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The Order of Oddfish

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The Odd-Fish Art of Diana Todd

February 25, 2010

I’ll be honest. When I put out the call for submissions to the Order of Odd-Fish art show, I expected good art. But I didn’t expect to get my socks rocked off like this. I can’t tell you what an awesome experience this has been, to see my handful of words blossom into gorgeous, skillful, colorful pictures. THANK YOU, ALL ARTISTS.

Today I want to share three pictures from Diana Todd—each one engagingly different, each one showcasing a different aspect of her prodigious talents.

The first one, above—Jo and Ian on their ostriches, with the Odd-Fish banner—is good enough to be a book cover. It’s beautiful! Diana’s clearly spent some time poring over photos of real ostriches, right down to their knock-kneed stance and the imperious look in their eyes. The armor and regalia are exquisite, especially the authentic-looking ostrich tack (stirrups!) and the semi-transparent feather headpiece. This is the best kind of art: doing the diligent research, and then setting it on fire with imagination! Marvelous!

By the way, the young ‘uns might not remember this, but there was a video game called JOUST back in the 1980s in which you fought battles on flying ostriches. I played this game obsessively on my Atari, and it is of course the inspiration for the ostriches of The Order of Odd-Fish.

Please, do yourself a favor and watch this 1980s commercial for the JOUST video game. It is in the grand tradition of 1980s commercials that imply, “If you buy our product, it will come to life and destroy your house.” Commercials were longer back then, giving them time to become completely insane. Hang on for the last thirty seconds—I won’t ruin it for you, but it’s positively Lynchian:

But wait, there’s more Diana Todd art! Such as this, Dame Delia’s field notes for the Schwenk:

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I can totally see Dame Delia snatching up a crumpled paper bag and scrawling these expert sketches of the beast as she chases it across Eldritch City. It might be too small to see here, but scribbled among the sketches are the notes “The Schwenk—Struthiconiicopteri Schwenkii” (I love the pseudo-Latin scientific name!) along with “sharp bill” and “crest is rarely raised” and “caught a glimpse of the bird in flight” and “tracked the bird around the city for several hours. It is just as elusive as Korsakov said!” This is beyond fan art; this is an authentic document from Eldritch City that somehow flew into our world.

Diana makes the Schwenk even more enigmatic by never fully revealing it, but only capturing it in a few hastily-executed sketches, each showing a different aspect. Making it feel that much more real. Masterful! At last, the Schwenk has found its John James Audubon.

And now, the last art from Diana—a tableau of the main characters of Odd-Fish. But since it’s Diana, this is no ordinary tableau. Everyone’s hanging by a thread!

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What a joyous, buoyant feeling this one has! Ian and Nora are hanging from Jo’s legs, and Korsakov and then Sefino are hanging from Ian’s leg, and Audrey’s hanging from Nora’s arm—and there’s Aunt Lily floating nearby with her own balloon (a reference to her reckless hot-air ballooning in California?), and the Belgian Prankster popping up in the corner. This is just wonderful composition, summing up the essence of all the characters in their expressions and body language.

I love the close attention to detail here. Who remembers Ian’s tan corduroy jacket? Diana does, apparently. And Nora’s Teenage Ichthala shirt is the perfect touch. But my favorite thing is how Colonel Korsakov is pouting about something . . . as though he had been unexpectedly scooped up by Nora’s foot, and is patiently enduring the indignity of flight. Another strength: I like how Sefino looks like a fop, but also looks like a real cockroach.

Smashing work, Diana! To be so talented so early in life is a gift. I’m honored that you’ve done such brilliant work for The Order of Odd-Fish. Thank you!