Cover Announcement – Prickle Moon

I am an enthusiastic fan of science fiction / fantasy literature. Always have been. My sprawling collection of books threatens to take over all of our bookshelves and other genres at a moment’s notice, and I like it that way.

Earlier this year, I got an email message about the possibility of illustrating a cover with spiritual elements and a totemic hedgehog for an upcoming short story anthology from one Juliet Marillier, for Ticonderoga Publications. I remember thinking ‘wait, is this happening?’ In my sprawling collection were some of Juliet’s books, which I have enjoyed and devoured late at night, turning pages by lamplight with cats snoozing next to me. I also remember thinking, as I read the email, ‘it’s probably a good thing I’m already lying down.’ Heh.

I love collaborating with creative people, it’s one of my favourite things to do, so I thought I would share with you some of the process, from conceptualising the cover, all the way through to this week’s announcement of the official cover.

As well as a personally done colour sample, and individual sketches of hedgehogs for the delightfully named Prickle Moon, I did a few cover roughs, but the one we eventually agreed on, was one I developed in front of Juliet, discussing everything from colour, to tree symbolism, to placement and so on.

From there, I developed an official sketch showing all the compositional elements for a full-wrap cover.

And then, the process of inking. I decided to go with a more thorough style than what I normally use, to create a good sense of depth and texture. This part of the process took the longest, so I tied myself over by sending the occasional work in progress photo to Juliet and Russell. As you can see from the next photo, I was building up a lot of form with a technique known as stippling, or as we artists sometimes think of it: ‘oh god, my wrists.’ (Though I think it’s worth it!)

That said, I love stippling, because as time goes by, this incredible effect happens with the building up of simple dots. I was primarily using Artline Drawing System pens in the 0.1 size.

Which eventually lead to more detail:

And an ink illustration ready for colouring.

After inking, there is the process of overlaying colour to create a sense of depth. Juliet selected the colour scheme – a violet/purple monochrome palette and the effect of moonlight – and it was so much fun to work with. I have always been a fan of monochromatic palettes since they create unity and flow. Not only that, but it was also tremendous to work with the energy of hedgehog, and feel what it must be like to see the world from a perspective of toadstools and grass, where everything works on a different level than it does to us.

And now, I am so excited to show you the cover art for Juliet Marillier’s short story anthology, Prickle Moon, which will be launched officially early next year.

It’s been so much fun working in this way, and to have this opportunity. I’d like to say my thanks again to the awesome Russell and Juliet for the privilege. Let’s face it, what illustrator of narrative art doesn’t wish to see their artwork on a book cover one day. Not only that, but for a wonderful author, and publishing house, and a wonderful subject? Meanwhile, I shall be secretly (okay, not secretly at all!) thrilled to have another book to add to my sprawling collection of science fiction and fantasy books.

Porcupine as Totem

Clearly the punk rocker of the animal kingdom. Or maybe that’s just my illustration; which turns a perfectly dignified animal into TOTAL SID VICIOUS BABY!

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NORTH AMERICAN PORCUPINE as TOTEM

American Porcupine as Totem by Ravenari

REPRESENTING

Back up, having excellent defences, needing to protect yourself from yourself, having a tense or unusual relationship with trees, possessing an affinity with the darkness and the shadow realms, benefitting from primarily vegetarian diets, doing things your own way, being unique, look after yourself, don’t be afraid to inflict some damage, sometimes the nice way isn’t the best way, don’t be afraid to be prickly, watch salt consumption, learning to differentiate insult from fair statements, taking things slow will suit you right now.

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GENERAL DESCRIPTION

The North American Porcupine is a large tree-climbing rodent also known as the Canadian porcupine, common porcupine, and quillpig, among other names. They are found in Canada, Alaska and Northern/Western USA, where they are common and widespread. They are usually found in coniferous and mixed forests, but can also be found in deserts, shrublands and tundra provided there are adequate thicketed areas. They den in the holes of trees and rocks. Porcupines are known for their characteristic quills, which are modified hairs. They detach easily and are used as a defense, these quills are urticating and hard to remove. Because porcupines will sometimes get stuck with their own quills, they are one of the rare mammals to have antibiotics in their skin.

The North American porcupine is solitary and primarily nocturnal. They are nearsighted, slow-moving, and selective, fussy eaters, which has lead to an unusually well-developed ability to negotiate mazes and memorise very complex directions. They are herbivorous, and in Summer they eat twigs, acorns, roots, stems and berries, in Winter they stay closer to their dens and eat conifer needles and tree phloem and cambium. Because they often focus feeding on a particular tree, they can kill it or cause extensive damage. They are sometimes considered a pest because of the damage they can inflict on trees, tyres and wood. Because of their slow movements, they are often hit by vehicles. They are predated upon by primarily by fishers, as well as wolverines, coyotes and mountain lions.

