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Sunday, April 29, 2012

Some More Adventurous Scribbles


(Another follow up post Alcluith is progressing slowly can be found on this link as well.)

Yesterday I posted some of my own scribbles - Ygern's Secret - Something I Wrote.  I really appreciate the wonderful comments that were left in response.  But - now you have gone and encouraged me (you'll probably be sorry that you did!) and made me think of revisiting a book I was writing.

The little 'story' I posted yesterday was a self-contained idea that I never really thought of expanding on.  The book is similar in many ways as it focuses on the same era.  I started writing it when I was on maternity leave (in other words 14 years ago!).  After fiddling around with it for some time and finishing a first draft I sent it off to one of the Irish publishing houses about 5 years ago.  They rejected it out of hand (as you do).  I put it to one side and it has been languishing in the documents folder of my laptop ever since.  Now with the new self publishing options available I may just dust it off again and think of doing something with it.

For anyone who has the time, stamina and inclination I'm including the whole of the first chapter on a separate page.  It will be warts and all as it stands now but I'd appreciate any feedback.  Do I continue with it and try to polish it up - or should it stay put where it is?

The end of the first chapter is supposed to be a surprise so if you do want to read it and don't want the spoiler the link to the page is here:


Otherwise this is the gist of the plot.  A whodunit by Ellis Peters called 'The House on Green Turf' contains excerpts from an ancient Scottish ballad  (The ballad is incidental to her storyline).  When I read her book I found the story behind the ballad intriguing.  It goes something like this:

A just and popular king is defeated and killed in battle.  His pregnant wife is given clemency but the life of their unborn child hangs in the balance.  Only a girl will be allowed to live.  The queen manages to slip away and gives birth in secret.  The child is a boy (of course or there would be no story!)  Before his existence becomes common knowledge the queen exchanges her infant son for the newborn daughter of a serving woman and the boy is smuggled out to safety.  He is raised in obscurity, unaware of his heritage, but once he learns the truth of his parentage he prepares to return to his kingdom, revenge his father and reclaim his birthright. 


Besides thinking the story could be expanded quite nicely into a novel, what struck me about the ballad was the one dimensional characterisation.  The queen in particular is quite remarkable - here is a woman who stoically accepts the death of her husband, gives birth on her own in secret and then gives up her child without batting an eyelid.  Besides the narrative I thought it would be equally fascinating to explore the emotional response of the characters and their reaction to events.

I'd be curious to know if my blog friends think the idea (and my stab at interpreting it) has merit.  Either way I won't be giving up my day job!

Real life Dumbarton Rock in Strathclyde - an actual location for a fictitious tale: 







All the places referred to in the chapter with the exception of St Aidan's Field are real albeit heavily disguised by the mists of time.  All the people and events are completely fictitious.  (Some real historical characters sneak in later.)  The names (I give an explanation of their meaning in the full version) are all representative of the time and location except for Rowallan - that is my husband's name and he is still unsure whether to take its inclusion as a compliment.

The story is called:


Alcluith

Tears on Stone


I've prefaced it (a bit pretentiously I suppose) with this passage from Ecclesiastes:

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:

A time to be born and time to die,
A time to plant and a time to uproot,
A time to kill and a time to heal,
A time to tear down and a time to build,
A time to weep and a time to laugh,
A time to mourn and a time to dance,
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
A time to embrace and a time to refrain,
A time to search and a time to give up,
A time to keep and a time to throw away,
A time to tear and a time to mend,
A time to be silent and a time to speak,
A time to love and a time to hate,
A time for war and a time for peace.

Ecclesiastes 3:1   


    

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Ygern's Secret - Something I Wrote . . .

I was intending to publish a paper doll post today, but as some of the visitors to my blog are writers I decided to share something I wrote myself a good while ago (circa 1980) that I came across again recently.  I quite enjoyed reading it again. I hope you do too  ......




Ygern's Secret

Long ago the world was young, but Ygern was old.  She sat quietly in the sunlight, hands folded in her lap, dreaming about the past.

Once she too had been young and Arthur travelled North to claim her as his bride.  He stood over six feet tall.  His hair was as black as night, his eyes were two blue stars.  She had ridden through streets strewn with flowers to welcome her as the new queen.

Together they had built a hilltop fortress in the centre of the land, and together they had planned the administration of the country and the protection of the realm.
'I wonder if men will ever be able to live in peace,' Ygern had mused.
But Arthur only smiled.

For many years he fought against the invaders who threatened their existence.  The battles were swift and fierce.  Arthur always led his men into combat and could slay as many as twelve of the enemy force with one blow.  Soon the bodies of their foes lay piled upon the shore and funeral pyres served as a warning to those who felt the temptation to invade again.

