It is amazing the connections, collaborations, and genuine friendships which can arise from blogging.
As a recent ‘illustration’ (haha) affecting me, back at the end of October last year a lady living in Avostan and blogging under the name of foot loose did a little art exhibition and I looked at photos of her work with wonder and admiration. A study of a horse took my fancy. Then, at the end of that month, she made the awful mistake of doing an attractive painting of a cat.
Next thing she had a certain Colonialist making improper suggestions – that is to say, enquiring whether she might consider doing some illustrations of cats and rabbits and lions and things for my Tabika novel still in progress, Tabika’s Circus Adventure. In a fit of insanity, she agreed to give it a bash, and the next thing sketches and ideas were flowing, to my delight but at the cost of much of her leisure.
Then a further complication set in. A certain not-yet-four-year-old R inspired a set of books for children based on her cousin Immy. Suddenly, Tabika got put in the warming-drawer, and dragons and goblins and knights and things became the order of the day. With the addition of the pictures, young R went totally overboard for the series, but so did her grownup family. Riding the wave of this enthusiasm, I have been doing lots of formatting and compiling while foot loose has been painting up a storm.
What will make these special is that each illustration can be seen to be a proper work of art – not just sketches on paper, but done on a whole canvas. First, though, came any number of such sketches, to get the ideas and develop the characters. I would never have believed the amount of work which goes into doing it properly – but the results certainly show the benefit.
An exciting aspect is that, on occasion, the illustrations have driven the story rather than the other way round. For example, an improvement, which arose from the cover design showing the toad behind a tree instead of under a rock, was a moment of suspense as follows:
Quickly, she dived to the rock where she had found the toad, but it wasn’t there any more. Her heart sank, but in the nick of time she saw it hiding behind a tree and grabbed it. Then she held it up to show them. ‘See?’ she said. ‘You tell them, Sir Kwaak.’
I have completed Immy and the Dragon layout now, ready for a proof print – we are both happy with the high-resolution format – and made good progress with Immy in Trouble and Immy and the Knights. These are the ‘working’ covers I have designed by cropping the ‘main’ illustration from each book. I know the publishers will want to tinker (though NOT with the pictures themselves) but the layout looks good to me.
Colonialist February 2012 (Letterdash/WordPress)