“i do believe in fairies!”

“you don’t mean to tell me that there is a fairy in this room!”

i credit my dad with my obsession with peter pan.

of course i grew up watching (repeatedly) the classic disney animated version.

and “peter pan’s flight” is still my favorite ride in all of the disney parks.

i didn’t read the book until i worked in a book store during college.  and it didn’t quite resonate with me.  but i’d say in the past five years, i’ve probably read it another ten times.  i guess i get it now.  barrie’s adventurous island.  the darlings’ daring escape into the night.  peter’s forgetfulness.  the lovely mermaids.  brave tiger lily.  the ridiculous pirates.

but perhaps i’m mixing what i grew up with into barrie’s marvelous prose.  before i even saw the disney film, i saw mary martin’s broadway performance in the cbs (re-)telecast.  (hook’s tarantella is just one of those things that sticks with you.  and mary-as-peter outsmarting him in the woods as that “mysterious lady.”)  i got to see the traveling show live with cathy rigby (can i watch the lost boys and the indians drum on the stage forever, please?!)  and i absolutely fell in love with p.j. hogan’s non-musical, very colorful, film version in 2007.  it’s in my top ten favorite movies ever.

i’ve read every peter pan retelling or twist telling i can get my hands on.  (there are a lot of awful ones out there, but i do enjoy dave barry & ridley pearson’s peter and the starcatchers series, for the record.)

all that to say, the story, just like peter, doesn’t get old.

i wanted to revisit neverland, and more particularly, the glowing stage presence, of everyone’s favorite pixie, tinker bell.  so i created a companion piece to my paintings “wendy loves peter pan.” and “off to neverland!” (my wendy & peter pieces which have both sold, but prints still available!)

so behold:  my process and iconography for “i do believe in fairies,” my faerie tale feet gouache painting ode to tinker bell.

see my process below, and then further down i’ll tell you everything from the original story hidden in the background!

tink halthegal blog 1
once i’ve done all my research (reading book, play, short stories, rewatching all the films and broadway versions, annotated editions, etc.), i finalize which drawings and shapes i want to use for the pattern background. so here’s the view through my magnifier lamp as i trace different objects that create the background pattern…
tink halthegal blog 2
here’s the final pattern drawing taped down to my illustration board. i’ll put a piece of transfer paper between the tracing paper and the board, and re-trace every line so that i can have the drawing on the board and paint around all the shapes.
tink halthegal blog 3
once the drawing is transferred, i’ll mix up my main background color (obsessed with what my instagram followers & i dubbed “morning moss”) and paint around each and every shape- it usually takes upwards of 5 hours and i have to do it in one sitting to keep the paint colour & smooth texture consistent.
tink halthegal blog 4
here’s a view once the background color is down and i’m mixing a color for each new shape. (all the mermaids shall be the same green; all the pirate swords are the same green; the lost boys are their own shade of green, etc.)
tink halthegal blog 5
for whatever reason, but probably so i can make them stand out as needed depending on how the rest of the piece turned out, i always paint the legs/feet/shoes of our main character as the very last thing. so here are all the different shades of green i mixed for the background on my trusty paper plates, and the finished nursery/stage at the bottom.
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here’s a zoomed-in shot of that nursery window with our london skyline and the second star to the right beckoning our adventurers on to more fantastical things.

 

tinker bell first appears in the stage production (it was a play to begin with, of course, then due to its tremendous theatrical success, barrie was “forced” to turn it into a readable novel; i’ve read the stage and prose versions multiple times, naturally) as a ball of light, flickering about the stage, looking in lamps and drawers for peter’s shadow that nana, the nurse dog, caught when peter had made an earlier visit to the darling family’s nursery window.

in light of this (theatre pun!), i wanted to weight the painting with a facsimile of the nursery set that opens the stage production.  so we see the beds of wendy, michael, & john, complete with the nightlights hanging by each of their beds (“the eyes a mother leaves behind for her children.”)  i also snuck in a teeny tiny pirate ship by the boys’ beds as they were ever so fond of playing pirates, even if forever bickering of who would play villainous captain jas. hook.

the open window not only lets tink and peter into the nursery, but lets the children out.  (& of course must always remain open if they are ever to return.  peter’s a bit bitter that by the time he finally flew back to his mother’s house, the window was shut and he had been replaced with another baby.  so he went back to neverland.  forever.)

nana’s doghouse is in the nursery, too, and i mimicked the london skyline that is seen in wendy‘s painting.  second star to the right (& straight on ’til morning; famous directions, although peter makes it up on the spot)* shining brightly as ever.

in the background you’ll find:

  • peter’s pipes (early illustrations from “peter in kensington gardens” show his musical side.)
  • skeleton leaves (not only what tink’s dress is made out of, but what she tries to send wendy afloat back to the mainland on in one of her many jealous pranks)
  • acorn (the “kiss” that peter gives wendy which saves her life when tink tells the lost boys to shoot down “the wendy bird.”)
  • thimble (the “kiss” that wendy gives peter, causing tink to pull her hair)**
  • pots and kettles (it’s why “she is called tinker bell because she mends the pots and kettles.”)
  • the lovely mermaids of neverland (another source of tink’s jealousy over her wayward, charming, flirtatious if clueless, peter.)
  • tiger lily (princess of the piccaninnies tribe, another contending female for peter’s affections)
  • there were “a million golden arrows” pointing the way to neverland for wendy, john, & michael, but i also painted them to look like the arrows of the lost boys (one that hits mother wendy) and the piccaninnies
  • hook’s hook
  • the pirates’ scabbards
  • one of each lost boy (tootles, nibs, slightly, curly, and the twins.)
  • hook’s poison (which tink drank to save peter’s life; the cause for peter to directly plead with the audience to “clap if you believe in fairies!” so that tink might live)
  • the mushroom chimney that hook sat on which revealed the long-sought-out hiding place of the lost boys’ underground burrow and commenced many schemes of kidnap and beguiling

 

and of course, floating in the left-hand corner is tink herself.  “exquisitely gowned in a skeleton leaf, cut low and square, through which her figure could be seen to the best advantage.  she was slightly inclined to embonpoint***.”

fun fact:  i intended to paint peter’s shadow on the nursery walls as it appears in the disney ride, but i obviously forgot.  i do hope you get the idea of our little minx and her jealous, protective self, even without peter’s lingering presence.  🙂

there were lots of other shapes i’d wished to fit in there to tell the tale, but i hope you’ll read the play.  read the book.  see the musical.  see the movie.  see the animated film.  relish in the unending adventures of neverland and the boy who refused to grow up.  and his fairy.

the painting shall debut at artisphere 2017 and i may or may not put prints and cards up on etsy before then.

the original painting is framed in black (painted image 11 x 11,” framed in black with a white mat to 16 x 16.”) and available for $525.  message me if interested!

 

*barrie took these instructions from robert lewis stevenson’s invitation to visit him at vailima, his estate in the samoan islands.  “you take the boat at san francisco, and then my place is the second to the left.” (the annotated peter pan, notes by maria tartar, w.w. norton & company, 2011; pg. 53.)

