i’m moving!

i know allllll of my greeting cards & promotional bookmarks have lead you to this page.

but soon, you can find ALL the same info (& more!) on my website!

please visit halthegal.art to learn more about your new art and other fun stuff.

thanks for visiting & i’ll see you over there, okay?!  😀

& don’t forget brand new faerie tale feet bookmarks & stickers are available in my etsy shoppe!!


“a chocolate inheritance.” roald dahl’s charlie bucket & willy wonka.

sometimes i ever wonder how my mother endured me re-watching the old movie over and over.  (i feel like it was either “willy wonka & the chocolate factory,” “toby tyler,” or the faerie tale classic theatre episode of “the twelve dancing princesses.”)

but i also wonder and continue in gratefulness for aunts & uncles who gifted me such classic children’s literature at a young age.  i still have my box set of charlie & the chocolate factory, charlie and the great glass elevator, and the bfg (see above) that aunt mary jo & uncle greg gave me for Christmas one year.  (yes, the covers are as creepy as you’d expect from the late ’80s.)  granted, i read the bfg more often than not.  but visually, i just couldn’t wait to paint the adventures of charlie bucket & mr. wonka himself!

so have a peek at my painting process and then i’ll break down all the background icons from the original book!  😀

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whenever i begin a faerie tale feet piece, i read all the original material, take margin notes, and often sketch while watching adaptations of the work on screen (or as is charlie & wonka’s case, listening to the new broadway soundtrack, too!)
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after i’ve decided which sketches would make the best background icons to tell our story, i trace my drawings to make a large pattern drawing.
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this willy wonka/charlie bucket piece is shaped like a candy bar. you can hang the final painting (or print) length-wise, or with charlie OR mr. wonka at the top!  this is the final drawing which i then transferred down to paint.
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after i use a bit of transfer paper to re-trace my pattern drawing onto my illustration board, i always start by filling in the background colour first, taking hours upon hours to paint around each shape and figure, getting a consistent colour down before painting any of the icons. seen here are the four gouache colours of paint i mixed to make this delightful purple background colour!
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after our background is dry, i move in mixing a new colour for each icon. seen here, adding pie-paint to our violet beauregarde bubble-gum bubbles.
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here’s a view of continuing to fill in the icon shapes with new colors, as always, mixing my gouache on paper plates.  (re-usable if i need to touch anything up later!)
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getting closer…
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i always save painting the characters’ feet for last. it helps me decide on colours to use to make them stand out from the background.  plus, since it’s “the faerie tale feet” series, it just kinda makes sense.  🙂
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i fought this painting. and after taking it to the scanner and reviewing the first batch of prints, i reclaimed the painting, completely painting over wonka’s pants and shoes, and making charlie’s shoes muddier than they originally were. i even touched up some of the icon details to make them crisper. the thing i was happiest with and didn’t have to change were the five golden tickets (which are actually shiny!!)


so after reading both charlie and the chocolate factory and charlie and the great glass elevator (more on that later), here’s what all my sketching and margin notes reduced our story down to visually for our final faerie tale feet painting:

  • 5 golden tickets
  • augustus gloop’s german hat (couldn’t quite work a clogged chocolate pipe into our composition!)
  • violet beauregarde’s bubblegum blueberry pie (“you’re turning violet, violet!”)
  • veruca salt’s squirrels and walnuts (she was a bad nut, indeed!)
  • mike teavee’s television
  • wonka’s black top hat
  • the chocolate delivery trucks (the only thing to ever come in or out of the factory!)
  • the oompa loompas’ caterpillars (what they ate before mr. wonka bribed them with cocao beans; not very tasty)
  • the pink open row-boat
  • wonka’s key to the inventing room
  • everlasting gobstoppers (yum!)

behind charlie’s feet (his not-a-great-fit muddy boots), are his crooked house, the end of grandpa joe & grandma josephine’s bed, at the other end of which are grandpa george & georgina’s side of the same bed (you’ll see everyone’s initials “carved” into the grain), a big pot of cabbage soup (the family’s usual meal), and a tube of toothpaste (charlie’s dad screwed the caps on at the factory.)  i also added “swudge” (the edible grass from the chocolate room in the factory), and bubbles coming out of the chimney for the “fizzy lifting drinks” that appear as a comment in the book, but get grandpa joe & charlie in trouble in the original movie.  and i signed the piece in a bucket full of snow.  because the bucket house was very cold whenever it began to snow!

for mr. wonka, i’ve included as details from the book his “bottle green trousers” and painted his factory, factory wall which kept people from going in or out once he threw out all the spies, and the wonka gates behind him (can you decipher the lettering?!)

i hope (however you hang) this painting, that not only does it make you dream beyond your current existence through the realm of imagination, but it makes you want to invent something or share something that makes those you love equally happy.

