“In a cave, on top of a hill, overlooking a lush green forest, there lived The Cuddliest Monster In The World.”
I am finding it wonderful, though more than a little challenging, to be working on a project that is the polar opposite of Lighter Than My Shadow in so many ways: The Crystal Mirror and Other Stories.
The first challenge is working in full colour after four years working in the same very limited palette. I’m painting entirely in traditional media (as opposed to my usual combination of analogue and digital) because we want to exhibit and possibly sell the finished pieces. I am illustrating someone else’s stories, not my own. To top it all, I’ve decided to use coloured inks – a medium I’ve only started experimenting with in the last couple of months. It’s quite a learning curve.
But perhaps the biggest challenge is changing the way I think. Illustrating a story book is very different from illustrating a graphic novel, and I’m finding that my natural instinct is to illustrate everything. In Lighter Than My Shadow, that’s precisely what I did. I only used words when I had to: to clarify meaning, for dialogue, and to explain things the images couldn’t. In The Crystal Mirror, the illustrations serve a different purpose: to illuminate, decorate and expand upon the story but not to tell it. The words do that perfectly. My job is to add to them.
But my job is also to take away. I only have 96 pages in which to illustrate five stories, which feels exceedingly short having just taken five hundred pages to illustrate one. When I read these magical stories, my mind fills with images of “coloured silk and rare feathers and crushed flowers and fabrics embroidered with gold”. But I have to choose which of the myriad images in my head is right, has the most potential to add depth and atmosphere to the stories. And which is it better for me to leave out?
Self-editing is not my strength, so I’m lucky to be collaborating so closely with writer Tim Malnick in this process. We’re sharing every stage of this collaboration with the book’s supporters on our blog – even the frustrating and grumpy bits!
With 9 days to go, we’ve reached 75% of the funding we need to make this book happen this year. If you’re interested in the stories and how they’re coming to life, or reading more blog posts like this, please do consider supporting us. You can find all the details on The Crystal Mirror website.