Friday, January 28, 2011

Magical Movie Monday:Monty Python and the Holy Grail

"She turned me into a newt!"
"A newt?!"
"...I got better..."

Monty Python, you either love them, or you just don't get them at, I love em!
There are so many versions of the magical tales of the Arthur legend, but only one that includes that age old question, "What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?"
I watched this one over the weekend and decided this cult classic would be a perfect Magical Movie Post in honor of P.J. my son-in-law who celebrated his birthday this weekend by injuring himself at work and then going home to read a book about Murphy's Law. P.J. and later ending up at the hospital with my daughter who is pregnant and thought she had a kidney infection! Turns out she's ok, but it was a rough weekend P.J., so this ones for you! I really enjoyed watching it with my 12 year old son Tristan, it's fun enjoying a film you've seen a million times with someone who's never seen it, you get to relive it anew.

From the first scene when Arthur and his squire Patsy (yes, a dude named Patsy) came trotting over the hill on foot pretending they are on horses, Patsy clattering coconuts together to make the sound of hooves, Tristan totally lost it. Yes, it's low on budget but rich with laughs if you enjoy British humor, which I do. If you don't enjoy British humor, I recommend you watch it once with subtitles on, just to be sure.

Directed by Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones, and starring the cast of Monty Python adding Graham Chapman, Michael Palin, Eric Idle, John Cleese, all in multiple roles, this film should not be considered historically accurate (even though there's a historian in it.) While King Arthur travels the land looking for knights to join him at Camelot he and his knights are given a quest by God while in a slightly annoyed mood, to go in search on the Holy Grail. They come across some truly ridiculous obstacles including the Knights that say "Ni" who demand shrubbery as tribute, taunts by the French followed by catapulted farm animals, and the most ferocious rabbit in film history.

Some of my favorite scenes in this movie include the battle between Arthur and the Black Knight, a real go-getter who's still picking a fight after loosing both arms and legs, the Bridge of Death in which the knights must answer three questions in order to pass, and the knights are lead by the mysterious Tim the Enchanter to the lair of the killer rabbit. I love the scene where Sir Bedevere "connects the dots" for the peasantry to explain the logical method for discovering if someone is a witch by leading them to ridiculous conclusions.

Great characters, outrageous situations and clever dialogue make this film really fun to watch. The Pythons make fun of everything from religion, the witch trials, even the black plague in this satirical view of the dark ages.

And remember, "you can't expect to wield supreme executive power just because some watery tart threw a sword at you."

Monday Movie Featured Item:

The Holy Grail had the power to heal, unlike the French, I don't already have one, but I do have a coffee mug with the Celtic Goddess of healing Bridget on it...what did you expect, a shrubbery?!    Available in our Etsy Shop


Book Illustrations: Drawing Upon the Words

This past week was spent working furiously away on black and white pen and ink illustrations for Llewellyns 2012 Magical Almanac. As you know, I finally got my glasses, so it's been a month of waiting and then catching up. I've been writing articles for the almanac since 2005, and in 2007 I started contributing illustrations as well. (These photos are all my illustrations from Magical Almanacs past.) I look forward to the almanac every year, I love the articles and it's also a great guide to have at your fingertips for daily energies.

This year I illustrated two articles that I wrote for the Magical Almanac, one on working with Green Man for prosperity and abundance magic, and the other was on dream magic. I think you'll enjoy them both. I was also pleased to do illustrations for articles by Raven Digitalis and Blake Octavian Blair, both are Facebook friends and very talented writers. I never know who I'm going to get besides myself to illustrate, so it's always fun to find out! It's actually a fun challenge to read the articles and see what images come into my mind, or figure out what the best way is to convey the ideas of the written word into images. I've always gotten great ideas from books, so it's really fun to have the opportunity to illustrate. I look for inspiration in the article and come up with images that will both pull the reader in, as well as wanting to please the writer and make them say, "Yeah! That's what I was thinking of." So next July when it comes out, we'll see how I did! I can't wait for you to see them!

I have one illustration left for Voice of the Trees, and then I'm shipping those off to my editor on Monday. I'm pleased with how those came out, lots of leaves and Celtic knots and stuff. I've recently noticed that some of the Llewellyn books are using black and white pencil illustrations instead of ink for their books, Lisa Hunt and Jennifer Meyer have recently created beautiful pencil illustrations for Llewellyn books, and I love the look. So for Voice of the Trees, I opted for pencil illustrations. I actually submitted a few with the finished manuscript and card illustrations so that they could see where I was going with them, and my editor liked them so much, she asked for more! I was delighted!

