Montreal!

Jul. 11th, 2017 08:27 am
osprey_archer: (cheers)
I am returned from Montreal! Which was a delight! Emma and I took the train from Toronto and discovered that the entire street to the art museum is positively lined with statues for an art fair - I have some photos which I must post later; there were so tinselly metal trees that looked enormously like truffula trees.

Naturally we discovered this while walking to the art museum, which was also delightful. I wish we had more time there - I think you'd need at least two days to do it properly - we spent most of our time in the Canadian art building, on the grounds that one probably sees the best spread of Canadian art in Canada. And indeed, it had a lovely exhibit of modern Inuit art - in particular, a really lovely piece of a great glass sea creature rising up beneath the ice, a mermaid with much more fish to her than an everyday mermaid: arms melting into fins instead of becoming hands, the slits for gills across her breasts, tiny sharp teeth in her mouth as she gazed up at the men in a canoe far above.

Unfortunately the glare on the Plexiglass case meant I couldn't manage a good photo. Alas!

And there was a room below with the paintings hung salon-style (from the days when Canada had salon exhibitions), which is something I've seen before but always, always enjoy. Such a visual feast! If I could go back in time, I believe I would attend a salon opening somewhere - France would be most exciting but I don't speak the language (as a visit to Montreal cannot but drive home), so perhaps England. Or Canada, clearly.

And then we acquired a bottle of wine and a bag of croissants and hiked up the Parc du Mont Royal. We settled in the shade of an stately tree on the gentle green slopes around a small lake dotted with canoes and miniature sailboats. "Are they remote-controlled?" Emma asked. "They had them in Edwardian times, so they couldn't have been then," I said; but we never did find out if the modern ones are.

It was all very Sunday Afternoon in the Park. There were even a few parasols, a bright red one shading the ice cream cart that slowly perambulated the lake, and a little tiny one over a baby in a stroller.

I am a convert to the idea of wine in parks everywhere; the Montreal rule that the wine must be part of a picnic seems only sensible and likely to increase enjoyment in any case. In general I quite approved of what I saw of the city (wine in the parks, sculptures on the streets), although I remain puzzled by the massive staircases on the front of so many of the houses. They're very picturesque, of course - I bought no less than four postcards featuring their staircase glory - but they look like they would be such death traps in the winter.

Heading back to the United States today! Have not quite decided where I will go next. I am torn between Oneida (one-time home of President Garfield's assassin, Charles Guiteau! Who lived in a nineteenth-century group marriage cult where he couldn't get laid) and Seneca Falls, which seems like an awfully out-of-the-way place for the first women's rights convention, but there you are.

Chautauqua also beckoned me briefly - it was a great center for educational talks in the late nineteenth century - and there are of course the pleasures of hiking along the Finger Lakes... I have five days before I have another scheduled stop, so the possibilities simply multiply in all directions!
osprey_archer: (books)
I had never heard of Louis Bleriot before I read the 1984 Caldecott Medal winner, The Glorious Flight: Across the Channel with Louis Bleriot, which is about, well, what it says on the tin: the Frenchman who designed and flew the plane which was the first to fly across the English channel. (He was apparently mobbed by ecstatic Englishmen when he landed, much as Charles Lindberg was mobbed by ecstatic Frenchmen after crossing the Atlantic solo. People got really, really excited about planes by then.)

Anyway, it's a charming book. Louis Bleriot made at least a dozen prototypes before he finally put together the plane that withstood the channel test, and a couple of the early ones either never got off the ground or ignominiously crashed within seconds of liftoff, and he just keeps picking himself up, dusting himself off, and designing another one despite the broken ribs. When he crossed the channel, he was walking on crutches from an earlier plane crash injury. Now that's commitment!

Seriously though, he doesn't seem to have realized that it's important to be able to land the plane as well as get it in the air. Oh Bleriot.

