Tag Archives: fiction

Illustrating the Story, or Thoughts in Paint – Part 4

How about some background on how I did my work for the illustrations for Flash Fiction February at Fictive Dream? I’m going to write a few posts on topics related to the process. I hope they might give you some insight into how I approached the illustration of a collection of very different pieces of short fiction.

Flash Fiction February is in progress right now, by the way. Take a look!

 

Managing the project: how do I keep from getting lost?

Or how do I keep my sanity, might be the better question! There were 28 days of stories to illustrate in Flash Fiction February 2019 and I did a total of 60 paintings for Fictive Dream editor Laura Black to choose from. I started to work on December 2, 2018, and got Laura’s approval for the last works on January 8, 2019.

It was a very compressed time frame and the deadline was firm. I knew I had to work quickly at making pieces and I could not afford to get confused as to where I stood with a particular story, to lose a painting somewhere in a file, or to have to repeat work because of carelessness or simply forgetting.

Luckily, I’m a paperwork-loving kind of person, and my employment background includes a lot of practice in managing data and projects. I’m also very methodical, and though there are those times I wrench the steering wheel hard to zoom down a byway or to go off the scheduled route, I try to channel that creativity into the artwork, not the project management.

Enough talking. Here’s how I kept up with things. I warn you, it’s a pretty dry account. I wish I had some pictures to show you but you know what…paperwork just doesn’t lend itself to the visual, does it?

I don’t blame you if you just skim through. But, if you ever do a project like this, come back here and take a look. Why reinvent the wheel?  Call on me and I’ll help however I can!

Art supplies

I made a list before I started any artwork of what I would need: paper, paints, inks, glues, etc. I checked my existing supplies and filled in any gaps.

Estimating timeframes

I gave some thought to how many works I would need to do (understanding that the pace of work also depended on how Laura’s workflow went in accepting stories) and figured out how many a week I needed to make in order not to run too close to the deadline. I also resolved to make this project a priority over all other art work.

Keeping a log

In my opinion, the key to managing a project like this to set up a log and to maintain it. Never do anything without recording it on the log. Just don’t.

I made two logs: one for work in progress and one to record the final selections Laura made. The WIP log was the one I never lost sight of. I had a paper version and I also created one on the computer, using an Excel spreadsheet. You might wonder why two?

Well, I was working on a physical item, the painting, in my studio, and I don’t take my computer in there. Paper can get spilled on and and pretty much things are ok. Computers, not so much.

But I did significant work on the computer for this project, too. There was a lot of digital work needed to get the images to Laura in shape for her to use. Plus, it was nice to have a copy of the WIP log (in case that spill in the studio turned out to be…disastrous…)

I maintained a paper log  for the creation of the pieces and then updated the computer log when I did the digital work. That way the two stayed in sync and I felt secure about my road map.

Here’s the paper WIP log I used. FYI, I numbered each painting rather assigning it a name, as I did not know which ones Laura would choose. This system worked well and we never got confused, as each painting could have only one number.

You can see from these pages that I could look at any time and see where I was with a particular story and what images went with that story.

At the same time, I kept a file folder that held all the actual WIP paintings.

When a story finished its journey, it went into the Final Selections list.  At the same time, I moved the chosen painting into a file folder containing only selected paintings. Here is the Final Selections log.

Flash Fiction February 2019 log (2)

Digital work

Once a painting was made, it was scanned. Every one of them. Because Laura needed to see all paintings in order to make her selections, that’s why.

Here is the workflow:

  • Make painting
  • Scan and process (I’ll explain “process” in a minute)
  • Send images to Laura
  • Laura chooses image
  • Digital folders and logs updated

When I say “process”, each painting went through these steps:

  • scan the painting
  • piece together the scans (my scanner required me to do each painting in 2 parts, which I then used the PhotoMerge function in PhotoShop Elements 15 to stitch it together, digitally)
  • digital image created, full size (same as the painting)
  • banner applied to digital image at full size, leaving it in layers (in case I needed to move it around the image because it got cut off on Laura’s thumbnail image on her blog – this way I didn’t have to rescan and start over if there were mistakes)
  • flattening the digital image with banner, at full size
  • reducing the flattened image to a size suitable for internet requirements and sending it to Laura

I maintained digital folders in all these categories

  • Original scans
  • Images with no text
  • Images with text and image in layers
  • Images flattened
  • Images reduced to blog size

Sounds like a lot. But in this way I was able to find any image in any stage of work. And I’ve learned the hard way that it’s important to be able to do that in a project like this one.

