Imagining Crow

 I was leafing through some of my old sketch books the other day and found some of my early sketches and notes for Secrets of Jarrow. These aren't the earliest but rather some I created when I returned to working on the book a few years after I had first played around with the idea.

I wanted to rework my Mordecai Crow character and ended up with these, which I quite liked. At this point I was thinking he might have a crow companion, but abandoned that idea. You will notice that in the book version he acquired a coat and scarf, as he had in my first imaginings a decade ago, but stylistically I was looking for something a bit more simplified. I wanted to render the book with a brush pen rather than pen and ink, as I had on the first pass which you can see in this post here:

Here are a few of those second round sketches:

The first sketch is very stylized and stiff I didn't like it at all. But the second, where I abandoned my pencil and went straight to the brush pen captured more of the feel I wanted.

Continuing with the second rendering, I sketched out another page of Crow figures. These are obviously a bit looser and more cartoony than the book version but I liked their energy and consulted them constantly as I went forward with finals.

As almost the entire first book takes place in Jarrow Firewall, I needed to imagine that as well. I draw heavily on things I have seen on our extensive travels but in this case I was looking for something more exotic. I stumbled on some images of Armenian monasteries, and found those to be the sort of thing I was looking for. Armenia is the oldest Christian country in the world (sine 301 A.D.) and as such has had some time to figure out how to build some stunning monasteries! Jarrow ended up being an amalgam of a couple of the structures you can find at this sight.

(These I would love to see in person!  Some day, maybe...)

But I knew that Jarrow, although originally medieval, would also need some modernist touches for reasons which will be revealed in the story. I researched some images of integrating modern architecture with historic buildings, and implemented some of that. I also scattered about some re-roofed buildings, some thatched, others tiled, thinking that buildings have that had fallen into disrepair might have been made inhabitable again. I drew a quick sketch of how that might look as a point of departure.

As you can see in my notes the portico of the original monastery is in the foreground left, a ruin with modern architecture (now itself in ruins) is sandwiched in the middle, and a later 16th century dormitory with a modern copula is on the right. On the front of that building has been tacked on a stone construction, post Fall, with a thatched roof, in essence reverting to a more primitive form of construction. The tall tower I imagined as being built later than the dormitory, maybe 1800's, as a means to transport goods by elevator from floor to floor of the dormitory (possibly having been converted to workrooms) but also heightened and used as a watchtower.

Finally I realized I would need a ground plan to keep everything in order as the story progressed, so I sketched out that in my book as well.

The gestural sketches of Crow along with the ground plan and concept sketch of Jarrow stayed attached to my drawing board throughout the final art stage, keeping me firmly on track in the making of this book. 

And some newsy bits...

Signing at Chapters in Peterborough

I had the pleasure of meeting a few new faces and sharing Secrets of Jarrow along with showing off some sketches and finished art at the Chapters in Peterborough last weekend. Thanks to everyone who showed up - it was a great afternoon!

A really nice interview

While at my book signing at the Peterborough Chapters I had the pleasure of talking with Brendan Burke from the Peterborough Examiner about Secrets of Jarrow and my adventures in comic book making in general.
 Brendan wrote a great piece - thanks, Brendan! Here is a link to the article...

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