**according to the annotated peter pan, “young audiences participated in the early production, not just by clapping their hands to save tinker bell but also by throwing thimbles on stage to peter.” (page 41)

***embonpoint:  excessive plumpness, stoutness. as she should be.

“it’s possible.” {your own personal fairy godmother.}

fairy godmothers can be working for the heroines or their conniving adversaries.

they can be evil, or hold a grudge and take it out on the child.

“fairy godmothers” may be fairies- but they aren’t necessary alluded to as having wings- they can pretty much appear at will- or arrive via chariot (decked out with fiery dragons, or butterflies, depending on the occasion.)

madame d’aulnoy is perhaps the earliest user of fairy godmothers in fairy tales.  charles perrault famously used a fairy godmother as a replacement for the traditional cinderella tales where cinderella’s deceased mother is replaced by a gift-giving tree or a kind-spirited animal.

the thirteen (or 8 fates if you read perrault’s telling instead of the brothers grimm’s) wise women of the sleeping beauty can technically be classified as fairy godmothers because they give gifts.  beyond toys and treasures, they bestow gifts of charm and loveliness.

the moral of charles perrault’s cendrillon, or the little glass slipper, possibly the most familiar telling of the cinderella tales, ends with:

Charm is the true gift of the fairies;

Without it you’ve nothing; with it, all.

i’ve perhaps taken a bit of liberty with my fairy godmother piece, as there is no SET character of the fairy godmother throughout fairy tales, folktales, storybooks, or otherwise.

let’s look at my process for creating this painting in the faerie tale feet series, and then below, i’ll share where i got each specific background icon!

fgm blog 1
once in a great while, i’ll take my research to the outside world. here, a nearly-too-pretty to drink latte from the fair ladies at the village grind on pendleton street in west greenville. i brought my trusty li’l notebook and a couple books full of fairy godmother versions and madame d’aulnoy’s fairy tales, the earliest mentions of fairy godmothers.
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once i’ve done my research (see media pile in back corner of my drafting table!), i’ll start sketching the most obvious or recognizable icons that can help tell the story visually. so i’ll do thumbnails for layout, plus lots of versions of each shape until i find something that shall read clearly visually.
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here’s the final background pattern drawing!
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and once my drawing is done, i’ll tape it to my illustration board, put a bit of transfer paper in between, and retrace every line and shape…
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…. so the blue lines are what transferred when i retraced my drawing, so here i am painting with a teeny tiny brush around all the teeny tiny background shapes to fill in the background color– i have to do it in one sitting or it gets streaky. so that usually takes, oh, 5-7 hours at one go if i’m on a roll!
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once the background colour is done, i’ll paint one color at a time… i started with the frogs, then a bit of the wings…
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and more and more colours get added….
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almost done! the keys were fun to paint, but oh such tiny details. i painted them once in a mustard golden hue, then went over them again with literal shiny gold gouache.
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here’s the final painting and a beautiful photo of one of the fifteen stunning galleries dedicated to the “Art of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia, and Later South Asia” that i used for color scheme reference. i wanted her to match my “cinderella’s escape” painting so you could hang them side by side, but definitely wanted to give this one its own distinct vibe!

i’ve included background icons from these various fairy tales:

“The White Doe” told by Andrew Lang, via Madame D’Aulnoy (the dragons, for pulling chariots; a white dove; and a doe)

“La Sendraoeula,” an italian cinderella tale (the acorn, which cinderella taps with a wand and “a lovely dress like stars with golden shoes” appears)

“The Blue Bird,” by Madame D’Aulnoy (big flying frogs; the beautiful bird, actually the prince King Charming under enchantment from his beloved Florine’s rival and wicked stepsister Truitoone’s god-mother Soussio, the fairy)

“Finette Cendron,” by Madame D’Aulnoy (the golden key to open the fairy casket full of gifts which the more you took from it, the more there was in it; also starry diamond bursts, as her dress was “a gown of blue satin covered with stars of diamonds”)

Quite possibly the earliest cinderella telling, by greek historian strabo, from the first century b.c., in which the egyptian courtesan rhodopis is bathing in the nile and an eagle carries her shoe to memphis and drops it in the king’s lap, prompting him to search for the shoe’s owner and marry her. (the egyptian sandal)

“Cendrillon, or, The Little Glass Slipper,” by Charles Perrault, 1697 (the pumpkin for the carriage; the clock about to strike midnight)

i also added wings, because i would want some if i were a fairy godmother.

fgm blog header
top left corner detail from “it’s possible.”

and for good measure, here are a few favourite fairy godmother quotes i came upon in my usual miles upon tomes of miles of my research:

  • “a folktale is not just the spoken equivalent of a literary short story.  it has no set text, but is endlessly re-created in the telling.” ~neil philip, the cinderella story, the origins and variations of the story known as ‘cinderella’ 
  • “oh!  i’ve lost one of the shoes off my feet,” said trembling.                                            “don’t mind that; don’t be vexed,” said the henwife; “maybe it’s the best thing that ever happened to you.”~from “fair, brown, and trembling,” an irish cinderella tale, 1890.
  • “and it is not difficult to imagine how happy they were after having known so many hardships.” ~from madame d’aulnoy’s “the blue bird,” circa 1895.
  • “everything that a baby could possibly wear or play with was there, and, besides, they had other and more precious gifts to give her, which only children who have fairies for godmothers can ever hope to possess.” ~from andrew lang’s telling of “the white doe,” by madame d’Aulnoy, 1906.
  • “the glass slipper is where i got the idea i might not be the best fairy godmother.  if you think about it, it’s completely impractical, uncomfortable, and un-walkable-in.  but i’m good at shoes.  the shoes are the only thing that last beyond midnight.  everything else turns back.”  ~helena bonham carter, on playing the fairy godmother in kenneth branagh’s cinderella, 2015.
  • “there’s a lot of power in godmothering.  it’s like being a part of history.”  ~from terry pratchett’s witches abroad, 1991.
  • “will she live happily ever after?” he said.                                                                              NOT FOREVER.  BUT PERHAPS FOR LONG ENOUGH.                                                            and so stories end.”           ~from terry pratchett’s witches abroad, 1991.
  • “The Authors, are in Eternity.”  ~william blake, 1803.
  • “The story is, after all, what matters.”  ~p. l. travers, about the sleeping beauty, 1975.

you can purchase the original 11 x 11″ gouache painting already framed for $425.  message me! ( halthegal @ hotmail . com )

you can also purchase the large matted print HERE on my etsy shoppe, the greeting card HERE on my etsy shoppe, and the small framed print HERE.

“go!  with the promise of possibility!”

& have a magical day!

*halthegal.

