“Pea is for Princess.” hans christian andersen’s “the princess and the pea.”

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.  🙂

princess pea blog 1
i have vivid memories of this storybook as a kid, and was very pleased to get my hands on a copy. i love the silly animals and the subtle colors over the drawings. it’s a classic for a reason. and i always let myself collect as many versions of the story i’m working on as i can find for inspiration. and really, it’s just a great excuse to expand my fairy tale shelves!
princess pea blog 2
my nerdtastic*bff (er, cousin-in-law) once again came to the rescue and let me take some reference photos of her climbing a ladder (braver than vertigo-me!) to get the movement right for my final sketch. i also used her beautiful kitty mertz to style our own curious kitty.
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here’s in-progress of early thumbnails and sketches, compiling my notes, and editing what i want to keep in the picture.  (things that got left out:  feathers flying out and down around the mattresses.  and i put the mouse with a (the?!) pea in the windowsill instead of squishing him between mattress layers.
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here’s the final drawing to final scale- 11 x 14″ about to be transferred down on to watercolour paper.
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once i’d transferred my image (re-traced it down to the watercolour paper using transfer paper in-between the drawing and the final paper), i got to start my favourite bit: painting!  you’ll also see a little sheen in the puddles around the princess’ boots.  i used some masking fluid for raindrops in the windows, the kitty whiskers, and said puddle so that after all my painting, i’d have clean white-of-the-paper patches in those spots!
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layers and layers of colors for each mattress pattern. patience waiting for the wet, thin gouache layers to soak in before adding more shapes or stripes was my challenge!  otherwise all those edges would run.  :/
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once i’d painted all the mattresses, i painted the background wall, the stormy night outside the window, and the rug under the kitty….
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and hours and hours and hours later (some of which were equally stormy!), here is our final painting! lots of layers of colours. lots of details. lots of peering through my magnifying lamp and controlling teeny tiny brush strokes!
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and here was the final stack of books and media i referenced for creating this faerie tale feet piece. the original tale, in various translations, lots of illustrated children’s books, more fairy tale collections, and even the original broadway cast recording of “once upon a mattress” starring a very young carol burnett in 1959!

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.

prints now available HERE on etsy!!  https://www.etsy.com/listing/525709064/princess-the-pea-pea-is-for-princess

greeting cards available individually, or as part of the PRINCESS PACK!  😀

original painting available framed for $525.  contact me through etsy or instagram.  you can see more in-progress shots and short videos at instagram.com/halthegal2.  follow along for what’s next!

 

“i do believe in fairies!”

“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!

tink halthegal blog 1
once i’ve done all my research (reading book, play, short stories, rewatching all the films and broadway versions, annotated editions, etc.), i finalize which drawings and shapes i want to use for the pattern background. so here’s the view through my magnifier lamp as i trace different objects that create the background pattern…
tink halthegal blog 2
here’s the final pattern drawing taped down to my illustration board. i’ll put a piece of transfer paper between the tracing paper and the board, and re-trace every line so that i can have the drawing on the board and paint around all the shapes.
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once the drawing is transferred, i’ll mix up my main background color (obsessed with what my instagram followers & i dubbed “morning moss”) and paint around each and every shape- it usually takes upwards of 5 hours and i have to do it in one sitting to keep the paint colour & smooth texture consistent.
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here’s a view once the background color is down and i’m mixing a color for each new shape. (all the mermaids shall be the same green; all the pirate swords are the same green; the lost boys are their own shade of green, etc.)
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for whatever reason, but probably so i can make them stand out as needed depending on how the rest of the piece turned out, i always paint the legs/feet/shoes of our main character as the very last thing. so here are all the different shades of green i mixed for the background on my trusty paper plates, and the finished nursery/stage at the bottom.
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here’s a zoomed-in shot of that nursery window with our london skyline and the second star to the right beckoning our adventurers on to more fantastical things.

 

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
  • hook’s hook
  • 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 painting shall debut at artisphere 2017 and i may or may not put prints and cards up on etsy before then.

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.