the original painting is available framed for $420 (+ $30 for safe shipping in the USA.)

limited edition signed prints are available HERE  on my etsy shoppe.

and matching greeting cards, too!  click HERE.

i’m a huge fan of roald dahl, and thoroughly enjoyed re-exploring this classic tale as he wrote it and how others have embellished it for ongoing generations.  (not a fan of charlie and the great glass elevator, by the way.  it had some good quotes, but was a huge delay, written eight years after the original, that was supposed to pick up where the first book ended, but was a wacky trip through space and more about the ridiculous “president of america” than it was about charlie and his family making their way with willy wonka to their new chocolate factory home.)  i was surprised to notice that tim burton’s more recent film was closer to the original text than the 1971 film.  but i enjoy them both.  🙂

and, just because, here’s a blurb from charlie & the chocolate factory which i found very entertaining and quite telling as to how roald dahl felt about television.  from the oompa loompa’s song on mike teavee’s downfall:

oh, books, what books they used to know,

those children living long ago!

so please, oh please, we beg, we pray,

go throw your TV set away,

and in its place you can install

a lovely bookshelf on the wall.

then fill the shelves with lots of books,

ignoring all the dirty looks…

fear not, because we promise you

that, in about a week or two

of having nothing else to do,

they’ll now begin to feel the need

of having something good to read.



“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!

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!)
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…
here’s the pattern drawing created from icon sketches in my sketchbook!
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…
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…
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.
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….
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.


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.

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.
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.
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.
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!
here’s the background painted in and some of the shapes painted in, too…
more colors are added one at a time across the board until the background is complete… paint paint paint.. patience paint and patience…
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. 🙂
here’s a view of my tins full of gouache tubes and the pieces all painted and read to be framed together in 3d…!
here’s a detail shot of the blue fairy flying over the background!
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 signed limited edition prints available on my etsy site.

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


“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!)  🙂


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.
after going back through all my margin notes from the novels, i start collecting imagery and sketching ideas…
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!
starting to add colour here… i really love how the carpet bag turned out… and marilla’s amethyst broach…
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…
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!)
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

matching greeting card available here: http://etsy.me/2haelfN

the original painting is still available for $460 + shipping. convo me on etsy for details.

“bookish, brave, & brightest.”

hermione one
sometimes the best model is you; & sometimes the best model is your husband.  great thing one can edit with a pencil & paintbrush!
hermione two b
after getting to read all the books again & take notes about what pertains to our beloved & brave hermione, we start sketching the best shape for the icons relevant to HER story in the books.


hermione 2
here we start making the final background drawing and pattern out of the icons– tracing the final drawn shapes to fill the background.
hermione three
lots and lots of light layers of paint on both the background and crookshanks, of course.  he was obviously thrilled.
hermione five
as in my harry potter piece, i recycle multiple plates of gouache from previous paintings.  sometimes i’ll mix a new colour, but because i’m using layers and layers, i can usually make it up from what i’ve already got.
hermione four
more in progress layers of colour & paint!
hermione seven
hermione isn’t the only bookworm we know.  here’s a peek at the wall of books that watches me when i paint.
hermione eight
here’s the final hermione print!  available on my halthegal etsy shoppe!

“bookish, brave, & brightest.”

original gouache painting by hallie m. bertling

gouache and ink on watercolour paper; 14 x 6″ (SOLD)

we love this girl.  she’s tough.  she’s smart.  she’s the brightest witch of her age.  she reads.  she saves harry and ron more times than they deserve.  she’s fierce and loyal, kind and loving.  she feels compassion and takes action.  she rescues the helpless, she fights for the rights of the house elves because she can’t help but see injustice righted.

here are some of the icons you’ll find in the background:

a tooth (she’s got dentists for parents, after all.  even if they don’t remember.)

polyjuice potion (with a cat on the bottle, because, well, it kind of backfired once)

the gryffindor shield

the escape dragon from gringott’s

feather quill pen & ink (not just wingardium leviosa, but you know how she loves to fill scrolls for homework)

her otter patronus

her time-turner necklace

her cauldron

the mirror that saved her from the basilisk

the sorting hat (with raven; her almost-sorted-into house)

knitted hats left around the common room

the jar of blue flame to sneak into the library and get in some extra reading

anything else you can find? 🙂

(hint:  nosy reporter.)

prints available on my etsy site:


be brave!

go read books!

this is how we start.

so i had an old blog.  & i tried to log in today.  but it’s been four years and the internet has changed since then.  (for shame!)

so with all my mighty intentions of actually showing you the process and explaining all the iconography behind my faerie tale feet series, we’ll just start afresh right here.

enJOY browsing through the series, and holler if you have any questions or would like to purchase a piece!

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peace, love, & colour to you,