Archive for the ‘process’ Category

I seem to be stuck in the “up to 500 words range”. This is around 400. I could, of course, continue the novel I started last time. I may do so. But right now, I wrote this instead.

If you think it sounds like a misery novel excerpt, let me assure you upfront, it’s not. It’s just what it is: a standalone scenario. Yes, the awful dress, and the fancy dress street party it was meant to be worn at, stem from real memory. (Oh god, do I remember it!) But the rest is sheer invention, just to make it a fiction. I mean, who wants boring fact all the time?

Let me know if you like it. I need all the encouragement I can harvest from you to get back into regular daily fiction writing! I was looking at the website www.bookdesigntemplates.com just now and was greatly inspired – perhaps also because I so love doing school visits.

And I wrote it in Bean, my favourite go-to for tiny bits of writing.

Screen Shot 2017-10-18 at 10.41.17

Mother holds up the fancy dress she’s made for me and beams happily. My stomach lurches. My brother is already dressed up in a brown pirate costume with a little cutlass tucked into the belt. It makes him look grown up and strong.

“Perfect,” she declares, patting the bright yellow cotton. It’s covered in enormous red hearts like patches of blood. “You’ll be the perfect Queen of Hearts,” she says. “Off with your clothes, and let’s try it on. Then I’ll sew it up properly and remove the tacking threads.”

I stare at her. This can’t be happening. How am I supposed to wear this hideous thing in front of everyone? My eyes blur, and the red and yellow turn into an orange ballooning monster that floats towards me.

“No!” I scream.

I run from the room into the hall. She follows me and smacks me hard on my bottom. I hit her back on the arm as hard as I can. “It’s horrid, horrid, horrid!” I shout.

Her eyes go narrow and black. She strips my thin dress and knickers off, holds me tight in one hand, slaps my bare bottom again and again, and pushes me onto the wicker stool that always sits by the front door.

“Just you stay there so the neighbours can see what a wicked, ungrateful child you are,” she says, her voice as cold as the seat.

I don’t look round, but I hear her stalk back to the dining room. I know that if I move, it will be the belt next. So I hold myself still while the wicker presses into my sore backside and sends pain right up to my eyes. They start to leak, but I refuse to cry.

How can she have made my brother a wonderful pirate costume and me a horrible yellow Queen of Hearts? Why not a fairy or a princess or a witch, in white, red, black – anything but bright shiny yellow with huge red hearts and a skirt that sticks out like a parachute. Everyone will notice me and point and laugh. Everyone will say how ugly I look…

I shiver in the draught.

Then I hear crunching on the gravel. Someone’s coming. They’ll see me with nothing on. They’ll see my knickers on the floor.

“I’m sorry,” I call in a voice that’s not my own. “I’ll put the dress on. I’m sorry.”

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The time for delaying tactics is over. I need to write something. Anything. Especially anything longer than a haiku! Just to get back into the swing.

So here are nearly 500 words of a possible novel for middle grade. Nothing to write home about (excuse the pun) but until I see what I’ve written, I usually don’t know exactly what I wanted to write! And clearly this won’t be right for today’s middle grade children (at least if you want a publisher), but then again, I do know some kids who would lap up a mystery novel just fine. Which is what this beginning has in mind.

Anyway, I don’t do funny very well, I don’t do bottom humour, and I don’t do – oh, I don’t know, clever stuff. So into the bin with it. But do have a read first 🙂 All writing needs a reader!

For the zillionth time that afternoon, Oriel leaned out of the hotel’s attic window and stared down into Chatfield’s medieval cobbled square. Her eyes scanned the sunlit groups of shoppers from right to left, as if trying to find a hidden thimble. Then she stiffened and caught her breath sharply.

That’s him, I bet, she thought. Young and alone, with a leather suitcase, and foreign-looking. Definitely Josef Ahlenburg, our first guest… And in an awful hurry to reach us.

The boy in question looked about fourteen or fifteen, a few years older than Oriel, and he was sprinting – not like you sprint when you’re late for tea (which he nearly was) but as if training for his school football team. He was running a short way and then stopping, running and stopping again, as he came down the final stretch of road that led into the square. Every time he paused, he turned to glance warily over his shoulder at the lingering groups of Saturday shoppers. Then he darted past another group and looked round again. She wouldn’t have been surprised to see him dribbling a football, as if wondering who to pass it to.

Who was he trying to avoid?

She was slightly alarmed. Josef Ahlenburg couldn’t be trying to escape anyone. He wouldn’t know anyone yet, let alone have enemies. He was coming to England to take part in an international music course at the Grange.

Oriel stared, mesmerised, shading her eyes from the sun that streaked in from the south-west. It was still high above the beech trees flanking the park on one side of the square.

The boy paused again. Looked around, this time scanning the street higher up. Maybe he was searching for the Red Tree sign that hung from its black metal bracket outside the hotel windows two floors below Oriel.

Suddenly, he gazed straight up at her, as if he might have seen her. Oriel waved frantically to attract his attention.

