so i read austen in high school, of course. and every time i return to her novels, i have forgotten how funny (read: witty & sarcastic) they are. how unique and complete each character in these complex, relationship-driven plots. and how ahead of societal norm jane’s austen’s own ideals were. i love the movie adaptations. i live for the sweeping soundtracks. i like funny tv spin-offs (“lost in austen”) and adaptations (“austenland,” by shannon hale). and of course, who has not been charmed into re-reading pride & prejudice by kathleen kelly & joe fox’s email romance in “you’ve got mail?”
my original intentions for this painting were a lot more complicated. but as i delved further into the book, and the annotated edition, it became less about the men and their estates, and more about the sisters. so the image became simplified so we can step into their world and dance and observe and letter-write alongside them.
the sisters– all fighting: for a husband to escape impending poverty, for a handsome husband because what else is the point of flirting, for accomplishments & attention, or fighting against a society that demanded they must sometimes settle without affection. (or, heavens forbid, to break the stigma that an unmarried woman over 23 is already a spinster.)
so i scrapped the sketches of estates and the shadows of the men that pursued (or engaged) them, and left this piece about our “first impressions” (jane austen’s original working title for this novel she started at age 20 and published as “pride & prejudice,” by a lady, at age 37) of the five bennet sisters.
have a look at the research and painting process photos and then i’ll share a little bit about the bennet gals. 🙂
so the gals in our painting:
jane. “miss jane bennet.” the pretty one. too reserved (even though she “smiles too much”) for darcy to believe she returned mr. bingley’s affections. modest. and sent over to netherfield park when mrs. bennet knew it was going to rain so she’d be stuck there getting to know the new (rich) neighborhood bachelor. she got a cold. hence the handkerchief.
lizzy. “miss bennet.” (also referred to as eliza or elizabeth.) the second oldest. the self-assured no-nonsence sister. she goes (on foot) to visit jane who’s stuck at netherfield recovering, and mr. bingley’s sister is appalled that her dress was 6″ deep in mud after the 3-mile journey.
mary. the middle sister. the only plain one in the family. always vying for a chance to show off her (pedantic) reading habits or her (mediocre) singing and piano playing; she just wants some affirmation.
kitty (catherine). in the shadow of lydia, who was the youngest, kitty also lives for the regiment (military men in uniform come to town), officers (even better), and a good ball.
lydia. the youngest. the most ridiculous. the biggest flirt. the first to be married. even if it was sure to bring wreck & ruin & scandal to her entire family were it not for mr. darcy’s interference in lydia & wicked wickham’s supposed elopement plans. [ two fun facts: she was the tallest of the sisters; and she bought what she knew was an ugly bonnet (out of boredom and living outside of her means, a lifelong habit) to dress it up at home.]
my main take away from the guys in this novel? darcy was an introvert. i get it. sure, he had “reason” to be proud, but he was just socially awkward. and i don’t judge him for that. but i hadn’t noticed before just how soon he started favoring lizzy. (“she attracted him more than he liked.”)
mr. bennet? still hilarious. witty and sarcastic, and with great affection for lizzy. also, his greatest desire was to be left alone in his library. i believe it. (being an only child myself, five sisters, and a pestering mother who wants nothing more than to see them married would be more than enough for me to retreat to a quiet in-disturbable room of books.)
and miss caroline bingley? charles’ unmarried sister? gracious, i hadn’t noticed before how much she was throwing herself at mr. darcy and sure to be full of jealousy and all the greater maliciousness to break up jane and charles to destroy lizzy’s chances of being in darcy’s circle.
oh. and i drew jane austen’s glasses interweaving into my signature “h.” because four (five) cheers for jane austen, am i right?
some favorite quotes: (there’s tons. here’s a half dozen.)
“what do you think of books?” said he, smiling. (mr. darcy while dancing with elizabeth)
“but vanity, not love, has been my folly.” (lizzy)
“i think you are in very great danger of making him as much in love with you as ever.” (lizzie to jane upon bingley’s return)
“i shall be glad to have the library to myself as soon as may be.” (mr. bennet)
“i shall infinitely prefer a book.” (mary when the subject of a ball comes up. me too, mary. me, too.)