Following along with the event on my blogs

I wanted to feature the paintings on my own blogs to coordinate with their publication on Fictive Dream. The order in which I did the work was not, of course, the order in which they were published. Laura sent me a schedule that I was able to use to set up my own posts. I created simple posts featuring only the artwork and a link to the event using the list, working ahead to have the whole month done ahead of time.

 

All right. I think now you know all about my work for Flash Fiction February 2019. I want to thank Laura Black and all the authors once again for allowing me to participate. I feel proud of my work and I hope that it represents the stories well. Thank you all for following along with me on this journey.

 

 

 

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Illustrating the Story, or Thoughts in Paint – Part 3

How about some background on how I did my work for the illustrations for Flash Fiction February at Fictive Dream? I’m going to write a few posts on topics related to the process. I hope they might give you some insight into how I approached the illustration of a collection of very different pieces of short fiction.

Flash Fiction February is in progress right now, by the way. Take a look!

Putting paint to paper, story by story

The themes, materials, style, all the generalities of the project, all had been decided…and now it was time to work. Fictive Dream editor Laura Black began to send me stories in December, 2018. As in the September Slam event, she sent me a plain and a marked-up copy of each story – in this way, I had a chance to read each story and form my own ideas, then compare them with her thoughts.

I highly recommend this practice. It allows the illustrator free range of imagination and allows the editor to have their say, too, in a way that allows for comparison and expansion of views.

Getting started

After reading the story, I wrote down phrases, thoughts, ideas, whatever came to mind, in a notebook I set up for the project. I also drew out possible schemes for the illustrations.

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How did I get to this step? Well, let me give you some background. I’m an avid reader. I was an English major  in college and wrote lots of literary analyses. I worked for a bank for many years, making loans to commercial borrowers, and every step of that process was document in detailed memos. I am analytical by nature.

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So much of my past had prepared me to view these stories not only from the perspective of the surface plot, etc., and to pick out visual scenes from the works, but to take apart their structures, to view the narratives as objects, almost, with forms and characteristics that could be made visual.

Remember, I’m making abstract pieces, not representational ones. I knew that I needed to express the meaning of each story in symbols, shapes, forms, rather than in explicit images.

Let me show you, rather than tell you: an example or two

The first story I worked on was This Is Not a Pencil Box, by Angie Spoto. You see my notes below. Since it was the first story, I was feeling my way.

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As I wrote to Laura when I sent her the images:

To me, the story is full of boxes and breaking out of a box (the bully is flummoxed by out of the box thinking). This author was also quite clear on colors. So all the images include box shapes and rectangles, more or less. I included yellow pencils, green box, and white shoes.

I made four images, the most I did for any story, because I needed to find my way. I created one image including collage, with the others being paint and ink. Without sounding too airy, I needed to see the story as a physical object and then to paint what I saw. Here are the results.

The next story I worked on, Family Gathering, by Paul Beckman, was the only one that I did just one image for. The structure of the story and therefore the artwork was very clear to me right from the start.

img_00011

As I wrote to Laura when I sent her the image:

There are complainers on one side, there are laughers on the other side, and the mother and twins are in the middle; they are the glue that is holding this occasion together, and they somewhat absorb elements of each side, they mediate the party/the composition, but they are also distinct entities themselves and have a separate view point. So I visualized this story as three panels and each got its own color. The red in the middle one to me represents the three and their apple pie and focuses the composition visually, as the three people focus the story.

Here is the image.

image 5 fictive dream 12-4-18 20192

I hope this gives you an idea of my process in taking an author’s words and turning them into a painting. Here is what I said to Laura in the email accompanying the first images I sent her:

Once I started to work on actual stories the theoretical became real and I got a better idea of how in my mind to think about a story in somewhat non-representational terms. It became clear to me that it is necessary for me to translate the story elements into the art in a coherent composition or else all you end up with is – a colored background for the name of the competition.

My aim is to make each piece really individual because each story is.

