It’s the Little Things!

As I mentioned in the post on Miss Flite’s birds, I had a bit of an epiphany when I started laying out a sample eBook: I discovered that as a reader I wasn’t as interested in the detailed, heavily-researched full page illustrations I’d been slaving away on, as much as wanting to see smaller, spot illustrations tucked into the text.

A fence-stile that connects two estates whose owners are in a perpetual war over rights-of-way

Not only are these more reader-friendly and engaging, but they’re easier to draw and don’t require nearly as much research. The full page images can take a month or more as I develop costuming, architectural details, composition and character designs. So it’s a real pleasure to do some simpler objects and scenes. Most of the images here took from a few days to a week.

I’m still unsure about using this piece. It’s the wrong type of carriage!

I like this carriage illustration because I’ve become fascinated by all the various horse-drawn conveyances of the 19th Century. But I’m not sure I’m going to keep it in the book! I currently have it placed in a chapter involving a carriage ride, but this is the wrong vehicle for the trip being described, which was taken in a full-size carriage similar to a stage coach, pulled by a pair or team of horses. What I’ve got pictured is a Hansom cab, invented in 1834 by Joseph Hansom. It was the most popular conveyance for around town, but probably not so much for long trips cross-country.

Interestingly, the story takes place in the late 1830s I believe, which was before trains had thoroughly crisscrossed the U.K. So with all the traveling in the book, none of it is by train.

On the other hand, there are quite a few carriage rides in this novel and a few of them are dramatic and fast-moving! The details, though, to the best of my ability, have to be right.

“Law Books all at 9 pence”

This one was fun and one of my favorite little spot illustrations to do. Outside of Krook’s scavenger/junk shop in the neighborhood of Chancery, we see that law books are practically worthless. Once again, not much in the way of research other than to look at images of old textbook bindings simply to capture the flavor. I’ve never worried about being accused of plagiarizing images because I’m terrible at copying!

At the back right, a couple of books are used to prop up the broken bench.

A mood image as the scene is set in the first chapter.

“An arch of the bridge in the park has been sapped and sopped away. The adjacent low-lying ground for half a mile in breadth is a stagnant river with melancholy trees for islands in it and a surface punctured all over, all day long, with falling rain.”

This image presented an interesting challenge: I had no idea what Dickens’ language actually meant: An arch of the bridge in the park has been sapped and sopped away, but it was easy enough to intuit. The image came to mind clearly from the language, and context is everything: Dickens is describing the ancestral home of the Dedlock line, where the class attachments and relationships that define British society had frayed from neglect. And so the bridge becomes a physical representation of those broken ties.

Thanks for visiting! You can drop me a line about this or any post at

Author: mooney2021

I am a commercial artist and illustrator from New York and now retired. I'm also a longtime Charles Dickens fan and I've embarked on a project to illustrate his great BLEAK HOUSE.

%d bloggers like this: