Saturday, January 3, 2009

Cicada illustrations

These two drawings are illustrations that Seth did for Cicada magazine, a literary magazine for teenagers. Both of these are from the same story, one that is quite eerie. Seth was not given nearly so much leeway in children's illustrating as he was in comic book art. His editor at Cicada, though he liked Seth and his work very much, sent pages back to him to redo, sometimes several times. There are rules that he had to follow in drawing for youth.
But though he couldn't put in as much of his own sensibilities into this work as he might have liked, he could add the details that give the story atmosphere. He once told me that it was a mistake to draw all the action in the front of a picture. He said that you should sometimes put objects between the viewer and the actor(s), as he did in the illustration on the left. Though nothing is really happening in the foreground, the axe in the tree stump and the twisted roots give an ominous feel to the scene of the man knocking on the door of the cottage in the woods. The naked trees and full moon in the background are usual harbingers of unnatural goings on, but the cottage has been drawn so precisely and is so much a particular--rather than a general--cottage that one could almost overlook the clues and see this as an ordinary story.
In Seth's work, no matter how fantastical, there is almost always a sense that this could happen, a kind of rootedness in reality that gives his fantasy depth. It is the personal details added into every scene that give us the comfort of recognition. Here the steeply pitched roof of the cottage, the cattails in front, the overturned bucket on a post seem to be just signs of someplace where ordinary people live ordinary lives. They ground the story, even as the other signs give us a clue that there may be something weird afoot.


Dan said...

I was expecting to see illustrations of cicada bugs, but these are terrific illustrations even though they don't feature cicada bugs. Keep up the great work!

j_ay said...

Incredible, museum quality, illustrations.

Vicki said...

Ah, I should have put quotation marks around the word "Cicada", though if you googled cicada looking for pictures, you might still have been fooled.