The Artist - Andrea Perez Bessin
Can you please give us an intro into a couple of your favorite pieces from the past:
I enjoy working with the figure. Rather than working strictly representational, I enjoy playing with the proportions and work the figure to a point where it is entirely distorted, but still believable as a figure.
These pieces represent that experimental push and pull. The flat pattern is also at play with the illusion that the body occupies an additional dimensional space, while the pattern reinforces the two dimensionality of the substrate.
How did you find the process of creating a piece from a Sherlock Story?
It was a fun challenge to sit with a reading and slowly come up with ways to illustrate it in a single image. I wanted it to reference this particular reading without giving away too much. For the most part in my personal practice, I depend solely on my own ideas to come up with the content of my work, but in this case that was provided and it was nice to just focus on the illustration.
Tell us a bit about the method you used.
I wanted to allude to a certain Victorian/Edwardian aesthetic so I did some research on portraiture of the time. I looked up patterns and frames consistent with the time period and found inspiration in those. I picked some characters that were particular to this story as opposed to depicting Sherlock because these characters seemed aesthetically more compatible with the way I work and also because so many illustrators have already done a wonderful job depicting Sherlock. I worked the figures in the same stylized manner with charcoal and watercolor.
The Author - Tracy Revels
You've written quite a lot of Sherlock stories, how did you pick this one for the art project?
I knew the focus of the volume was on the 'supernatural-themed' pieces, so I first looked at those stories and tried to decide which one might best lend itself to an artistic interpretation. I decided on 'Vittoria, the Circus Belle' because I thought it would provide an interesting challenge for the artist to portray a main character who was hideous and beautiful at the same time. Also, I thought the circus motif of the story would be a lot of fun for someone to play with.
What has it been like to see your story turned into a piece of art?
It's been delightful! And its meaningful, to feel like half of a creative whole. So many people only imagine Sherlock Holmes in one way---that Victorian gentleman in the checkered cape with a big pipe. I think what this image---and all the art in the books---serves an important purpose. Art helps open up new worlds for Holmes to inhabit and new ways for readers to think about him as a character.
The piece is available as a print from The Conan Doyle Estate.
Tell us about your Shadowfall series which has had great reviews
First of all, thanks to the kind reviewers! I really enjoyed those projects, which sprang from a very simple idea. I noticed how often people in the canon told Holmes that he was a wizard. Well, what if they were right? That was the birth of the concept.
I wrote the first book, Shadowfall, as part of a summer research project. While my students did their work on 'serious' topics, I enjoyed researching all kinds of myths and legends, and thinking about ways I could use them in a supernatural Sherlock Holmes story.
With the second book, Shadowblood, I was able to send Holmes to Florida and weave in a lot of historical details about 19th century travel and tourism, as well as have Holmes and Watson meet some legendary good and bad guys (and girls!). As a historian, it's delightful to be able to pull in real people and imagine how they might have acted if they were involved in a case with Holmes.
"I said that Shadowfall is rather like an enjoyable nightmare. Shadowblood is even more enjoyable." Sherlock Holmes Society of London.
In Shadowwraith, I really poured in the references to saints, wizards, and a mysterious assistant, pitting Holmes against a being determined to wage war on reality. In other words, they're some crazy books! I always say that they may not be everyone's cup of tea, but to me the thing that makes Holmes immortal is his ability to be re-imagined in so many ways. It keeps him fresh and alive in our hearts. I hope someday to be able to write more in this 'Shadow' world of Holmes.
But of course, I love doing 'classical' pastiches as well, and I'm delighted to have been included in so many of the MX volumes.