A year-ish of art and how I made it

Since I deeply enjoy illustrating other people’s ideas, in late 2015 and early 2016 I emailed a couple of zines with my portfolio. I had a lot of fun doing all these projects. Here are some in-progress shots and thoughts behind each piece.

I note the months during which I was actually doing the work and the times the pieces were actually published because it helps me think about how issues come together, how I perform my role and the fruit of it is taken and later released to the public in context as part of a whole body of work. Links to each issue and each story in the section headers. I’m looking forward to how I’ll build upon what I’ve done, what this year will bring, what I will seek for myself and share with others.

FEBRUARY: Evelyn Deshane’s ‘Wax Names’ in Lackington’s Issue 10, Governments.
(Published May 2016)

Waxed Names, Lackington's The story: Two women love each other in a land rule by a king who has devoured every story. An ancient Greek setting where words are uniquely powerful. Very intimate and sensual: people usually carve words into wax, but here, wax is written onto a person.

Inspiration: Luna Donyale, Fayum mummy portraits, Stella Im Hultberg.

Medium: Acrylic on board. Waxed Names, Lackington's

Working music: Little Dragon by Little Dragon, especially ‘Wink.’ Cause she winks at you/You feel your legs shake/You blow a kiss back/Then time stops until she turns her back.

Difficult bits: This was when I wasn’t so great with planning out, err, anything, so I painted over many layers and really struggled with bringing it all together. The peach robe was a last minute change. Also the FIRE, that was tricky, and I had to make my own reference image by posing near a candle and somehow not burning down the entire flat, but I did it and the result was surprising. I was also struggling with a nasty sinus infection the whole time, which is not ideal if you need to lean forward to do close work, it feels like getting water up your nose. You’re welcome.

Best bits: The background. Blending some warm peachy-gold hues into the blue and adding a few sparkles was a fun way to finish the piece.

MARCH: The Future Fire #36, ‘Vengeance Sewn in Fey Cord’ by Christine Lucas.
(Published April 2016)


The story: A dark fantasy where a seamstress constructs the perfect outfit for her revenge.

Inspiration: Arthur Rackham & other classic fairytale illustrators

Medium: Gouache, watercolour, and pen on paper

Working music: Corinne Bailey Rae’s ‘Been To the Moon’, ‘I Get Lonely’ by Janet Jackson, ‘Smooth Operator’ by Sade. Also I think it was during this period where someone would watch game playthroughs on Youtube like they were movies because they are a fucking nerd.

Difficult bits: The multi-part animal costume. (Reference images were not encouraging, it was mostly scrawny white city dwellers pretending they were “tribal”…)

Best bits: Bloody antlers.

MAY: Brittany Pladek’s ‘Ought From Is’ in Lackingtons Issue 11, Possessions.
(published July 2016)

2016-05-10-14-56-51-1The story: In the Canadian autumn of a world war, a grieving nun questions God and harnesses a new power under Our Lady. 

Inspiration: Idealised landscapes and colours of Quebec. Marian art, particularly El Greco’s Mater Dolorosa (c. 1590).

Medium: Gouache on paper with a little gold acrylic.

Working music: Lisa Eldridge’s makeup tutorials. Very soothing!

Difficult bits: During the planning stage, how to convey the character’s power to sever bonds. A radiant divine heart is very common in Catholic iconography; a clear interruption in these rays was a simple way to indicate the figure is not saintly. It was also quite a job to find a decent reference image for the nun habit; since styles were so distinct, I went to the trouble of looking up nuns in Canada, and settled on a fairly generic type. Also, rotting autumn leaves were a challenge to paint successfully so they were recognisable decomposing and not just sorta ugly.

Best bits: I liked the face, particularly the set of her jaw. As I said, the figure is directly modelled on El Greco’s Mater Dolorosa, whose questioning gaze and long face is a bit different from the oval-faced sorrowful pulchritude of most Marian portraits. One minute, she looks at peace, but if you look again, she seems almost resentful, and if you look yet again, she is contemplative. For my piece, the gaze was more direct and cutting.

JULY: Lackington’s Issue 12 cover commission
(published November 2016)

Inspiration: Lush summer colours, floral motifs. I anticipated it’d be published at a later time of year, so I wanted a reminder of summer.

Medium: Gouache on paper.

Working music: Lana del Rey’s Honeymoon.

Difficult bits: Everything.

Best bits: Making my editor very happy when I sent the finished version.


SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER: The Future Fire #38, ‘Good Genes’ by Rebecca Gomez Farrell
(published October 2016)

The story: A woman flees her abusive husband, bringing her children to a small, quiet community where centuries ago, a man desperately sought a cure for a sickness destroying his town. A story about the costs of safety.

Inspiration: 19th century portraits of Spanish women.

Medium: Gouache on paper.

Working music: Hayley Kiyoko’s horniest songs. My Dad Wrote A Porno (deeply, deeply unerotic).

Difficult bits: Drapery.

Best bits: Drapery.


Huevember Interlude

Many people have heard of Inktober, where you do an ink drawing a day in October, and there are themes you can do each day if you want to. Huevember seems somewhat less popular but the concept is similar–you take one hue each day of November. I decided this would be the perfect time to re-learn digital painting. I was sort of right, but also there was never going to be a good time, really, so at first I did a whole load of pretty bad work before turning out some nice pieces. It was so difficult: the gesture is different, you need to learn a whole bunch of skills, but also it’s a tool which gives great control and is in some ways faster. Many artists use both traditional and media, anyway. I’m pleased with what progress I did manage to make.

Also I did a whole load of fanart; it had been building up in my system for the past decade or so.


DECEMBER: The Future Fire #39, ‘Hard Rains’ by S.J. Sabri
(published December 2016)

The story: In a near-future earth ravaged by climate change, a woman finds a small, strange creature and lets it loose on the parched land. This story was, I think, my favourite of this year: the main character changes her community in a world turned selfish and narrow for survival, and it’s about coming together as a body in our bodies: labouring, dancing, enjoying music, just living again. When the garden that everyone’s built is threatened with destruction, she resists–with supernatural assistance–using absolutely proportionate physical force, and the whole community wins. She moves and people move with her; this is contrasted by quiet moments in the story, a sense of stillness as she waits for things to grow. It’s what we need to hear and keep in mind for 2017.

Inspiration: A downer, but a necessary one–the bleak landscape of dried-up lakes which already exist, such as the Salton sea. In contrast, the lush jungles of North America, in particular the Hoh rainforest with its astonishingly deep blue-green hues and rich mosses.

Medium: Digital. Clip Studio Paint with Daub paint brushes, plus a gentle green + photos of dappled sunlight as overlay layers on the jungle image for subtle texture.

Working music: The Adventure Zone, Sade, aivi & surasshu

Difficult bits: Coming up with the rain beast; it’s meant to be a changeable creature, like water itself. Also doing the dry landscape; I discovered, with my current tendencies, that it actually looks like a proper environment if I work  fairly big, otherwise it looks like a mini-canvas. The first iteration is to the right, which is pretty clumsy.

Best bits: I loved doing the main character. I used Nicole Beharie as a loose reference, she has such a restful face.