“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,



“bookishly brave hermione.”

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!

“bookishly brave hermione,”

original gouache painting by hallie m. bertling

gouache and ink on watercolour paper; 14 x 6″

we love hermione.  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:


individual greeting card with hermione on the front available here:


original painting has SOLD.

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?  😀

faerie tale feet: the coloring book vol. i

this is gonna be good!

i’ve had requests.  i’ve seen the shelves.  i’ve seen the social media posts.  i understand the joy of coloring!

halthegal’s first faerie tale feet coloring book COULD be yours!  you have until black friday to help kickstart this project– i really can’t wait to share it with you!

pitch in if you can.  incentives include a first edition, or one of the original drawings used to create the book, or for the uber*generous, an original faerie tale feet painting, too!

please join the party here:

thanks for your support!

peace, love, & colour to you,


“a cobbler’s dozen.”

cobbler 2
there are SO many beautiful illustrated books by a wide range of illustrators interpreting “the twelve dancing princesses.” it took a LONG time to widdle down my ideas to a composition that told the whole story.
cobbler 3
after a lot of chats with faerie-tale minded friends, i landed on a long-format layout with a dozen pairs of shoes and two side panels to tell the story.
cobbler 4
there’s the final outline sketch on tracing paper so that i can transfer it to the watercolour paper.
cobbler 5
once i’d transferred and filled in the drawing, i started by painting the first layers of colour on the tulip border.
cobbler 6
there’s a mauve-y background to the whole thing… but the colours still went a wide range of brite and wild.
cobbler 7
i did a crayon color comp… but you know how that evolves once you put a brush and an unlimited palette in my hand.
cobbler 8
i could have spent a caboodle of months adding layers of colour and detail to the shoes and ribbons. but i eventually had to call it a day or a few…
cobbler 9
on the left panel, the soldier in the invisibility cloak is stepping on the hem of the youngest sister’s (& last in line’s) hem as they journey down to the enchanted kingdom. the drapes represent the bedroom and the secret passage that opens under the eldest sister’s bed when it’s time for the nightly ball…
cobbler 10
in the right hand panel is the kingdom, and silhouettes of the princesses being rowed to the shore by their twelve princes. in the sky are the silver, gold, and diamond branches of the forest that they walk through on the way to the boats.
cobbler 11
here’s a vision of the whole design, waiting for the final painting of the “big feet” of the eldest princess.
cobbler 12
i reaaaaaaalllly love how the castle turned out. it makes me happy. 🙂
cobbler 13
and here’s the (almost) final shoes. i think i added a few more stitching and shadow details in the morning….
cobbler 1
and here’s what the final greeting card looks like- the painting wraps from back to front!

“a cobbler’s dozen.”

original gouache painting on watercolour paper by hallie m. gillett bertling.

based on the brothers grimm’s “the twelve dancing princesses,” my painting takes me back to my very favourite faerie tale classic theatre episode of the same tale.

depending on the version you read, the king may have banished dancing in the kingdom after the death of his beloved wife, or perhaps the princesses are under a spell. whichever way, the king locks them in their room at night, and still EVERY morning without fail, their slippers are worn out and a dozen new pairs of shoes are demanded of the kingdom cobbler every day.
the king sends out a proclamation that anyone who solves the mystery of the worn-out dancing slippers gets to marry the princess of his choice and become king.
prince after prince fails (for they drink the wine at dinner that has been dosed with a lil’ extra sleeping potion by the princesses), until finally a humble soldier, returned home from the wars, decides why not him?

he meets with a peasant woman in the woods, and in gratitude for his sharing his bread and cheese with an old beggar woman, she gives him two things: one piece of advice (don’t drink the wine!), and two– a cloak to make him invisible so he can follow the princesses and find where they go at night.
i’ll spare you all the EXCITING details because of course you ought to read it for yourself, but he does indeed follow them to an enchanted kingdom below the palace where they dance the night away with twelve princes (possibly also cursed) who row them to the shore of a palace where they dance and dance until their shoes are positively worn out. they venture through forests of silver, gold, and diamond (hence the branches above the palace in the right hand panel), and the soldier’s final piece of proof he brings back to the king after the third night of watching the princesses dance is a golden jeweled goblet unlike any the king’s kingdom has ever seen.
last spoiler: it has a happy ending. 😉

(andrew lang’s version has the *spoiler* garden boy falling in love with the youngest princess; i like the grimms’ version better.  but they’re both lovely.)

you can purchase the limited edition print here on my etsy site:  http://etsy.me/1OMK537

or the greeting card here:  http://etsy.me/1OMKsdL

card reads “I should like to discover where those princesses go to dance their shoes to pieces.”  wouldn’t we all?  😀

original painting (6×14″ + mat & frame) is also available for $395.  contact me via etsy!

