The Kick-About #8 ‘Cicada’ (part one)

Here we go with another Kick-About prompt from Red’s Kingdom. It comes at a good time. I‘ve been working productively during Melbourne’s two lockdowns on my picture book project When You’re Older*. The project has leapt forward dramatically, which is satisfying, but I needed a little break and a breath of creative fresh air. The disconnectedness and anxiety that many of us are feeling as a result of the pandemic and the world news are pretty wearing, even to an introvert like me.

The prompt is Cicada, and those little creatures are old friends at this stage. I spent two weekends working on this prompt. The first one I spent learning some animation techniques, and my original intention was to make an animation by selecting material from Searching for Cicadas**, either working with some of the unused artwork, or developing a page from the book.

This is the page I’d like to animate. I’ll return to this idea at a later point. He’s such a cute little fellow, I’d like to see him walk across his landscape.

But on the second weekend I wandered in a different direction. It began with thinking about cicadas in a less realistic way and thinking about drawing some She Cicadas in the style of my Metropolis Bird Women. Then I thought about the unique, and seemingly magical qualities of a cicada (in particular, its life cycle and metamorphosis) and how easily cicadas might fit into a fairy or folk tale. I haven‘t written anything like that since The Woman, the Chicken and the Grapes. And it seemed the perfect break from intense illustration work.

A frontispiece for a fairytale that isn’t finished yet.

However, I was forgetting my tendency towards perfectionism (strangely combined with a loathing for neatness, exactness or fussiness), and so, Kick-About time is up and the fairy tale is not complete. But never mind! Here are some images I began for it and I’ll work up the text a little more before posting it.

I love these little cicada nymphs. They are so innocent and purposeful. They provide the perfect foil to an arrogant giant python.
I was aware how much my fairy tale was resembling a Red Riding Hood tale. The significance of the snake (instead of a wolf) was pretty obvious, so I popped my little girl into a reddish tint to refer to the original story. And a hood, of course. But I liked her to be visually quite subtle and hard to make out.
The python drawing, became a bit worrisome actually. Although he was just a 5 minute ink drawing, incised with a wooden skewer, he scanned and turned out a bit too ‘realistic’ for my taste, even after I popped some tattoos on him. I prefer the more stylised fellow on the frontispiece. This is a balancing act I regularly struggle with.
Some wash drawings of my little girl. These are each about 12cm high and some have been tidied up a bit; some haven‘t. The little girl at bottom right was not right for this story as she has a vulnerability in her body language and droopy plaits that is not leading lady material. I liked her little legs though. The girl top left, though leaning backwards in a seemingly defensive posture, is nevertheless communicating a wily strength of character. Is she retreating, or is she subtly reaching behind herself for a possible weapon? So she was worked up very lightly for the scene at the top of this post. The girl with the high hood makes me laugh. She is so contemporary looking with her confident, slouching gait. She’s probably wearing headphones and a ponytail.
Two of the sketches for the frontispiece, before I tidied up the one on the right, just a little.

Cheerio for now. Time to get back to the snowy scenes for When You‘re Older.

*When You‘re Older, written by Sofie Laguna, to be published by Allen and Unwin.
** Searching for Cicadas teaching notes here and you can purchase at your local bookshop. If you are in lockdown and need to buy online, in Australia you can find a local bookshop here or check out this page. If you‘re in the USA there‘s this page and it may include other countries too. Let me know.

13 thoughts on “The Kick-About #8 ‘Cicada’ (part one)

  1. Phil Cooper

    I love these images so much Judy, they have such strong story telling power. There’s so much information in those delicate ink wash drawings, they’re just beautiful 😊

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    1. Judy Watson Post author

      Thanks, Phil. That’s lovely to know and good of you to comment. I’m crazy for the ink at the moment, but it was interesting the way when I imagined the tale illustrated in a less dark and ambiguous style it took on a complete different quality. As I was writing, being so visual by nature, images insisted on popping into my head. Depending on the style of the imaginary image, my writing became comical or darker by turns. Completely unstable… 🙃

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  2. Anonymous

    Wonderful breakfast reading, thanks, fascinating to see the thought process and it looks much scarier than little red riding hood! The images are so delicately minimal, the forest one is extremely fluid and atmospheric, beautiful.

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    1. Judy Watson Post author

      Thank you so much! I don’t think the story itself (so far) is any scarier than Little Red Riding Hood. But I suppose it depends how you feel about snakes. (The little girl and the cicada will survive. Hooray!) Thanks for commenting. 😊

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  3. Pingback: The Kick-About #8 ‘Cicada’ – Red's Kingdom

  4. philgomm

    Hey Judy, just wanted to say how exciting all of this is and thanks so much for running around with me again – and I like my fairy stories dark – ‘cosy horror’ and all that – and I think kids like it that way too! (Or at least, this kid always did!) X

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  5. Judy Watson Post author

    Thanks for providing the playing field, Phil! I love dark fairy stories too. And they are probably tying in with my Covid-inspired dreams this year… But I think I might have to make my story darker. It’s not nearly as dark as people may be expecting from the images.. Or maybe I won’t overthink it. Ha ha! x

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