Tag Archives: Jeffrey Alan Love

Notes from the Shadowed City by Jeffrey Alan Love

Notes from the Shadowed City is Jeffrey Alan Love’s first book. It charts the journey of an amnesiac within the shadowed city, our narrator recording what he sees in his notebook as he tries to make sense of his quest to find magical swords, love and his way home.

dscf6820I’ve read it several times now and each pass gives me a different experience. I become the journeyman and what I take from it depends on what I bring to it. It’s a demanding book that requires a different type of interaction to the traditional narrative. Each spread is an image partnered with a line or two of intriguing text, which gives the reader space to fill in the gaps and it gives the whole project a dream-like feel.

And the images are sublime, all in Love’s signature style.

dscf6822I’ve interviewed Mr Love before (here) and as a fan I wanted to ask him more about the book.

Priya: Welcome! What came first for this? The concept or did the inspiration arise from a collection of your images?

Jeffrey: The images came first, accompanied by their line of text. At first I would just make one each day, and at some point before the next morning the next piece would suggest itself to me. It wasn’t until I had perhaps 20 or so that the larger story started to suggest itself. Up until that point it was purely play, seeing what story the juxtaposition of these separate moments would create merely by being next to each other.

dscf6824P: Tell me about your protagonist. Why did you make him an amnesiac?

J: I think so that the reader and the protagonist would discover the world together, and that the sparseness of actual information that is given through the words and images would make sense instead of frustrating a reader who would feel that they weren’t getting the entire story, that the narrator was holding out on them. If the protagonist had been someone familiar with this strange world, the book might seem only a sketch or outline that needed fleshing out instead of something that could stand on its own, playing with that edge of how much information is needed for the reader to fill in the gaps and tell a satisfying story for themselves. I’ve also moved around quite a bit in my life, and have often felt like an eternal outsider, lacking the basic information that others have about their place in the world.

P: I’ve put this book in other people’s hands and watched them look through it. In each dscf6825case, they open it and then compulsively turn the pages, usually until the end. It’s fascinating to watch. I think there’s something about the stripped back quality and the imagery that’s very compelling. How did you settle on the balance between text and image? Have you written a longer text to go with this?

J: With my artwork on its own I try to always ask myself “how much is enough?” and I tried to do that with the book. I wanted to leave room for the viewer to take what is presented and then head off into their own head to connect the dots and fill it in with the story that they most wished it would be. I wanted to leave room for imagination and dreaming. My fear, of course, was that there wouldn’t be enough, and that readers would leave with a feeling of dissatisfaction, of wishing that it was a novel instead. What I tried to do was craft a sentence or two that, when paired with an image, suggested other moments, other scenes, a fullness to the story that expanded from the compressed image and text. The bad joke answer would be that I tried to make each picture worth 1000 words. I don’t have a longer text written, but there is more to the story in my head but again, I wanted to find that space where the reader makes it their story, not just the one that is presented in totality by me.

dscf6831P: I’m interested in the proliferation in hand lettering and font development in recent years. Your use of handwritten text is lovely and completely in keeping with the concept of this being a notebook. Did you develop a font for this?

J: I did. At first I thought it might be a little more ornate, cursive, done with a nib, but the plain block print of my handwriting with a pencil seemed more appropriate to the book. Legibility became key so that the story wouldn’t be interrupted by trying to decipher words.

P: You do beautiful work in colour but here you’ve gone with a stripped back palette- black, white and red accents, which I think feels quite primal. Why?

J: All of the pages were actually taken from my sketchbooks, so the short answer is that dscf6827black/white is the direction my sketchbook has taken in the past few years. But I also really love black and white art. In today’s photoshop era where every single color is easily available to the illustrator one way to stand out is to step away from color. But it also comes back to the question I always ask myself: “how much information is enough?” There is also a sense of timelessness with black/white, a seriousness or starkness that I think works well with what I do, which is find the silhouette that most effectively tells the story I want it to. I like that my work can feel like sculpture at times, hewn from ancient rock.

P: I liked that our hero’s love interest isn’t a predictable princess but a warrior (“Never have I loved her more than when she slew the giant of the deep”). Tell me more.

J: I think that came from imagining my wife as being the love interest. We have similar tastes, and often find ourselves reading a book after the other. She would comment to me dscf6838about the female characters in the fantasy books written by men, telling me how they could have been better, stronger, more interesting. Indirectly she guided the creation of that character. Also I often try with my work to turn stereotypes on their head. They give me something to fight against. The stereotype in fantasy is the princess as the love interest, but if a woman happens to be a warrior she’s wearing a chainmail bikini, she’s an object of beauty – here I completely wrapped her in mystery, in shadow, and what he loves is not her looks but her actions, her strength, her ease and absolute mastery of this strange world that seems to escape his grasp. Which seems to describe my relationship to the real world, and the things I love about my wife.

