Pergamenata

Been working on the Nativity series based on the Crusader's Bible. I'm doing this project on Pergamenata, from the recommendation of Hillarie and James Cornwell, creators of Saints, Signs, and SymbolsPergamenata is great: it's a plant-based product made to look, feel, and work like traditional skin parchment. The finished art is much more durable, and you can even scrape off mistakes with an X-acto knife. Vegetarian parchment? Sign me up!

Several online reviews recommended rubbing the entire surface with an eraser to prepare the surface for calligraphy. Parchment products (and their vegetable-based relatives, I guess) have a thin layer of oil that can lead to ink just pooling on the surface into big nasty puddles. Even then, my pencil lines smudged a lot, rendering the side of my hand permanently shiny and gray. Nothing a bit of soap and water wouldn't fix, plus this meant the material could take layers and layers of pencil without getting frayed or gouged. 

Scratching off ink mistakes was something I had to do on just about every page (luckily usually just a wrong stroke, or a water drop that smudged some words), so considering how much work went into this series, I really appreciate not having to start from...scratch! each time.

The Pergamenata did buckle a bit under the gouache, and too much scraping or water would bring out the stringy plant fibers. Still, I really liked having a warm background for the miniatures, and having something that not only looks but feels medieval is exciting. Plus, this work contains zero baby cows! That's a plus.

Have a happy week!

A loving list of online archives

Edward Burne-Jones' illustrations of the works of Geoffery Chaucer

The Crusader Bible in excellent, zoom-in-able resolution

The Book of Kells, again in excellent, zoom-in-able resolution. 

More to follow, I'm just really excited about what the Internet just has for the taking. Thank you to all digitizers, all archivists, and all librarians who direct me to sites like these. 

I used to draw horses

There's a point in the show Peaky Blinders in which a character remembers how he used to draw horses. We all used to draw horses, we all thought at one point, "Maybe I could be an artist!" But as Lynda Barry put it, "by the fifth grade we all knew it was too late." Man, I want drawing horses to be the birthright of mankind. Maybe we spend our days up-selling purses or answering phones or filing forms, instead of, I don't know, baking bread or making shoes or building shrines in ways that let us feel like our skills were good and useful and beautiful. So when we stop drawing horses, and know that we won't have a gallery, or a studio, we gave up entirely on that part of ourselves.

When I was working in a faith-based arts program, a big part of believing in God was believing in a creator God, who in turn had made creative humans. "Creativity," as it's so gallingly called, is a part of our created souls, part of our ability to be "fully alive" in the same way as our five (plus) senses. Of course it feels useless and like a waste of time. I didn't start making art I liked until I was willing to feel like I was wasting time, but at least I was wasting time on paper instead of on the Internet. It's a muscle in your soul that needs exercise, whether it makes you money or no. Go draw horses. 

Inger, Inger, Inger

Inger, The Girl Who Trod on a Loaf, is almost ready to be sent out! It’s been a long, exciting, nervous process, picking out pages to send in, writing and re-writing the synopsis, and trying over and over again to articulate why this project, why this story.

Again with Bruno Bettelheim: In The Uses of Enchantment, Bettelheim argues that people have favorite fairy tales that appeal to them for psychologically significant reasons. The family situation in the story might be similar to their own, a character’s struggle might be a fitting metaphor for their own, and so on. 

I grew up in church, and terrified of Hell. So my first reaction to The Girl Who Trod on a Loaf was horror and disgust. But it stayed with me, and when I wanted to make a fairy tale comic, I chose this one. Why? 

Here’s an excerpt from the cover letter for my proposal:

This is a story that needs a visual interpretation, both to balance out some of the horror with beautiful images, and to give parts of the story more weight. The first moral of this story is straightforward: don’t show contempt for good things like bread. But the second part, where a little girl hears the story and prays for Inger to come back, has a complicated moral of its own that is easy to miss. Inger only changes when someone feels sorry for her without mentioning her mistakes and faults. Shame and punishment do not change people, only love does. 
What’s more, in most stories about Hell, its existence is justified, or rationalized, and there is no room for the reader to condemn divine justice. In this story, however, the reader who is horrified at Inger’s treatment in the story is immediately supported by one of the characters. This is an easy part to overlook. I want to give Inger’s redemption visual representation, beautifully drawn and beautifully colored, both for the reader, and for myself. 

Go, go, Inger!

Florid!

Because I have been making the images and words separately, I had a bit of an issue making speech bubbles that wouldn't look pasted-on.

Not sure if this is the solution, but it sure is fun.

Nuts, Inger!

Not much of a blog post today, except to say that I've finally started putting the actual words on the pages. And, oh, no! Inger has stepped on the bread!

Prayers

I wanted to do a manuscript, just for myself, that would give me a bit of encouragement. So I have been working on a prayer by St. Francis of Assisi:

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.
O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.

The crocuses and snowdrops have arrived in Spokane, so the imagery of sowing seeds (bulbs?) of love, pardon, faith, hope, light, and joy really suited the world outside. That, and who doesn’t love Saint Francis? He loves birds. I love birds. Work hard, be kind, and be nice to the birds and the crocuses.

Text!

I'm trying to get the lettering and size down, so here's some text repeated several times on an unrelated page. The big initial "S" is taken from the font Odessa, from the book Art Nouveau Display Alphabets that I found while snooping around in the Grünewald Guild glass house!

The script was meant to be a mix of Skjald and Giraldon, but I'm probably flattering myself there.

Three pages!

"What a never-ending corridor that was to be sure; it made one giddy to look either backward or forward. Here stood an ignominious crew waiting for the door of mercy to be opened, but long might they wait. Great, fat, sprawling spiders spun webs of a thousand years round and round their feet; and these webs were like footscrews and held them as in a vise, or as though bound with a copper chain. Besides, there was such everlasting unrest in every frozen soul; the unrest of torment.  The miser had forgotten the key of his money chest, he knew he had left it sticking in the lock. But it would take far too long to enumerate all the various tortures here."
Fairy Tales from Hans Christian Andersen, 1907

A little preview of three pages, taking place in this fairy tale's unique Hell:

In the center is the miser, described in the original, with the key that keeps him from resting. On each side are two sinners of my own invention: a man who left out love letters to his mistress, about to be found out, and a woman who had received beautiful flowers, just before her friend received even more beautiful flowers...the idea being that something related to their sin keeps each soul restless. Spo-o-o-oky!

Hell in this story is timeless, with souls from many different centuries coming together. While Inger's world is a sort of postmodern fantasy, what with the 19th century costumes with 1980's hairstyles and patterns, I wanted these characters to be a bit more realistic.

The Miser is based on this "Death and the Miser" painting by Jan Provoost:

The Liar is based on Pierre from BBC's War and Peace series:

And Envy is based on, well, all of Mad Men.

Have a great week!

Grunewald Guild Residency #4: The Devil's Grandmother

“The great-grandmother is a very venomous old woman, and she is never idle. She never goes out without her work, and she had it with her to-day, too. She was busily making gad-about leather to put into people's shoes, so that the wearer might have no rest. She embroidered lies, and strung together all the idle words which fell to the ground, to make mischief of them. Oh, yes, old great-grandmother can knit and embroider in fine style.”
Fairy Tales from Hans Christian Andersen, 1907

Now the three kinds of work she does have been really fun to draw: sewing, embroidery, and beadwork. I love the idea of an old grandmother picking up lies like they were beads at Craft Warehouse, and this odd crossing of the spiritual and the material is my favorite thing about old fairy tales.