A Month of Artwork Coming Up. A Month of Stories Coming Up.

It’s almost February. And what is so special about that, you may say?

Well, it’s time for Flash Fiction February 2021, that’s what!

For me, this February marks the third year that I have done illustrations for Flash Fiction February at Fictive Dream, an online magazine focusing on the short story. FFF21, as I call this year’s event, is just what it sounds like: a whole month of flash fiction, one story a day, throughout the month of February.

In the past, I’ve created illustrations specifically for each story. This year, for a lot of reasons, I was able to continue that approach. There is a tight timeframe and a lot of work to do in a short period, and it was just not possible this year.

But – I love working with editor Laura Black and I love the event itself. I did not want to leave this experience. In thinking about it, I came up with the idea of creating a body of artwork from which Laura could then select appropriate illustrations.

To my happiness, Laura agreed, and I set to work. Eventually I made 102 small abstract paintings, far more than I usually would do for a project needing 28 final images, but because the work process was different, it fit my schedule and abilities, and it was a pleasure to do. For all of this I am so grateful to Laura for making it possible.

To create the illustrations, without a story reference, I reflected on a variety of themes, emotions, and moods. I think that all writing, however specific it is within its own framework, touches on universally true and recurring ideas, feelings, and behaviors. Fiction examines and reveals these elements through word selection, sentence structure, choice of subject, and in many other ways. I wanted to use color, line, shape, and form to do the same.

My hope was that Laura could “read” my visual stories and match them to the written stories. This did turn out to be the case – each story found its picture.

In this time of upheaval, chaos, and disorder, making art is for me a chance to bring meaning to what is ocurring in my life or in the world, to make a statement, to define things, or to agree that some things remain undefined. I think writers do the same thing with words. Communication and connection.

Each day, I will post the artwork for the story and provide a link to Fictive Dream. It is my hope that you will look at the art, think about what impression it makes on you, what its story might be. And then that you will read the story and see the artwork in that context.

About the artwork:

Each image is approximately 7″ x 10″, a size dictated by the requirements of the magazine’s layout online. I worked in acrylic paints and inks on watercolor paper or Bristol board.

In composing the pictures, I needed to be aware of how the art would look in the thumbnail image, meaning no essential elements could be set close to the bottom and top edges. I also had to leave room for the “Flash Fiction February 2021 “banner”, which was inserted digitally on the scanned artwork, and which needed to be visible in both thumbnail and full-size views.

Once I finished an artwork, I scanned it, added the banner, and sent the image to Laura in the correct size for her to use.

All 102 artworks:

If you do the math, there are a LOT of artworks that didn’t get used: 102-28=74, to be specific. I will post them on the blog as time goes on. Some of them illustrate this post, in fact.

I think all of them would be happy to pose for a story idea…go ahead! Why not?

48 thoughts on “A Month of Artwork Coming Up. A Month of Stories Coming Up.

  1. Claudia McGill Post author

    Thank you. Once I got started I had a lot of enthusiasm for the project and I kept having new ideas I wanted to try. It was really a wonderful experience and now I am eager to see how the images match up with the stories.

  2. Diane

    I remember you had said you were going to be approaching this differently this year. How nice that you and Laura have developed such a relationship of trust that you are both giving each other this freedom. If will be fun for you to see what she choose for each particular story and I am sure she had great fun selecting.

  3. Claudia McGill Post author

    We both liked how this year’s process worked out, and I am eager to see the stories now. I feel so fortuntate to have met Laura and our association has really enriched my life, both as an artist but also personally.

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  5. Fictive Dream

    Today is the first day of Flash Fiction February and I’d love the chance add to this blog. As Claudia has explained this is the first year in which we’ve worked in a new way, that is, Claudia prepared a huge number of artworks in advance and then I chose an illustration for each story. The process was a revelation – it demanded that I think of each story’s underlying themes very carefully. Many of the 28 story that will appear over the month could have been illustrated by a number of the artworks. Some of the artworks were destined for one story only. I just hope that I made the best decisions. Diane refers to trust and I can honestly say that I trust Claudia with any commission – she will know exactly what is to be achieved in a way that often I can’t envisage. Thank you for your kind comments, Claudia. Truly, I believe the same, you’ve enriched my life personally and also enriched Fictive Dream. I look forward to finding out what you think of the final choices of artwork.

  6. Claudia McGill Post author

    Thank you, Laura. I am moved by what you say. And, now that I am reading it on the first day of the event, I have already one example of art/writing collaboration to see and I love how it worked. I really like the idea of two arts, writing and visual, coming together from different places to meet and to support each other’s impact, which is how I am feeling this year is especially doing (pls excuse the totally ungrammatical sentence, I hope everyone knows what I mean!)

  7. Fictive Dream

    It’s a great demonstration of what a trusting collaboration can achieve, and a such a bonus in the current climate in which we’ve all felt isolated at one time or another.

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  12. marissthequilter

    This post has been waiting in my inbox because I couldn’t find the right words to comment when I first read it about a week ago. The images ‘speak’ to me and I think that you have really tapped into those human emotions that surface in stories. I am sure all 102 could be used and suspect that Laura is going to have a hard time choosing.

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  14. Claudia McGill Post author

    Thank you so much for saying this. I kind of went into the artwork with the field wide open as to what to make (vs focusing story by story as I did in the past) and I think I made so many pieces because of this – there was so much to express and once I started I really really enjoyed it. Also I did not want Laura to find herself in the position of not finding an image to fit a story, and not being satisfied. Or on the other hand I deluged her with art and she threw up her hands in despair at the overload! It worked out so much better than I could have hoped. And I think it gives Laura more ability to shape the response to the story if someone comes into it via the art – she had many more choices to select from for each story (102 vs. the 2 versions I usually made for each story, in the past). I am really happy with this year’s event in all ways. Thanks for reading and for what you said – it is what I hoped, that the art would express emotions.

  15. Fictive Dream

    Claudia provided a large number of illustrations for me to work with and I found this a very positive experience. For many of the stories I found, quite surprisingly that several of the images would have worked well. For some stories, however, it was clear that there was one ‘perfect match.’ A great example of this is Terror at the Top of the World published on Feb 1st. The illustration encapsulates the story’s tone and theme exactly. I hope you find much to enjoy in the coming month.

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  29. Claudia McGill Post author

    Thank you. I really enjoyed this project for the freedom the editor, Laura Black, gave me to do what I thought best. There is nothing better than just letting the colors and shapes out of your head and onto paper!

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