Monday, December 31, 2012

The Snow Queen in Art

What with all the snow on the ground, lately I've been thinking about the Snow Queen, both of Hans Christian Anderson's classic fairytale and the other representations of her in mythology and folklore, notably as Skadi or Skade in Scandinavian stories. There are so many beautiful representations of her in art as a consequence of these stories.

I've drawn a great deal of inspiration from the idea of the Snow Queen. Several years back now I did my own version of the Snow Queen or Ice Queen. I've done numerous small paintings and sketches of her, but this is the only image I have saved of one of them.

Edmund Dulac is one of my very favorite illustrators, and he does a lovely version of a snow maiden that I find simply enchanting. If I could get away with it, I'd dress like that every day.

Edmund Dulac, Ice Maiden, 1915,

Dulac also illustrated Anderson's The Snow Queen, and I haven't found any illustrations of that story to surpass his.

Edmund Dulac, The Snow Queen Flies Through the Winter's Night,

Edmund Dulac, The Snow Queen On the Throne of Ice

We mustn' forget the North Wind though. Without him, the Snow Queen wouldn't have anyone to pull her sleigh. Kay Nielsen, another favorite of mine, has done an excellent portrayal of him.
Kay Nielsen, The North Wind Went Over the Sea

Nielsen also did a lovely piece of Sleeping Beauty in the snow. This dainty little painting is so sensitively rendered.

Kay Nielsen, Study for Sleeping Beauty

Nielsen also did this wonderful illustration for the book East of the Sun, West of the Moon. If polar bears were docile creatures, I wouldn't mind having one for a stead myself.

Though no-one can top Nielsen, Amanda Clark comes close and has done a lovely version of this same story herself. You should check out her enchanting blog,, and her Etsy shop full of covetable prints of her incredible art,

Amanda Clark, East of the Sun, West of the Moon,

There are so many more beautiful versions of ladies in the snow, but that's all for now! Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

I Dreamed of a White Christmas...

...and I got one! This evening it started snowing and now the world is white and glittering. I am so happy! At last I have snow.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A Walk in the Woods

Today I went for a walk in the woods on the edge of town. The park where I walked is more like a network of rough trails winding over a steep hill that is entirely wooded, and I am delighted to have discovered this spot.

I was rewarded at the end of it by a lovely sunset against the trees, with a crescent moon hanging over it.

But that wasn't the only pretty thing I saw. There was a bed of some feathery plants in the carrot family, the last of the goldenrod, and the lovely branches of the trees against the sky.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Winter is for Rest

Now that I'm done with finals, I am ready for a nice long winter rest. I'll be working on a lot of art over Christmas break, but it will be at my own pace, and I'll be working on things I want to work on. It's a very important difference.

I greatly enjoy winter, especially when it snows. Lately I've been looking at paintings of snow and noticing how the masters were able to convey so well the quality of winter light. I wish that where I live looked like this right now, seeing as it's December...

Vilhelm von Gerfelt, Winter Picture With Cabin at River,  18th - 19 century, Wikimedia Commons

But alas, it looks more like a late autumn day where I live, like in this painting, which captures the quality of autumn light so perfectly.

Alfred Sisley, Die Klienen Fleisen Im Frühling, 1880, Wikimedia Commons

Monet did an excellent job of capturing winter light in this painting. He didn't just paint pretty scenes of water lilies.

Claude Monet, Snow Scene At Argenteuil, 1875,  Wikimedia Commons

I also really like this winter scene by Caspar David Friedrich. It's a more gloomy scene, but very interesting. His style is almost modern realism, but he died in 1840, and this picture disappeared in Berlin in 1945... hmmm I wonder who was responsible for that.

Caspar David Friedrich, Monastery Burial-Ground Under Snow, 1818, Wikimedia Commons

On that gloomy note, I'm off to make supper and relish the fact that I don't have any homework to do.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Jean Baptiste Monge: Fae on Unusual Steeds

I just discovered the art of Jean Baptiste Monge. He paints the most enchanting scenes of elves and gnomes on steeds of birds or small animals. I love his technique and composition. His style reminds me a bit of Arthur Rackham, though what illustrator of fae hasn't been influenced by Arthur Rackham.

Jean Baptiste Monge

I think the tree in this one is extremely well done. For whatever reason, trees such as this one instantly call to mind spooks and goblins, and Monge has done an excellent job of obscuring it with mist. The bent form of the woman echoes that of the tree. I wonder what she could have in that cage; perhaps some maiden or child who wasn't wary enough to escape her.
Jean Baptiste Monge

You can see more of his art at .

