Flash Fiction February 2020 – “The Cardboard Box of Happiness”

I continue with my illustrations for Flash Fiction February 2020, twenty-nine days of flash fiction stories at Fictive Dream,  an online fiction magazine featuring short stories.

For the event I created a small abstract painting for each selection – in fact, I did more than one painting per story. I am showing you all the images, day by day, throughout February. I’m also including a short write-up as to how I went about turning the authors’ words into pictorial representations.

I hope you’ll take a look at my art, then go to Fictive Dream, see which image editor Laura Black chose for the magazine, and read the story!

Thank you to Laura for her faith in my work and to the authors for such wonderful material to work with.

Today’s story is:

The Cardboard Box of Happiness by Fiona J. Mackintosh. Read it here at Fictive Dream.

Here are the artworks on their own:

and here they are with the banner.


This story depicts how hard it can be to see beyond what is happening right now, at this minute – to take a longer view; how foreknowledge of the future could change what actions or attitudes are taken today; and how this lack of perspective influences behavior and thinking. I used the same elements in both images but arranged them somewhat differently – the beggar’s blue tarp and cardboard box, the protagonist’s damaged heart, and the fresh blue sky.

Image 37 – I created squares for the tarp, box, and broken heart. I chose the color rusty red with corroded spots for the heart, as it is described as having “acid leaking from your young, corroding heart”. I made a blue sky to fit the story’s description of the day as fresh and optimistic. It also stands for the endless bright future in store for the protagonist in contrast with the beggar’s empty future under the same open sky.

Image 38 – I included the same elements as in Image 37 but arranged them more as a landscape, as I thought of the protagonist occupying a mental landscape with its features being her future, the doubt and fear she feels and she sees the beggar as having avoided (symbolized by his tarp and cardboard), and the acid despair she feels in her heart at this moment.

Read the story at Fictive Dream.

2 thoughts on “Flash Fiction February 2020 – “The Cardboard Box of Happiness”

  1. Laura (PA Pict)

    I really enjoy seeing the way you distill the key elements of the story into images. I have no clue what I might have created in response to this story but your pieces are perfect.

    1. Claudia McGill Post author

      Thank you. This story had many images representing more than one person, more than one vision of the future. First I had to sort them out in my mind and then figure out how to reintegrate them into an image that made sense with the story and was visually appealing. Once I had gone through this thought process, things fell into place and it was a matter of composing and arranging. I love the colors and shapes the story holds.

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