“i am the happiest creature in the world.” (a letter from lizzy to her aunt & uncle upon her engagement to darcy.)
original gouache on watercolour painting available framed for $525.
ordinary, extraordinary jane austen. by deborah hopkinson, illustrations by qin long. blazer + bray, an imprint of harpercollins publishers, 2018. an illustrated children’s book about young jane austen.
so this pictured “sherlock holmes: the complete novels and stories volume i” by sir arthur conan doyle was abandoned mid-way through the summer of my junior year of high school, if i remember correctly. (ooooh, that summer had its drama. but that’s another book for another day! ha!)
but i’m glad to report that the BBC show brought me back to the world’s most famous consulting detective’s original tales. and a couple months of research and doodling later, may i present to you the finished faerie tale feet painting: “the game is afoot.” [the title itself a quote from the sherlock story, “the adventure of the abbey grange.”]
so take a peek at some process photos below, and then i’ll let you know all the story icons i hid in his background “wallpaper” pattern and which stories they’re from! (i also hid a number of quintessential victorian london imagery in there, if it was mentioned in a sherlock tale, even if it didn’t directly play into a specific case.) 🙂
i hope you love the finished piece as much as i do!
and upon closer inspection, here are the things you can take time finding within the background:
the two things sherlock always carried on his person: a magnifying glass & a measuring tape
the infamous deerstalker hat (although never mentioned in doyle’s prose, it was part of sidney paget’s original illustrations and stuck as iconic!)
the house number: 221B baker street (although at the time the stories were written, baker street addresses only went as high as 83!)
his violin (oft-played throughout the 56 short stories & 4 novels penned by doyle)
a “censored” heart (in reference to “The Woman,” irene adler of “a scandal in bohemia.”)
an envelope & seeds (“the five orange pips”)
a Christmas goose (“the adventure of the blue carbuncle”)
a racehorse (“the adventure of silver blaze”)
“the naval treaty” presented to the frantic owner under a dinner cover because “i [sherlock] never can resist a touch of the dramatic.”
a cyclopides butterfly (“the hound of the baskervilles”)
a fire-breathing hound (“the hound of the baskervilles”)
a tree (disguised as an elderly bookseller, the name of the book back-from-the-dead sherlock presents to watson was the origin of tree worship in “the adventure of the empty house,” 1903.)
a bloody thumbprint (planted evidence in “the adventure of the norwood builder.”)
stick figure alphabet-code men (“the adventure of the dancing men”)
a bicycle (“the adventure of the solitary cyclist”)
a harpoon (“the adventure of black peter”)
a narwhal (my translation of the name of the ship in “the adventure of black peter,” the sea unicorn.)
candles (a flickering italian code in “the adventure of the red circle.”)
a submarine (“the adventure of the bruce-partington plans”)
a persian slipper (where sherlock keeps his tobacco)
a telephone (“the retired colourman”)
a gramophone (“the mazarin stone”)
his pipe (changed to the meerschaum seen here from the author’s straight-stemmed pipe by stage actor william gillette who couldn’t enunciate his lines with the straight pipe)
the roses on the chair (sherlock holds one while pontificating in “the naval treaty.”)
a moustache & glasses (his rival, barker, in “the retired colourman;” sherlock was also a master of disguise both in prothetics, costume, and posture, throughout his stories)
a bee (sherlock retired to the country in sussex downs where he took up bee farming, mentioned in “the adventure of the second stain.”)
a lampost indicative of victorian london streets
watson’s bowler hat
a hansom cab as sherlock & watson would have hired to scoot about town on cases
his coffee cup (how else would one be so smart? it’s in the caffeine, i hope. that’s my method.)
there of course was an infinite amount of imagery and details i could have included, but i had to leave SOME of it looking like wallpaper, right? 🙂
hope you love it as much as i do.
original framed faerie tale feet painting available for $560, + $30 for safe US shipping.
