Tag Archives: folktales

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.

Puppet Challenged

Hooray! I’m very excited to be participating in the Puppet Challenge, an on-line puppet exhibition scheduled for June 2014. Check out Clive Hicks-Jenkins’ Artlog to see some fabulous posts about puppetry and art. The theme for the puppet challenge is Folk tales, fairy tales, myths and legends. It has been suggested by Peter Slight (curator of the on-line exhibition) that we might like to consider local folk tales or mythology.

The topic ‘local folktales’ in Australia has a very different meaning from local folktales in Europe. Most white Australians of course share the European folktales via their ancestry, but the tales can no longer be called local. Black Australians have a rich array of tales and mythology, but it’s not my culture to intrude upon. So my mind tosses around two possibilities.

The first, find my theme around the topic of river crossings (such as the Three Billy Goats Gruff) because I live in Mordialloc, named after its creek. ‘The name Mordialloc is a corruption of two aboriginal words Murdi or Moordi and Yallock, the latter meaning creek or stream.’ (From the City of Kingston’s historical website).

Or the second, go with an Australian fairy tale. One of my favourite books is Alan Marshall’s fairy tale ‘Whispering in the Wind’ which features a bunyip in place of a dragon and a magical grey kangaroo with a bottomless pouch, so I am leaning in this direction. It offers a lot of possibilities. There is also a wonderful scene fairly early on in the book, featuring the hero and his horse meeting Greyfur the kangaroo for the first time, and it occurs on the banks of a creek, so perhaps this would be a good option… although the bunyip who appears later on is very tempting… He snorts water out of his nostrils, a trick he learned while at Dragon Training School with all the fire-breathing dragons.

Decision-making is not my strong point with regard to artistic pursuits. So many wonderful options, so little time! I’m wondering how I’ll go about deciding on a medium for my puppet, once I’ve decided on the character. Perhaps it will be determined by my limitations. I’ll rule out all forms of puppetry that are beyond my technical ability and what is left after that will be my medium!

Here is Whispering in the Wind by Alan Marshall.

Cover of 1969 hardback edition illustrated by Jack Newnham

Cover of 1969 hardback edition illustrated by Jack Newnham