Last year, I participated in the month-long drawing challenge Inktober, which occurs every October and features daily prompts. I posted my drawings in part one and part two and much enjoyed participating in the artistic challenge.
This year, I decided to create my own drawing prompt for Inktober: I will be illustrating short stories from The October Country by Ray Bradbury! The book of Bradbury’s fiction contains nineteen stories, which roughly translates to one illustration every couple days–or a week of procrastinating and then cramming all the drawings into the last couple weeks of the month. You know how it goes.
So I bring to you the first batch of drawings inspired by Ray Bradbury’s stories! (In the meantime this month, I am also working on writing another N.T. Ed story, so stay tuned for a new adventure featuring the silent skeleton and a haunted house mishap!)
Where the crowd came from he didn’t know. He struggled to remain aware and then the crowd faces hemmed in upon him, hung over him like the large glowing leaves of down-bent trees. They were a ring of shifting, compressing, changing faces over him, looking down, looking down, reading the time of his life or death by his face, making his face into a moon-dial, where the moon cast a shadow from his nose out upon his cheek to tell the time of breathing or not breathing any more ever.“The Crowd,” The October Country, page 161
The first weekend in October, I went camping with my partner and my family. Bryant and I maintained a reasonable and precautious distance from my family during the trip in order to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, and we spent our nights in a newly-purchased tent. On the first night, I asked Bryant to pick a short story from the table of contents, and he selected “The Crowd,” which I then read to ourselves.
This is a relatively short 10-paged story which focuses on a crowd of people who gather when the protagonist gets into an automobile wreck. He marvels at how quickly they arrive to gawk at him, and while it’s fairly straightforward as a story, it is a rather creepy sentiment: the imagery of a crowd, of a collective of faces assembled to watch—unblinkingly—one’s own misfortune.
Joseph Mugnaini, who created the illustrations for my particular edition of The October Country, depicted in his illustration the protagonist’s car crash, but in my version, which I drew to be a mock cover image for the story, I wanted to focus on the crowd’s faces. I used the descriptions Bradbury provided and made sure that each of the distinct people were represented, and then some extras. It took me surprisingly longer to draw and ink this than I thought, but I really enjoyed the process of refamiliarizing myself with this traditional medium of pen-and-paper. I realize how spoiled I’ve become due to digital illustration—if I had drawn this on Procreate, I would have shifted the “By Ray Bradbury” words to the right a couple millimeters!
His teeth began to chatter. God All-Mighty! he thought, why haven’t I realized it all these years? All these years I’ve gone around with a—SKELETON—inside me! How is it we take ourselves for granted? How is it we never question our bodies and our being?“Skeleton,” The October Country, page 76
On the second night in our chill yet cozy tent, I read “Skeleton” to myself. If you know me well, then you know that skeletons are of particular interest to me, and so I was eager to read this story.
What a fascinating story! I was delighted and intrigued by it. The protagonist is a gentleman much at dis-ease; his bones are troubling him, and when it occurs to him that there is an entire skeleton living within him, his grief thus compounds. He feels at odds with this skeleton, this thin, porcelain-white, flawless structure walking around inside him, contrasting his imperfect, fleshy, blemished exterior.
I frequently use skeletal images in my art, so I decided to use Procreate to compose a simple yet very dark, highly-contrasted cover for this story. (My Sharpie is running out of ink, so I wouldn’t have had the resources to pull off my vision in a sketchbook.) Inverting the blacks and whites gave this illustration an appropriately moody edge to it, and I wanted to show off the dual nature of the protagonist and his skeleton, so I used the symbol of the shadow to achieve this. In my brainstorming session, I considered using a mirror or a split-face image, but I landed on the simplicity of the shadow, which allows a full-body demonstration of the skeleton for the viewer’s appreciation.
Quite suddenly there was no more road. It ran down the valley like any other road, between slopes of barren, stony ground and live oak trees, and then past a broad field of wheat standing alone in the wilderness. It came up beside the small white house that belonged to the wheat field and then just faded out, as though there was no more use for it.“The Scythe, The October Country, page 193
Because we have been really enjoying this read-aloud activity, Bryant selected and read this story to me the other day. A few pages into the 16-paged story, the familiarity of it dawned on me, and I realized that in eighth grade, my English class had read this story long ago. It’s an intriguing allegory about an impoverished family and the farm which they happen to acquire.
There were a few scenes I thought to illustrate from this story, but I didn’t want to give away any particular events in the tale, so I decided to do another mock-up cover for this story using the classic image of the scythe. I thought this would be better accomplished on Procreate because I wanted to use a variety of colors and patterns to contrast the simplicity of the design. The reds and oranges are supposed to reflect the warm hues of the golden wheat field and its “deadly” function.
I hope you enjoy my blurbs and illustrations for some of Ray Bradbury’s stories! His work has been inspiring me for the past decade, so this has been a really enjoyable activity. I’ll make sure to post the rest of my illustrations this month to share with you!
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