A Knock at the Door

A Knock at the Door (Book written by Tom and illustrated by me!)

I am so pleased to see the second volume of the Inner Islands Trilogy in print! I loved illustrating it and following the adventures of the wonderful characters Tom created. All of the illustrations were drawn in pen and ink with brushed ink washes.

You can order it from Amazon at this link from Canada
From this link from the U.S.
And from this link from the U.K.

Illustrations (c) 2020 Hilary Farmer
Written and cover layout (c) 2020 TJ Radcliffe


Darwin’s Theorem – a book cover…

Darwin's Theorem book cover
Darwin’s Theorem book cover

I was thrilled to work on a book cover for my good friend, Tom Radcliffe, for his (long-awaited) first published novel. It was fun having proof-read the novel to imagine an appropriate and imaginative cover both in content and style for his book.

Tom’s presentation of his book is humourously put on his blog. I think maybe the most apt is Dan Brown meets The Origin of the Species! This novel has many sides to it – science, religion, true love… and is good fun to read as well!

Tom has been a very frequent contributor to this blog with his varied poetry – hopefully there’s a book in all those illustrated poems (or poeted drawings 😉 ) somewhere, sometime… He has been working towards a prose work for some time and it’s great to see the results take form. It is available in both physical book or e-book, also on Amazon! Awesome accomplishment, Tom, truly a pleasure to read!

further development of a painting…

the voyage - final detail sketch
the voyage – final detail sketch

This week I prepared my 18×24″ canvas with a variety of colours all in the mid tones in terms of darkness. I also sketched the position and clothing for the figure in the painting. The final result was refined during class today while producing this sketch to be used to transfer the most detailed part of the painting onto the canvas. For this I simply traced the sketch onto tracing paper, put graphite from my handy 6B pencil on the back and then transferred onto my canvas. It was still hard to see, so I followed up by applying some acrylic paint (raw umber) to follow the outline.

the voyage - outline added to colour-washed background
the voyage – outline added to colour-washed background

At this point some more adjustments were made with the teacher’s advice. The balance and composition were improved until we were both satisfied.

the voyage - tonal wash added
the voyage – tonal wash added

There was only enough time left to add some tone to the painting – also in a wash of raw umber acrylic paint. Since the light source will be from the far side of the hills, just adding the wash starts to give that feeling, starting to create ambiance and give an idea of the shape of the final painting. Even though this painting will be completed using oil paint, doing the painting to this point using acrylic was helpful as the detail won’t be smudged away when the oil paint is added next week.

Last time I posted poems that Tom had sent me for this work – here is another one, a haiku:

Clotho’s tangled thread
trails across the pier at dawn
she casts herself free

images (cc) 2013 Hilary Farmer
poetry (c) 2013 TJ Radcliffe

today’s doodles…studies for a painting

the voyage - first colour sketch
the voyage – first colour sketch

It has been a long time since I posted anything. I haven’t been doing much digital doodling but I have been creating some studies for a painting course I started a couple of weeks ago. The course is called “Illustrative Painting” and so I am trying to establish a narrative of sorts. I have in my mind that the voyage is a metaphor for journeying into the future or even an internal journey of the mind. On describing this concept, Tom sent me this poem – within two hours!! There’s even a short version and a long version…

Elegy for a Future (short version)

The water’s kiss is soft against the blade
that cuts a careworn future from the past;
irrevocable, now the choice is made
to cross the Rubicon and finally cast

a glance ahead: there awaits the shore,
warm coastal waters leading ever on
toward mystery and landscapes to explore
beneath the golden light of other dawns.

Elegy for a Future (long version)

The water’s kiss is soft against the blade
that cuts a careworn future from the past;
irrevocable, now the choice is made
to cross the Rubicon and finally cast

a course into the beckoning unknown
where distant shores, intriguing inlets, wait
for a bold explorer, all alone,
in search of other futures, taunting Fate

while mourning for a life that might have been
in another universe and time,
a different incarnation in between
Tartarus and Nirvana’s distant climes.

That perfect future lies unsullied now
by compromises, awkwardness and pain;
in memory, reclining ‘neath a bough
sipping on a julep with a swain:

an ideal match in all respects, and fair,
in the heaven where such spirits dwell
beyond the reach of merely worldly cares
for heaven means there is no chance of hell.

But now ahead there awaits the shore,
warm coastal waters leading ever on
toward mystery and landscapes to explore
beneath the golden light of other dawns.

