Category Archives: Art of the island

A Message from the Hopeless, Maine tourist board

Hopeless, Maine: the holiday destination for the discerning traveller!

 

Hopeless, Maine, an obscure island off the coast of Americanistan, is the to-die-for destination of the discerning traveller in search of something different this year. Beyond the fjords we know, its chancy inlets and perpetually gloomy interior offers fathomless delights to those willing to take the plunge. Travel options to the crepuscular island (Population: unknown) are unusual, to say the least.  Shipwrecks are by far the popular choice, closely followed by aeronautical accidents, catastrophic navigational disagreements, and near-death experiences. Laying at the heart of a Bemuseder Triangle of other imaginary islands and lost worlds, HM has drawn wayward travellers to its ineluctable shores for millennia – monks on immrama, Vikings with chronic wanderlust, bards in pursuit of elusive muse figures, female explorers out to find somewhere not claimed by a bloody man, lost aviators blown hither by the winds of fate, and casual daydreamers slipping into the Mariana Trench of its page-like folds.  Making landfall (a bit tricky – with its murky pools, bogs, and rickety bridges it’s a health-and-safety disaster) the traveller will find the island charmingly unaccommodating to the needs of the visitor. There seem to be no shops, jolly cafés, gift shops, galleries or museums to while away the day and fritter away your currency (absurd forms of barter seems to be the current accepted mechanism of exchange). Instead, the traveller is forced to draw upon their own genius in exploring the island and finding what delights they can. There is a haunted orphanage, a dodgy-looking lighthouse, and the Bridge of Bottles (a must-see attraction!). The island seems to be a graveyard for Gothic architecture – perhaps this is where it goes when it dies? There are plenty of dangerous looking railings to impale yourself upon, or for the extreme sport enthusiast a brisk jog around the island, running the gauntlet of the lashing tentacles that threaten to scupper the careless perambulator, will keep you on your toes. Swimming is not advised under any circumstances. The visitor may find the inhabitants a tad brusque or inward on first acquaintance. Many seem lost in their own particular neurotic loop. But fear not! You’ll soon be feeling at home. After staggering around the purgatorial pleasure gardens of Hopeless, starving, raving, and ragged, it won’t be long before you’ll fit right in. Which is just as well, dear traveller, because this island is no mere ‘top destination’ for the terminally-bored, it is a terminus of the very definite kind. Once you arrive on Hopeless, Maine … well, let’s just say you’ll be enjoying it for a long time to come.   

Eldritch Bunting

 

Hello, people (and others) I am pleased to comment on the above. We have been after the esteemed Kevan Manwaring to contribute to the Vendetta for some time, but as he is an academic, author, bard, teacher, artist, poet and writer of books (fiction and nonfiction) he has understandably had a rather full plate. We were most pleased to find this arrive via the ether this week! The timing was exquisite as we also happened to have a tourist information poster from Cliff Cumber (One of our favorite artists at all-ever) So we have combined the two in order to entice you to come and visit Hopeless, Maine (Your chances of leaving are slim, but don’t let that stop you…)

It also allows us to talk about Timequake ! This is an event in Manchester in March 2018 which will have many steampunk (and similar) environments, events and oddities all under one roof. (I’ve not heard of or attended anything like this before) We are pleased to say we will be part of it *and* that we will be stationed at al actual Hopeless, Maine tourist information booth (next to the tea museum as I understand it) There are rumours of twelve foot tentacles. It would be a great understatement to say that we are excited about this. There will be photos, no doubt.

 

As always, we hope this finds you well, inspired and thriving.

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Of dustcats, lullabys and singing snails

Hello people! (and others)

We have begun a thing.  We are making and publishing tiny books. Our first one (Lullaby for a Dustcat) took about two months from concept to having it out there among you. This is *Very* exciting for us because it creates a more immediate relationship with the book, as an act of creativity, and with all of you. (Yes, we love our publisher, Sloth, who brings out the graphic novels, but one a year is the limit there) So, Nimue and I will be making more of these. Probably three annually.

They really are tiny books. A6 size, which means that they can be sent instead of greeting cards in the same sort of envelope. They are very young-human friendly too.

This has also been made possible by Nimue’s Patreon people.  One level is that of Dustcat and she writes letters to them. (as though they were actual Dustcats) This poem/lullaby is one of those. Also- one of the illustrations and part of the border motif features the singing snail, which was brought to the island by Meredith Debonnaire who is one of our favourite writers and she is the one who brought singing snails to the Island. (Or as a way of getting to the island…) If you would like one of these tiny (but adorable) books you can do so by going here.

