Making my own Hild art

While writing both Hild and Menewood I drew dozens of maps to help work out everything from travel routes to weather events to Hild’s thinking to battle tactics. These sketch maps are full of private code and wouldn’t make sense to most readers. But every now and again I like to post one to illustrate a point. So I started to experiment with way of making them a) visually legible and b) interesting.

It began with adding little icons here and there—Cait Sith to the map of Bryneich country; a water vole to a plan of Menewood valley—then I started having visions of giant poster maps. These would be individual works of art that I could use as giveaways, or auction for good causes, or whatever. I’m still thinking about those—perhaps hand-coloured etchings on gorgeous hand-made paper; perhaps silkscreen prints; or maybe just gigantic high-res files that people can download and do things with themselves—but now I’m also just having a good time learning to make pretties.

I’ve started with adapting photographs. Here are a couple of things I made recently.

The first is Cait Sith and is adapted from a photograph of a Eurasian lynx by Bernard Landgraf (Wikimedia Commons). Cait Sith is one of the personas Hild acquires in Menewood—when she’s north of the Wall with a small band of terrifying gesiths who becomes known as her Fiercesomes (sic).

Black and white sketch of the head and shoulders of a big Iberian lynx with tufted ears, facing towards the viewer
Cait Sith — a lynx (adapted from a Wikimedia Commons photo by Bernard Landgraf)

And here’s a water vole chomping on a stalk at the end of a hard winter when all its stored tubers have run out. Water voles are an important metaphor in Menewood—so I have two different ones (and am considering a third). This one is based on an Adobe stock photo.

Black and white sketch of a water vole crouching by the edge of the water eating a shoot held in its front paws
A water vole eats after a long winter (adapted from Adobe stock photo)

In both of these images I’ve used a colour photo as a base, then futzed with it, aiming for a hand-drawn look. And of course that means that half the picture ends up actually being hand drawn—using an Apple Pencil and Photoshop running on my iPad Pro.

I might post more of these pictures from time to time. Some will be adapted from actual line drawings; some will be my own line drawings; most will be adapted photos. Right now I’ve drawn mostly animals (robin, swan, horse, vole) and plants (oak tree, cherry blossom, acorns, onions, pea pods) but I’m also pondering how to draw things like stacks of coppiced wood, or a foundation sill, roof tree, or water mill. Maybe what a 7th-century garth might look like. And then of course I hope to get around to playing with various factions’ war banners and sigils.

I’m thinking, too, or maybe putting together a colouring book based on Hild. Some obvious choices for images would be Hild’s seax, her beads, her cross, her snakestone. Or perhaps the pool at Goodmanham. Coifi’s temple/god enclosure. Ceredig’s hall. Hild as Butcherbird…

If I do end up taking that route I’d pay a professional to make the finished images. And maybe we could put together a calendar or something. Basically, I just want to play!

Let me know what you think—and what you’d like to see in the future. I’m not an artist by training (or aptitude) so I can’t guarantee I’ll be able to come up what you want. But I’m finding it a joy to play. So what would you like to see?

7 thoughts on “Making my own Hild art

  1. Being a map freak, I would love any and all maps and site plans. And the animal drawings look really promising. I’m not a coloring book person myself. Another idea could be a timeline illustrated with who/where Hild is and with whom at critical moments. SOOOO looking forward to the book! I’ve acquired an Old English dictionary and pronunciation guide and am Patreoning a scholar of Old English since reading Hild. Such fun!

    1. @Allison: I’m not a colouring book person, either. It’s just that I’m having such a good time making these wee pictures that I’m looking for something to do with them! (Also, I know a few people who started the colouring thing during the pandemic). I plan to add pictures, glossaries, character lists, and maps—lots of maps—to my new 7th-C Britain website whenever I get around to building it, probably not until MENEWOOD is published.

  2. I would definitely buy map wall art or a map book! I’m not a coloring book person, but I know lots of people who are, and a Hild coloring book might inspire me to try it as way to keep myself “busy but listening” in Zoom meetings. Especially given how lovely the art you’ve shown here is.

  3. Maps…maps…maps! Sign me up!
    I’m 73 and, in my early 20s, I engraved maps for production. Huge orange emulsified sheets were placed on a large square table with embedded lights. The emulsified sheets contained shadowy outlines of trees, roads, water areas, and so on. I had different mm engraving hand tools and would “carve out” the outlines allowing light to shine through the emulsion. Once completed, the emulsified sheet, with its engraved icons, would be sent on to a printing process. (and there my story and knowledge ends). I still cannot fathom how map makers in antiquity could see the “whole” in order to map intricacies.
    Ditto thumb up to your thoughts on art related by products to the novel. I’m in.

  4. When Hild was published, my sister bought a second copy and mailed it to me. Being much younger than I, she didn’t know my favorite doll when I was very little I named Hilda. She also didn’t know that my priest gave me all of her Christian mystic books when she retired because I had become so interested in Hildegard of Bingen. In addition, as an undergraduate majoring in English, I did all my elective work in linguistics, especially the history of the English language.

    I took great delight in Hild because the book brought so many of my interests together. Keep writing, Nicola!

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