Saturday, June 28, 2008


ARTHUR RACKHAM, 1867 to 1939

Arthur Rackham, a prolific English book illustrator, is, in my mind, the best of the fairy painters.

The following information was taken from "Been Publishing, I'm Back" (

Rackham was one of 12 children, born in London into a Victorian age that he perpetuated and documented by way of his art. At the age of 18, he began working as a clerk at the Westminster Fire Office and studied art at the Lambeth School of Art in his spare time. In 1892 he quit his job and started working as a newspaper reporter and illustrator. His first book illustrations were published in 1893. Book illustrating then became Rackham's career for the rest of his life.

In 1903, he married Edyth Starkie, with whom he had one daughter, Barbara, in 1908. Rackham was an internationally recognized artist. His works were included in numerous exhibitions, including one at the Louvre in Paris in 1914.

Major works of illustration by Arthur Rackham include the children's books Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm (1900), Rip van Winkle (1905), Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens (1906), and Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1907). While he may be best known for his elaborate illustrations of children's literature and fairy tales, he also illustrated books for adult readers, including A Midsummer Night's Dream (1908), Undine (1909) and The Tempest (1926).

Rackham's early work showed facility but little else. The humor and romance and soul that were to make him the premier illustrator of the early twentieth century had not manifested themselves yet.

But, he was developing a style that was not only his own, but was to influence a generation of children and artists. The roots of the style were surely evident in many of the books listed above, but the flowering took place in 1905 in Rackham's first major book, a stunning edition of the old Washington Irving classic, Rip Van Winkle.

The 51 color plates in Rip Van Winkle featured all of the traits that were soon to be as famous as his signature: a sinuous pen line softened with muted water color; forests of looming, frightening trees with grasping roots; sensuous, but somehow chaste, fairy maidens; ogres and trolls ugly enough to repulse but with sufficient good nature not to frighten; and backgrounds filled with little nuggets of hidden images or surprising animated animals or trees.

Rackham's drawings are filled with calm and good humor. They seem imbued with a gentle joy that must have been reassuring to both the children and their parents. Rackham had found his niche. His drawings would convey a non-threatening yet fearful thrill and a beauty that was in no way overtly sexy or lewd. It was a perfect Victorian solution and he seems to have taken to it with an impish delight.

Rackham never lost the joy and sense of wonderment and he never gave in to the baser styles that fell in and out of favor over the years. From Queen Victoria's death in 1901 to the start of World War I, Rackham's illustrations preserved a lifestyle and a sensibility that kept the frighteningly modern future at bay. Even into the 1920s and 1930s, his art was a constant reminder of those aspects of innocence that had been left behind. He always kept his gentle humor and his Wind in the Willows, published posthumously in 1940, is as much a children's classic as his Peter Pan.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


"There Sleeps Titania"
Frederick Howard Michael

I had always thought that the Summer Solstice and Midsummer Night were interchangeable, occurring on the same date, but now I have learned that Midsummer Night can be celebrated as late as June 24, as it is in England. Perhaps that is why June 24 was selected as Fairy Day.

John Simmons

I thought this date would be perfect to share fairy paintings revolving around William Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream".

The main plot of "Midsummer" is a convoluted tale that involves two sets of couples (Hermia and Lysander, and Helena and Demetrius) whose romantic cross-purposes are complicated still further by their entrance into the play's fairyland woods where the King and Queen of the Fairies (Oberon and Titania) preside and the impish folk character of Puck (or Robin Goodfellow) plies his trade.

Another set of characters—Bottom the Weaver and his bumptious band of "rude mechanicals"—stumble into the main doings when they go into the same enchanted woods to rehearse a play that is very loosely (and comically) based on the myth of Pyramus and Thisbe.


