Selling odd rolls of wallpaper on the street? Well, why not? Surplus manufactured goods always wind up somewhere. Still, this abject vendor from Costume of the Lower Orders of the Metropolis by Thomas Lord Busby brought me up short. How did she obtain her wares and who were the buyers? I still don't know, but a quick search led me to Eking out a living on the streets of Paris at a wonderful website to explore, Parisian Fields, and to A brief history of wallpaper at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Question: would you make the vendor your central character, or would one of your characters seek out cheap paper by going to a street market?
Picturing a World
Website alert: I happen to be rereading Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones at bedtime. Its heroine, Sophie Hatter, works in her stepmother's millinery shop. Okay, so today something prompted me to check to see whether Jim Kay is working on illustrations for another Harry Potter book. He is, The Order of the Phoenix, as I discovered at the website he shares with his wife Louise Clark. Who, yes! is a hatter. Go take a look her Millinery page if you love hats; they're all as delicious as this one (which is perfect for a Sophie Hatter creation). And if you are curious about Diana Wynne Jones, a Tor essay on where to start reading her books is a good overview.
Serendipity delivers again. No sooner had I read Maria Dahvana Headley's exhilarating new translation of Beowulf, with its dragon fight, when up pops this splendid illustration of a different one by Sija Hong in Monstrous Tales: Stories of Strange Creatures and Fearsome Beasts from Around the World (2020). According to her website, the artist is "is a Chinese award-winning illustrator based in New York City." She is wholly new to me, and very appealing. Check out her website for more of her work. (Yeah, and, bro/sis, check out Beowulf, too.)
Via Lines and Colors.
Blog post alert: For an insider's look at commercial art, ghostwriting, and publishers, the always interesting Kathleen Jennings has a long interview—"Ghoulish but sentimental"—with fellow artist and writer, Socar Myles. Myles's startling artwork is gorgeous. I've never read any of her fiction, whether ghostwritten or published in her own name; but I was fascinated by everything she had to say.
When I ran across this image at Costume History last September, it jumped out at me for three reasons: First, the real Jeanette worked at McCall's Magazine in her later life. Second, my work-in-progress, ANONYMITY, is set in 1908. And third, I'm always on the lookout for pictures I can use for this blog. Naturally, I saved it. So Happy Valentine's Day, everyone!
Now that I've re-opened it, however, I'm also struck by its ambiguity. What is that pensive woman thinking?
Blog post alert: Suppose you said to a computer, "Avocado-shaped chair," and it came up with these. Yikes! It's so over my head that I don't even really understand what the website OpenAI is, but it says, "We've trained a neural network called DALL·E that creates images from text captions for a wide range of concepts expressible in natural language." And they have. And they'll let you play with it at DALL·E: Creating
Images. Now how can a writer put this to use …?
Yesterday, I attended an absorbing webinar on Boston artist Sarah Gooll Putnam. Every aspect of the topic interested me (see below), and I hope it will be posted to YouTube as planned. For this blog, it introduces one more excellent, little-known woman artist. Putnam was a successful portraitist in Boston elite circles, painting in a style reminiscent of John Singer Sargent and Cecilia Beaux.
An even bigger Wow! for the historical novelist are her voluminous diaries now digitized at the Massachusetts Historical Society. In them, she recorded daily events, illustrated her entries with drawings, and supplemented them with clippings and other memorabilia. If you have a hankering to undertake a story set in Boston in the latter quarter of the 19th C or early 20th, don't miss these.
After reading my post on Rachel powder, a friend told me about playing with her mother's and aunts' cosmetics when she was a little girl. She had a hazy memory of seeing something labeled Rachel. That sent me back to the internet, and voilà, more information about Elizabeth Arden products and the company's history here and here. What useful details for fiction set in the 20th C! My old editor at Berkley thought I should set Anonymity in a more glamorous industry than publishing. I sarcastically queried, such as interior decorating? Good idea! she said.
Double blog alert: A snazzy, modern, digitally recreated tour of ancient Rome's center and a lovely, still, 19th C watercolor of the Colosseum in ruins. By chance I came upon them one after the other, and what layers of period and media they encapsulate! First, I watched a trailer for Rome in 3D at the History Blog. Next came this 19th C watercolor of the ruined Colosseum at Gurney Journey's announcement The Rijksmuseum shares copyright-free images. Yeah, they link to time sinks, but also to a world of information and inspiration.
One more color post (and a little more political celebration). A recent Berkshire Eagle article, Adams native part of graphic design team behind Biden-Harris' 'victory gradient' fascinated me. Jessica Lucia helped develop the color combinations that in November delivered the message "We won!" To audiences accustomed to sophisticated computer images, plain old primary red, white, and blue just don't communicate the way they used to. In this case, I'd say in contrast to their opponent's bluster and intimidation, the subliminal message that comes across is elegance, restraint, and joyous confidence.