As many of you know, we feature the work of illustrators/artists every Sunday here at 7-Imp, as well as gather together to list what we call our “7 Kicks” of the week. Yesterday, our featured artist was Ursula Vernon, but I moved her feature to today, since I didn’t want our partying down yesterday to distract from her illustrations. Thanks to Ursula for being so flexible and giving me the okay to do that.
As she puts it at her site, Ursula is a freelance illustrator, artist, and creator of weird thingies. “I live in North Carolina, with too many art supplies and a cat,” she adds. Ursula uses a wide variety of media in her artwork, “generally some combination of acrylic ink, fluid acrylic, watercolor, gouache, colored pencil, etc.” – as well as some digital maneuvering. Metal & Magic is the site where Ursula displays her art work. She is the creator of a number of comic projects, including Digger, which was nominated for an Eisner Award. She is also the creator of the short comic Irrational Fears for older children and adults, and the Little Creature stories for teens and adults. Pictured above is a sneak peek — an illustration from Ursula’s Dragonbreath, “which should be forthcoming next summer from Penguin Dial, ” she told me.
The way in which I became familiar with Ursula’s work is through her first children’s book, Nurk: The Strange, Surprising Adventures Of A (Somewhat) Brave Shrew, released this Spring from Harcourt, which Ursula both wrote and illustrated and which I enjoyed. (I’d love to hear from others who have read Nurk, since I don’t recall seeing a lot of blogging about it, though I certainly do my fair share of getting-behind-on-blog-reading, so maybe I missed some posts.)
Nurk tells the story of a mostly-brave shrew, who packs up a few pairs of clean socks and sails off on an accidental adventure, guided by wisdom found in the journal of his famously brave and fierce grandmother, Lady Surka the warrior shrew. In fact, his grandmother’s portrait hangs in Nurk’s front hallway, and “it was the first thing anyone saw when they entered his house. (Since the portrait showed her brandishing a severed head, this was a bit of a shock for first-time visitors, but Nurk’s love for the portrait was undimmed.)”
The problem was that he wasn’t sure that he really wanted to have an adventure of his own. Most of the the stories of adventure seemed to start somewhere very far away and skipped over the details of how you got there or what you were supposed to pack. They sounded messy and occasionally terrifying. Nurk was worried that he wouldn’t go about having adventures the right way and would miss them entirely, or have a bad one where he spent most of his time wet and cold and hungry and without clean socks. Also he had to admit that he couldn’t think of any situation where he would want to brandish anyone’s severed head.
This book is a lot of fun—there are drunken hedgehogs; trees full of giant caterpillars, who drip and drizzle and ooze slime in syrupy strands; a dragonfly princess with a snore that can penetrate concrete; a blind, monstrous mole, the size of half a mountain; snailboats; a tree of not-yet-ripe salmon (pictured below); and lots of great excerpts from Lady Surka’s old journal, such as:
oH mY gOD! iT’s thE hiDeOUs sPiNe-cReSTEd ACiD-dROoLiNg BeAst oF The NEtheRmoST MiREs! AnD iT’s COMinG This WaY! Neat!
And Nurk, who starts out as not unlike Bilbo Baggins With a Severe Social Anxiety Disorder, totally wins my heart. Aw.
Below are a few more (non-Nurk) images from Ursula. The first and last are a couple of her paintings—Lost Sheep and Blind Date—and in the middle is an image from Digger:
And we’ll close out with another preview of next year’s Dragonbreath:
Many thanks to Ursula for stopping by 7-Imp. I, for one, look forward to a Nurk sequel, which would not be out of the realm of possibility, I suppose.
And we’d all do well to take to heart Nurk’s sage advice: “Never go anywhere without clean socks.”