Next time I will talk about the management of a project such as this one – with many stories and illustrations in various stages of work, how do you keep up with the details?

Illustrating the Story, or Thoughts in Paint – Part 2

How about some background on how I did my work for the illustrations for Flash Fiction February at Fictive Dream? I’m going to write a few posts on topics related to the process. I hope they might give you some insight into how I approached the illustration of a collection of very different pieces of short fiction.

Flash Fiction February is in progress right now, by the way. Take a look!

Putting paint to paper in the big picture

Today I’ll address some of the thematic aspects of doing the art for the project – meaning, how the style and manner in which I did the artwork got figured out. And please forgive the wordplay in the title here. It’s just what came to mind…

All right, let’s get started!

The initial information: Fictive Dream editor Laura Black sent me a description of her vision for the artwork for the event in late November, 2018. She said, referring to last year’s artwork (which mostly came from Pixabay):

You’ll see that I used a whole variety of artwork in February 2018. There was one style of watercolour that I particularly liked and I’ve attached four examples. Had there been more instances of this style, I would have used them. The aspect that is most appealing to me is the simplicity, and this is the sort of effect that I’m looking for – to have each story represented by a dominant colour. There may be instances where a combination of colours would be more appropriate. But, overall, simplicity is the thing. I mention watercolours only because that’s what was available. I’m definitely open to suggestions on the medium.

The artworks she referenced were abstract watercolor washes, very misty and evocative, and she gave me plenty of info about what she liked about them, which was a big help in guiding my initial thinking.

The most important detail: the artwork style would be very abstract. Right off the bat, I knew in which direction I needed to be thinking.

She then went on to say:

For 2018 the colours I chose were based on the following:
– the tone of a story (I classified stories as positive, negative or neutral).
– A colour that was mentioned in the text (surprisingly common).
– The influence of the subject matter, eg. for a story involving a man’s pinstripe suit I chose a dark blue; for a piece that mentioned a pin prick of blood I chose a bright red.

More clues. The artwork would directly reference the stories, but in an indirect way – symbolic, thematic, but not representational in a real-world kind of way. The main vehicle for tying the story and illustration together would be strongly dependent on color.

Now, the analysis:

I had some misgivings about the images I would be creating, that of them being too simple, though – there would be a lot of stories and days passing by quickly and I wanted to avoid the pitfall of all the art coming to look too much alike. Each story deserved to  be special, words and art. As I wrote to Laura:

I’m thinking that there might be too much repetition or things looking too much the same after a while, especially with so many artworks? … I think there is a fine balance between simple and boring and it would be my job to get that balance and to fit to each story and what you want.

I sent her some images of work I’d done in the past for her to review and these are the ones she chose as exemplifying what she’d like to see:

Now I felt confident that I could do the work. In explaining my vision for the artworks, I wrote to her:

I want to make sure that each image is an actual artwork (that you would look at for itself) as opposed to what I think of as “raw material” – painted papers that have no focus because they are meant to be cut up and recombined and the artwork derives its meaning from their combination – they don’t stand on their own.

The idea of a common vocabulary:

Having agreed on style, we discussed materials, and decided that the majority of each image would be done in acrylics, with some collage possible. As it turned out, a few had some collage elements, but generally, paint and acrylic inks did the work.

In this manner Laura and I developed a common vocabulary for the artworks to use. It is essential in a project of this sort that the whole group of illustrations has a coherent look, as well as each individual artwork presenting its specific story well.

Having a clear idea of what style and materials to use, determined up front, gave me a framework to work within and provided guidelines that I continually referred to throughout the project.

Ready to get to work:

Though it took some time to get the details set, because we had worked together before, Laura and I had built up a level of trust and shared understanding that was really valuable, both at this point and through the project. The importance of this kind of relationship can’t be overstated. I really appreciated the freedom Laura gave me to do the work and to have a say in setting parameters for the art. It made the work much more satisfying for me and it also gave me the incentive to work very hard to do my best for each story – I felt very invested in what the eventual readers of the fiction would be seeing.

Next time, I’ll talk about the experience of taking a story, figuring out a way in to it, visually, and getting that vision on to paper.

