You may know that I am an artist as well as a writer of poetry, and that I have an art blog, Claudia McGill and Her Art World , in addition to this one. Recently I’ve completed a set of illustrations for a writing project, 28 days of flash fiction at Fictive Dream, an online magazine devoted to the short story.
The event is called Flash Fiction February and is going on right now, with a new flash fiction story each day. I’m showing you the artworks and presenting a short analysis of how I interpreted the story in paint, inks, and collage. I hope that once you look over what I’ve set out here, you will visit Fictive Dream and read the stories!
If you want to know more about the artwork side of the project, my art blog is currently featuring the artworks I did plus some posts outlining the ins and outs of my illustration process.
17. The Woman with a Thousand Faces, by Sandra Arnold, February 17. This story is one of perseverance, rising above adversity, and the hope and determination that make it possible. The setting of the story was to me a manifestation of the woman-being and its shifting and merging aspects that contact the narrator’s spirit. It is central to the text and therefore the illustration.
Following this idea I decided to be a bit more objective in my depictions and did two landscape images including the elements mentioned in the story: peaks, water, sun, sky.
I picked warm colors that to me said “hope”. I varied the look of the two pieces with different shapes and positioning, but both of them are portraits of the spirit of the landscape as well as that of the narrator.
Fictive Dream editor Laura Black’s comments:
There’s a tremendous sense of optimism in this story by Sandra Arnold and both of the illustrations that you created convey this. Although I told you of my preference for image #27 early on, I was going back and forth between the options for a long time behind the scenes. The aspects that I particularly liked in image #26 were the splashiness of the river water and the solidity of the mountains (important in the story). In the end, I chose #27 with its beautiful pink peaks perhaps foreshadowing that the woman would be reaching new heights in her life.
18. February 18, Free Fall, by Jacqueline Doyle. To me this story was about everything falling apart. Carefully constructed assumptions go to pieces and fall away in this story, just like falling out of the car and the groceries going flying – leaving the narrator figuratively in pieces – in doubt and wondering what is true, questioning things that would not have been questioned before. Something has broken.
I made two pictures along the same lines. Both images have the blue car, the brown/gray grocery bag, and the apples that might now be too bruised. All of these are tumbling off in a cornfield-like setting that’s cheerful and ordinary, like everybody else in the world who hasn’t had things just fall apart, but is still living an ordinary life.
In the first image ( Image 49) I focused on the elements mentioned above. I wanted to depict the rest of the world as somewhat oblivious, so I put a sun in the sky, far away.
In this second image (Image 50), I used the same elements but focused in more on the “cornfield” setting and added to the number of the bruised apples, to reflect the moment of things falling apart and assumptions scattering.
Laura Black’s comments:
I found Free Fall by Jacqueline Doyle disturbing and images of the dusty cornfield and the man’s ginger hair just stayed with me. When I saw the two pieces of artwork you had created I knew straightaway that image #49 was the right one. It has an uncomfortable heat to it and perfectly represents the environment in which the protagonist is trapped. Image #50 is a fine illustration in itself. However, because it portrays green and rather luxuriant surroundings, I didn’t think it was as a good a fit for the story.
19. February 19, 1918, by Francine Witte. The story is dark in all ways – the colors mentioned are dark and the character Finkus is portrayed as coming in the house after a day of doing work that gets his clothes greasy and muddy. The overall tone of the story is dark and sad. I chose colors to reflect this idea for my artwork.
To me the structure of this story was that of repetition. One day after another, year after year, there is bad news all the time and the characters will never be getting away from it. It felt like a calendar in my mind, a grid filled in with despair.
I therefore did a couple of black/brown/gray/white images with a subtle grid. Both also included a bit of collaged printed pages to emphasize the linear nature of this story – things go only in one direction.
One image was very dark and the other more neutral, one more structured and the other looser, because I wanted to emphasize the different tones the story brought to mind in its descriptions. In each painting, however, I included a small splash of red to break up the palette and to represent the flash of insight and consideration Finkus shows.
Laura Black’s comments:
1918 by Francine Witte is a dark story with a dark illustration to accompany it. My own ideas the illustration were influenced by certain details in the bleak scenario: the splotch of mud, the splash of grease and the meagre stew with slivers of beef. The palette you chose was exactly right, but it was your own interpretation that determined my choice. Your picked up on the story’s repetition, ‘one day after another, year after year, bad news all the time…’ and you went onto say, ‘It felt like a calendar in my mind.’ And so I chose image # 6 with its grid and stand-out splashes of red. Another perfect match between text and artwork.
20. Solitaire, by Travis Cravey, February 20. The influences here were playing cards and their colors. This story was structured with the family occupying one large space, divided between father/child and the mother. The father tried to create a warm safe place for the child when the mother retreated to her space, the card game. For her it was an escape; to me I felt it was a strategy that didn’t seem very helpful or reviving for her, but it was her space and one that she needed. The family members are not at odds, but they cannot always help each other, either, and so there is separation.
I used the playing card symbols in a somewhat recognizable way in the first image (Image 22), setting them in the section I designated as the mother’s space, with the left side being the father/child side.
I made a similar arrangement in the second image (Image 23), but showed the desk with the cards laid out on it with a diamond background pattern. In both cases I made the mother’s side of the picture much bigger because it loomed so large in the mental spaces of all the characters.
Laura Black’s comments:
Solitaire by Travis Cravey is a tough story, which employs the motif of the playing card. Of the two artworks you prepared I chose image #23 because of its hard lines and the use of grey which engages so well with the metal table at which mother in the story plays her lonely card game every evening. I like the way in which the artwork implies the suits of the card and reflects the bleakness of the story.
And there you have it- the fifth four stories and their images. Thank you for reading.
Notes on the illustration project for Flash Fiction February 2019:
My practice with each story was to read it very carefully, making notes and small sketches about elements that sparked a visual image. Fictive Dream editor Laura Black also gave me her input for each story. All the artwork is non-representational as outlined in the specifications Laura had for the project. The paintings are about 11.5″ x 7.25″ each and are primarily acrylics on watercolor paper, although there is some collage work as well. I usually made a couple of images per story and Laura chose which one would be displayed with the story.