress.

Step one: I have decided on materials. I'm working grey scale with high contrast, so will be almost certainly using charcoal and black fine-liner on gessoed paper. I've done this before, and it works.

Step two: the paper I have in stock is too big so I will need to cut it right down, partly for ease of scanning, and partly because a small picture is generally quicker to do than a large picture. Also, as far as illustrating is concerned, if the illustration is done in the first place not much bigger than it will appear in the e-book then it's far easier for the illustrator to get it to look 'right'.

Step three: decide which poems to illustrate. They will need to be spread throughout the anthology rather than be all in one section, obviously, as I don't want to muck around with the order of the poems.

Step four: make some porridge. It's cold today. I need fuel before I do anything else.


".....some like it in the pot - nine days old"

go for it, delf!!!!!!
if there is anything i can help with -- i am one 'klik' away



Thanks Daniel!

If you could do me two dozen illustrations in precisely my style, that would be helpful. Would mean I could spend the afternoon watching the telly.

Okay, maybe not...

Now I MUST switch off the computer and get drawing. Only done three so far. Loads more to do. The publisher wants them yesterday, but the publisher's techie says I have at least three weeks as far as he's concerned, if not longer. I do, however, need to get them done before the solstice as I have various offspring arriving from various parts of the world, and once they're all here I won't be able to get anything done (other than endless cooking).



Sounds like an interesting project, Delph -- good luck with it :afro:
Planning is an unnatural process - it is much more fun to do something.  The nicest thing about not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise, rather than being preceded by a period of worry and depression. [Sir John Harvey-Jones]


Quote from: LashSlash on December 04, 2011, 11:56:47 AM
i can sharpen pencils

Excellent! I'm using a charcoal pencil which requires frequent sharpening.

And thanks Ed. I'm having fun with this one.


Progress report on the 'wormwood' illustrations: I started at the beginning. The first poem is called 'the stones of the barn'. I took a photo of a stone barn near Muker in the Yorkshire Dales a couple of years ago, so I fished it out, and made a drawing from it. Simple. Would everything else prove that straight forward? Of course not. I fast-forwarded through the collection to 'jasmine'. Tried to draw some jasmine. Failed. Tried again. Failed again. Swore under my breath. Broke the point off the charcoal pencil. Sharpened it. Broke it again. Swore again. Jammed the sharpener. You get the idea.

Moved on to 'little piggies'. When I was about ten, I took a photo (transparency, not print) of some piglets. A year or so ago I possessed a bells and whistles scanner which was able to scan transparencies. It since gave up, as these machines are wont to do, but luckily I'd scanned the photo of the little piggies, and was able to use that as a source for the drawing. Success!

'over the sea to annan' was based on a true story of a herd of cows swimming the Solway Firth. I googled the story, and was able to find a photograph of the original herd. The photo was extremely low resolution, but at least it showed me what sort of cows they were, and enabled me to hunt around my own stock for cow photos. I made up a Solway Firthish background. Good. On a roll now.

Or not. Several more failures followed, though also some success with a drawing of a grass snake for 'summer's end' and an iguana for 'iguana'. Polperro was also straight forward enough. For 'sibling rivalry', I thought about drawing a mouse, but instead drew a molecule of buckminsterfullerene. Anyone who understands the poem will see why. Anyone who doesn't, will be as puzzled as the boy in the poem, so it works on both levels.

'Mary' was an easy one to illustrate. The poem was inspired by visits to Gibside, so I used one of my many photos of the place for source material. Anyone who's read my early novel 'The Sand in the Painting' will recognise Gibside as a key location. I tend to do this; to find a place that inspires me and use it in novels, short stories, poems, artwork - anything. Similarly, the last poem in the collection, 'summer's end', is a summary of the themes of my novel 'Small Poisons'. Never let a good idea go to waste.