 

Secret Project: The Backstage Story – Part Eleven

You’ve seen the published stories and their illustrations in the September Slam at Fictive Dream, an online magazine focusing on the short story.  Now, in a series of posts, I travel through the project from my perspective as an artist, covering the creative process, physical and mental – from the tools I used to the way I approached the various stories.

For other posts in this series, search under the term “September Slam”.

Now you’ve seen the entire process of illustrating a literary competition as I experienced it. I think working with Laura Black and Fictive Dream was one of the most interesting, educational, and challenging art experiences I’ve had. Plus it was just a lot of fun.

I’m inspired to do more work like this – pen and ink drawings, I mean, and also more illustrating/real life sketching. I’ve got lots of sources – the whole world around me, for one thing, and my own writings, for another.

I want to thank Laura for her faith in my work. At all times she was unfailingly professional and supportive, she listened to my opinions, she respected my work, and I feel I have made a friend through this process.

I would also like to thank the authors for all of their kind comments. Suddenly, deep into the process, it occurred to me that not only did Laura’s opinion matter, but those of the authors – well, I had never thought about how it might feel to have your story illustrated, and what if I didn’t do it in a way they liked? Thankfully that did not happen.

My perspective on the illustrations was very ground-level: I thought about only each picture as I worked. I never considered the overall view. Here is what Fictive Dream Editor Laura Black said about the process from her perspective, and I think it’s very interesting and revealing:

In commissioning illustrations for September Slam my prime considerations were:

1. for the project to have an identity and for the Slam stories to be differentiated from the standard stories;
2. for the text, ‘September Slam 2018’ to be incorporated into the illustrations as part of the identity.

Your artwork, including the two images you created early on for social media, achieved all of this. The Slam has a clear identity and the intricate pen and ink style is just right. I think the text is incorporated superbly. It catches the eye but never dominates the image, which I like.

Once the project got started I soon learned that there were other considerations. Chiefly:

Choosing the right image for each particular story.

I didn’t have any knowledge of how you would work and as the project progressed I became increasingly grateful that you offered multiple options per story. That said, the choice wasn’t always easy for me. So often I could have gone either way, but this was the fun part without doubt… But when it comes to how I made the choices, for each story I pretty much followed this procedure: I uploaded all your options and I’d try each image on the story. One day I’d try one image, the next I’d try another. I’d re-read the text with the images in mind. Eventually, I’d make my choice. Sometimes I’d change my mind and start again. Primarily, I was trying to choose the image that best encapsulated the theme of a piece.
Variety in the artwork

By this I mean variety of scene and, for me, this was achieved very well. The restaurant scene was important in the two earlier images (social media) but for the actual stories I was keen to move away from this. Only two stories took place in the restaurant… Your idea that I send you the original unmarked story, as well as a marked copy was a good one.

In terms of the stories, I was very keen to find the best writing I could among the submissions and to offer readers a variety of genres. So there would only have been one war story, for example. It was also necessary that not all of the seven stories began with the prompt. The categories I worked to were: opening line, opening page, mid story, and end story. But good writing was the main criteria, which is why the first and last stories both begin with the prompt.

Overall effect of the artwork

By this I mean the overall look on the Home Page (thumbnails views in my case). Specifically, how would the colours sit alongside each other? Would there be a balance between peopled images and unpeopled images? And all the while I had to make sure I didn’t interfere in your creative process. It was an interesting exercise because when I search photographs for the standard stories, these considerations figure very little.

Colour: I find that in terms of colour there’s a harmony between the seven images. They sit alongside each other very well. Ideally, I should have placed one of the images from days 6,7 or 8 further towards that beginning because they are particularly strong in colour but the position of the prompt (and also gender of the writer) were uppermost in my mind.

People: stories are all about people and their relationships but I was so pleased we have two images without people. In fact, there’s wonderful range from the density of Helen McClory to the emptiness of Rachel Stevenson. The green coloured artwork for the unused ‘Ypres’ has a pair of boots to represent the soldier. I found this very moving.

In terms of tone I think the separate artworks form a unified whole. The overall appearance is balanced and there’s nothing that might be described as discordant.

This is the first time that I’ve commissioned artwork for Fictive Dream and I’m so pleased that I did. I think that having its own identity has made all the difference to the project. And I loved the collaboration.


I felt the same way. Thank you, Laura.

