Sunday, March 30, 2014

Illustrations by Pauline Baynes

The Chronicles of Narnia are among the most influential books of my childhood and continue to shape me profoundly, but I did not fall deeply under Pauline Baynes', the Narnia illustrator's, influence until I was in college.  I remember walking around my college campus and seeing her lines in all the trees, especially in newly planted birch trees and dwarf crabapples with their bright clustered fruit. I don't remember what triggered my awakening to Pauline Baynes. Possibly it was the trees that did it. 

Here is an end sheet of  The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe showing Narnia's first spring after the White Witch's long winter. I love the rolling hills; the delicacy of feathers, fur and leaves; and the tiny distant trees and waterfalls.

She illustrated for Tolkien before Lewis.  There were plans for her to illustrate The Lord of the Rings, but that work just grew too big. 

Here are a few illustrations for his smaller works. I love the precise, delicate, graceful lines. There is enough detail to fully engage but not so much that I feel overwhelmed and confused. (Aunt Deanna, I hope you like these lovely line drawings. Thank you for your wonderful "comment" via real mail!)

These rare Baynes prints of the four seasons in medieval style please me profoundly. Why ever are they not in print anymore? I wish I could show them bigger, but they're as big as I could make them. 

All this art and more I found at Pauline Click here to see her work table and the view from her window.              

Thursday, March 27, 2014

I hate being too busy for art!

But I love it when I come back after neglecting it for awhile. In the big picture it's usually not about being too busy, anyway, but about not being determined enough to apply my intelligence and creativity to solving the problems that keep me out of  the studio. Today I was able to do some carving with my newly oiled, smooth-as-silk flexshaft machine. What a joy that was! I'm rebuilding the bail on the descending dove cross (no, it's still not cast) and starting from scratch the tree of life cross that has given me trouble. I think that one is on its way to the finish line now. Hooray!

I didn't do a new Illustration Friday post this week, but I linked an old post to IF. The prompt this week is "red."

To make up for no new IF things, I decided to share some colored pencil sketches I did awhile ago on kraft paper. I love how colored pencil pops on kraft paper and I love the warm brown.

The crop on my Photoshop isn't working, so I'm posting pictures that work best uncropped. I would do better if I could.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Gerard Manley Hopkins and Dame Laura Knight

                Pied Beauty

Glory be to God for dappled things--
  For skies of couple-color as a brinded cow;
    For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim; 
Fresh-firecoal chestnut falls, a finch's wing;
  Landscape plotted and pieced--fold, fallow and plough;
    And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
  Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
    With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
           Praise him.
                                   Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889)

Spring by Dame Laura Knight (1877-1970), from the Tate Gallery.  You might enjoy clicking on the link to get a somewhat larger view of this delightful painting.


Saturday, March 22, 2014

Lucy's spring garland number two

 Posted by Lucy

Yesterday it was sixty degrees outside! It was wonderful to run barefoot on the grass again. The ground was still cold, of course, and in most places pretty squishy, but some patches were dry, and there I could sit down, relax and breathe the fresh air.

On this garland, from left to right, there are three budded twigs, the first, some kind of maple, the next two lilac; then a little leaf I found, sprouting up out of the ground. It got a little wilted before I could take the picture. Next is a knotted bunch of grass. I had to sort out the green blades from the brown. The green is fighting a winning battle, but as of today it only holds a small percentage of the lawn. Next are two willow twigs, and lastly, a twig from a cherry tree.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Spring cleaning

It's time to declutter. (What is it about artists and clutter? Or is it not about artists, just about me....) I'm sorting through books, tossing some, donating some, rediscovering others with joy. One book I uncovered with mixed feelings is a cookbook I illustrated ages upon ages ago when I was newly graduated from college. There are so many drawings I wish I had done better, but the most uncomfortable part is seeing bits that express the most potential and regretting my lack at that time of consistency, direction and confidence. To some extent I labored under the delusion that you had it or you didn't, and consistently developing skills without fretting over failure, making daily incremental progress was not how I operated.

I look at the book and think "what if?" What books would I be making now if I had just stuck with it then? How much farther along would I be on this journey if I had been a steady, patient tortoise instead of an erratic, stressed-out hare? Why did I quit using a dip pen? (Oh, yeah--because I had kids. They don't mix with open bottles of india ink.) But these thoughts are no more helpful than the old "I'm not a real artist because I don't draw like Leonardo," and I think I'm ready to toss them out along with the broken board books.

