Thursday, July 3, 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!

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