 

P: There are also some elements of humour in here, such as the masked swordsmen meeting for morning coffee and cigarettes.

dscf6828J: I think that was inspired by M. John Harrison’s Viriconium novels and Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner. Bringing those small moments into it, real life. Also making fun of myself and my work. Everything doesn’t have to be serious, or epic, and what there is that is epic can also be made fun of. Masked swordsmen is “cool” but it’s also kind of ridiculous – I wonder how well someone could fight with a sword with a giant homemade mask on top of their head?

P: Previously you mentioned that your travels have influenced your work- such as visits to ancient sites in Greece, Italy, the UK and Germany. You talked about capturing the magic of those places in images (I greatly envy this skill!). What have you channelled in creating the Shadowed City?

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J: I think it was less of a physical place and more of the feeling of my childhood and early adulthood. Moving often, being a stranger, an outsider, always searching for my place and something that would make me feel like I belonged. Wondering if I could find magic somewhere, find love, if my life would be what I hoped it would be.

 

P: Will you ever revisit the city for other projects?dscf6833

J: I don’t know! When I wrote it I wanted it to stand on its own, to retain its mystery and strangeness. But now of course I have all sorts of things popping into my head in that world. So perhaps!

P: Flesk have done a beautiful job with the book- very high quality binding and paper. Did you have any input into these choices?

J: John Fleskes did a wonderful job with the book. He asked for my input, but when I work with someone that is an expert at something I try to let them do what they are best at without muddying the waters. I knew from seeing previous books from Flesk that they made really wonderful books, not just in terms of content but as objects, and I trusted him to bring that same care and attention to this and he did a spectacular job. I couldn’t be happier with it.

P: Can I ask where things are up to with your graphic novels?dscf6836

J: I wish I could say that I’m all done and they’ll be out next year, but I became a father 12 weeks ago and my life has been thrown into wonderful, love-filled chaos. I have the utmost respect now for anyone who has ever done anything after having a child – please forward me your secrets.

P: Have you got any other projects lined up that you can talk about?

J: I’m in the middle of working on over 100 paintings for an illustrated edition of Norse Mythology by Kevin Crossley-Holland that will be out next year from Walker Books UK and Candlewick Press in the USA.

***

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Jeffrey Alan Love is an award-winning artist and writer whose clients have included The New York Times, TIME, The New Yorker, Scholastic, HarperCollins,Tor, Gollancz, and others. Nominated for the World Fantasy Award, the Chesley Award, the British Science Fiction Award, The British Fantasy Award, and the Spectrum Fantastic Art Award, he has won a gold medal from the Society of Illustrators and two Academy of British Cover Design Awards. Born in South Carolina, he has lived in Germany, Texas, North Carolina, Nebraska, South Korea, Hawaii, Colorado, Florida, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Tennessee, California, and Missouri.

 

Notes from the Shadowed City can be purchased directly from Flesk Publications in the USA and from Amazon.co.uk on this side of the pond.

Jeffrey Alan Love’s Website, and on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr
Jeffrey Alan Love at Flesk Publications.

(Photos by Priya)

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Jeffrey Alan Love

Illustration for Fabulous Beasts by Jeffrey Alan LoveI was delighted when I saw the illustration for my novelette, “Fabulous Beasts”, not just because it’s beautiful but because I recognised Jeffrey Alan Love‘s work from the covers of Simon Ing’s novels in my local bookshop, which were what drew me to pick them up.
I’ve been lucky enough to get the man himself to answer some questions.

Priya: I think there’s something very mythical about your work, even when you’re illustrating a contemporary piece. Where does this come from?
Jeffrey: My early childhood was spent in Germany, and I think a large part of the work I do today was seeded with my experiences there – walking through dark, ancient forests, running about crumbling castles pretending to be Robin Hood or King Arthur, seeing Mont Saint-Michel rising up out of the mist as we drove down a coastal road in Normandy. I was (and still am) a voracious reader, and getting to see Stonehenge while reading about the druids, seeing Frankenstein Castle while reading Frankenstein, having memories of being in Greece and Rome while reading about their gods and myths made it so that myth is in a way a very real thing to me, something palpable, a feeling that I have experienced and try to include in my work. A large step towards finding my voice as an artist was deciding to make work that reflected who I was as a child – the sense of mystery and magic in the world, the sense of Other, of Magic, that there is something out there wonderful and unexplainable that cannot be put into words – but perhaps it can be put into a picture.