“just as sane as luna.”

inspired by everyone’s favorite dreamy-eyed, wrackspurt-seeing ravenclaw luna lovegood, this faerie tale feet piece pays homage to all who live in their own clouds of wonder.  and all those who hold fiercely to their beliefs of what others may doubt, especially the unwavering power of friendship.

let’s take a peek through my process and then i’ll reveal all the hidden background icons you’ll find in your new art!

luna blog 1
i reread the entire HP series with the intention of painting ron’s feet first, but i couldn’t help but take copious notes on one gal who just hears the drums for herself and dances anyway. so my sketching icon ideas for luna began…
luna blog 2
once i narrowed down which shapes i wanted to use in the background, i created my patterned background drawing, here ready to transfer onto watercolor paper. (she’s the same size as my harry & hermione pieces.)
luna blog 3
i looooove how glassy and dreamy the soft glazes of purple turned out for the background color. i painted ArouND most of the icons, but a few i gave a light wash over so that the colors would be cohesive and not get too loud. (i always try, even if i do fail, not to make my paintings to garishly brite! i promise!)
luna blog 4
here’s just in-progress on the luna piece. as you’ll notice, in my original drawing, i was going to give her baby doll shoes (endemic to the hogwarts’ uniform shoes the girls wear) and was going to decorate them with sunflowers, as she wore a sunflower in her hair to fleur & bill’s wedding in book 7. however, loyal online fans pointed out how it might be a BIT more luna-esque if we gave her her signature hightop kicks. so we went back to the drawing board…
luna blog 5
my wonderful cuz-in-law was kind enough to come over on a sunshiny day and pose in her chucks for me. needless to say, if you’ve ever tried, converse (& all sneakers for that matter), are very hard to draw. it took quite a bit of effort and perpetual re-dos to get them just right. (a few iterations were a bit too ronald mcdonald-like. snorkacks forbid!!)
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so here are the NEW shoes, inked over the best i could erase the transfer lines from the original drawing… much better, methinks.
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and voila! here’s the right-hand corner of the finished luna piece.

 

so what all is in the background telling the luna’s story from the three books she appears in? here we go…

  • her necklace of butterbeer caps
  • ravenclaw shield (when harry & luna are looking for the now-horcrux diadem of rowena ravenclaw, we get a sneak peek into the mind of a ravenclaw.  instead of a password, they have to answer a question.  “which came first, the phoenix or the flame?”  luna’s reply, “…i think the answer is that a circle has no beginning.” – book 7; pg. 587. definitely my kind of people.)
  • thestrals [only she and harry can see them pulling the students’ carriages to hogwarts because they have both seen death firsthand (book 5; page 199, from where our painting title derives.)  thestrals definitely make hagrid’s care of magical (invisible?) creatures lesson all the more interesting.  they also make a spectacular appearance later when the brave DA members must get to the department of mysteries.]
  • her orange radish earrings (book 5; page 261)
  • her roaring gryffindor hat to show her support during quidditch
  • mistletoe (“it’s often infested with nargles.” book 5; pg. 453.)
  • spectrespecs (“…which gave her the look of a demented, multicolored owl.” book 6; pg. 138.)
  • gurdyroots (onion-like things given to ron to ward off gulping plimpies.)
  • her father’s golden deathly hallows symbol (he wore it as a necklace to bill & fleur’s wedding; it lead harry, ron, & hermione to xenophilius’ house in book 7.)
  • the explosive erumpet horn (which luna and xenophilius incorrectly believed to be a harmless crumple-horned snorkack horn)
  • the lovegood home (which looked like a rook- the castle chess piece in wizard’s chess.)
  • silver hare patronus (it’s only mentioned very late in book 7, but they show it in the fifth movie which i find amazing.)
  • her bright yellow robes worn to the weasley/delacour wedding; i’ve put a silver trim on the hem because of the silver robes she wore when harry took her (as friends) to slughorn’s Christmas party in book 6.
  • and of course her sneakers are all her own.

 

 

“just as sane as luna,” from the faerie tale feet series by hallie m. bertling.

gouache on watercolor paper, 6 x 14.”

the original painting is currently available for $450.  email me ( halthegal @ hotmail . com ) if you wish to claim her.  🙂

click through to follow the links to my etsy shoppe for…

large matted luna print

small framed luna print

luna greeting card

luna, harry, & hermione card set

 

 

 

 

“the language of a lady.”

inspired by bernard shaw’s pygmalion and alan jay lerner & frederick loewe’s my fair lady, my faerie tale feet pice “the language of a lady” just happens to be my new favorite.

shaw’s dialogue is quick and witty, and full of language puns and jokes and just all-around classic interactions between his characters.  he wrote the play in just three months back in 1912, the first english production of the play was in april of 1914, and not until march 15, 1956 did the musical version appear on broadway starring none other than a 21 year-old julie andrews and the indefatigable rex harrison.

HIGGINS     Remember that you are a human being with a soul and the divine gift of articulate speech:  that your native language is the language of Shakespear and Milton and The Bible; and don’t sit there crooning like a bilious pigeon.

i’ll show you a few pictures of my research and painting process, and then below i’ll share what all of the background icons allude to from the text!  enJOY!

my-fair-lady-1
so i do a lot of my research at my husband’s studio at taylor’s mill. here’s a view from where i sit at his reading desk reading, taking notes, and doodling ideas in my sketchbook. (he’s a realistic oil painter and portrait draftsman as you can tell from some of the work on the walls. check him out at nathanbertling.com!)
my-fair-lady-sketches
after i take lots of notes from the original text, i seek out reference materials to inspire posture, poses, and costume choices. early on, i knew the bow was going to be spectacular. and the shoes i used, instead of slippers as they appear in the film and stage versions, are inspired by a fancy pair of ballenciaga pumps i found in vogue last year or so…
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here’s the pattern drawing created from icon sketches in my sketchbook!
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i went with a beautiful subtle pink wash for the background of this piece. the first step is transferring down the drawing, and then painting around all of the shapes with the same background colour…
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i used a heavier watercolour paper than usual for this piece, and it was super*absorbant… so needless to say, it took lots and lots and lots of layers of colour to build up any contrast and vibrancy…
my-fair-lady-4
i paint at home, surrounded by my books. so here’s my little corner of the world, you can see my paper paint palettes (great for re-using spots of color), my tins full of gouache, and the original pattern drawing on tracing paper.
my-fair-lady-5
i always save the feet and shoes for last when working on a piece. it just seems fitting for the whole “faerie tale feet” concept. so here’s a mostly finished background painting while about to nervously begin the leg and fancy shoe of miss eliza doolittle….
my-fair-lady-6
ta*da! the magnifying lamp i use to paint gives me seemingly endless potential for painting tiny tiny spaces. so the jewels on her shoe turned out rawther well, i dare say… but the bow is still my favourite part of this piece, i think! 🙂

