Thursday, December 30, 2010

Page 25

Page 38

Page 11

Monday, December 13, 2010

Page 37

This style is not playing to my strengths, I’m afraid. Roll on chapter three!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Page 36

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Chapter Two

f all the techniques that Joyce used to write Finnegans Wake, the most useful to the poor hapless reader must be that of repetition. Every story told through the course of the book essentially reiterates a single sequence of events. So the rise and fall of the great Finnegan which dominated chapter one was the primeval, mythic expression of a story that will recur again and again throughout the rest of the book.

And so we come to chapter two, one of the most approachable sequences of the whole book, which begins the story of Finnegan’s replacement, alluded to at the end of the previous chapter. This is Mr. H.C. Earwicker, part-publican, part-politician, all-round eminent Dublin gentleman, popularly known as Here Comes Everybody (“constantly the same as and equal to himself and magnificently well worthy of and all such universalisation”). But no sooner has Earwicker’s tenure begun than does he begin to relive the sorry fate of his predecessor, assailed by enemies both real and imagined.

Despite his good breeding and heroic reputation, Mr. Earwicker is plagued by rumours of a mysterious crime that supposedly took place in Dublin’s conveniently-named Phoenix Park, possibly involving two urinating young women, or three soldiers, or perhaps all five together.

It remains unclear exactly what this crime was, as well as whether HCE actually did it, although he certainly seems to feel guilty about something. When he is confronted in the park by a young “cad with a pipe” who asks him the time, he unaccountably takes the question as a threat, and launches into a confused defense of his character.

This eccentric performance proves his downfall, however. Later that day, the cad tells his wife of his encounter. The next day, she tells her priest, who tells a professor at the races. Before long, the entire town is spreading the gossip. When it reaches the ears of a disreputable type of poetic tendencies named Hosty, he loses no time in penning and publishing a satirical song at Earwicker’s expense. Entitled “The Ballad of Persse O’Reilly”, it’s an instant hit, it seems to spell the end for our hero.

I know, I know, it’s a nailbiter. But you’ll just have to wait.


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Page 34

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Page 33

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


It’s been intolerably quiet around here of late, but not for no reason, I promise. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I’m planning something a little different for the next few chapters. Because chapters two to four tell a fairly linear and even rather intelligible story, I want to use a consistent style to match it. Unfortunately, that means I have to at least roughly plot out the next 73 pages before I begin, and I’ve had a few false starts. But on the plus side, once I’ve worked out what I’m doing, it should hopefully go a lot faster.

In other news, I have joined Twitter, although I’m still not really sure what it’s for. Anyone who cares to can find me as @invisibledot.

I’d also like to thank all the blogs that mentioned this project in the past few weeks! It’s really gratifying to see that people are interested in it!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Page 35

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Page 31

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Page 628

I’ve really got ahead of myself here, but I was just too anal to leave that space blank.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

First Line, version 2

Based on some comments over at Weaver of the Wind, I’ve been thinking about a new way of doing the first line. The tear effect was a bit of a rush job, but I’ll clean it up later. [Fixed it now, more or less.] The main problem apart from that is that it will, of course, look (and be) incomplete until page 628 is also done.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


A few bloggers have been kind enough to link to this site recently, so I thought I should acknowledge and thank them all. It feels great to find out that people somewhere are seeing this stuff and getting something out of it. So thanks to:

Weaver of the Wind
A Piece of Monologue
An und für sich
Daniel Silliman

In addition, I’d like to offer a warm “Dank u wel” to De Contrabas, “Merci bien” to, and “Ευχαριστώ” to In Someone Else’s Dream. It’s weird enough for a native English speaker to be interested in Finnegans Wake. For a foreigner it’s close to miraculous. (That was my assumption, anyway. But I should say that I was reading FW on the bus here in Paris a few months ago, and a middle-aged woman sitting across from me asked how I was finding it, and admitted to giving up on the French translation many years ago. Would that ever happen in London?)

Because I’m a shameless ingrate, I completely neglected to acknowledge the kind words of Matt Kish, of the fantastic Moby Dick project, several months ago, as well as those of Jeffrey Meyer, who produces the most incredible collages I’ve ever seen.


Additional thanks to, Issa’s Untidy Hut and Ron Silliman!

Page 30

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Page 29

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Chapter One

Tim Finnegan began life as the hero of “Finnegan's Wake”, a 19th-century song in the “stage Irish” tradition of American vaudeville, which was a lot like black minstrels, minus blackface, plus a whole lot of jokes about alcoholism. It’s not a particularly good song, and it probably would have flowed happily down the gutter of time were it not for James Joyce’s interest in it.

In the song, Finnegan is a hod carrier well-known for drinking on the job -- a habit which apparently leads to his premature demise by falling off a ladder. His family and friends gather for a wake which quickly descends into a drunken brawl (or as the song says, “shillelagh law was all the rage”, suggesting either that the Finnegan household kept numerous spare shillelaghs on hand, or even better, that the guests brought their shillelaghs for just such an eventuality). Bottles are thrown, one of which breaks over the casket, pouring whisky over the body of Finnegan and miraculously reviving him.

For all this song lacks in political correctness or musical quality, it was eerily perfect for Joyce's purposes. It's almost as if he wrote it himself. In chapter one of Finnegans Wake, this tale of a builder who falls to his death and is revived in the middle of his wake is retold on an epic scale. Or rather, an intermittently epic scale. Finnegan shifts ambiguously from being the middle-class drunk of the song to a culture-hero of mythological proportions. From hod carrier to Master Builder, he becomes the progenitor of civilisation itself. A god, whose death provokes nothing less than the coming of an age of darkness and the dawn of a new historical era. A man, his body is laid out for his wake. A colossus, his body becomes the topology of the land itself.