I've been reading The Chronicles of Narnia to my six year old and was struck by an exchange between Lucy (my co-blogger daughter's namesake) and Aslan, the great Lion and Son of the Emperor Over the Sea. Aslan summoned Lucy to follow him to help young King Caspian overthrow his usurping Uncle Miraz, but she didn't because her traveling companions didn't believe she had really seen Aslan and wouldn't go with her. Being the youngest of the party, she didn't quite realize that she could have followed him even if no one else came along. Later, she saw Aslan again, and he helped her understand that she could have followed him alone if necessary. Lucy was sorry and wondered what good thing would have happened if she had followed him when he first had called.

"You mean," said Lucy rather faintly, "that it would have turned out alright--somehow? But how? Please, Aslan, am I not to know?"
"To know what would have happened, child?" said Aslan. "No. Nobody is ever told that."
"Oh, dear," said Lucy.
"But anyone can find out what will happen," said Aslan. "If you go back to the others now, and wake them up; and tell them you have seen me again; and that you must all get up at once and follow me--what will happen? There is only one way of finding out."  Prince Caspian, C.S. Lewis

So I will never know what I would have done if I had known then what I know now, but I can find out what will happen as I follow the knowledge I now have. I am finding out every day.

I checked on Amazon, and you can actually buy this cookbook there. It's called Remembrances of Things Passed and was self-published by Alabama cooking teacher Bonnie Bailey. She's a good writer and the recipes look delicious, though I cannot personally vouch for them. If I ever tried making any of them, I can't remember it.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Watercolors by Eric Ravilious

I love how light is diffused through netting, glass, and leaves in these paintings by English artist Eric Ravilious (1903-1942). I recognize the light from nursery greenhouses and outdoor displays with shade netting where I  browse each spring. I also love the incidental beauty of plants under cultivation for use and sale rather than landscape decoration.

I think these paintings appeal to the child in me who loves enclosures that aren't our regular habitations--tree-houses, forts, tents, green-houses, odd little attic bedrooms.

I found this painting of a strawberry-bed under bird netting in EmilyBooks.

This greenhouse full of potted cyclamens and green tomatoes is at the Tate Gallery. This was the painting that put me on the Ravilious trail. The symmetrical arrangement of the passageway and growing things feels a little like folk art to me, though I doubt Ravilious had that in mind. That pale diffuse light, reflected on all the cyclamen leaves is so right on. And the tomato leaves are darker because that's how his eye saw them against the bright glass.

This greenhouse full of carnations is being sold as a print on Ebay. I love how the passageway with its warped posts, takes up most of the picture, how the carnations, full and abundant, are pushed to the sides. 

This attic bedroom can be seen at the Fry Art Gallery.

This Ravilious design for a mini-greenhouse can be seen at The Fine Art Society.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Illustration Friday: Spark

As I thought about this week's prompt, I got a mental image of some of the earliest
flowers of spring bright against the damp leaves of a forest floor.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014


Posted by Lucy

Last night it snowed!!!! Now before you say "Oh, it's so pretty!" please remember that it is March! And that I am making a series about spring! Once you have recalled these things, you may proceed to admire the landscape if you still wish to.

I must admit, I am slightly appreciative myself off and on. But I am so longing for spring and warm weather! Thus my reaction to the snow was and is very negative, in spite of its beauty. I wish we had a punctuation mark for angry eyebrows. However, illustrations are even better. This one expresses my feelings pretty well:

The weather prophets predict fifty degrees again on Friday, and for their sake, I sure hope they're right!        

Monday, March 10, 2014

Spring garland number one

Posted by Lucy

Today it was fifty degrees outside! After a winter of toe-numbing, ear-freezing, bone-chilling weather, that is very warm. So when I stuck my head out the door this morning, instead of slamming it closed, shaking my head and saying "Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!" I ran and put on three extra long-sleeved shirts (I couldn't find a sweater) and went outside. The  ground, soggy, muddy, covered with dead grass and leaves though it is, is beautiful to my eyes. It means that spring is on the way! Not that there isn't plenty of old snow still hanging around. It takes more than a day or two to melt two feet of snow. But spring is putting up a good fight, and the snowdrifts are slowly but surely melting away.

