Illustrating Zothique

zothique00.jpg

Cover art by George Barr, 1970.

A few years ago I wrote a short piece about Virgil Finlay’s illustrations for a Zothique story by Clark Ashton Smith, The Garden of Adompha, so this post may be regarded as a more substantial sequel. If Smith remains something of a cult author then Zothique is the pre-eminent cult creation from his career as a writer of weird fiction. Most of Smith’s stories can be grouped together according to their location: Atlantis, Hyperborea, Averoigne in medieval France, the planet Mars, and so on. Zothique was a more original conception than his other worlds, being the last continent on Earth in the final years of the planet, an idea which had precedents in earlier novels such as William Hope Hodgson’s The Night Land but which hadn’t been used before as a setting for a cycle of stories. The distant future suggests science fiction but, as with the Zothique-influenced Dying Earth of Jack Vance, science and technology is long-forgotten and sorcery rules the day. The poetry that Smith wrote before he took to writing short stories had a distinctly Decadent quality—”like a verbal Gustave Moreau painting“—and Zothique is a richly Decadent world, with the entire planet in a state of decay along with its barbarous, demon-worshipping peoples.

zothique01.jpg

Weird Tales, September 1932. Art by T. Wyatt Nelson.

All the Zothique stories had their first printings in Weird Tales, a magazine that ran illustrations with most contributions, but unless you’re a pulp collector many of the illustrations have been difficult to see until very recently. One of the pleasures of looking through fiction magazines is seeing how their stories might have been illustrated when they were first published. Popular tales eventually find their way into book collections but their illustrations tend to be marooned in the titles where they first appeared unless the artist is of sufficient merit to warrant a collection of their own.

zothique02.jpg

Weird Tales, March 1933. Art by Jayem Wilcox.

The examples here are all from recent uploads at the Internet Archive which now has a complete run of Weird Tales from 1923 to 1954. The illustrations also run in order of publication with links to the relevant issues, although I agree with Lin Carter’s ordering of the stories. Smith never organised them himself, and the later reprints from Arkham House and others tend to scatter them through separate volumes. When Lin Carter edited the Zothique collection in 1970 he put the stories into an order that follows the very loose chronology running through the cycle.

zothique06.jpg

Weird Tales, January 1934. Art by Clark Ashton Smith.

One surprise of this search was discovering that Smith himself had provided illustrations for several of the stories. Some Smith enthusiasts like his drawings and paintings but I’m afraid I’m not among them, his sculpture work is better. It’s doubtful that these would have been printed at all if they weren’t the work of the author.

Continue reading “Illustrating Zothique”

A view over Yuggoth

yuggoth2.jpg

I mentioned in the post about the Sherlock Holmes illustrations that the next book from Editorial Alma featuring my work would be another Lovecraft collection. One of the illustrations in the new volume was of the planet Yuggoth, a world known to human beings as Pluto. In Lovecraft’s mythos Yuggoth has long been an outpost of advanced alien civilisations, particularly the fungoid crustaceans of The Whisperer in Darkness and the splendidly-titled sonnet sequence Fungi from Yuggoth. I’d broached this subject a couple of times in the past, first with a panel in my Haunter of the Dark comic strip (the Shining Trapezohedron is described as being brought to Earth from Yuggoth) then with a photocopy collage of Haeckel organisms for the first Starry Wisdom collection.

Yuggoth is one of several alien outposts in Lovecraft’s fiction, allied in its remoteness from humans with the underwater city of R’lyeh and the Antarctic city in At the Mountains of Madness. All these locations suggest exotic architecture so they’ve long been some of my favourite features in Lovecraft’s work, hence this new piece which I couldn’t resist doing after completing work on the Alma book. Since I acquired a Wacom tablet four years ago I’ve become so used to using it for line drawing that working with it now feels as natural as working with pens and inks. But digital painting was something I still didn’t feel happy with. This is mainly because the brush options in Photoshop are limitless, and one thing I’ve never liked with art materials is too much choice. When I was working with physical media I used to use a minimum of pens and brushes so what I really wanted from Photoshop was a single brush that would do what I wanted without having to swap tools all the time when working. This view of Yuggoth is the result of having finally settled (by chance, as it happened) on a brush that does everything I want without getting in the way. The drawing was completely improvised so as a composition it has some flaws; it could also have been developed a lot more to bring out highlights and details. But as an experimental piece it worked out well and also didn’t take too very long to do. When I have the time I’ll be doing more with this new brush.

Previously on { feuilleton }
The Thing on the Doorstep
Leather Cthulhu unleashed
Leather Cthulhu
The Gods of HP Lovecraft
Lovecraftiana calendar
Providential
NecronomiCon Providence 2015
Yuggoth details
A Mountain Walked
Lovecraft’s Monsters unleashed
Lovecraft’s Monsters
JK Potter and HP Lovecraft
Cthulhu Labyrinth
Tentacles #4: Cthulhu in Poland
Cthulhu Calendar
S. Latitude 47°9, W. Longitude 126°43
Resurgam variations
De Profundis
H.P. Lovecraft: The Complete Fiction
Heavy Metal, October 1979: the Lovecraft special
Cthulhoid and Artflakes
Cthulhu for sale
Cthulhu God
Cthulhu under glass
CthulhuPress
The monstrous tome
Cubist Cthulhu

The Gods of HP Lovecraft

gods01.jpg

Yig for Rattled by Douglas Wynne.

Presenting one of this summer’s bigger projects, these are my drawings for The Gods of HP Lovecraft, a collection of 12 all-new stories edited by Aaron French for JournalStone. After I’d begun work I was asked whether I could illustrate all 12 stories but since I was already busy with The Monstrous it wasn’t possible. My drawings occupy the second half of the book, with the first half being filled out with suitable illustrations by Paul Carrick and Steve Santiago. The contents are as follows:

Call the Name by Adam LG Nevill (Cthulhu)
The Dark Gates by Martha Wells (Yog-Sothoth)
We Smoke the Northern Lights by Laird Barron (Azathoth)
Petohtalrayn by Bentley Little (Nyarlathotep)
The Doors that Never Close and the Doors that Are Always Open by David Liss (Shub-Niggurath)
The Apotheosis of a Rodeo Clown by Brett J. Talley (Tsathoggua)
Rattled by Douglas Wynne (Yig)
In Their Presence by Christopher Golden & James A. Moore (The Mi-Go)
Dream a Little Dream of Me by Jonathan Maberry (Nightgaunts)
In the Mad Mountains by Joe R. Lansdale (Elder Things)
A Dying of the Light by Rachel Caine (Great Race of Yith)
Down, Deep Down, Below the Waves by Seanan McGuire (The Deep Ones)

gods02.jpg

Mi-Go for In Their Presence by Christopher Golden & James A. Moore.

Despite having produced a fair amount of Lovecraft-related illlustration there’s still some areas of his work that I haven’t touched, especially where creature portraits are concerned. So this collection features my first attempts at rendering one of the Mi-Go and one of the Yithians from The Shadow Out of Time. The latter are often represented as fearsome monsters which always strikes me as erroneous when so much description in the story is devoted to their book reading and archive building. Aliens, yes, but monsters they are not. There was some concern when I delivered the artwork that the fine lines and detail might not print so well on paperback stock but the printing is excellent throughout. I recommend this collection for anyone in the mood for some new Lovecraftian fiction.

gods03.jpg

Night-Gaunt for Dream a Little Dream of Me by Jonathan Maberry.

Continue reading “The Gods of HP Lovecraft”