 

 

 

Secret Project: The Backstage Story – Part Ten

You’ve seen the published stories and their illustrations in the September Slam at Fictive Dream, an online magazine focusing on the short story.  Now, in a series of posts, I travel through the project from my perspective as an artist, covering the creative process, physical and mental – from the tools I used to the way I approached the various stories.

For other posts in this series, search under the term “September Slam”.

The final story I illustrated was Farewell to Europe, by Adam Kotlarczyk.

The scope of the possibilities for illustrating this story was overwhelming to me at first. First of all, Pyle was a real person with a known appearance. The larger events of the story were all true. The setting, wartime France, was a real time and place with its specific look. Fictive Dream Editor Laura Black had chosen one passage for illustration and I agreed with her. Choosing a second image was of course not necessary, but I was not quite satisfied with stopping at one – why, I don’t know, keeping with the pattern, or did I feel there was another slant to the story I could work with?

I decided to start off with the chosen passage and see how that went.

Drawing #1:

The passage Laura and I both chose involved the men watching this scene outside the restaurant window:

“As if on cue, a convoy rolled through the narrow road outside, rattling the dishes and the mirrors for a full ten minutes. In another life, the scene would have been absurd, us looking away and checking our watches. But absurdity had become our reality, and we accepted it and waited, with slight annoyance, for the long drab line of trucks and tanks to pass, like a motorist waiting at the tracks for a freight train.”

In order for me to depict this scene, I needed reference information. I had only a vague idea of what WWII trucks looked like, or how a convoy might be composed. I will say I have childhood memories of driving with my grandparents through rural Kentucky, Indiana, and Illinois on various trips along two-lane highways; we’d often encounter convoys transporting soldiers from local bases and we’d weave in and out of the line as I waved out the back window. The memory, while pleasant, was not enough to draw a real war scene! I therefore spent some time poring over Google images photos of WWII in Europe to gain a good understanding of the vehicles, soldier uniforms, and so on.

Here’s the image I did to illustrate this passage:

Fictive Dream Farewell to Europe image 2 flattened 9-18 small

Drawing #2:

Now for the second image. I researched Pyle’s life in images and was stymied. Nothing epitomized the overall themes of the story. I was also not satisfied with taking another quote from the story, for the same reason, though there was plenty of visual information.

I came upon a photo of one of Pyle’s typewriters and then – inspiration hit. Here was my subject, the typewriter itself, symbolizing Pyle, journalism, writing, and war. But could I draw a typewriter?

Referring to the photo, I started to work on a sketch on white paper. Just for practice. But as I went on, I realized the sketch was turning into a drawing. I let myself finish it up with the idea that I could set it on a painted background as I had done with elements in other illustrations.

I chose a bold painted background. I had done it earlier and had it in inventory, but never thought I’d use it because it was such a loud presence on its own. For my purposes now, though, it was perfect.

Farewell to Europe Full size image 1 background 9-18 small

Next I had to deal with the typewriter. In the other illustrations with superimposed elements, I had just cut out the part I wanted and attached it to the actual background. This technique would not work here – when I cut out the typewriter, it looked too big. Hmmm. So I scanned it. This illustration would be different from all the others. It would not exist in real life.

First step was to separate the scanned typewriter from its background. I accomplished this using the tools in PhotoShop Elements 15, so that I had a free-floating typewriter.

Farewell to Europe typewriter small

I took the scanned background, typewriter, and text, layering them in PhotoShop Elements 15. Once they were in position, I was able to shrink the typewriter to the size I thought looked best and to position it and the text on the background. And then…I had my illustration.

So here is a great example of how the illustration process differs from creating an artwork for physical sale. And I was glad and relieved that I could do it this way, because I really was happy with that typewriter drawing and I am not sure a re-do would have had the same life to it.

Fictive Dream Farewell to Europe image 1 layers and text flattened 9-18 small

From the Editor:

Here’s what Laura Black said about her thought process in choosing the image for the story:

The final choice of image for Farewell To Europe was difficult to make because I liked both pieces of artwork very much. Among the Slam submissions there were several that were about the First or Second world wars – unsurprising given the prompt’s geography. I was keen to include one war story and when Adam Kotlarczyk’s story came in (towards the end, I think) I knew I’d choose his.

