Milo Running Through the Garden

 

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I  based the Garden of Delights in The Midnight Hare on the Alnwick Garden, a place I have visited many times. However the deserted nature of the place is nothing like Alnwick, which is one of the most visited destinations in the country. Of course one takes liberties all the time when illustrating, and one of the liberties I took was creating a wood on the edge of the garden inhabited by venomous mechanical birds. Mind you, Alnwick does have a Poison Garden among its many delights.

I had a lot of work to do on the scan of this picture, as I realised that the picture on the opposite page had Milo’s hand in exactly the same position, so I changed his hand, but the original hand showed through, so I had to very meticulously cover it over with red, using Photoshop; I don’t think the extra hand can be seen.  Also Milo has a bright countenance, which is also manipulated somewhat, to get rid of the striations of the paper. However, I only use Photoshop to tighten up and clean up various areas of colour, and use my Wacom pen too at times (one of the interesting things about doing this book has been finding out how many brilliant programs there are to help). But the fundamental illustrations are done out in my studio in the vegetable garden, far away from the computer, the only machines out there being my very old CD player, an equally old blow heater, and a light up above, the bowl of which gradually fills up with insects as the summer progresses.

My publishing schedule for the coming few months is to get The Midnight Hare into as many local venues as possible; this will be especially important in January. Meanwhile I am getting on with the book about Finn and Ella and the Cat. This afternoon was one of those beautiful days in autumn when the sun slants through the changing colours of the leaves, and there are long shadows on the ground. And once again I can’t get near enough to the heron by the bridge to get a decent picture.

Milo Comes Back Home

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Painted on pastel paper with gouache and crayon. I will use both gouache and water-colour in the new book,  and will paint on soft white Fabriano paper, using fine brush line with sepia water colour for the outlines of the figures, as I can no longer get the sepia drawing pens I used to love. However, having to improvise sometimes produces new effects, which in themselves can produce new ideas.

Neither “Finn and Ella” nor “Finn’s House” feel right as a title for the new book, I still think of it as “The Snow Book” even though it is definitely set in autumn. Went walking today looking at trees and leaves and the disintegrating heads of the greater willow-herb down by the River Leet – trawling for images as I went along. Wool-gathering, but all part of the process.

Maybe I’ll try sending out new book out to publishers, or even approach an agent, which is how I sold my work in the past, most of it anyway; but will keep the alternative option of printing 500 copies myself under the Moonwuzo Books imprint – that will give me the energy to do the work properly.

The boxes full of copies of The Midnight Hare are slowly emptying.  If I had published with local publisher Serafina Press there would have been a set-up whereby distribution would have been much easier, as the groundwork had already been done by the MD of Serafina, Jennifer Doherty. But the other side of the whole caboodle is that I would have missed out on the having ownership and experience of the process. Swings and roundabouts. I am enjoying the ride.

Quite a different experience from working with large publishers, which I have done much of my life. I have the feeling I may never go back into that world, but who knows?

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:

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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

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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

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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).

The Midnight Hare: Information Sheet

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I thought of printing out this information sheet on nice cream paper, but it would have changed the colours of the imagery; and besides, nice cream paper is very expensive and maybe a tad too aren’t we refined. 100gsm white will do OK, and the envelopes are nice and thick. The books, all 3000, have been printed, and are waiting for me up at the printers, the first batch this Wednesday, and then the rest of them we will carry off to Coldstream in the small car over the next four weeks. They will be stored for a month on a pallet at the printers.  37 boxes of books is a whole lot of books in boxes.

To go with this A4 information sheet will be an order form, with more info, and also a  card that I  have had printed which is a small replica of the cover. Spent yesterday looking up bookshops. I already have several local outlets.  The publication date has been changed to July.

Really a lot of things should have been sorted months ago, according to what I have read, but this is only one 32-page picture book, it doesn’t have to have a fanfare; and I wanted to have the actual book before I started doing the publicity/marketing.

People have been asking kindly after The Midnight Hare ….. When I first started selling my work to bookshops and cardshops I was rather amazed when the reaction was so friendly and positive; also the same experience when I had a stall at Berwick Farmers’ Market.  I realise that I don’t mind selling at all, if someone doesn’t want something, fine, it’s nice to meet people anyway whether they buy or not.