Das Letzte Ritual

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Arriving in the post this week, the German edition of The Last Ritual by SA Sidor, a novel with one of the Art Deco-styled cover designs that I’ve been producing recently for Aconyte Books. This isn’t the first example of my artwork being published in Germany—the Magic: The Gathering cards I was painting in the 1990s were sold in many different countries with translated captions and credits—but I think it’s my first German book cover. If that statement sounds unnecessarily vague it’s because things can sometimes be published or reprinted in other countries without anyone telling you about them, especially if a large company is behind the production.

Anyway, my congratulations to Mr Sidor on having his book translated by Cross Cult. There’s also an audio version of this one available. Meanwhile, I’ve just finished another cover for the Arkham Horror series but I can’t show it yet until the title has been announced. More on that later.

Previously on { feuilleton }
The Devourer Below
Litany of Dreams
The Last Ritual

Prints update

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The Major Arcana (2006): a C-type print on Fuji gloss paper. A1 or A2 sizes.

I’m continuing to add artwork to Etsy which will be available as prints in a variety of sizes and papers. I would have done more of this by now but I’m still very busy working through the commissions of the past few months so progress has been slow. The system does actually work as intended, however, with orders being routed automatically to the printer then printed and shipped within 24 hours. The initial setup may take longer than places like CafePress but the benefits are multiple, not only a faster turnaround (and cheaper worldwide postage) but now I can create prints of any size I want, and with a variety of papers and finishes. Most of the items there at the moment are the things I consider “greatest hits” so the latest additions include new poster versions of my psychedelic Alice in Wonderland artwork, together with the International Symbols Tarot poster and yet more Lovecraftiana. Requests are, of course, still welcome.

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Psychedelic Wonderland (2009): a C-type print on Fuji gloss paper. A1 or A2 sizes.

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Psychedelic Looking-Glass (2010): a C-type print on Fuji gloss paper. A1 or A2 sizes.

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Cthulhu (1998): a giclée print on Canson Aquarelle rag paper. A3 size.

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Dagon (1999): a giclée print on Canson Aquarelle rag paper. A3 size.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Prints at Etsy

The Dreaming City by Michael Moorcock

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Cover art by James Cawthorn. Chaos pin not included.

More sword and sorcery. Last month I was asked to design a reprinting of the very first Elric story by Michael Moorcock, a standalone publication from Jayde Design intended to commemorate the 60th anniversary of Moorcock’s most popular character. The Dreaming City was published in issue 47 of Science Fantasy magazine in June 1961, following a request from the editor, John Carnell, for Moorcock to write a new series of fantasy stories. Over the next three years Science Fantasy published all ten of the novellas that established Elric’s character and his world, ending with Doomed Lord’s Passing in April 1964, the entry which saw Moorcock destroy his creation in a Boschian apocalyptic finale.

The Dreaming City: A Sixtieth Anniversary Edition is a compound facsimile of these publications. The interior design follows the template of the magazine interiors while the front cover is based on one of the later numbers which ran the fifth Elric story, The Flame Bringers, with a cover illustration by James Cawthorn. That illustration may have been attached to a different story but it actually depicts a scene from the end of The Dreaming City when Elric is leaving Imrryr in burning ruins after the place has been sacked by the raiding party he led there. It’s also a much better illustration than the one by Brian Lewis that appeared on the cover of the June 1961 issue. In addition to recreating the cover we’ve also restored the drawing, which in its printed form was slightly cropped at one side, with the complete version taken from Cawthorn’s original. Jim Cawthorn was closely involved with the creation of Elric, and even co-wrote Kings in Darkness, another of the stories in the Science Fantasy sequence. Inside the new edition there are four further illustrations which Cawthorn produced for a German collection of Elric stories published by Heyne in 1979.

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One of James Cawthorn’s interior illustrations.

This small publication will only be of interest to collectors but it was a good thing to be involved with. In the past I’ve designed an Elric-themed album cover for Hawkwind, and last year designed The Stormbringer Sessions, a very limited publication of Jim Cawthorn’s sketched outline for his unfinished Elric graphic novel. The Dreaming City is the first Elric design of mine that features Moorcock’s own text. For an opening shot in what would become a saga spanning several decades and a variety of media The Dreaming City is a remarkably confident piece of work, even more so when you consider that the author was only 21 at the time. Elric begins and ends the story as an outsider, exiled and alone, and with his existence bound to his cursed sword, Stormbringer. Subsequent novels and stories would fill in the history before pitching Elric into the multiverse along with many of Moorcock’s other characters. But this is where it all begins, with six Sea Lords waiting in a tavern wondering whether the albino prince will turn up at all.

The Dreaming City: A Sixtieth Anniversary Edition is available here.

Previously on { feuilleton }
The Stormbringer Sessions by James Cawthorn
James Cawthorn: The Man and His Art
The Chronicle of the Cursed Sleeve
Moorcock: Faith, Hope and Anxiety
Elric 1: Le trône de rubis
The Sonic Assassins
Jim Cawthorn, 1929–2008

Resurrecting R’lyeh

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Then, driven ahead by curiosity in their captured yacht under Johansen’s command, the men sight a great stone pillar sticking out of the sea, and in S. Latitude 47°9′, W. Longitude 126°43′, come upon a coastline of mingled mud, ooze, and weedy Cyclopean masonry which can be nothing less than the tangible substance of earth’s supreme terror—the nightmare corpse-city of R’lyeh, that was built in measureless aeons behind history by the vast, loathsome shapes that seeped down from the dark stars. There lay great Cthulhu and his hordes, hidden in green slimy vaults and sending out at last, after cycles incalculable, the thoughts that spread fear to the dreams of the sensitive and called imperiously to the faithful to come on a pilgrimage of liberation and restoration.