Your image of the army trucks passing by the restaurant window is a clear signal to readers that they’re about to embark on a war story. I love the movement in the image and details like the army helmets. That said, the story is also about writing and journalism. In fact, it gives a fictional encounter between a writer and the real life war correspondent Ernie Pyle. In addition, the typewriter symbolises what September Slam and Fictive Dream are about. This image really struck a chord with me. Of all your images, this is my favourite.

Just as with The Albatross artwork, the subject is presented in white and therefore is prominent. Interestingly, in The Albatross the white figure takes centre stage and the background recedes slightly. Here the image of the typewriter is strong but the colours on the right really do hold their own. And what beautiful colours. I don’t know if they’re pastels but that’s what they remind me of. What a way to end!

 

So that is how this story received its illustration. If you haven’t read it, take a look:

Farewell to Europe, by Adam Kotlarczyk.

Secret Project: The Backstage Story – Part Nine

You’ve seen the published stories and their illustrations in the September Slam at Fictive Dream, an online magazine focusing on the short story.  Now, in a series of posts, I travel through the project from my perspective as an artist, covering the creative process, physical and mental – from the tools I used to the way I approached the various stories.

For other posts in this series, search under the term “September Slam”.

The next story I worked on was Chemical Cosh, by Cath Bore. This story involves an encounter at a party that makes an indelible impression on the narrator. It’s a very sensory story, with many images and smells and tastes; to me, the story occurred almost as a series of moments, each with a highly-detailed and fully formed existence on its own. There were many things I could have illustrated, but there was only one that to me exemplified the whole story. Both Fictive Dream Editor Laura Black and I picked out the same passage for illustration. This was the only story where I made just one drawing, where we both felt so strongly it was the right way to depict the story.

At the beginning of the story, the party that begins the encounter is described:

“The party is full of laughter and chatter and elbows and jostling. A friend of a friend of a neighbour has moved into a flat four roads up from mine, and all are welcome. Open bottles of wine and craft ale, and party nibbles from the frozen food shop on the high street are laid out on a table covered with torn lengths of kitchen paper.”

I had a vivid impression of the scene in my mind – I’ve been to many gatherings that reminded me of this event. Between the quote and the memories I knew what I wanted to draw, but once again, I needed some visual references for the people – it’s a young crowd and I wanted to make sure of getting clothing and hair details correct. Once again Google images came in handy – I searched under the term “young people at a party”, and after eliminating a few toddler birthday bashes, I had a good idea of who was attending the party in Chemical Cosh.

I painted a bright orangey background to evoke a warm crowded party mood, adding a bit of black spatter – I think a little spatter adds a sense of motion and excitement to a drawing. Then I filled in the occupants. After the people were done, I drew the room around them. Here’s the image I came up with:

Fictive Dream Chemical Cosh image 1 9-18 flattened small

I figured that if Laura didn’t like it, I could draw another party scene with a different focus or angle. Luckily, she was happy with this first attempt.

From the Editor:

Here’s what Laura Black said about her thought process in choosing the image for the story:

We both agreed that there wasn’t a better influence for an illustration that the opening paragraph. This is a story rich in vocabulary and after the opening scene at the party, it all takes place inside the protagonist’s head. Your image perfectly encapsulates the first line. ‘The party of full of laughter and chatter and elbows and jostling.’ The colours are of food and wine and heat. I love the figure on the right with his shades and check shorts. Perfect.

So that is how this story received its illustration. If you haven’t read it, take a look:

Chemical Cosh, by Cath Bore.

Secret Project: The Backstage Story – Part Eight

You’ve seen the published stories and their illustrations in the September Slam at Fictive Dream, an online magazine focusing on the short story.  Now, in a series of posts, I travel through the project from my perspective as an artist, covering the creative process, physical and mental – from the tools I used to the way I approached the various stories.

For other posts in this series, search under the term “September Slam”.

The next story I worked on was “Eat to Live”, by Sarah Daniels. The story is a study of excess: food, of course, but also of the effects an excess of a single focus can have on people and the actions they will take as a result. The story was strong stuff and for me, hard to read, which I think marks the author’s success in telling it.

Here I’ll digress into what I found to be the most interesting thing about taking on an illustration job – the need to enter the world an author has created, one that might be very different from my usual thoughts or themes.

