Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Dubliners 10: Clay

Here comes another Dubliner, but first I want to remind you to look at the new rewards on de Selby’s crowdfunding page. We’ve just got to get another 19% in the next seven days, so please share this with your Joyce-loving friends!


Similarly to many of Joyce’s stories, “Clay” sits in an uncomfortable position somewhere between mockery and compassion, in this case for a somewhat simple-minded old spinster, perhaps modelled on the protagonist of Flaubert’s short story, “A Simple Heart”. With her ironic name and her caricatured description (when she laughed, “the tip of her nose nearly met the tip of her chin” – think of that next time someone labels these stories “realistic”), Maria is a living parody, but one that evokes genuine emotion in the reader, especially by the end of the story. I wanted to imitate that by presenting her in a pastiche of an Orthodox icon, but while playing it straight enough that she retains her dignity.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Dubliners 5: After the Race

Before I introduce another Dubliners illustration, I have an urgent message. With nine days left, de Selby Press’ funding campaign has reached 76%. Thank you so much to everyone who’s supported it and promoted it so far! But De Selby still needs another €2,400 in the next nine days, or they won’t be able to publish this book. So if you want to see this edition printed, please tell your friends. Tell people who aren’t your friends. If you know anyone you think might be interested in a beautifully printed new copy of Dubliners full of nice pictures, please don’t keep it to yourself. Thank you!


This story, set during an actual Dublin car race – the 1903 Gordon Bennett Cup – was another one where the concept came pretty early. Everyone’s seen those old racing posters with the cars flying towards the viewer (like that one on the right). In my early sketches, I imagined literally illustrating the metaphor in the quotation, like the future bursting through this backward Dublin neighbourhood.

Drawing the car proved a bit of a nightmare. At first I was determined to draw the car that’s actually featured in the story, but I couldn’t figure out for the life of me what sort of car it could be. It can’t be a racing car, because there are five people sitting in it. Add to that the fact that even the sports cars of 1903 looked a bit like bathtubs on wheels, so the heavily laden land yacht I ended up with rather spoiled the dynamism of the composition. Instead, I replaced it with a car based on the winner of the 1903 race, the Mercedes Simplex.

One more reminder: the Dubliners fundraising campaign can be found here. Thanks again!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Dubliners 6: Two Gallants

With two weeks to go, de Selby Press’ Dubliners fundraiser is now at 68%! To celebrate passing the two thirds mark, here’s a pair of gallants.


“Two Gallants” presents one of the clearest examples of Joyce creating portraits of satirical types. I knew from the beginning what I wanted for this story: the devious Corley and his toady friend Lenehan presented like a vaudeville double act. As I worked on it, I realised that I could take the comparison even further, to reference the costumes of Commedia dell’Arte characters Harlequin and Pierrot, which I think the medieval-minded Joyce would have appreciated.

Don’t forget, you can help fund the printing of the illustrated Dubliners by preordering a copy right here!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Wake in Progress at Urban Light Studios

Thanks to everyone at Urban Light for hosting my work during the Phinneywood Art Walk last night, and thanks to all of you who came. I for one had a great time, met lots of interesting people, and stayed up way past my bedtime. The Instagram below is the only photo I know of to prove that the event took place. You might make out in the back there that, as well as the Wake, we also previewed some of the Dubliners illustrations. If you weren’t able to make it, then I hope you’ll come to the BIG art walk on August 8th, because I’ll still be there.

Dubliners 8: A Little Cloud

Continuing the Dubliners series for the funding campaign (which is just short of 60%!), here’s my illustration for the eighth story, “A Little Cloud”.



This could be the straightest illustration in the series. In the story, Little Chandler idolises his friend Gallaher. I struggled with the best way to make Gallaher appear suitably heroic before focussing on the classical profile. In some of my early sketches, I tried to give him a Napoleonic/Wellingtonian air by putting his right hand in his waistcoat. But without the accompanying medals and tights he just looked like he was looking for his wallet.

