This year I signed up to participate in the Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell holiday fanart exchange hosted by @jsamnfanart, and I’m so thrilled I did – JSMN is a novel I’ve been passionate about for many years now, and I had a ton of fun working on my recipient’s request for it.
I was assigned to do an art piece for @hobbitsaarebas / @metalarmedhobbit , and while I was fortunate to get four requests that were all pretty inspiring from an artistic standpoint, the one that really compelled me was a prompt to depict a portrayal of Childermass and the Raven King where the king himself was portrayed as in some way faceless – an interesting prompt I toyed around with in several different directions. I considered giving him a full-on raven head, or silhouetting his face in pure flat black to obscure it, and I tried those out in sketch format, as well as some thumbnails for more Miyazaki-esque alien interpretations – but ultimately one of the things I’ve always enjoyed in the book’s portrayal of John Uskglass is his sense of duality, of otherness-and-sameness made joint – the Raven King is of Faerie but he is not, himself, a fairy child. I wanted to play with the layering of his identities over and into each other, to give the idea that he wears his kingship as a mantle outside himself, but also of himself, so I had the idea of depicting him, as in the novel, as a sort of lean and unintimidating person with a powerful presence, and then I wanted to show him wearing his own shadow like a hood over his face, but cast in the shape of a raven rather than a man, which is both true and untrue when we’re talking about the shape cast by John Uskglass in the lives of others. The sense of both-real-and-unreal that comes with an encounter with the Raven King was something I really wanted to try to convey with the visuals here.
I desperately hope this piece is to my recipient’s liking, and that they have a happy and wonderful holiday.