22 July 2012

A Quick Thing About Dragons

Recently I got out a drawing I had started to do on my watercolour pad and decided I might as well finish it. So I started by re-inking what I had already done with a pen using a brush instead. Then I added details with a pen (a dip pen with a Hunt 102 "crowquill" nib, which not only has a cool name, but is my favourite nib for drawing with).

Once the inks were done, I painted it with watercolours. And the whole time I was painting it, I was thinking about text I could add to it, and how it could be part of a book project (because everything I do seems to end up connected to books somehow). I won't say much more about that here, as I'm going to do the book under my Calliope Strange pen name, but it'll be a sort of travel journal by my mad scientist character Sophia Shallowgrave. But more on that later...

13 July 2012

Reindeer Girl Cover

If you're a Facebook friend or you follow me on Twitter, you'll have seen pretty much everything in this post, but I thought I'd bring all the work-in-progress shots for this book cover together in one place.

First, a bit of background. I've been working off and on to write a novel about a character called Maring Darkberry, who belongs to a culture called the Reindeer Herders (or just Herders)--a genetically mixed people who live on the barrens of my imaginary island/continent of Frisland (also the setting for many of my short stories, and for the Aeryn Daring stories I write as Calliope Strange).

The story started out as a short story called "White Foxes, Full Moon," but I soon realized there was a lot more to Maring's tale. But for some reason I never got farther than perhaps two-thirds finished.

So recently, I saw a call for submissions from a place called JukePop Serials which had an interesting business model. And I thought maybe by serializing the thing, so there were people waiting for the next chapter, I might actually finish it. And the editors at JukePop liked it. So now the title is Reindeer Girl, and it'll be serialized starting in September. And it needs a cover.


First I needed a reference for Maring. It didn't have to look like her, exactly, as long as the pose was right. So digging through a box of old pictures, I found this one of my beautiful mother with my sister and me (I'm the chubby one on the left) in her lap.

I did a sketch I was pleased with, changing her features to make her look less like my mom and more like the character in my story. Though in the story Maring has fair skin and blue eyes to go with her black hair, I wanted it to be clear from looking at her that not all her ancestry is European. Her people have intermarried all over the place, and they currently live quite close to a people they refer to as the Snow People (who are, of course, Inuit). So I wanted Maring to look like some of her recent ancestors were Inuit or perhaps Siberian or even Mongolian.

I could already tell that I probably hadn't really left enough room for the rest of the picture, but I was thinking about scanning the inked drawing and colouring digitally, so I went ahead and inked the drawing on the sketchbook paper, rather than transferring it to watercolour paper.


 I spent a long time looking at type, and found what I thought was the perfect typeface for the title. It was Celtic, but rough-looking; calligraphic but loose. Unfortunately, none of the links on the designer's website worked. So I kept looking and eventually decided that what I really wanted to do was hand-letter, a la Walter Crane, or more recently, Charles Vess.

Of course, I then decided I also wanted to hand-colour, so I had to figure out a way to squeeze everything onto the page.


I had in mind a particular photograph, taken on the barrens of the southern Avalon Peninsula of Newfoundland, which just happened to have caribou in the shot (for the curious, caribou and reindeer are the same animal, Rangifer tarandus, the first usually used in North America and the second in Europe). Alas, there must be another box of my photographs still in storage at my mother's house in BC, because I couldn't find it. So instead I used this one, taken somewhere between Cape Ray and Gros Morne, Newfoundland.

I started with a blue wash, and quickly began to wish I'd taken the time to transfer the drawing to watercolour paper before inking.

Then I added green and yellow. You can see the paper getting more and more wrinkled with each colour I add.

Then some brown and grey, and a little red and purple.

Finally, I brightened up some of the colours and added a few details with pencil crayon.

Then I had to flatten the thing so I could get a good scan. I did this by thoroughly spritzing it with water from the back, until the paper relaxed and it lay flat. Then I put it between sheets of printmaking rag (I used some old proofs) and newsprint, and put it under a goodly amount of weight to dry. And the next day it was perfectly flat.

I had to scan it in two pieces, because it's too big for my scanner--thanks to Photoshop's "photomerge" function, putting the two pieces together was a snap.

And if anyone's interested, I've made it available as a print through Zazzle (if you order, make sure to let the preview load for the size you select--some sizes will cut off the top and bottom of the image). I may do my own prints at some point, on my very nice super-deluxe photo inkjet printer on digital photo rag paper. If enough people ask, that is.

12 July 2012

Recent Letterpress Work (Or, I Am Not Dead)

So much for my goal of posting something every week. I don't even really have the excuse of being busy. Which isn't to say I haven't been busy. I have. Just not so busy I couldn't post something. But anyway.

I am writing lots of fiction, and planning some other fun things. I've been making a few things, like this entirely non-letterpress item:

Available from one of my Etsy shops, if you're interested.

As for letterpress things, I finally got the "Spring" card in the four seasons series done, leaving just the "Autumn" one, which I hope to get done soon. The bulk of these are still in the Dawson Printshop, waiting for me to trim them down to size, but they are printed, at least.

I also played around with some wood type (and a linocut) while I was teaching (not during class time, of course, but while waiting for my students to arrive). I started with this little card:

Then did this one:

And then this:

You can probably tell I printed the first colour on the next card right after printing the second colour on the previous card, to reduce the number of times I had to clean the press. I do love printing these simple cards with vintage type and translucent colours, and I have plenty of ideas for more. I'm thinking "Thank You" and "Happy Birthday" cards should be next, since those are things people often ask about.

Right now I'm working on a book cover for my novel Reindeer Girl, which will be serialized by JukePop Serials starting in September, but I'll do a whole post on that once the picture is done.