One more tidbit, I was recently asked to illustrate another book pretty soon for Llewellyn, I can't tell you what the book is yet, at least not until I sign the contract, but I will say I've seen the reference photos the author sent in, and wow! This is going to be a gorgeous book and I'm really excited to be a part of it! More on that in the future!
Well, back to the drawing board for me!

A Misty Magical Morning

On my way to work this morning, I was looking out on the snow covered fields. We have some open fields as well as some corn fields nearby that I pass every day. This morning, was especially amazing, the snow has been melting and was evaperating in the morning air, I noticed a low mist on the fields this morning, huging the snow covered ground. I thought, "I should stop and take a picture, it looks so cool." but sometimes what you see in real life doesn't register on the camera, and I suspected from experience that the low mist wouldn't show up. Plus the road has lots of turns and I was nervous that if I pulled off the road, someone might not see me and smack into me.

Then I turned onto the main road in front of my office building...

What I saw was amazing. The mist wasn't on the ground here, but was a separate layer, a ribbon of mist hovering probably 10 feet above the empty field. It was clearly visible silloueted against the dark trees in the distance. This is a busier road, but pretty straight and has a good shoulder. So I pulled off with my hazards on, and grabbed my ever present camera from my purse and snapped off a couple of photos.

The ribbon of mist tickled the trees beyond as it stretched into the distance where it met the rising land.

The sun warmed the land transforming the solid frozen snow into a vapor that clothed the distant trees in gossomer finery. The dormant flora stirred, then returned to dreams of the coming spring.

A hush was on the morning fields as the elves and faerie folk silently danced a slow dance across the land reminding the roots of the forest that they soon may wake, send lifeforce back into their limbs and come out to play.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Magical Movie Monday: The Princess Bride

This quotable classic is one of my favorite magical movies, having seen it about a million times, and I could watch it a million more. This movie is from 1987, and is a classic fairy tale directed by Rob Reiner. The story is introduced when a sick kid(Fred Savage) in bed playing with his 1987 game system, gets a visit from his grandfather (Peter Falk) who brings along The Princess Bride by S. Morgenstern to read to his sick grandson, much to the boys dismay. Little by little the boy is drawn into the magical world and by the end doesn't even mind grandpa reading "the kissing part!"

The beautiful Buttercup (the stunning Robin Wright) and Westley, (the dashing Cary Elwes) the farm boy, have fallen in love. Westley goes off to make his way in the world, and soon after Buttercup receives word that Wesleys ship was attacked by the Dread Pirate Roberts, who never takes prisoners, so Wesley is assumed dead. Prince Humperdink discovers Buttercup and has decided to make her his bride, the grieving Buttercup agrees, and this is where the plot thickens. On the eve of her wedding she is kidnapped by an interesting band of thugs the kindly and poetic giant Fezzik (Andre the Giant) charming master swordsman Indigo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin) and led by Vizzini the Sicilian, played by the hilarious Wallace Shawn. Vizzini makes it his job to start wars between countries, and dubiously considers himself to be very clever.

In case there is anyone in the world who hasn't seen this movie, I'll avoid spoilers, but I will tell you that included in this story is a brush with death from the screaming eels, a harrowing climb up the Cliffs of Insanity, the most amazing sword fight in the history of film,

a battle of wits to the death, the Fire Swamp, R.O.U.S.'s (rodents of unusual size) ultimate suffering, a miracle, a flaming holocaust cloak, revenge, mercy and yes, even true love! Whew, I'm telling you, this movie has it all!
As you are enchanted by the clever story, script, and acting in this film, you'll also notice that the costuming, set design and beautiful scenery are all also top notch. I love to draw or paint while this movie plays in the background, it is very inspiring, and keeps me amused while I work.

One of the many great scenes is when the heroes end up at the house of Miracle Max and his wife, played by Billy Crystal and Carol Kane. Max used to be the sorcerer to the king, but Prince Humperdink fired him. Max manages to make a "miracle pill" to revive our hero who after a short stint in a torture chamber is "mostly dead." But not all dead, as Max points out, "If they're all dead, all you can do is go through their pockets for loose change."
Peter Cook plays the funniest minister I have ever seen, and I like to quote him at wedding rehearsals just to break the ice.