Jeffrey's illustration for the cover Wolves by Simon IngsJeffrey's illustration for the cover of Hotwire by Simon IngsJeffrey's illustration for the cover of Hot Head by Simon IngsJeffrey's illustration for the cover of Headlong by Simon Ings

P: Your style is unique- I love the controlled palette and the textures that you use. How did this develop? When I look at your work, it makes me feel that it’s a paper led process but is there a digital element?

J: Thank you for the kind words. The way I work now in large part owed to moving to San Francisco for a year with my wife, and suddenly having to work in a much smaller space. Whatever I could fit on top of my folding table was what I would use, so working mainly with just black and white paint on paper was a way of working simply and comfortably within the restraints of my studio space. Also, for quite a while I had tried to work in a more painterly manner, drawing inspiration from Rembrandt, Van Dyck, and George Inness, but struggled to have the paintings get to where I wanted them to be by the deadlines – it was only when I accepted that Rembrandt & co. could take months or even years to finish a painting, while I felt lucky if I was given longer than 5 days to finish a piece, and that I should embrace the pace of modern illustration instead of fighting it, that I started to develop my current way of working which satisfies my clients needs for short deadlines and my own need to feel artistic fulfillment. Everything I do now is paint and ink on paper, the only digital element is scanning it and erasing all the cat hair that my cats smuggle into my scanner.

Jeffrey's illustration for Combustion Hour by Yoon Ha Lee, published on Tor.com

P: What’s your method of springboarding from a piece of fiction into creating your own unique vision of what it’s about? What happens if you are commissioned to illustrate a story that you find it hard to connect with?

J: As I said earlier, I’m a voracious reader, and my college degree is actually in English: Fiction Writing, so in some ways I’ve been training my whole life to Jeffrey's illustration for Doppel by Lindsay Graham, publsihed by Tor.comread manuscripts. But the way that works best for me is to just read it through and see what my emotional response is. If something strikes me as I’m reading I’ll make a small doodle in the margins, but mostly I just read it through and see if I feel anything. If I do, the question then becomes how can I make that resonate, how can I make that note or notes that I’m feeling expand, so that the viewer will feel something when looking at my art, and, at first, not having read the story yet, be drawn into it and want to read it, and secondly, having finished the story, have that feeling multiply, to find new meaning and depth in the art from the content and craft of the piece of fiction. Sometimes the images pop immediately into my mind, but often it is just a vague sense of what the elements should be within the picture, and I then think of them as if they are players on the stage – what combination and staging of them will be most effective to create the desired feeling/emotion? You don’t make a piece more tragic by painting “tragic”, you make the story a tragedy by varying the relationships of the elements to each other. If one figure towers over another, that tells a story, that creates a response. If the large figure has a knife, that’s one story. If the smaller figure has the knife, that’s a totally different story. If I’m lost I just ask myself what story I’m trying to tell.
Early in my career I struggled with what to do if I didn’t connect with a job, but I’ve learned that I can have a personal response to anything. It is not my job to merely take a photograph of a moment within the story, but to bring my own personal voice and vision to the work, and show it through my eyes. Of course, if it’s something that I feel strongly against (racism, gratuitous violence, chainmail bikinis, etc) I’m comfortable turning down the job.

Dreams of Shreds and Tatters by Amanda Downum ,Oliver Solaris BooksP: Do you have any artistic influences?

J: So many it is hard to remember them all. And as I grow older I find that they change and evolve, so that something that I loved when I was younger now fades to be replaced with something I used to feel nothing for. The names that pop into my head now: Rembrandt, Anthony Van Dyck, George Inness, John Harris, Victor Ambrus, Taiyo Matsumoto, Sergio Toppi, Lorenzo Mattotti, Hugo Pratt, Jacques Tardi, George Pratt, Mark English, Nicholas De Crecy, Velazquez, Leonard Baskin, Mike Mignola, Jose Munoz, Edward Kinsella, Leslie Herman, Andrew R. Wright, Josh George, Sterling Hundley, Moebius, Rodin, Schiele, Klimt, Andrew Wyeth, Lucian Freud, Bill Carman, Henry Moore, on and on and on…

P: Do you have a dream project?

J: My dream is to write and draw my own books and graphic novels. I’m currently finishing my first illustrated book that I am writing as well, and have two graphic novels in various stages to finish after that is done. I’ve found a publisher, so my dream seems a little closer to reality.