i remember reading “the girl who circumnavigated fairyland in a ship of her own making” sitting in my aunt’s sunroom back when it first came out in 2011. she (i call her “aunt seuss” because she was the keeper of alllll the dr. seuss books when i was a kid) asked how my book was– and all i could say was “if i wrote a book, i’m pretty sure i would write like this.” i don’t mean that as an insult to ms. valente– i just mean it was surreal and quirky and all the language and wordplay and delightfulness that i would someday wish to imbue upon the fiction-reading world. it was just SO good.
so here we are six years later, and the fifth and final book has come out, and i took it upon myself to re-read and re-enjoy them all. and then paint a picture.
most of my faerie tale feet series paintings are recognizable stories. and i know the reading audience for this series of books is smaller than the crowds that usually come through my booth at art festivals, and most have maybe never even heard of them. BUT, i do hope the painting stands on its own. as a visual testament to the dreaming realms. the shadow realms. the magic realms and the eternal hope of being whisked away by the Green Wind on to another adventure on the back of a leopard- particularly if you’ve had enough of the nebraska farmland you are growing up in. and i hope your friends are waiting for you there.
so have a look at my painting process below, and then i’ll share what all the icons in the background refer to in the books. and as ever, you don’t have to of read the books to enjoy the painting. but maybe you’ll want to pick one up later. or give it as a gift to a voracious book bear that sneaks into your library at night.
(oh, and the other thing i noticed upon re-reading this series is catherynne’s love of shoes. she gets it. they’re symbolic and magical, and i’ll share some of the book quotes at the bottom of this post, too!!)
“i shall be honest,” began september, pulling her emerald smoking jacket tight round her. “i haven’t any little idea what the Heart of Fairyland is or where to find it. i had hoped someone else might.” ~ from the girl who raced fairyland all the way home.
september lost one of her “prim little mary janes” on page 2 of the first book when the Green Wind whisked her over the windowsill onto the back of the Leopard of Little Breezes on her way to Fairyland. and so our adventures immediately begin. and it feels like in each and every chapter, september encounters new characters and creatures, obstacles, dangers, and friends. so narrowing down the shapes that appear in our background pattern was a doozie. but i tried. so here are what we ended up with:
the pink-and-yellow teacups which she had to wash everyday
the witches’ wooden spoon (stolen by the marquess)
a-through-l, the wyverary (his parents were a wyvern & a library)
lye (a woman made of soap)
september’s shadow self curtseying
september is carrying her new ball shoes, a dangerous gift from the marquess (described in the book as: “…if september’s shoe had grown up, gone to a great many balls and theatrical to-dos, and found a dashing mate. they had little heels and black crystal lilies on the toes, with bits of ribbon looping and whorling all around, speckled with garnets and tiny black pearls.”)
saturday (a marid, and september’s closest future more-than-friends friend)
gleam, a great orange lantern, one of the tsukumogami
the walnut-wood radio september would listen for news of her father off to war
jarlhopp- a furry turquoise kangaroo
the moon (something about a yeti? i got very confused over that adventure, i’ll admit)
stamps (to send a troll by post; changelings have to get here somehow)
hawthorne’s baseball (all sorts of scary troubles when he comes to life)
the pencil and balloon represent thomas rood/hawthorne’s notebook “inspector balloon” in which all the rules are written
the plum blossoms represent tamburlaine’s purple flower garland hair
the king’s tea had an elephant and a crown on the tea tag
the walrus cobbler and subsequent kelly green & bright-violet foot prints (so many margin notes in a favorite chapter of book four called “unhappy feet.” so many shoes!!)
derby race car
book bears (!!)
the crown of blue tongue berries and silver stars
and for the background sky, i tried to do the prose justice: “the sky shone neither blue nor black, day nor night, but a fiery, swirling twilight. light blazed in scarlet, peacock, deep plum, and molten quicksilver, light so thick it seemed to drip from the air onto every surface.” (from the third book, the girl who soared over fairyland and cut the moon in two.)
there was more. and a lot of things relevant to the story that just didn’t work as background icons (blunderbuss, the patchwork scrap-yarn wombat, for example.)
but i think we packed enough in here to celebrate our heroine september and all of her adventures, no?
so i hope you like the painting. even if you haven’t read the books yet. ms. valente’s writing is delectable and prances drippingly off the tongue, firing up imaginations and stories and escapades one would only dare to dream of.
and in closing, here are just some of the remarkable lines and snippets from the five books of fairyland. enJOY.
