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Saturday, October 12, 2013

Anyone for Croquet? - OPDAG issue 106

This week I received my copy of Paper Doll Studio, the quarterly magazine showcasing the work of members of OPDAG (The Original Paper Doll Artists Guild).  The theme for this issue was GOOD SPORTS and for my contribution I decided to submit two sheets of dolls playing croquet with outfits from 3 different eras.

This is my second submission to the magazine.  My first was a doll called Clarissa.  On that occasion I was given a quarter of an A4 size page.  This time I was thrilled to see my dolls received a lot more exposure.  The two colour scans shown above were allocated a whole page on their own (pg 14).  I also appeared in the section of 'Artists talk about their theme art paper dolls...'  and was listed first!  (But that was probably because I sent in these dolls such a long time ago.)   Jenny chose the blue skirted outfit (top left) to put with my introduction.

The cover page I put together (above) was not printed - I mainly included it to show how the hats and umbrella work.  For the umbrella if you make a slit in her left hand (our right) the handle can slide through quite nicely and then the other end hooks into the area between her thumb and hand.

I based everything on contemporary images from the eras represented and just rounded up the dates.  The two figures are taken from an American fashion magazine of the late 19th and early 20th centuries called The Delineator.  Something about their poses made me think they could be easily adapted to croquet  This illustration appeared in the magazine in 1911.

The two outfits on the page with the dolls were inspired by this delightful illustration.  It is called 'Croquet or Wicket Thoughts' and appeared on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post dated 5 September 1931.  Although I loved the design of her outfit I felt I needed more colour in my interpretation and was really happy with the way it turned out.

These are the sketches for the two pages.  I drew each outfit separately and then cut and positioned them on the page.  Cleaning everything up afterwards can be a bit fiddly but I find its the easiest way to get the different pieces arranged to make optimum use of the space.  I've been experimenting with different ways of doing the lettering.  For Clarissa I printed it directly onto the sheet with the doll once she and her outfits were drawn but not coloured.  That was quite difficult and it took a couple of attempts to get it right.  Here I printed and pasted the wording on the original sketch.  I cleaned everything up, printed it again and then coloured it in.  For the new doll I'm working on (next submission) I've taken yet another approach.  I'm doing the lettering last directly onto the scanned image using Microsoft Paint.

These two paintings provided the inspiration for the dresses on the second sheet. I adore this next image.  It is by the English painter Percy W Gibbs (1894-1937) and is called 'Ladies Playing Croquet'.  I love the pastel colours and the feminine effect of the artist's technique.  I would have liked to have reproduced these figures exactly as you see them here, but the style of my dolls was quite different so I had to adapt it to keep the overall look of my pages consistent.

The last two gowns come from this painting, possibly the most famous and well known depiction of a Victorian croquet game.  It is by the American artist Winslow Homer (1836 - 1910),

When I completed my paper doll of Alice I sent a scan of her off to Jenny at OPDAG.  Jenny liked her but as the doll did not fit in with either the Sports theme or any of the upcoming themes she could not include Alice in the body of the magazine.  What she did for me instead is put Alice in the Showcase Section where members advertise paper doll books for sale.  A small image of Alice is shown with a link to my blog.  It was so exciting to see my work there - I felt like a child who was allowed to mix with the grown-ups!     

The theme for the next issue is QUEENS.  I've almost finished my submission (due by the end of next month) and have already sent in two outfits for the special Dress-a-Doll section - in this issue a young Queen Elizabeth circa her coronation in 1953


Saturday, October 5, 2013

Ruby Reeves - An Enchanting Fairyland

These exquisitely detailed paintings are the work of South African artist Ruby Reeves (1904-1986).
I came across them while looking for pictures I had in mind for last week's post.  I've not thought of including them before because the quality is not great - they are cuttings from a magazine (Ster - the Afrikaans word for star) and you can even see the date in one of the details below - 2nd May 1974.  At the time I would have stuck these on my bedroom wall where they must have complimented my Sulamith Wulfing posters beautifully.

It was only when I looked online and realised how little is out there of this artist's work that I decided to put together this post today.  If you would like to see more of her art this Facebook page contains additional examples as does this site called Rust en Vrede (if you swap the two words around it would translate to 'peace and quiet').

This painting called 'Midsummer's Night' or 'The Fairy Queen's Birthday' is possibly her most well known work.  I used to spend hours studying the detail when I was young, imagining living in this magical land.  This is what I always imagined Tolkein's Rivendell looked like and I longed to explore this enchanting landscape.  It was only when I scanned and cropped these images today that I noticed some of the details again I had forgotten - if you look at the picture below on the right you'll find faces in the tree and I'd missed the fairies dancing around the queen's head like a halo.  These would both make beautiful paintings in their own right.      

