“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


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…

my stack of reference books, and a few great movies to inspire me while i sketch out ideas and shapes for this final piece.
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.
using an 02 micron pen, the background starts to fill up!
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.
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!)  🙂


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 manilla’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.

“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:


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.


8.25×6.25″ in the frame
just $110.


happy adventuring!

peace, love, & colour to you,


“fabulist.” a 24-hour contest in nerves.

i happen to live in the beautiful city and moderate clime of greenville, sc.  (affectionately & oft hash*tagged as #yeahTHATgreenville.)

last weekend, the metropolitan arts council held its annual “flat out under pressure” event where local artists bring their paper, canvas, board, or whatever*have*you to the office, have it stamped, and are to return with that same stamped board by the next morning.  it’s 24 hours to make one piece of art.  at stake?  having your art on downtown’s trash bins (nicer than it sounds; it’s free advertising and who doesn’t like fancy trash cans with art on them?!), and… a trip to italy.

before you read too much further, i’m going to spoil it for you:  i didn’t win.   but i did have LOTS of fun creating this piece.  after i’d calmed down a bit.  (as the name implies, it’s a LOT of pressure!  and YES, i had queen’s “under pressure” stuck in my head for most of the time i was feverishly painting this piece!)

so here’s a peek into the process of creating this 15 x 30″ board that encapsulates 16 of aesop’s fables (yes, i spent more than 16 hours on it).  i’ll list them below for you if you want to find them out!

click through the slideshow to see details of the process.

here is “fabulist.”  or, “aesop’s sketchbook,” or “how to lose your cheese, fall short of grapes, explode in vanity, escape the angry bees, do as you would be done by, stay faithful, grateful, brave, wise, & outrun a hare with a house on your back.”  a work in 16 studies.  😉

aesop sketchbook halthegal 1
i had thought about doing an aesop’s fable faerie tale feet piece a while ago. it’s been a running (pun!) joke/analogy/allegory that my husband & i are a turtle and a bunny- therefore the tortoise & the hare was necessary painting material. so here’s some notes in my moleskin from the few collections of aesop’s fables (i’d never read them ALL before) and some sketches of leaping hares and a bumbling tortoise in my sketchbook…
aesop sketchbook halthegal 2
earlier in the week, i did a teeny test patch to make sure mounting watercolour paper on this wooden board would serve my media well. so the test patch is a bit more subtle than my final original large piece, but we’re all learning, right…?
aesop sketchbook halthegal 3
here’s me around 9:03 am friday morning haven just gotten my board stamped @ MAC! eeeeep!!! i’d gotten downtown early and had a sully’s steamers bagel (gosh, they’re yummy) to try to calm my nerves… but not even carbs can help this chick.
aesop sketchbook halthegal 4
so i paced around the house a bit and nervously applied pencil to my board…. i started with the tortoise and the hare– i wanted to give it a sketchbook feel, so i used a lot of different materials– soft graphite, my fave red drawing pencils, colored pencils, watercolor pencils, conte… all of it!
aesop sketchbook halthegal 5
i kind of just went through my list of fables i wanted to capture and started filling in the board. i knew where the tortoise & the hare were going to go… and the fox and the grapes, but the rest of it was impromptu. and by impromptu, i mean 24 hours of “can i really do this in time without messing up royally?!”
aesop sketchbook halthegal 6
here’s a view of the full board before any color was added… i can’t remember if everything is drawn on at this point or not.
aesop sketchbook halthegal 7
and we slowly start to add color. i used my trusty gouache– all my old paper plates saved from faerie tale feet paintings… so i saved time on mixing colors… and re-used what i had!
aesop sketchbook halthegal 8
layers and layers of color start filling in around and in the figures…
aesop sketchbook halthegal 9
building building building… color, form, contrast… shadow, light, and trying not to make it a total rainbow fest. (guilty?)
aesop sketchbook halthegal 10
loooooots of animals. loooooots of drawings. loooooots of paint.
aesop sketchbook halthegal 11
this was my view around 2:46 am when i finally laid down for a three hour “nap” so i could look at it with fresh eyes in the morning. so there was more work to do, but i just had to take a step back first…
aesop sketchbook halthegal 12
this hare face in the middle is just my favorite part. i don’t know why. but i love him.
aesop sketchbook halthegal 13
here are the THREE brushes i used to fill the whole board. they are my warrior heroes.
aesop sketchbook halthegal 14
my trusty stack of reference material and paper plates full of color to apply…
aesop sketchbook halthegal 15
and here’s me! on my way downtown with my finished piece to deliver it to the exhibition before they lock the doors!