“september read often, and liked it best when words did not pretend to be simple, but put on their full armor and rode out with colors flying.” (page 51, the girl who circumnavigated fairyland in a ship of her own making)
“i… i suspect it means that if we act like the kind of folk who would find a Fairy city whilst on various adventures involving tricksters, magical shoes, and hooliganism, it will come to us.” (page 51, the girl who circumnavigated fairyland in a ship of her own making)
“i cannot help that readers will always insist on adventures, and though you can have grief without adventures, you cannot have adventures without grief.” (page 68, the girl who circumnavigated fairyland in a ship of her own making)
“shoes are funny beasts. you think they’re just clothes, but really, they’re alive. they want things. fancy ones with gems want to go to balls, big boots want to go to work, slippers want to dance. or sleep. shoes make the path you’re on. change your shoes, change the path.” (page 187, the girl who circumnavigated fairyland in a ship of her own making)
“yes, of course, my little leaf. and when you speak of tea or coffee or wine or any of our liquid spells, the drink must be matched perfectly with the drinker to get the best effect. if the match is a good one, the coffee will get to know you a little while you drink it, to know you and love you and cheer for your victories, lend you bravery and daring. the tea will want you to do well, will stand guard before your fear and sorry… september thought about her pink-and-yellow teacups in the sink back home, and how she had hated them and their slimy clumps of leaves. she felt poorly on it now, thinking of tea as a thing alive, which wanted only the best for her.” (pages 71-72, the girl who fell beneath fairyland and led the revels there)
“but she had not, in her estimation, ever managed a good poem. hers came out fitting together more like a broken faucet and an angry milk-goat.” (page 170, the girl who fell beneath fairyland and led the revels there)
“but shadows keep secrets better than anyone.” (page 257, the girl who fell beneath fairyland and led the revels there)
“you cannot argue with fate, whatever Candlestick says, she thought. you can only defy it.” (page 185, the girl who soared over fairyland and cut the moon in two)
“of course, all shoes are magic– they get you where you’re going and tell you where you’ve been. they tell your secrets, can’t hold their tongues a bit.” (page 167, the boy who lost fairyland)
“you have to wear through three pairs of shoes to get anything done. everyone knows that. once you wear through the third pair, whatever story you’ve got yourself into has to hurry up and finish its business so the next one can get going. call it a head start.” (page 173, the boy who lost fairyland)
“a powerful shhh is the final test of any great librarian, and Ell had been practicing.” (page 6, the girl who raced fairyland all the way home)
“and all four of them disappeared with a sound like a date-stamp clonking down, leaving behind a puff of dust that smelled strongly of dictionaries, first editions, and the complete works of everyone ever.” (page 106, the girl who raced fairyland all the way home)
“well, it sounded very exciting. and it had a lot of exclamation points in it, which is one of the signs of an excellent book.” (page 196, the girl who raced fairyland all the way home)
thank you, catherynne m. valente, for turning your book character’s favourite book into five whole real, readable books “for everyone forever” in this fairyland series. we curtsey humbly to your queenly reign of fairyland.
if you, like me, grew up watching disney’s “the sword in the stone,” we all know merlyn as a bumbling, lovable, sagacious, kooky old man. (with a lot of dumbledore vibes, if you ask me!)
in college, i was nerd enough to take an arthurian legends course for an english credit during my summer session, and was exposed to just a small snippet of Just How Many authors have been inspired by the legends of king arthur, his knights of the infamous round table, and the love stories of lancelot and guinevere and company.
so needless to say, i may have spent too long trying to read all the merlyn books i wanted to (over the course of two and a half years) before starting this faerie tale feet piece. BUT, even if i did paint before i finished the entire stack of books and recommendations, i at last present to you: “merlyn’s beard!”
have a peek at my process and study habits below, and then after all the pictures, i’ll tell you what all lurks in the background from merlyn’s adventurous life!
