This gem is from Babar & His Children. I think it makes it into all-time-favorite children's illustration territory for me.
The text is also great, in a Babar-ish way (it begins "Three seconds in which to act -- and no gun!") but I think it's a such a perfect three panel story all on its own. What cold heart could resist a baby elephant encountering a crocodile while floating in a bowler hat?
I have never had a mailing list before, but I want to be able to let people know when something big is in the works or about to be released. And I get so many emails asking about how/when original work is sold, and though I will always post new work (and when it will be available for sale) here, the mailing list will keep you in the loop:
1. I put almost every kind of rose I have in a jar and brought it to a friend. 2. Jude the Obscure is one of my favorite novels & also the name of a floppy, faded peachy English rose. 3. Josiah called them Power, Corruption & Lies flowers and that made me happy.
(I am working on some new paintings I'll share soon - in the meantime, The Flower Channel!)
June is so gracious. I go out into the garden every day and usually come back with a jar of something. Then I marvel to Josiah (who listens for the hundredth time) about how it all happens, about how it feels like Aladdin's cave out there, about the delicate and temporary riches of flowers.
I can't ever get over it - they're just out there, with almost no help at all, working their magic. Somewhere underground, something says ABRACADABRA and the garden makes things so beautiful and voluptuous and fleeting your eyes turn into hypnotic spirals.
The roses are blooming their hearts out and it's the last of the foxgloves and the beginning of the bellflowers.
Sometimes you will find you need a Thomas Hardy paperback, an old tea tin, some military die-cuts, a piece of sari silk printed with elephants, and cat stickers. Maybe you also need some notecards printed with hundred-year-old images of Multnomah Falls.
If you need these things (or a tin wind-up toy or a 1960's beaded sweater or a book of photobooth photographs or some previously-unknown-to-you perfume from Imaginary Authors) there is only one place I know of to go, my favorite store: Flutter.
There are lots of places I love here, but this place is special, the best-possible version your imagination's dress-up box. I remember the first time I visited, maybe seven or eight years ago. One look & I was done-for (you can watch a video on their website that gives you a tour of the shop, although it is a restless creature & always changing its feathers and colors and finery.)
If you visit Portland, you should wander into this giant jewel-box -- just know you will almost certainly leave with a collection of strange & beautiful clutter.
I had been wishing for a nice celestial globe for a while, and this gem finally came to me.
They are much more scarce than their terrestrial cousins, and the nice ones (the really, really, really nice ones, illustrated in color & centuries old) are hugely rare & cost a corresponding amount of pennies. This one is from the early mid-century, so no very old, but very beautiful & within my reach.
You probably won't be surprised by the constellation highlighted in the picture -- it is my favorite -- but they are all equally beautifully illustrated. And I've learned some new ones, too, like Lacerta, (the lizard).
I've decided to make a tradition out of trying to make a new Summer dress out of Liberty cotton every year. It would be so nice to build a little stockpile over of the years.
This is last year's, and keen eyes will notice that (thrill-a-minute creature that I am) this year's is the same print, Claire Aude, just in the red/pink colorway. I actually sewed it inside-out, because I liked the back of the print a little more (the colors were a little softer).
I drafted the pattern from my favorite dress, a slip dress with a gently gathered waist. I've made so many clones of this dress, I think I could make it in my sleep. For the fabric, I usually order via Purl (but if they don't have a Liberty colorway or print in stock B&J fabrics almost certainly has it)
I've also been ordering a lot from Mood, with their amazing selection of silk & wool & other fabrics it's hard to buy locally. I am sewing so many of my clothes these days and I love it. Even when I botch something (which is often) it was in the pursuit of making something that's exactly like what's in my mind. And like with anything you make: when it isn't botched, and it works just right, and it's exactly like you hoped, it's completely wonderful.
