Coyote Dances with the Stars

AliDrawings for Fairy Stories

Ah, Coyote.  He’s one of the many glories of Native American folk stories and, for me, perhaps the prime glory.  He’s a lot like the fox in European folk stories, in that he can be good or bad, wise or foolish, or all of these things at once.  In short, he’s very human, and that’s why I love him.  Now, after seemingly endless airbrushing, I’ve finally finished work on one of my favourite Coyote stories.  It’s a Cheyenne tale, and one of the places you can find it is in the fantastic American Indian Myths and Legends. Originally I was just going to draw a few quick sketches and post them up along with a link to the text.  Then I started having trouble drawing stars – thank you to those on twitter who heeded my pained cries.  The stars in the story are living beings, so I wanted to draw them as such, rather than as big balls of gas.   But how?  I didn’t really ever figure that out, so when I wrote up my own version of the story I left the visuals out and decided instead to draw my own ideas together into one giant picture of the galaxy.  Click on the final illustration to explore it close up.  It’s quite large, as space should be, so I hope it loads okay and doesn’t reduce your monitor to smoke and exposed springs (which is what monitors are made of, right?). Here’s Coyote Dances with the Stars.

AliCoyote Dances with the Stars

Stars, Turned Inside Out

AliDrawings for Fairy Stories, Recommendations

The book industry’s an odd one.  About three weeks ago I finished handwriting the first draft of my third novel, which I’ve since been typing up to see what I’ve got on my hands.  In the meantime my second book, The Man who Rained, is at the printers being turned into something glossy and pretty and ready, come January, to go out into the big wide world.  Always as a writer you’re working on something a step ahead of where it appears you are now.  I was writing The Man who Rained when The Girl with Glass Feet came out, and I hope to be writing something new when/if the novel I’ve recently started sees the light of day. All of that makes me really appreciative of those of you who’ve taken the time to read this blog, or comment on twitter or facebook or by email.  It’s preciously immediate, and that (along with the fact that you’re all such lovely people) is the reason why I enjoy sharing things with you.  For a while now I’ve been hoping to give you a new fairy tale.  It’s taking me longer than anticipated so, in the meantime, here are a few previews. The reason for the delay is the drawing of stars.  There are stars in this story, but they aren’t just orbs of fire.  They’re living beings, and working out how to portray them as such has stumped me.  Maybe I’m just burnt out with personification (The Man who Rained is all about the weather coming to life) but I’ve at least decided I want to use a certain technique to draw stars: I want to make negative images with graphite sticks and pencils, then invert them using paint software to get a luminous effect. Here’s a test run I did.  This won’t make the final cut, but it gives you an idea of how the game works.  This becomes this So maybe next week, maybe the week after, I’ll have cracked it and can finally post the fairy story.  For now I’d better get back to the typing.  My handwriting is a tangle and unravelling it is a slow process.  Some parts I simply can’t read, and I have to hold them up to the light or stare at them like magic eye patterns.  It’s fun deciphering it, but it’s slooooowww. In the meantime I want to recommend this.  I hope that Ghostpoet goes on to festoon his pork pie hat with awards, for he richly deserves them.  This is a track that writers are bound to relate to, and the album Peanut Butter Blues and Melancholy Jam is swiftly becoming the soundtrack to the pitter-patter of my keyboard.  Enjoy…

AliStars, Turned Inside Out

Godfather death

AliDrawings for Fairy Stories

This was meant to be a post about Prince Faithful, a Swedish fairy tale you can read in English in this great book. The hitch in the plan was that the story is about a genius talking horse, and that all the horses I tried to draw were too appallingly bad to post on this blog.  So there you go, one for another time perhaps.  I’d still encourage you to grab a copy of Swedish Folktales & Legends.  The stories have a very mythic, very epic feel.  So if you’re a fan of Thor or Odin or Bilbo Baggins or any of that sort of stuff then you’ll probably like these. Godfather Death also appears in that collection, as it does in several European fairy story books I’ve read recently (it even has its own Wikipedia page here).  The Brothers Grimm have a version you can read online, but I prefer the Swedish because it has fewer of the Grimms’ sanctimonious interjections.  In other words, the tale makes no apologies for the way the beggar rejects God in the tale.  I liked that because it reminded me of a passage from the best book I read last year, Escapism by Yi-Fu Tuan, which goes like this “Contrary to common belief, it is not the case that people in earlier times generally expected to survive death in the form of resurrected body or spirit to enjoy the rewards of paradise.  Ethnographic and historical evidence suggests that the vast majority of human beings were too humble – too beaten by life’s recurrent insults and injuries, and too habituated to living in dire need surrounded by filth – to postulate living in heaven in bodily splendor.  For personal survival in style to be conceivable, there must first be a strong sense of individuality, of being a person who in this life can alreqady engage in enterprises of worth and valor.” – Yi-Fu Tuan, Escapism, p.71 I didn’t really like the way WordPress jumbled the pictures and text together for The Feathered Ogre, so I’ve written up Godfather Death on its own page.  Click on the below little chap to go to it. It’s safe to say that this is a peculiar and morbid fairy story, but there’s some heroism in there too.  The physician himself might not manage to cheat death, but he is successful in doing so on the behalf of others.  As for the pictures, they’re all straight rip-offs of paintings by Heironymous Bosch.  I wasn’t sure at first how to go about drawing God in the woods, but then it seemed natural to copy The Garden of Earthly Delights, because I like the way God looks isolated and distant and a little sad in that painting.  Likewise I like it that the devil is wearing a cauldron for a hat and jam jars for slippers.     Death is ripped off from Bosch’s The Seven Deadly Sins and the Four Last Things.  It was good to replicate Bosch in this way … Read More

AliGodfather death