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Illustrations from "Preservation"

Preservation is a short story I completed last year about an artist who is serving with Australian Mounted Division during the 1918 Great Ride to Damascus. This was one of the final offensives of the Middle East Campaign at the end of the Great War. Preservation considers the role that artists played in documenting the war, especially relevant during this decade due to heightened propaganda efforts and the perceived “threat” posed by the new medium of photography. Oddly enough, I will be travelling the same path as my main character, when I overland from Cairo to Istanbul this coming March.

My writing and art have always been closely linked – but I am usually working on both simultaneously. Having already completed the story, I decided to spend an evening penning some quick inset illustration

s. I really appreciate early 20th century book plates and scratch board illustrations; these were very po

pular until photographic printing was perfected in the 1960s, and since then, the style seems to have p

eriodic revivals in the fields of book publishing and advertising.

Two of my favourite novels are illustrated in this manner; Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr Norell, illustrated by Portia Rosenberg, and Gregory Maguire’s Wicked, illustrated by prominent scratchboard artist Douglas Smith.

Scratchboard or scraperboard is typically made of a white clay covered with a layer of india ink – the artist uses fine blades to cut around the lines of the subject (a common misconception is that the artist is scratching out a negative image, but as demonstrated in this tutorial, this is not the case). There are very few scatchboard stockists in Australia – none in Canberra – and making it yourself from a recipe is messy and inconsistent. For the time being, I’ve had to make do with the common black pilot pen to emulate the look.

While these sketches are unfinished, it was a good project to practice hatc

hing techniques and revisit the engravings of Durer and Rembrandt. I further challenged myself by working without an under drawing or the luxury of an eraser, referring directly to early black and white photographs. I the

n added some subtle colour washes in Photoshop to add a greater sense of volume and direct the eye to the subject.



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