Here be dragons. Well, just a little one.

I know, I know – you thought I’d forgotten… Actually, despite appearances, I’m not labouring under the illusion that anyone anticipates the publication of this weekly blog (although I would dearly love to boast repeat-blog-patrons, I am – intermittently – a realist [and this is one of those ‘inters’]) – nor would suffer any degree of distress by its postponement/absence – but, ever-striving for consistency and something approaching a working structure, I submit this week’s offering (if rather shamefacedly…):

The Bologna competition entry, although progressing at a more or less satisfactory pace, encountered something of a roadblock this weekend (not entirely unforeseen, but disappointing nonetheless) which entirely scuppered my meticulously calculated schedule for its completion by the end of this week. Happily, deliverance came in the shape of a joy-conjuring two-line post from one of my new SCBWI acquaintances – an individual with demonstrably superior knowledge of submissions process for this specific contest – which stated that SCBWI members and art students are permitted to luxuriate in a veritably decadent 7-week(ish) extension to the published (public) entry deadline. Huzzah!

It was with some alarm, however, that I perused the exhibited entries from last year’s event – not, as another SCBWI veteran cautioned, the type of material a British readership (and, most particularly, I) might associate with children’s book illustration…

My mooted seaside theme – especially those scenarios I had selected for their discernible, if tame (as opposed to bland and excruciatingly predictable, I hope), humour – now seems a little gauche alongside, if not downright incongruous with, the inscrutable, ‘edgy’ tone that apparently predominates. Hey ho. I’m absolutely still going to launch my parcel of pencilled turkeys off into the Italian web-o-sphere, if only to see what discordant janglings arise when they land amidst the refined artistry of the professionals in Italy. That or oppressive silence, I suppose, as it’s swallowed into the quagmire of rejection oblivion. I should probably reconcile myself to the greater likelihood of this unremarkable – and unremarked – outcome over some miraculously iconoclastic effect… (Excellent motivational attitude, I think you’ll agree.) Projected failure aside, though, it is a great opportunity to craft a small body of associated pieces within some fairly strict temporal parameters (that most auspicious of deadline extensions I regard as extraordinary, precipitating a tingle of good fortune akin to discovering that school was closed on the first day back after the Christmas holidays [on account of icy temperatures causing a catastrophic plumbing malfunction in the girls’ cloakrooms – woohoo!] ).

Perhaps grasping at this reprieve/stay of execution a little too hastily for decorum, I turned my attention to another project, the murmurings of which first surfaced a couple of weeks ago. Although I can’t reveal much at this embryonic stage (actually, probably more accurate to regress the progress-o-meter to ‘twinkle in the eye’ stage…), I have spent an inordinate amount of time over the past few days attempting to negotiate the challenges inherent in rendering a curiously mutated (can’t divulge the exact nature of the distortion; author privilege…) elephant anatomy in cartoon-esque form. Also that of dragons (although – and somewhat predictably, you might snort – there’s far less by way of reference material on this subject…).

The wisps of smoke are a little too 'solid'-looking, but otherwise suitably dejected, I think (any thoughts on the colour of dragon tears, incidentally...?)

I am rather fond of the little dragon character, although it’s not clear yet whether the Ideas Man will show a similar affinity for him in his current form: I have a creeping suspicion that his ‘colourings’ may be rather too ambiguous, or feminine. It is astonishing quite how tenaciously the prevailing public psyche seems to cling to ‘traditional’ perceptions of gendering in non-verbal (i.e. visual…) form, however subconsciously (and I count myself as afflicted in this way, I am occasionally alarmed to acknowledge). Perhaps words, as the intellectual obstacle to be negotiated by the reader in pursuit of ‘meaning’ (much as an inquisitive pig might scout for truffles…), present a first defence against the potential stumble headlong into prejudicial thought – by communicating with the psyche at a conscious level, words activate a range of possible responses, e.g. immediate conclusions as to the gender of the character; an inkling of what gender impression the author might have designed to convey; a second, argumentative – possibly slightly sneery voice – questioning why we arrived at the first conclusion and suggesting that perhaps we should err on the side of political correctness and ambiguity. Whereas, our response to a visual image stirs at a deeper, subconscious level, circumventing all the intellectual, rationalising processes swirling around above, at the level of conscious perception. Just a thought…

*Shudder* I detected a frightening proximity to the precipice of English-essay-waffle-oblivion, an unfortunate hangover from my (now horribly distant) university career. However, as I managed to swerve away from the Barthes quotation (all literature being merely a ’tissue of quotations’, or something vaguely along those lines, i.e. no original thought; everything’s already been said, just in a different order [Lo! Is that the muffled, anguished screams of my Leeds University tutors, tortured by such reductive paraphrasing…?]), I think that particular disaster has been averted. If by the narrowest gnat’s whisker of margins.

I was going to trundle on in a mildly disgruntled tone about the myriad equipment failings I suffered yesterday (yes, yes – a poor workman blames his tools, etc.), but as none were particularly dramatic – i.e. nothing in the same vein as the pigeon that pooed in the wells of my mixing palette as it stood drying on the bathroom window ledge – and you’ve already endured more twaddle than anyone should be expected suffer, you’ll be relieved to hear that I’m retiring my typing finger for the day. Besides, I have a competition entry to finish (and more damned mice to usher from brain to paper before that), and masking tape to unglue from my lightbox (*sigh*).

Apologies for the hopelessly rambling nature of this week’s instalment – I will strive for something far more cogent and interesting next week! Meanwhile, I hope you all have a marvellous rest-of-week, and a superlative weekend (miserable weather notwithstanding) 😉

About illustratedbyamanda

Illustrator and time-fritterer extraordinaire
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