The Last Viking Returns

A murder of ravens up for retrial

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The ravens in the book are haunting me. I hear them rapping at my chamber door:

Yo there Poe, there’s a raven atcha door

One of those eeky-freaky spooky birds of yore

All the ravin’ ladies getcha tails onto the floor

When ‘m I gonna stop? Gotta tellya Nevermore

No, not ‘rapping’- rapping, as in ‘tapping’. As in the famous poem… anyway. I’ll get on with it shall I.

My point is, the ravens are in the back of my mind a lot these days. I recently finished all the pencil lines for the book. Hurrah! The next step is all the colouring. But before I move on to that, I looked back on the pencils, checking for little issues. And I found inconsistencies in the ravens I’d been drawing. To start with, I’d only looked at a few reference photos, then made it up as I went along. ‘That looks about right,” I’d think to myself. But the ravens didn’t look quite right at all. They looked a little too fluffy and friendly- more like dirty pigeons.

p20-21-20101015

When I drew the last few ravens in the book, I worked from reference photos, and the difference was huge. So I’m going back page by page and redrawing the earlier ravens, using the most excellent reference photos known to man.

Where did I find these most excellent reference photos, I hear you ask? Why, on the website of Paul Lantz, a photographer in Canada. He happens to have a passion for ravens, and has collected dozens of high-resolution photos of them in all sorts of poses and situations. It’s absolutely brilliant. Here’s the gallery.

My favourite series of photos shows a raven being accosted by three crows. There’s one photo where it looks like the raven is exploding.

Using these references, I’ve been able to go back and make the ravens look more realistic. Here’s my more recent sketches – still roughs at this stage.

raven-fixups-2
I’ve been looking at ravens more closely than I ever have before in my life, and it’s made me appreciate them more. Sure they’re a bit creepy. Sure their beady eyes seem to stare into your soul and say, ‘if I could eat your soul, I would.’ But hey, the way that light shines on their black feathers and goes all purply- that’s really beautiful. And the way their feathers stretch out mid flight like razors- just awesome. Ravens rock.

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Author: James Foley

James makes books for courageous kids. His books include 'The Amity Kids Adventures', 'In The Lion', 'The Last Viking'. A couple of these books have won awards. People have also bought copies, and for that he is grateful. His new book 'The Last Viking Returns' is out now. Follow James at www.facebook.com/jamesfoleyillustrations , @James_R_Foley on twitter and instagram or at www.jamesfoley.com.au

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