We can find something better than death anywhere!

by louisagiffard

As an exercise, I’ve been doing something I’ve never properly done. I’m illustrating a whole story. I chose to illustrate the folk tale The Bremen Town Musicians.

This has actually been a lot harder than I thought it would be, and I have a lot of illustrations to go, but I’ll show you five I’ve done so far.

The Bremen Town Musicians, for those who don’t know, is a story about four animals who leave their farms, because they have reason to believe that their owners are about to kill them. The animals decide that rather than waiting around to be finished off, they will travel to the town of Bremen and make a living as musicians. The story, and the illustrations are not quite so dark as some of the movie illustrations I’ve done, but the content of the story is an optimistic spin on a grim scenario. Then again, that’s the essence of fairy tales (what fairy tales don’t feature someone dying or being enslaved or having to escape death/being eaten?)

A certain man had a donkey that had carried sacks of corn to the mill untiringly for many years. But his strength was going and he was growing more and more unfit for work. Then, his master began to think that the donkey wasn’t worth his hay.  But the donkey, seeing that harm might come to him, ran away and started on the road to Bremen. “There,” he thought, “I can surely be the town musician!”

A certain man had a donkey that had carried sacks of corn to the mill untiringly for many years. But his strength was going and he was growing more and more unfit for work. Then, his master began to think that the donkey wasn’t worth his hay.
But the donkey, seeing that harm might come to him, ran away and started on the road to Bremen. “There,” he thought, “I can surely be the town musician!”

When he had walked some distance, he found a hound lying on the road, panting like one who had run until he was tired.  “What are you panting for, you big fellow?” asked the donkey. “Ah,” replied the hound, “As I am old and grow weaker every day and can hunt no more, my master wanted to kill me. So I ran away. But now how am I to earn a living?” “I’ll tell you what,” said the donkey, “I am going to Bremen and shall be the town musician there. Go with me and you can be a musician too!”  The hound agreed, and on they went.

When he had walked some distance, he found a hound lying on the road, panting like one who had run until he was tired.
“What are you panting for, you big fellow?” asked the donkey.
“Ah,” replied the hound, “As I am old and grow weaker every day and can hunt no more, my master wanted to kill me. So I ran away. But now how am I to earn a living?”
“I’ll tell you what,” said the donkey, “I am going to Bremen and shall be the town musician there. Go with me and you can be a musician too!”
The hound agreed, and on they went.

Before long, they came to a cat, sitting on the path, with a face as sad as three rainy days!  “now then, old one, what has gone wrong with you?” asked the donkey. “Who can be merry when her life is in danger?” answered the cat. “I am now getting old. My teeth are worn to stumps. I prefer to sit by the fire and sleep, rather than hunt about after mice. So my mistress wanted to drown me. That’s why I ran away. But now what am I to do? Where am I to go?” “Go with us to Bremen. You understand night music, so you can be a town musician.” The cat thought this was a good idea, and went with them.

Before long, they came to a cat, sitting on the path, with a face as sad as three rainy days!
“now then, old one, what has gone wrong with you?” asked the donkey.
“Who can be merry when her life is in danger?” answered the cat. “I am now getting old. My teeth are worn to stumps. I prefer to sit by the fire and sleep, rather than hunt about after mice. So my mistress wanted to drown me. That’s why I ran away. But now what am I to do? Where am I to go?”
“Go with us to Bremen. You understand night music, so you can be a town musician.”
The cat thought this was a good idea, and went with them.

After this, the three of them came to a farmyard where a rooster was sitting upon the gate, crowing with all his might. “Your crowing chills my bones,” said the donkey. “What is the matter?” “I have been predicting fine weather because it is the day on which the housewife does her washing and wants to hang it out to dry,” said the rooster. “But guests are coming for Sunday, so the housewife has no pity and has told the cook that she intends to eat me in the soup tomorrow. This evening, I am to have my head cut off! So I am crowing loudly while I still can.” “Ah, rooster,” said the donkey, “You had better come away with us.

After this, the three of them came to a farmyard where a rooster was sitting upon the gate, crowing with all his might.
“Your crowing chills my bones,” said the donkey. “What is the matter?”
“I have been predicting fine weather because it is the day on which the housewife does her washing and wants to hang it out to dry,” said the rooster. “But guests are coming for Sunday, so the housewife has no pity and has told the cook that she intends to eat me in the soup tomorrow. This evening, I am to have my head cut off! So I am crowing loudly while I still can.”
“Ah, rooster,” said the donkey, “You had better come away with us.

We are going to Bremen. You can find something better than death there. You have a good voice, and if we make music together it must have some quality!”

We are going to Bremen. You can find something better than death there. You have a good voice, and if we make music together it must have some quality!”

In case you are wondering how the images become realised, here are some in-progress steps.

musicians sketch

I drew the image, and then inked it with a fine brush.

The musicians - basic colour

Afterwards, a fairly flat layer of colour is applied. Leaving the image like this might be sufficient, but there’s not an awful lot of depth or dynamism to it.

We are going to Bremen. You can find something better than death there. You have a good voice, and if we make music together it must have some quality!”

And again, here is the finished image!

I have a lot of illustrations to go and I’ll be posting more of them in blocks when I finish more.

The dog is based on a Scottish Deerhound – I know they probably wouldn’t have had a Scottish Deerhound in 18th century Germany, but after all, this is Fairy Tale Land so it doesn’t really matter. And I’m not really that good at drawing cats…

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