Marly and Clive talk heads


Hi Clive, I expect you’ll solve this beautifully, but I did have some thoughts and questions that might be helpful or maybe just bothersome (though often I find the bothersome ones helpful, as they make me march off in another direction.) All four of the images on the Artlog are interesting, and here are a few reactions.

The first one could have a bullet for the eye? Bullet/eye–some degree of similarity. Could work with a number of them.


I tried a bullet in a couple of un-posted sketches, and couldn’t quite make it work. I think it suggested a kinetic quality… the speeding bullet… that seemed a tad more like the cover of a spy novel.


Or how about the fourth one with the gun rotated 180 degrees to more of a position like the first one (so it is more a position that would have been used? I didn’t think of that myself; it was my gun guy, of course! I never would have thought of it.)

Could have a closed eye… just the slope of the lid? Would a vanished/lidded eye be a good resolution of that problem?


I’ve made a small sketch with the eye closed and looking more like one of the screws in the gun. Works better than the open eye, which doesn’t work at all.


That fourth one was Michael’s favorite. I do like the cracking-open images in 1 and 4… They have drama! But all have some punch and power, so I’m not trying to suggest anything.




The gunsight in the second one is interesting visually and also a pun (though the gun is still turned in a way not natural to the event–does that matter? Since it’s not a “realistic”–dislike that categorizing word sometimes–picture? I have no idea.


It both matters and doesn’t matter, to the same degree and simultaneously. Getting it ‘right’ in terms of a suicide… right gun, scale, angle etc… though at cost to the look and feel of the drawing, would be wrong. But then just going for visual effect would feel wrong to me, too. It has to walk a line somewhere in the middle, to feel right and be plausible within this created world.

The tone set so far has been surreal, and within the formality of that there’s the flexibility to be creative. The plants in the first drawing reference real ones, and yet are dream-like, and the same is true of the moth.

I have to be careful not to be too pedantic about the gun, or it will appear to be from a different world. I have to mess my drawing a bit, and stop being so hung up on the photographs I referenced. I certainly need to start drawing it without the reference material in front of me. I have to be wary, too, of leaving room for just the one reading, that being the suicide. Guns figure in his imaginative life in the cowboy stories. In a way the gun needs to be in his head in just the same way as the foliate burgeoning and the emerging moth.

If I get the drawing just right, it will suggest a multiplicity of ideas.


Clive, That sounds exactly right–I agree completely. Mike and I both thought you were right on the crux of it! Great thoughts about having it be unleashed a bit. And it’s also true that guns go way back to childhood, and the last big section where he plays cowboys and Indians. So you could say that it is literally in his head from the start–from the night the meteorite falls and he hears gunshots. (Did you ever plan to do one with a child’s head, by the by?)

I asked Michael about the type of gun, and he said the barrels varied in length, and the most common probably would have been a reasonably macho 6 inches, though they were made in 3, 4, 6, and 8 and also in the “longhorn” style with a long barrel. Really odd looking, that one… He said that long barrels sounded like Texas… Don’t know if those bits of gun info will help, but maybe! Gives a certain amount of freedom, anyway.

Just for historical interest, here’s Al Capone’s Colt .38. It would be the right era, as he was locked up by ’32, and busy losing his marbles from syphilis. Colt 38 with no safety and what looks like a 6-inch barrel:


I can’t remember if I had changed the gun to have no safety with your copy of the manuscript–so that he puts it “on safety” by putting the hammer down.


I referenced a firearm with a very short barrel that once belonged to Bonnie and Clyde. When I tried a longer, ‘Texas-style’ barrel, it looked like chimney emerging from the top of Conall’s head! Silly.


Okay, all my thoughts for now! Love, Marly


The drawing completed

What those who’d watched from the margins had to say

Midori Snyder (author and writer of the review of Maze of Blood that’s quoted on the jacket) “Ayiiii…kind of takes my breath away. It’s very “true” to the novel.”

Sienna Latham “Unsettling and beautiful. The trigger looks oddly like a very low ear!”

Paul Tree “Revolver as bone structure. It’s a brilliant thing.”

Mathijs van Soest “I like this version very much, but it is somehow strange to see a pistol in your drawings. Your drawings tend to have some melancholic features, but this is very confronting….yet very good.”

Harry Bell “I was unsure of the first version but didn’t have time to suggest anything earlier. I like this new one *much* more.”

Frank McNab “Class.”

Jonathan Paul Hayes “All at once very dark but extremely beautiful.”

Peter Byrom-Smith “This looks really great Clive.”

And the last words must be from author Marly Youmans

“As Paul said, the gun works as bone structure. And the image fits well in the series, uses the gunsight in an entrusting way. The brain in this one is macabre, full of ghosts. Many hurrahs to Clive.”

12 thoughts on “Marly and Clive talk heads

  1. How interesting to see the debate which has led to such a powerful conclusion in your illustration Clive.

    There is a deeply claustrophobic, threatening feel to this illustration as if the mind is closing in on itself. The strangeness keeps me, as the viewer, off-kilter. What is going on in the character’s head? Is this the anatomy of a suicidal mind I am looking at, or will I find something else as I read on?

    I am glad you retained this air of ambiguity in your illustration, as we can never know for sure what goes on in someone else’s head, but only offer our own interpretations. This seems so well suited to Marly’s fictionalised exploration of the life and tragic early death of Robert E Howard in ‘Maze of Blood’.

  2. A shudderingly striking image. If I saw that on the shelf I would reach for it immediately, there are so many layers in that seemingly simple illustration. I loved reading your exchange with Marly, thanks. XxL

  3. This is great. The gun seems to be part of his head,
    I did not know about Marly’s hero, until Sarah talked about him. So I looked him up in wikipedia. And I found he loved his mother dearly, and that when she got ill, in hospital, and he was told she would not recover from her vegetative state, and was never going to be able to even know he was there besides her, and was going to die, very soon, he got out of the hospital, and into his car, and shot himself with his gun…

    In his case, the car seems like a substitute of his mother’s womb. As if he had wanted to die as part of her…

    • I too looked up the biographical details of Robert E Howard, though after I had read Marly’s ‘re-imagining’ of his life through her character Conall.

      It’s all deeply moving. In ‘Maze of Blood’ she has got so plausibly beneath the skin of her protagonist, that it’s almost as though we’re there with him. Creating the decorations and the cover for the book has been an enormous privilege.

      • i can’t wait to read the book.
        I will print all these entries, comments and all, and will slip them among the pages. The book will be even greater, if possible…

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