"Titania With Her Fairies"
Arthur Rackham

"Titania Lying Asleep"
Arthur Rackham

"King Oberon's Love"
By Tony DeTerlizzi

"Titania and Bottom"
Arthur Rackham


"Titania, Queen of the Fairies"
Arthur Rackham

"The Quarrel of Oberon and Titania"
Sir Joseph Paton

"Puck and A Fairy"
Arthur Rackham
Notice how many of these paintings were done by Arthur Rackham, one of the most famous fairy painters ever. I will be devoting an entire post to his work soon. He is among the best of the "Midsummer Night's" illustrators, which is why I featured so many of his paintings here.
I was also looking for paintings of Puck and Bottom, and found them in Rackham's work. As part of the plot, the mischievous Puck transforms Nick Bottom's head into that of a donkey. Titiania, who has been put under a spell, immediately falls in love with donkey-headed Bottom. Don't worry - although that's a different play, you might say that "All's well that ends well."

Saturday, June 21, 2008



I am sure no one needs to be introduced to Cicely Mary Barker, perhaps the most popular fairy illustrator of our time, best known for her Flower Fairy series. Before I started researching fairy illustrators, she was the only one I knew of by name.
Her wild rose fairy is my absolute favorite, because the wild prairie rose is always in bloom in North Dakota on my birthday. I am sharing some of my other CMB favorites as well.

You may have known about Cicely Mary Barker, and that she was English, but did you know that she suffered from epilepsy as a child, and was in frail health all of her life? When she was 15, her father, also an artist, submitted some of her work to the famed postcard maker, Raphael Tuck of London. From then on, she sold her work to magazines, postcard and greeting card makers and, later, book publishers.
Her father died when she was only 17, and the income from selling her illustrations was a godsend in supporting her family. She was paid only 24 pounds for her first book, "Flower Fairies of the Spring", published in 1923.


Wikipedia has this to say about her "Flower Fairies of the Spring": "(It) was well received by a post-industrial, war-weary public who were charmed by her vision of hope and innocence which seemed to evoke a less-aggressive modern world."
Perhaps that's why she appeals to us still.


Barker was greatly influenced by artist Kate Greenaway, but her primary influence was the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood of painters. She always used live models - children of friends and family - and her flowers were botanically accurate.

You may be familiar with "Fairyopolis" the charming fairy book from 2006. Did you know there is a sequel? I happened upon "Return to Fairyopolis" at the bookstore yesterday. Since it was on sale, I scooped up two copies.
In honor of Fairy Month, the Summer Solstice, Midsummer's Day, my birthday, and Cicely Mary Barker (also born in June, on the 28th), I am holding a drawing for one copy of "Return to Fairyopolis", which heavily features Barker's fairies. Anyone who comments on this post will be in the drawing. I will draw a name June 30th.
P. S. Happy belated Summer Solstice. I was going to write a solstice post last evening, but decided to just celebrate it in my own small way by being outside and enjoying a beautiful long summer evening (it stayed light until past 10:00 p.m.). "What is so rare as a day in June, when, if ever, are perfect days?"

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


In honor of the full moon tomorrow night, upcoming fairy day, and the memory of the late Daisy Lupin, I present these (mostly) full-moon fairies.

Sometime during the night of June 15-16, 2007, the silken cords that held Daisy Lupin to this world were loosed. Daisy - or as she was known in the real world - Hilary McClennan, slipped the bonds of earth and sailed away into the firmament.

I had only been reading Daisy's blog for three months when she died, unexpectedly, but she affected me profoundly. Daisy was one of those great bloggers who made a huge impact on her readers around the world. She had only just celebrated her first year of blogging, but what a lot she packed into that year!

To me, she was the moon and moonstones. She loved to open the curtains wide on full moon nights, so she could lie in bed and bathe in moonlight. Each month, she would put her moonstones on the window sill so they could absorb moon magic.
Daisy was England's mighty oak and its littlest acorn. She was lore, legends and myths. She was childhood memories of Saturday Shopping Trips, Sunday teas at grandmother's and best-loved books. She was herbs and hares, mystery and magic, Druids and The Green Man and the Celtic Year. She was her dear kitties and her dear kiddies (her grown son and daughter).

She was the exquisite paintings she found to illustrate her blog (definitely an influence on my blog) and the Poetry Fest she created. Daisy believed in fairies, UFOs and liminal places and times. She was equally happy puttering among the birds and flowers in her garden, or having a ripping, rousing, jolly good time with her fellow English Glitter Power Sisters.