(and title note: no, you can’t see his beard in this painting. but he had one. and it makes me laugh anytime a harry potter character says “merlin’s beard!” as a euphemism, so there ya go. it’s going to be our title. fair enough?) 🙂
so what all is in this image?
the dragons: the red and white dragons that kept vortigen’s tower from being built. vortigen’s magicians/wise men told them he had to find a fatherless child and spill his blood before he could build his tower on the hill; he found merlyn, rumored to be the son of a virgin and a demon (a non-human father). merlyn foretold the sleeping dragons under the lake beneath the hill, sparing his own young life, the dragons fought, and the white prevailed.
stonehenge: merlyn was builder and architect. he designed/created (according to legend, of course) stonehenge, uther pendragon’s castle, arthur’s camelot, magic fountains (referenced in spencer’s faerie queen), the infamous round table, and more.
the merlin egg: merlin is also the name of a bird, and of course being ye olde english, the spelling of his name can vary. i put a bird’s egg in there, as merlyn could also have come from “myrddin” a welsh name, meaning “many,” as in many talents. his mother was the granddaughter of king constantine, therefore merlyn was of royal birth, and according to one book i read, the second cousin of arthur. his mother was a nun visited by demons or incubi, and merlyn was raised and tutored by blaise, a hermit monk. (again, so says the books i read!) 🙂
the magic book: because he was wise, also because nimue stole it when he was old (more on that later)
his horn-rimmed spectacles (with no ear pieces, according to white)
his wand of lignum vitae (a type of wood)
the bear: arthur was known as the bear of the west, or the great bear. not only did merlyn bring about arthur’s birth by disguising uther pendragon to bed the duke of cornwall’s wife igraine while the duke was off in battle, but merlyn placed arthur with sir ector to be raised as a commoner until it was time for him to pull….
the sword in the stone: the sword was on an anvil on a stone in the churchyard with gold letters: “Whoso pulleth out this sword of this stone and anvil is the rightwise King born of all England.” of course arthur grabbed it for sir kay’s sword he’d left behind at the inn, and arthur was the only one who could get it back out of the stone, and merlyn up until that point was the only one who knew arthur was the son of king uther. fun fact: this sword was NOT excalibur. i’ll spare you That story, but excalibur (& its more-powerful scabbard) was handed to arthur by the lady of the lake after he lost this sword.
holly berries & leaves: because the sword in the stone incident happened during a Christmas/New Year’s Day tournament in town
(see, i told you: SO MUCH MERLYN/Arthur information!!)
merlyn’s pipe: his meerschaum pipe made him look like he breathed fire
the three queens in the boat: the three queens who took arthur to avalon after the great battle with mordred
the round symbol: a combined reference to the round table (designed by merlyn, possibly a wedding present from guinevere’s dad to arthur) which depending on the telling, could seat anywhere from twelve to 250 knights; also a reference to merlyn being the change/gateway from the olde religions to Christianity in England. and merlyn magically selected the knights, according to some accounts.
the goblet: merlyn created a cup that would reveal the drinker’s pure life (but probably also looks like the holy grail, a famous incident/quest in arthur’s life)
the castle: again, merlyn designed uther pendragon’s castle as well as camelot
the plumbline: another reference to merlyn as architect
the heart-studded ring near the tree: vivian (also vivienne or nimue or the lady of the lake) and merlyn may or may not have been in love; he loved her and taught her all of his magic, which she then used to trap him in a tree for all of eternity. (or possibly an underground palace where only she could visit him. or a cave. pick a preference.)
the hawthorne tree: possibly the prison where merlyn remains to this day, growing in wisdom, but not in age.
oh, and archimedes! his tawny owl.
and his hat, a pointed cap like a dunce’s cap full of spider webs and bones and insects and all sorts of stuff. which i made pretty with some metallic gouache. 🙂
there are eleven pages of my tiny-scrawled handwriting in my moleskin notebooks i tried to condense into this painting. there are six pages in my sketchbook trying to find the best shapes and objects to use. i hope you enjoyed your magical (if brief, compared to merlyn’s lifetime, possibly lived backwards) journey through his tales.
the original framed painting is available for $560.
added BONUS, here are a few of my favorite merlyn quotes i found in various readings:
✨“it makes no difference if you are a dream or not, so long as you are here.” [from t.h. white’s “the book of merlyn.”]