It also struck me looking at these again that Ruby Reeves must have been familiar with the work of Danish artist Kay Nielsen. (There is an example of one of his illustrations - Sleeping Beauty - on my sidebar )   I can see a lot of similarities between the two, especially the gates in the illustration above left and the details of the clothing below. 

I painted the picture below in my 20's during a period when I was besotted with Nielsen's work and emulating his style in everything I did.  I'm sorry you can't see the figure next to the tree terribly well - her clothing is very similar to that produced by both Nielsen and Ruby Reeves.

This Facebook entry contains a detailed biography about Ruby Reeves.  I was interested to read that she worked mainly at night and used a magnifying glass to create this incredibly fine detail.  She lived on her own but was never alone - the fairy world kept her company and she had a special favourite called Marion.

Another lovely painting - I enlarged the figure on the right to show off her beautiful gown:

I'm sorry these two examples are not in colour although there is a detail of the one below to give some idea of what the original looks like.  I've always pictured the dress to be pale blue.

Ruby Reeves lived in George (a lovely town on the Cape Garden Route) from 1955 until her death in 1986.  The George Museum has some of her work on display - I'm sorry I was not aware of that when we were last in South Africa as I would love to see her paintings close up.  I was in the vicinity - my husband's parents live in nearby Knysna so I could easily have paid the museum a visit.  I don't have any photos of George but have included some of the Knysna / Wilderness area so you can get some idea of what it looks like and the landscape that might have inspired some of Ruby Reeves' work.

The view from my in-laws house

The Knysna Heads are quite a famous landmark in South Africa.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Its Just a Matter of Time

Jesus Blasco - Alice in Wonderland

Last week I read something I found very interesting in the 'Metro Herald' our fabulous free newspaper that keeps me sane during my daily commute.

Dr Andrew Jackson, a scientist here at Trinity College (Dublin) is researching the perception of time by small animals and insects.  The project he is leading compares 'flicker fusion frequency' - the point at which creatures begin to see separate flashes of light as a blur.  The hypothesis they are following is that the faster an animal's metabolic rate, the slower objects move for them and the longer their impression of time.

This theory can be used to explain why a fly is able to avoid being swatted so easily.  Our actions as humans appear to them like the bullets in 'The Matrix.'

Ron Embleton - Cinderella

Dr Jackson has carried this train of thought a step further after noticing that small children always appear to be in a hurry.  'It's tempting to think that for children time moves more slowly than it does for grown-ups and there is some evidence that it might', he is quoted as saying.   It certainly seems to be the case for me - as my metabolism slows down, time has speeded up to the point where I never seem to have enough to do anything!

For me this theory compliments another I have always subscribed to - that there is a direct correlation between a person's age and their perception of time.  This is based on the percentage of a period of time in relation to an individual's entire existence.  So for a child of 4 the equivalent number of years is very long time as it constitutes his/her whole lifetime.  For an adult of 54 it has a whole different meaning.

Einstein was studying the concept of time and time-travel towards the end of his life.  He saw time as a river flowing in one direction with us travelling along in a boat.  What he was contemplating in his twilight years is the possibility of us manoeuvring the boat to the bank, getting out and walking back the way we had come.  I've always been fascinated by the prospect of time-travel but as I get older I often think it is better we are not able to revisit the past.  Our memories are unreliable and often inaccurate - we are most likely much happier with our rose-tinted perceptions of the past than the actual reality.

My own journey through time:            

Aged 4

Aged 14

Aged 24

Aged 34 (with hubby John)

Aged 44 (with our son Ryan)

Aged 54 (suitably obscured by sunlight!)

Jim Croce's 'Time in a Bottle' (1973).  I've always found it especially poignant that he died the same year this song was released and in the end did not get his full allotment of time.  The photography in this particular YouTube clip is absolutely breathtaking - if you can spare the time its well worth watching!  

Sunday, September 15, 2013

A Distant Echo

Throughout the ages many people have pondered the meaning of life and immortality of the human soul  I come from a Christian background so the concept of reincarnation is anathema to my upbringing - and yet I have always been haunted by memories of a distant past that is not my own and a deep sense of loss and longing.

One theory I discovered some time ago is that we inherit memories in the same way our genetic make-up and character/personality traits (the nature vs nurture debate notwithstanding) are passed down to us by our forebears.  Just as a spider knows how to spin an elaborate web with no instruction or assistance, so too do we carry within us the emotions and experiences of those came before.  Its an interesting concept and a possible explanation if we truly do pass this way just once.

I realised early on that I studied history (I have an honours degree in the subject and taught it at high school for a time) not because I needed to learn anything, but because I receive a measure of comfort and familiarity while immersing myself in certain eras of the past.  

In our past two homes I've found corners of the garden that have transported me back to an earlier time.  This is the place I gravitated to where we live now.  There is a tree stump covered in brambles and at the verge of the lawn long grass is allowed to grow wild, catching and reflecting the light of the afternoon sun.

