As a freelance photographer, I frequently do contract work for Amazon. As of January 1, 2018, cell phones were banned in the Amazon warehouse and studio, blanket statement. Deal with it or leave. Which….some days, is really annoying. Especially at first, it was terrible. Everyone hated it. And everyone I’ve told about this rule, to this day, is baffled. “What? You cannot have your cell phone? What madness!” It seems like a huge sacrifice. But sometimes, with great sacrifice, comes great reward…
See, on the Amazon studio days, we have scheduled 15 minute breaks. And I am not one for whom idleness is tolerable….almost at all. I’m seemingly incapable of just sitting for 15 minutes. Occasionally you chat with coworkers, but even while chatting, my hands usually itch for something to do. So I started bringing in crossword puzzle books, and then my sketchbook. Specifically, at some point in my early art school days, I had obtained a small simple black 5x7 or so sized sketchbook. It was half filled. And then at some point in school I started using bigger ones and so this half empty book just was there on my shelf. Until one day last January, I grabbed it on my way out the door.
When I had downtime that day, I flipped through to see what was in the book from the years and years before. Browsing partly out of curiosity and partly out of a search for something else to do, I came across a series of pages that contained only stark outlines of varying shapes- a wine bottle, a leaf, an apple, etc. I came to the page with the apple and decided, for fun, to shade the apple and fill it in. So I grabbed my pencil and did that.
By the time I had added the dimension to the apple, it reminded me of the Tell City cover apple. As an added touch, I inscribed the classic Tell City phrase, “One Sacrifice Away.” But I still had time to kill. So I continued with my Tell City theme, and added an arrow piercing the apple, in classic William Tell fashion.
These lines (also featured on the back cover of the hardcover dust jacket) have always been some of my VERY FAVORITE lines, not just of Tell City, but possibly of all fantasy writing. They manage to evocatively echo and reverberate both backwards and forwards in time, calling up many ancient myths, and also pushing forward into the unknown misty landscape.
The part that evokes Snow White in particular, combined with the imagery of a reflection in a well (which would naturally ripple) has always appeared in my imagination as a rippling mirror, that blurs the lines of surrealism. Is it a mirror? Is it water? Is the apple floating? Or reflected? Or all of the above?
So, with my favorite “One Sacrifice Away” quote swirling around in my mind, I added a rippling ornate mirror to the background of the now definitely Tell City fan art piece I had stumbled my way into drawing. I actually had originally envisioned adding a light shadowy panther’s face into the mirror as well, but I ran out of time.
When I left work and got back to my phone, I took a quick photo of the drawing and sent it to Kay, who I imagine squealed with delight to see it. With the distance, time, and extra perspective, I ultimately decided that to try and add the panther into the image would be overdoing it, so I left it as it was. Sometimes good art is knowing where to draw the line. (ha!)
If you have a copy of Tell City (and if you don’t, get thee hence to Amazon and grab a copy! Or click here.), you know that this drawing wound up in the intro pages to the novel- a thing of which I am immensely proud. I might actually even be more honored to have my artwork featured inside the book than to have my designs on the cover. “Cover designer” is a thing I am certain I am good at. I love doing it, and I’m confident in my ability to craft magical and enchanting book cover designs. “Graphite realistic surreal fan art drawer,” on the other hand, is something that surprised me. I hadn’t hand drawn anything in graphite in a long long while, and even in the heyday of my art school days, I was never particularly quick or skilled with realistic graphite drawings. I could manage it, usually, but it was always a struggle. This piece, however, just seemed to flow from my brain to the pencil to the page with unprecedented ease. Perhaps it was the reward for my sacrifice of not having my phone that day to waste time scrolling on….
Aside from being featured in the book (or perhaps, because it is featured in the book), when it came time to design Tell City merch, including this drawing was a bit of a no brainer. By that point, we had already paired the apple drawing in the front of the book with the poem that was a message from the oracle, and so as a bonus, all of the merchandise that has a back, features that poem on the back as well. And so, aside from having it in your copy of the book (Again, grab that here if you don’t have it already!) , you can also get this enchanting drawing on virtually any home good product or accessory you can image, or in a print. (If you want a signed archival fine art print, send me a message here- otherwise grab one printed on demand at the shop!) My personal favorite are the leggings!
Hopefully it resonates with you the same way it does with me.
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