The illustrations remind me of the ones in The Ox Cart Man - there's a similar purposeful stylized flatness to them; or I'm not sure flatness is the right word - but they both ignore classical perspective in favor of what one might call emotional perspective, where the relative sizes of things are decided in part by their importance.

The pictures also have lovely soft watercolor backgrounds - particularly good for rendering sky and water, which is after all what you want in a book about flying over the English channel.
osprey_archer: (books)
Alas, alas - my library did not get me the next Caldecott book in time for my Monday read! WHATEVER SHALL I DO?

Well, fortuitously, next week's book is one that I already own and love and have in fact posted about before: Ox-Cart Man, written by Donald Hall and illustrated by Barbara Cooney. You might think that I would have run out of things to say about it in that previous post, but you would be WRONG - and yet again fortuitously, I didn't write much about the artwork in my earlier post.

Barbara Cooney was probably my favorite illustrator as a child; I also liked Patricia Polacco and Jan Brett, but Cooney was the one who illustrated books about the Power of Imagination (although, fair warning, Ox-Cart Man is not even slightly about the Power of Imagination) which was basically the theme of my soul when I was five.

I like the stories she tells/chooses to illustrate, and I also like her style. There's a certain Grandma-Moses-ishness about it in this book - the detail, the rolling landscapes, the neglect of mathematical perspective in favor of what one might call emotional perspective (maybe you can't see quite this many hills at one time, but you can feel the hilliness all around you) - although her figures seem more supple than Grandma Moses's to me - more like real people and less like wooden dolls in a carved barnyard scene.

There's a particular illustration of the Ox-Cart Man walking home after taking all his goods to market, a new iron kettle over his shoulder and money in his pocket - walking down the dusky path past the vast vista of the darkening hills, a small village with lit windows, the sky deep red with sunset, up the hills to his own house. The promise of coziness is so strong.
osprey_archer: (books)
At last the library got me a copy of the 2017 Caldecott Medal Winner! Javaka Steptoe's Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, a charming book about, well, what it says on the tin. The illustration style is unique & intriguing: Steptoe paints on boards, so each part of the picture is on its own board and they're all fitted together so you can see the joins between them, which I've never seen before in quite this way.

I also enjoyed getting to know a bit more about Basquiat, who I had heard of but only in passing. Although I was a bit puzzled by this bit in the author's note, where Steptoe is describing a painting that inspired Basquiat: "Some people think that Guernica shows the suffering people and animals when warplanes bombed the village of Guernica, Spain, during the Spanish Civil War."

Are there some people who don't think that? I thought this was universally acknowledged.

Radiant Child also won the 2017 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award, and while it's a nice book, I'm not sure it's "two of the most prestigious awards in children's literature" nice - and not just because it's so darn hard to fit both the Caldecott and Coretta Scott King stickers on the spine of the book when you're processing it for the library.

Well, maybe a lot because of that. I had to cover half the title. But it does seem like the awards committees might have conspired to share the award wealth a bit more.
osprey_archer: (books)
This week's Caldecott book, Baboushka and the Three Kings, is so cute! And also super tiny: the book is a little shorter than an ordinary paperback and only a little longer, much smaller than the usual run of picture book.

But the size works really well with the illustration style. It reminds me of a plain stained glass window or a very simple embroidery: all straight lines and big blocks of color - oh, or an even better comparison: it's like a Mondrian painting, softened slightly for children because the blocks add up to pictures. The color palette is even the same, black lines with red and yellow and blue.

It's quite simple and striking and a lovely way to ease children toward an appreciation of modern art. It strikes me as rather beautiful, actually, that we believe that children can appreciate art in so many different (and sometimes supposedly difficult) styles, because if there's one thing that's striking about the Caldecott it's how very varied the art styles are.
osprey_archer: (art)
My mother and I went to the Indianapolis Museum of Art today and had a rather marvelous time. We hadn't realized it beforehand, but the museum has a perfectly enchanting exhibition of Marie Webster's quilts (Marie Webster revolutionized American quilting in the early twentieth century).

