Friday, May 6, 2016

Splendor in the grass

It's been raining a lot. The grass is vividly green, soft and cool to the touch, growing fast. Our freely roaming hens are laying lots of eggs with the deep yellow-orange yolks that come when they eat spring grass and weeds. The milk we buy from a local farmer is sweeter when the cows are on spring grass, and the rich cream on top is a delicate yellow. The first fresh greens we eat in the spring are mediated to us by animals eating the grass.

My littles are enjoying our new batch of Buff Orpington chickens, "kid chickens," they call them, because they are older than chicks but they are half the size of a full grown chicken. Buff Orpingtons are an old-fashioned dual-purpose breed. That is, they can be kept for both eggs and meat. They are lighter than modern meat chickens and lay less than modern egg-laying breeds, but they are hardier, calmer, and more self-sufficient. And they're pretty. I love their soft golden color.

Me with my snuggly littles. 

And finally, a fascinating, even amazing, video by Zimbabwean ecologist Allan Savory about how animals and grass together in the right combination can restore regions that are turning into desert. His discoveries have far reaching implications and this twenty-minute video is worth the watch.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Pictures by Jean Adrien Mercier

I recently discovered the delightful French illustrator Jean Adrien Mercier. Besides his dates (1899-1995) I haven't learned much about him. Any info online is probably in French, which I can't read, more's the pity.

I especially like these illustrations of fanciful transportation. I love the fresh, candy colors, and the cheery froth of bows, streamers, flowers, feathers, cherubs, stripes, and hearts.

And a bouquet of flowers--just so pretty.

I found all these images on Pinterest. I didn't pursue them back to their origins, because I wasn't familiar with the sites, and I had a paroxysm of anxiety about visiting unknown places online.

I'm bummed about not having anything of my own to share for awhile. I've been carving some, but there's nothing interesting to show, yet. Mostly I've been gardening, trying to get organized and trying to get a decent amount of sleep. Last spring and summer, I did no art at all. That's not my plan this time, but there will probably be less than I did in the winter.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Jessie Wilcox Smith illustrations for a beautiful fairy tale

I must have been seven or eight when I came upon a chapter of George MacDonald's The Princess and the Goblin in an anthology. Princess Irene's discovery of the mysterious, holy, magical great-great-grandmother spinning her silver thread at the top of the house touched me with a feeling of goodness, beauty and longing that I had never yet encountered in a story. I didn't know how to find the whole book. I never thought to ask a librarian or anyone about it, and maybe it was better just to cherish the lovely fragment for a time. It fits the story. Princess Irene can't always find her grandmother, just for the looking, either.

Many years later, I bought my own facsimile edition with illustrations by Jessie Wilcox Smith. I don't have that book anymore, but there's always the Internet to look at.

 My younger two children and I have been listening to the The Princess and the Goblin on, a site with free, public domain audiobooks read by volunteers. (The quality of reading on the site is varied, but Andy Minter, the reader on the above link, is quite good.)

Also through the magic of the Internet I have unearthed some words by G.K.Chesterton about this wonderful tale. I hope you will humor me as I share a long, insightful quote. (It's from his introduction to George MacDonald and His Wife, by Greville MacDonald.)

"Of all the stories I have remains the most realistic, in the exact sense of the phrase, the most like life. When I say it is like life, what I mean is this. It describes a little princess living in a castle in the mountains which is perpetually undermined, so to speak, by subterranean demons,who sometimes come up through the cellars. She climbs up the castle stairway to the nursery or other rooms, but now and again the stairs do not lead to the usual landings but to a new room she has never seen before and generally cannot find again. Here a good great-grandmother who is a sort of fairy godmother is perpetually spinning and speaking words of encouragement and understanding. When I read it as a child, I felt that the whole thing was happening inside a real human house not essentially unlike the house I was living in, which also had staircases and rooms and cellars. This is where the fairy tale differed from many other fairy tales. Above all, this is where the philosophy differed from many other philosophies. I have always felt a certain insufficiency about the ideal of progress....It hardly suggests how near both the best and worst things are to us from the first, even perhaps especially at the first. And though like every other sane person I value and revere the ordinary fairy tale of the miller's third son who sets out to seek his fortune, the very suggestion of setting off travelling to a far off fairy land prevents it from achieving this particular purpose of making all the ordinary staircases and doors and windows into magical things."

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Illustration Friday: Wisdom

This is a design I've been working on for my sister's online shop. I need at least to redo the lettering because I misspelled the shop name and the paper is a bit warped, which really shows in the lettering on the left side. I'm also thinking I need to make the letters shorter and spread more widely so they don't overpower the image. They probably won't be colored the same, either. When it is displayed in the shop, the whole image will be a good bit bigger than what you see here, I expect. 

I decided to share it today as is because I wanted to get it out for the Illustration Friday prompt, "Wisdom." It is wise, I think, to connect more directly and simply with the earth God has given us. My sister will be sharing her natural health wisdom as she sells plants, books, homemade herbal products and other things she makes.   

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Happy Easter!

The Revival

Unfold! unfold! Take in His light,
Who makes thy cares more short than night.
The joys which with His day-star rise
He deals to all but drowsy eyes;
And, what the men of this world miss,
Some drops and dews of future bliss. 

Hark! how His winds have chang'd their note!
And with warm whispers call thee out;
The frosts are past, the storms are gone,
And backward life at last comes on.
The lofty groves in express joys 
Reply unto the turtle's voice;
And here in dust and dirt, O here
The lilies of His love appear! 

by Henry Vaughan, 1621-1695

Springtime, by Charles Conder, 1868-1909

Friday, March 4, 2016

What I did this week

I'm so glad to be done with this dang cat. Trying to carve out non-wonky little eyes in a three quarter's view of the face made me crazy. There were moments when I actually felt I was near to passing out from the stress of  effort and frustration. This morning I will give it to my client who will have it cast in pewter for his beaded book mark business, Book Thongs. I'll probably put a few in my shop as well.

I did this little sketch during my morning drawing exercises when I look at great art online and rough out compositions or figures. I was so taken by this little girl's face that I developed it more than usual and didn't bother with the composition or rest of the figure. I'm sad to see that one eye is too big and set too far over. I think I see it clearly now because the values are flattened in the photo. The deeper, more varied shadows in my actual drawing make it look better and made me comfortable with wrong proportions. I think I'll try it again in the next few days and see what I can learn.