Intro: Quarantine week 5 + the inspiration
Week five of quarantine- it's been a difficult week
Tomorrow is Easter, no less. People must still be determined to celebrate the holiday despite the lockdown. I was out walking my dog before ten this morning, a Saturday, and every single grocery store, greengrocer, butcher, and enoteca already had a line at least a block long.
This week I found myself slogging through work, feeling like all the little logos, ads, and emails I was designing were futile. They feel like they belong in a world that won't exist post-pandemic. An illustration I did for the travel site Culture Trip was just published... when can we even start thinking about traveling again?
It's hard to concentrate when the state of the US is disintegrating into a hopeless horror show. Watching the disaster of the Wisconsin primaries was infuriating and it magnifies the feeling that I should be doing something, anything to help. I donated a few bucks to a food drive but it hasn't placated the feeling of wanting to do more.
Thus, I decided to find a distraction project to lose myself in. I've raided my files of unfinished, personal projects and found "There Will Come Soft Rains". The project is a hypothetical book, an illustrated version of the short story by Ray Bradbury originally written in 1950. It's fitting. The book was written during a time when the impending doom of nuclear warfare hung over everybody's heads. The same incessant buzz of anxiety is something we're all sitting with right now.
"There Will Come Soft Rains" was most known from its inclusion in the "Martian Chronicles". If you're not familiar with "The Martian Chronicles", it's a collection of short stories written around the premise of humans colonizing Mars after the Earth has been rendered inhabitable after an atomic war.
"There Will Come Soft Rains" is one of the few short stories placed on the ravaged planet Earth rather than Mars. The scene is set inside one automated home that has miraculously survived the fallout.
Hear me out, I know working with a post-apocalyptic theme may not be the best choice right now but I find Ray Bradbury's work quite soothing. I first read "Fahrenhight 451" in middle school and since then he's remained one of my favorite authors. Bradbury is known for his intricate and stunning descriptions, so choosing to illustrate his work almost feels like cheating.
"The voice said at last, 'Since you express no preference, I shall select a poem at random." Quiet music rose to back the voice. 'Sara Teasdale. As I recall, your favorite...
There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;
And frogs in the pools singing at night,
And wild plum trees in tremulous white;
Robins will wear their feathery fire,
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;
And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done.
Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree, If mankind perished utterly;
And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn Would scarcely know that we were gone.'"
At the beginning of this project, around a year ago, I did a couple of illustrations for fun. I wanted to nail down a vintage color palette, do some research on mid-century modern houses, and fill a Pinterest board of old retro-futuristic illustrations. It was a solid base, then I abandoned it. Probably for paid work. When picking it up again, I knew that it was useless to continue without making a layout first. Without knowing how the story was to be broken up from page to page it would be impossible to know what to draw and where. Plus, because this would be hypothetically published, I needed to choose the dimensions. I went with a standard, vertical 8 x 10". The story begins with the chaos of the robotic house, preparing its family for a normal day. The house performs an entirely automated routine for its atomic, four-membered family. I placed the illustrations in an odd and almost erratic way until the story reaches the point of the family "leaving" and the house is left to idle in its surroundings. The layout is blocked ordinarily for a few pages until the house's environment begins to attack. In response, the house valiantly fights back- at this point, the placement of the illustrations becomes more frantic and choppy until the final chord is struck, and order is returned to the neighborhood.
Now what's left is the best part: drawing.
It's not great. My focus has been garbage in the past few days and pushing out this layout was an enormous effort. My exhaustion has been immense and being productive has been hard when there's wine to be drunk, SIMS to be played, and so many video conferences waiting to be joined.
So far, I have three illustrations I did nearly a year ago, only one of which I won't change:
Basta. Hopefully, I'll have time to knock a few of these illustrations out in the upcoming weeks and then I'll post an update. In the meantime read "There Will Come Soft Rains" if you haven't already. It's a short and beautiful story.