“it’s possible.” {your own personal fairy godmother.}

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!

fgm blog 1
once in a great while, i’ll take my research to the outside world. here, a nearly-too-pretty to drink latte from the fair ladies at the village grind on pendleton street in west greenville. i brought my trusty li’l notebook and a couple books full of fairy godmother versions and madame d’aulnoy’s fairy tales, the earliest mentions of fairy godmothers.
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once i’ve done my research (see media pile in back corner of my drafting table!), i’ll start sketching the most obvious or recognizable icons that can help tell the story visually. so i’ll do thumbnails for layout, plus lots of versions of each shape until i find something that shall read clearly visually.
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here’s the final background pattern drawing!
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and once my drawing is done, i’ll tape it to my illustration board, put a bit of transfer paper in between, and retrace every line and shape…
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…. so the blue lines are what transferred when i retraced my drawing, so here i am painting with a teeny tiny brush around all the teeny tiny background shapes to fill in the background color– i have to do it in one sitting or it gets streaky. so that usually takes, oh, 5-7 hours at one go if i’m on a roll!
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once the background colour is done, i’ll paint one color at a time… i started with the frogs, then a bit of the wings…
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and more and more colours get added….
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almost done! the keys were fun to paint, but oh such tiny details. i painted them once in a mustard golden hue, then went over them again with literal shiny gold gouache.
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here’s the final painting and a beautiful photo of one of the fifteen stunning galleries dedicated to the “Art of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia, and Later South Asia” that i used for color scheme reference. i wanted her to match my “cinderella’s escape” painting so you could hang them side by side, but definitely wanted to give this one its own distinct vibe!

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.

fgm blog header
top left corner detail from “it’s possible.”

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.

“go!  with the promise of possibility!”

& have a magical day!

*halthegal.

“just as sane as luna.”

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!

luna blog 1
i reread the entire HP series with the intention of painting ron’s feet first, but i couldn’t help but take copious notes on one gal who just hears the drums for herself and dances anyway. so my sketching icon ideas for luna began…
luna blog 2
once i narrowed down which shapes i wanted to use in the background, i created my patterned background drawing, here ready to transfer onto watercolor paper. (she’s the same size as my harry & hermione pieces.)
luna blog 3
i looooove how glassy and dreamy the soft glazes of purple turned out for the background color. i painted ArouND most of the icons, but a few i gave a light wash over so that the colors would be cohesive and not get too loud. (i always try, even if i do fail, not to make my paintings to garishly brite! i promise!)
luna blog 4
here’s just in-progress on the luna piece. as you’ll notice, in my original drawing, i was going to give her baby doll shoes (endemic to the hogwarts’ uniform shoes the girls wear) and was going to decorate them with sunflowers, as she wore a sunflower in her hair to fleur & bill’s wedding in book 7. however, loyal online fans pointed out how it might be a BIT more luna-esque if we gave her her signature hightop kicks. so we went back to the drawing board…
luna blog 5
my wonderful cuz-in-law was kind enough to come over on a sunshiny day and pose in her chucks for me. needless to say, if you’ve ever tried, converse (& all sneakers for that matter), are very hard to draw. it took quite a bit of effort and perpetual re-dos to get them just right. (a few iterations were a bit too ronald mcdonald-like. snorkacks forbid!!)
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so here are the NEW shoes, inked over the best i could erase the transfer lines from the original drawing… much better, methinks.
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and voila! here’s the right-hand corner of the finished luna piece.

 

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 links to my etsy shoppe for…

large matted luna print

small framed luna print

luna greeting card

luna, harry, & hermione card set

 

 

 

 

“the language of a lady.”

inspired by bernard shaw’s pygmalion and alan jay lerner & frederick loewe’s my fair lady, my faerie tale feet pice “the language of a lady” just happens to be my new favorite.

shaw’s dialogue is quick and witty, and full of language puns and jokes and just all-around classic interactions between his characters.  he wrote the play in just three months back in 1912, the first english production of the play was in april of 1914, and not until march 15, 1956 did the musical version appear on broadway starring none other than a 21 year-old julie andrews and the indefatigable rex harrison.

HIGGINS     Remember that you are a human being with a soul and the divine gift of articulate speech:  that your native language is the language of Shakespear and Milton and The Bible; and don’t sit there crooning like a bilious pigeon.

i’ll show you a few pictures of my research and painting process, and then below i’ll share what all of the background icons allude to from the text!  enJOY!