Daisy laughed to think that people imagined she was living the perfect life in a picturesque English village, swanning about in her garden in a floaty dress. Yes, she was about trips to her favorite Cornwall, and flights of the imagination, but she was also ordinary daily, modern English life. How I loved her descriptions of her bus rides to the nearest market town - what she saw, what she bought and the special hat that she wore on these trips. This hat, she believed, magically made shopkeepers be courteous and nice to her.
Daisy was relaxing with a glass of wine in a favorite garden chair. She was digging into local history or a good book. She was art dolls and podlings and glitter - lots and lots of glitter.

Daisy was no-nonsense and believed in speaking her mind. Once asked if she swore, she wrote that she wasn't above a few good, sound Anglo Saxon swear words. She was a good blogging friend. She didn't give opinions or advice unless asked. When I solicited advice from her, I received sage answers.
When I first discovered Daisy's blog, I was just in awe of her. I made a few appreciative comments, and was shocked when she answered little old me back and started reading my blog. She was wise and generous and a true kindred spirit to me and so many others.

Now, a year later, Daisy's ashes have scattered in her beloved Cornwall, but she is still with us, still here in our hearts. She is in her precious flowers, birds, bees and dragonflies. She is in the earth and the sky, in the moon and the stars. She is in the wind and the rain. She is that elusive perfume that wafts mysteriously into your window. She is a shining orb in the heavens.

Daisy believed - truly believed, that she was the twelfth princess in the fairytale of the Twelve Dancing Princesses. She looked all her life for her eleven sisters. I hope she found them at last, and is now dancing with them and the moon as in the painting at the top of this post.

Not long before she died, Daisy decided to have a "Greedy, Juicy, Learning Summer of Personal Delights". She never got to experience it. I think everyone who loved Daisy owes it to her - and to themselves - to make the summer of 2008 such a summer.

For those not familiar with Daisy, her daughter, Sweet Pea (Lydia), left her blog open. It is on my sidebar still, as I read it often. Go to
NOTE: My moon counter turned to 100% of full while I wrote this post. However, my calendar says it is tomorrow night. I guess it depends on where one lives. No matter - someone is having a full moon right now!

Friday, June 13, 2008




Sometimes there are no words for the unspeakable horrors and evils in this world. I call to mind my previous post about the Holocaust.

Sometimes we endure our own individual nightmares. Though we may never have been the victims of genocide, child abuse, murder, starvation, political torture, terminal illness and the like, we all have our own private hells. Even though they may be far more insignificant, when we are enduring them, they impact us greatly.

I have been in my own micro-hell for an entire season and more. Since early February, life has seemed to me all doom and gloom. Though I have largely chosen not to blog about them, certain outward events caused inward terrors - mostly night terrors. Sleep has eluded me for weeks and weeks.
Blogging was the first enjoyment to go. Then commenting. Then e-mailing. I have neglected my good blogging friends, as well as the new ones who had timorously extended their precious hands of friendship to me.

Finally, when life seemed to again glow and shimmer with promise, the rains came.

Oh, yes, you remember me begging for rain. It has rained now for three weeks. We have received three inches so far in June! This is wonderful for drought-starved ND, but so burdensome on my tenuous happiness.

Remember the short-lived TV series, in which Steven Weber walked around with a constant storm cloud above his head? That is how I have been feeling the past three weeks. I don't want to clean house. The dogs drag in mud. At work my brain is muzzy and foggy. Mail promised parcels? Plant some flowers? Finish a book? Make some art? Impossible.

But this afternoon, the skies cleared, the air warmed. Light and life returned. To keep this elusive, tentative happiness near, I have decided to celebrate International Fairy Day (June 24) for the rest of the month.

I'm sure you know the phrases, "Whatever rings your chimes" and "Whatever floats your boat". Well, to me, all month, Fairy Day rings my chimes and floats my boat.

In the end, it doesn't matter what gives you a lifeline, if it saves you. Rainbows? Hearts and flowers? Unicorns? Fairies? Balloons? Kittens? Cute puppies? Elvis? Star Wars? The Lord of the Rings? Yes, yes, embrace them!