For one bright and shining moment tranquility lay over the land. 
'You see!' Ygern had said triumphantly.  'Mankind can live in peace.'
But Arthur only smiled.

The harmony did not last.  Men long trained for war grew restless and bored.  They looked with envy at their neighbour's wealth and position.  Honed weapons hung motionless and waiting on their manor walls.  The country's natural enemy was gone and so they turned upon themselves in a conflict that split the land in two.

Arthur did not know how to confront this new threat.  His centre of balance was destroyed and he was swept under the raging torrent and broken as easily as a river reed.  The news of his defeat carried swiftly abroad and the invaders returned, finding a land leaderless and confused.

Ygern sat idly, watching the sun as it danced on the grass and whitewashed walls of the abbey guest house.  Outside the world was chaos, but she had withdrawn inside herself and was at peace.   She smiled gently at the young novice who approached her carrying a basket of ripened fruit.
'Do you think this fighting will ever end?' the girl tentatively asked.

But Ygern only smiled.

 Sharon Munro   




Mithrae Invicto
To Him Unconquered



Thursday, April 26, 2012

Sharon's Little Sunbeam Award - Week 5



Sharon's Little Sunbeam Week 5 shines on Donna at:

 Believe in Yourself

I have a number of reasons for choosing Donna's blog:

  • Her posts are a wonderful mix - inspirational, thought provoking, entertaining and fun.  Everything from Puppy Rescue to Trifle Recipes!
  • Donna is one of the most caring and friendly people I have met so far in my bloggy world.  
  • Her kindness has extended to inviting me to become a member of her tribe (triberr.com). This has allowed me to meet some other great bloggers and enjoy the contents of posts I would otherwise not have known were out there.

So this week its a big Thank You to Donna just for being herself - I hope anyone who is not familiar with her blog will stop by and pay her a visit.
 


Each week I've chosen pictures from past posts when putting together my sunbeam awards.  These lovely little fairies were previously included in my Birthday Thoughts post.  I chose them because I wanted to feature a rose and I've always liked this particular illustration.

Sometimes Donna treats us to excerpts from her own writing.  My favourites when she does are her poetry and one poem for me has always stood out - it is called 'Give Me But a Rose'.  I don't usually include links to a specific post in these awards but this week I am making an exception.  The poem can be found at Poetry Refined

So a special rose as well as a Little Ray of Sunshine for Donna as the recipient of this weeks Sunbeam Award!









Past recipients of Sharon's Little Sunbeam Award:


Lucy Violet Vintage  



Sharon's Little Sunbeam is my own personal 'no strings attached' award.  It is my way of thanking some of the wonderful people who enrich my blogging experience.  The recipient is introduced in a post like this one and a link to their blog remains on my sidebar for a week.  There are no conditions attached to the award.  The recipient does not need to answer any questions, pass the award on or even acknowledge that they have received it.  All they need to do is bask in my little sunbeam and enjoy it!



Monday, April 23, 2012

Success!! An Answer to my Inquiry

Mike Hubbard - Wizzie the Wizard
The Internet is a truly wondrous invention.  I'm old enough that I don't take it for granted and still marvel at the information it offers up.  Like all tools I know it can be used for both good and bad.  But so far my experience has been overwhelmingly positive.  Not only have I a wealth of knowledge at my fingertips, I've also come into contact with a wonderful group of people.  Blogging has really developed into an amazing community, linking us together across the globe.

A couple of days ago I posted an entry Can you help me identify this artist? in which I included a number of fairytale illustrations that have enchanted me since childhood.  Although I have enjoyed looking at them for many years I have never been able to identify the artist.  Last weekend I decided I would ask for help and put together a post with a selection of some of my favourite images.

Many thanks to everyone who commented on the post.  Amongst them was one from Barbara at March House Books Blog who came up with the inspired suggestion that I look at a blog called

 Bear Alley 
(There is also a sister site called Bear Alley Books.)

Mike Hubbard - The Magic Emerald

I decided to be bold and emailed Steve the owner of the site directly.  By amazing coincidence (although I have been peppered with so many 'coincidences' lately that I'm starting to wonder about them) the current entries on the Bear Alley blog all feature the same artist.  To be honest I would not have made the connection without being told as they are a different genre of comic strip.  But I have gone back to look at them in a different light armed with my new information.

Bear Alley is a magnificent blog for anyone like me who enjoys vintage British comics, books and magazines.  The blog contains a wealth of detail of the era of my childhood (and more besides.)  



This is the information Steve emailed back to me:

The artist you're trying to identify is Mike Hubbard who, by an amazing coincidence, is the artist of the strip currently running on Bear Alley!

