A Choice: Cartoony Versus Realism

One of the things that I’ve most enjoyed about adapting the Oscar Wilde fairy tales is the chance it gives me to play with a drawing style that hovers between a ‘realistic’ approach to drawing and one that draws on a more ‘cartoony’ style such as that which is employed in animated films.

The heroes (sometimes tragically so) of The Young King, The Nightingale and the Rose, and The Happy Prince are all based on real if somewhat idealized people. A more realistic approach seemed best suited to the nature of their roles.

The heroes of The Selfish Giant, The Devoted Friend, and The Birthday of the Infanta relied more on a stylized cartoony or animated feel.

The stories themselves may have been ultimately tragic but their heroes were not idealized beings and so needn’t be welded to the ‘real’. These are the ones most fun to draw and are worked out entirely in my sketchbooks sometimes filling many pages before any drawing is committed to the actual page.

The Happy Prince seemed best suited to an idealized romantic depiction but only because he was a statue. All the rest of his world, the villagers in particular, worked better as broad caricatures. I like that visual tension between those two types playing together on the same page.

Casting is Everything

Sometimes a story has to wait for full production because something about it is not yet quite right.

I think the reason it took me eight years between script/layouts on The Happy Prince and full production of the finished drawings was that I wasn’t really happy with the model I originally chose for the prince.

Or perhaps I should say, the statue of the dead prince.

If ever there was an easy modeling job it was this, to stand in one position while I did all the work, running around underneath and overhead taking dozens of reference photos. My model was perfectly acceptable. He’d been my title character in the 50th issue of Vertigo’s Lucifer and my Turridu in my opera adaptation of Cavalleria Rusticana.

Looking back I realized my costuming was all wrong and something in me just wouldn’t let me proceed.

So I procrastinated.

Years passed and in the meantime the nephew of one of my long time models (Mowgli, Robin 3000) grew up and one day I looked at him and realized that at the age of 17 he was perfect for the part.



This time I got my costuming right and with no road blocks in my head drew the 30 pages in about 45 consecutive days.

Longtime Gestation

Sometimes there’s a very long gestation period on a project.

My project of adapting all nine of the Oscar Wilde fairy tales began in 1991-92.

Some of the stories I’ve adapted were done all in one stroke, meaning I scripted and laid out the story then immediately went onto produce the finished artwork. Others were scripted and laid out and then had to wait for me to finish other more immediately pressing projects.

The Happy Prince was scripted and laid out and has waited, sometimes accusingly it seems, at the side of my drawing board or tucked away in my filing drawer for eight years until sometime last winter I suddenly picked it up and started working on it. This time I didn’t put it down until I finished it.

That leaves The Fisherman and his Soul which has waited it’s turn in my file drawer a whopping seventeen years and counting.

There’s Never Enough Time

Exclusive First Look from OSCAR WILDE'S FAIRY TALES V. 5; THE HAPPY PRINCE By P. Craig Russell

Funny how one project can spin off into another entirely unrelated project.

I’ll be attending MoCCA Festival 2012 on April 28th and 29th as a guest of honor. It came about after our publisher, Terry Nantier asked if I would attend to help promote the fifth volume of our Oscar Wilde Fairy Tale series.

When I agreed he then suggested me to the organizers of the convention as the artist to do their promotional poster. They in turn asked me if I would like do it. I agreed.

I had to set aside a project I was nearing completion on, a 174 page script and layout adaptation of Lois Lowry’s The Giver, to attend to the poster. I thought it would take about three days but worked on it for seven instead.

Ironically my third day into it I had to set the poster aside for a day in order to produce the endpapers and back cover for the Oscar Wilde book.

Endpaper designs for THE FAIRY TALES OF OSCAR WILDE V.5: THE HAPPY PRINCE