“harry– yer a wizard.”

research on harry potter was of course fun– and i’ve got a bit too much to work with. so we’ll eventually have to paint ron & hermione’s feet, too.
we [royal, just me, really] reduced harry’s tale down to these images and icons- and decided on the painting layout.
here was the final background pattern drawing.
and for a wee bit of texture on this one, we painted it on watercolour paper instead of my usual illustration board.
i still painted it in gouache, but layers and layers of washes instead of the usual opaque application of one colour at a time.
and here is the final painting!
and here’s the print that you can buy on my etsy shoppe!

“harry– yer a wizard.”

original gouache painting by me, hallie m. bertling

based on the collected works of our beloved j.k. rowling, here in all its glory is harry, flying off to the next adventure in my faerie tale feet series.

search the background for icons relaying people and events from his magical journeys:
chocolate frogs, the winged key (book one on the way to face quirrell), his stag patronus, the grim, golden snitches, the gryffindor crest, dobby, his hogwarts acceptance letter, the sorting hat, his infamous broken glasses & lightning bolt scar, dumbledore’s half*moon glasses, the prophecy from the department of mysteries, hedwig, the hungarian horntail faced in goblet of fire, buckbeak the hippogriff…. i thinks that’s it, but maybe you’ll find more. 😉

hogwarts is pictured in the bottom right*hand corner– with a hint of knitting in gryffindor burgundy & yellow– for it was HOME to harry. and i always think of mrs. weasley knitting him that Christmas sweater- his first real Christmas present. homey, no? (also in the tower is a famous symbol and the title of book seven.)

also, the one sock you can see on the harry figure is his homemade gift from dobby– his mismatched red sock with broomsticks on it. the other unseen sock of course was the green one with snitches. so since you can’t see both socks in the composition, i combined them into a red sock with snitches. sneaky.

the original painting has sold, but you can purchase the limited edition print here on my etsy shoppe:  http://etsy.me/1MZXhh3


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!

please also follow updates, shop, & see fun stuff at

store:  https://www.etsy.com/shop/halthegal

instagram:  @halthegal2

facebook:  www.facebook.com/halthegal

pinterest:  https://www.pinterest.com/halthegal/

twitter:  @halthegal

peace, love, & colour to you,


“a royal nap.”

nap 1
sleeping beauty has been illustrated beautifully for centuries… so i started sketching, too.
nap 1a
set up a “shadow box” to get the shadow lines how i wanted across her “napping” form.
nap 1b
here’s the final pieced-together drawing for “a royal nap.” first faerie tale feet piece that wasn’t square!
nap 2
laying in light layers {again, new for faerie tale feet– i usually do them in solid gouache.}
nap 3
added “briar rose”s to the yellow wallpaper and starting to fill in the stained glass window with the story icons…
nap 4
lots of bright layers for the window…
nap 5
window’s done! on to the feet and spinning wheel shadows and detail…
nap 6
ta da! thankfully, after posting on social media, a wise sage of a faerie tale friend pointed out the spindle was missing. kinda integral to the plot. so it got added before framing at least… 😉
nap 7
the final limited edition print. hey look! the spindle made it! huzzah!

“a royal nap.”

original gouache painting in the faerie tale feet series by me, hallie m. gillett bertling.