✨“unless you had lived this, you would not have known it. one has to live one’s knowledge.” [same as above]
✨“the Stars which taught the Sun to rise must agree with him at noon– or vanish.” [same]
✨“there is a thing about Time and Space which the philosopher Einstein is going to find out. some people call it Destiny.” [from t.h. white’s “the once and future king.”]
✨“the most famous man of all those times, Merlin, who knew the range of all their arts, had built the king his havens, ships, and halls, was also Bard, and knew the starry heavens; the people call’d him Wizard.” [from tennyson’s “merlin and vivien.”]
✨“who are wise in love
Love most, say least.” [same]
✨“what does any man seek, but his destiny?” [from the short story, “the temptations of merlin,” by peter tremayne.]
✨“merlin travels the world, from kingdom to kingdom, forest to forest. he brings news, he recaps the past and foretells the future. so i am not surprised that Arthur knows him.” [from the short story “excalibur” by anne e. crompton.]
what i love about this fairy tale is that in the original, the prince has set out to find a TRUE princess. and the queen concocts this crazy test– a tiny pea underneath 20 mattresses and 20 quilts to prove the gal’s “delicacy.” if she’s sensitive enough to feel the pea, she Must be a true princess.
in all the visual retellings (faerie tale classic theatre, once upon a mattress, for example), she’s a total tomboy. and still the only one who passes the delicacy test! i love it. because princesses come in all shapes and sizes, all personalities, and can come into the castle in the midst of any kind of storm!
have a peek at my process below and then i’ll tell you a few more story details beneath all the pictures. 🙂
i’m really excited to share this faerie tale feet piece with you.
“Pea is for Princess.,” from the faerie tale feet series by hallie m. bertling, a.k.a., halthegal.
inspired by hans christian andersen’s “the princess and the pea.”
11 x 14,” gouache on watercolour paper.
the faerie tale classic theatre episode (starring liza minnelli!) was a perpetual childhood favourite (right after “the twelve dancing princesses.”) the broadway show “once upon a mattress” is fantastically quirky and silly and lyrically very funny and sweet.
and i even found some versions of hans christian andersen’s theme in other cultures’ folk tales- “the most sensitive woman” is an italian fairy tale which features a pulled hair, a wrinkled linen sheet, and then a jasmine blossom bruising a true princess’ foot. and from india, “the three delicate wives of king virtue-banner,” in which a lotus-petal, moonbeams, and then the most delicate was the one who bruised from just hearing the pestles grinding grain.
all that to say, i hope you get a better night’s sleep than these ladies. and can rest well knowing your princess status, and without having to pass such a test. i hope the king lets you in when it’s storming outside and you’ve been wandering the moors. i hope the pea is still in the museum and hasn’t been stolen. and if a bewildered, curious kitty does have to watch you climb a ladder to reach the top of an unruly pile of mattresses, i hope you’re not scared of heights. or allergic to tiny green vegetables.
