Something hatching

The wolf gets RSI with a fibre-tipped pen…

I’ve always loved cross-hatching, since my first exposure to Edward Gorey. It’s just so satisfying, if exhausting – though the Wolf’s four-fingered pen grip may be to blame for the wrist twinges.

Sat at his kitchen table, Gorey would have drawn hundreds of millions of scritty little lines in his long life, composing mysterious, amusing and macabre scenes. He drew smallish pieces of course, but the amount of hatching in each area is awe-inspiring. He kept his compositions simple and focused on story, even if the story isn’t always exactly clear to the reader (see The Willowdale Handcar).

'U is for Una who slipped down a drain' - from 'The Gashlycrumb Tinies'

‘U is for Una who slipped down a drain’ – from ‘The Gashlycrumb Tinies’

An ominous and perplexing page from 'The West Wing'

An ominous and perplexing page from ‘The West Wing’

Shortly after discovering The Willowdale Hardcar, I tried my own series of put upon children – “Ye Unfortunate Children of Yesteryear”. And I tried hatching them Gorey-style, though a little more lightly. The compositions for ‘Gwendoline’ and ‘Theodore’ are probably too complex. This type of heavy hatching seems to work best in a simple, flatter composition, which is why I think ‘Aloyisius’ works best of out the three. Suggestions for future pieces are welcome – ‘Genevieve Sweeps the Leaves’ and ‘Ethelred makes the Bed’ might be next.


Danish-born artist and director John Kenn hatches his (Gorey-inspired?) monsters on sticky notes. We have his book Sticky Monsters at home, and my 8 year old was inspired to have a go here:

One of my son's slightly ominous sticky notes

One of my son’s slightly ominous sticky notes

One of John Kenn's creepy sticky notes

One of John Kenn’s creepy sticky notes

Lots of fun and shows you don’t need fancy materials to make interesting art.

This ramble can’t go much further without mentioning superstar illustrator David Roberts. Obviously Roberts has been influenced by Gorey, but he’s taken the work to a whole new level of his own (the wolf rants, raves and salivates a while here) – I mean.. the compositions, the characters, the juxtaposition of dark areas and while space, the sense of DOOM (when required) the original settings… the textures. And the bears of course, which you can see more of here.

Bears from A Beginner's Guide to Bear Spotting, by Michelle Robinson

Bears from ‘A Beginner’s Guide to Bear Spotting’, by Michelle Robinson

oooh.. this is so creepy and good

oooh.. this is so creepy and good. Illustration by David Roberts from ‘Tales of Terror from the Tunnels Mouth’ by Chris Priestley

Wonky puppets, period costume, lovely shapes... Illustration by David Roberts from 'Tales of Terror from the Tunnels Mouth' by Chris Priestley

Wonky puppets, period costume, lovely shapes… Illustration by David Roberts from ‘Tales of Terror from the Tunnels Mouth’ by Chris Priestley

I like the way David draws wolves here, for Little Red, by Lynn Roberts:

Little Red 4 -  David Roberts.8

Though he represents wolves less fairly here, for Sally Gardner’s novel Tinder :


The wolf loves looking at David Robert’s stuff but is now feeling a little wan, lacklustre even. It’s just in a different league to the wolf’s work. Looking over the work of one of the world’s most successful illustrators WILL lead to unavoidable comparisons. Pwah. Anyhow, here’s the first of my ‘wolves introduced to Scotland’ series:


My wolves are not nearly as cool as David’s and the hatching is too tentative and overworked in places, so I’m going to redo the whole blasted thing after this.

Let’s be clear though, when the wolf says “This is not good enough”, that means: “It’s not good enough yet, BUT I have the potential to do something really good – next time, or the time after that.” It’s a toothy boast, a throaty battle cry: “I can get better!” The wolf gnaws on the ankles of those daft “Hey! Don’t be so down on yourself!” types.

While I get the pens out again, time to mention two other master (mistress?) hatchers:

Firstly, Melbourne writer and illustrator Elise Hurst. Elise uses lively hatching to create gorgeous fantasy scenes, working up her ideas (and even final pieces) in an A6 Moleskine Sketchbook about the size of your average hand. Her work is beautiful, and a children’s crosshatching workshop last year helped bring my son’s artwork to a whole new level. Here’s a video of a recent book of hers, ‘Imagine a City’:

And here's my 8 year old's little hatched chicken - inspired by the hatching workshop with Elise Hurst.

And here’s my 8 year cub’s little hatched Baba Yaga House – inspired by the hatching workshop with Elise Hurst (glows proudly).

And the second hatcher is American writer and illustrator Annette Cate, whose wonderful book The Magic Rabbit I first raved about on my old blog about 6 years ago. The Magic Rabbit has a wonderful sense of place, an engaging story and LOADS of lovely hatching. From the magician’s cloak to the bricks on the wall, Annette Cate makes this type of shading look easy – but the wolf can tell you it’s not.

Lovely warm scene from 'The Magic Rabbit' by Annette Cate

Lovely warm scenes from ‘The Magic Rabbit’ by Annette Cate

Night-time drama in 'The Magic Rabbit'

Night-time drama in ‘The Magic Rabbit’

Now to sort out that pen grip, before I lose feeling in the lower arm.

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