“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.
tink halthegal blog 3
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.
tink halthegal blog 4
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.)
tink halthegal blog 5
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.
tink halthegal blog 6
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 original painting has sold, but prints and cards are up on etsy!

limited edition signed prints here:  http://etsy.me/2zhNmFO

greeting cards available here:  http://etsy.me/2iVY12N


*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.


faerie tale feet: the coloring book vol. i

this is gonna be good!

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

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

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

please join the party here:

thanks for your support!

peace, love, & colour to you,


“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 its 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

“wendy loves peter pan.”

background pattern
having traced all the crocodiles, pirate swords, tinkerbells, tiger lilies, & more, the pattern is ready for transfer to illustration board!
background color
once the drawing is transferred, the paint starts going in around every single shape… one colour at a time!
background progress
after the background is filled in, i paint each shape its own colour. once again, one colour at a time until there’s colour everywhere!!
wendy loves peter pan.
final gouache painting on illustraiton board, 11×11,” by hallie m. bertling
just some of the peter pan media and references in my collection….

oh, boy do i love “peter pan” by j.m. barrie.  i can literally count on my shelves um, well, upwards of three dozen different published editions, illustrated editions, or novel spin-offs of the classic tale.  plus, half a dozen dvds and as many cds.  i’m a bit obsessed, but let’s just call me an avid collector of pixie dust, eh?

so here is my original gouache painting (original sold in atlanta last year; sorry):

“wendy loves peter pan.”

there’s no denying that.
but how do we get to neverland? second star to the right & straight on ’til morning, of course.

join wendy as she flies over the london skyline (london*ish, i mostly looked at mary poppins sets for reference; ha) and onward & upward to unceasing adventures with peter & the lost boys.

of course there are forces to be reckoned with: jealousy.  tink.  the exotic tiger lily.  mermaids.  each foe a danger to wendy’s ego and self*assured motherly ways.  but the girl has spirit.  and even the obvious foes: pirates.  hook. the draw of home.  can’t hinder her womanly wiles and shadow*sewing skills.

fly away wendy.
and don’t deny that heart of yours.

original painting has SOLD, but limited edition signed prints available here:  http://etsy.me/1DF4QnT

greeting cards available here:  http://etsy.me/1KqoCIL

& yes, peter got his own painting too:  http://etsy.me/1KqoGby

there are a LOT of fun icons hidden in this background:  flamingoes and mermaids were of course what wendy wanted to see when peter taunted her with running away to neverland, younger brother michael’s teddy bear, the pirate scabbard, hook’s hook, tiger lily’s profile, tinkerbell, that crocodile intent on consuming the rest of capt. jas. hook, and of course, you can find the “map” to neverland hidden in the stars.  i’d take the one on the right if i were you.