 

We hope (as always) this finds you well, inspired and thriving.

Of Jason Eckhardt and The Gathering

Hello people! (and others)

I shall tell you a brief story and then we will move on to other things if you are willing. (Your unwillingness would be expressed by not reading any further, I suppose, but you will be rewarded by sticking with me for a bit) I met the esteemed Mr. Eckhardt many years ago when I still lived in Maine. He and I were both (as it turns out) illustrators for the same Lovecraftian publications and I had been an admirer of his work for ages. We met (on a Thanksgiving, as I recall, many years ago) and became fast friends. He is one of the best pen and ink illustrators I have ever encountered, and his work suits the eerie and weird to an uncanny degree. When it came time to have a new masthead for Hopeless, Maine, I knew the chap I wanted to do the job, and, bless him, he said “yes”. Here is Jason’s design for the masthead for Hopeless, Maine in all its glory.

As you can see, it’s perfect and better even than we had hoped.

As Jason had designed this, we thought we had better send him a copy. (the very least we could do) and the following is his response and review of Hopeless, Maine- The Gathering. To my delight, all of the things I was hoping were there to find, he did find. His review follows.

“I’m prejudiced—I admit it.  I have been an admirer of the artwork of Tom Brown for many years now, and I don’t care who knows it.  But even that fore-knowledge didn’t prepare me for the depth and weird beauty of “Hopeless, Maine—The Gathering”, the graphic novel/ saga Brown co-created with wife Nimue Brown.  “Hopeless, Maine” is really an omnibus of three volumes following the adventures of the girl Salamandra in the fog-shrouded town of the title.  But this is no town you will find in the Maine Atlas, nossuh.  Rather it is as if some characters escaped from the manga universe took a wrong turn on US Route 1 and ended up in Edward Gorey’s backyard.  There is a perennial fog covering the town of Hopeless (on an island?  Or one of the many scrawny peninsulas of the Maine coast?), and it seems to hold the inhabitants there in a perpetual state of dusk and gloom.  In a word, hopeless.

    But there is a spark in young Salamandra that won’t be extinguished.  She begins as an orphan in a large, empty house littered with dismembered toys, cobwebs, and unfinished magical experiments left by her absent parents.  A kindly local witch, Miss Nightshade, takes Salamandra to the local orphanage.  There she befriends a crow and a boy, Owen, and acquires what is possibly the worst “invisible friend” in literature (who, through the brilliant irony of Tom and Nimue, is made the most doe-eyed and manga-esque waif of them all).  Meanwhile, things—some like bits of seaweed, some like jumbles of bones or brass fittings—float by in the thick, yellow-grey murk, sprouting eyes that regard both the characters and the reader alike with a terrible blandness.  There is also a tree of bottles.  None of these things is explained—they simply are—which is much of their outré charm.

    There is more, much more to this book than this, but I wouldn’t want to spoil it for you.  Reading the Hopeless saga is a continuous revelation of beauty and strangeness.  It is a story that requires constant attention, but rewards that attention a hundred-fold.  Clearly, Tom and Nimue had a clear vision of their story and its heroine, and remained faithful to that vision throughout.  If I have any criticism of “Hopeless, Maine—The Gathering”, it is with some of the type.  The text in the “Prelude” is rather small for my old eyes, and title-headings are similarly insignificant.  This makes the jump from chapter to chapter a little disorienting at times.

    But these are quibbles.  “Hopeless, Maine—The Gathering” is your ticket to become wonderfully lost in the weird world of this most unusual of Downeast towns, all in one volume.  Don’t pass it by.”

 

There you have it! We mostly use the Vendetta as a source of entertainment, and not to (directly) promote the books, but we thought this was well worth sharing.

I hope this finds you well, inspired, and thriving.

Visiting artists.

Hello people! (and others)

This is going to be a mostly-art Vendetta, and though I have titled it “Visiting artists” they are really both residents. Firstly, you have heard us saying wonderful things about our publisher-Sloth Comics, I assume. (If not, I will just say this is the best company I have worked with in my entire comics career) Well, how many other comics creators get to say that they have a fan art made by their publisher? This is now a thing that we get to say, and to show you. Here is the (utterly adorable) Salamandra-Sloth (she does magic very slowly, I expect) by Nicolas Rossert. He can not really be said to be a visitor only, as we have a long publishing relationship ahead, among many other things.

