Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Some pretties by Walter Crane (1845-1915)

G.K. Chesterton said "It may be that when we present Walter Crane's illustrations in a nursery book, we are acting like a person who should put a very abstruse selection from Wagner into a baby's musical box." Maybe, maybe not. I do know that I had a book of fairy tales with Walter Crane's earlier illustrations when I was a child--past nursery years, though. I remember curling up with it on a saggy couch in our dim, cool, unfinished basement, along with other brittle-paged collections of myths and folklore. The pictures both interested and repelled me. I did not like the faces, which did not fit my concept of the beautiful (formed by Walt Disney and the models in the Sears catalog), or the heavy black outlines. I still can't say that I really like those fairy tale illustrations. Here is one I remember from that book.

But this later illustration I would have loved. I found it at Dunedin Public Art Gallery.

The next two picture's are some of Cranes original, slightly sketchy designs for the book The Baby's Bouquet.

No doubt I would have been ecstatic over this beautiful champagne ad. I love how, like autumn, it's glowing and warm with a cool undertone.

The Victoria and Albert Museum has dozens of wallpaper and border designs by Crane. (The three pictures above are also from the Victoria and Albert.) Here are some of my favorites.

Friday, July 18, 2014

"Will I now have this pleasure?"

Sarah, the wife of Abraham was an old, old lady. She longed to bear a child, but it had become too late to hope. When the angel of the Lord promised that in a year she would give birth, she laughed and asked "will I now have this pleasure?" (Genesis 18:12)

I have creative friends who write, who make pictures, who make music. Some have gone through long periods of neglecting their abilities and desire to create. Some have given up hope of ever having this pleasure and have buried their talent under doubts and busyness--urgent, important or trivial depending on the day. For awhile instead of making art I baked, whipping up the perfect fluffy batter for the perfectly light and tender cake, kneading bread dough long and hard so it would rise high and stretchy with nice big holes. Baking for some is a life-giving creative act, but for me it was a fun but not quite satisfying place holder for something that felt harder and scarier. When I was single I sometimes wasted time shopping the clearance racks, not really having a good time or finding much I liked. Not so deep down, I knew I should be spending that time making something, bringing my artistic dreams into reality, but I feared the strains of that process.

I also questioned the value of my art. I was easily discouraged and I would interpret my discouragement as a sign that I was moving in the wrong direction, that what I was doing wasn't valuable. I believed that art was valuable and I loved art, but for some reason felt that I wasn't really an artist so my work wasn't really valuable, wasn't actually art. I feel a little embarrassed sharing this--it sounds so wrongheaded, but I really felt like that, really thought those thoughts, and it feels like a miracle to me that I don't believe them anymore. And I am grateful, because I didn't get rid of that junk by myself. Wise leaders, shepherds in my church, helped me sift through the lies with God's help and leave them behind. God is extravagantly creative for no use but love, and he made me creative too.

But here I am again, not getting any younger, having lost traction again, neglecting the gift that is within me, for reasons seemingly different, but essentially the same. And like Sarah, I begin to feel discouraged. I wonder "will I have this pleasure?"  I feel I've wasted so much time I could have spent developing my craft, my skills; I've fallen behind in the race. It's getting too late. But as I sit here typing, looking hard at these thoughts, they seem flimsy, a film of grime, and something better rises
inside me: peace, love, a sense of humor, thankfulness for the specific abilities and delights God has given me, and thankfulness for the time that I still have, time that participates in the eternal. What is ahead is so much greater than what is behind, and in this moment I am feeling that. Each step in the right direction is an investment in the eternal.

My last post was a baby-step. Writing this one was a bigger step. Taking pictures of some pewter charms I carved awhile ago and getting them onto my Etsy store is another.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Some pretty pictures by "Bird's Nest" Hunt

I've been feeling artistically blocked lately. Its odd, seemingly disproportionate, how a few words taken the wrong way can become a wall that shuts me out of doing art. The no-art-in-my-life sadness and dryness has been growing, and that is a good thing, because it leads to action. 

Last night I took the first step in my rehabilitation by staying up past my bedtime to find beautiful pictures online.  

The straight-forward prettiness and amazing workmanship in these watercolors by Victorian artist William Henry Hunt, sometimes called Bird's Nest Hunt and not to be confused with Pre-Raphaelite painter William Holman Hunt, were comforting and uplifting. I found the painting above in the Leicester Gallery and the painting below on Wikimedia Commons.

I read in the Tate Gallery that Hunt took to painting these outdoorsy looking still-life pictures, which were actually set up in his studio, because as he grew older physical problems kept him from painting outdoor landscapes. The next painting is from the Victoria and Albert Museum.

I've been irresponsibly responsible lately, sticking so closely to the mundane necessities that even when time has opened up for art I haven't stepped into it because I've feared losing control of my tenuous ability to stay on task with the rest of my life. Its time to share more of those responsibilities with some perfectly capable kids I know.