There’s still plenty of time to preorder a first-edition illustrated Dubliners right here.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Dubliners 12: Ivy Day in the Committee Room

Our Dubliners campaign is now at 44%. Thanks again to everyone who’s made an order so far! I’m continuing the series of illustrations today with “Ivy Day in the Committee Room”.


When de Selby first approached me to illustrate Dubliners, it took me a little while to work out the style (as I mentioned previously), but I knew right away the conceptual approach I wanted to take. I’m always reading in critical studies about Dubliners that it was Joyce’s demonstration that he could master realism before becoming experimental, or that he mastered the Edwardian style before becoming modernist, or something like that. I wanted to take a completely different tack. If you look closely at these stories, almost all of the themes of Joyce’s later work – the medievalism, the religious symbolism, the use of allegory – are already there. They’re not the opposite of Ulysses, but the seed.

That’s especially true in this story, in which a group of electioneering politicians shelter from the cold on the anniversary of the death of Charles Stewart Parnell. Apart from all those plain words that cats and dogs can read, this story, with all its mixing of the secular and the sacred, would be completely at home in a chapter of Finnegans Wake. So I designed this illustration to bring out the religious significance that Joyce attributes to Parnell in all his fiction.

Don’t forget we’re still raising funds for the book! You can preorder a first-edition copy right here.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Dubliners 4: Eveline

Thanks to everyone who’s supported the Dubliners campaign so far. After a week, we’re already at 37%! Just to shake things up, I’m jumping ahead now to the fourth story, “Eveline.”


“Eveline” tells the story of a young woman who’s preparing to elope to “Buenos Ayres” with a sailor. But when the moment comes to board the ship, she’s gripped with such terror that she can’t even move. As with “The Sisters,” I didn’t have any trouble choosing a line to illustrate. The final sentence so perfectly encapsulates the tragedy of Eveline’s paralysis. But I couldn’t work out how best to communicate the feeling of motion. Whenever I read the final paragraph, I could see Eveline’s blank stare drifting further and further away as the ship left the harbour; but until animated gif technology comes to paperbacks, I knew I’d have to come up with something else. I did a few sketches of it as a six-panel comic, which worked quite well. But it was vetoed by my art direction consultant (or “wife”, to use her legal title) because it stuck out from the others. So instead, I made the text do the work. I think this really shows how handy text can be in an illustration, because there’s nothing like it for directing your eye.

There’s still plenty of time to order a numbered first-edition at the funding campaign here. Tell your friends!

Friday, July 4, 2014

Dubliners 1: The Sisters

As promised (although slightly later than I planned), here’s the first of my illustrations for Joyce’s Dubliners, to be published by de Selby Press (crowdfunding the first edition here!). Let’s begin at the beginning with “The Sisters”.


Being the first story in the book, “The Sisters” has caused me a certain amount of stress. Joyce had very specific ideas about the beginnings of books, and the key themes of Dubliners are all buried in the narrative on the very first page. On the other hand, at least it saved me having to decide what line to choose: the first one.

Since it was also the first page I tried to draw (I’m very linear like that: I can’t even skip articles in a magazine), this was where I first tackled the style issue. I had a vague idea that I wanted to approximate the “scrupulous meanness” that Joyce characterised as the style of the text. Linda, the editor, was keen for me to integrate lines from the stories like I do for Finnegans Wake, which meant that I had to have big planes of black or white. After looking at a lot of avant-garde and commercial illustration from the turn of the century (do you know you can download all of Ver Sacrum, the Vienna Secession journal? Do it, it’s great), I eventually came up with this, essentially two styles put together, with three-dimensional cartoon people inhabiting a more rigid, stylised environment.

As the old saying goes, nothing ruins an illustration of a sad story about death like explaining it. So let’s just say that, as with Finnegans Wake, I focussed more on translating the idea than on drawing a particular place. In other words, that view may not exist, but I felt I had a good reason for putting it there. Now that I think of it, after all that Wake, this was probably the perfect line for me to start with, since it seems to include a pun.