here’s a bit about the piece:

based on perrault’s french fairy tale, “la belle au bois dormant,” transl. “the beauty of the sleeping forest,” but you probably know her as “the sleeping beauty.” 🙂

it’s a tale of a king and queen who wish for a child, a frog prophesies to the queen (while she’s bathing in a pond, i guess) that they’ll have their wish within the year, the king invites the twelve fairies of the kingdom to the banquet, accidentally snubbing the thirteenth, so she curses the child to prick her finger on a spindle on or around her fifteenth birthday. the good fairy who hadn’t bestowed her gift yet can’t reverse the curse, but changes “death” to “the sleep of a hundred years, to be awakened by a valiant prince.” so despite the king’s destruction of all the spinning wheels in the kingdom, briar rose finds one when her parents are out of town, and inevitably pricks herself becase she doesn’t know what it is or how it works. the good fairy is summoned (by a dwarf with seven-league boots, so he can get to her faster), and she arrives by her fiery dragon chariot to put the rest of the kingdom to sleep so briar rose won’t be alone when she wakes up. rumors of the overgrown kingdom stir, and a hundred years later, a brave prince is granted passage through the deathly briars as the hundred years have expired and it’s time for our beauty to awaken. he finds her in a fine bed of gold and silver, and awakens her with the right kind of kiss. despite her old-fashioned clothes, she’s the most beautiful girl he’s ever seen, they fall in love, get married, and per tradition, live happily every after.

you can purchase the limited edition, signed prints here on my etsy shoppe:  http://etsy.me/1LIKIty
or the greeting card here:  http://etsy.me/1N1Ttiz
{front of card reads  “Is it you, my Prince?” she said.  “How long you have kept me waiting!”}
framed, original painting is still available for $425.  contact me!

“off to neverland!”

peter 1
i collect a fair bit {too much? nah.} of peter pan media. books. illustrated editions. movies. musicals. soundtracks. and more books. here’s some of the collection. i also wanted to do a companion piece to my “wendy loves peter pan.” so i painted peter.
peter 2
nearly done filling in the background drawing with icons from the tale. bottom features the neverland skyline and the lagoon with the jolly roger.
peter 3
you gotta start somewhere… so we fill in the background with green gouache around all the icons and peter’s feet first…
peter 4
one at a time, filling in each icon with it’s own colour.
peter 5
nearly done?! background and icons painted. working on lagoon, ship, and of course saving peter’s feet for last.
peter 6
detail of the lagoon & jolly roger. love a happy ending, so of course highlighted it with pixie dust.
peter 7
final “off to neverland!” painting with tape removed from the edges!

“off to neverland!”

join peter, the lost boys, michael, john, and of course wendy as they adventure through j.m.barrie’s most fantastic, and my favourite, work & faerie tale.

original faerie tale feet painting by me, hallie m. gillett bertling.

11×11″ gouache {with a bit of ink and coloured pencil on peter’s feet, too.}

search the background icon imagery to find all the details that make up the most magical, adventurous place ever: tiger lily, the hungry crocodile anxious for more of capt. jas. hook, the redskins’ hatchets, hook’s poison, tinker bell, the acorn the saved wendy’s life, the arrow that would have shot into her heart, the pram that the lost boys must have fallen out of in kensington gardens or the fairies wouldn’t have carried them off to neverland, the kite that carried peter to shore when they were marooned on a rock, the mermaids, cinderella’s slipper (the faerie tale peter had come back to the nursery window to hear the end of), and a white bird– the first work of barrie’s to ever mention this remarkable boy who would never grow up.

the bottom of the piece shows the skyline of neverland and the pirate’s lagoon, complete with the jolly roger perhaps ready for sailing back to london with just a pinch more of pixie dust.

original painting is sold, but you can get your hook {or a hand} on the limited edition prints here on my etsy shoppe:  http://etsy.me/1JCZUGh
you can purchase the greeting card here:  http://etsy.me/1Vl4AEG
or as a part of the adventurers card set here:  http://etsy.me/1N1RZVv

the icon series!

so i started dating this guy {who, spoiler alert, i got to marry a number of months later}, and as much as he “loves” my art, he is a bit more subtle and refined than i.  {he also happens to be an oil portrait painter and realistic landscape artist.  he’s good.  but doesn’t quite have the flair for the dramatic illustrative colour explosions i do.  teehee.}

anyway– we collaborated on a new idea for me– luxe stationary cards with subtle references to some pop culture faves.  {“the princess bride” was was of our first dates, shown in the park downtown greenville.  classic!}

so here you have some ink and coloured pencil renderings of both princess bride and you know, that helmet guy from star wars…

you can buy the princess bride icon series cards here on my etsy shoppe:  http://etsy.me/1Js8xlB

and for the any-occasion, here’s darth…

you can buy the star wars icon series card here on my etsy shoppe:  http://etsy.me/1N1Rnzo