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  Whale in a Fishbowl  by Troy Howell is one of those stories that demands  you start again from the beginning as soon as you've finished reading. It might be the pace of the writing, or the shape of the sentences, or the remarkable imagery. It has a rare depth and emotion that is at times startling and at others comforting,

Whale in a Fishbowl by Troy Howell is one of those stories that demands  you start again from the beginning as soon as you've finished reading. It might be the pace of the writing, or the shape of the sentences, or the remarkable imagery. It has a rare depth and emotion that is at times startling and at others comforting,

 The story is centred on a whale called Wednesday. 'Wednesday lives in a fishbowl. It's the only home she knows.' Poor Wednesday's home also happens to be sited in the middle of a busy traffic island at the centre of a busy town. Amused crowds come and go, cars circle her all day and all night, but one day she's visited by a little girl with eyes the colour of the ocean and soon her life is changed forever.

The story is centred on a whale called Wednesday. 'Wednesday lives in a fishbowl. It's the only home she knows.' Poor Wednesday's home also happens to be sited in the middle of a busy traffic island at the centre of a busy town. Amused crowds come and go, cars circle her all day and all night, but one day she's visited by a little girl with eyes the colour of the ocean and soon her life is changed forever.

 How to paint Wednesday? I went down one or two dead ends at the beginning of the project. I think there was a story in the news art the time about an unhappy  Killer Whale living in captivity and my thoughts naturally followed that path. However, with a little gentle steering from Troy and the editorial team I soon realised that Wednesday must have a form and personality all of her own. Pages and pages of sketches later, she began to emerge from the paint and pencil.

How to paint Wednesday? I went down one or two dead ends at the beginning of the project. I think there was a story in the news art the time about an unhappy  Killer Whale living in captivity and my thoughts naturally followed that path. However, with a little gentle steering from Troy and the editorial team I soon realised that Wednesday must have a form and personality all of her own. Pages and pages of sketches later, she began to emerge from the paint and pencil.

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 I was given the opportunity to shape the appearance and form of the  book from the beginning and spent a happy few days placing the text into spreads and pages. I often make a dummy book to help visualise how a story might ebb and flow across the page and it was especially useful for our Whale. The tactile nature of literally moving blocks of text around on the page seems to lead to more imaginative solutions than just clicking and dragging on a screen. Wednesday's sedentary life in her bowl  suggested we use a square, stout format. I hoped the shape would reinforce the sense of confinement and thwarted potential that the beginning of the story conveys. However, Wednesday isn't  always passive and dormant. On a few occasions in the story we see her leap up into the air and in one important moment,  beyond the bowl itself. Expressing these moments of energy and exaltation for a while proved challenging inside the dimensions of a square. As a solution I  proposed we use a gatefold page to alter the physical shape of the book and underline the significance of the moment.  By lifting the page as she leaps, the reader breaks the confines of the story and takes a small role in her liberation! 

I was given the opportunity to shape the appearance and form of the  book from the beginning and spent a happy few days placing the text into spreads and pages. I often make a dummy book to help visualise how a story might ebb and flow across the page and it was especially useful for our Whale. The tactile nature of literally moving blocks of text around on the page seems to lead to more imaginative solutions than just clicking and dragging on a screen. Wednesday's sedentary life in her bowl  suggested we use a square, stout format. I hoped the shape would reinforce the sense of confinement and thwarted potential that the beginning of the story conveys. However, Wednesday isn't  always passive and dormant. On a few occasions in the story we see her leap up into the air and in one important moment,  beyond the bowl itself. Expressing these moments of energy and exaltation for a while proved challenging inside the dimensions of a square. As a solution I  proposed we use a gatefold page to alter the physical shape of the book and underline the significance of the moment.  By lifting the page as she leaps, the reader breaks the confines of the story and takes a small role in her liberation! 

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 I seem incapable of painting anything without somewhere including a dog. Troy has written a insightful blog about the story.  In   this   instalment, I talk about how Wednesday's little friend came to be in the artwork.

I seem incapable of painting anything without somewhere including a dog. Troy has written a insightful blog about the story.  In this instalment, I talk about how Wednesday's little friend came to be in the artwork.

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Enormous thanks to the fabulous folk at Schwartz & Wade Books - for Lee and Anne for thinking of me and my work and for Rachael, who somehow made sense out of my impossibly rough sketches to produce a gorgeous little object. Love and thanks to my agents Arabella and Anne for making it happen.

But most importantly, thank you Troy, for sharing Wednesday's story.

 

Read Troy's blog about Whale and other thoughts here.

Whale in a Fishbowl is available now!  You can order it from places like Amazon.

Or maybe if you're fortunate enough to have one, you could support your local book shop. Here's mine!

 

 

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