Website alert: This morning, my husband sent me a link to Old Book Illustrations, searchable by subject, artist, or book title. He has a special interest in William Morris and the Pre-Raphaelites. I have a special interest in female illustrators. Put them together in a quick search and voilà: One of Florence Harrison's illustrations for Early Poems of William Morris. Have fun!
Picturing a World
As a follow-up to our writer in the library, Mrs. Sperling at her. needlework is another glimpse of Regency life. It prompts fewer ideas for stories, but isn't it cheerful? I love the way you look through the open French doors into trees, for instance. And it leads to Mrs. Hurst Dancing & Other Scenes from Regency Life, 1812–1823, with with all the freshness of amateur-artist Diana Sperling's authentic delight in the life around her.
Oddly enough, I remembered this watercolor as "Lady Pole in Her Library." Nope, the artist was Thomas Pole, an American transplant to Bristol, England, a doctor and Quaker preacher—no titled lady involved. Still, you know me: it's all about using images to prompt story ideas. And quiet as it is, In the Library has some suggestive clues.
Blog post alert: Something I would never have thought of: jotting down quick sketches—graphic or verbal—of what you see in the background while watching television series. Kathleen Jennings did. Read her post on TV Sketching—Backgrounds. Then try it!
In my work-in-slow-progress, "Anonymity," I have given my main character, Mattie, an apartment near 110th Street in New York and sent her walking through Morningside and Central Parks. In order to do so, I've looked at lots of historic photographs of the area, which was being built up in the first decades of the 20th C. It looked raw. By contrast, this postcard by Rachael Robinson Elmer makes it look lush and glamorous in a very urban way.
Ordinarily, in my writing life, I look at pictures to help with descriptions or suggest story lines, but Kristin Bjornerud's Conjuration with an Oath strikes me as emblematic of something at the heart of what all artists do. We call up stories or songs or paintings or dance and turn them loose,. They come out of our bare-footed selves and take on lives of their own. The look of concentration on the woman's face and the smallness of these pronghorn deer, moreover, are reassuring: Not every project or artifact has to be large; they live if we make them as fine as we can.
Via Myth and Moor, Come into animal presence, a post with more Bjornerud watercolors.
Blog post alert: I've been reading a diary from 1909. Its author's sister had a baby, which the diarist described as "looking like Billiken." Okay, I Googled and was delighted to find that the artist who invented this odd little good-luck figure was a woman, an art teacher, Florence Pretz, and the year was my magic 1908. The best account of the phenomenon is 1908: Behold The Amazing Billiken—worth a detour if you are interested in how an oddball invention became St. Louis University mascot and a god in Japan.
I honestly don't remember why I set this image aside for a blog post. True, a 1905 retelling of a Shakespearean story fits into the time frame for Mattie in my work-in-progress to have seen it, and Helen Stratton is one of those forgotten female artists it's fun to rediscover. What strikes me today, though, is the figure of Caliban. When you've just read Kindred, he would!
As a follow-up to yesterday's post, what fun! Father Christmas calling down the reindeer in a more natural version of his ice palace. This is obviously not the North Pole; but, after all, why not imagine his workshop somewhere in the North Woods? Or take the picture literally and see it as the backdrop for a theatrical production. I'm devouring it like a bon-bon, but if we play this year's story-generating game, there are already three possibilities: a story about Santa Claus, a story about a staged show, a story about a 1951 magazine.