Saturday, 15 June 2013

Quick update

As I haven't posted anything new here since the book was published, I thought it was about time I wrote a little update.

Sales of the book have slowed down to a trickle now - that I sold any at all was nice, considering how little promotional stuff I did and I even got a 5 Star review from someone too!!. So with that in mind I'm probably going to post the rest of the alphabet on here over the coming months.

I've also been thinking, but not too hard because I'm working on other things, about possibly doing a second book, something more like the old medieval bestiaries - an alphabet of enchanted animals - assuming I can find a mythical animal for every letter of the alphabet.

I've  added an Enchanted Alphabet section to my Zazzle Store where you can now buy postcards of each letter's illustration - only $1.00 each -  and a 16x20" poster of all 26 letters. So if you want a novel way of teaching your child the alphabet, or just want to spell their name out in enchanted letters, now you can!

The book is still available on Amazon, currently for $10.85 and from the UK Amazon site for £7.08 and should be on the other European sites too.

I think I'm up to P with the posts so it'll be pixies next time I write...

Friday, 14 September 2012

Big Announcement!!!

  The Enchanted Alphabet book is now for sale on Amazon    

I completed the submission process a couple of weeks ago and received my proof copy through the post last week. I can't tell you how exciting, and weird, it was to be holding a proper copy of it in my hands. First thing to do was take it straight to show my mum. She was almost more excited than me. Then she saw that I'd dedicated it to my great uncle, Bill, who died earlier this year, and we both had a little cry.

So, here it is, as a proper book at last:

It's available from and .uk already, as well as CreateSpace's own e-store and should be available from the other European Amazon sites soon too.

US  -

UK  -

To celebrate, I've created a little bookplate featuring artwork from the book that

you can download from DeviantArt.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

O is for...


The Oakmen have had a hard life here in England over the centuries. As their name suggests, they like to live in and around oak trees but so many of our native oak forests have been cut down in ages past, to build the great fleets of the British Navy in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries among other things, that these little guys have struggled to find homes for themselves. Understandably they do not like us humans very much, and use their Faery magic to disguise poisonous toadstools as human food in the hope that visitors to their realm will be tempted to eat and suffer the consequences. Who can blame them when so many of them have to make do with living in the stumps of once great oaks.

© Shona M MacDonald 2012. All Rights Reserved.

I've been delayed in posting this latest letter of the Alphabet because I've been busy-busy these last few weeks. All the letters of the alphabet are now finished!!!Yay!! And, after much humming and hawing, searching for suitable publishers and tweaking of images I've finally decided to publish the Alphabet as a little book. So my time has been taken up reformatting the pages, re-painting a couple of letters that I wasn't entirely happy with and wading through the info on CreateSpace's pages. I have a few bits of paperwork to finish (the American tax system :-O  scary stuff!) then I'll be ready to go. And the good news is that it'll be available not just on but on the UK and European sites too which means that the postage costs for those of you not in the US won't be more than the cost of the book. :) I'll post more details as I get them over the next couple of months.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

N is for...


I'd never heard of these little guys until I started researching for this project. Living in Northern Italy they haven't made it into very many English books about Faeries. I think it's kind of odd that Faeries/nature Spirits can be found in virtually every culture in the world yet most of the books are full of those that come from Ireland, Scandinavia, Germany and the British Isles. Perhaps it has something to do with the literature of these lands and the many writers from these places who have kept the stories alive. But it's also good to see today's writers searching farther afield and bringing the stories and the creatures from other cultures to wider attention. I'm a big fan of 'Urban Fantasy' and love the novels of Charles de Lint and Neil Gaiman in particular, some of which feature Native American folklore and raise the interesting issue of how the Faerie Folk cope with human immigration as their histories and stories are transported around the world.

As you can probably tell, I don't have a lot to say about Norggen that I haven't put in the pages of the book, having only brief details to work from, but what I can say it that I really enjoyed painting him in his smart little jacket and hat. I'd been beginning to feel a bit bogged down with the last few letters, taking so long to decide which creatures to depict, getting side-tracked by other projects and really not feeling 'in the right mood' to paint but I'm pleased with the way he worked out...

© Shona M MacDonald 2012. All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

M is for ...


I guess most people are familiar with the tale of the Little Mermaid who gives up her fish tail and her beautiful singing voice to walk on the land in the hopes of winning the love of a prince. When she fails, in the original story at least, she becomes foam on the water. It's a sad story with numerous life lessons and you can't help but feel sorry for her, but the mermaids of folklore are very different creatures. Yes, they are beautiful, yes, they have beautiful singing voices but there the similarity ends. Rather than pay a price for magic to enable them to walk on land, they mostly prefer to lure their would-be lovers into the sea.