so while i didn’t win, you CAN purchase this piece and many of the other amazing works created by 68 other local greenville artists in just 24 hours!

the flat out under pressure show is hanging at the MAC gallery until july 8.  open during their regular office hours.  details and winners list on their website HERE.

the 16 fables i included:

  • the rose & the butterfly
  • town mouse & country mouse
  • the frog & the ox
  • the goose that laid the golden eggs
  • the hare & the tortoise
  • the mice in council
  • the peacock’s complaint
  • the bear & the bees
  • the fox & the stork
  • the lion & the mouse
  • the fox & the crow
  • the fox & the grapes
  • the moon & her mother
  • the crow & the pitcher
  • the milk maid & her pail
  • the frogs’ complaint against the sun
  • the owl & the birds
  • the wolf & the goat


“a tempered heart.”

tempered heart feature image“a tempered heart.”

original gouache painting by hallie m. bertling

a part of the faerie tale feet series, available at halthegal.etsy.com

i have always loved “alice’s adventures in wonderland” as a terrific piece of absurdist literature.  and what inspired this piece?  a medieval painting i saw at the met this january on my husband’s birthday trip.  so here’s a peak into the process (& my absurd book collection) for lewis carroll’s classic!

click through the slideshow below for a bit of my process, my inspiration, and some fun facts on lewis carroll’s work.  some people read way too far into the text, but he was a mathematician, so i bet some of it was actually intentional.  it’s amazing how deep the levels in meanings are in artists’ work, n’est pas?  always more to discover…

tempered heart 1
i found that i have more than 17 editions of lewis carroll’s alice stories. they range from comics to modern art, antique editions, the gorgeous new french edition by benjamin lacombe, and animation concept art by my beloved mary blair. artists have obviously found the text visually inspiring for its 150 years of existence. i’m sure the fun’s not over!
tempered heart 2
here’s the medieval painting i found in the met this january that inspired the unique layout of this piece. i immediately thought of her bangs as the big hips of her skirts and thought since she’s always yelling “off with their heads!” the picture could be in the shape of her head.
tempered heart 3
here’s my little quick sketch while i was in the museum. i usually doodle sculptures in oceana and the mayan rooms for their fantastic shapes, but there was something so graphic and modern about this piece that i had to capture the funky collar and that remarkable crown.
tempered heart 1a
i got home and started doodling- ball gowns and shoes- and deciding what posture would BEST indicate she was HOPPING MAD!
tempered heart 1b
i take lots of little notes in my moleskin. and my countless alice books are riddled with sticky tabs for phrases or illustrations i want to reference.
tempered heart 4
once i had my final sketch, i transferred it to watercolor paper and started painting in layers of green foliage for the hedges.
tempered heart 5
the croquet match was the perfect opportunity to hide icons from the story in the topiary hedges. and i couldn’t resist putting in a startled flamingo croquet mallet!
tempered heart 6
paint paint paint… oh, how i love to paint!
tempered heart 7
here’s the final painting- complete with sparkly crown.
tempered heart 8
just a few of my alice editions. “alice adventures underground” was really interesting as it’s a printing of the original manuscript carroll gave to alice liddell, not how he edited it when people told him he should publish it. (he had to pay for his first print run, by the way. and tenniel was so unhappy with the plates from his etchings (the first and last children’s book the editorial cartoonist ever illustrated!) that he demanded a reprint. so they stamped them defective and shipped them to america. if you have that FIRST edition, oh how i envy you!!
tempered heart a-1
this box set of alice was the START of my antique/unique book collection habits. dad would always drag me to antique stores in watervliet, michigan to shop for tin soldiers, and lo and behold i fell in LOVE with beautiful OLD books. the adventures obviously continue…

i’m in love with this piece and hope you adore it, too!

