August Heat

powers.jpg

Richard Powers (no date) in Cavalier magazine.

Here in The North we may not be sweltering as much as they are in the infernal South but the temperature today is still reaching 28C. Anything higher than this and work becomes impossible when my brain starts to malfunction.

William F. Harvey (1885–1937) wrote two stories that have been anthologised many times: The Beast with Five Fingers is a tale of a disembodied hand; August Heat concerns a fateful encounter at the end of a day like today. Read it here.

ward.jpg

Lynd Ward (1937).

gorey.jpg

Edward Gorey (1959).

coye.jpg

Lee Brown Coye (1976).

Illustrating Frankenstein

holst.jpg

Frontispiece by Theodore Von Holst of the 1831 edition of Frankenstein. The monster in this illustration, which Mary Shelley would no doubt have seen, is closer to the description in the text than the myriad shambling figures that came later.

It’s a recurrent feature of commissioned work that you sometimes find yourself illustrating novels or stories you might otherwise have never attempted. Spanish publisher Editorial Alma have just added a new edition of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein to their series of illustrated classics, convenient timing with this year being the bicentenary of the book’s first publication. Last year I produced 33 illustrations for Alma’s collection of Poe stories, as well as 3 new illustrations for a small Lovecraft collection. For their edition of Frankenstein I’ve created 24 full-page pictures, one for each chapter. (I produced 25 in total, 24 for the chapters and one for the letters at the front, but the Spanish translation is arranged slightly differently so one of the drawings has been omitted.) In the past I’ve given little consideration to illustrating classic books, preferring to look for subjects which were less familiar. Frankenstein is a book that isn’t illustrated as much as some but Lynd Ward in 1934, and Bernie Wrightson in 1977/78 both produced sufficiently exceptional sets of drawings for me to regard the novel as almost unassailable. Until last year, that is.

ward1.jpg

Frankenstein by Lynd Ward (1934).

Despite such formidable predecessors, I felt that with this book at least I might be able to offer something new using the blend of collage and drawing that I’ve been evolving recently. There was additional promise in that the story as it’s written is less familiar than the Poe stories, and much less familiar than its fellow horror classic, Dracula. People think they know Frankenstein but what they often know is the manglings the novel has received in various film and TV adaptations. The Ward and Wrightson illustrations stay close to the text, the latter being replete with period detail, and rendered in a style reminiscent of 19th-century wood engravings. Wrightson even copied two of Gustave Dore’s pictures from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner for the opening scenes on the ship, one of which went unused. But Wrightson’s drawings are closer still to Franklin Booth‘s pen-and-ink style which was also derived from wood engraving yet which achieves its effects in a different manner to the engraving process.

frankenstein2.jpg

Frankenstein by Bernie Wrightson (1977/78).

Even when artists follow the text of Frankenstein more closely than the screenplay adapters, personal tastes can’t help manifest themselves. So Ward’s drawings reflect the angular and stylised compositions of his “novels in woodcuts”, while Wrightson’s work still shows evidence of his earlier career as a comic artist. With my illustrations I wanted to reflect the artistic spirit that gave birth to the novel, namely Romanticism. Frankenstein is very much a Romantic tragedy with violent passions set against the overwhelming landscapes of the Swiss Alps, the Rhine valley and the Arctic seas. Three of the illustrations below allude to Caspar David Friedrich’s paintings, while many of the others have had their mundane cloudscapes exchanged for gloom and tumult.

I’ve said before that one of the things I enjoy about the collage technique is being able to use engravings and other graphics from the same period (give or take a few decades) as the story itself. The disadvantage of relying on pre-existing sources is that you’re always limited by the available material, so recently I’ve been pushing the technique further to achieve a hybrid style, something midway between the Ernst/Sätty engraving-collage technique and the very laborious, heavily-shaded pen-and-ink style I used when I was drawing comics. The approach isn’t so different to the one I used in my Lovecraft comics many of whose backgrounds and other details were copied from photographs. The difference is that where I used to spend several days working on a single panel (and two weeks working on a page) I can now create an entire picture in half the time. In these new illustrations I feel the hybrid style is working as I intended, allowing me greater freedom to create the picture I have in mind rather than a picture dictated by the source material. Without incorporating original figures and other drawn elements into the compositions it would have been difficult to illustrate a story with the same characters in so many scenes, a problem I encountered when I was illustrating Lewis Carroll’s Alice books and ran out of pictures of Victorian girls.

The full run of pictures follows below, including the one which was omitted from the print edition. All may be seen at a larger size here. Since the scenes aren’t always self-explanatory I’ve included fragments of text from each chapter.

frankenstein00.jpg

“In the morning, however, as soon as it was light, I went upon deck and found all the sailors busy on one side of the vessel, apparently talking to someone in the sea. It was, in fact, a sledge, like that we had seen before, which had drifted towards us in the night on a large fragment of ice.”

frankenstein01.jpg

“During one of their walks a poor cot in the foldings of a vale attracted their notice as being singularly disconsolate, while the number of half-clothed children gathered about it spoke of penury in its worst shape.”

This one was omitted from the Alma edition. No loss, really, since the scene doesn’t add much to the story.

frankenstein02.jpg

“When I returned home my first care was to procure the whole works of this author, and afterwards of Paracelsus and Albertus Magnus. I read and studied the wild fancies of these writers with delight; they appeared to me treasures known to few besides myself.”

The diagrams here are taken from some of the books the young Victor Frankenstein is reading. There’s an allusion to this in the magic square on the wall in the back of Theodore Von Holst’s frontispiece, the square being the kind of thing seen in books like this one by Cornelius Agrippa, one of the occult philosophers mentioned in the novel.