so here are what the shapes in the background represent…

  • the sailor hat of black straw (eliza doolittle as a flower girl selling violets in covent garden, where our story begins)
  • her flower basket
  • violets spewing out of the phonograph (she was selling violets, and as she tells henry higgins later in act V, “…the difference between a lady and a flower girl is not how she behaves, but how she’s treated.”)
  • the birdcage (one of two possessions she sent for from her own flat once she moved in as the grand experiment of henry higgins to make good on his bet to “make a duchess of this draggletailed guttersnipe.”)
  • the phonograph (in henry higgins’ study, for listening to records of dialect, and for eliza to practice repeating sounds as she developed proper english speech patterns)
  • the tuning fork (again, another instrument found in the stage and set directions for higgins’ study)
  • the 3 ostrich feathers of orange, sky blue, & red (what eliza doolittle had on her hat when she came to ask for lessons from professor higgins; her best attire, which he had burned.)
  • the bathtub (poor flower girl eliza thought she would drown if she ever washed more than her face.)
  • the tan men’s hat (for professor higgins, a “confirmed old bachelor”)
  • the red slippers (what eliza threw at professor higgins after he refused to give her credit for all her hard work passing as a lady out in society, but also the last line of the 1964 film where he says merely at eliza’s return “where the devil are my slippers?”)
  • the piece of sanskrit (to represent colonel pickering, returned from india to meet henry higgins, author of ‘higgins’ universal alphabet’; as higgins claimed he was going to india to meet pickering, the author of ‘spoken sanskrit.’)
  • the mustache (nepommuck, a former pupil of higgins’ who at the ball claimed eliza was a fraud, believing her to be of hungarian royal blood as her english was too good.)
  • the tophat (for alfred doolittle, eliza’s father, who sings both “with a little bit of luck,” and once higgins has turned him into an unfortunate member of the middle class for his philosophical ramblings on morality, in his tux sings “get me to the church on time” on his nite out before his wedding.)
  • the racehorse, dover, for eliza nearly giving herself away with everyone’s favorite movie line, “come on, dover!!!  move your bloomin’ arse!!!”(the race wasn’t in the stage version, they merely had tea; i think the “ascot gavotte” number is just delightful and i’m glad they added it to the film.)
  • on the front of the phonograph, i painted eliza’s opera fan she carried to the ball
  • the suitcase (another favorite number of an empowered woman, eliza sings “show me” to her pining suitor freddy eynsford-hill as she storms out of higgins’ flat after the ball.  shaw was adamant that higgins and eliza do NOT end up together romantically, but that she does indeed marry freddy and open a flower shop and they are content to be poor and lead a simple life.  hollywood changed the ending to an implied relationship between higgins & eliza, which i think could have worked on a friendship level, but he was too boorish to deserve her is what i say.)
  • and last, but not least, i put a penguin in there.  why?  well, a favorite piece of trivia i discovered while researching these works was that rex harrison (who played henry higgins in both the stage & film versions) would cry out “where’s my penguin?!” during rehearsals when he wanted to compare his broadway lines and lyrics to shaw’s original text.  as a true englishman, someone would have to bring him his penguin classic edition of the 1912 text to ensure lerner was remaining faithful to the artistic truth of shaw’s words.  well, rex did this all the time, so the producers finally got him a taxidermied penguin!  he got the joke, never asked for his book again, and kept the penguin in his dressing room for the run of the show.  (three years on broadway before the cast took it to london!)

 

another piece of trivia you may be wondering about is why if the broadway and london stage production was such a hit, why julie andrews wasn’t used in the film.  well, the hollywood producers didn’t think her name had enough marquee punch to it, so they cast a well-known actress instead, a miss audrey hepburn (whose singing voice was dubbed).  which, i will forgive them, because in 1964 (the same year), a mr. walt disney made a super star out of julie andrews with a little film called “mary poppins.”  i’m glad we have both even if i do wish there was a recording of julie andrews in this role outside of just the cast album.

(a great book i thoroughly enjoyed if you’re a fan of the film was loverly:  the life and times of my fair lady by dominic mchugh, oxford university press, (c) 2012.  i am fascinated by the creative process and recommend it for a further look behind the scenes of stage & film versions!)

okay, if you’ve made it this far, you may be interested to know that you CAN indeed purchase prints and cards of this piece on the halthetal etsy shoppe.  (coming soon!)

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cards available here:  http://etsy.me/2kVnlFY

and the original painting is available framed for $585.  email me!

 

 

“stages of blue.” pinocchio’s blue fairy.

carlo collodi’s “pinocchio” is a well-beloved tale, i suppose.  but the book is shockingly more disturbing than the “pinocchio” movie that i grew up with.  pinocchio is not a sympathetic character.  you too repeatedly want to throw him in with the kindling.  he’s just awful.  and gullible.  and ill-behaved.  which makes me all the MORE grateful for the geniuses at the walt disney story department who brought this great tale to life (story pun!) in a memorable, and palatable, way.  (there’s a rumor the character was inspired by one of colloid’s more obnoxious students… teachers, i sympathize with you, anyway.)

“be careful, pinocchio.  these bad companions will, sooner or later, make you lose your love of books, and may even bring some misfortune upon you.”  ~the good (blue) fairy

i’ll show you the process of painting this faerie tale feet piece, and then below share with you all the shapes hidden in the background from the original stories/book.

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because we all know pinocchio as a marionette who was forced to perform with no strings for the puppet show, i wanted for the first time to create a 3-d shadowbox piece imitating the theatre stage. so here’s the beginnings of the proscenium with the blue fairy’s feet featured in the center.
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here are 4 of the 5 layers to the original piece. the stage curtains and proscenium, the stage lights, the stage, and monstro and the waves trying to once again engulf the fleeing pinocchio, gepetto, cat, and goldfish.
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once the layers were done, i needed to paint the background pattern. so this is how i transfer it- with my pattern drawing on a piece of tracing paper taped to my illustration board… and then pressing down with my ink-less hello kitty pen with transfer paper in between to leave grey lines i can paint around.
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because i use gouache as an opaque medium, i have to paint the background color in one sitting. thankfully i have a magnifying lamp that helps me see around all those tiny shapes as i paint around each icon for literally hours on end… so here are the first few minutes, beginning in the top left corner of my board!
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here’s the background painted in and some of the shapes painted in, too…
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more colors are added one at a time across the board until the background is complete… paint paint paint.. patience paint and patience…
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here’s zoomed out for a bit of scale. the orange square (background pattern painting) is 11″ square. and yes, i mix my paints on paper plates. 🙂
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here’s a view of my tins full of gouache tubes and the pieces all painted and read to be framed together in 3d…!
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here’s a detail shot of the blue fairy flying over the background!
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and here is the final pieces of the painting all framed together. it’s so beautiful in real life, i wish you were in my living room/studio to see it…!

so what’s hiding in the background from carlo collodi’s original tale?

here we go… (with a few bonus trivia facts thrown in for good measure.)

  • the talking/kicking stick of wood that gepetto carved into pinocchio the puppet (there’s a fight with his friend antonio about it when he calls gepetto “polenta,” the color of his hair that he’s teased for)
  • the talking cricket
  • ^which pinocchio smashed with a mallet when he tried to give him good advice (the ghost cricket reappears in later chapters)
  • the puppet show manager, known as “Fire-Eater” who had a long black beard
  • the gold coins that the fox and cat convinced pinocchio to bury so a tree would grow with more coins on it- i painted italy on the gold coins and marked the town of “collodi” with a tiny dot- collodi was the village in tuscany where the author’s mother was from, not his real name.
  • feathers from the black bird eaten by the cat
  • the cat who pretended to be a blind beggar
  • the devious fox who repeatedly tricked pinocchio and lead him to do naughty things and even hung him at one point.  and tried to get him eaten by a giant serpent… i tell ya, the book is just awful!
  • the snail with a lamp on his head at the blue fairy’s house that sloooooooooooowly took all night to come downstairs and let pinocchio out of the rain after he’d been chained up like a dog and bribed by the fox to steal the chickens (so complicated; and such a long story for such a short book; which was actually originally just published chapter by chapter in an italian children’s journal)
  • the dog-fish (in the disney movie, thankfully, it’s a giant whale.  in the book, depending on the multiple english translations i read, monstro is a dog-fish or a shark… regardless, i don’t want to be swallowed by one, so i painted him as cutely as possible.)
  • a headband of donkey ears for Playtime Land (or Pleasure Island) where the boys are turned into donkey slaves and sold at auction.
  • the golden locket pinocchio sees on the blue fairy (who’s really a dead ghost girl with blue hair) at the circus where he’s been performing tricks as a donkey.

