Sunday, 25 March 2012

From Sketch to Chapter Art, an Illustrator at Work

Guest post by Richard Due on his collaboration with Carolyn Arcabascio on 'The Moon Coin'

For me, getting to work with Carolyn Arcabascio was a dream come true. On The Moon Coin, we worked from a master list of scene options, with Carolyn picking out scenes she liked and making sketches. For the prologue, Carolyn drafted three options. All three were great, but two in particular were spectacular. I first went with option 3 (one of my scene suggestions). I think we spent more time on this sketch and subsequent color drawing than on any other piece. But it never seemed right. At the eleventh hour, I asked Carolyn how hard she’d hit me if I suggested scrapping the thing and instead going with the pinky promise scene you see below (one of her scene suggestions).  Carolyn responded: "There would be no hitting involved!" and told me it wouldn't be a problem. You sure can't ask for better than that.


From the Prologue: Bedtime Tales.

Click on image to enlarge.
Richard: Did you make all these sketches in the same location, Carolyn?
Carolyn: Yes, I do all of my work at a drafting table that's situated in a little nook of my apartment in Acton, Massachusetts. There's a bookshelf to my right and a wall of "inspiration" to my left, where I hang prints of other artists' and illustrators' work. On either side of my drafting table are drawers of supplies, and stacks of sketchbooks and old paintings. The drafting table faces a window overlooking a quiet street and the woods beyond it.

From Chapter Two: A Coin of the Realm.

Click on image to enlarge.
Richard: Do you use models when you're sketching?
Carolyn: I use a combination of models and photo references. If I need to work out the nuances of a character's posture and really understand the perspective of it, I'll ask whatever friend or family member is handy to pose for a sketch. Often, I'll get into the position myself or mimic the facial expression I want to portray in order to get the feel of it. And sometimes, if there's a character being portrayed multiple times across scenes, I'll make a rough model of their head out of clay so I'll have it to refer to.

From Chapter Four: To Barreth.

Click on image to enlarge.
Richard: When drawing fantastical creatures, do you use bits and pieces of real animals for inspiration, or have you actually seen a wirtle and you're just not telling us? ;)
Carolyn: No wirtles native to Massachusetts, fortunately! When figuring out the look of fantastical creatures, I use photo references of different animals to understand the way the anatomy might work, and then combine features as I see fit and as the story calls for. To understand the wirtle's legs and paws, for example, I referred to a series of photographs of show dogs leaping over hurdles. The severely arched, scruffy back was influenced by photos of hyenas on the prowl. The bone-structure of the face ended up being something of a cross between a cow and a warthog, and I wanted the snout to be bare—kind of gross and raw-looking. Add it all up and, voila! We have a wirtle.
The Moon Coin, by Richard Due, is available at AmazonBarnes & Noble, and the iBookstore for $2.99.

Copyright © 2011 by Richard Due. All rights reserved.
Gibbering Gnome Press, A Division of Ingenious Inventions Run Amok, Ink™
The Moon Realm™

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Review: 'Eye of the Wizard' by Daniel Arenson

Might this be the first time a fantasy book made me laugh out loud, in a good way? Usually fantasy brings me to tears differently, but this story was full of fun moments.
On the longest night of the year, a dark wizard murders a knight and his wife.
The knight's children survive and swear revenge. Sam and Jamie vow to become knights like their father. Neev, the middle child, vows to become a wizard. 
Five years later, things look grim. Sam is useless with the sword. Jamie is denied knighthood because she's a girl. Neev cannot cast a spell without growing donkey ears, a monkey tail, or an elephant trunk. The siblings feel like failures. 
That's when the dark wizard strikes again. 
Are the siblings powerful enough to defeat him? Or will they too die at his hands? 
Arenson starts the story by introducing what might be his best fantasy-creation to date: the grobbler. 'Pagan gods cursing beautiful, vain women, twisting and wilting their left halves?' They were terrifying to imagine, yet spoke to me very strongly. By being half wilted, half beautiful, they formed a metaphor for modern day society, which is obsessed with youth and beauty, yet at times twisted and dark. In all his books, Arenson has always showed a talent for creating yet he topped himself in this book. A multitude of new creatures appear, all of which seem to have their own detailed background. Therefore I was happy to find a character that is slightly reminiscent of those in Arenson's 'Flaming Dove': Romy, a demon.

Romy is a delightful character, perhaps the best in the book. As a fearsome-looking demon she scares everyone who sees her, yet her childish and immature character provokes quite a lot of hilarious situations. Put her together with a brutish but nice Scruff, the warlock who conjured her up to Earth, 15-year old Jamie who loves to wield her sword at everything and the charming Webcob who was expelled by her spiderling-clan for her speaking impediment. Together they form the Misfits, the Bullies for Buck, who are desperately trying to survive after being kicked out of their respective groups. The Thistle siblings, Jamie, Scruff and Neev, are all still haunted by the death of their parents, especially when their murdered seems to be chasing them.