Recently a very good blogging friend of mine was chastised for writing about fairies in her blog. The commenter, a self-described Christian, to me epitomizes those self-righteous, sanctimonious, self-serving "SO-CALLED" Christians who make life so miserable for so many. My friend was deeply wounded.

But, dear Pea - and other friends - be not afraid to embrace the fairies. I plan to write many posts about fairies during the rest of June. Watch out for Fairy Day - June 24 - and the day after, my birthday! Yes, Fairy Day is on the eve of my birthday this year, so extra celebrating will ensue.
And if you don't care to read about fairies, and think this is all nonsense, feel free to depart - silently. (Forgive me - I am a bit angry. The wonderful lady who started the Holocaust Project was chastised by a commenter for - get this - simply asking people if they cared to participate in the project!!!!)

But back to floating boats and ringing chimes. Another dear blogging friend, Robyn in Australia, has been posting about fairies for a couple of weeks already. Last January, in celebration of her 50th birthday, Robyn created a private Fairyland. Now, in celebration of Fairy Day, she has opened Fairyland for an entire month. But beware - one month flies by so quickly. Don't miss it!

I don't believe Robyn and I will steal each other's thunder and overlap much in our Fairy Day celebrations (but I have "spirited away" some of her images, ha!). Please visit her and read her wonderful posts, which include the previously private entries. She will tell you how to entice the fairies, tell you their lore and legends and show you how they are connected to the natural world.


As for me, I will be sharing the gorgeous fairy paintings I have collected. I start with the four paintings you see in this post, which are all by the wonderful fairy painter, Margaret Tarrant. I will also be printing fairy poems and anything else about fairies that strikes my fancy.

Though official Fairy Day is still some days away, I am giving you the link to the Fairy Day website now so that you may peruse it and find creative ways to celebrate the day: There, you'll see the Fairy Day button I'm using, and a lot more to choose from.


Now, I beg you to carefully step aboard Tarrant's "Boat to Fairyland", below. It will take you all the way to Australia, where Dear Robyn has opened the Portal to Fairyland. After you climb upon her magic bird, you will be immediately transported and alight, unharmed, in "The Enchanted Forest":

Sunday, June 8, 2008



Minnesota blogger Jillian Curtis and her children are engaged in what I consider to be an extremely worthwhile project. Read about it in the article below, which I am reprinting from the Winona (MN) Daily News:

"Jillian Curtis doesn’t want her children to bring hate into the world.

So she and her sons, Jarrett, 10, and Josh, 11, are building a Holocaust memorial — their first major undertaking in their first month of homeschooling — to remember the 6 million Jews killed in the Holocaust.

Curtis, 32, of Winona, and her sons have received nearly 500 stars in the mail, including one of their favorites, center, depicting Schindler's List, from artist Angela Matteson of Chicago. Curtis posted a request for stars, which each represent a Jewish life lost during the Holocaust, on her blog a month ago as a home-school project for the boys. The stars will be displayed as a memorial in their garden. The project is inspired by the movie “Paper Clips,” in which students at a Tennessee school, wanting to know what the number 6 million looks like, try to gather 6 million paper clips.

Instead of paper clips, the Curtises are asking people to send them stars.“We started with the Holocaust because that’s the world’s biggest tragedy,” Jillian said. “They need to learn acceptance and not to be bullies or start fights. I want them to be good people when they grow up.”

Jillian, 32, posted a request for stars, representing the yellow stars Jews were forced to wear in Nazi Germany, on her blog,, a month ago.

So far, about 500 stars have arrived at their home from as far away as Australia and China.

One, a blue card with a yellow Star of David on front, included this note: “What a wonderful thing you are doing! I designed my star to look like the sun in the sky because the brightness of those who died in the Holocaust still burns in my heart.”

Josh said thinking about the Holocaust makes him feel sad, and sometimes angry, because of all the children who died for no reason.

His favorite star so far is a cloth one, which is the biggest sent yet.

“(I was) wondering where the stars would come from, what they would look like,” he said. “I was hoping for a humongous one.”

For now, the family keeps the stars in a popcorn tin with planets and the words “Stories in the Sky” pictured on it.