Blackcap as Totem

This totem has the awesome honour of being a patron of Italian culture and the arts. I mean, in general, it’s an awesome bird – but did you know that something so tiny has inspired a lot of artists? What a wonderful, and overlooked, totem animal.

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BLACKCAP as TOTEM

Blackcap as Totem by Ravenari

REPRESENTING:

Sharing your song with others, possessing a sweet voice, knowing how to persuade others, the pen is mightier than the sword, learning new ways of expressing yourself, respecting religious pathways, enjoying sacred spaces, adapting to significant changes to your environment, being fond of myths and legends, associations with St. Francis, connection to Italian culture and crafts, muse.

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GENERAL DESCRIPTION

The blackcap is a widespread, common passerine warbler found in Europe, western Africa and Europe. They are sexually dimorphic, and have a unique colour pattern for warblers. The male is grey with a distinct black cap, the female has a brown cap. They prefer to forage and hunt in shady woodlands, and nest in groundcover, preferring low shrubs. Their song is pleasant, chattering, with occasional clear notes; isolated blackcap populations can show marked differences in style and complexity of song. The blackcap is more hardy than other warblers, taking berries as well as insects when the weather gets tough. The blackcap is partially migratory, but recently some have been changing their wintering habits due to the availability of human food and gardens and recent environmental changes; the birds that are not migratory have higher survival rates than those that are. In some cultures, the blackcap is consumed as a food and considered a delicacy. Blackcaps have long inspired Italian writers, who knew the bird as La Capinera. They are associated with St. Francis in the opera Saint Francois d’Assise.

Blue Eared Pheasant as Totem

I love writing totem files for the less common animals. I think I may have been the only person to write a totem file about the blue-eared pheasant, but you never know! They seem like awesome birds.

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BLUE EARED PHEASANT as TOTEM

Blue Eared Pheasant as Totem by Ravenari

REPRESENTS

Sibling rivalry, enjoying wild weather, feeling invigorated during cold or snowy weather, mountain wisdom, forest wisdom, having a profound connection to trees and plants, being feisty when pushed, coping well in times of crisis, being the one to depend on when things go wrong, taking advantage of opportunities as they present themselves, rooting around to get to the cause of the problem.

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GENERAL DESCRIPTION

The blue eared pheasant is a large, blue-grey pheasant, with a black grown, red wattles, yellow iris, long white ear coverts and crimson legs. They are among the most common of eared pheasants. They are sexually dimorphic with the male being larger than the female, but are otherwise quite similar. They are found in the mountain forests (Himalayas) of central and northern China, where they do very well in cold and snowy weather, and seem to enjoy inclement weather. Primarily eat berries and vegetable matters, but are opportunistic feeders. They root around by nature, and can destroy smaller plants in the process. They enjoy mud and dust-baths. Blue eared pheasants are hardy. They are monogamous, and reach sexual fertility in their first year. Males will often display a lowered wing to signify size and dominance. Chicks are lively, rambunctious, bold and look like they are smiling. If over-crowded, they will become violent and cannibalistic, killing their siblings. Males will become quite aggressive and attack other species during breeding season.

Brown Honeyeater as Totem

The second installment for today.

These guys have been visitors to my Mum’s gardens for as long as I can remember. I haven’t seen any in my garden yet, but that’s because it’s a new suburb and I’m not sure what the brown honeyeater population is like; I do see other nectar feeders though. They are drab-looking birds, to be certain, but they have lovely personalities, and a lovely call.

These guys are a fantastic totem animal for people who work with balancing the chakras, or who fall out of balance very quickly. Their habits are all about achieving the right balance, and being selective about what energy you allow into your body. Also fantastic for people who are making shields that let certain things in, and not others.

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BROWN HONEYEATER as TOTEM

Brown Honeyeater as Totem by Ravenari

REPRESENTING –

Balance, knowing how to balance your energy, being selective about how you receive and give out your energy, singing your song, possessing the ability to balance the energy of others, the unobtrusive healer, seeking and finding clarity, getting what’s yours, flowers are healing, an affinity with flower essences and flower foods at this time, learning to be happy with blending into your surroundings.