i think that’s all i got in there!  🙂

i recommend the film over the book.  but curiosity would well be quenched with this crazy piece of children’s literature.

original framed piece available for $575.  email me at halthegal @ hotmail. com to inquire!

greeting cards and limited edition prints shall be availably shortly on my etsy site.  stay tuned!

here are a few memorable blue fairy quotes from the original text:

  • “yes, i promised it. now all depends on you.”
  • “be careful, pinocchio. these bad companions will, sooner or later, make you lose your love of books, and may even bring some misfortune upon you.”
  • “boys are quick to make promises, but are sometimes slow about keeping them.”
  • “in this world, one must be courteous to all, if one would expect courtesy in the hour of need.”

on story. & books. & shoes.

i recently got to share my love of books and stories (& how they so drastically affect my art) to some tenth grade english classes at  a local high school.  here’s a bit of what i shared.  (hopefully they caught most of it through the panic hiccups and mumbling at the parts i didn’t think they’d care about.)  🙂

and since i often get asked “why feet?,” this may help explain things, too…

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Fairy tales originated in the court of Louis XIV.  When they fell out of fashion, they found their way into the realm of children’s literature and nursery story-telling.

This fancy guy is Louis XIV.  Madame D’Aulnoy was one of the most famous fairy tale tellers at court, and Andrew Lang adapted many of her stories in his fairy tale collections.

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To me, it’s the typical absence of particular details about the character that makes fairy tales all the more alive and more appealing to a larger audience.  I can see myself as Little Red Cap (as the Brothers Grimm called her; she’s more commonly known as “Little Red Riding Hood.”)  I can imagine being trapped in a tower.  We have all felt bullied by siblings or supposed friends, and spent time wishing that something miraculous would happen and we’ll end up in the best outfit at the best occasion dancing with the most popular person there and will our sleeping-in-the-cinders existence good-bye.  We dream big and hope for the happy ending.

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P.L. Travers, the author of the Mary Poppins novels, commented on how fairy tales are and always have been in “continuous process of transformation.”  Every culture has its own Cinderella telling.  Going back to the earliest recorded telling, we come to the Greek historian Strabo in the first century B.C. who told the story of the Egyptian courtesan Rhodopis.  She was bathing in the Nile, an eagle carried her shoe to Memphis and dropped it in the King’s lap; he searched for the shoe’s owner and married her.  The oldest Cinderella tale we have written down is “Yeh-hsien,” from China, from somewhere between 800 and 863 A.D.

The Brothers Grimm weren’t authors, they actually went around Europe collecting folk tales for their fairy tale collections.  And, as folktales are told orally, they are “endlessly re-created in the telling,” as Neil Philip says.  And so, we get to claim our own fairy tales.  Our own myths.  Our own stories.  There may be a formula (just ask Joseph Campbell to analyze Luke Skywalker, Harry Potter, and/or King Arthur), but there are no rules.  We get to live our own adventure, and live endlessly through those we find in books.

Terry Pratchett has a quirky novel, Witches Abroad (which I recently read while doing research for my “fairy godmother” faerie tale feet piece), in which three bumbling fairy godmothers are trying to undo or redo and scoot behind the scenes to prevent Cinderella’s happy ending as we know it.  Granny Weatherwax, not the smartest or most philosophical, just knew of her own role in history “…that there were certain things that happened continually in human history, like three-dimensional clinches.  Stories.”

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The rest is prologue.

So why am I talking about stories?

Because I LOVE stories.  I love reading them.  I love researching them.  I love sharing them.  And I love painting them!

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My recent body of work is called “faerie tale feet,” and I’ve been exploring well-known fairy tales, pieces of classic literature, books, plays, and musicals.  I do lots of research into the original tales and every alternate-telling version of the story I can find, and then I start sketching.

I hide things from the original story in the background of the piece, and then only finish the main character’s feet- so that the viewer can step into the story for themselves.  True to traditional fairy tale tellings, the character is the every-man.  The every-boy, the every-girl.  It’s you and me and anyone who gets sucked into a good tale.  And just like our opening quote from Madeleine L’Engle, that stories teach us empathy, there’s a great quote from Atticus Finch:

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So I’ve chosen to paint the characters’ feet so we can “walk around” in them.  And since you’re about to start your fables and mythology unit, it seemed fitting that I could come and talk to you about some well-known favorite stories.  So we’ll talk a bit about the original writings or tellings, what I hid in the background of each piece, and my process for creating the work.  

Now while I studied illustration at the Savannah College of Art and Design, I grew up with fairy tales, and as all children do, I kind of taught myself how to draw.  My dad was in the Navy, and for those pre-kindergarten formative years, we lived on Okinawa, Japan.  There were no English television channels aside from the Disney Channel, so I grew up on the animated classics. 

When we moved back to the States, I was enraptured with Shelley Duvall’s “Faerie Tale Classic Theatre” which was on PBS.  They were hour-long live-action tellings of faerie tales, obviously, and each one had a famous special guest star.  Horrendously low-budget (or at least lo-tech), they were enough to stimulate imagination and give me a deep appreciation and fascination with these stories that have rooted themselves in worldwide culture in some form or another.

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(Yes, that’s Robin Williams as The Frog Prince, Michael Richards (Kramer from “Seinfeld”) with PeeWee Herman as Pinocchio, and the young & dashing Matthew Broderick as Prince Charming in the oft-watched “Cinderella.”)

The other thing I did as a kid (because I was a nerd and a huge Disney animation fan), was research the original works before Disney came out with the new movie.  I read Victor Hugo’s “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” at Awana summer camp, because I was fascinated by how the movie makers at Disney could take something so broad and dark and make it a watchable spectacle for a movie audience, mostly made up of children.  (That example is probably debatable, but same thing for Edgar Rice Burroughs’ “Tarzan,” or Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid.”  They’re very different from the books, but because folktale and fairy tale belong to the storytellers, they’re allowed to change and adapt and be told in different mediums.  And I’m fascinated by that process.)

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After college, among other things, I worked at three different Barnes & Nobles over a ten-year period, most often in the children’s department because that’s what I knew so much about, and because that’s pretty much what I still read.  I love sharing books and discovering new ones.  I collect works of favorite illustrators, and when I delve into a certain story, I like to collect all of the various editions that I can.

So yes, working at a bookstore got expensive, but it continues to add to my education.

After a number of other jobs while freelancing, I currently work part-time from home for my church, but I also go to a dozen or so art festivals every year where I get to share my art and my love of the stories they represent.

Since the class was about to start “fables and mythology,” and I’m still working on the piles of research for both my Merlin and Odyssey paintings, I shared my painting “just outlawe robyn hoode,” which also had miles of research behind it.

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The legend of Robin Hood goes WAY back and ranges from theories of “robyn hoode” being a nickname for any outlawe in ye olde english record books, to an actual historical figure… the legend changed with the times as the populace might be mad at government (Prince John, the Sheriff of  Nottingham) at one point in history, or angry at the church (yes, Friar Tuck is the bad guy in a good number of versions, too!) 

It was a lot of fun to research the varying tellings, and there is no shortage of adventure or daring in any tale of Robin Hood and his Merry Men.

