…are done! Complete, polished-off, kaput, done, done and done. (Do I sound relieved?) And I’m really happy with them. It’s been a very interesting project and a very hard one. Here are some of the unique challenges:
* Having three dramatic phases of picture – usually there is one focal point and the rest organises itself around that to complement and accent it. This had to work as three flowing interconnected pieces – while having all the necessary drama of three individual and equally important ones.
* Doing four overlapping trees. I decided that the middle scene, being a forest, could be made to tile if multiple copies of the same book were placed side by side. So there is a half-tree on each edge – and these halves need to make a whole when joined. They also need to continue into the following and preceding pictures, and become the trees that compliment those very different scenes. So two trees became four and photocopied slices of the middle halves allowed me to make the lines match up. If that makes sense. Also there is a horse running onto one edge and off the next which are meant to match up too… For just one second of lunacy I wondered if they might be made to tile vertically but then the devil returned my brain and I decided against it.
* Doing very light, slight shading with a pen. Especially small subtle things like distant faces.
* Making myself continue the picture into the bleed. This is where you extend the picture beyond the area that is going to be used in case the printing is slightly off-centre. This way you don’t get a white edge suddenly showing up. When the technique is very labour-intensive it’s a rotten thing to do. Especially when you end up doing something rather good that may never be seen! There’s a delightful little bit of cloud and some rather racy twigs (if I do say so myself!) that will never see the light of day.
Clever things I worked out:
* To make some flaps of paper to cover up the bleed area. One of my faults is that I can’t help but fill all available space. Every time. It doesn’t matter if I’m only meant to do a little illustration – if there’s lots of paper around it I can’t help but make the picture use it. This means that I often mess up my design and don’t have as much space as I’d like around things. By making extra flaps I could trick myself and restrict the drawing to the area I actually wanted to use, and then I could move the flaps aside to draw into the bleed. You can’t always change your habits – but you can sometimes fool yourself for the right result.
* For subtle fine lines and minuscule detail – use black watercolour and the finest of fine brushes (just a couple of hairs) to do controlled light strokes. They look the same as pen but avoid the terror of not knowing when the pen’s ink would suddenly engage properly with the paper and do a bold and utterly incorrect line.
* That there is no substitute for a detailed rough when there’s no room for error on the final piece. Sometimes you just don’t know something won’t work until it’s on the paper.
* A fresh eye is worth its weight in gold. What a disturbing metaphor. The fresh eye was Erica Wagner’s of Allen & Unwin who spotted where things needed a little more and hey presto, the next day I had added, tightened, softened and it felt properly complete. Thanks be to Elise Jones editor-extraordinaire, Bruno Herfst font-genius, and to the author Celine Kiernan who answered all my questions about armour, tack, handedness and a hundred other things. It must have been hard to not see what I was doing to her book – especially as she is an artist herself and would have very strong images in her head already. Oh, I hope she likes it! I think the first cover is sitting in her inbox awaiting for her return from Cork on Monday.