The Illustrated Story Workshop

Lorena Carrington is an illustrator – yet she never puts pencil (or ink or pen) to paper. She is, however, a master of Photoshop. She takes images and then uses layers (often hundreds of layers)  to compose images of mythical creatures and fairy tale scenes. 

These compositions are used to illustrate stories in her own books and those from other authors such as Sophie Masson. Her images are surreal, evocative and ethereal. There’s no reality to hinder her process. 

Today I attended a workshop led by Lorena and hosted by the New England Writers Centre in the Packsaddle Studio at the New England Regional Art Museum.

While the workshop combined art and writing,  there was a fair bit of science going on in the background as well. I was in my happy place! Learning a new skill in a small group to make something interesting. 

Cyanotypes – art meets chemistry

Our first assignment was to create a cyanotype image using found objects. Next, we swapped images and wrote a hastily drafted story about it.  

Cyanotype images are characterised by their vivid blue field overlaid with lighter silhouettes. By combining a solution of potassium ferricyanide with ferric ammonium citrate and exposing it to UV light,  the bile green stain turns greeny-grey. After the paper is rinsed in water, the exposed areas turn blue and the covered areas remain pale. The final step was to dip the paper in a dilute solution of hydrogen peroxide to set the colour and further oxidise it. For you science nerds there must be some reductions going on somewhere too, but I haven’t looked at the chemical equations! 

I’m no illustrator- but I’m learning!

I would never describe myself as an artist and it was a bit of a stretch for me to come up with an idea. In the end I created four images. They were simple compositions using twigs, leaves and cut paper.

The results?

The story

This image was created by one of the other participants. The images were randomly assigned to us to interpret as we wished. After three false starts and dwindling time, I settled on a Dr Seuss-inspired children’s story. This is the first draft – needs some polish!

The Snarkum and the Yerkle.

The wilds of Jibberoo are far, far away

Much, much further than you can go in any one day.

Pack your lunch in a sailor’s sack,

Head for the hills and don’t look back.

Keep tramping and stamping

Take a tent for camping.

Keep your eyes open wide

You never know what you’ll find.

I’m told there’s snarkums and yerkles around here

If you ever see one, let out a big cheer!

Even though snarkums

darken the wilds of Jibberoo,

I’ve never seen one, have you?

I’ve never seen a yerkle

All lovely and purple,

Not in the wilds of Jibberoo

Have you?

They say the snarkum is mostly black

And has sharp spines all over his back

The purple yerkle is quite smelly,

and snarkums love them in their belly!

The day I dillied and dallied

and shillied and shallied

I saw the yerkle and more

The fight was curious,

the yerkle furious

and the snarkum looked as fat

as a happy old cat!

I may never rise to the ranks of a professional illustrator, but it was fun having a go at something new in good company!

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