The second visiting artist who has become a resident is Mr. CliffCumber. He is originally from the UK, now residing in the US. (Just the opposite of me) We found him on Twitter and managed to drag him to the island (I do not specifically recall any kicking or screaming) He is now a regular artist for the Tales from the Squid and Teapot column, and has agreed to do some art for the Hopeless, Maine Tabletop role-playing game also. We consider him to be creative family, and he brings his own vision to the island but shows in every piece that he understands it on a very deep level. Here are two pieces from him. The first is a continuation of the adventures of a certain librarian on the island (We first saw her examining werewolf markings on a vase) The second is Sal (Salamandra) in her(flying) boat. I *may* be going to have to steal that lamp design on the back…

As always, I hope this finds you well, inspired and thriving.

The Hopeless, Maine arts and crafts movement.

This is a rather grand title for a thing that we are doing. We are combining the philosophy of Wombles ( “Making good use of the things that we find, things that the everyday folk leave behind”) and a cottage industry/arts and crafts movement. It began because we are having a week-long exhibition as part of the upcoming Stroud Book Festival. We thought it would be much more interesting to create a Hopeless, Maine environment than just to have pictures framed and stuck on a wall. (There will be those too, but the things we have done to the frames make them the sort of thing you might actually find on the island in a home) All of the best things we have made so far (I think) have been things that Nimue and I passed back and forth, so it’s great fun to find a new sort of collaborating for us too. In the photo above, there is a thing that we are still not certain is a bowl or a pet, though we expect it needs regular feeding in either case.

We’ll be talking more about all of this closer to the event, and as we Womble further.

Hoping (as always) this finds you well, inspired and thriving.

Fluffy doom!

The Hopeless, Maine arts and crafts movement is go!  See the fluffy doom!

We are preparing for an immersive Hopeless, Maine exhibit this Autumn, and are making sculptures, Painted trays (Hopeless, Maine willow pattern!) and now, this fluffy taste of doom- The gravestone skull rag rug! The design is based on the skull motif found on New England slate gravestones. Nimue has made this because she is a genius and made of gothic win (and dark puppies) Below the back of the rug of doom, as it shows how it was done, and also looks rather like a grim mosaic.

 

Hoping (as always) this finds you well, inspired and thriving.

New Hopeless, Maine illuminator!

Dear people (and others) It is my great pleasure to introduce you to a new visual artist who has recently washed ashore on our bleak (but seldom dull) island. He was found drawing (stunning) pictures of our dear Professor Elemental, and… I pounced! (with success) He is with us now as a guest artist (probably taking up residence near the coast for the views and fresh tentacles)  His name is Clifford Cumber, and he describes himself thusly,

“Cliff Cumber draws occasionally for people he likes very much, when he can fit it into a life filled with almost-teen children, and when his wife deems his mental state sufficiently stable to use sharp objects. He is formerly of Great Britain, now resident in Maryland, and while that sounds made up, it’s actually a real state in America. Honest. Follow him on the twitters, @cgcumber.”

As you can see, he is a modest (and busy) sort of chap.

Without further ado, here is his image of Obediah from a recent episode of Tales from the Squid and Teapot.


Werewolf Mark Making

Werewolf Mark Making

By Nimue Brown

Proper artists don’t seem to talk about drawing and painting so much these days, as about ‘mark making’ (https://www.thoughtco.com/how-does-mark-making-affect-your-paintings-2577630)

Being improper artists, Tom and I like to draw and paint things. Sometimes I colour stuff in.

We got thinking about mark making when exploring the idea of an arts and crafts movement on the island of Hopeless, Maine.

We give you…. Werewolf mark making

Werewolf mark making is much sought after by some collectors on the island, although many people find it more gruesome than is strictly speaking necessary. As you can see from the above image, the slash of claws and splatter of blood on an object indicates an attack. Indeed, werewolf mark making items invariably come from the scenes of violent deaths. In the absence of survivors, the exact way in which the marks were made remains purely speculative.

It may be that the item has been held up defensively, but to no avail. Perhaps it was hit accidentally by a poorly aimed paw. Either way, it raises a philosophical conundrum for the potential collector: Can it truly be called art if the werewolf was not consciously making it as an artistic statement? It’s important to focus on the big issues in cases such as these.