Monday, 26 December 2011

'wormwood, earth and honey' - pictures and poems on kindle

We (self and the team at Circaidy Gregory Press ) somehow managed to get the new, revised 'wormwood' done and dusted by Christmas Eve, in the kindle version at least. The other e-versions will appear in due course when the distributor has recovered from Christmas. Links for the kindle version are: amazon uk and amazon dot com

So if you got a kindle for Christmas, and are wondering how poetry and pics combined appear on such machines, then please go ahead and buy a copy. 

Thank you!

Friday, 9 December 2011

'wormwood' pictures update

Yes, I decided the only way to illustrate a poem about Constable's 'The Haywain' was by doing a picture of Constable's 'The Haywain', the only question being how to reduce a massive painted masterpiece to a sketch a couple of inches across with the wrong proportions. I am no Constable, but armed with a blunt charcoal pencil and a scrap of gessoed paper, I went for it, and the end result is something that has vague similarities to what Constable might have done as a thumbnail sketch on a distinctly 'off' day. Not to worry. I think it's recognisably based on the same scene.

After that, I went on to some easier ones. 'white noise' was illustrated by a rosebud. 'south of the border' was simple enough once I'd decided the border in question could be Mexico, so all I needed was a tall cactus and a desiccated landscape. 'channel hopping' is a complex poem full of images, so I picked the easiest - Paris - and drew the Eiffel Tower. Iconic buildings can be useful.

Some were not so obvious. I fancied drawing Charon the ferryman for 'unto death' but in the end went for some bilberries. 'the burning of ice' could have been impossible (how do you draw burning ice?) so I drew a well-endowed white bull instead. (It makes sense if you read the poem.)

Some could only have one possible illustration. 'truth and lies' had to have a picture of Red Square as far as I'm concerned, though some readers may wonder why. The piece of railway graffiti that I used for 'close at hand' was the only possible illustration. People who used to travel from Paddington Station down to the West Country before the graffiti was removed will understand. 'the diver' was a bit of a cheat, as the image has already been used for some cover art, but I reckon plagiarising oneself is fair enough.

And 'the ballad of shane and mavis' could only be erik the snail, though making him look ten feet tall proved impossible.

Nineteen illustrations drawn so far. I reckon another half dozen will do the trick, so I'll return to this after the weekend.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

'wormwood' progress report.

I started at the beginning. The first poem is called 'the stones of the barn'. I took a photo of a stone barn near Muker in the Yorkshire Dales a couple of years ago, so I fished it out, and made a drawing from it. Simple. Would everything else prove that straight forward? Of course not. I fast-forwarded through the collection to 'jasmine'. Tried to draw some jasmine. Failed. Tried again. Failed again. Swore under my breath. Broke the point off the charcoal pencil. Sharpened it. Broke it again. Swore again. Jammed the sharpener. You get the idea.

Moved on to 'little piggies'. When I was about ten, I took a photo (transparency, not print) of some piglets. A year or so ago I possessed a bells and whistles scanner which was able to scan transparencies. It since gave up, as these machines are wont to do, but luckily I'd scanned the photo of the little piggies, and was able to use that as a source for the drawing. Success!

'over the sea to annan' was based on a true story of a herd of cows swimming the Solway Firth. I googled the story, and was able to find a photograph of the original herd. The photo was extremely low resolution, but at least it showed me what sort of cows they were, and enabled me to hunt around my own stock for cow photos. I made up a Solway Firthish background. Good. On a roll now.

Or not. Several more failures followed, though also some success with a drawing of a grass snake for 'summer's end' and an iguana for 'iguana'. Polperro was also straight forward enough. For 'sibling rivalry', I thought about drawing a mouse, but instead drew a molecule of buckminsterfullerene. Anyone who understands the poem will see why. Anyone who doesn't, will be as puzzled as the boy in the poem, so it works on both levels.

'Mary' was an easy one to illustrate. The poem was inspired by visits to Gibside, so I used one of my many photos of the place for source material. Anyone who's read my early novel 'The Sand in the Painting' will recognise Gibside as a key location. I tend to do this; to find a place that inspires me and use it in novels, short stories, poems, artwork - anything. Similarly, the last poem in the collection, 'summer's end', is a summary of the themes of my novel 'Small Poisons'. Never let a good idea go to waste.

So, on to the next set. It's often tricky to know how to illustrate poems. The images are all in the words, so an illustration might lead the reading too strongly; might set the reader on a particular path and prevent them from seeing other possibilities. That can't be helped. The astute reader might look at some of the pictures and say: 'No, that's completely wrong for that poem.' I hope some of them do. If I'm going to be literal, then I need to illustrate 'Tom doesn't see' with a Constable's 'The Haywain'. Now there's a challenge. Will I, won't I? Not sure. Will report back in due course.

Friday, 2 December 2011

wormwood rides again

'wormwood, earth and honey' is being e-booked. The poems have been subjected to mostly very minor tweaks (to remove punctuational peculiarities and a small number of wince-making phrases) so it's still fundamentally the same book. Now the hard work begins. This is to be an illustrated version. My view is that people's eyes light up when you tell them something has got pictures in it. I've tested the water on facebook and twitter and received very encouraging responses. Even people who already have the paperback have said they'll buy an e-version with pics.

All I have to do is draw the pictures.

This is going to be a sort of mini-blog in which I chart my progress.

Step one: I have decided on materials. I'm working grey scale with high contrast, so will be almost certainly using charcoal and black fine-liner on gessoed paper. I've done this before, and it works.

Step two: the paper I have in stock is too big so I will need to cut it right down, partly for ease of scanning, and partly because a small picture is generally quicker to do than a large picture. Also, as far as illustrating is concerned, if the illustration is done in the first place not much bigger than it will appear in the e-book then it's far easier for the illustrator to get it to look 'right'.

Step three: decide which poems to illustrate. They will need to be spread throughout the anthology rather than be all in one section, obviously, as I don't want to muck around with the order of the poems.
Step four: make some porridge. It's cold today. I need fuel before I do anything else.