So, on to the next set. It's often tricky to know how to illustrate poems. The images are all in the words, so an illustration might lead the reading too strongly; might set the reader on a particular path and prevent them from seeing other possibilities. That can't be helped. The astute reader might look at some of the pictures and say: 'No, that's completely wrong for that poem.' I hope some of them do. If I'm going to be literal, then I need to illustrate 'Tom doesn't see' with a Constable's 'The Haywain'. Now there's a challenge. Will I, won't I? Not sure. Will report back in due course.


Pictures update.

Yes, I decided the only way to illustrate a poem about Constable's 'The Haywain' was by doing a picture of Constable's 'The Haywain', the only question being how to reduce a massive painted masterpiece to a sketch a couple of inches across with the wrong proportions. I am no Constable, but armed with a blunt charcoal pencil and a scrap of gessoed paper, I went for it, and the end result is something that has vague similarities to what Constable might have done as a thumbnail sketch on a distinctly 'off' day. Not to worry. I think it's recognisably based on the same scene.

After that, I went on to some easier ones. 'white noise' was illustrated by a rosebud. 'south of the border' was simple enough once I'd decided the border in question could be Mexico, so all I needed was a tall cactus and a desiccated landscape. 'channel hopping' is a complex poem full of images, so I picked the easiest - Paris - and drew the Eiffel Tower. Iconic buildings can be useful.

Some were not so obvious. I fancied drawing Charon the ferryman for 'unto death' but in the end went for some bilberries. 'the burning of ice' could have been impossible (how do you draw burning ice?) so I drew a well-endowed white bull instead. (It makes sense if you read the poem.)

Some could only have one possible illustration. 'truth and lies' had to have a picture of Red Square as far as I'm concerned, though some readers may wonder why. The piece of railway graffiti that I used for 'close at hand' was the only possible illustration. People who used to travel from Paddington Station down to the West Country before the graffiti was removed will understand. 'the diver' was a bit of a cheat, as the image has already been used for some cover art, but I reckon plagiarising oneself is fair enough.

And 'the ballad of shane and mavis' could only be erik the snail, though making him look ten feet tall proved impossible.

Nineteen illustrations drawn so far. I reckon another half dozen will do the trick, so I'll return to this after the weekend.


a tall cactus and a desiccated landscape......isnt that somebody's lobe....?


And finally...

The beetle's tale is about the fate of a fritillary butterfly. Just as I was about to illustrate this one, the latest edition of 'Wildlife Durham' (the journal of the Durham Wildlife Trust) dropped through the door - complete with an article on fritillaries, which was handy. (My spell checker is insisting that I mean similarities, familiarities, polarities or modalities. I'm ignoring my spell checker.)

The first of the five autumn haiku is about frosted sunflowers. There's only one place to go for inspiration on how to do sunflowers. Thank you Vincent!

There's also a standalone haiku about a blackbird pulling a worm from the soil. My back yard has permanent blackbird visitors so these are birds I know visually very well, which is handy.

Crescent moon could have been a very gory illustration, but working on the principle that it's better so suggest things than to be blatant, I drew a hedgehog. These are not the easiest of creatures to get right, what with all those spines and a somewhat blobby shape, so I concentrated on its face and hinted at the rest.

Dogs might fly, and indeed do (in the poem). The paragliding pup was fun to draw, even though I fear the confines of the space available meant the perspective was necessarily awry, and the poor pup would be bound to fall from the sky.

With the giant puffball, I was back to the problem of amorphous blogs, but what can you do? I drew an amorphous blob, surrounded it with some greenery, and it somehow managed to look sufficiently fungal when seen in the context of the poem.

Conkers are easy. I grew up collecting conkers. Loved drawing them. This is one of the simplest, but possibly one of the most effective of the drawings.

And that's it!

Or so I thought. Turns out some of them needed some further tweaking to airbrush out borders and make them sit comfortably on a white page without intrusive lines down the sides; and of course this being an e-book in both ePub and mobi formats, a simple copy and paste from the original text is simply not possible, plus there are all those fun mysterious extras like writing efficient and effective metadata to consider - but we're getting there. The book will be out early in the new year, so all you lovely people who are receiving e-book readers for Christmas will have something a little out of the ordinary to read and enjoy.