“you don’t mean to tell me that there is a fairy in this room!”
i credit my dad with my obsession with peter pan.
of course i grew up watching (repeatedly) the classic disney animated version.
and “peter pan’s flight” is still my favorite ride in all of the disney parks.
i didn’t read the book until i worked in a book store during college. and it didn’t quite resonate with me. but i’d say in the past five years, i’ve probably read it another ten times. i guess i get it now. barrie’s adventurous island. the darlings’ daring escape into the night. peter’s forgetfulness. the lovely mermaids. brave tiger lily. the ridiculous pirates.
but perhaps i’m mixing what i grew up with into barrie’s marvelous prose. before i even saw the disney film, i saw mary martin’s broadway performance in the cbs (re-)telecast. (hook’s tarantella is just one of those things that sticks with you. and mary-as-peter outsmarting him in the woods as that “mysterious lady.”) i got to see the traveling show live with cathy rigby (can i watch the lost boys and the indians drum on the stage forever, please?!) and i absolutely fell in love with p.j. hogan’s non-musical, very colorful, film version in 2007. it’s in my top ten favorite movies ever.
i’ve read every peter pan retelling or twist telling i can get my hands on. (there are a lot of awful ones out there, but i do enjoy dave barry & ridley pearson’s peter and the starcatchers series, for the record.)
all that to say, the story, just like peter, doesn’t get old.
i wanted to revisit neverland, and more particularly, the glowing stage presence, of everyone’s favorite pixie, tinker bell. so i created a companion piece to my paintings “wendy loves peter pan.” and “off to neverland!” (my wendy & peter pieces which have both sold, but prints still available!)
so behold: my process and iconography for “i do believe in fairies,” my faerie tale feet gouache painting ode to tinker bell.
see my process below, and then further down i’ll tell you everything from the original story hidden in the background!
tinker bell first appears in the stage production (it was a play to begin with, of course, then due to its tremendous theatrical success, barrie was “forced” to turn it into a readable novel; i’ve read the stage and prose versions multiple times, naturally) as a ball of light, flickering about the stage, looking in lamps and drawers for peter’s shadow that nana, the nurse dog, caught when peter had made an earlier visit to the darling family’s nursery window.
in light of this (theatre pun!), i wanted to weight the painting with a facsimile of the nursery set that opens the stage production. so we see the beds of wendy, michael, & john, complete with the nightlights hanging by each of their beds (“the eyes a mother leaves behind for her children.”) i also snuck in a teeny tiny pirate ship by the boys’ beds as they were ever so fond of playing pirates, even if forever bickering of who would play villainous captain jas. hook.
the open window not only lets tink and peter into the nursery, but lets the children out. (& of course must always remain open if they are ever to return. peter’s a bit bitter that by the time he finally flew back to his mother’s house, the window was shut and he had been replaced with another baby. so he went back to neverland. forever.)
nana’s doghouse is in the nursery, too, and i mimicked the london skyline that is seen in wendy‘s painting. second star to the right (& straight on ’til morning; famous directions, although peter makes it up on the spot)* shining brightly as ever.
in the background you’ll find:
peter’s pipes (early illustrations from “peter in kensington gardens” show his musical side.)
skeleton leaves (not only what tink’s dress is made out of, but what she tries to send wendy afloat back to the mainland on in one of her many jealous pranks)
acorn (the “kiss” that peter gives wendy which saves her life when tink tells the lost boys to shoot down “the wendy bird.”)
thimble (the “kiss” that wendy gives peter, causing tink to pull her hair)**
pots and kettles (it’s why “she is called tinker bell because she mends the pots and kettles.”)
the lovely mermaids of neverland (another source of tink’s jealousy over her wayward, charming, flirtatious if clueless, peter.)
tiger lily (princess of the piccaninnies tribe, another contending female for peter’s affections)
there were “a million golden arrows” pointing the way to neverland for wendy, john, & michael, but i also painted them to look like the arrows of the lost boys (one that hits mother wendy) and the piccaninnies
the pirates’ scabbards
one of each lost boy (tootles, nibs, slightly, curly, and the twins.)
hook’s poison (which tink drank to save peter’s life; the cause for peter to directly plead with the audience to “clap if you believe in fairies!” so that tink might live)
the mushroom chimney that hook sat on which revealed the long-sought-out hiding place of the lost boys’ underground burrow and commenced many schemes of kidnap and beguiling
and of course, floating in the left-hand corner is tink herself. “exquisitely gowned in a skeleton leaf, cut low and square, through which her figure could be seen to the best advantage. she was slightly inclined to embonpoint***.”
fun fact: i intended to paint peter’s shadow on the nursery walls as it appears in the disney ride, but i obviously forgot. i do hope you get the idea of our little minx and her jealous, protective self, even without peter’s lingering presence. 🙂
there were lots of other shapes i’d wished to fit in there to tell the tale, but i hope you’ll read the play. read the book. see the musical. see the movie. see the animated film. relish in the unending adventures of neverland and the boy who refused to grow up. and his fairy.
the original painting is framed in black (painted image 11 x 11,” framed in black with a white mat to 16 x 16.”) and available for $525. message me if interested!