My larger pictures didn't come out that well - it's hard to capture the detailed quilting in a photograph - but here's a close up of my favorite quilt in the exhibition, which Webster called the Magpie quilt because of it's black and white stripes:

The Magpie Quilt )

There were also some perfectly charming children's quilts: I particularly liked the one with little Kate Greenaway girls, their bonnets covering their faces, accompanied by the suggestion that such a quilt could be made with the remains of a little girl's dresses as a keepsake for her. But unfortunately I didn't get a photo of that one.

I did, however, get photos of this exhibition of Fashion through the ages )

We also popped by the contemporary art exhibition, on the grounds that there might be something interesting, although I must confess we were both rather doubtful on this score. And there were a few baffling pieces, but we also found some we quite like, like this Calder mobile )

And I also very much liked this Mobius Ship )
osprey_archer: (snapshots)
Some photos from my Chicago trip! I went to attend my friend Rachel's wedding shower, and I was worried about it beforehand because a) I didn't know most of the attendees, and b) I spent so much of last week so anxious about my possibly impending health problems; but actually I enjoyed it very much and I think getting away for a bit was good for me.

Cut for excursions into my health )

In any case! On to the photos!

Chicago yards )

The wedding shower had an amazing view of the city )

The shower lunch )

The next day, I had time to mosey downtown to the Art Institute of Chicago, which I love and enjoyed very much. They had an exhibit about American Art in the Thirties which I particularly wanted to see, and it did not disappoint; I liked the Edward Hopper paintings in particular, but probably my favorite painting in the exhibition was this one, Philip Guston's Bombardment )

Mother and child )
osprey_archer: (books)
If the cover is anything to go by, I probably would have enjoyed the illustrations of Animals of the Bible had they only been in color. The animals are charmingly detailed and pretty - maybe a little too pretty, sweet and soft-eyed, but still charming.

But all the illustrations in the book are in black and white, and they lose a lot of their charm and detail that way. I love black and white illustrations when they’ve been planned that way, when the artist is taking care to work within the dramatic possibilities of black and white - I’ve always loved the silhouette illustrations in the first Boxcar Children book - but simply taking all the color out of colored pictures makes them look boring.

Not the most auspicious beginning for the Caldecott project.
osprey_archer: (art)
Tomorrow is Easter! And so today became egg-dyeing day. I hard-boiled the eggs in the morning (one of them came apart a bit in the water, but otherwise the operation was successful), and dyed them in the evening.

The egg dyeing station )

I got a bit tired with just dropping them in dye baths, and the crayon method of decoration wasn't working - maybe if I pushed harder with the crayon so the wax spread more evenly? I think the crayon wax might just be too hard - and I remembered [livejournal.com profile] asakiyume mentioning painting with food coloring. Cookies, I think, not eggs, but the principle is the same, so I got out some toothpicks and daubed dots and lines of food coloring gently onto the eggs.

The decorated eggs )

As you can see, my control over the technique is not that great: the lines are wobbly, the dots inclined to turn into little lines. I'd like to practice more. I suppose there's nothing saying you have to confine your egg dyeing to Easter...

A close-up on one of my favorites. Check out that star! )

Origami!

Nov. 11th, 2015 09:00 pm
osprey_archer: (cheers)
I just had to post this link: 16 Amazing Pieces to Celebrate World Origami Day. The fox! The unicorn! The black rider! The dragon!
osprey_archer: (cheers)
28 – Have you ever collaborated with anyone else, whether writing together, or having an artist work on a piece about your fic?

I haven’t written a fic, but I have had a few artists draw illustrations for my fic, and it is always one of my very favorite things. [livejournal.com profile] radio_silent made a banner for my first Wonderfalls fic back in the day (this was back when fic banners were a thing); [livejournal.com profile] asakiyume drew an adorable picture of Marcus holding Cottia in fox form as an illustration for Vixen. Also [livejournal.com profile] motetus drew a totally gorgeous cross-dressing Lucrezia Borgia with a sword for me, just beautiful. Lucrezia should have gotten the chance to wield more swords in the show.