In any commission work, of course, the artist is presented with a subject that is not of their own choosing – I’ve done plenty of this kind of work in the past, but it was pretty much related to depicting something visual – a house portrait, for instance. Illustrating written stories, though, required me to create a visual from the very thoughts of someone else.

In previous stories, that challenge for me had been more focused on getting the scenes correct – France, trains, Lisbon, ruins, World War I clothing, etc. The emotions of the characters had come more naturally to me or were something that I could find a parallel in my own experiences. In this story, though, I was out of my depth – these people were thinking in ways I would not.

It was a fascinating challenge – how to reveal character and support the story in a visual sense? The answer was of course right in front of me. The words of the story, as in all the other projects, told me all I needed to know to do a good drawing. I’m not showing people what I think about France or trains, or World War I in these drawings – I am showing people what the author thinks and says.

Ahhh. Now I was able to go to work.

Drawing #1:

For the first drawing, I chose the description of the meeting of the two characters. Fictive Dream Editor Laura Black had not marked this passage, but it immediately stood out to me, and I had a clear idea of what I saw:

I met him in a faded restaurant in a small, rainy town on the main line between Brussels and Paris. There were mirrors on the walls all around the room. My face reflected back a thousand times, vapid grey and waxy from every angle. I folded another stick of peppermint chewing gum into my mouth. Dreamt of the bottle of antacid I’d left on the sink in my hotel room.
Roy Ogram sat across from me. Four time Competitive Eating World Champion. His famous mouth was wide and turned down. Tiny nostrils on a flattened nose.

You may notice this quote includes the prompt wording. I had a vision of what the restaurant looked like already – remember my drawings from the beginning of the project?

I envisioned Roy Ogram surrounded by food in this restaurant. In order to draw him, I needed a reference – Roy is a large man. I turned to Google images; by this time I had learned that pretty much whatever I asked for, I could find. I searched under the term “really fat man”. Yes, I did, and I found images that helped me develop the characteristic postures and look of a very overweight man. I drew quite a few sketches to get the image I wanted.

I also wanted to draw a LOT of food. Once again, Google images brought to me many photos of party tables groaning with food.

I created a painted background especially for this image – the colors prompted by the “vapid gray” in the story as well as the word “faded” in the prompt.

Here is the drawing I did:

Fictive Dream Eat to Live Image 2 text flattened

Drawing #2:

Laura had marked two passages from the same section of the story. They both involved the birds. I considered her suggestion of the point at which Roy eats the bird. I just could not do it. Plus, as a practical matter, I thought it might be a spoiler. However, we both had chosen this line:

Half a dozen gulls hopped down onto the concrete. They pecked at the fries. Cocked their heads to watch us.

I thought it had great possibilities. It included both characters and marked a pivotal point in the story. I did some photo research on gulls and did more sketches of the two people, then I set all these characters into a rather vague plain setting so that they would stand out. I used a similar background as I did in the other illustration. Here’s what I came up with, and it’s the one Laura chose for publication.

Fictive Dream Eat to Live Image 1 text flattened small

From the Editor:

Here’s what Laura Black said about her thought process in choosing the image for the story:

I know that you found this a difficult story. There’s no doubt that it’s disturbing. I think you were absolutely right in not showing a bird in Roy Ogram’s mouth. In fact, your image – the one I chose – could be of a benign scene and it’s only when you read the story that it takes on a more sinister meaning.

I made the final choice at the very end of the procedure. In fact, this was my final decision on the artwork side. In the end, I chose on the grounds that the image shows both characters’ distrust of each other. He is eyeing her with his piggy eyes, and she, young and vulnerable, doesn’t really know what to make of him.

I also like the fact that it’s less colourful than the other images. In fact, the colour you chose engages with an early line in the text: My face reflected back a thousand times, vapid grey and waxy from every angle.

What I enjoyed about the alternative image was that it brought us into the restaurant with the mirrored walls, and having one out of the seven in the restaurant wouldn’t have been a problem at all. I like the young woman’s many reflections. But, I had to make a decision and finally opted for the gulls on the bench because it engages with what we know is to come.

So that is how this story received its illustration. If you haven’t read it, take a look:

“Eat to Live”, by Sarah Daniels.