Serendipity + disparate connections = story possibility. Recently, my husband and I took a drive along a rural back road. In the side yard of a pretty 19th C farmhouse, a black bear was asleep. When we stopped, it roused and ambled away. On our return down the same road later, there it was again. When I e-mailed a niece about it, she replied, "The Napping Bear—it could be a pub or home goods store or anything." I thought of Barbara Firth's illustration for Martin Waddell's Can't You Sleep, Little Bear? and bingo! a children's bookstore. Now to figure out what happens there.
Picturing a World
I honestly can't remember now and am too lazy to check on whether Frank Duveneck is mentioned in Where the Light Falls. He certainly figured into my research since he was born in Covington, Kentucky, across the river from Ohio and was influential in Cincinnati. Anyway, thank you, James Gurney for posting this pastel portrait, which as far as I'm concerned could be "one of my girls."
A few years ago, I borrowed a library copy of The Hobbit illustrated by Alan Lee. On the back of the jacket was an illustration of Bilbo joining the dwarves in front of the Green Dragon pub which was not included inside. Oh, well, I decided to spring for a second-hand copy just for the pictures and ordered on line what I thought was the right edition. When it arrived, lo and behold, its jacket was different. No Green Dragon. Phooey. To my amusement, when I searched for the illustration this summer, it turned up at a website with exactly my story of disappointment about the Green Dragon jacket illustration. That set me thinking about the difference between fan fiction and fan illustration.
Blog post alert: Henry Mayhew's Street Traders reproduces a few of the engravings in London Labour and the London Poor of men and women who made a living on the streets in the Victorian era and quotes the text that accompanies each. The passage that accompanies this picture, for instance, begins, "I am a seller of birds'-nesties, snakes, slow-worms, adders, "effets"–lizards is their common name–hedgehogs (for killing black beetles), frogs (for the French – they eats 'em), and snails (for birds) – that's all I sell in the Summertime."
A post by James Gurney on Painting Fantasy on Location immediately brought to mind Kathleen Jennings' Floating Islands. I've also just finished rereading A Sudden Wild Magic by Diana Wynne Jones in which a pocket world the size of a giant fortress orbits a planet in its own universe while being connected by magic to its counterpart in another. And then there's Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's Petit Prince, surely the most delicious story and artwork ever set on an asteroid. In short, the whole idea of tiny floating worlds has set me thinking about how to approach a story set on one.
Blog post alert: A post by artist Andrea McLean on Los's Light and the Swedenborg Window struck me forcibly. William Blake figures into Liz Williams' Fallow Sisters novels, and she has one of her heroines seen into a magical otherworld through a bubble in a glass window pane. Magical panes also figure into one of my favorite children's books, Diana Wynne Jones's Enchanted Glass. Concentric circles, moreover, are readily recognizable as diagrams of the cosmos. A lantern, the sun, the cosmos, all three—why not? It's how a poet thinks.
For a zoomable high-rez version of the image (well worth viewing), click here.
Is this a delicious scene, or what? The high life, for sure—including that androgynous figure on the right in spats with a lady's at his/her feet. I can imagine the picture's sparking any number of stories set in a park or one about the discovery of a talented relative's forgotten watercolor in an attic. The artist Thea Proctor is a certainly a discovery for me. (I love it that she painted fans.) I keep thinking, moreover, that the Australian art scene as a whole bears investigating. Learning Resources: Australian Impressionism would be a good place to start! And for more about Proctor, click here.
Blog post alert: 19C American Women and Labor Day by garden historian and blogger Barbara Wells Sarudy summarizes the evolution of Labor Day as a holiday and women's struggles within the union movement. Her first illustration, Norman Rockwell's 1943 Rosie the Riveter, is surely the most iconic female worker in modern history. Remember, the worker is worthy of HER pay. Happy Labor Day.