Pyrography

Mar. 13th, 2015 11:13 pm
osprey_archer: (art)
Well, this is cool: Pyrografie, the art of drawing portraits with sparklers.
osprey_archer: (Winter Soldier)
Look look! Someone posted a comic inspired by Reciprocity! Natasha gives Pepper disguise tips. (I particularly like the part where Natasha is like "Tap into your inner sloth." Pepper probably has not had tapped into her inner sloth since she was about eight.)

(I should probably warn you, there are like...three sentences in Reciprocity that allude to Natasha and Pepper's espionage lessons, so if you read the fic for that it's going to be beyond disappointing. There are some fun Natasha scenes, though.)

And this reminds me, I haven't crossed-posted the two most recent fics yet.

Fic: Interrogation Techniques
Fandom: Captain America
Rating: PG-13
Beta: [livejournal.com profile] littlerhymes
Part 11 of Reciprocity
Summary: Bucky kidnaps a Hydra agent for interrogation. (Very little of the fic is actually spent interrogating anyone.)

Fic: Self-Possession
Fandom: Captain America
Rating: PG-13
Beta: [livejournal.com profile] littlerhymes
Part 12 of Reciprocity
Summary: “I’ve been meaning to fix out one of the rooms for Russki Business, too, but I haven’t gotten around to it. Is he with you?” The StarkPhone turned from side to side, scanning the car, then hovered over to peer at Bucky. “Hello, murdroyshka doll.”

Bucky scowled. “Little Orphant Anthony.”


Steve and Bucky visit New York.
osprey_archer: (art)
While in Glasgow, I stopped briefly at the Kelvingrove Museum. "Briefly" is not really long enough to see the Kelvingrove, which seems to be a museum of everything ever, but I did have time to explore the exhibit about the Glasgow Boys, Glasgow's native impressionist movement.

And, of course, I got some pictures.

E. A. Hornel's children in woodland settings )

Peaceful river scene )
osprey_archer: (art)
I did at last venture out in the rain, and as often happens, the rain seemed far less oppressive once my umbrella and I were out in it. I rode the funicular to the top of Petrin Hill - and wandered from the funicular platfrom into an unsuspected rose garden, which I had almost to myself in the rain.

Then I got lost, couldn't find the funicular platform, and had to walk back down the hill; but that was all right, because I found the Magic Grotto, which is the private museum of this Czech fantasy artist who invented his own world and basically seems to have lived in it since 1968, when he was on holiday in Italy when the Russian tanks rolled into Prague. He went to live in the south of France, but returned to Prague after the Soviet Union fell; and now he's got a little museum on the slopes of Petrin Hill.

It's not just paintings and statues (the statues I thought were particularly evocative; the paintings suffer a bit from same face); the whole thing is encrusted with this peculiar multicolored stalactite things, sort of like coral hanging from the ceiling. Technicolor coral. And there's a pitcher of wine sitting in the basement, with glasses provided, in case you need a drink.

There's a photo of the creator - who was there, by the way; he has his studio on site, and he opens the door himself to let you in, because there is not a door at all but a painting placed over the doorway. He looks like a latter day Slavic mystic.

And then I had gelato and wandered around the winding streets, and in a back street near the Parliament (which is tucked in a corner, quite out of the way), I met a lady who asked piteously, "Do you speak English?"

I looked like a person who might not speak English! It was very exciting for me! But of course I fessed up to my English-speaking abilities, and helped her read her map to find her hotel, and felt extremely accomplished that I could help anyone get anywhere in Prague.
osprey_archer: (Rosetti)
Hello again! I have had a most splendid day, and as the hostel computers are for once not jammed, I am going to tell you all about it.

I began at the Tate Britain, which I meant to get to earlier this trip, only I kept going to the National Gallery instead. The National Gallery took up part of three days, partly because I kept getting lost, giving up, and repairing to the cafe to have a slice of cake and tea.

