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Chapter 1 pencils (Deg Illustrations)

Blog posted by Ste Pickford on Fri, 17 Mar 2017

Ste Pickford

In this series of blog posts I’m going to talk about each of the illustrations I did for Patrick Garratt’s debut novel Deg, and show some of my drawing process along the way. There are 11 illustrations in total, one for each chapter of the book, and I’ll do at least a couple of posts on each one. There’s also a link at the bottom of this post to buy the book itself. You really should, it’s very good.

Pat asked me if I’d illustrate his book before I’d read it, and before he had a publisher. I tentatively agreed, even though I’d never illustrated a novel before, and was pretty nervous when the PDF of the latest draft came through. I was even more nervous once I started reading. Well, I was terrified. Where would I even start? If you haven’t read the book (and you should!), it’s written in a very disorientating style, with sentences rolling into each other and descriptions being fired at the reader faster than the brain can process them. It’s not a straightforward text, without easily identifiable characters or clear scenes to illustrate. In fact, even without the illustrations the book is very visual, packed with imagery that almost seeps out of the words themselves.

Once I got over the initial shock I decided the only way to illustrate the book was to try to capture the actual feel of the words - the confusion of overlapping sentences and images - rather than pick discrete episodes to illustrate. I was on holiday, swimming in the sea, when an almost complete vision of a finished illustration popped into my mind - dense, overlapping doodles as a background to a bold, clean, yet warped-looking face.

OK, now I had a plan, and I jumped in with Chapter 1 as an experiment to see if I could do the job. If I could do something acceptable for the first chapter, I figured I could do the whole book. If it came out crap, I’d have to tell Pat I’d failed and wouldn’t be able to do the project.

These are pencils for the background detail. I had a separate plan to fill the white space with something a face, but even this amount of detail (filling what, a third of the page?) took me bloomin’ ages, all the time worrying that I’d took a wrong turn and it was going to look like crap when it was finished.

There was a lot of sexual imagery in the book, which scared me a bit as far as drawing it goes. I’ve not had much call to draw engorged genetalia in close up detail when doing the graphics for Nintendo games. In the end I decided I had to get over my squeamishness and just draw a massive penis and be done with it. Once over that mental hurdle, drawing a dog shitting mayonnaise was no big deal.

Click the 'Follow up post' link below to see the finished illustration.


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