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GENERAL DESCRIPTION

The brown honeyeater is a small, grey-brown bird with a yellow tuft behind the eye, found in western, northern and eastern Australia. It is considered common and widespread, and populations are on the rise in urban environments. Brown honeyeaters live in a variety of different habitats provided they are close to a source of water; these habitats include mangroves, eucalypt woodlands and gardens. The brown honeyeater is mostly active in early morning, and seasonally nomadic within its territory, following the flowering plants and trees. It primarily feeds on nectar and will also take insects; it’s tongue is brush-tipped and specially adapted for mopping up nectar. Brown honeyeaters will also feed in small groups and flocks of mixed honeyeaters.

Brown honeyeaters maintain the same breeding territory each year, and nests are cup-shaped and woven from grass and tree-bark. They are acrobatic, busy and active birds, able to take insects on the wing and hover over nectar-providing flowers. They most prefer to feed in foliage and canopies, but will also feed on the ground. They have a distinct, beautiful, loud, clear song which is considered the best of all the honeyeaters. Some even consider it to be one of the best among Australian birds. They are predated upon by ants, pied currawong and their nests are parasitised by a variety of cuckoos.

European Pine Marten as Totem

Today you get two totems, since I fell behind!

The first:

EUROPEAN PINE MARTEN as TOTEM

European Pine Marten as Totem by Ravenari

REPRESENTING:

Forest and tree wisdom, the ability for trees and forests to be healing places, possessing great wit and cunning, being resourceful and capable of great lateral thinking when necessary, needing to chew something over, protecting your home and yourself, having a great sense of where your boundaries are, swiftness of action and movement, being exploited for what you have and what you do, keeping your body in good condition, general anxiety and fussing over things.

Horned (Shore) Lark as Totem

HORNED LARK as TOTEM

Horned Lark as Totem by Ravenari

REPRESENTING:

Strutting your stuff, oneness with wind and ground spirits, staying grounded and dreaming big, knowing the healing power of the earth, the earth element, the wind element, doing what is necessary to protect loved ones, knowing the power of sacrifice, putting others first, seeking stability, don’t damage your health for environmentalism, learning to live in new environments, the healing power of open places.

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GENERAL DESCRIPTION

The horned lark (also known as the shore lark) is a distinctive songbird with a black and yellow face pattern. The male has black ‘horns’ in the breeding season, which can be erected or lay flat. They are birds that prefer to both feed and nest in the open ground. They are found in North America, northernmost Europe and Asia, as well as Colombia. The northern populations are migratory, travelling south in the Winter. They are usually found on seashore flats, farmland, golf courses, airports, prairies, grasslands, steppes, open forests, deserts and above the mountain treelines. They primarily eat seeds, and will eat insects during the breeding season. It is the female that chooses the nesting site; and they have been known to perform distraction displays to lure away predators. The vocalisations of horned larks are high, lisping or tinkling with ascending trills in flight. They can be aggressive, with males chasing each other in flight. They are the bird species most frequently killed by wind turbines.

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The rest of the totem animal dictionary can be found here!

Llama as Totem

No Llama totem write up is complete any longer without mentioning drama llama!

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LLAMA as TOTEM

Llama as Totem by Ravenari

LLAMA TOTEM REPRESENTS:

Connecting respectfully with other species, inter-species relationships, having a great deal to give, demanding the respect of others, be wary of making a bigger deal out of a situation than it deserves, drama llama, unstable social circles, unstable social hierarchies, learning how to deal with not knowing where you stand, being able to protect others, the energy of hostility, high altitudes are healing, don’t be afraid to retreat to the mountains and the high places, connections with pre-Hispanic South American cultures.

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GENERAL DESCRIPTION

The llama is a relative of the camel, found in South America, that has been utilised as a domestic animal since pre-Hispanic times. It is utilised for its soft and lanolin-free fleece, to carry loads over rough terrain, for leather, for food and for fuel. An overloaded llama will refuse to move and can become aggressive and hostile, but generally if well-raised they are considered intelligent, curious, and easily trained with positive reinforcement. Guard llamas have been utilised since the early 1980s, as they bond firmly with sheep, and require almost no training to protect sheep from predators. They can be differentiated from alpaca as they are larger and have a longer head.

Llama are grazers of grass and chew cud, they will also consume lichens, low shrubs and other mountainous plants, and need very little water. They are well-adapted to survive in sparse mountainous terrain, with their red blood cells able to carry more oxygen than many other animals, making them suited to high altitudes. They have an ambling gait. In the wild they live in groups of about 20, that is defended by a male. Fighting males will try and force another male to his knees, they will also neck wrestle and spit. They mate lying down and for approximately thirty minutes, both unusual in larger animals. Llamas are social by nature, and can live between 20 and 30 years. Considered significant to the Moche, the Incans, as well as other Indigenous nations. In contemporary times, the term ‘drama llama’ has emerged as an internet-originating term referring to people who bring random or over-inflated drama with them, and generate conflicts.