Mike was a long-serving illustrator (1930s) and comic strip artist (post-WW2) with the Amalgamated Press/Fleetway/IPC, working on a number of comics and magazines. He was also the assistant to Norman Pett for some time (1946-48) before taking over Jane (of the Daily Mirror), which he drew in 1948-59.

The Look & Learn connection is certainly there: Coral Island is an old L&L strip from 1966. He drew a variety of strips for Once Upon a Time in 1971-72 and you might want to look out for copies of Pixie from 1972-73 where he adapted The Secret Garden and The Little Princess, both by Francis Hodgson Burnett.

These were all drawn towards the end of his career as he died in 1976.


I'm thrilled to have this information after all these years! A big thank you to Steve (and Barbara for the suggestion).  At last I can put a name to these lovely illustrations.

Mike Hubbard - The Magic Mirror

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Can You Help Me Identify This Artist?


**The information I sought was received 23 April  2012 - see post Success! An answer to my inquiry.

I have always loved the work of this artist but have not been able to identify the person behind these beautiful illustrations.  I'm hoping that if someone comes across this post and is familiar with these paintings, they will leave me a comment and help me shed some light on the artist who painted these enchanting scenes.  It would be wonderful to have a name to associate with this work.  I have included illustrations from these stories before in two previous posts - Wonderful Weddings and Perfect Princesses.  
My enduring passion for fairytale illustrations can largely be traced back to a magazine publication called 'Once Upon a Time' that appeared weekly from 1969 to 1973.  (I have referred to this magazine on a number of occasions in previous posts.)  It was printed and published in England but (as was common at the time) was available throughout the Commonwealth.  This meant I was able to collect these magazines as a child in South Africa and many I've seen for sale recently on eBay can be found in Australia.



The quality of the issues and the wealth of artwork they contain is simply astounding.  Many illustrators that we now consider giants of the era contributed on a regular basis.  I have included a number of these artists in previous posts and still have more to feature.  

Artists already showcased are:      

Jesus Blasco       















                                                   



















  












And the giant amongst giants, Ron Embleton, whose work I have been extremely privileged to collect on a small scale and who has featured fairly prolifically before in my blog. 

The artist featured today is part of this group, but to date I have not been able to trace anything from this work.  Nothing appears to be signed.  This is not unusual (none of the Ron Embleton boards I have bought are signed although some that were used as covers might have the initials RE in a bottom corner - this automatically puts them outside my price range!)  The practice at the time was also not to include any credits inside the publication or acknowledge the contributing artists.  Today I think a lot more recognition is automatically given when anything is published.

I may be wrong but I suspect this artist is probably a man.  I do get the impression of a sort of 'boys club' and I think these illustrators had a good sense of camaraderie and knew each other well.    

The first three illustrations included at the beginning of this post are from a story called 'The Magic Emerald'.  Below are others from a number of different stories.  From the style of the work I'm assuming they are by the same person as they all have the same delicate touch.

'The Magic Horn'
                                               
                             



Wizzie the Wizard'





'The Magic Mirror'





'Prince Adrian's Birthday'






'Bola the Magician'




'Prince Simon's Long Nose'




'The Statue and the Pigeons'




Earlier today I received a lovely surprise.  I am the winner in giveaway from Donna's Designs .  Last week Donna included a commemorative post about the Titanic.  Her giveaway is a CD called 'Music Aboard the Titanic' - I am thrilled to have won it and can't wait for it to arrive.  The Titanic was carrying many immigrant passengers from Ireland so the 100 year anniversary of its sinking has been a very poignant event here.  Donna's blog is beautiful - please pop in to visit (you won't be disappointed.)  Thank you Donna - you have made my day!

   

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Sharon's Little Sunbeam Award - Week 4


Timing (as they say), is everything.     
                                  
I decided this week that my little sunbeam would shine on Kylie at:


After last week's recipient (Garden of Daisies), Kylie is my longest standing blog friend.  I stumbled across her blog early on by accident looking for something (I can't remember what now) and was instantly drawn into her inviting and interesting world.  I love Kylie's sense of style and her warm Australian friendliness and enthusiasm.


Now for my reference to timing.

I had just decided to shine my little sunbeam on Kylie when a parcel arrived in the post from her.  It was a present for my birthday, a lovely vintage book called 'Ballet' by Arnold Haskell published in 1959.  

So this post gives me an opportunity to both thank Kylie for being such a great blog friend and for her sweet thoughtfulness in sending me such a lovely gift.  It also gives me a chance to show off my new treasure - I've included the cover and one of my favourites photographs from inside. 