P: What sort of fiction do you enjoy personally?J.R.R. Tolkien's Beowulf

J: I love all sorts. Much like the list of artistic influences, my reading is wide and varied. Some favorites: Gene Wolfe, Eiji Yoshikawa, Robert Holdstock, Frank Herbert, Martin Cruz Smith, Derek Raymond, Raymond Chandler, James Ellroy, Joe Abercrombie, Iain M. Banks, Ray Bradbury, Robert Graves, M. John Harrison, Ernest Hemingway, Peter Higgins, J. Robert Janes, John Le Carre, Graham Greene, Hilary Mantel, Cormac McCarthy, China Mieville, K. J. Parker, David Peace, Jo Nesbo, Jeff Vandermeer, Bruno Schulz, Daniel Woodrell, Italo Calvino, Dorothy Dunnett, William Gibson, Max Gladstone… I’m currently reading the Sharpe series by Bernard Cornwell.

P: In terms of visuals are there any film directors that you admire?

J: For three years in college I was a film major before switching to fiction, so film has had a great influence on me and I continue to study it and often do drawing studies from films I enjoy (later today I’m going to draw from Stanley Kubrick’s “Paths of Glory” which I watched yesterday.) Sergio Leone, Federico Fellini, Hitchcock, Kubrick, John Ford, Masaki Kobayashi, Ingmar Bergman, Terry Gilliam, Andrei Tarkovsky, Andrew Dominik, Steven Soderbergh, Akira Kurosawa, Orson Welles – there’s not enough time to watch all the great movies I would like to and study them.

Jeffrey's illustration The Color of Paradox by A.M. Dellamonica, published by Tor.com

From Jeffrey's sketchbookP: Can you talk about what you’re currently working on?

J: There are a few projects I can’t talk about (but oh how I hope that I am able to sometime soon), a few book covers, my illustrated book, the layouts for a short graphic novel, and the script for a much longer graphic novel.

P:Lastly, thank you for what you did with “Fabulous Beasts”. It’s tremendous.

J: It was my pleasure – I was thrilled to get to work with you.

JAL_webJeffrey is a prize winner illustrator whose client list includes Gollancz, Tor.com, Scholastic, HarperCollins, TIME, The New Yorker, The New York Times, Solaris Books, Science Fiction Book Club, Jurassic London, Nautilus, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and Scientific American, to name a few.
His accolades include:
• Gold Medal (Books), Society of Illustrators 56
• Academy of British Cover Design Award (Best Series Design with Nick May/Gollancz)
• Academy of British Cover Design Award (Best Science-Fiction/Fantasy with Nick May/Gollancz)
• Nominated for World Fantasy Award – Best Artist (2015), BSFA (British Science Fiction Association) Award for Best Artwork (2014) , Spectrum Award (Books, 2014), Spectrum Award (Institutional, 2014)

Jeffrey’s website

Jeffrey on Twitter

Jeffrey on Tumblr

Jeffrey on Drawger

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Fabulous Beasts now up on Tor.com

Illustration for Fabulous Beasts by Jeffrey Alan Love“Eliza, tell me your secret.”
Sometimes I’m cornered at parties by someone who’s been watching me from across the room as they drain their glass. They think I don’t know what’s been said about me.
Eliza’s odd looking but she has something, don’t you think? Une jolie laide. A French term meaning ugly-beautiful. Only the intelligentsia can insult you with panache.
I always know when they’re about to come over. It’s in the pause before they walk, as though they’re ordering their thoughts. Then they stride over, purposeful, through the throng of actors, journalists, and politicians, ignoring anyone who tries to engage them for fear of losing their nerve.
“Eliza, tell me your secret.”
“I’m a princess.”
Such a ridiculous thing to say and I surprise myself by using Kenny’s term for us, even though I am now forty-something and Kenny was twenty-four years ago. I edge past, scanning the crowd for Georgia, so I can tell her that I’ve had enough and am going home. Maybe she’ll come with me.
My interrogator doesn’t look convinced. Nor should they be. I’m not even called Eliza. My real name is Lola and I’m no princess. I’m a monster.

***

“Fabulous Beasts” is now available to read in full on Tor.com

It an also be downloaded for a modest price from Barnes & Noble Nook Book edition, Google eBook, Kobo , ebooks.com, Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk.

 

If you’re interested in reading more about the story- there are notes on it here.

Thanks to Ellen Datlow, to whom I will always be indebted. Also Irene Gallo, Creative Director at Tor.com.

The wonderful artwork is by Jeffrey Alan Love. His work has featured in The New York Times, The New Yorker, Time Magazine, Gollanz and Solaris books.

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