This summer, Jillian’s husband, Robert, will help his kids build a wooden casing in the shape of a star, either a five-pointed star or a Star of David. They’ll put the stars inside and place the memorial in a flower garden next to roses.

Jillian said they don’t know whether they’ll make it to 6 million stars."

“We’ll see how far it grows,” she said.

(Added note: The stars now fill a Rubbermaid tub.)

Jillian had contacted me about two months ago and I pledged to make a star for the project. I had not seen pictures of the other stars at that point. My design was going to be very simple, because I am no artist. It was also going to be yellow, because I am very literal! Now that I have seen some contributions, I am awed by the beautiful designs. But I am still going to participate! It doesn't matter how elaborate or beautiful the design. It's the thought that counts, and recognizing these 6 million human beings whose lights were snuffed out too soon.

After I make my star I will publish a picture of it. I hope that those of you who read this post will consider making a star as well.

Go to Jillian's blog (link in the article above) to see other stars. For her postal address, email her at jillianmcurtis@yahoo. com.

Sunday, June 1, 2008


Since our spring was so late this year, our lilacs were late too. Finally, this past week, they were in full, glorious bloom. It rained on and off all week (yes!), so I was afraid I wasn't going to be able to go out and enjoy them. They bloomed well this year, and as I went back and forth to work, I could see huge purple masses behind the sheets of rain. It finally turned warm and sunny Friday afternoon, and when I arrived home the whole world smelled of lilacs.

Last year I wrote a post about sense memories, and the scent of lilacs is my most vivid sense memory. It is my very favorite scent, ever, and they are my very favorite flowers, ever. Below, I'm repeating my lilacs post from last year. Apologies to the three of you who read it then:


American poet Amy Lowell published the poem "Lilacs" in 1925. Up to now, I had been familiar with only these lines:


"Lilacs in dooryards
Holding quiet conversations
with an early moon."

Amy "got" lilacs; I can tell from the following lines:
A curiously clear-cut, candid flower,
Standing beside clean doorways,
Friendly to a house-cat and a pair of spectacles,
"Making poetry out of a bit of moonlight
And a hundred or two sharp blossoms."


"You are the great flood of our souls
Bursting above the leaf-shapes of our hearts,
You are the smell of all Summers,
The love of wives and children,
The recollection of the gardens of little children"

Lowell's poem lauds the lilac's distinctive heart-shaped leaf.
However much she understood and appreciated lilacs, Amy irritates me a bit. She seems to be saying that lilacs ARE New England. She enumerates: lilacs of Connecticut, of New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, Maine.

But, dear Miss Lowell, lilacs are North Dakota too. Although she wrote the following lines about New England lilacs, they evoke in me prairie scenes:

"Lilacs watching a deserted house
Settling sideways into the grass of an old road;
Lilacs, wind-beaten, staggering under a lopsided shock of bloom
Above a cellar dug in a hill."
Dilapidated old farm houses and barns dot the North Dakota countryside, sagging slowly back into the earth. Sometimes only the foundation is left, but often, beside that very same foundation, or the ghost of a shanty, sod house or dugout, is an old, old lilac bush, probably planted by homesteaders.

In the yard of our first home in Larson, there were two large lilac bushes, one on each side of the front gate. We carved a little cave into the side of one. During the winters, snowbanks would form over the top of the bushes, completely hiding them. We would climb up the solidly-packed "hills" and sled down the other side. How those bushes must have taken a beating! In fact, they looked pretty scraggly and were bloom-less by the time we moved to our next house.

Because lilacs bloom later in northern North Dakota, to me, they are inextricably entwined with Memorial Day and the sight of Old Glory. They are also entwined with memories of Vacation Bible School. We would pick heaps of blossoms at lunch time and they would add a heady scent to our afternoon lessons in the little white steepled church. I love how lilacs look against the weathered silvery gray of wooden houses that were once painted white.

Four years ago, my sister, my niece and I took a spin through Larson after we cleaned out our aunt's house in Crosby. I hadn't been back there for years. That first house had burned down a long time ago. The huge elm tree where I used to sit on a low-spreading limb and read for hours is gone. Overgrown prairie grasses hid the foundation. "The prairie has taken over," I bawled.