HP Lovecraft, The Call of Cthulhu (1928)

Behold the fruits of a more benevolent pilgrimage of liberation and restoration. It was just over a year ago that I decided to draw an exact replica of the R’lyeh triple-spread from my comic-strip adaptation of The Call of Cthulhu, the intention being to make the picture available as a poster-sized print once I had a print-ordering system in place. The picture may now be purchased here as a giclée print on Hahnemüle Pearl art paper. This is a big picture (870.46 x 401.15 mm or 34.27 x 15.793 ins), and unlike my other Etsy prints I’m afraid there won’t be a half-size version which means the price will remain relatively high. I’m also keeping it as a black-and-white piece despite the temptation to create a tinted version.

And so to the obvious question: why did I want to redraw a large and very detailed piece of art in the first place? Pull up a weed-festooned Cyclopean bollard and I’ll explain…

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Creation Books, 1994. Cover art by Peter Smith.

I spent 17 months drawing The Call of Cthulhu, from January 1987 to May 1988, using my preferred media of the time, a 0.2 mm Rotring Variant pen on A3 sheets of Daler cartridge paper. The story took its time getting into print but it was eventually published in 1994 by Creation Books as part of The Starry Wisdom, a collection of Lovecraftian fiction edited by DM Mitchell. I was very pleased to be represented in the book but the pleasure turned to dismay when it transpired that all the artwork had vanished after the printing was done. Or almost all the artwork… To this day I don’t know whether the drawings by other artists suffered the same fate, but my Cthulhu pages disappeared along with the anatomical cross-section and the Yuggoth collage that I created specially for the collection. I still don’t know what really happened either, whether the drawings were stolen (possible), thrown away deliberately (unlikely), or thrown away accidentally (also possible). The lack of resolution to the whole business is partly my fault. Losing all that art was a painful thing to consider, and I couldn’t accuse the printer of anything when nobody could say what had happened (I was in the Creation office during one of the phone conversations between publisher and printer). The printer was also located in the middle of a rural county somewhere so journeying there would have been difficult for this non-driver, as well as being pointless if they could only tell me what I knew already. Time passed and I did my best to put the whole episode behind me.

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Drawing technology then and now: the Variant pen I used throughout the 1980s and the Wacom stylus I use today. That Variant nib is so fine that I have a faint ink dot tattooed on one of my knuckles from where I accidentally stabbed it into my hand. The Wacom pen looks stubby in comparison but is capable of drawing equally fine lines and much more besides.

On the plus side (there was one), the printer had done a good job of half-toning the artwork, so even though the Starry Wisdom pages are rather small the detail in the drawings is still evident. And I also had a complete set of photocopies of the A3-sized originals. I’d been working for Savoy Books since 1989 during which time making photocopies of new drawings had become second nature. Since 1994 this set of copies has become the original art for the Call of Cthulhu strip, rather like the surviving prints of Murnau’s Nosferatu which are all that anyone can see of his film today. The analogy is an apt one since it also extends to picture quality. Just as silent films always look their best when they’ve been restored from the camera negative, my Rotring drawings really need to be reproduced from the originals. The 0.2 mm pen that I insisted on using throughout the 1980s was too fine for the photocopy machines of the time, especially when my shading was so densely rendered that I might as well have been using a pencil. This isn’t so much of a problem if the pages are being reduced in size but it became one last year when I had the idea of making a print of the R’lyeh panorama that would be the same size as the original drawings. Giclée printing is an ink-jet process that reproduces fine detail with great accuracy, so while I could make full-size prints of the Cthulhu pages they’d never look better than what they were, photocopies that hadn’t fully captured the fine lines of the drawings. This wasn’t the only problem.

Continue reading “Resurrecting R’lyeh”

Prints at Etsy

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I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I was going to be opening a shop selling prints at Etsy. The shop is now up and running with high-quality giclée prints of my artwork. As with the Skull Print T-shirts, I’ve been doing all this at a time when I’m still swamped with work so there isn’t much there at the moment, but it’s a start. This was always intended to be the third phase of the revitalisation of my web presence last year, following the upgrading of the blog and the main site into mobile-friendly packages, but working through the options took some time. After finding a suitable printer I had to consider the best way to create a print-on-demand service that would pretty much run itself but which would give me greater control over the business end than outlets like CafePress. I’ve been with CafePress for over 20 years now but it’s never been satisfying. I’ll be keeping the CafePress shops open for the time being but I’m going to remove many of the links there during the next web update.

In the new arrangement Etsy is essentially a shop window which routes orders to a printer based in Britain. The printer also has a German wing of their business that takes care of Continental orders. I’ve still not fully tested the system but the sites say they’re connected to each other, and I have ordered a number of prints separately. The turnaround from order to delivery is very fast—two to three days in the UK/Europe, about five days in the US—and the print quality is excellent. One drawback with this arrangement is the time it takes to upload and price things on two different sites but it’s something that only needs doing the once.

The first two items were chosen not because there’s a great demand for them but because I already had the files prepared. Both pictures also suit being seen at a large size. At the moment I’m thinking more in terms of poster prints but smaller pieces will be available. Etsy limits the size variations you can apply to two options only, if you want more variation you have to set up a new listing (so they get more listing fees). Since my choices don’t always coincide with those of would-be purchasers I’m open to suggestions for future prints. The next upload is ready to go, and should be in situ next week. This is a big drawing that I started working on just over a year ago which will be available as a large poster print. I wanted to write something about the piece before making it public so I’ll be doing that next. Watch this space.

Previously on { feuilleton }
T-shirts by Skull Print