Continue reading “Illustrating Frankenstein”

Weekend links 385

picasso.jpg

• It won’t be out until late January—and then in the UK only—but the blu-ray premiere of The Mystery of Picasso (1956) by Henri-Georges Clouzot was announced this week. The initial run of the discs (there’s also a DVD) will include a booklet containing my essay about the film, something I was very pleased and honoured to be asked to write. Clouzot’s remarkable study of Picasso drawing and painting for the camera was made immediately after his masterwork, The Wages of Fear (also newly available on UK blu-ray), and this new edition will include two short extras, one of which, A Visit to Picasso (1949) by Paul Haesaerts, is an excellent precursor/companion to the main feature. More on this subject later.

• At the Internet Archive: an almost complete run of The Twilight Zone Magazine (1981–1989). While masquerading as a TV-series spin-off, TZ under the editorship of TED Klein was an excellent periodical devoted to horror and dark fantasy. In addition to running original fiction by major authors (Stephen King was a regular), the magazine contained features about older writers such as Lovecraft and Machen along with book reviews by Thomas Disch, film reviews by Gahan Wilson, interviews and more.

• “Bram Stoker was gay,” says Tom Cardamone in a review of Something in the Blood: The Untold Story of Bram Stoker, the Man Who Wrote Dracula by David J. Skal. I’ve not read Skal’s book so can’t comment on its claims but his earlier Hollywood Gothic (about Dracula on page and screen) includes some discussion of “sexual ambiguity” in Stoker’s work.

• Mixes of the week: FACT mix 625 by Elena Colombi, Secret Thirteen Mix 235 by Rhys Fulber, and XLR8R Podcast 514 by Tommaso Cappellato.

Help, Help, The Globolinks! is a previously unreleased electronic soundtrack by Suzanne Ciani, out next week.

La Région Centrale (1971), Michael Snow’s epic of landscape gyrations in two parts, here and here.

Alexander Calder and the Optimism of Modernism: Jed Perl in Conversation with Morgan Meis.

• Illustrations by Lynd Ward for The Haunted Omnibus (1935) edited by Alexander Laing.

Daniel Dylan Wray on the gay-porn music of disco pioneer Patrick Cowley.

• It’s that man again (and his drawings): Ernst Haeckel: the art of evolution.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Steve Erickson presents A Black Psychedelia Primer.

Bootsy Collins‘ favourite albums.

Picasso (1948) by Coleman Hawkins | Pablo Picasso (1976) by The Modern Lovers | Picasso Suite pt. 1 (1993) by David Murray Octet

Lynd Ward’s Frankenstein

ward1.jpg

Mary Shelley’s novel illustrated in woodcuts by the great Lynd Ward (1905–1985). This edition appeared in 1934, a couple of years after the release of James Whale’s first Frankenstein film whose popularity may have led to its commission. It’s good to see Dover Publications keeping this one in print when first editions go for hundreds of pounds. VTS has more of the illustrations (there’s also this site), and many more examples of Ward’s work.

ward2.jpg

ward3.jpg

ward4.jpg

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The illustrators archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
Two Brides
Berni Wrightson’s Frankenstein
Cain’s son: the incarnations of Grendel
Gods’ Man by Lynd Ward

Weekend links 82

morris.jpg

At the Mountains of Madness (1979) from Halloween in Arkham by Harry O. Morris.

• Golden Age Comic Book Stories always pulls out the stops in the run up to Halloween. In addition to a wonderful collection of Harry O. Morris collages, Mr Door Tree has also been posting Virgil Finlay’s illustrations for Edgar Allan Poe, Lynd Ward’s tremendous illustrations for a collection of weird tales entitled The Haunted Omnibus, Barry Moser’s woodcuts for an edition of Frankenstein, and Virgil Finlay’s illustrations for stories and poems by HP Lovecraft.

• “Eugene Thacker suggests that we look to the genre of horror as offering a way of thinking about the unthinkable world. To confront this idea is to confront the limit of our ability to understand the world in which we live – a central motif of the horror genre. In the Dust of This Planet explores these relationships between philosophy and horror.”

• “…the reader […] becomes a conscious participant in the process of imposing a linear sequence, while at the same time remaining aware that all narrative is an act of memory, and that memory is necessarily random.” Jonathan Coe reviews Marc Saporta’s book-in-a-box, Composition No.1, recently republished by Visual Editions.

• Nearly fifty years after its first performance, Peter Weiss’s Marat/Sade is still disturbing playgoers. And nearly ninety years after its release, Alla Nazimova’s silent film production of Oscar Wilde’s Salomé is touring the UK with live musical accompaniment.

Tom of Sinland at Homotography, in which illustrator Bendix Bauer portrays some of the fashion world’s notable male designers as Tom of Finland-style characters for Horst magazine.

Neil Gaiman Presents is a new audiobook imprint which launches with works by Jonathan Carroll, Alina Simone, Keith Roberts, M. John Harrison and Steven Sherrill.

• The Weird Wild West: Paul Kirchner has put all his Dope Rider comic strips online.

Leonora Carrington prints at Viktor Wynd Fine Art, London, from November 5th.

The Fall to Earth: David Bowie, Cocaine and the Occult.

Photos of New York City, 1978–1985.

Kathy Acker recordings at Ubuweb.

The Occupied Times of London.

The Golden Age of Dirty Talk.

Pushkin silhouettes.

• This week I’ve been lost in the Velvet Goldmine (again): John, I’m Only Dancing (1972) by David Bowie | The Jean Genie (1972) by David Bowie | Drive-In Saturday (1973) by David Bowie.