I was tired this week and didn’t have time to draw. So this Picture Saturday will be artwork done within the last year or so, and all of it from Dickens’ novel A Tale of Two Cities.
I love that story. It’s beautiful, tragic, thought-provoking, and funny, with the usual Dickens hallmarks of dry wit and multiple characters. On that note, I admire how Dickens handled all of those characters: he shows right off the bat how they are connected to one another (the Defarges were servants of Doctor Manette; Mr. Lorry was a friend of Doctor Manette; Jerry Cruncher was an errand-runner for Tellison’s Bank where Mr. Lorry worked; Sydney Carton was the lawyer that got Charles Darney freed from English prison, and so on). But as the story unfolds, Dickens shows that these characters are actually connected in a darker, deeper way. I’ve watched too many films in which a bunch of characters appear in an opening montage, but it’s unclear how they influence the story or each other. Dickens, however, reveals the relevance and some connections at once, and lets the deeper connections unfold as the story.
I told a friend in an e-mail that I’ve read blogs of young ladies who write, who deeply admire Jane Austen, and who aspire to her level of writing. But I’ve never read of a young lady who aspires to the level of Dickens. It’s interesting and perplexing; I like Jane Austen’s works too, but Dickens has such a high scope in his stories, tackling social issues of the day, writing with both passion and intellect, creating characters so very distinct, characters admirable—or despicable. The kind of writing that makes you think, makes you laugh, requires repeated readings to understand more and better. I love the complexity and high concepts of Dickens’ novels; it’s the kind of thing I want to write.
Okay, enough talk. On to the drawings!
As I re-read the book last year, I got the most vivid mental image of Charles Darnay. And anything vivid, I have to draw. So…
This turned out almost exactly the way I imagine him. There’s a funny story behind getting there, however. I initially sketched a profile and features that was almost perfect. Elated, I tried to polish the shading—which promptly destroyed that perfect detail. It was no longer exactly like my mental image; close, but not as perfect as it had been. Bother. I tweaked it, risked destroying what remained, and decided to make myself stop. Then I rethought that, tweaked the picture further—and finally got it back where it had been before my perfectionism messed it up. Perfectionism is what also fixed the problem. Paradox, anyone?
Anyway, I’m happy with how this turned out. And I think Simon Thomas (the singer who plays Charles in the UK theatrical concert) influenced my design, or at least those cheekbones, which were a whole lotta fun to draw!
And here’s Sydney! This too is almost exactly the way I picture him—and if you’re wondering why his profile is so nearly identical to Charles’s, it’s because I got lazy and just traced Charles’s picture to create this.
I like how this sketch turned out too. I also succeeded in one of my goals: getting Sydney and Charles to be nearly identical at a glance, but revealing subtle differences when you look closer. (Differences other than Sydney’s messy hair, loose cravat, and grumpy expression, for the record.) Dickens never said the two men were identical, though they were “sufficiently like” to inspire a double-take in the onlookers.
The scanner messed up the shading here. Artist problems.
Ahem. Here’s a rough depiction of Lucie—“rough” because this isn’t as close to the way I picture her as my drawings of Sydney and Charles are to the way I imagine them. Lucie, in my mind has finely-cut but softly-cut features, a narrow chin, and a small-is nose that turns up ever so slightly. Which is what I tried to capture here, though I didn’t make it match ex-act-ly to my mental picture. Early versions of the drawing looked like Brandi Burkhart, interestingly enough.
I’ll probably tweak this design later, but it works for now. Her hair and her dress came out well, though.
I draw Sydney a lot. He’s such a vivid, complex character that I have to depict him in pictures. Also, his messy hair is fun to draw.
Enough angst—here’s Sydney smiling at something! Or someone; perhaps Little Lucie. And he cleans up nicely, doesn’t he?
Charles translating French literature. Or maybe marking student papers. It’s amazing to consider that this young aristocrat renounced his social position and title, and determined to earn his own living to separate himself from the atrocities of his kinsmen. Renouncing the status of a gentlemen (a nobleman, no less) to earn your own living was a huge drop in social status, and kind of a big deal back then.
Have I mentioned I really admire Charles Darnay? He’s so honorable and humble and committed to his values—yet so ridiculously adorable with Lucie. The pet names he calls her are precious, and it’s funny how he’s so proper and serious among others, and then he turns so sentimental when he’s with his wife. I love it.
I also like how this drawing turned out; although note to self: practice drawing hands. Handses, precious.
“[Sydney] was the first stranger to whom little Lucie held out her chubby arms, and he kept his place with her as she grew.”
~ Book 2, Ch. 21
Oh, the feels I had while drawing this! Happy, sad, grieved, utterly excited, adoring… A Tale of Two Cities and its characters has that effect on people. Well, on me and my friend Bella at least. 🙂 Speaking of Bella, she wanted a drawing of Sydney and little Lucie, and I was only too happy to oblige. We’d discussed potential scenes between the Darnay family and Sydney, how little Lucie might run to greet him and ask why he didn’t brush his hair like Papa did, and Sydney tidying up a bit before coming to visit…it gave us so many feels. And I want to capture all those imagined scenes eventually.
“Oh, Carton, Carton, dear Carton!” cried little Lucie, springing up and throwing her arms passionately round him, in a burst of grief. “Now that you have come, I think you will do something to help mamma, something to save papa!”
~ Book 3, Chapter 11
While reading that scene, I pictured it so vividly that I had to draw it. (And meant to draw a background but got lazy and didn’t.) It’s heartbreaking and precious; little Lucie is certain that because Carton is here, everything will be fine. She trusts him completely. And her trust is founded well. *melts in a sobbing puddle*
It pays to read the book carefully before illustrating a scene. Dickens mentions little Lucie is six years old in one chunk of narrative; but then slips in a little “three years later” remark before Charles sets out for France. And since Charles was in prison for 1—2 years, little Lucie would be about 9 when her father left for France, and about 10 or 11 when he was arrested for the last time.
Hopefully, next week I’ll have new artwork to post!