During the summer months I sat here for hours and drank in the scene.  I inhabit an eternal present where time has no meaning.  A little brown bird provided company, foraging amongst the brambles and sunning itself on the stump.  Two white butterflies also kept me entertained, waltzing and twirling in a graceful dance, spinning about in the sultry air.  Yesterday I thought their short, joyous lives must be over as they were no longer here, but then I discovered them in another corner of the garden, flitting amongst the ripening apples positioned to take best advantage of the late summer sun.

I have many memories but the strongest is from the early Middle Ages.  Strangely enough I'm not a princess in a castle tower, nor am I an important prominent person.  Instead my recollections are those of a peasant.  The landscape fills my mind with vivid detail - a field of wheat or corn ripening in the sun bounded by a forest.  Where the cultivated land ends there is grass caching the silvery light at the edge of the trees.  I can hear children playing and the sound of people working.

Often we are given the impression that this period of history was a fearful time - one of war and pestilence, hunger and want where the populace wore dun coloured clothing and lived in squalor.  That is not my recollection at all.  Instead I have a perception of community and co-operation, a simple life but one of plenty and a deep sense of contentment.  I don't know if represents a tiny window of time or a prolonged period of prosperity.

I try to reach back to discern more detail but it is out of reach and the distance is too great. All I can do is sit in the sun dreaming of the past .....

.... and listen to the distant echo of children laughing.


Sunday, September 8, 2013

Little Women - Whitman Edition 1955

Little Women - Louisa May Alcott

Before I launch into this post I want to say a big THANK YOU to everyone who left comments on the last one, and Earthen Magic a special thank for going back to all the associated links and leaving such magical messages.  While I'm in 'thank you mode' I'd also like to tell Yurika from Japan how thrilled I was to get the comments you left on earlier posts - I tried to reciprocate on your blog but couldn't find a place to leave a message.  Everyone else - I won't mention you all by name but you know your friendship means a lot to me.

I always feel a bit self conscious when I put up a post like the last one - on this occasion I nearly took it back down again and would have done so but for receiving the responses I got to it.  Sometimes I do feel I must be delusional and a bit of an eejit for thinking I can write a book - especially when I read what I've produced in the cold light of day!  

Now on to this post.  It was inspired by one Barbara from the ever delightful March House Books Blog featured recently.  You can see Barbara's post here.  Her edition has glorious illustrations by the sublime Rene Cloke - they really are superb.  I'm not the first to respond to Barbara's post - another good blog friend Darlene from Darlene's Foster's Blog feaured this post which includes a photograph of Louisa May Alcott    

Both of these posts prompted me to get out my version of the story and page through it again.  The book I have was published by the Whitman Publishing Company (Wisconsin) in 1955.  It is a 'modern abridged version' but still very wordy for a child running to 283 pages.

I LOVED this book when I was very young - maybe a little bit surprising as I tended to be drawn to bright and shiny things - large format books with vibrant illustrations in full colour.  This edition is the size of a medium hardback novel and includes pen and ink illustrations by Jill Elgin with muted olive green washes of colour.

I think what makes these illustrations so successful is how wonderfully they portray both the characters and events of the book.  And there are a lot of them.  I've only included a handful here but this edition is packed full of them.  

These two were amongst my favourites.  I adored the picture of Meg in her unaccustomed finery.  I'd still like to do something with this dress one day - it would be perfect for a paper doll!  I read through this part of the story again and was startled to realise how young these characters were.  Meg is 17 in this scene and Laurie is even younger!

More illustrations follow.  This story was already 100 years old when I first read it - I think why it endures so well is how universal and timeless it is (a bit like Jane Austen)  - and how 'real' and sympathetic the characters are.  (I know as Barbara said you either love it or hate it - as childhood memories go it is so entrenched in my psyche I can't but love it.)  

This one of Meg's wedding is one I've always wanted to incorporate into something.  It has a lovely graphic quality with its circular design and a great sense of movement.

The cover is the only illustration in colour - I must say I was always intrigued by this hat!

Each chapter is prefaced by a small illustration - a handful of these are repeated throughout the book.  There are a few others beside those I'm showing here - the house, a horse and carriage for Laurie and the portraits of the four girls shown on the frontispiece.

Many chapters are introduced with a montage representing one of the girls.  At some point I went through these and identified them all - writing the appropriate initial (in red ink I'm afraid!) underneath each.    

Whitman produced two different series of books at this time - Whitman Classics (of which this is one) and Whitman Adventure and Mystery Books.  Besides Little Women I also owned their Fifty Famous Fairy Tales.  I no longer have this book and would love to see it again.  I've just discovered there is one on offer at Amazon - now should I or shouldn't I ? ....   hmmm ......  


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