*barrie took these instructions from robert lewis stevenson’s invitation to visit him at vailima, his estate in the samoan islands. “you take the boat at san francisco, and then my place is the second to the left.” (the annotated peter pan, notes by maria tartar, w.w. norton & company, 2011; pg. 53.)
**according to the annotated peter pan, “young audiences participated in the early production, not just by clapping their hands to save tinker bell but also by throwing thimbles on stage to peter.” (page 41)
***embonpoint: excessive plumpness, stoutness. as she should be.
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.
let’s look at my process for creating this painting in the faerie tale feet series, and then below, i’ll share where i got each specific background icon!
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.
and for good measure, here are a few favourite fairy godmother quotes i came upon in my usual miles upon tomes of miles of my research:
“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.
“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.
the original painting has sold, but limited edition prints are available HERE on my etsy shoppe, the greeting card HERE on my etsy shoppe, and the small framed print HERE.
inspired by everyone’s favorite dreamy-eyed, wrackspurt-seeing ravenclaw luna lovegood, this faerie tale feet piece pays homage to all who live in their own clouds of wonder. and all those who hold fiercely to their beliefs of what others may doubt, especially the unwavering power of friendship.
let’s take a peek through my process and then i’ll reveal all the hidden background icons you’ll find in your new art!
so what all is in the background telling the luna’s story from the three books she appears in? here we go…
her necklace of butterbeer caps
ravenclaw shield (when harry & luna are looking for the now-horcrux diadem of rowena ravenclaw, we get a sneak peek into the mind of a ravenclaw. instead of a password, they have to answer a question. “which came first, the phoenix or the flame?” luna’s reply, “…i think the answer is that a circle has no beginning.” – book 7; pg. 587. definitely my kind of people.)
thestrals [only she and harry can see them pulling the students’ carriages to hogwarts because they have both seen death firsthand (book 5; page 199, from where our painting title derives.) thestrals definitely make hagrid’s care of magical (invisible?) creatures lesson all the more interesting. they also make a spectacular appearance later when the brave DA members must get to the department of mysteries.]
her orange radish earrings (book 5; page 261)
her roaring gryffindor hat to show her support during quidditch
mistletoe (“it’s often infested with nargles.” book 5; pg. 453.)
spectrespecs (“…which gave her the look of a demented, multicolored owl.” book 6; pg. 138.)
gurdyroots (onion-like things given to ron to ward off gulping plimpies.)
her father’s golden deathly hallows symbol (he wore it as a necklace to bill & fleur’s wedding; it lead harry, ron, & hermione to xenophilius’ house in book 7.)
the explosive erumpet horn (which luna and xenophilius incorrectly believed to be a harmless crumple-horned snorkack horn)
the lovegood home (which looked like a rook- the castle chess piece in wizard’s chess.)
silver hare patronus (it’s only mentioned very late in book 7, but they show it in the fifth movie which i find amazing.)
her bright yellow robes worn to the weasley/delacour wedding; i’ve put a silver trim on the hem because of the silver robes she wore when harry took her (as friends) to slughorn’s Christmas party in book 6.
and of course her sneakers are all her own.
“just as sane as luna,” from the faerie tale feet series by hallie m. bertling.
gouache on watercolor paper, 6 x 14.”
the original painting is currently available for $450. email me ( halthegal @ hotmail . com ) if you wish to claim her. 🙂
click through to follow the link to my etsy shoppe for limited edition prints!
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 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.
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!)
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
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.”
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.