my-fair-lady-1
so i do a lot of my research at my husband’s studio at taylor’s mill. here’s a view from where i sit at his reading desk reading, taking notes, and doodling ideas in my sketchbook. (he’s a realistic oil painter and portrait draftsman as you can tell from some of the work on the walls. check him out at nathanbertling.com!)
my-fair-lady-sketches
after i take lots of notes from the original text, i seek out reference materials to inspire posture, poses, and costume choices. early on, i knew the bow was going to be spectacular. and the shoes i used, instead of slippers as they appear in the film and stage versions, are inspired by a fancy pair of ballenciaga pumps i found in vogue last year or so…
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here’s the pattern drawing created from icon sketches in my sketchbook!
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i went with a beautiful subtle pink wash for the background of this piece. the first step is transferring down the drawing, and then painting around all of the shapes with the same background colour…
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i used a heavier watercolour paper than usual for this piece, and it was super*absorbant… so needless to say, it took lots and lots and lots of layers of colour to build up any contrast and vibrancy…
my-fair-lady-4
i paint at home, surrounded by my books. so here’s my little corner of the world, you can see my paper paint palettes (great for re-using spots of color), my tins full of gouache, and the original pattern drawing on tracing paper.
my-fair-lady-5
i always save the feet and shoes for last when working on a piece. it just seems fitting for the whole “faerie tale feet” concept. so here’s a mostly finished background painting while about to nervously begin the leg and fancy shoe of miss eliza doolittle….
my-fair-lady-6
ta*da! the magnifying lamp i use to paint gives me seemingly endless potential for painting tiny tiny spaces. so the jewels on her shoe turned out rawther well, i dare say… but the bow is still my favourite part of this piece, i think! 🙂

so here are what the shapes in the background represent…

  • the sailor hat of black straw (eliza doolittle as a flower girl selling violets in covent garden, where our story begins)
  • her flower basket
  • violets spewing out of the phonograph (she was selling violets, and as she tells henry higgins later in act V, “…the difference between a lady and a flower girl is not how she behaves, but how she’s treated.”)
  • the birdcage (one of two possessions she sent for from her own flat once she moved in as the grand experiment of henry higgins to make good on his bet to “make a duchess of this draggletailed guttersnipe.”)
  • the phonograph (in henry higgins’ study, for listening to records of dialect, and for eliza to practice repeating sounds as she developed proper english speech patterns)
  • the tuning fork (again, another instrument found in the stage and set directions for higgins’ study)
  • the 3 ostrich feathers of orange, sky blue, & red (what eliza doolittle had on her hat when she came to ask for lessons from professor higgins; her best attire, which he had burned.)
  • the bathtub (poor flower girl eliza thought she would drown if she ever washed more than her face.)
  • the tan men’s hat (for professor higgins, a “confirmed old bachelor”)
  • the red slippers (what eliza threw at professor higgins after he refused to give her credit for all her hard work passing as a lady out in society, but also the last line of the 1964 film where he says merely at eliza’s return “where the devil are my slippers?”)
  • the piece of sanskrit (to represent colonel pickering, returned from india to meet henry higgins, author of ‘higgins’ universal alphabet’; as higgins claimed he was going to india to meet pickering, the author of ‘spoken sanskrit.’)
  • the mustache (nepommuck, a former pupil of higgins’ who at the ball claimed eliza was a fraud, believing her to be of hungarian royal blood as her english was too good.)
  • the tophat (for alfred doolittle, eliza’s father, who sings both “with a little bit of luck,” and once higgins has turned him into an unfortunate member of the middle class for his philosophical ramblings on morality, in his tux sings “get me to the church on time” on his nite out before his wedding.)
  • the racehorse, dover, for eliza nearly giving herself away with everyone’s favorite movie line, “come on, dover!!!  move your bloomin’ arse!!!”(the race wasn’t in the stage version, they merely had tea; i think the “ascot gavotte” number is just delightful and i’m glad they added it to the film.)
  • on the front of the phonograph, i painted eliza’s opera fan she carried to the ball
  • the suitcase (another favorite number of an empowered woman, eliza sings “show me” to her pining suitor freddy eynsford-hill as she storms out of higgins’ flat after the ball.  shaw was adamant that higgins and eliza do NOT end up together romantically, but that she does indeed marry freddy and open a flower shop and they are content to be poor and lead a simple life.  hollywood changed the ending to an implied relationship between higgins & eliza, which i think could have worked on a friendship level, but he was too boorish to deserve her is what i say.)
  • and last, but not least, i put a penguin in there.  why?  well, a favorite piece of trivia i discovered while researching these works was that rex harrison (who played henry higgins in both the stage & film versions) would cry out “where’s my penguin?!” during rehearsals when he wanted to compare his broadway lines and lyrics to shaw’s original text.  as a true englishman, someone would have to bring him his penguin classic edition of the 1912 text to ensure lerner was remaining faithful to the artistic truth of shaw’s words.  well, rex did this all the time, so the producers finally got him a taxidermied penguin!  he got the joke, never asked for his book again, and kept the penguin in his dressing room for the run of the show.  (three years on broadway before the cast took it to london!)

