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.
All right, here we go. Note: each painting has an image number, done for my record-keeping purposes, and is so referenced in the writeups.
9. Family Gathering, by Paul Beckman, February 9. This story is the only one for which I did just one painting. Upon reading the story, I knew exactly what I wanted to do.
To me, it had a very clear structure. There are complainers on one side, there are laughers on the other side, and the mother and twins are in the middle. The latter are the glue that is holding this occasion together. They somewhat absorb elements of each side and they mediate the party/the composition, but they are also distinct entities themselves and have their own separate viewpoint.
I visualized this story as three panels and each one got its own color. The red splotches in the middle one represent the mother and twins and their apple pie, and they provide a focus for the composition, just as the three people focus the story.
Fictive Dream editor Laura Black’s comments:
There are many references to colour in this story by virtue of all the foods that are mentioned. And, as you said, Claudia, a very clear structure. Of all the foods, it’s the apple pie that’s most important and I love the way in which the mother and her twins sit in the centre of the composition with their pie. A perfect image for this piece of writing.
10. February 10, Man Parts, by Nod Ghosh. I had two mental images of this story, structure-wise. I could see it organized either as a path or as a structure, in both cases with the narrative built out of the recurring shoe appearances and augmentations and permutations. I made two images, one for each of these interpretations.
First was the structure version (Image 20) – I saw things as sort of an inverted pyramid, one shoe, more shoes, they move around, get new friends in the form of items of clothing, and then…well…
I used colors derived from the descriptions of the various days – from messy snow all the way to green/yellow for the grass and crocuses. And red for the trash can, and for blood…
The second image (Image 21) is the path version. I organized it loosely by the progression of days – snow and night and up to green/crocuses. Plus red for trash can/blood.
Man Parts by Nod Ghosh is an unusual story with numerous references to colour but it wasn’t always easy to decide what was most relevant in terms of influences for an illustration. Originally I chose image #20 because for me the ice with footprints was more prominent and the dark blocks could represent the ‘parts.’ Towards the end of the process I changed my mind in favour of #21 on the grounds that it better represented the passing of time. These two images were more abstract than others, if I may put it that way and it was difficult to make a choice.
11. Mountain Lake, by Leonard Kress, February 11. This story was rich in allusions and symbols, reminding me of a myth, a legend, or a folkloric tale. In an otherworldly kind of setting, three men and a woman are all alone in an isolated place. I could not help but think of the woman as a kind of Eve/nature goddess/temptress/sorceress type of being and the men as representing a supporting cast of worshipers in different stages of evolution as to what their relationships were to the Eve/goddess/etc. There were overtones of a quest full of magical certainties.
Given this impression, I chose to represent the setting, a lake, and use the colors of the time of day, early evening, which were very suitable because of the detached tone of the story and the detached, almost remote, tone. I made three images, all including the same elements: I represented the three men as dark shapes and the woman in white, as she was described, in the lake, with the rocks and sky.
My idea was to meld the human and the inanimate elements into one integrated composition in the same way the story did.
I found this an intriguing story with writing that has a delicate touch. I must have a deep memory about a similar landscape because immediately I saw this story in the violets and purples of the early evening. I don’t know if you saw it like that too, Claudia, but you kindly accommodated (note from Claudia – yes, I did see the same color scheme, on my first reading and before looking over the marked up version of the story in which Laura mentioned it) and I thought the results fantastic. Of the three options image #32 stood out most of all, and it was the representation of the female figure in white that did it. This reflects her quiet dominance in the story. I love the three male figures huddled together, each with a black squiggle reflecting their confusion. Just perfect.
12. This Isn’t How We Live, by Sudha Balagopal, February 12. In this story, there were several elements that stood out to me: the house, the mother’s feet, and the plant growth around the house. Though the mother’s situation is sad and only going to grow more difficult as her mind becomes more distressed and dislocated, that’s not something she can comprehend, so she returns to her house because that is where she is herself, where she belongs.
I found her determination to return there again and again and to take responsibility for the home she could no longer live in very touching and affecting, because of course everyone else in the story as well as the reader knows the truth.
I made two images and in both I included a house shape to represent home, with green growth around it. I included the red color for her feet that wore themselves out getting home. Despite the inherent sadness of this story, I used bright colors that reflect her attachment to this place and the idea that even in this hopeless situation, home is a kind of a beacon.
This was another of those stories for which I found making a choice of image difficult. Without doubt both options would have worked. They are both colourful and reflect the story very well. In the end, I chose image #36 for these reasons: the addition of a layer of colour beneath the blades of grass lightens it up, the sky is a touch lighter (for me, that keeps us in daylight hours), and while the house is smaller, it’s also empty, which of course is the problem for the elderly woman. The representation of the woman in image #35 as lying down gave me an impression of death whereas, in her spirit, she is very much alive.
And there you have it – the third four stories and their images. Thank you for reading.
Notes on the project:
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.