© Shona M MacDonald 2012. All Rights Reserved

There have been stories of Mermaids marrying human men and raising a family but these marriages rarely lasted and the Mermaids, unable to resist their true natures, would return to the sea.

The name Mermaid is thought to come from the French for sea, 'Mer', but the idea of a half human, half fish creature has been around in mythology throughout the ages. These fish tailed goddesses are found in many mythological stories, usually connected with fertility, love and the Moon. Even Aphrodite of Greek legend was born from the foam on the sea.

So, we've reached the halfway point in the Alphabet. Thank you for sticking with it this far. :) As I've been working on the book I've also been adding each new letter's illustration to a poster design that I'm hoping to make available. I'd be very interested to know if that's something any of you might like, so please let me know what you think. I'm also looking into the possibility of publishing the whole project in real book form so if you know of any publishers (or you are a publisher!!!) who produce books on this subject, please let me know.

Finally, a little plug for my other blog - Tales From the Wild Wood. It's a general art blog where I post stuff about my latest work, sketches, works in progress and witter away about whatever arty stuff is grabbing my attention at the time. I'm currently wrestling with the creation of a rather wobbly troll!!

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

L is for...


There can be few people in the Western world who haven't heard of Leprechauns. Along with the shamrock they have become something of a national symbol in Ireland. St. Patrick's day celebrations are awash with people in green costumes and red beards. Their pots of gold are also legendary. To win one you have to catch the Leprechaun first which is no easy feat as they will disappear as soon as they see you unless you've seen them first. Once spied and 'caught' in your gaze, the Leprechaun will likely bargain his treasure to secure his release. But be warned - many Faery Folk are able to cast glamours and you may well find that the pot of gold becomes nothing more than a pot of dead leaves by morning!

© Shona M MacDonald 2012 All Rights Reserved

As promised, the rest of this post is a brief walkthrough of how I've created the pages of the Enchanted Alphabet.

The illustrations themselves are created traditionally. So, I started with a couple of sketches. One was of a Leprechaun making a shoe, the other dancing with his pot of gold. I wasn't completely happy with the first one so it was the second sketch that I used.

Next I drew out the border and the letter L onto a 5"x7" piece of hot-pressed watercolour paper. I prefer using hot-pressed paper to cold-pressed as it's smoother so you can add small details more easily. Once this was done, I transferred the sketch to the paper using a sheet of graphite paper. A tip taught to me by my tutor on the botanical illustration course I did a couple of years ago was to use the tip of a dart or, in my case, the point of a pair of compasses to trace the outline of the image so that you get nice, clean, narrow lines. Once this was done I added a pale wash of watercolour to the border and the letter. As you can see, the lines created by the tracing are so faint that didn't even show up in the scan:

I continued to work on the letter and the border, darkening down the areas, adding some definition to the shamrock leaves and shading to the letter:

Then I started working on the Leprechaun and his gold in the same way. I used light washes first to define the different areas, then began to add shading and more detail:
Until finally the image was complete:

Next came the digital bit. If you know all about digital art then please bear with me on this as I'm just learning to find my way around the most basic bits of Photoshop Elements :)

To create the book pages I scanned the cover and pages of a real book that I bought at a local flea market then removed the text and illustrations before replacing them with my own.

After scanning a page I used the clone brush tool to get rid of the text and illustrations. In the pic below you can see that I've started to do this:

And here it is when I finished:

Typical me, I decided that I wanted the book to have a green cover (green is a good faery colour) so I had to carefully 'select' all the visible areas of the cover and adjust the hue and saturation of the selected area to make it green, then I used the background eraser tool to make the area around the book transparent (it shows up white in the jpeg below, but in Photoshop, as a .psd it's transparent):

So my page is ready for its new text and illustration. The illustration was added on a separate layer, reduced to the right size and moved into place. I chose a 'blend mode' of 'multiply' for this layer so that the book page underneath would show through:

Then I added the text using the text tool. Finally, I added a background behind the whole thing and created a shadow behind the book to make it look more real:

So, there it is from start to finish. I've only had to do this 24 times 8-|

M is next, then I better get painting again as N is one of the letters I've yet to complete!!

Thursday, 17 May 2012

K is for...


These little folk who live in mines are known throughout Europe by various different names: in Germany they are 'mountain monks' or 'master hammerlings', in Wales Coblynau, in Scotland Black Dwarfs, and in Denmark and Sweden Kobolds. But it is in the tin mines of Devon and Cornwall that they are known as Knockers. Like so many Faery Folk, if they are treated respectfully, they are happy to help the miners to find the richest veins of ore in return for food. They have also been known to warn miners of imminent dangers.

© Shona M MacDonald 2012. All Rights Reserved

My next post will be a walkthrough of the illustration for the letter L, followed by the digital process I use to create the 'pages' (nothing very techincal - I'm only just starting to learn to use Photoshop) :)