The Tate Britain, however, went much more smoothly! I believe I saw all the best things - I didn't go over the modern galleries very firmly, but then, I am rarely in sympathy with modern art.

I arrived right after the museum opened, so I had the pre-Raphaelite room more or less to myself, which was lovely. It isn't actually the pre-Raphaelite room - there's a lot of other things in there, Sargents and Watts and so on. Possibly it's the "here's all the stuff people come to the Tate to see, we're going to put them all in one place so the more hardcore art enthusiasts can enjoy the rest of the museum in peace" room.

But quite a lot of those works are pre-Raphaelite. I particularly enjoyed the Burne-Jones paintings, the staircases with all the maidens descending down it in particular, and even the Rosettis seemed charming in person (although I still think he is always drawing the same ideal maiden). Not a big fan of William Holman Hunt, though. I'm not sure why, given that he tends to choose rather grim subjects - fallen women, goats wandering through salt plains, etc - but something about the brashness of his color use always reminds me of a kitschy Christmas card.

And John Singer Sargent's Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose! It's huge in real life. I bought a notebook with the painting (suitably miniaturized) on the cover, I liked it so much. It looks like a suitable book for composing a children's book.

(Speaking of composing books, The English Breakfast Affair is going very, very well! I have decided to cut out the virgin martyrs subplot and consequently it is going rather more smoothly. Perhaps I will have to chance to reference them, at least?)

The Tate also had a room devoted to paintings that had been very popular in Edwardian times (Forgotten Faces), which inevitably - my artistic tastes are probably best described as Edwardian - I enjoyed very much; Edwardian art often suggests stories (without tying you down by alluding to a specific story, which earlier works generally do), which is fun.

After that - after the inevitable tea and cake, I mean; I am going to be so disappointed with American museums and their lack of tea and cake after this - I went to Ripping Yarns, which is a bookstore that specializes in children's books from around the turn of the twentieth century, which: !!!!!!!!!!

But ultimately I didn't buy anything: there was so much choice that I quite lost my head and couldn't make any decisions at all. And so I went to the park and walked through the forest, and at last came back to the hostel.
osprey_archer: (books)
"The greatest benefit we owe to the artist, whether painter, poet, or novelist, is the extension of our sympathies." - George Eliot

I've been reading Rebecca Mead's My Life in Middlemarch, which I must confess to enjoying more than Middlemarch itself. I've always admired Eliot's literary goal of extending her readers' sympathy, but I find her hard to read, even tedious: Middlemarch's exhaustive delineation of all its characters mental states is rather, well, exhausting.. Of course it's nice to have everyone's perspective on everything, but at the same time, must we get their perspectives at quite such great length?

Mead's book, however, I've been enjoying a lot, particularly for its examination of the way that a favorite book can become a part of the self. "Reading is sometimes thought of as a form of escapism, and it's a common turn of phrase to speak of getting lost in a book. But a book can also be where one finds oneself...There are books that grow with the reader as the reader grows, like a graft on a tree," she writes.

As such, there's an element of memoir to the book, as Mead is showing how Middlemarch has shaped her (and how her life has shaped her reading of Middlemarch. But Mead keeps the focus firmly on Eliot: both on Eliot's biography and on Middlemarch itself. Mead has more sympathy for Lydgate than I do - I tend to think that, given his opinions, Rosamund Vincy is exactly the wife he deserved - but the chapter about Casaubon, "The Dead Hand," is particularly fine, particularly in its discussion of insecurity and uncertainty.

***

I don't think that art necessarily enlarges the sympathies. In fact, I think there are certain kinds of art where the fact that one's sympathies will remain comfortably unenlarged is part of the appeal - war stories about the action-packed excitement of killing faceless enemies, or love stories where the protagonist's romantic rival is a completely unworthy person whose feelings about being losing their beloved need trouble the reader not at all. Doubtless there are other such stories, too.