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This and other files like it Can be found at my totem dictionary, representing 258 animal totems and growing.

Marbled Polecat as Totem

These guys are freaking adorable.

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MARBLED POLECAT as TOTEM

Marbled Polecat as Totem by Ravenari

REPRESENTING:

Fighting back, putting on a good show, not being afraid to stand up for yourself, confronting what you fears you, seeking out problems before they find you, metaphorically and literally baring your teeth at threats, ripping what is inconvenient out of your life, being gutsy and bolshy, being able to sniff out drama, recharging on your own, maintaining your boundaries.

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DESCRIPTION

The marbled polecat is a small mustelid found in south-eastern Europe and western China. They are predominantly solitary, and maintain territories within which they are very active, rarely sleeping in the same den twice. They will often be aggressive to each other in encounters. They will use the dens of other burrowing animals and stay in underground irrigation tunnels, or dig out their own dens with their long, strong claws, using their teeth to remove roots and grasses. They are good climbers, but prefer to hunt on the ground. They are omnivorous, and eat many species of rodent, small hares, birds, lizards, fish, frogs and insects. They will also eat fruit, grass, kept birds (poultry and pigeons) and steal human food.

They are found in dry areas and grasslands, open desert, steppes, subtropical scrub forest, semi desert and rocky areas, they avoid mountainous regions. They are crepuscular in nature, and primarily use their strong sense of smell for hunting, possessing weak eyesight. They have a limited vocalisation range, emitting alarm cries, grunts, and submissive shrieks. When threatened, they can erect their fur and often stand on their hind legs and hiss; when pushed, they will emit a noxious odour from their anal glands. They were once sought after for their fur, and Kabul shopkeepers used to keep them to exterminate rodents. They are currently considered Vulnerable due to habitat and prey depletion.

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The file and the rest of the totem dictionary can be found here!

Red-Winged Blackbird as Totem

This was an interesting one. I don’t tend to read more generic totem meanings until after I’ve completed my own; that way I’m not unconsciously taking from anything that I haven’t researched or found myself. When I looked at other meanings however, I noticed that just about everyone who did refer to the red-winged blackbird said that it referred to goddess and feminist energies. This seems totally counter-intuitive, given what I know of the bird and its energy. The closest I came was reading a sense of sisterhood into the energy; but even that was a mild totem meaning, and not its strongest.

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RED WINGED BLACKBIRD as TOTEM

red winged blackbird as totem by Ravenari

REPRESENTING:

Don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through, speak up, talk about what you believe in, communicate, let your love spread to many people, be wary of peer pressure (both receiving and doling out), changing habits and mannerisms amongst groups of people, being an opportunist, wetlands wisdom, group dynamics, the power of large groups of people, being visible, putting yourself out there, the middleworlds, drawing attention to yourself, being a part of a sisterhood.

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ABOUT

The red-winged blackbird is an abundant, well-studied songbird found in North and Central Merica. They are sexually dimorphic, with the males being black, with red and yellow shoulder patches that can be puffed or hidden, and duller, drabber females. The males are often sighted alongside roadsides, on high perches, in wetlands, on telephone wires and on cattails. They are found in open grassy areas, fresh and saltwater marshes (with a preference for those with cattail), wetlands, watercourses and other wet regions. They will also frequent crop fields, feedlots, meadows, prairies, old fields and pastures. Different subspecies vary greatly in size and proportion. Red-winged blackbirds will form huge flocks of several million birds, with other species of blackbird and starling, in order to consume grains and group forage. They are omnivorous and predominantly eat seeds and insects, and will also consume snails, frogs, eggs, carrion and other opportunistically taken animals and vegetation. They are strong, agile flyers.

Red-winged blackbirds are associated with the return of Spring, as migratory populations return early and sing frequently as the season returns. Males are extremely territorial (a quarter of their waking hours during breeding season is devoted to territory defense), and polygynous, having up to 15 female mates in their territory. Males will chase and mob animals much larger than they, including livestock and humans. Predated upon by many other birds, including raptors, owls, corvids and herons, as well as raccoons, mink, foxes and snakes. To prevent predation, red-winged blackbirds will make well-concealed nests over water, group-nest and sound alarm calls. The red-winged blackbird may be the most studied bird.

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You can find the full totem dictionary here, a free resource representing 258 animals.