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So let’s look at the final painting for things I hid in the background to help tell the story:

  • the silver arrow (won in an archery contest while robin hood was in disguise; later shot through the window of the sheriff of nottingham with a “note” on it.)
  • an archer (the merry men) in lincoln green
  • the crown (prince john, wrongly ruling while richard was “out of town.”)
  • a beard (robin hood was handsome with brown hair & a neat beard)
  • a fleur de lis (the english legends and tales had no girls in the stories. the french being the romantics that they are, added maid marian!)
  • robin hood’s famous feathered cap
  • a lion (king richard the lion hearted, returned from battle to marry robin hood and maid marian)
  • the silver bugle (kept at robin hood’s side to call his merry men if he were ever in danger)
  • a sword (yes, lots of sword fights, too.)
  • red deer (illegal, with the death penalty, to kill the king’s deer, it’s what robin hood and his merry men lived off of in sherwood forest. robin figured richard would forgive him upon his return for upholding justice for the commoners and against the evil sheriff of nottingham and prince john while richard was away. robin was correct, and was fully pardoned by the rightful king richard.)
  • a harp (the story of allan-a-dale, who enlisted the aid of robin hood, the merry men, and friar tuck to prevent his true love from having to marry an old & stinky bachelor as arranged by her father. they intervened and friar tuck performed the ceremony for allan-a-dale, a wandering minstrel, and his beloved bride.)
  • a target (in most tellings, robin hood is superb archer)

And here are some peeks into my process for this gouache (an opaque watercolor) faerie tale feet painting entitled “just outlawe robyn hoode.”  

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(You can read details of this process on the robin hood blog entry by clicking here.)

I am a Christian, and while God’s wisdom in telling HIS story through each of us is a divine mystery, I love being a part of it and seeing how other people’s story fit in to His big picture.

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shop the full collection of faerie tale feet pieces at halthegal.etsy.com

 

your own personal fairy godmother

you’ll notice the fairy godmother isn’t colored yet.

that’s because as of right now, the ONLY way you can see her is in the golden wing luxe box- a surprise box filled with handmade and artsy treasures that you can get in time for Christmas right HERE on my etsy shoppe.

i’ll probably paint her next year, but as for now, here’s a bit about this exclusive coloring page…

fairy godmothers can be working for the heroines or their conniving adversaries.

they can be evil, or hold a grudge and take it out on the child.

“fairy godmothers” may be fairies- but they aren’t necessary alluded to as having wings- they can pretty much appear at will- or arrive via chariot (decked out with fiery dragons, or butterflies, depending on the occasion.)

madame d’aulnoy is perhaps the earliest user of fairy godmothers in fairy tales.  charles perrault famously used a fairy godmother as a replacement for the traditional cinderella tales where cinderella’s deceased mother is replaced by a gift-giving tree or a kind-spirited animal.

the thirteen (or 8 fates if you read perrault’s telling instead of the brothers grimm’s) wise women of the sleeping beauty can technically be classified as fairy godmothers because they give gifts.  beyond toys and treasures, they bestow gifts of charm and loveliness.

the moral of charles perrault’s cendrillon, or the little glass slipper, possibly the most familiar telling of the cinderella tales, ends with:

Charm is the true gift of the fairies;

Without it you’ve nothing; with it, all.

i’ve perhaps taken a bit of liberty with my fairy godmother piece, as there is no SET character of the fairy godmother throughout fairy tales, folktales, storybooks, or otherwise.

i’ve included background icons from these various fairy tales:

“The White Doe” told by Andrew Lang, via Madame D’Aulnoy (the dragons, for pulling chariots; a white dove; and a doe)

“La Sendraoeula,” an italian cinderella tale (the acorn, which cinderella taps with a wand and “a lovely dress like stars with golden shoes” appears)

“The Blue Bird,” by Madame D’Aulnoy (big flying frogs; the beautiful bird, actually the prince King Charming under enchantment from his beloved Florine’s rival and wicked stepsister Truitoone’s god-mother Soussio, the fairy)

“Finette Cendron,” by Madame D’Aulnoy (the golden key to open the fairy casket full of gifts which the more you took from it, the more there was in it; also starry diamond bursts, as her dress was “a gown of blue satin covered with stars of diamonds”)

Quite possibly the earliest cinderella telling, by greek historian strabo, from the first century b.c., in which the egyptian courtesan rhodopis is bathing in the nile and an eagle carries her shoe to memphis and drops it in the king’s lap, prompting him to search for the shoe’s owner and marry her. (the egyptian sandal)

“Cendrillon, or, The Little Glass Slipper,” by Charles Perrault, 1697 (the pumpkin for the carriage; the clock about to strike midnight)

i also added wings, because i would want some if i were a fairy godmother.

take a look at my process for creating this piece, and then enjoy a few quotes on fairies, fairy tales, and from fairy godmothers below…

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my stack of reference books, and a few great movies to inspire me while i sketch out ideas and shapes for this final piece.
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after i reduce down all of my ideas from reading all the fairy tales that included fairy godmothers, i decide on the shapes i want to use and i trace them to fill in the background pattern.
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using an 02 micron pen, the background starts to fill up!
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i just had to share this page, images i’d never seen before of the miraculous dress transformation animation by master animator marc davis. with special effects animation overlay on the right. just mind-blowing.
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i highly recommend this book which was released when disney put out their live action version of cinderella. of course the classic animated one is an all-time favorite movie, but this book had lots of great anecdotes on the making-of the animated one, the creation of the new movie directed by kenneth branagh, and lots of great background information on traditional cinderella tellings.
  • “a folktale is not just the spoken equivalent of a literary short story.  it has no set text, but is endlessly re-created in the telling.” ~neil philip, the cinderella story, the origins and variations of the story known as ‘cinderella’ 
  • “oh!  i’ve lost one of the shoes off my feet,” said trembling.                                            “don’t mind that; don’t be vexed,” said the henwife; “maybe it’s the best thing that ever happened to you.”~from “fair, brown, and trembling,” an irish cinderella tale, 1890.
  • “and it is not difficult to imagine how happy they were after having known so many hardships.” ~from madame d’aulnoy’s “the blue bird,” circa 1895.
  • “everything that a baby could possibly wear or play with was there, and, besides, they had other and more precious gifts to give her, which only children who have fairies for godmothers can ever hope to possess.” ~from andrew lang’s telling of “the white doe,” by madame d’Aulnoy, 1906.
  • “why i do what i do for a living is really because of those moments walt did for me as a kid in the audience.  what he did for audiences all over the world:  blending story and art and animation and music and color and everything together to craft these incredible emotions.  happiness and hope and joy; good over evil.”  ~john lasseter
  • “the glass slipper is where i got the idea i might not be the best fairy godmother.  if you think about it, it’s completely impractical, uncomfortable, and un-walkable-in.  but i’m good at shoes.  the shoes are the only thing that last beyond midnight.  everything else turns back.”  ~helena bonham carter, on playing the fairy godmother in kenneth branagh’s cinderella, 2015.
  • “there’s a lot of power in godmothering.  it’s like being a part of history.”  ~from terry pratchett’s witches abroad, 1991.
  • “will she live happily ever after?” he said.                                                                              NOT FOREVER.  BUT PERHAPS FOR LONG ENOUGH.                                                            and so stories end.”           ~from terry pratchett’s witches abroad, 1991.
  • “The Authors, are in Eternity.”  ~william blake, 1803.
  • “The story is, after all, what matters.”  ~p. l. travers, about the sleeping beauty, 1975.

