Inn from the Cold – commentary

Last updated 15/5/22 – I’ll be updating this as I complete each page!

Inn from the Cold is one of my self-penned picture books that has been waiting for its completed artwork for some time now – along with ‘Don’t let the Dragons Bite‘. Now that I’ve got a proper digital drawing tablet and have had practice with the Mighty Catterwhip, I feel that I’m finally able to do justice to these stories, especially in terms of being able to settle on a consistent style. In fact, I’m intending for all three of these stories to be set in the same world even though they don’t overlap.

Inn from the cold has been through a ludicrous number of revisions with its artwork, even though I’ve had the story pretty much down for the last five years or so. This (hopefully) final draft will be self-published as a paperback in 8.25″ square format.

The opening spread has come a long way since the original painting below (which itself wasn’t the first draft).

My second attempt at opening this book (the first was an utterly abominable digital drawing).

I still have a soft-spot for the oil painting, but I’d never have been able to get the detail required for the animals and characters. The biggest departure from my original vision was that post-Catterwhip I went all-out on adding fantasy creatures into the mix, whereas the original was fairly down-to-earth and far more inspired by John Burningham’s ‘Trubloff’. I’d envisaged Inn from the Cold set on the Russian steppes.

The final image for the book has actually been horizontally flipped and is considerably lighter –  the latter due to Amazon self-publishing printing lacking a lot of colour definition which makes the final book much darker, particularly with blues.

The titular Inn with an assortment of travellers. Again, the characters and animals became more exotic with each draft which added more visual interest. The page format went through 4 or 5 revisions. I felt the book needed to have each scene as a spread, but for most pages, it never looked right with the text overlaying the art, hence why I added neutral cutaway areas. When the pages were portrait format I had the text below, but the composition just felt dull. The square format really felt good, though.

The colours I’ve chosen are definitely unconventional. My choices were based on temperature. There were scenes which I needed to be simultaneously warm and cold.

The inn interior was always tricky for me. I needed to show the space, make it look interesting, and to also get the perspective of the rats! The final version of the text gave me the option for a double page establishing the interior. I still have a soft spot for the pen and ink version, though. I began working on this book in black and white after my Undiscovered Voices entry with my drawing of the witch and Hansel and Gretel and when I began drawing ‘Behind the shadows’ and my various monster encyclopedia pages, however I got mixed and negative receptions at portfolio reviews.

I think what strikes me is that I probably made a mistake drawing the final art 100% digitally when instead I should have gone the Catterwhip route of using pencil/ pen and just adding colour on the tablet, as my draughtsmanship is better with traditional media.

Having seen this drawing again, I’m half tempted to go over it digitally and add it as an opening page with no text.

An early idea for the Inn, back when I was drawing the book in pen and ink

Also, rats’ feet are hard to draw with human-style shoes.

This spread felt like one of those jokes where you give someone a sheet of blank paper and tell them it’s a picture of a polar bear in a snowstorm.

It definitely stands out in the book, but I feel it fits and captures just how nasty this blizzard is – I needed a way of upping the ante from every other exterior scene in the book, and this was the one where the world turns hostile. This page also added weight to the last line of the story, as it gave me an opportunity to turn the concept of the value of glittering gold on its head. It was also nice to go back to silhouettes.