Margot Fonteyn and Michael Somes in  Giselle
Anya Linden in Les Sylphides
I do have a recollection of this book from my childhood.  It is a long time since I last saw it though, so it is wonderful to have it in my collection.

In all the 'Sharon's Little Sunbeam' Awards I've been re-using pictures featured in earlier posts.  This week is no exception, but the two images I've chosen were not selected at random.  Both are from my Ladybird Books post.  Kylie is a collector of vintage Ladybird Books and is hoping to find all the titles that were published.  I thought this made these two images particularly appropriate!  (I also think the first one of Little Jumping Joan is the best illustration for the sunbeam award that I have found so far.)


Past recipients of Sharon's Little Sunbeam Award:



Sharon's Little Sunbeam is my own personal 'no strings attached' award.  It is my way of thanking some of the wonderful people who enrich my blogging experience.  The recipient is introduced in a post like this one and a link to their blog remains on my sidebar for a week.  There are no conditions attached to the award.  The recipient does not need to answer any questions, pass the award on or even acknowledge that they have received it.  All they need to do is bask in my little sunbeam and enjoy it!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Art of Sulamith Wulfing


I was a teenager when I first discovered the art of Sulamith Wulfing (1901-1989).  I found her work absolutely enchanting and spent what money I had of my own on prints and posters that could be used to decorate my bedroom walls.

A Christmas illustration by Sulamith Wulfing can be found here.


.

I'm not going to provide a potted history of Sulamith Wulfing's life.  There is enough online information available should anyone wish to find out more about her, including this Wikipedia Biography .  Instead what I thought I'd do is share some of my favourite examples of her work.  (This is just a small sample of her beautiful and complex art.)


Two thoughts struck me when I looked at these prints again recently.  The first is how timeless they are.  If I did not know when they were drawn I would find it very difficult to place them in any historical context.  To me they evoke the 1970's because that is the decade when I first saw them and I associate her work very much with that time.  In fact, the examples shown here were all completed between the 1930's and 1950's.  To my mind though they belong to a time outside time and this is what makes them so powerful.  


The second thought I had when studying these works again is how universal they are.  Sulamith Wulfing was a German artist, but I don't find her work limited to a single region.  The Wikipedia entry mentions that some of the patterns on the clothing and furniture resemble Norse knot-work.  From my perspective I've always thought there is a distinctly Celtic influence, especially in the designs on the dresses and material.  I love her imagery - it creates a world that is spiritual and ethereal but also firmly rooted in the beauty of nature.  


Looking these images across a gulf of many years has also made me realise what an incredible journey I have experienced myself - from the southernmost tip of Africa to my current surroundings at the edge of a fairy forest in the mountains of Ireland.  When I bought these prints I had no inkling of the direction my life would take.  In many respects I've always felt the driving force behind events as they have unfolded was not mine - I've been carried along by a tide that has been outside my control.  And yet, somehow at the end of it all, I've found myself in a geographical environment that is perhaps the closest it is possible to be in this world to the surroundings depicted in these scenes.      




Detail of the figure above:




This painting called 'The Veil' is perhaps my favourite of them all.  Here is a close-up of the figure - I love the detail on the chair and the burnt out candles.



  

I was so in awe of Sulamith Wulfing's art that I spent quite a lot of time studying and copying it in my teens.  I've mentioned before that when I draw, colour or copy something I'm able to escape almost physically into that world, and this was a magical place to venture into.

Unfinished study based on a Sulamith Wulfing painting 
The head on the right of this drawing is copied from 'The Veil' shown above.  The other figure is copied from a work I have not included here as the print I have is far too big to fit into my small scanner.



I've also mentioned in at least one previous post that I was fairly obsessed as a teenager with designing my own (opulent fairytale) wedding.  Sulamith Wulfing's work gave me masses of inspiration.  The two scans below should be one image but it is too big so I've split in in half.  This was my dream wedding and I've drawn a bride, flower girl, maid of honour and bridesmaid.



Another variation of the maid of honour and bridesmaid.  I was fairly adamant that this was what I wanted!


The next figure (also a bride) was not copied directly from a Sulamith Wulfing drawing but was certainly inspired by her.  Bear in mind that I was a teenager when I did these so hopefully that excuses some of my excessive exuberance!


I don't think this last drawing is linked to anything by Sulamith Wulfing, but as I have it kept together with the one above and it has a medieval theme I decided to include it as well.


Again I've included these photos in bridal related posts before, but I'm finishing with them as they show that even though my wedding (both the ceremony and reception were held in my mom's garden in Everton, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa) was a fairytale occasion I did not in the end manage the opulent medieval pageantry that I dreamt of as a child and teenager!  (I was 37 when I married so long past the age of these flights of fancy.)



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