Clockwise: Real-fur figure with painted mouth, Fur-embellished Polar Bear postcard, Flocked Brown Bear postcard, Flocked metal figure, Good Luck Bear in crate
I've been thinking of some of the mini-collections of things I've (intentionally or unintentionally) accumulated. I have a problem with odds & ends like these and I thought it might be nice to photograph some of them together.
I really like these embellished postcards: the background is lithographed, the animal/bear figure pasted down in fur or flocking, probably from sometime in the early 20th century. I've only found two, but I hope I come across more.
The Good Luck Bear is a souvenir from San Isabel Colorado (I found him in an old things shop). I don't know much about them. If anyone does, please chime in!
A Good Luck Bear seems like an excellent souvenir of a forest trip, even though it's a bit like he's a captive genie in that little crate of his - trapped & beholden to give you good luck.
A color sketch from work on my next picture book. As a friend pointed out, the panda does look like he's been poisoned & knows he's done for. Although these are mostly a preparation step, I love them for their unfinished wobbliness (and some I love as much as their finished counterparts.)
I'm always losing my mind a little bit over a lot of things. Right this minute, it goes something like: thoughts of my next picture book, balloons, Manet's portraits, Babar, muffins, girls in blouses, The Museum of Extraordinary Things, sewing dresses, the Bears film etc. etc.
These old friends are one of my favorite sights in one of my favorite places.
They were the first thing I saw when I visited the Museum of Natural History for the first time, ducking out of the hot, crowded New York Summer and finding inside the magic, dark and cool, of that magnificent place. It found me when I most needed it, nearly ten years ago, when I was just out of college and lonely and restless and out-of-place in the city. I walked in on a rare quiet day (it's never been so quiet, ever, on any of my further visits) and laid eyes on this diorama and tears crept into my eyes. We don't have a word for the particular way you love a place, but we need one.
I don't expect it to make sense what the museum means to me, the spell it has, no matter how many times I visit. I keep it in a safe place beneath my ribs, where we keep the books that found us at just the right time, the films and albums, the feeling of being understood, of being loved when you least expected it.
If you ever want to find them, the bears wait for you, huge and grand, in the Hall of North American Mammals.
I found this 1930 edition of my favorite Colette book today (the first of the Claudine series, Claudine at School.) It was just sitting there, waiting for me at Powell's & I think it cost some king's ransom like six dollars.
I check the shelves of my favorite authors on most trips to used book stores, because even though I start off with modern editions of most favorite books, I always try to trade up to nice oldie (but readable) copies as I find them.
Plus, old books come with heart-melting little idiosyncrasies like abandoned library card pockets and bookplates (in this case) and sincere inscriptions from aunts and mentors (in other cases). I'd pay extra for those little things.
I have been using watercolors lately and I really love them. They are so different from my usual paints, which are all building and layers and varnishes. Silk chiffon vs. wool.
I was wishing for something a bit lighter & airier to work on a few different things I've got percolating. One thing I'm using them for is to make pictures for a new story I'm writing (like the one above).
This will soon be a black mushroom cavern, all inky and dark, but I liked it white & bright as it is, too.
I'm in the midst of lots of behind-the-scenes work right now. Lots of it is bookish: I'm writing of an expanded novel from a favorite fairy tale, making sketches for my next picture book, but my mind and sketchbook are also filling up with a few series of new pictures.
I will, of course, share dispatches! Happy Spring!
One of the most unusual old children's book's I've brought home lately: a nineteenth century chromolithographed book about two girls in florida, a bow & arrow, and a snake. I love the image on the cover so much (and the pamphlet-style book is quite brittle and delicate) so I think I'll probably frame it to keep me company here in my studio.
There is nothing quite like the colors they achieved when printing chromolithographs. There's an irrepressible brightness in the colors and a softness in the shadows...it's hard to define, really. I only know that they're some of my favorite, favorite illustrations and that boxes of postcards and game pieces and scrapbook bits printed this way make me go out of my mind a little.