“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!
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 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.