If you've never seen this one, or even if you have and want to see it again, set your DVR to record it Sunday Jan 23, on AMC click here for the schedule!

Monday Movie Featured Item:

The Goddess Rhiannon also was rescued from a marriage she didn't want by her true love, just like Buttercup! You can read about it in The Mabinogion.  This Rhiannon oval compact mirror is fit for a princess!  Available in our Etsy Shop

Happy Monday!

Beyond Fantasy Magazine Art Contest

The Rowan Fairy is receiving some attention this month!

The voting for Beyond Fantasy Magazine has begun, January 16-27th 2011 and I'm proud to be include amongst the other fine artists in the contest! Vote Here!

The contest is called "Faeries and Foes," art depicting either faeries or foes of faeries. I chose to enter my Rowan Fairy because she is one fairy who knows how to handle a foe! She is a stately and graceful warrior armed with a bronze sword and a rowan shield ready to take on any foe of the fae magical or mundane. The rowan tree offers protection from magical attacks, and safe guidance through life's trials.

So how do you vote? Easy! Click this link, and it will take you to the Beyond Fantasy Magazine poll. If you scroll down, you'll see lots of gorgeous images, art of many talented artists who entered the contest. You'll notice my Rowan Fairy among them, with the number 25 below her. Don't click on the image or that will take you to Beyond Fantasy Magazines Facebook page. To vote, you'll see a poll on the right side of the screen near the top, just click # 25 and then scroll down and click the "vote" button to enter your vote, that's all there is to it.

Thanks so much for taking the time to vote, the top 3 will be published in Beyond Fantasy Magazine.

Watch for Magical Movie Monday later this afternoon!


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

My New Specs!

Well, I got my new glasses yesterday! It's really going to take some getting used to, I never realized how much I used my peripheral vision before, but I also didn't realize how blurry everything was, so right now the glasses are something of a double edged sword, but I think I will get used to them and it will turn out to be a real benefit.

They're cute frames, they're designed by Tommy Hillfiger but still fit in my budget, the color kinda matches my hair, and the inside of the frame is blue for a little fun.

I had to get progressive lenses, which for those who don't know, have three different areas of clear focus, the top is for distance, middle is about the distance between my face and the computer screen, and the very bottom focuses close for reading, about one line at a time is clear. I've never worn glasses, so I'm going from no glasses to these, and I must say, it's a bit like walking in a really clear funhouse! If I stand about 4 feet in front of my refrigerator it looks like the top is waaay wider than the bottom, kinda Tim Burtonesque. Dan and my son were having a little fun with me last night waving their arms and leaning way back. It was pretty humorous.

Dan has worn glasses for a long time now and he told me you just have to learn how to look through them, and kind of train yourself to turn your head the right way and look through the right part of the glasses. So true. I think I've pretty much found the "sweet spots" but still getting used to being consistent.

Driving to work, I noticed a goose flying overhead, it was so clear that it looked almost 3D! I didn't realize that everything was blurry before. I haven't tried art yet, maybe tonight.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Snowfall in The Enchanted Garden

Last night my 12 year old son heard that the snow was heading our way, watching outside as it began to fall he was desperately hoping for a snow day. So in keeping with the traditions of the students in our school district, he flushed an ice cube down the toilet, put a spoon under his pillow and went to bed with his pajamas on inside out. All these actions are believed among the student body to increase the odds of seeing his schools name scroll across the screen the next morning proclaiming a day of fun in the snow!

His plans worked, as he is home right now shoveling the walk and playing in the snow. I alas, still had to go to the office where I work, but not before snapping off a few pictures while my car warmed up this morning. I hope you enjoy them.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Monday Night Magical Movie: The Mistress of Spices

My interest in magical herbs and plants and my passion for discovering Indian cuisine made the film The Mistress of Spices a facinating journey for me. I stumbled upon this movie six months or so ago interested by the title, loved the movie but got called away and missed the ending. I was channel surfing earlier this week and saw it was coming up and recorded it on my DVR.

This 2005 film is based on a novel by Banerjee Divakaruni and it is a truly beautiful and rich tapestry of colors, beautiful lighting, Hindi inspired music, a work of art. Beautiful Tilo,(Aishwarya Rai) a psychic and practitioner of the ancient art as a Mistress of Spices runs the Spice Bazaar outside of San Francisco. With her vocation comes a duty that fills her life and is commanded by the rules of her practice. She helps others with her knowlege of the magic of the spices, but the spices will only speak to her if she follows the rules, she may help only her clients reach their desires but never her own, she must never leave her shop, and never touch anothers skin. When she becomes interested in Doug (Dylon McDermot) an american archetect she begins to break the rules of her trade, it seems as if the spices are acting against her, and it looks like her customers are suffering.

