I had a really great portrait in mind to draw last week, but I got caught up in revisions on my novel. So for today, I’ll discuss a recent illustration I did for a flash fiction piece called “Everyone Continued to Sing” by Josh Denslow, which appeared in Issue 35 of SmokeLong Quarterly.
It’s a great story, but what stood out to me is a scene at the end where the narrator spies a cockroach at a funeral. I’ve always had a thing for juxtapositions of the sacred and the profane, so I knew that the roach would feature prominently in the illustration.
My first impulse was simply to draw the insect in pencil and digitally hand-color it like the images in some of my first posts. But lately, I’ve been trying to break out of my literalism and figured this would be a chance to try something different. In the story, the character’s good friend is bludgeoned to death with a baseball bat—a brutal death that jumps out of the story as much as the roach. So I challenged myself to incorporate a hint of violence into the image while still constructing an otherwise somber scene.
This was a nice exercise to move beyond what’s merely described and get into the emotions of the piece itself. While it was tough to push past my usual crutch of cartoon outlines and garish colors, I’m glad I did. I feel I finally created an image that moves at least a bit beyond the obvious–one that poses questions to invite the viewer into a story.