 

another piece of trivia you may be wondering about is why if the broadway and london stage production was such a hit, why julie andrews wasn’t used in the film.  well, the hollywood producers didn’t think her name had enough marquee punch to it, so they cast a well-known actress instead, a miss audrey hepburn (whose singing voice was dubbed).  which, i will forgive them, because in 1964 (the same year), a mr. walt disney made a super star out of julie andrews with a little film called “mary poppins.”  i’m glad we have both even if i do wish there was a recording of julie andrews in this role outside of just the cast album.

(a great book i thoroughly enjoyed if you’re a fan of the film was loverly:  the life and times of my fair lady by dominic mchugh, oxford university press, (c) 2012.  i am fascinated by the creative process and recommend it for a further look behind the scenes of stage & film versions!)

okay, if you’ve made it this far, you may be interested to know that you CAN indeed purchase prints and cards of this piece on the halthetal etsy shoppe.  (coming soon!)

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cards available here:  http://etsy.me/2kVnlFY

and the original painting is available framed for $585.  email me!

 

 

“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:

http://etsy.me/2c9Fbxw

“harry– yer a wizard.”

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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.
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we [royal, just me, really] reduced harry’s tale down to these images and icons- and decided on the painting layout.
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here was the final background pattern drawing.
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and for a wee bit of texture on this one, we painted it on watercolour paper instead of my usual illustration board.
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i still painted it in gouache, but layers and layers of washes instead of the usual opaque application of one colour at a time.
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and here is the final painting!
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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

 

“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

“let it snow queen.”

snow 1
lots of fun sketching of arctic animals and snowflakes before beginning this piece…
snow 2
and lots of potential shoes for our magnanimous and nefarious snow queen.
snow 3
here’s the final drawing of animals that play a tale in the tale, shoes, and snowflakes ready to be transferred to illustration board.
snow 4
i painted the snowflakes, animals, and snow queen feet with resist so i could lay over streaks of wet gouache for the background in lots of cool hues.
snow 5
once the background was dry, i removed the resist and painted in the animal silhouettes. (in real life they are beautiful– subtle fur and variations of midnight blues and deepest purples.)
snow 6
shoes are almost done here… and i added shadows and details to the snowflakes for depth and variety.
snow 7
i gave the snow queen some intricate snowflake tattoos on her legs just for fun. so tiny that i had to use a seem ripper to transfer them before tracing them with metallic ink for a finale. 😉

“let it snow queen.”

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

11×11″ on illustration board

some of you may know the tale as disney interpreted it for the recent animated (understatement: hit!) “frozen.” it was originally a pretty episodic tale by our beloved hans christian andersen. various versions include an evil goblin flying through space who breaks a mirror which only reflects the worst in people. so when a shard lands in both the heart and the eye of kai, he gets carried away with his own meanness, runs away with the snow queen by hitching his stolen sled to her magical flying sleigh, and is about to freeze (inside and out) until gerda, through a LOT of brave & heroic & often distracting adventures, rescues her friend from the snow queen’s coldhearted grasp. spoiler: her tears of love melt the coldness in his heart and the deception in his eyes.
you should read it. i don’t do it justice.

seen in my original gouache (& ink for her snowflake tattoos!) painting are four creatures who help or hinder gerda along her path to rescue her best and dearest friend when she refuses to give up on him.

i tried something different than my usual patterned background iconography– i could have used: the mirror shards, the rose arch, a sled, a sleigh, icicles, gerda’s red shoes, a boat, magic comb, sunbonnet, owls, a wise old woman with grey braids, the troll, angels, a prince & princess, a throne in the middle of a lake, a muff, the snow queen’s fireworks, a magnifying glass, the talking flowers, and more.

but in the vastness of the tale are also the reindeer, the wolves, a raven, and a polar bear guard. they are both friends, foes, obstacles, and sages; gerda ultimately wins, for, as the wise woman said:

“i can give her nothing more powerful as that which she already has– a loving heart.”

you can order the limited, signed edition prints here on my etsy site:  http://etsy.me/1NDMQC5

and the snow queen greeting cards here:  http://etsy.me/1EcG4kI

original painting is still available framed for $425.  contact me.  🙂