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Letter Writer

I ran across this image of a letter writer in Cairo taking down a letter from a veiled (presumably) Muslim woman. The artist, David Roberts, has captured perfectly the posture and attitude people have when dictating a letter like that. I'm not sure how to describe it, but it's almost like the person is unconsciously leaning forward just a little, hands slightly open, as if speaking to the person they'll be sending the letter to. Anyway, it's a lovely drawing, turned into a lithograph by Louis Haghe.

Something else that struck me about this image is the idea of having someone else write a letter for you. Not only would it be somewhat frustrating to be unable to read or write for yourself, but you probably wouldn't want to relate very personal things. I am one of the few people who still writes letters and sends them by snail mail. I can't imagine anyone but the people intended knowing the content of those letters. Letters to me are just so personal. But in those days, there weren't a lot of people who could read and write, so letter writers were fairly common.

This makes me want to go write a letter now...

Monday, November 12, 2012

A Fascinating New Voice: Cécile Corbel

I just discovered a fascinating new voice, thanks to Studio Ghibli's newest animation, The Secret World of Arrietti. Cécile Corbel plays the Celtic harp and sings in an enchanting voice, ethereal and almost child-like. Her music transports one into a fairytale land of "a gypsy with golden lips, a knight-errant, a woman in love with a dolphin, a ocean of milk, deers in garments of fog, another knight, wounded and mourned by a maiden in an orchard, a talking horse, a female pirate, a damned girl on the moor."

"En La Mar"

In addition, she looks rather like Pre-Raphaelite maiden, a point in anyone's favor, right?

I'm always excited when I discover a lovely new voice, and when the artist sings about the very things I love -nature, fairytales, beauty, mystery, danger, love- and remains true to who they are, you couldn't ask for more. I particularly like her rendition of the Celtic classic, "Brian Boru."

Take a look at her website as well. Because she isn't terribly well known, her CDs are a bit expensive, but worth it.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Stormy Weather, Courtesy Hurricane Sandy

I greatly enjoy a storm, especially ones with lightning, thunder, and lots of wind. But it looks like Hurricane Sandy might have a little too much of that in store for people on the East Coast. I hope this storm doesn't do too much damage. Better moor your boat and batten down the hatches!

Image from my personal vintage postcard collection.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Dark Hedges in Antrim, Ireland

I ran across this photo a few weeks ago that stopped me dead in my tracks. I was held spellbound by the beautiful trees arching over the road, creating a shadowy tunnel with their black, twisting arms.

Photo by Pawel Klarecki,

 My initial reaction was that it couldn't possibly be real. I'd never seen trees create such a perfect tunnel. However, upon researching the title, "The Dark Hedges", I found that it was indeed a real place and what's more, it was in Ireland, a place that is at the top of my list to visit one day. I should have guessed that such a magical scene could only exist there.

Photo by David Patterson,

It turns out the Dark Hedges, as they are called by the locals in County Antrim, are beech trees planted over 300 years ago to line the road leading up to Gracehill house, which was so named by James Stuart, the builder of the house, after his wife, Grace Lynd. It is said that there is a spectral Grey Lady who walks the lane, though I'm not sure if this is made up to promote tourism or is actually something the people who live in the area have observed. Although in all honesty, I think I would haunt that place too if I could. Who wouldn't?

Photo by Robert Liberace,

Imagine how exciting it would be to walk this lane at dusk, or how terrifying it would be to walk it some stormy night. It reminds me of Anne's Haunted Wood. It can be fun to give oneself a little scare now and then.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Mr. Toad of Toad Hall and Giveaway at Grace's Garden Walk

I ran across this adorable little sketch by E. H. Shephard of Toad of Toad Hall from The Wind in the Willows.

Isn't he adorable? And E. H. Shephard is one of my favorite illustrators, and Mr. Toad is one of the most hilarious characters I've ever had the pleasure of reading about.

Over at Grace's Garden Walk, a blog I follow, another Grace is hosting a giveaway of a lovely pinwheel necklace. You should check it out:

Sunday, October 14, 2012

A Trip to Crystal Bridges - Parrish's Lantern Bearers

Last weekend I was lucky enough to make a trip to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas. This incredibly museum houses some of the most famous American art you could ever hope to see, and it has so much of it I was nearly reeling from awe by the time we went through it all. Normally I see one or two good pieces in a museum and I'm ready to leave- it's just overload. But this museum had so many of my heroes in it -Whistler, Andrew Wyeth, John Singer Sargent- that I felt like a kid in a candy store, disovering one wonderful piece after another.