If you like what you see, click here to preorder a numbered first-edition copy!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

How James Joyce taught me to draw

Portrait of Leopold Bloom by Mr. Joyce
When I started this project at the end of 2009, I had drawn almost nothing at all since being thrown out of my art A-level 10 years previously (it’s a long story). You can really tell in the early pages that I would do anything to avoid having to make a mark of my own on paper. That fear of actually drawing anything played a large part in defining the style of the first chapter, as you can see from the collage and tracing and big cut-out-looking shapes.

But I didn’t want to keep doing that. I can’t say I’m proud of every illustration on this site, but I am proud of how hard I pushed myself. Over the course of chapter one I tried lots of different things. When I got to chapter two, I decided I’d draw the whole thing in a kind of vintage cartoon style that was well beyond my abilities at the time. Generally, I’d just start to feel like I was getting confident in one style by the time I reached the end of the chapter, and then I had to choose another one. Some of my experiments worked and some of them didn’t, but even if some of them make me cringe now, I gained something from all of them. Or, even if I didn’t gain anything, I’m pretty sure they did me make me any worse.

It’s probably a bad sign if you can’t see any flaws in your own work. I can often perhaps be a little too critical (my wife says I get “a touch of the English”). But I’m really pleased with how these illustrations for Dubliners have turned out, and I can’t wait to share them all with you. To coincide with the crowdfunding campaign for the first edition, I’m going to start posting them here every couple of days. I hope you like them.
The tracing period
Getting comfortable...
...and getting deeply uncomfortable
Just get back on that horse!
And it “only” took five years...

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Preorder Illustrated Dubliners



De Selby Press has launched their campaign to fund the first edition of Dubliners illustrated by me. If you’d like to preorder a copy, you’d be doing them a big favour to do it now to help them meet their goal! Rewards include signed editions, posters, signed prints, and an mp3 of The Lass of Aughrim, the song from “The Dead.” If you already have a thousand copies of Dubliners clogging up your bookshelves (it’s weird how they seem to multiply, isn’t it?), then please share the link with all your Joyce-loving friends. Thank you!

Just go here.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Another Dubliner


Here’s a second Bloomsday Dubliner, for the story ”An Encounter”. This is a celebration, after all.

A Dubliner for Bloomsday

As my small contribution to Bloomsday, here’s one of my illustrations for Dubliners, for a new edition that will be published later in the year by de Selby Press. This one is from “A Painful Case”. If you follow me on Tumblr, you might have already seen this one, but I promise I’m going to be posting lots more next month. Happy Bloomsday!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Dubliners in Progress

As I announced last week on Twitter and Tumblr, the reason this website has been dormant lately is that I’ve been sweating over a new project: illustrating Dubliners for the new Paris-based Irish-interest publisher de Selby Press. It will include a total of 17 illustrations (one for each story, plus an additional two for The Dead) that I can’t wait to share with you! Watch this space in the next few weeks for more pictures and details.

Interview in The Honest Ulsterman

Honest Ulsterman Logo
I had the honour of being interviewed late last year by a fine gentleman named Darran Anderson for The Honest Ulsterman, a venerable literary magazine that has just been relaunched online. The interview is now up, and if you’d like you can even read it! [link]

I recommend you take a look around the rest of the site as well, because it all looks very interesting.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Page 182: the house O’Shame


Saturday, December 28, 2013

Page 176: fled like a leveret


Monday, December 23, 2013

Page 173: tarabooming great blunderguns

Some people will probably think a more Christmassy image would be more appropriate right now. Just imagine he’s playing Christmas carols.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Page 175: parsonal violence


Thursday, December 5, 2013

Discounted Prints at my Store

Christmas is coming, and you’ve almost certainly been thinking about buying illustrated passages of Finnegans Wake for all your friends and family.

Haven’t you?

Well, via this magical link [link] you can get free shipping AND FIVE DOLLARS OFF prints at my Society6 store until midnight December 8th! Why wouldn’t you do that?

