Illo for the story "Glass." This is for the collection - of my art and Jay Lake's stories - entitled Greetings from Lake Wu, to be published by Wheatland Press.
The book is set to be released in October at the World Fantasy Convention in D.C. but is available for pre-order from Wheatland Press.
The book will also be sold in a special very limited (26 copies!) Box of Wonders edition in a handmade wooden box, with the book, a set of color prints of the illos, a bag of tchotchkes (hand-picked from fossils, crystals, coins, medallions and other cool little bits), the only copy of a one-off story by Jay about a letter from the alphabet, and an accompanying one-of-a-kind illo by me.
Because I have a busy schedule, several months transpired between when Jay and Deb and I started talking about this project and when I actually picked up a paintbrush to lay down the first blobs of paint. Much of that time was spent messing about [which, in translation, means tying up lose ends at work at our patent law firm and losing the big case I'd been working on for three years (oh well), before quitting to go into art full-time (yippee skippee)]. But in those months, I knew that when I finally started on this project, this illustration was the first one I wanted to do.
The first scene in Jay's story "Glass" is just tremendous. A woman is (at least partially) made of glass, but her glass heart is broken by her careless fiancee. She strides away from our hapless hero, indignant, very pissed off, shattering as she goes. A really cool image.
But for me, a piece of artwork is a point where many lines intersect. A depot where trains of thought meet. In addition to Jay's story, what came to mind was Marcel Duchamp's painting "Nude Descending a Staircase, number 2." In that Futurist painting, he shows multiple images of arms and legs, as if capturing the frames of an animated movie, all superimposed on each other. I wanted to do something like that here. But instead of having each picture of a swinging arm representing the same arm at different times, I wanted each picture to be a different layer as the arms disintegrated. Perhaps it is the anatomist in me; perhaps it comes from a vision burned into the conscious flesh of my young brain - a vision of Vincent Price (or was it Claude Rains?) as the invisible man, in an old movie, finally reappearing. First the bones materialize, then the muscles, then the veins and arteries, and finally the skin, as he lies very still and quiet to make the special effects artist's job easier. Then, fully restored, he turns to the camera and smiles to reassure the audience that he's all better now, thank you.
Only in Jay's story it's the reverse. The woman is definitely not smiling, definitely not all better now. Instead of flesh and bone coming together, it's all flying apart, like a C-Thru Visible Woman model with the plastic pieces going a-skitter-skatter. And it's all our hero's fault. And, because we the reader are meant to identify with the (male) protagonist, it is by extension our fault. My fault. Mea culpa. When he cut her, our hero was trying to give the girl a diamond engagement ring, but her forgot that diamond cuts glass. In a way, the image represents every woman with whom I've tried to do the right thing, but somehow managed to do it in a way that was wrong in her sight, thus hurting her or pissing her off unintentionally. If that's you out there and you're reading this, sorry about that. Yeah, I really am sorry. I really am. Look at the picture - see, I feel your pain...
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Image (c) 2003 Frank Wu