“& we’re off!” inspired by l. frank baum’s wizard of oz stories.

i’ve been obsessed with the ruby slippers for as long as i can remember.  years of childhood trips to washington, d.c. with my Presidential history-obsessed mother were highlighted by seeing the (nearly lackluster, but still revolutionary) ruby slippers at the american history museum.

as any story nerd shall tell you, yes, they were silver in the original book.  but mgm changed them to ruby to show off the wonders of technicolor.  & i (and millions others, i’m sure) are forever grateful.

so i’m pleased to present to you the latest piece in my faerie tale feet series:  “& we’re off!” inspired by l. frank baum’s oz stories.  (he wrote 14 books.  i read 7 before i had to quit because i was already trying to squeeze in too much obscure symbolism!  also, yes, i tried making dorothy’s slippers silver for accuracy, but even with metallic gouache, they looked sad & grey.  so i’m making ruby canon, okay?  okay.)  😉

take a look at some process pictures below, and then i’ll break down all the story elements i hid in that amazing rainbow.  🙂

oz halthegal blog 1.2
i wanted to become an illustrator as soon as i saw charles santore’s original watercolour painting of dorothy and friends entering the emerald city. it’s STUNNING. and being a musical, my love for the original 1939 film knows no bounds. so my collection of books of every variety continues to grow. i absolutely love the “wizard of oz.” so here’s a peek at some of my collection.
oz halthegal blog 1
sometimes i browse shoe stores (so dangerous! ha!). and i would have LOVED to have put dorothy in a shoe similar to this– but honestly, who wants to walk all the way down the yellow brick road in heels? so for her sake, we went with flats. but if these shoes came in sparkle? so mine. 😉
oz halthegal blog 2
so i began making my way through all of baum’s original oz books. (14 total, then more authors carried on after his passing.) and sometimes when i’m reading, my brain explodes with concepts. so here is an early thumbnail in my research copy of just how much of the tales i wanted to fit in… oy vey. i’m glad we eventually found a way to simplify it…
oz halthegal blog 3
…so i struggled with this one because there’s SO MUCH great (quirky, surreal) stuff in baum’s books. (he’d receive hundreds of letters from kids not just asking more about dorothy & friends, but sending in plot suggestions and characters & he’d work them in!) one of my greatest struggles was i didn’t want to lose this sketch of the field mice queen. she’s just the cutest. but we at least kept her silhouette in the rainbow.
oz halthegal blog 4.1
so my (fellow artist) husband helped me reign in my panoply of ideas, and here i’m beginning to create my background pattern. i copy the sketches (narrowed down from the very long list of ideas in my moleskin) and trace them in the background to keep the icons consistent.
oz halthegal blog 4.2
so after i filled in the background (well, in this case, just inside the rainbow!) with my story elements, i also used a red and blue pencil to help me map out what parts of each shape would be the different tones or shades of the color it landed on in the rainbow. (i ended up mixing four colors for each rainbow stripe. so… 24 new colors for just our rainbow.)
oz halthegal blog 4.3
once the background drawing is complete, i put a bit of transfer paper between the drawing and my measured illustration board….
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… this gives me all the lines i need to fill in with paint!
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and thus we begin our rainbow of story elements… matching them along with line with a new shade of color to match the shade of the other stripe it’s akin to. (i’m sure one of my old colour theory textbooks could explain that better, but i was a poor art student & had to sell them back to the college bookshop…) 😉
oz halthegal blog 7
and voila! our rainbow of oz shapes! it makes me so happy!
oz halthegal blog 8
here’s a view of SOME of the paper plates i mixed our paints on… i keep them from each painting because i can reuse the puddles for other smaller areas, particularly on the figures which i don’t paint opaquely.
oz halthegal blog 10
and here, working on the infamous yellow brick road. (which i eventually repainted between each brick so it was less visually loud. brought it all to yellow instead of a too-subtle mortar in-between bricks.) you can also see i tried to make the slippers silver here.  boring.  so i made them look sequin-y later.  🙂

 

so that’s how i created this magical faerie tale feet piece.  i hope you love it as much as i do!

here are the story elements i put in our piece from the original books:

