Last week Margaret wrote about joy and humor in children’s book illustrations. Those images made me smile. She made the point that you need to feel joy to paint joy. I would add that you can also feel joy when drawing or looking at images that are ghastly, beastly and bad. Sometimes a smile turns into a cackle.
This week I have been painting some gruesome creatures and thinking about why it is such fun to draw them.
Possibly the beasts are a form of self portraiture without shame. I don’t want hair sprouting from my elbows but I like to paint it.
This Russian lubok from 1760 shows a woman being punished for lust. For me the moral lesson is undermined by the beauty of the image.
Likewise when J.G. Posada shows the fate of a girl who is slandered.
Victor Vasnetsov’s Grandfather Water Sprite beckons, and seems to come without a lesson.
The word Zwerg in German means gnome or midget. Here is Der Zwerg Nase by Lisbeth Zwerger. Is he rolling along forward or backward?
Sometimes the monsters are a revelation – these Unclean Spirits Issuing from the Mouth of the Dragon, Beast and False Prophet were painted in 1255.
Or they can be your own family. Here is Loki’s Monstrous Brood, painted by Ingri and Edgar Parin D’Aulaire.
Maurice Sendak said that he modeled the Wild Things on his older relatives. The Giant Snorrasper is from 1962.
As Edward Gorey knows, the dark side can be delightful. And it won’t go away even if you want it to.
Posted in Children's Book Critique Group Blog, humor in children's books, vintage children's book illustrations
Tagged illuminated manuscript, Ingri and Edgar Parin d'Aulaire, J.G. Posada, Julie Paschkis, Lisbeth Zwerger, lubok, maurice sendak, snorrasper, struwwelpeter
A Cabbage butterfly….
April is not just “the cruelest month” (according to T. S. Eliot.) And it’s not just the “Oh-to-be-in-England” month (according to Robert Browning….) It’s also National Poetry Month ( according to whoever names these things.) In honor of NaPoMo, I offer up this poem by Robert Graves. It’s not just about how a butterfly flies, but how poems and poets do.
The butterfly, a cabbage-white
(His honest idiocy of flight)
Will never now, it is too late,
Master the art of flying straight,
Yet has – who knows so well as I?-
A just sense of how not to fly:
He lurches here and here by guess
And God and hope and hopelessness.
Even the acrobatic swift
Has not his flying-crooked gift.
My advice this month if you’re just starting out with poetry? Lurch a little. Come at the world hiccup by hiccup, fly sideways, fly crooked. It’s a gift.
“Approach everything as an experiment, not a masterpiece.” That’s my younger sister Kate’s advice. And she’s taken her own advice over the past seven years as she’s transitioned her career as a landscape architect to that of a pastel painter.
Much of her work is, not surprisingly, about landscape. Her plein air paintings of the vineyards and soggy bottomlands, the fields and hills around her home near Corvallis, Oregon, are a result of many, many hours outdoors, catching a certain light on her subjects.
But recently she gave herself a still-life assignment: paint a weekly bouquet of flowers before they were past their prime. “You have to let yourself give it a try,” she said. “Not all results are successful.” Here are some that worked.
Flowers for Jane
Sunflowers for Jane. Juried entry in the Northwest Pastel Society National Show this May at The American Art Company Gallery in Tacoma.
I remember reading in Art and Fear about a pottery instructor who let his students chose how they wanted to be graded: either by their best single pot or by the weight of all the pots they created that semester. It turned out the best pots were thrown by the group who were graded on poundage. You have to create lots of work to get to the good stuff. That’s what Kate is doing.
Most writers I know have had that experience of the gift story – a text that seems to be born whole, dropped into their laps. But I don’t know anyone to whom this has happened who hasn’t been working at writing daily.
Looking ahead, Kate plans to turn her eye and hand to painting architecture, specifically the lumber mills in her part of the world. She expects it might take three weeks of concentrated work before she has anything she feels is successful. Recognizing that makes it easier to get started.
p.s. you can see more of Kate McGee’s work at: http://www.khmland.com/