Process: Estella, The Child of Fire & Ice.
I'm sure it won't have escaped anyone with a keen eye that this is the first blog post since the book launch back in February. Since then the world has been in the grip of the Corona Virus and it is now nearing the end of May. In so far as blog post were concerned, I figured better to produce something new and talk about that, so after a much needed brain break which was then unexpectedly followed by several weeks of obsessive news watching, I did eventually manage to motivate myself to begin work on the sequal to The Sisters Grimm. It's worth noting here that yesterday It was number one in kindle store on amazon (In "Dark Fantasy Horror" and "Low Fantasy" whatever that means) so that's brilliant.
There are a number of dilemmas I face when trying to share my work with you online. Firstly, Pixels just don't compensate for actually holding a hand finished piece of artwork in your hands and that's by quite a margin. One just cant appreciate an up to one hundred hour investment of time in a drawing on a phone or a computer screen, The fineness, the nuances of graduation between shades which build out a texture and sock you between the eyeballs, and the realization that this is a hand finished one off. Secondly, These pieces are designed to be happened upon whilst in your personal reading zone with your head very much immersed in the vision of the writer. The text is crucial to the experience so once again this is impossible to portray remotely, further to this, the text isn't my work and therefore there are proprietary issues to consider. Fortunately in this case, Menna and I are friends and we both understand the there is a symbiosis to promoting the others work so. when I'm am uploading work on to the site I will generally include the text, but for a blog post Ill simply describe the outline because if I include the full text also, Trust me that's just too many frikin words.
So there were five preliminary drawings outlining my imaginary vision of the moment I choose to illustrate. I shall write about each. The text describes a child born of two diametrically opposed elemental energies, those being Fire and Ice. As the child, named Estella grows up, she exists in a perpetual state of conflict and flux, accident prone often injuring herself. She is a slight, waif of a thing in stature, utterly at the mercy of forces way beyond her control. Her mother, a Witch, as an act of love, removes her daughters powers and buries them in a box in the woods, Estella grows up believing she is ordinary until one day she happens across the box in the woods, it has extricated itself from the earth at the appropriate moment. She opens the box out of curiosity and in that moment (Cue Drawing) Both energies are released in her, but because she has not grown up learning to handle it, it explodes and vaporizes her. She is absorbed into the earth by an earth goddess and a tree marks the spot of her untimely demise...or transition depending how you choose to look at it.
Whilst I could see the final image in my mind after meditating on it for some time I had to begin to get it down in 2 dimensions and so this is the first pass. I wanted to mold the movement based around the shape of an exploding neutron star, an explosion so powerful it bends space into these sort of dual orb like shapes with light surging through it, imitating the lines you see in directional magnetism or gravitational fields.
Then came the study of how this might work in a forest with a central figure, I knew by this stage that one side would be fire and the other ice but had no idea how I was going to achieve this from a textural aspect, I vaguely put some flames on the right hand side..I superimposed the directional movement idea onto it and warped the trees to lean inwards to magnify the effect.
Then came Estella herself. With everything else going on around her She is basically just a silhouette, The only thing we really know about her is her stature, small, slight, vulnerable so this was possible by representing her in the very simplest way, a shape. The shadows are a big part of implying the presence of intense light though and for this I was imagining those shadows left on walls after the Hydrogen bomb explosion in Hiroshima in 1945, they are cast in multiple directions skittered across the ground. In the final version I simplified this greatly. On the left I began to mix the inks for this one and testing the various dilutions. By using a Rotring Isograph pen this is possible because you physically have to fill the cartridges. This gives you more control. By diluting to four different values you do need four pens, but it gives you a much broader spectrum of options for shading and an overall more polished finish so..the lightest shade (For publishing on paper) is the white/ivory of the actual paper moving through several grey tones (Warm Grey, Sepia, Beige mixed in four concentrations)and finally Black for the darkest areas and lines.
The 4th and 5th go together, I needed to draw the forest scene but also work on the fire and ice textures which I would blend together in the final version. Fire, I had done before, but not ice, it was originally based on The structure of Ice crystals in snowflakes, However I wasn't convinced by this to be honest, it lacked the explosive element so I left it, decided to start anyway and as what normally happens is once I've started the solutions to the problems begin to present themselves, this only happens simultaneously on the hoof..Never before!. I sometimes wonder if this is something that holds many artists (or anyone) back is trying to solve everything before hand and then basically never starting. For me..(and this drawing was a perfect example) Its a process of starting and then steering. This way often the outcome is not always what you'd necessarily anticipated but is frequently better than you'd hoped. Its these moments of non control that allow your development to manifest. That said...This drawing took a long time, it was very complicated and although i finished many areas as I went..I didn't solve how to depict the ice side until well passed 60%, so quite stressful. Since this is an old school pen and paper as opposed to digital I cant simply delete a layer and start over. It has however done what I intended to do and it will work well in the book....Right onto the next one!....Beauty's' Rage.