She thought he nodded briefly before setting off again. But he still walked zig-zag around the cobbled pavements, as if his feet simply refused to go directly to the hotel.

Oriel frowned. She was sure this was Josef – the violin he carried was a dead giveaway, now that she noticed it. He wore a navy blue blazer, white shirt and grey trousers, which must be his school uniform. But he didn’t look at all like the posh boy she’d imagined, knowing his mother was a German countess. That must absolutely be the most awful thing to have to put up with – no eating in bed, no talking with your mouth full, no leaving the house without a bodyguard…

And then she remembered her father. Maybe being posh wasn’t the worst thing to have to survive.

I have come to the conclusion that there isn’t a whole lot of difference between painting a picture and writing a story. I find I veer away from making just any old image. I want to make it tell about something that is happening, may happen or has happened. And I think, too, that that’s not a very original thought haha! But sometimes you have to realise something right inside yourself before it can happen in your work.

So – just as we try to paint a word picture when writing, so we try to make an illustration tell a story in itself. Perhaps the link goes back to cave-dwelling times…

Anyway, I saw someone online paint an image in a leaf shape. Fine. It looked good but that was the end of the matter – unless you made it into a greetings card, of course. I did one just for fun, and suddenly found myself compelled to add a figure (picking the berries in the first one). This kind of grew like an addiction and I did five more within different kinds of leaves. I decided to keep the figures in mono (soluble pen actually) but make a link into the leaf-shaped landscape/cityscape.

Strangely the images took over from me and they all became trees. Now that’s pure magic! I hope you find a story in them – whatever it inspires in you. There isn’t a pre-planned one.

wc leaf images

Thought I’d illustrate a hypothetical article about circuses! A sort of circle image with alterations. I did basic pen work first and scanned that in to finish off in colour digitally in Photoshop.

Then I went back to the pen version, which is on Bristol board, and finished it off with more pen. Still toying with the idea of adding watercolour on top for a third version, but maybe not… not enough hours in the day as it is! So here are just two versions.

Not sure which I prefer. It would be interesting to know if you have a preference. But I don’t suppose you have enough hours in your day either!

circus colour

pen circus

 

I seem to have spent much of May painting watercolour shoes. First I tried out some new Canson XL 300 gsm watercolour paper and did a few trials of modern ones. I do find feet shapes hard for some reason. But the painting was fun. And I added some scrawled pen lines as they were casual images really.

WC shoe collection

And then, because it had been so much fun, I had the bright idea of  pretending to illustrate a historical article on the evolution of women’s shoes. The first image is a sort of introduction to how we have always focused more on women’s shoes and feet. The others are from 16th, 17th-18th, 19th and 20th centuries respectively. The reason they are on a background is to give them some uniformity, like make them a set. I chose a clock face to indicate “timeline”, then gave them a segment each and simply positioned the shoe on the segment.

Screen Shot final feet

Screen Shot final 16th c

Screen Shot final 17th c

Screen Shot final 19th c

Screen Shot final 20th c

While getting my journal through design and to press at the end of a cycle, I am usually wanting a bit of down time. Time without a screen and time without a deadline or responsibilities.

This time I threw some watercolour around on a 12×16″ piece of Cason XL paper. I allowed both hard and soft edges and used a bit of Indian ink too.

loose wc background

Seeing as how nothing jumped out at me to turn it into via negative painting, I then decided I would sketch a lady and flower and cut a stencil from it. I managed to preserve my fingers (I’m useless with a scalpel!) and placed the stencil over the background three times, moving it around and taking a photo each time, and this is the result.

three wc ladies

I rather liked all of them for different reasons. But not wanting to waste the bits I’d cut out, I traced round them onto the watercolour paper, and stuck them on black paper.

collaged lady and flower

And finally, before chucking the stencil out, I placed it on some mid-grey Strathmore paper and pressed white pastel through it.

pastel stencil lady

This proved somewhat messier, but there you go – I had completely unwound and satisfied the itch to create something!

 

Every now and then I remember to practise drawing the same character from different viewpoints doing different things. You may remember this attempt. I was at it again in the last couple of days, only this time I gave him (or is it a her with shortish hair?) some huge objects to manhandle. I was just being whimsical. But then some ideas came to mind.

Maybe:

He feels little in his family. Maybe he has a skill no one really notices. Maybe there is some incident when he knows he could help but no one even glances at him.

So what happens? *shrugs* Well, maybe he has to surreptitiously assemble the things he needs, in order to do whatever he needs to do to sort it out! So, stretching my brain a bit… he, um, steals the sharpener to sharpen the pencil, then draws the image and finally paints it.

That latter image was meant to be pastel sticks but looks more like watercolour paints – except for the lack of a mixing lid! He struggles to lug this one to his bedroom…

So yes, I don’t have time right now because a 400-page book has to be proofread this week for a publisher. But this is how a story could grow in my head, needing many revisions obviously, but perhaps it could be made to work if I really wanted to.

Nice to have conjured up a spark on a cold, icy day 🙂 Happy new year to you all.

dragongirl-pen-zigbrush-boy