At the wake, his family, in one of many disturbing perversions of the story of Jesus, literally feeds on his body. When he wakes (not thanks to an anointment in whisky, as far as I can make out), they hold him down and convince him to stay dead. As this is a dream, the question of how much of him has already been eaten doesn’t arise. In any case, his relatives successfully subdue and bury him, in preparation for the arrival of his replacement, “a big rody ram lad” who will be “ultimendly respunchable for the hubbub caused in Edenborough.”

But his story, children, will have to wait for another time...


Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Book In The Book – or, Why My Pictures Look Like Garbage

I’ve had no time for illustration this past month or so, but I have had plenty of time to think, so I thought I’d write a few posts about the book and the project and that kind of nonsense. The synopsis isn’t working for me anymore – every time I do a page it gets harder and harder to write it in a way that makes any coherent sense – so I think I’ll replace it with a page of my illiterate, ill-informed musings instead. Enjoy!

First off, I thought it might be good to explain my decision to make all my illustrations look like they were soaked in tea for a primary school history project. There is an actual reason, which is all to do with the role that the book itself plays within the narrative of Finnegans Wake. That’s right, you don't really know a book is arty until you’ve found out how self-referential it is, and now I'm going to tell you.

Just as the “characters” of Finnegans Wake shift among a huge cast of figures and settings, so the book itself appears in a variety of different guises. It is first discovered in a rubbish pile in chapter one, as the mysterious “Book of Doublends Jined”, an illuminated manuscript, part almanac, part religious text,
which tells the history of civilisation. Later it appears as the “Mamafesta” of the wife character, ALP, and as the scandalous novel of ALP's son, Shem the Penman. In what you might call the underlying narrative of the book, it is the letter, dictated by ALP to Shem, and delivered by Shem's brother, Shaun the Post, to their father, HCE, as a simultaneous love letter and testament to his innocence of the various unknown crimes for which he is brought to trial. Finally it is lost, and rediscovered in a rubbish pile, in chapter one.

When I began this project, I wanted the look of the illustrations to take into account the book’s various incarnations -- to appear variously as an illuminated manuscript, as the work of an obsessive artist, and as scavenged discoveries of the city dump. So that’s why my pictures look like garbage.

Well, that’s one reason, anyway.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Page 26

Friday, September 3, 2010

The story so far

I originally approached this project with a little to say about Finnegans Wake and a lot to learn about illustration. In a few months I’ll have been working on this project for a year, and although I still haven’t even finished chapter one, it feels like a good time to clarify some of my thoughts about the book (and, by extension, the project), and to reflect on what I’ve learnt through illustrating it.

The main reason I began this project was that I desperately needed something to force me to draw, and hopefully to improve. I chose this book because it seemed like something I could bring a unique perspective to: although there are certainly many better illustrators than me, the number of them that have read Finnegans Wake is probably quite small.

What I’ve managed so far is certainly far from perfect, but there are a few that I’m proud of, and I like to think that nearly all of them at least have the potential to be good, if I work on them for a while at some imagined time in the future. Most importantly, I’ve made a dedicated effort to minimise my use of filters, textures and other cheap tricks that disguise crappy work in much the same way that wood shavings cover up vomit at a funfair.
I’ve also started to home in a style that combines both what I think the project requires and what I actually enjoy doing. When I started, I told myself that jumping madly from style to style was the best way to serve the text — which isn’t entirely false, since chapter one leaps just as madly from one subject to another — but really, it was what I felt like doing at the time.

But at this point, I’m quite keen to work on developing just one style as best I can. So that’s what I intend to do as soon as I start work on chapter two (I probably won’t wait until chapter one is completely finished). Since chapters two to four follow basically the same story in more or less the same setting, I can convince myself again that a decision based on caprice is really the best way to honour the book.

Well, that's probably enough for now — I’ll save my thoughts about the book for another post. That about sums up how I feel about the way things are going, but I’d love to get some feedback to see what other people think!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Page 21

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Page 22

As usual, you can tell it’s a little rushed, but I’m so behind!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Page 25 24

Update: This is obviously not page 25 at all. It’s page 24, and I’m an idiot.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Page 20

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Page 19

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Page 12

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Page Eight

Much as I love Henry Darger, I'm getting really tired of tracing.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Page 15

A quick one to get me back into it. This is a Moby Dick-inspired illustration for a Moby Dick-inspired line, in honour of this fantastic project by Matt Kish (whose surname, incidentally, would have pleased Joyce no end). (And whose birthday it apparently is today. Happy birthday, Matt!)

Back to work

Reunited with dogeared copy of Finnegans Wake: check
Laptop back from Applestore: check
Holiday almost over: check
Sick to death of other distractions/projects: check

I’ve got a lot of catching up to do.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

In a funk

I seem to be having trouble getting any of my pages finished at the moment, so here’s a portrait of the man himself to prove I’m still alive. I’ve just been too busy and under too much stress for the kind of work that these pages require. Plus the library demanded their book back. I’ll finally be reunited with my own copy in a week, so that’s something.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Page 16

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Page Five

Friday, April 2, 2010

Page 27

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Page Seven

Friday, February 26, 2010

Page Six

Page Eighteen

Page Ten

Page Seven

Page Four

Page Three

First Line