If there’s a page you want that isn’t there, let me know I’ll put it up before the deadline.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Page 156: here he near lost his limb

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Big in Finland

For that Finnish-speaking Finnegans Wake enthusiast in your life, here’s a treat in time for Christmas. It might have been as much as a year ago that I was asked to contribute an essay to an anthology on Finnegans Wake entitled What Does Finnegans Wake Mean? In Finnish. Obviously I jumped at the chance. I’ve seen my illustrations in print a few times now, but I think this is the first time something I’ve written has been published. It’s very exciting, of course, but also disorienting to see my name above an essay I can’t read. I wish I could read the whole book, as the scraps that I’ve taken the time to transcribe into Google Translate have seemed very promising. Each of the essays is also illustrated with one of my pictures! Many thanks to the editor, Ville-Juhani Sutinen! If you do read Finnish, you can take a look at the publisher’s website here.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Page 155: what is the time, pace?


The Mookse and the Gripes continues. As I mentioned, this page actually goes before the previous post.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Page 158: Nuvoletta in her lightdress



And we’re back! What a warm time we were in there. It feels great to finally post something here again, and to instantly fall into my old bad habits by posting out of sequence (there’ll be at least one image before this one). I’m going to try to finish the Mookse and the Gripes this week.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Thank You For Your Patience

To be honest with you, it’s been a little daunting to return to this project after such a long absence. In addition to the time away, I’ve been rethinking my approach to the project in a way that’s forced me to change the way I work on it. Rather than tackling it a page at a time, I’m now trying to plot an entire chapter all at once.

Well, it’s been a long time (I’ve actually avoided checking exactly how long since I last posted a new image), but I’m hoping to finally get the first new page up today. But in the meantime, I’ve been gearing myself up by collecting an assortment of Wake-related music. So if you were looking for help putting together the nerdiest mixtape of all time, then your prayers are answered!

1. The Ballad of Persse O’Reilly

I looked everywhere for a version of the Ballad of Persse O’Reilly with full musical accompaniment, but in the end I think your best bet is this version sung by Ronnie Drew of the Dubliners:



2. Nuvoletta

This is a song by Samuel Barber adapted from the Mookse and the Gripes:



More Wake-related tunes after the jump...

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Book Notes Page

I’ve finally reorganised the book notes page, adding more online resources and some book recommendations, so that it might actually be useful to some of you. Thanks to everyone who suggested something! More links will appear when/if I get round to it.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Watch This Space

We’re preparing for a big move here, so I’ve been far too busy and exhausted for any personal work, and am likely to remain so until October, when (however) I will come back to the Wake full-time. (Yes, full-time.)

What time I have for drawing is going towards my tumblr of silly doodles and, more saliently, to a secret Joyce-related project (details of which I’ll begin to reveal when I’m confident enough with it to show it off). However, I should have a few exciting announcements in the next couple of months, and I’m going to try to catch up with some of the text posts that I’ve been putting off.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Waking in Oxford

I had a great time in Oxford last week. (What? The week before last? Where have I been?) Thanks to everyone who came, and thanks of course to Drs. Finn Fordham and Cleo Hanaway for inviting me. It was fascinating to discuss Joyce and Finnegans Wake with real living humans who know what they’re talking about (for the first time ever? My god, I think that’s true), and it left me feeling really inspired to continue this project.

Finn is the author of Lots of Fun at Finnegans Wake, a “genetic” reading of the way that Joyce developed four key passages from initial drafts to the final text. And it’s lots of fun, go read it! He also wrote the introduction to the new Oxford World’s Classics edition, which I recommend as well.

I was a little nervous to meet Clinton Cahill, who’s been illustrating Finnegans Wake on and off since 1997. But it turns out that he’s a charming, gracious and interesting, and I was fascinated to hear him discuss his own, very different, approach to illustrating the Wake. I recommend you read about it in his own words at the James Joyce Centre’s blog, where you can also see many examples of his intricate, surreal compositions. (You can also read his take on the event in part 8.)

This event gave me a lot to think about, and I’ll try to write some more about the way it’s affected my approach to my own project when I’ve had time to organise my thoughts a little more.

