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Picturing a World


Blog post alert and appeal: The always interesting James Gurney has posted what I'd call the image of the day in Voter Line. Read him, study his technique if you are a watercolorist—and if you haven't voted, VOTE!

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Miniature Bag End

Blog post alert: Dollhouse miniatures and The Lord of the Rings? Two of my pleasures, unexpectedly combined in Maddie Chambers-Brindley's astonishing and delightful My Hand Made Hobbit Hole. Nearly forty photographs of a spectacular craft project. In these last days of the election campaign amid a pandemic, it's a welcome little escape—and it comes with a link to How I made the Hobbit Hole.

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Tennant and Blackwell

Blog post alert: Emma Tennant's Wild Nights is a novel I love, and Su Blackwell's paper sculptures astonish. For more about both artists and many imore mages, check out The Books That Shape Us: Emma Tennant at Terri Windling's blog, Myth and Moor.

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Artists in the Archive

Website alert: Artists in the Archive celebrates the work of artists who have been given fellowships to incorporate materials at the American Antiquarian Society into their creative work. The Society, located in Worcester, Massachusetts, holds the world's largest collection of materials printed in America between 1640 and 1876. Since 1995, it has offered fellowships to creative and performing artists to explore these resources and incorporate what they find into new works. The results have included, not only historical fiction like The Age of Phillis, but book art by Stephanie Wolff, comics by R. Sikoryak, music by Lisa Bielawa, and much, much more. The sample at this retrospective website alone will set your mind dancing off in new directions.

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Robida meets Larklight

In tidying up some computer files, I came across this whiz-bang drawing of a moving house by Albert Robida. It made me laugh all over again. Look at the lass pointing an umbrella on the lower porch balcony—she could be Myrtle in Philip Reeve's very funny steampunk novel, Larklight! In fact, David Wyatt may well have been partially inspired by Robida for his wonderful period-flavor, Larklight illustrations.

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Impressionist painters let the canvas show through their paintings. Writers call attention to their own narrative devices. The interplay between the materials of a craft and an art's illusions is beguilingly embodied in Myles O'Reilly's film of Des Dillon's puppetry, performed to a selkie tale sung by John Spillane: All the Ways You Wander.
Via Myth and Moor.

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A man goes into a boarding house … The lead-in to a joke? a short story idea? Research led me to a Tennessee landlady in 1850 and her boarders: a lawyer, a doctor, a music teacher, a minister with his wife and child, and a daguerreotypist. A daguerreotypist! Marvelous! There were nineteen daguerreotypists in the whole state at the time. I can't learn any more about mine, but a search turned up this image at the Getty, which certainly could supply a character and a flavor to—no, not a joke (not with that intense stare). Maybe a ghost story? How about an historical murder mystery?

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Trees, ramparts, maps

A terrific post, Mapping the 16th century garden, at The Gardens Trust's blog, pointed out the trees on the 1588 map of Luca in Braun and Hogenberg's Civitates Orbis Terrarum. Trees planted along the ramparts of a walled city—like a boulevard! Characters could stroll in peacetime. Could soldiers take cover during hand-to-hand fighting if the wall were overtopped by an invading army? For historical fiction, further investigation is called for; for fantasy, imagination. Meanwhile, a little moment of research rapture.

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Badger oracle

Sometimes a picture gives a lift to the heart. I had a dog, Badger, named for the white stripe up his black face. Because I loved him dearly, badgers have become my totem animal. This morning I was cheered to run across this image in illustrator Danielle Barlow's new Green Wheel Oracle. Whatever helps you through the day (let alone the night)! For more of Barlow's Dartmoor landscapes and evocative mythic illustrations, click here. And thank you, Myth and Moor, for Telling stories back to the land, which puts Barlow's work in context.

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Cover, Marilynne Robinson, Jack (2020)

Jack is Marilynne Robinson's newly published fourth novel about characters she introduced in her Pulitzer-prize winning, rightly beloved novel, Gilead. I haven't read Jack yet, only the excerpt published as "Jack and Della" in The New Yorker. But I was glad to be directed by the Guardian's coverage of the new publication to a remarkable interview from 2015, President Obama & Marilynne Robinson: A Conversation in Iowa, in the New York Review of Books. Imagine—a living president intelligently conversing at length with a thoughtful fiction writer! The present is a discouraging, scary time. It's good to be reminded of what we must try to hold onto. For a probing review of Jack, click here.

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