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Mother Moth features sixteen colour plates, plus the Mother Moth jacket design. 100 limited edition Artist's Prints of each plate are available, signed by the illustrator and produced on finest watercolour paper by CFL Studios in 3 sizes. Any enquiries can be made via the Contact page.


The Mother Moth illustrations use a technique of layering, or lacquering, which builds the picture up from the first rough sketch to a patina of depth and brilliance. Nothing is erased, nothing reversed. First thoughts, false starts, slips of the pen, slips of intention, are all retained. The lacquer technique shares the sense of interior depth found in Mother Moth and simulates the book’s sense of lost or merged boundary between inner and outer worlds. At the same time, clear and well-defined images were needed to represent the heroine Elspeth’s strong resolve. Before deciding on the technique I tried others, but none gave the same kind of translucence. The method involves the artist in a long and intimate relationship with the picture. Past details — the shrug of a tree-branch, a downward-curving crease beside an eye — all survive, though dressed in newer forms, akin to seeing the child in the grown-up. The picture grows of itself, reinforcing some associations and concealing others.
The gradual layering process compares to the way traditional fairy tale comes into being, through embellishment, metamorphosis, distortion, omission, even unconscious suppression. Stories often hint at events left untold, like objects not present in the picture which still cast shadows. The surface of the layered image may be tersely emblematic, the story grotesquely curt. I think of the murderer wizard in Fitcher’s Bird whose eerie method of transport is described like this: ‘Then he made long legs and hurried away. . .’  Such conciseness, leaving so much unsaid, is baffling.
In the lacquer technique, the perception of depth comes from light bouncing off a highly reflective flat polished surface. Fairy tale’s surface veneer is equally hard and reflective. Both remind us that all perception is an act of imagination, dissolving and penetrating surfaces. No matter how many secrets the layers of the picture or of the fairy tale hold, their literal surfaces are closed. In fact, their secrets lie already with the viewer. Examining the literal surface only scratches the picture, deadens the fairy tale’s ability to affect us.

- Francesca Bell