“anne with an E.”

while not a child in the books for very long, anne is remembered as the dreamy, poetry-quoting chatterbox of book one in l.m. montgomery’s “anne of green gables” series of novels and short stories.

it was anne’s passion for beauty in life– in her deep love of all the quirky characters she met along life’s winding path that helped her grow into the resplendent, graceful, poised, grown-up anne we probably all aspire to be.

passionate in conviction and temper, she never aged because she never lost the youthful glow of wonderment.

anne continued to be surprised by the beauty of each new spring, and welcomed each new neighbor into her roster of collected characters.  from pithy & pious rachel lynde (my personal favorite just because she made me laugh the most) to finally releasing her grudge against handsome gilbert blythe.

the eventual mrs. dr. cared for her neighbors, dressed impeccably, played matchmaker more than she needed to, and probably never got rid of those 7 freckles on her nose.

her family grew in excellence of character for she never laughed at her children’s woes, but nurtured them in spirit and hope.

while my life’s winding path will never resemble the idylls of rural canada, and my home currently won’t fit six children, and while i’ll never have the carrot*red hair of anne (& my mother’s!), she gives me much to aspire to.

much like peter pan, anne of green gables embodies youth, joy, and freedom.  but somehow, unlike peter, anne maintains this quality of life even as a grown*up.  and what’s more elegant than that?

look out below for my process of painting my faerie tale feet piece “anne with an E.” inspired by l.m. montgomery’s 8 anne of green gables novels.  (there are a few more short story collections from avonlea and anne’s life with gil that i still need to read, but after 8 books, i had WAY more than enough anne escapades and adventures to include in this painting!  trust me, these 24 border icons took a lot of editing down from my many notecards of anne anecdotes & memorable quotes!)  🙂

 

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so i picked up my niece from school and took her shoe “shopping” to be my model anne walking on the roof of the kitchen… thankfully she had not as far to fall on the squishy benches. and i found a lot of “modern” anne fall boots i’d love to own! i also modeled myself in my husband’s art studio for a bit more weightiness to the balancing act.
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after going back through all my margin notes from the novels, i start collecting imagery and sketching ideas…
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once my final icons were decided upon, i made them into a quilt-like border instead of my usual patterned background. some shapes were just going to work better as mini-paintings instead of silhouettes. so this is the first time i’ve done that for a faerie tale feet piece! and i think it works well for avonlea ladies were always quilting and sewing for their neighbors in need or celebrating!
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starting to add colour here… i really love how the carpet bag turned out… and manilla’s amethyst broach…
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i wasn’t super happy with the first boots i’d drawn, so i re-did that portion of the painting. you see here my new sketch ready to transfer down onto the almost-all painted roof and background starting to come together…
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here’s a detail shot of the limited edition prints you can get on etsy (or if you see me at an art festival!) one of my favorite patches are gog and magog- the chinese sculpture dogs anne inherits from patty (of patty’s place!)
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here’s a full view of the final print from my painting! available at halthegal.etsy.com

 

and starting at the top left-hand corner are the icons you’ll find… i’ll keep details sparse to prevent spoilers as you enjoy montgomery’s books and discover anne’s adventures again or for the very first time like i did!  (the patches are pretty much chronological through all 8 books going clockwise!)

  • the carpet bag anne carries (& holds together) when matthew cuthbert first picks her up at the train station
  • the amethyst brooch that led to a very creative confession from anne who wanted to go to the picnic and taste ice cream for the very first time
  • carrot.  which quickly led to the next block…
  • the slate anne broke over gilbert’s head for calling her “carrots.”  and the pink candy heart he left on her desk for an apology.  “you are sweet.”
  • the raspberry cordial diana (anne’s lifelong bosom friend) accidentally got drunk on by serving herself one too many tumblers full… (totally marilla’s fault for not labeling the bottles in the pantry!)
  • the ipecac that saved diana’s baby sister’s life; a night which restored anne to mrs. barry’s good favor and restored her bosom friend to her.
  • the scissors marilla used to cut anne’s hair when she bought dye from a traveling salesman to try to dye it raven black instead of its brilliant red (it turned green.  naturally.)
  • puffed sleeves!  envy of all, even matthew knew something was different about how marilla dressed anne compared to the other school girls.
  • the boat.  both in which the lady of shallot drowned, or with which gilbert rescued anne from the bridge pilings after her dramatic and too-close-to-reality reenactment of the tragic poem.
  • the cow anne accidentally sold thinking it was her wayward cow and not her neighbor’s actual milking cow.
  • in the books, marilla and anne adopt twins.  totally left out of the classic tv adaptation.  so the toad is for the toad davy put in marilla’s bed (thankfully he confessed & the toad was rescued before marilla went to bed!), and the bucket for when dora had the incident with the well.
  • firecrackers for the naughty (so deplorable!) meanies that put them in the school fireplace when poor anne was just trying to teach a classroom full of snobby girls…
  • green gables where orphan anne makes her first home with marilla and marilla’s kindhearted and quiet-in-spirit brother matthew (in the books, anne references how the whole house was faded green paint; the historic landmark house that inspired montgomery to write these books is the silhouette i used.)
  • birch trees.  anne’s favorite.
  • anne was a reader, and of course a writer.  in book four, she would write gil love letters (“censored” for the readers; but man, i wanted to hear the mushy stuff she wrote to her beloved med student fiance!!) only if she had the RIGHT pen… so the tip is a heart.
  • the puppy anne got Katherine (with a K!) for Christmas when she came to green gables with anne for holiday instead of staying at her depressing boarding house with no friends.
  • in rainbow valley, where anne and gil start their family, book six opens with aunt mary maria living with them and making everyone miserable.  the thing that FINALLY sends her packing is that anne threw her a surprise birthday party- BUT actually put 55 candles on her cake which embarrassed her right out of town!
  • gog looks right and magog looks left.  two china dogs that anne was enraptured with when she and her other schoolmates rented patty’s place.  they were bequeathed to anne, and made for some embarrassing moments when neighbors came to call!
  • the teddy bear represents little Jem, anne and gil’s eldest surviving child.  she eventually had six children (and joyce was buried first.)
  • the lighthouse at four winds.  i really enjoyed book 5 where we met captain jim, heard his adventures, and i think that was the book where the thought-to-be-widow has some new romance in her life because anne brings him to town to write captain jim’s stories and capture them in a bestseller… 🙂
  • rilla (anne and gil’s youngest) was often collecting baskets full of strawberries.
  • the blue soup tureen in which rilla brings home Jims, a war orphan, home… and raises to the surprise of all!
  • a canadian violet.  anne was often wandering through and dreaming in fields of trees and flowers… and while she was a stately iris in gil’s eyes, i love the sweetness of the violet.  as book two says, “… [gil’s] future must be worthy of its goddess.”

 

“having adventures comes natural to some people.  you just have a gift for them or you haven’t.” (anne of avonlea, pg. 159) i sure hope YOU do!