The crowning piece though- and the whole reason I made the trip- was Maxfield Parrish's The Lantern Bearers. No, not Durand's Kindred Spirits or Heade's Cattleya Orchid; it was The Lantern Bearers that I stood in front of for as long as I could, reveling in how the lanterns glow like they have real lights in them and soaking in the incredible "Parrish blue" of the sky, my favorite color in the world. Art snobs pointedly overlook Parrish as an American painter because of his status as an illustrator, but this painting is just as skillfully executed, just as brilliant in its use of color and light, as any other piece in the museum- and far surpasses several pieces that didn't deserve to be in that museum but are more highly regarded. Such is the way of the art world though, and it doesn't dim my enjoyment of this piece one bit. So take a look at the photos I captured of this exquisite piece and be amazed. I'll post up more art later.

Unfortunately, no photo can capture can capture the luminosity of this painting.

Detail of a foot. 

Is it a lantern... or the moon? 

 The little cracks in the paint are lovely.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Hot Tea: The Best Accompaniment to a Good Book

As the chilly weather at last begins, I can start to enjoy some of my favorite things that go along with it perfectly- such as hot tea and a good book. Or, in my case since I'm swamped with art projects and papers for school, hot tea and homework. But I can pretend that I've just taken off my lace gloves and coral necklace after calling on an old friend, and along with my hot tea, I'm reading one of my fat antique volumes of Tennyson's poems, not a care in the world except for soaking up the beautiful words and dreaming that I'm part of that romantic past.

Hot Chai with a spot o' cream is my favorite.

Some candied orange peel often helps get one in the mood quite well.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Cold Fronts and Early Mornings

This morning I dragged myself out of bed at 6:00 as part of my effort to to become an early riser... and I was immediately rewarded. A cold front had blown in over night, and after finishing breakfast, the wind blowing outside the window coaxed me outside and into the crisp, cool air. What delight to feel that first tingle of fall in my fingertips! Even as I write this, I am listening to the rush of the wind in the trees and breathing in the scent of woodsmoke. Numerous plants are blooming their last few rounds of flowers before it becomes cold for good in the next month or two.

First came the lovely, glowing roses... 

Then the lovely "surprise lilies," which sprang up after all the rain.

The gardenias are still blooming away as well, and there are spiderworts all over the yard, hiding in the ivy and grasses.

This lovely morning glory had its face turned toward the morning sun.

And last, but not least - the first real sign of fall. Gather ye rosebuds while you may, because soon it will be chilly and damp!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Hurricane Issac Rain

When the rain from Hurricane Issac came rolling through our part of the country, I was elated to finally have a good, long thunderstorm. It has been so dry here that I don't think anyone minded the rain. Thunderstorms excite and invigorate me; as a child I had to be told not to run about in the lightning and thunder, and even then I didn't listen sometimes...

Rain also inspires reflection in me. I love to curl up with a hot cup of tea and just think and look and listen to the rain, on the (now rare) occasions when I don't have anything pressing to do. Rain is soothing, relaxing, and renewing.

When the rain slowed down a bit, I ran out into the back yard to the bird bath, and found that the birds had been enjoying the rain as well; there were several tiny grey feathers floating in the bird bath. Seeing the little birds bathing in the bird bath always gives me a good laugh. They're so business-like about it, which just makes them look even more hilarious.

Oh, such a tiny little feather!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

My Grandmother's Gardenias

"For you," my grandmother said, and handed me one perfect, perfumed gardenia blossom. I made the universal noise of delight: "Oh!"

There are few things as intoxicating to me as breathing in the scent of a flower,  and of all flowers that give off scent, gardenias are one of my favorites, especially since they always make me think of my grandmother and her lovely backyard. In the summer, it smells of honeysuckle, jasmine, and her gardenias, which she grows better than anyone I know. Something in the water where she lives, or perhaps in the plants themselves, make the clippings she takes and puts in a vase sprout roots within a few days.

While living in the South may have its share of hot days, we at least get to experience the delights of plants that cannot survive farther north, gardenias being one of them. My parents live only two and a half hours north, yet my mother has never been able to keep any of the rootings my grandmother has given her alive.

So I felt like I'd been given a real treasure today when my grandmother handed me the gardenia blossom as I sat outside in the sun crocheting. As I set the blossom down on my piece of handiwork, I was struck by the way the white blossom looked against the lettuce green of my yarn, and ran to get my camera. Such moments must be captured quickly; soon enough the blossom will wilt in its baby food jar and only dried petals will remain, but every time I look at these photos I will smell that blossom once again.