But there, on both sides of a path that leads to a front-door that is no longer there, were two huge, magnificent lilac bushes in full bloom. Left to their own devices, those venerable old bushes came back stronger than ever. I picked as many blooms as I could, and the scent carried us home.

Lilacs last about a week. That's not very much when you have to wait a whole year for them. Some years, when there is a late frost, the lilacs don't bloom at all, and I mourn. This year, when they are so abundant, but are still gone so quickly, I am going to do a lot of inhaling while I can.

by Amy Lowell
False blue,
Colour of lilac,
Your great puffs of flowers
Are everywhere in this my New England.
Among your heart-shaped leaves
Orange orioles hop like music-box birds and sing
Their little weak soft songs;
In the crooks of your branches
The bright eyes of song sparrows sitting on spotted eggs
Peer restlessly through the light and shadow
Of all Springs.
Lilacs in dooryards
Holding quiet conversations with an early moon;
Lilacs watching a deserted house
Settling sideways into the grass of an old road;
Lilacs, wind-beaten, staggering under a lopsided shock of bloom
Above a cellar dug into a hill.
You are everywhere.
You were everywhere.
You tapped the window when the preacher preached his sermon,
And ran along the road beside the boy going to school.
You stood by pasture-bars to give the cows good milking,
You persuaded the housewife that her dish pan was of silver.
And her husband an image of pure gold.
You flaunted the fragrance of your blossoms
Through the wide doors of Custom Houses--
You, and sandal-wood, and tea,
Charging the noses of quill-driving clerks
When a ship was in from China.
You called to them: "Goose-quill men, goose-quill men,
May is a month for flitting."
Until they writhed on their high stools
And wrote poetry on their letter-sheets behind the propped-up ledgers.
Paradoxical New England clerks,
Writing inventories in ledgers, reading the "Song of Solomon" at night,
So many verses before bed-time,
Because it was the Bible.
The dead fed you
Amid the slant stones of graveyards.
Pale ghosts who planted you
Came in the night-time
And let their thin hair blow through your clustered stems.
You are of the green sea,
And of the stone hills which reach a long distance.
You are of the elm-shaded streets with little shops where they sell kites and marbles,
You are of great parks where everyone walks and nobody is at home.
You cover the blind sides of greenhouses
And lean over the top to say a hurry-word through the glass
To your friends, the grapes, inside.
False blue,
Colour of lilac,
You have forgotten your Eastern origin,
The veiled women with eyes like panthers,
The swollen, aggressive turbans of jewelled Pashas.
Now you are a very decent flower,
A reticent flower,
A curiously clear-cut, candid flower,
Standing beside clean doorways,
Friendly to a house-cat and a pair of spectacles,
Making poetry out of a bit of moonlight
And a hundred or two sharp blossoms.
Maine knows you,
Has for years and years;
New Hampshire knows you,
And Massachusetts
And Vermont.
Cape Cod starts you along the beaches to Rhode Island;
Connecticut takes you from a river to the sea.
You are brighter than apples,
Sweeter than tulips,
You are the great flood of our souls
Bursting above the leaf-shapes of our hearts,
You are the smell of all Summers,
The love of wives and children,
The recollection of the gardens of little children,
You are the State Houses and Charters
And the familiar treading of the foot to and fro on a road it knows.
May is lilac here in New England,
May is a thrush singing "Sun up!" on a tip-top ash-tree,
May is white clouds behind pine-trees
Puffed out and marching upon a blue sky.
May is a green as no other,
May is much sun through small leaves,
May is soft earth,
And apple-blossoms,
And windows open to a South wind.
May is full light wind of lilac
From Canada to Narragansett Bay.
False blue,
Colour of lilac.
Heart-leaves of lilac all over New England,
Roots of lilac under all the soil of New England,
Lilacs in me because I am New England,
Because my roots are in it,
Because my leaves are of it,
Because my flowers are for it,
Because it is my country
And I speak to it of itself
And sing of it with my own voice
Since certainly it is mine.