The Wolf Book page 16

wolf page 16

An illustration for “The Fierce and Gentle Wolf” that has some of the autumn colours that I am going to use for the story I have been calling The Snow Book, but which has transferred itself to autumn, and is now called “Finn’s House”, though I am not sure this is what it will end up being entitled. The text is finished, as far as it is ever finished at this early stage.

I look at this illustration to the Wolf Book and wonder what on earth is that little green bird doing at the bottom of the picture – I can’t remember that particular variety, it looks like a budgerigar. The next book will have siskins and goldfinches in it, and a barn owl – but nothing that resembles a budgerigar.

The Midnight Hare: Page 15

page15This was one of the illustrations that worked first time off.  In this earlier saved file, I have not taken out the “edge line”, where I copied the original image on to the plainer background. In the final image I carefully blended the edges by deleting the edges of the overlaid image so the underlying plain background showed through; and softened the inner lines of the pastel paper, though in places left the slightly corrugated look, as it fitted in with the tree trunk and the quality of the moonlight and the light of the lamp. Photoshop is invaluable, but it can be overused. I like the feeling of original line and brushwork, there is a depth and a surface difference that can be wiped out by over-use of Photoshop on the scan of an original painting.

page 15

There was only one line of text on this page, which I set high up on the left: “He found he was all alone.”

Painting on brown paper was integral to this story, but looking at an image from another book I illustrated, I can see how vibrant colour can be against white. Each book has its own language.

Keeping to my decision, I shall now send out some more feelers to try and sell copies of the book.  Where it is for sale it is selling well, happily. I think all the boxes in the cupboard wore me down a tad, but then it occurred to me that they are going down slowly, and there is no set time for selling the books. At the beginning I thought everything had to be done in one great push, but of course, in self-published work this does not happen like this.

I am loth to push my work, it is much easier when a publisher is in charge of all this and you get sent hither and thither to do projects with children, which are fun, and which sell books, and all the rest of the publicity is done by the publishers’ marketing department. But this self-publishing malarkey is a slow burn. There will be a big push on my part locally just after Christmas, when local outlets start to stock up. I am not sure about the Christmas market, I think there is so much else out there this book will get swamped.

However, it does no harm to get The Midnight Hare out there in the world. And people do seem to like the story, I don’t think they are just being polite. I am grateful to the printers for doing a good job on its production. It doesn’t look cheap and cheerful, it has a certain weight, it has been printed on good paper. It feels nice to pick up and riffle through. The “feeling” of the book as a physical object has always been important to me. This is something that publishers in the US seem to get right. Their production qualities are often so good.

Enough already. Time for a cup of tea…..

 

The Midnight Hare: The First Image

 

First scribbleThis was the first scribble I did on brown paper, and I knew at once that this was the feeling I wanted for the book. Maybe I should have kept this colour as the background throughout, and painted on single sheets, crossing over both pages so as to have kept the design more coherent, instead of it being a tad hit and miss.  Also I like the texture of this paper, but it is obvious from the crinkles that it is too thin for water-based paint. However this is all water under the bridge. I always like to learn. For a couple of days now my mind has been switching on to the new book. This entry is a kind of acknowledgement that I need to do some more publicity next week.

I came across some beautiful photographs by Michal Iwanowski, this image of trees (see below) has exactly the feeling that I want in the new illustrations, when Finn, the protagonist, gets lost in the woods just beyond his house.  I am going to put in a small image here; I am wary of using other people’s work, and the context is quite different, but this way down the page I don’t think showing this image is too invasive of copyright/privacy/another person’s work.  The photographs can be seen on the Edge of Humanity WordPress site. Of course I will be using the landscape round here, and my own photographs, as one shouldn’t us someone else’s work out of the context in which they created it; but the images of Michal Iwanowski will be at the back of my mind. When I was thinking about the illustration, there were silver birches and darkness; but this photograph is just something else:

woods

Snowman or Bright Leaves

 

wolfbookiAll this time I have thought of my new book as being set in a snowy landscape, but I find I have been picking up red leaves, and dark sticks decorated with ravishing shades of lichen, and thinking these are the colours I want in the book; and this is telling me that the book is autumnal, shading into winter. There can be flurries of snow against autumn trees, but not thick snow on the ground. How strange that the spirit of a book, and one’s own spirit, sometime spring surprises.

I had a mysterious hat appearing on a snowman, but I think instead there can be a stone girl holding a bird bath in her arms, and the hat can appear on her head instead. This girl with the bird bath was in my Granny’s garden, in Chailey, many years ago. We called the stone girl Lizzie.  I looked up this house. It is still called Moorings. So much of Sussex has been built up, but this part of the world still seems to have wooded areas, and the expanse of Chailey Common, where I went looking for autumn gentians with my grandfather.

Autumn does seem to be creeping into this new story.

The illustration above is out of a book written by Jennifer D Doherty and Gerald Golding called The Fierce and Gentle Wolf, published by Serafina Press, a book which I illustrated a few years ago. Not nearly as many years ago as Moorings, and Lizzie, and the autumn gentians.