Reading this book I felt delightfully nostalgic. I always loved stories about travelling knights, slaying monsters, simply being heroic. That is what I loved about stories about Knights and 'Eye of the Wizard' brought back those feelings brilliantly. There is a great sense of comradeship in the book that extends to include the reader in such a way I felt sad at the end of the book for having to leave them. There had been a perfect mix between darker and scarier moments and more light and fun moments, all coming together in a rather touching finale.

Although sometimes the moral of the story is a bit too obvious for my taste, Arenson's descriptions are amazing as always. I have to show myself from my nerd-side for a minute and tell you that this story brought me back to my Dungeons & Dragons - days. This is exactly the kind of set-up I would wish for in one of those games and I thanks Arenson for bringing me back to that. 

I give this book...

I truly enjoyed this book. It is a truly fun read full of fantasy creatures and events that are sure to give you reading pleasure. It has been a long while since I read a knights tale that truly captured the essence of heroic deeds. The Bullies are an amazing group of characters and there is something for everyone in this book.

Friday, 16 March 2012


Follow Friday is hosted by Alison Can Read.

Q: What is the best book you've read in the last month? What is the worst book you've read in the last month?

The best book I have finished reading in the last month is probably 'Marina' by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. It is one of his first "adult" books and you can clearly see his style developing. I am reading great books at the moment such as 'The Night Sky: A Journey from Denver to Dachau and Back' by Maria Sutton and 'Eye of the Wizard' by Daniel Arenson. I haven't really read any bad books lately. Let me have another think.... no, not really. I read the Daily Mail yesterday, don't ask me why. But that was pretty bad. You know your newspaper is bad when someone who doesn't have English as her first language can pick out spelling mistakes!
Gain New Blog Followers
This weeks I am using 'The Doll's House', a play by Henrik Ibsen.

Book Beginnings hosted by A Few More Pages:

A room furnished comfortably and tastefully, but not extravagantly. At the back, a door to the right leads to the entrance-hall, another to the left leads to Helmer’s study. Between the doors stands a piano. In the middle of the lefthand wall is a door, and beyond it a window. Near the window are a round table, arm-chairs and a small sofa. In the right-hand wall, at the farther end, another door; and on the same side, nearer the footlights, a stove, two easy chairs and a rocking-chair; between the stove and the door, a small table. Engravings on the walls; a cabinet with china and other small objects; a small book-case with well-bound books. The floors are carpeted, and a fire burns in the stove. It is winter.

Friday 56 is hosted by Freda's Voice:

Nora: I don’t know; I think there is; but you must not read
anything of that kind now. Nothing horrid must come between
us until this is all over.
Rank: (whispers to HELMER). You mustn’t contradict her.
Helmer: (taking her in his arms) The child shall have her way.
But tomorrow night, after you have danced—

The fact he calls his wife a 'child' disgusts me, but that is the entire point of the play, which is one of the first to show a woman becoming independent.

So, what about you? What bad books have you read?

Friday, 2 March 2012

This Friday Night

Gain New Blog Followers

Follow Friday  is hosted by Alison Can Read.

Q: What book would you love to see made into a movie or television show and do you have actors/actresses in mind to play the main characters?

There are so many books that I think would be great as a movie. Then again, at times I am also one of those people who complains that Hollywood isn't creative and only remakes books and sequels. However, I would love to see a good film made out of 'The Never-ending Story'. The book was crucial to my childhood and it is simply beautiful. Who would I like to play the Childlike Empress? That's a difficult one because as the name says she has to be both friendly and childlike and regal. And then I thought of Saoirse Ronan. She is not only absolutely gorgeous, but also a great actress.

Saoirse Ronan The Hobbit Elf
 Book Beginnings is hosted by A Few More Pages and Friday 56 is hosted by Freda's Voice.

Book Beginnings:
'The Brangwens had lived for generations on the Marsh Farm, in the meadows where the Erewash twisted sluggishly through alder trees, separating Derbyshire from Nottinghamshire.'

This didn't really get me excited so I read on three more lines and found this line, which is a much better line:
'There was a look in the eyes of the Brangwens as if they were expecting something unknown, about which they were eager. They had that air of readiness for what would come to them, a kind of surety, an expectancy, the look of an inheritor.'

That sounds good, no? What about Friday 56?
'"I know it was a great scandal: yes - a whole wagon, and they had girls, filles, naked, all the wagon-full, and so they came down to our village. They came through villages of the Jews, and it was a great scandal. Can you imagine? All the countryside!"'
Wagons full of naked girls? This sounds like a book you can give to your boyfriend.

What I did this week:

I wrote a tiny creative writing story. Hop on over if you fancy a read and I love constructive (even negative) comments and tips!
A Fine Bottle of Brandy

So, how about you? Don't hesitate to leave a link in your comment so I can come and visit you!!!