Today I am starting a series of posts called "spring garlands."  Every week I will make a garland of things I find growing outside. Here is the first one:

First (from left to right) is bittersweet, then a twig of some sort of boxwood type hedge (we're not entirely sure what it is), then a twig of pussywillow buds, followed by three pussywillow catkins. After that comes a twig of witch hazel, a twig of pine and lastly, some old grass and more "boxwood." Next week's garland will, hopefully, have more variety.    

Sunday, March 9, 2014

An old favorite: Beatrix Potter's "The Tailor of Gloucester"

All week I have been looking forward to posting some new-to-me watercolors by English artist Eric Ravilious, but this morning when I woke up, I just wanted to share my favorite Beatrix Potter illustrations.

I love how decorative art is detailed in these pictures--painted china, lace and printed and embroidered fabric.

During the summer between my junior and senior year, I went to England with a college study program. We spent awhile in the beautiful, beautiful Lake District where Beatrix Potter lived. Some of the students went to see Beatrix Potter's farm, but not me. I am disgusted with myself, in retrospect, but at the time I had not realized my love for illustrated children's books or for old-timey, small-scale agriculture. Maybe someday I will get another chance to look at Beatrix Potter's house and furniture and china and garden.

The Tailor of Gloucester is one of my favorite books to read aloud. The story is as delightful as the pictures. 

I found these on The Tate Gallery website.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Illustration Friday: Voice

From my sketch-pile.

Her pocket is full of candles. She goes to children who are afraid of the dark and have bad dreams. She lights a candle and sings a beautiful dream.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Watercolor flowers by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, part two

These are botanical studies from Mackintosh's sketchbook. They are airy and lightly finished, somewhat stylized. I love the spare pencil lines and how leaves and blossoms overlap without obscuring each other.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

I'm not making art, I'm making an artist.

For a period of time a few years ago I would stay up very late after my children were asleep and draw with colored pencils. It was partly an experiment to learn whether the joy of making art would make up for sleep deprivation. For awhile, the joy of making art won out. I felt happy and energized during the day even though I was tired, but in the long run I damaged my health by using dessert to fuel late nights. (No more sugar for me, and usually a decent amount of sleep.)

I was trying to become an artist. I would still my thoughts and see what image wanted to come out of me. I would take careful pauses to discern what colors to use, what lines to draw by giving my intuition space. I would wait quietly when I was unsure, and go ahead trusting my intuition when it spoke. I didn't use an eraser. If I made a mistake I let it stand to add irregular beauty. I learned  by doing and doing and doing. I didn't push myself or force anything and it all felt very easy. I didn't worry about it when I made drawings I didn't like much. I just kept moving. My motto at that time was "I'm not making art, I'm making an artist." I didn't finish much, but I filled a sketchbook with seed and reference material that I still use.

I'm in a different place now. I often try to make art. I often try to finish things, anyway. Right now I am struggling to finish a wax model for a pendant with a tree of life enclosed in a circle with a cross integrated into the design. Here I am working on an early version with my lovely assistant.

I want to make a beautiful, delicate, meaningful thing to cast in silver, but I am finding it difficult. I've started over twice. I expect to begin again once more. I feel half-guilty anxiety over taking so long over this one thing (a hold-over from paid-by-the-hour carving work.) A part of me wants to quit and do something easier so I can just get stuff done to fill up my Etsy store, but I also feel driven to stick with it. My husband says that's because I know I can do it. I am learning a lot about design and my craft, and I do expect at last to make something pretty to wear, yet the struggle is painful for reasons I don't fully grasp. I keep thinking of the last line of this passage from a favorite book, The Dean's Watch, by Elizabeth Goudge:

"It was a glorious clock.....The golden fret that hid the bell was the loveliest Isaac had ever made. The two swans were just rising from the reeds, one with wings fully spread, the other with his pinions half unfolded. Job could understand from experience, and the Dean through intuition, what an achievement it had been to form those great wings and curved necks into a pattern that was a fitting one for a clock fret and yet alive, but only Isaac had known how he had sweated and labored over it. It had been a costing clock."

This pendant I am making is a costing pendant. In the end I don't expect it to be my masterpiece, but it will certainly represent an important step in my skill development. I think I'm still making an artist more than I am making art. I am making an artist who not only knows how to follow the easy flow of intuition but also how to persevere in recovering from mistakes and solving (for me) difficult problems of design and craftsmanship.

wallpaper design by illustrator Walter Crane (1845-1915)