There is no destined end or certain truth
that’s final, fixed, unchanging: all that lives
will wend its way toward age from simple youth;
though much is taken, there’s still much to give

unto the years of life that lie ahead
upon this journey toward the Happy Isles,
letting go of Clotho’s tangled thread
and facing toward new futures with a smile.

poetry (c) 2013 TJ Radcliffe

The image of “letting go of Clotho’s tangled thread” in the last stanza caught my imagination – Clotho being one of the Fates in charge of weaving human lives. After I read that I did some more quick sketching.

the voyage - pencil study
the voyage – pencil study

Now the figure is at the moment of departure – just about to let go of the rope. There are more ropes heaped up on the dock – the “tangled threads”. Then I went to the next class and produced the following two studies (among others) – the second shows the teacher’s (Charles Vinh) input – turning the figure towards the viewer.

the voyage - colour study
the voyage – colour study

The ink sketch was done during class before discussing the figure position with the teacher. I added some colour later at home.

the voyage - tonal study
the voyage – tonal study

Here I am trying to establish an interesting balance between tones in the painting, drawing the eye towards the figure.

The next step is to consider the figure in detail with lighting, clothing etc. Next post!

sketches (cc) 2013 Hilary Farmer

today’s doodle… uncertainty

not sure what the future will bring…

She does seem very worried about something. I actually started out wanting to do some kind of landscape but this is where the stylus led me! Well, I hope I have that out of my system!

UPDATE: This in from Tom in transit. Poetry from an airport!

Dark horizon
Flash of lightning
Storm abrewing?
Coming dawn?
Future boding
Well or failing
To live up
To promise gone?

(c) 2012 Tom Radcliffe

image (cc) 2012 Hilary Farmer

Today’s doodle – reconnecting…


Well, that was a much longer break from the blog than I had anticipated! Sometimes you just have to do something different for a while.
Today’s doodle is a quick one to get back at drawing on the computer. I am not completely happy with it but I do like that even though the drawing is very quick, there is a feeling of emotional content implied in the faces…

image (cc) 2012 Hilary Farmer

a mystical moment…

time swirls while standing still…

Tom (Radcliffe) and I are getting very close to the end of our year with Songs of Albion. I will write more about that when I complete the last image – 5 to go! The text is getting harder and harder to imagine into image form – thanks for the challenge Tom!! This moment is one of those when the normal linear experience of time seems to be suspended… anyway, if not clear, I hope at least it’s pretty! lol

UPDATE: New poem from Tom! Thank you 🙂

time’s soft turning inward form
finds two figures lost, forlorn
swept in silence folding in
stretching space in quantum din
expanding possibilities
branching futures forming trees
whose leaves are scattered in the storm
time’s soft turning inward form

Copyright (C) 2012 TJ Radcliffe

image (cc) 2012 Hilary Farmer


the rising of the Moon signs the end of day…

I was trying something a bit different with this one – it’s based on a Currier and Ives lithograph but as usual hand drawn on my computer. Since the text of the episode for Albion that this image will accompany is based on Gray’s Elegy, this seemed appropriate. (The image title is the first line of Tom’s pastiche.)

UPDATE: Poem from Tom in the comments reflects the image beautifully! Thanks Tom 🙂

Beyond the edges of the scene
so much more is hidden:
a lowing herd, a village green,
a graveyard and a midden

a man abroad, a castle far,
an elder pile of stone
beneath a distant rising star
with history to atone,

a country church that’s seen the wars
between the sects and Rome
yet still remained, its open doors
a window on a poem.

Behold the poet’s lurking form
within the graveyard’s close
waiting out the dying storm
while the Moon’s arose.

Copyright (C) TJ Radcliffe

image (cc) 2012 Hilary Farmer

and more helpers…

we’ll just get this loaded up in a jiffy!

I was pretty pleased with how this image for Songs of Albion turned out. I like the feeling of movement in the figures. It also amused me that they are just marching into the water to load up the boat.

UPDATE: New poem from Tom! It may give you some idea of what’s going on… but if you really want to know, read Albion!

Marching down into the ocean
unperturbed by wet or cold
making not the least commotion
bearing quietly their load

to the gig hard by the shore
where all are ferried to the ship
there unloading, stowing, more
until it’s time to turn and skip

back to land and back to village
where the packing’s almost done
without waste or loss or spillage
til the day’s full course is run.

Now the ship is fully burthen
laying low upon the tide
still the breeze begins to freshen
whispering of ocean wide

while the Fae wave from the beach
bidding visitors farewell
overhead the seagulls screech
time and tide the truth will tell

as the ship turns out to sea
sailors rig the canvas high
from their landward shackles free
rejoicing in the ocean sky!

Copyright (C) 2012 TJ Radcliffe

image (cc) 2012 Hilary Farmer

Villagers team up to help…

linking arms to work together...

Once again advance viewing of an image coming up in the next few weeks for Songs of Albion. Without the story it is not really possible to know exactly what is going on but that’s OK. I am trying at this point to use the illustrations to show vignettes, not the whole picture. For one thing, the whole picture takes way too long to draw and for another, the close up that hints at the whole can be much more interesting. Hope you agree!

image (cc) 2012 Hilary Farmer