She becomes torn between her love of the spices and her desire for love. This is a story about finding a balance between where your roots are and who you decide to become.

Throughout this movie, I long to visit her shop, it feels very real and welcoming.

I was delighted to see the granddaughter of one of Tilos customers played by Top Chef host the gorgeous Padma Lakshmi. You can almost feel the silk and smell the spices eminating from this amazing film, sit back with a cup of hot chai and enjoy this movie with someone you love.

Friday, January 7, 2011

I've officially caught the ACEO Bug!

I made two more ACEO's last night, these are really fun to make! It also makes me really happy to make use of these little sketches.

The sketch I found for the Crescent Crowned Goddess is really cool because I had played with eye color on that one and did a big drawing of her eye. I remember that I was watching Cleopatra with Elizabeth Taylor around that time and when I was working out her raven black hair, it occurred to me that violet eyes like Liz has would be really cool.

I included a little vervain on this ACEO, and I found a little silver tone metal flower that reminded me of vervain that I added also. I love the tissue I used for the background on this one, it has metalic gold on it, the background was white, but I did a sepia watercolor wash over it to add a little more depth.

The Mother card has always been one of my favorites, I posed for this one with my son, Tristan, he was really young then. He loved the idea of reading books and having a picnic under the tree out front, so we did so on several occasions after we took the pics for this piece.

We read the Lemony Snicket or Spiderwick books and had snacks! I included a moth wing that we found under that tree, and her bookmark is a little leaf from my thyme plant. You'll notice that in the sketch his shirt is green, but I changed it on the finished piece to yellow ocher because the green would have blended in with the background too much. Then I added dandelions to her hair, because it seems like kids are always giving their mothers dandelions which are also associated with one of my favorite Goddesses, Rhiannon.

That's why I did these little color sketches to begin with of course, to work out colors and ideas before continuing to the final piece. I often did these while I was waiting to hear back from Raven and Stephanie on the sketches so that once I got a response, I had worked it all out in my head and was ready to go.

I might make a couple more ACEO's this weekend, but I also have art to do for the 2012 Magical Almanac, so I might only get a few ACEO's done.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Sketches from an Classic Project Become New ACEO's!

What's an ACEO you might ask? It stands for Art Cards Editions and Originals, and collecting them is becoming very popular all over the world. It's a great way for collectors to get a piece of original or low numbered mini prints of artwork that are affordable. The measure 1 1/2 x 3 1/2 inches and generally come in a plasic trading card sleeve. Some people display them on a small easel on a shelf or in a curio cabinet, some collect them in trading card books with sleeves. I've been tossing around the idea of offering some ACEOs for about 6 months now.

The other day I was sorting through my studio after it had been ravaged by our holiday production line for both Etsy orders and gift making, when I stumbled upon my old notes and sketches from my work on The Well Worn Path deck. I worked on that deck with authors Raven Grimassi and Stephanie Taylor beginning in 2004, and I did a lot more sketches than I normally do because I was working from their descriptions. When I finished a sketch, I would email them a scan of it, and then print out small copies of them and sometimes I would make notes and test colors on them before starting the finished piece. I called these "color tests." When I looked at these little gems it occured to me that they are just about the right size to make ACEOs! I thought there might be people out there who enjoy the deck and would love to own these little pieces of creative history.

I created a card back design from the deck art proclaiming that this is a handmade ACEO with a hand drawn original sketch from The Well Worn Path deck. Each one has the name of the card hand written on it and it's signed with the year.

The first one I created was from The Rede card. I printed out a thumbnail size of the full color finished art, tore and cut the edges of the sketch and thumbnail and created a pretty scrapbook like card including decorative paper, rose petals, a piece of black ribbon I used as reference, and I also hand copied some of the keywords from my original notes from our phone conversations discussing the image. It turned out looking like a miniature version of a page from the book of shadows from the film Practical Magic or something!

I've added it to my Etsy shop, and I'll be adding more to this collection as time allows, if you are quick, you might be able to own one of these little treasures for yourself, each one is unique and won't (and can't) be duplicated! Watch for more coming soon!