  • the munchkin hats (blue in the books) with bells on the rims
  • the witch of the north’s kiss of protection on dorothy’s forehead
  • oil can (for the tin man)
  • queen of the field mice (who helped scarecrow and tin man rescue dorothy & the cowardly lion from the field of poppies)
  • toto, in said field of poppies
  • spectacles (locked on to everyone’s head who enters emerald city (“because if you did not wear spectacles the brightness and the glory of the emerald city would blind you.” bonus fact:  the emerald city has 9,654 houses and 57,318 people in it.)
  • the pointy hat of the wicked witch of the west
  • bucket of water (the wicked witch’s end; she actually tripped in the book and dorothy threw it to “help.”  we know how that went!)
  • the flying monkeys (called by a magical cap only three times to its owner; dorothy & friends use the flying monkeys to get back to the emerald city after the witch is destroyed)
  • the hot air balloon made from cloth scraps (all of green, naturally) that dorothy helped the wizard sew together for means of leaving the emerald city
  • pumpkinhead jack (a character that appears in book 2 (“the marvelous land of oz”) i have next to the signpost
  • the crowns because scarecrow and tin man both wear them as they rule in oz
  • the signpost points the way to the different lands within oz:  emerald city is the center, and represented by the white star in the green circle on top; the land of the munchkins to the east is represented in blue (the color they all wear); the quadlings to the south are red; and the west country is yellow, home of the winks, that the tin man now rules that the wicked witch of the west is dead.
  • billina, the yellow hen who comes in in book 3 (“ozma of oz”) and appears in the rest of the adventures
  • large golden key dorothy & billina find on the beach that winds tik-tok
  • dorothy’s pink kitten, eureka, who comes along to oz in book 4 (“dorothy & the wizard in oz”)
  • the cowardly lion & the hungry tiger wear big pink and blue bows when they pull ozma’s chariot
  • in book 4 we meet polychrome, daughter of the rainbow.  (so of course dorothy doesn’t sing “somewhere over the rainbow” in the book, nor is a rainbow mentioned until book 4.  but we honor both polychrome and that Oscar-winning song here.)

whew!  i think that’s it!  i left out loads of stuff.  (you’re welcome.  i’m exhausted, too.)  😉

original painting is available framed for $525.  (+ $30 for safe us shipping)

limited edition signed prints now available on my etsy shoppe.  shop here!!

as are greeting cards featuring the quote:

“But a fairy country is extremely interesting when you get used to being surprised.”

and if you’re still with me, below are some more favourite quotes from the books.

and as ever, follow me on facebook and instagram to see new works in progress & other fun artsy, bookish stuff.  🙂

  • “in the civilized countries i believe there are no witches left, nor wizards, nor sorceresses, nor magicians.  but, you see, the land of oz has never been civilized, for we are cut off from all the rest of the world.  therefore we still have witches and wizards among us.”  ~the witch of the north, “the wonderful wizard of oz.” (book 1)
  • “the little girl did not know of the wonderful power the silver shoes gave her.”
  • “you have plenty of courage, i am sure.  all you need is confidence in yourself.”  ~ the wizard of oz to the lion
  • “true courage is in facing danger when you are afraid, and that kind of courage you have in plenty.”  ~ same as above 🙂
  • “i feel wise indeed.  when i get used to my brains i shall know everything.”  ~ scarecrow
  • “now that is very interesting history, and i understand it perfectly– all but the explanation.”  ~pumpkinhead jack, “the marvelous land of oz” (book 2)
  • do not, i beg of you, dampen today’s sun with the showers of tomorrow.” ~the emperor to jack, book 2
  • “still, it is a joke, and a joke derived from a play upon words is considered among educated people to be eminently proper.”  ~ the wogglebug, book 2
  • “but there are opportunities for so many excellent puns in our language that, to an educated person like myself, the temptation to express them is almost irresistible.” (same as above)
  • “there will be no lack of fairy-tale authors in the future, i am sure.” ~from l. frank baum’s “to my readers” before book 6, “the emerald city of oz.”
  • “her uncle and aunt listened to her stories eagerly and in spite of their doubts began to feel that the little girl had gained a lot of experience and wisdom that were unaccountable in this age, when fairies are supposed no longer to exist.”  ~ the emerald city of oz (book 6)
  • “it’s the thing we don’t expect, billina, that usually happens.”  ~dorothy, book 6

 

hat’s off to your colorful journey!!  😀

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