The Midnight Hare, first version page 3

experiment

This was the original page three, but I decided I wanted the hare in the foreground, and Milo full face and actually trying to approach the hare. There would have been too large a jump in narrative if I had had this as the first page, and then the second page having him chasing the hare. I think Milo changed a bit from this earlier version. But I think this page is quite pretty, so gave it away rather than leaving it in a drawer.

A couple of days I composed a letter in French, with some help from Google Translate, as it is a long time since I spoke or read French at all; and sent the letter, with a copy of the The Midnight Hare, to L’Ecole des loisirs, a publisher in Paris who published two books of mine in France, originally published here by Orchard Books. The French titles are Vingt-Six Lapins sement la pagaille and Vingt-Six lapins fetent Noel. A long shot, sending this package to Paris, as these other books were published a long time ago, but why not? I am trying to be more energetic about selling the book. And the postage was minimal.

For now, I am off to the studio to work on the new story.

The Midnight Hare: drawing

page3drawing

This is so like the finished picture for the opening page of The Midnight Hare, I think I must have scanned the drawing early in the process, as the proportions and imagery are so similar. The stripes of the paper are very obvious, I used pastel paper because it was the only paper I liked that came in books – I always seem to work on blocks or drawing books, not on single pieces of paper. I had to use Photoshop to get rid of some of the corrugated look when the illustrations were painted. I actually scanned a section of the paper the same size as the finished pages were to be, and then copied and pasted the artwork on to this using Photoshop, so that the margins of the design were without these lines. Also it gave a very clean look to the margins.

There was an earlier picture, which I gave as a present to a friend, which had Milo with his back to the camera, so to speak.  I was going to use this in the book but then changed my mind, as I wanted his face to be seen in the first painting.

The Midnight Hare. 25.9.18

 

Different stages of one page. On the top left, the original draft with the text put in using Photoshop, then the large image on the left, the more or less finished illustration, then on the bottom left, the printed page set up using Adobe Acrobat, here resaved in JPEG which has made the colours for a bit odd when it comes up on my website, but which in the book was fine. In fact the printers, Martins of Spittal, did a wonderful job on the printing, they took endless pains to get it right, used thick paper, got the colours right, were wonderful to work with, and charged me a very reasonable rate.

I quite like the earlier stage, especially the grey grass, but painting on brown paper meant I would have too much of the background.

With the new book I am probably going to paint detailed illustrations in gouache, pencil and crayon, on heavy Fabriano white, NOT texture, a wonderful paper that I find I have a big block of on the decorative easel in the corner of my small octagonal studio, an easel that I do not use for painting, it would fill up half the floor space, but which has proved brilliant for storing larger sheets of thick paper etc. This easel leans up against one of the windows. It’s BIG, and has a wide shelf.  I reckon it was used in a country house for displaying paintings, rather than being used as a painter’s easel.

My plan chest, which was hauled up stairs with much difficulty (one of the drawers had stuck) after I got it out of storage, looked so ridiculous in its new space, that I then gave it away to the person who got it back out of the house, who fettled it, and found a new owner.

The new book I will send round to publishers, and if I don’t find one, will print a (very)LIMITED EDITION and sell them locally.

Meanwhile the boxes in the cupboard, full of The Midnight Hare, empty slowly. And I shall try and keep up this blog, whilst exploring Instagram, Twitter, and any other platforms I can discover.

 

Flying over the Borderlands

9781527216716During a month when I should have been putting all my energy into launching The Midnight Hare into the world, I sat down and wrote another story, and did the first very rough rough – a story at the moment called The House, the Cat and the Snow, though that won’t be the final title. But now I have returned to what should be my priority at the moment, and am going to plunge into all the information I have acquired about getting one’s work out into the world.

I’ll also write a few words here and there about other projects.  Why not?

I have had a re-order from Coldstream Crafts, and last week was told that the book had sold out in The Market Shop and Sallyport Gallery in Berwick, so I am taking a batch of copies down there this coming week; and I was also asked to send some copies to a bookshop in Orkney, so the Hare has flown up there too, which is a good thought.

Each day, when I can manage it, I shall make an entry into this blog, as it was set up in the first place as a record of my publishing myself, without sending The Midnight Hare out to any publishers. Some boxes have been emptied, so have had to be replenished from the cupboard where they are piled up (no-one is allowed to go into the cupboard, as they are tottering a bit at the moment).

En marche: The Midnight Hare

11doublepage3

Spent this morning putting The Midnight Hare up on my WooCommerce site.  The book I bought was actually useful, I followed the instructions, and all seems to be working.  Fingers crossed. My fruitless attempts at trying to put my book up on Amazon, and the less than helpful responses from their “help-desk” I have expressed on my other  site, caralockhartsmith.wordpress, as I didn’t want to sully this particular site with my frustration. The last two days have been hard work, but interesting, and I feel something has been achieved.  All things I should have done months ago.  Hey ho.  I also prefer the layout that Woocommerce has created for my site, it reads better. So OK so far.