“anne with an E.” limited edition prints available on my etsy shoppe here:  http://bit.ly/annewithane

the original painting is still available, convo me on etsy for details.

“i wish…”

everybody wishes for something.  and as sondheim & lapine’s brilliant musical teaches us, “be careful what you wish for.  wishes come true.”

i have to confess, the first time i learned of this musical was a quip from the gilmore girls.  brad returns from a stint on broadway as jack and paris, of course, torments him with his solo from the play.  so i dashed to barnes & noble, bought the two-disc original broadway cast recording, and my dreams of seeing it were realized when disney produced its lavish film just last Christmas.

like most sondheim works, the characters sing over each other occasionally.  but it’s still a lovely sound.  and reading the original book that was published from the 1988 broadway script put all the characters into perspective.

have a look at the process for painting this piece, i’ll try to stop rambling, and then i’ll let you know all the icons i hid in the background to reflect the tale in this faerie tale feet piece entitled, “i wish…”  (both the first & last lines of this piece of musical theatre!)

into the woods 1
after i did all my research (reading the original script, watching the filmed original broadway production, watching the disney version over and over with commentary, etc.), i created by background pattern.
into the woods 2
once all the icons were decided upon and the giant’s boots were drawn, i traced them onto tracing paper- and taped it on top of my watercolour paper.
into the woods 3
using my handy magnifying lamp, i put transfer paper between my patterned tracing paper and my watercolour paper so i can retrace all the icons so i know where to paint.
into the woods 4
once my pattern drawing has been transferred to the watercolour paper, i start adding colour! my favourite part!! i paint around all the icons and used a bit of frisket mask liquid to paint in milky white (jack’s cow) to keep her nice & clean & the color of the paper below. (i think i need a new bottle of it, though. mine went on pretty chunky.)
into the woods 5
oh la la! first layer of colour is down! now we keep adding details and shading and adjusting washes and colours- and those boots have a ways to go before they’re done!
into the woods 6
every time i exercise in my local park, i feel like leslie knope would be proud of me. i would like to think i earned another pawnee goddess badge for using my local park trees for reference.
into the woods 7
painting landscapes aren’t my strongest suit. but i had to add some WOODS for a piece inspired by “into the WOODS.” so i did my best, painting trees on top of my finished background painting.
into the woods 8
here’s a better detail of the giant’s boots & pants. i’m quite pleased. and i know the giant’s wife didn’t step ON the baker’s wife, but i did put her scarf below his left foot. because: symbolism. drama.

 

okay.  details hidden in the background include:

the items needed to break the curse on the baker’s house (& family tree):

one:  the cow as white as milk

two:  the cape as red as blood

three:  the hair as yellow as corn

four:  the slipper as pure as gold

also included:

cabbage/rampion- there’s a long linguistic history, but “rapunzel,” the baker’s sister he didn’t know he had & his neighbor the witch’s captive/adopted daughter- “rapunzel” is a type of cabbage which is why one of the princes comments what a ridiculous name his brother’s beloved obsession has.

cinderella (the golden slipper) wishes to go to the king’s festival, so there’s a royal purple banner with the king’s crown atop it.

there’s red’s basket she carries to granny’s house.

there’s the wolf.

there’s the five magic beans the baker & his wife pay jack for his cow, milky white.

there’s jack’s milk pail.

there’s the baker’s loaf of bread.

there’s golden eggs from the hen and the golden harp that jack brought down from the giant’s house in the sky.

there’s a lantern for traveling through the woods at all hours.

the baker’s hat.

three babies (rapunzel’s twins, plus the baker’s son once the curse is lifted)

the black glasses (cinderella’s birds blind her two meanie stepsisters)

the silver goblet the witch drinks the potion out of to lift the curse/spell once all the items are fed to the cow.

cinderella’s birds (who also help her pick the lentils out of the ashes, even though her stepmother still won’t let her go to the festival)

two crowns (the princes)

vines around the giant’s boots (the beanstalk)

red’s knife (she gets pretty feisty after she gets eaten by the wolf & rescued)

the scissors the witch used to cut rapunzel’s hair to keep the prince from ever visiting again

campanula paunculus- rampion- a purple bellflower in the witch’s garden, another derivative for “rapunzel”when you go back to the latin.  and the wolf sings to red about missing all the flowers by staying on the path to grandmother’s house.  tempting.

i think that’s it… oh!  three moons over the woods because the baker & his wife only had three midnights to collect all the objects the witch required to break the spell– the curse on their family tree and the curse of old age & ugliness her mother placed on her for losing the magic beans that the baker’s father stole out of her garden.

it’s a magically inter-woven plot and musical.  i’m a sucker for a good fairy tale mash up.  and set to music?  all the better.  even if act II isn’t quite as happy as act I.  plot twist!

as cinderella’s mother/tree sings:

“are you certain what you wish

is what you want?

if you know what you want,

then make a wish.”

 

“i wish…”

original gouache painting on watercolour paper, 6×14″

from the faerie tale feet series by hallie m. bertling

inspired by stephen sondheim & james alpine’s “into the woods”

original framed painting available for $525.  message me.

limited edition signed and numbered archival prints available at halthegal.etsy.com:

http://etsy.me/2c9Fbxw

glinda the good & raggedy ann…

i just finished painting two new faerie tale feet minis in preparation for the harbor arts & books festival next weekend in maine.

glinda the good already sold (woohoo facebook progress photos!), but wanted to show you the process.  🙂

i read “glinda of oz,” l. frank baum’s last oz novel, posthumously published.  glinda isn’t in it as much as i expected, but it was a good read.

and i RE-read yet again “the wonderful wizard of oz.”  unlike the movie version, glinda is not who we meet when we land among the munchkins once dorothy’s house takes out the wicked witch of the east.  it’s actually the good witch of the north, a little old lady in all white.  we don’t meet glinda, “the good sorceress of oz” until the end of the book, after dorothy and friends have crossed the desert, and some other kooky lands, to reach her once the wizard has accidentally flown away in his hot air balloon to kansas without our fearless farmgirl heroine in the basket, too.

in the book, glinda wears an all-white dress and her throne and crown are accentuated with rubies.  (probably where mgm got the idea for the ruby slippers to show off dorothy’s footwear in full technicolor glory!)

but for this painting, i couldn’t bear not to do glinda as pictured on film in munchkinland. so we’ve got her bubbles and fluffy pink dress.  and all the rest of our oz friends are down below on the yellow brick road.

it’s literally my favorite painting i’ve done in a while.  i love it.  and it’s already found it’s own “no place like home.”

here was my favorite quote from “glinda of oz,” by l. frank baum:

 

“am i really wonderful?” asked the scarecrow.

“you are unusual,” replied glinda.

 

🙂  i get it.  thank you for being gracious, glinda the good!

 

and here’s another mini i just finished, “sewn hugs,” inspired by johnny gruelle’s raggedy ann and andy stories, and modeled from my very own raggedy ann my mom sewed for my VERY first Christmas.  it includes the candy heart that was sewn into her when her stuffing got replaced, the shoe-button eyes, and safety pin because she was always encouraging the other dolls and mending things with kindness.

this one is still available, so email me at halthegal@hotmail.com if you’re interested in taking her home.

IMG_1645

8.25×6.25″ in the frame
just $110.

 

happy adventuring!

peace, love, & colour to you,

*halthegal.