Although I think often books have both elements to them - in most books, the circle of sympathy extends this far and no farther, if only because the nature of a book means that the author has to focus on certain things and not others.

For instance, Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings movies play up the "excitement of killing faceless enemies" bit of Tolkien's books (the faceless enemies are there in the books, although perhaps not so much the excitement of killing them?). But I wouldn't say that Lord of the Rings is on the whole an unsympathetic book. It's just that Tolkien directs the readers' sympathy and attention not to finding humanity in enemies, but toward sympathizing with the fallibility of good characters who succumb to temptation, like Boromir and Gollum and Frodo. (Perhaps Denethor, although in a very different way?)

Even for authors who do take enlarging sympathy as their goal, they need to find a receptive partner in their readers. The first time I read Middlemarch, despite all Eliot's care I found Casaubon vastly irritating: I described him, and I quote, as "a cramped and petty man with a mildewed soul, too small to commit any actual evil, but possessed of a personality so arid that it sucks the vitality out of everyone around him."

Clearly I was not about to allow my sympathy to be enlarged, at least not enough to include an anxious, fretful middle-aged pedant. But Mead's book has accomplished what Eliot did not: I do begin to feel for him, despite all the suffering their marriage visits on poor Dorothea.
osprey_archer: (friends)
I have a song to share! A song with a ridiculous yet awesome music video, because that is how I roll. Why is she riding a horse around the countryside wearing a giant dress and an awesome coat? Why is there a girl with dragonfly wings? Why is this song so awesome

Oh hear me when I vow
that I will always be your soldier
I'll be marching by your side
I'm not deserting,
I'll be there for you
Oh please please believe in
This oath of allegiance

Friends, I give you Marit Bergman's "I Will Always Be Your Soldier."



Some more choice quotes:

Where ever you go
I hope that you know
that I'm at your command

Oh I will be strong for you
I will belong to you
Carry you, bleed for you
Run for miles

I want all the story versions of this. The sisters version, the friends version, the lovers version, the one where they actually are liege lady and soldier (and might also be any of the above). All of them.
osprey_archer: (window)
I am returned from Chicago! And I come bearing MANY PICTURES, because Chicago is super photogenic, although these mostly are not photos of the things that are supposed to be photogenic like the giant statue of Goethe wearing nothing but an artfully draped cape. Because that is just how German writers dress, apparently?

Oh, but I do have a picture of paintings of the skyline! My friend Rachel booked us for a surprise painting class - I must admit my first thought when I heard this was GAAAH - but actually it turned out quite well; I haven't painted for years, and it was fun to slop about paint on canvas attempting to create some facsimile of the Chicago skyline.

Our paintings )

Before the painting class, we went to the glorious empanadas place. (When Rachel and I first planned this visit, I was all "WE'LL GO TO THE EMPANADAS PLACE AGAIN! Also do other things, which we will figure out in due time. BUT EMPANADAS."

Beautiful empanadas! )

We were thinking about going to the 1893 World's Fair exhibit at the Field Museum, but sadly Rachel's friends who have gone thought it was disappointing, and neither of us wanted to lay down thirty dollars for disappointing. So instead we went to the conservatory, which is like a tiny tropical vacation in itself, and then the Lincoln Park zoo.

Conservatory and zoo photos )

And one last photo, because I can't let a visit to Rachel go by without taking the opportunity to take a million photos of her adorable cat!

Cleo the adorable cat )
osprey_archer: (art)
Earlier this week (back when the weather was still warmish and beautiful), my mother and I went to the Indianapolis art museum.

DSCN3337

It is surprisingly splendid! They had a splendid Monet, a painting of Venice at dawn with streaks of pink that make the paint seem to glow off the canvas. Alas, my photo didn't come out, but I suppose that's to be expected with Monet.

I did get some decent photos of other paintings, though.

A June Idyll, by T. C. Steele )

Dolly and Rach, by John W. Hardrick )

My mother )

And now I'm off to Chicago! Have a nice weekend, everyone.

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