Book Launch: The Grief Hole Illustrated by Keely Van Order

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Keely Van Order‘s sketchbook companion to Kaaron Warren‘s masterpiece of dark fiction, The Grief Hole, is a unique work – as Nick Stathopolous stated, “It’s not often we are granted the opportunity to take a peek into an artist’s process, especially in such a handsome format.” And handsome indeed – the artwork is extensive and includes concepts left out of Kaaron’s book for space reasons, as well as variations and continuums of those that ended up in. 78 pages of it. Nick states, “When illustrating a manuscript, an artist doesn’t casually read it. They diligently scour every word to find those key pivotal moments that have the highest emotional and visual impact. As you turn every page of this portfolio, you can see Keely immersing herself in Kaaron’s bleak world, where each word takes on a deeper meaning, evoking a mood, stimulating the possibility of a visual interpretation. This level of engagement makes for great art.”

We are proud to announce that Keely’s magnificent book is to be finally Launched at Conflux in Canberra, at 5.30pm on Sunday 1st October. If you are in the area, or attending, we would recommend you to come along. The book will be for sale, as well as artwork direct from the artist. Refreshments will be available.

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The map to the Grief Hole

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The Grief Hole Illustrated: News and Pre-Orders

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The Grief Hole Illustrated: An Artist’s Sketchbook Companion to Kaaron Warren’s Supernatural Thriller, by Keely Van Order will be released next month. Those who ordered it as part of the Limited Edition offer for The Grief Hole are locked in for shipment as soon as the book is printed, but we are offering an excellent preorder price for Australian readers only right now: $36.95 including shipping and GST. This offer will cease in early February 2017.

Kaaron Warren’s novel, The Grief Hole, is fast becoming a dark literary classic, and it was enhanced by internal illustrations, and cover art/design by Canberra-based artist, Keely Van Order.

This art portfolio traces Keely’s passage to the final illustrations and designs, including variations on themes, mood sketches, and pieces of art that were worthy of publishing, but just didn’t quite make it the limited number required for the final product. Keely provides notes on her journey and includes excerpts from The Grief Hole that enables the viewer insight into the direct sources of inspiration for the art.

Keely Van Order’s art and design for The Grief Hole, compiled in this beautiful book, is an apt companion volume to the novel, and captures the spirit of Kaaron Warren’s masterpiece as a stand alone work.

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The Grief Hole Illustrated is 74 pages in length with premium colour printing and paper. It is hard cover with matte finish lamination. To showcase Keely’s work, the book is 280 x 216mm in size (11″ x 8.5″).

CLICK HERE to preorder Keely’s magnificent work for AU$36.95 (Australia only, GST and Shipping included)  It will retail in Australia for $39.95 (GST include, not shipping).

Nick Stathopoulos, the eminent Australian artist, has the following to say in the Introduction to this art portfolio:

NEVER SEEN THE SAME BY ANY TWO PEOPLE

Where teenagers would go to suicide

                         …this was the picture I started with and took the project from here.”

And so begins Keely Van Order’s harrowing journey illustrating Kaaron Warren’s disturbing and dark fantasy The Grief Hole.

This was no ordinary commission.

But then this was no ordinary story. In this portfolio we follow Keely’s creative journey; her conceptual explorations with styles, with techniques, with fonts. Here we have sketches, detailed notes, cover variants, final art, and work rejected due to printing concerns. We get a sense of what she was feeling as she worked through the book. We share her determination to reveal the face of the charismatic, shaman-like Sol Evictus, to unmask him, to deny him being reduced to a mythological archetype. To make him real. And this is where the value of an illustration can override a reader’s imagination.

Throughout publishing history we have great collaborations between writers and artists. Can you imagine A. A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh without the fragile delicacy of E. H. Shepard, or Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland without the slightly psychotic John Tenniel, or John Marsden’s The Rabbits without the politically savvy Shaun Tan? And now we have Keely Van Order’s dark, brooding, melancholia. Kaaron Warren is a fortunate author indeed.

I’m one of those people who watches all the extras on a blu-ray disc. Partly because I enjoy that insight into how visual effects are created, and what they decided to leave on the (now digital) cutting room floor; and partly because I always harbored ambitions to work in the film industry myself.

Despite knowing the magician’s tricks, I can still draw a distinction between the behind-the-scenes details, suspend my disbelief, and enjoy the movie—not as some technical exercise—but as a piece of pure story-telling. Although I did work peripherally in the film industry, most of my career was directed towards graphic design and illustration. Which means this portfolio is like one of those blu-ray extras for illustrators.

Very few people realize or appreciate how much effort an artist puts into creating work for a book. What makes this a particularly unusual and challenging project is that this story involves an artist sent to capture the faces of dying teenagers—who in doing so dies in a ‘grief hole’. And in taking this project on, Keely has in many ways become that artist, taken on that persona. This is not a happy head-space.

When illustrating a manuscript, an artist doesn’t casually read it. They diligently scour every word to find those key pivotal moments that have the highest emotional and visual impact. As you turn every page of this portfolio, you can see Keely immersing herself in Kaaron’s bleak world, where each word takes on a deeper meaning, evoking a mood, stimulating the possibility of a visual interpretation. This level of engagement makes for great art.

On a purely artistic level, despite Keely’s distinctive, idiosyncratic style, do I detect echoes of an Eastern European aesthetic—perhaps Czech? I’m now thinking of those bizarre Polish and Czech movie posters that have nothing whatsoever to do with the films they are meant to be spruiking, yet remain intriguing works of art on their own terms. Do I sense the influence of cover artists I grew up with – Richard Powers, or Bruce Pennington—hovering around Keely like the ghosts Theresa sees? Perhaps. Or perhaps that’s just me making connections with the artists who served as my inspirations. But then again, like the grief holes themselves, these things are “never seen the same by any two people”.

So look carefully. I’m trusting that after dutifully examining each sketch, each note-to-self, each final illustration, you might glean just what an extraordinary collective work of art Keely Van Order has created. In this case, knowing the magician’s tricks enhances Kaaron’s world.

And a personal thank you to Gerry Huntman for having the foresight and wisdom to connect Keely with Kaaron—a true symbiotic relationship—and for publishing this portfolio. It’s not often we are granted the opportunity to take a peek into an artist’s process, especially in such a handsome format.