Cleo Hanaway tells us how it’s going to be.

Finn Fordham. It sounded like a bizarre idea to give a Finnegans Wake-related tour of a random museum, but it actually worked amazingly well.

Clinton demonstrates the correct way to give a talk...

...and I wrap up with a clown show. Sad to say, this is the least weird-looking picture of me. I don’t know that I get any less weird-looking than this.

At the end of the day, the attendees finally got to do some drawing of their own.

Friday, June 21, 2013

This Sunday: Finnegans Wake Illustration Event in Oxford

If there’s anyone out there who’ll be in or near Oxford on Sunday, I’m taking part in a talk and workshop at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.

There’ll be a Wake-themed tour of the museum given by Finn Fordham, author of Lots of Fun at Finnegans Wake, followed by an illustration workshop assisted by myself and Clinton Cahill, lecturer at the Manchester School of Art and fellow-Wake drawer. There’ll also be a light lunch with musical entertainment and, for the first fifteen arrivals, a free copy of the Wake! And the whole thing is (*gasp*) FREE!

You can find all the details at the Facebook event page here. I hope to see some of you there!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

EXCLUSIVE: Ithys Press publishes “Joyce’s last poetry collection”

A Joyce scholar investigates the Ithys Press archive
Following the publication of Finn’s Hotel, which editor Danis Rose called “almost certainly the last undiscovered title by James Joyce”, Ithys Press has announced the publication of Notes to Self, which editor Danis Rose describes as “almost certainly definitely the last undiscovered title by James Joyce that I’ll publish this year.”

The collection of what Rose calls “little poems” or “poemlets” has divided Joyce scholars, but Rose is quick to counter those who describe the book as “just a bunch of random stuff.”

“It is clear from close investigation,” says Rose, “that these works were conceived as a wholly separate and united body of work. After composition, they were carefully stored together in a large, metal, lidded container alongside a collection of other important Joycean memorabilia, including a most revealing bag of potato peelings and a cache of heavily soiled underwear.”

In the book’s extensive introduction, Rose demonstrates the work’s compositional strength through an analysis of one of the pieces (quoted here in its entirety):
2 pounds tomatoes (tinned?)
“Note how the initial mathematical certainty of the ‘2 pounds’ (with all the implied associations with Aristotelian physics, the world of finance and of British imperialism) is beautifully undermined by the delicious ambiguity of the coda. Genius.”

Notes to Self will be published in a numbered edition of ten, at a price of 10,000€, as well as a luxury edition of two copies, printed on white rhino hide in a cover of solid gold, for 10,000,000€, and a super-deluxe edition, for 10,000,000,000,000€, which can be seen from space.

Says Rose: “And if that doesn’t grab you, I’ll be taking offers on the suit that Joyce was buried in as soon as I’ve finished expurgating the corpse.”

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Merry Bloomsday and a Happy New Bloomsyear!

Happy Bloomsday! As usual, I’m not spending Bloomsday in Dublin, but out of sheer bloody-mindedness, I was there last week. As proof, here’s a picture of my son having the time of his life on the James Joyce Centre’s interactive Ulysses device. I'm pretty sure it's called the Ulyssesotron.
It was the first time I’d been to Dublin since I was a child, long before I had any interest in James Joyce. I didn’t have a lot of time there, sadly, so my indulgent family and I tore through the city in a mad dash, trying to ingest as much historical and architectural information as I could in five hours. I hope one day I’ll find time to take a proper research trip.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Page 18: what curios of signs in this allaphbed!

I’ve finally been forced to revise this old one in the interests of an ULTRA-SECRET PURPOSE. An anonymous tipster informed me that I’d made numerous mistakes in the Arabic of the previous version, and in any case, I’d always intended to do it in something approximating real Arabic calligraphy. I did my best to proofread, but if I’ve made any new mistakes, it might be best not to tell me...

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Page 171: his lowness creeped out first via foodstuffs

Friday, May 24, 2013

Page 170: when he is a sham

Page 33: in the people's park