“the queen of hearts, she made some tarts,

all on a summer day.

the knave of hearts, he stole those tarts,

and took them quite away.”

if it was anything like cherry pie, i don’t blame the knave one bit.  but it did throw the queen into quite the tantrum.

here are the icons you’ll find hiding in the topiary hedges:

*painting the roses red

*two spades [her card escorts were categorized into the spades (gardeners), diamonds (courtiers), hearts (her children), and clubs (the guards).  so clever.]

*the king’s crown on a velvet pillow

*the duchess’ invitation to the croquet match

*the golden key (the victorian book lovers’ symbol for unlocking faerie land, according to george macdonald, a family friend of carroll’s.)

*the white rabbit with red eyes

*the tiny white gloves & golden pocketwatch of said white rabbit

*one of the juror’s slate and pencil

*the number 42, a predominant number in this book with all sorts of meanings to abstract mathematicians

*the queen’s tarts

*the gryphon (who lead alice to the mock turtle for a very depressing and slow-moving song)

*alice’s iconic shoes (“why, what are your shoes done with?” said the gryphon.  “i mean, what makes them so shiny?”… and the gryphon’s shoes were made of “soles and eels, of course.. any shrimp could have told you that.”)

*the pepper that made everyone at the duchess’ house in a sneezing tizzy

*the mad hatter’s hat

*bill the lizard

*the cheshire cat’s grin, with disappearing body, of course

*the queen’s heart-shaped spectacles

and of course, instead of showing “off with their heads,” i did a round head*shaped hole in the hedge instead.  long live the queen and all the cards and critters the king of hearts spared.

bon appétit!

peace, love, & colour to you,


purchase the limited edition signed prints here:  http://etsy.me/2AfBdiV

& the greeting card here:  http://etsy.me/2lMFFm3


“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!

new project: faerie tale feet minis!!

who doesn’t love affordable, original art?

not i.  i mean, i do.  i love collecting lots of little pieces!

so i’m currently experimenting with shadowboxes… still original gouache and mixed media pieces of characters from literature… but less of the full-background pattern schmorgasborg technicolor explosion of my current faerie tale feet paintings.  🙂

my husband recently bought me a magnifying lamp for my art desk– once i figured out how not to squint with one eye shut like i’m looking through a telescope… it got pretty awesome!!  which means i can get crazy detail… which sometimes looks like less than it looks without the magnifier…. so i’ll work on upping contrast for those not wearing jewelers’ goggles.  🙂

and yes.  there is legitimate debate over destroying books to make art.  i dislike when people destroy antique books.  but for something that’s still in print, available in hundreds of formats, and a copy which hasn’t been loved yet… well, i’m salving my conscience with the fact that the book publishing world still got my money even though i cut a bat out of its beautiful binding.  feel free to discuss.

i started with lucy harker from dracula for my first mini faerie tale feet experiment.  my ladies’ book club just read it as our october pick, because, you know, ’tis the season!  it’s a spectacular book.  with lots of great quotes.  once i share the final, framed, work, i’ll let you help me decide which to use either on the frame or as the title.

if ever there was a day to keep all the lights on… until it gets dark and one pretends not to be home… it’s halloween.  i love candy.  but i do not care for strangers ringing my doorbell… but, alas, the hubs and i are going to a friend’s bonfire this evening… so i thought i’d go as me with better hair.  what do you think?

mini 2

peace, love, & colour to you,


**please don’t forget to support my kickstarter faerie tale feet coloring book project!!  just a few weeks left– and i’ll be in india with water of life (www.givefreshwater.org) the last two weeks so i won’t be able to remind you!  ack!  i’d love to reach my goal!!  http://kck.st/1W75Xe6  thank you!!

here’s the final:

dracula shadow box 1 IMG_3988

measures 6×9.”  like?  😀