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‘Suddenly, the sea swelled and a giant whale broke its surface…’

Illustration for The Three Sisters, from Oxford Treetops Greatest Stories: Grimm, retold by Jan Davidson, published by Oxford University Press, 2016.

Ink on Strathmore Bristol, vellum surface, approx. 160 x 235 mm.

I originally wanted to draw a sperm whale for this, simply as a change from humpback whales which I love and which I tend to default towards (see my illustrations for How the Whale got his Throat from Just So Stories, for instance). But once I’d sketched the rough, I found that a sperm whale from this perspective was decidedly visually dull. With little more than its head visible, it was essentially a slightly rounded off, rectangular block, with precious few details of interest. A humpback, with its tapering head, undulating contours, throat grooves, and long pectoral fins, was far and away the better candidate. It needed to be another humpback, and I was only too glad to draw it.