Monday, November 30, 2009

In a Heartbeat, Advent, and Good Fairies

The gallery is looking lovely. The creatures and characters from Woodland Christmas and Woodland Nutcracker are beautifully displayed and despite dreary weather we had a busy weekend at the opening. It is a real pleasure to see these pieces together again, and in a setting reminiscent of the summer cottage that inspired the Woodland books.

Fairy art and books are on display too,

And between the fairies, keeping them company, is the last of our Gund Woodland Nutcracker bears that were produced for Eatons reopening in 2000.

It was a brief reopening for Eatons, a chapter of Canadian retail history in which our Woodland Nutcracker played a decorative role. While the Titans of retail wrestled for supremacy, our lovely bears and woodland friends were recreated as life-size figures for in-store Christmas displays. A phalanx of Woodland Nutcrackers was commissioned and the 9-foot bears were positioned at store entries, and more bears and Woodland friends twirled inside in animated displays.

I wonder how many busy Torontonians in 2002, crossing at the intersection of Yonge & Dundas, noticed Clara and Prince Nutcracker?

When the displays were taken down for the last time the Woodland figures were dispersed. Some went to libraries and many of them to the Toronto Hospital for Sick Children, where they are brushed up and set out every Christmas. I can't think of a better place for them and occasionally I make the trip to see them on display.

Making for a longer than usual post, also happening this first weekend of Advent was "First Light" at St. Marie Among the Hurons. It is believed that Canada's first Christmas Carol, The Huron Carol, was written by Father Jean de Br├ębeuf at Sainte-Marie in the 17th century. Since 2007 St. Marie has celebrated the Huron Carol with a pictorial gallery featuring my illustrations, plus a video presentation. First Light is a magical event. Although closed to unscheduled visits during the winter, for these three evenings St. Marie is open to the public and the paths around the mission buildings and longhouses are lined with candles.

There is a sense of timelessness, walking under the stars here. In 400-plus years the cold and snow have not changed. Inside the longhouse and in the recreated mission buildings there is heat, if you are close enough to the fire, but it is a compelling reminder of the isolation and challenges of those earlier days.

Which way to go, the darker paths that lead away between the trees, or the blaze of light that leads back to the museum, to crowds and warmth, music and celebration?

A brief glimpse of part of the Huron Carol display, above. In the twenty years since I worked on this beautiful carol it never fails to move me. Many thanks to the people at St. Marie who made this lovely exhibit happen.

There is a generosity from artists to other artists in blogland ( of which the talented Valerie Greeley and Gretel Parker are outstanding examples) that enriches the experience for all. Recently a lovely review of our Illustrated Fairy Gazettes was posted by Tangle Catkin/Bryony Whistlecraft at Fae Nation. This beautiful site is truly "your virtual portal to faerie" and many are the enticements to visit and linger awhile. Thank you Tangle, from the fairies!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Christmas Fantasy at "In a Heartbeat"

Once again I am surrounded by paintings and frames, getting ready for the Christmas Fantasy art show at the In a Heartbeat Gallery. In addition to fairy art from "The Illustrated Fairy Gazettes" we will also hang originals from two earlier books, Woodland Christmas and Woodland Nutcracker. The image above is from "Woodland Nutcracker", showing Grandfather and Clara with her handsome Nutcracker Bear. Adventure is only hours away.....

and a royal welcome awaits....
But I'm getting ahead of the story. It begins like this:

"Long ago, far away from highways and city lights, where bright stars touched the tree tops and forest roots touched the edges of frozen lakes, a woodland family welcomed relatives and friends
to a Christmas Eve party in their cosy island home.
Softly falling snowflakes drifted into the cottage as the guests arrived."*

And the rest, as they say, is magic.

*Text copyright Avril Tyrrell, 1999

Remembrance Day

"We will remember them"

At the local cenotaph the wreaths were placed on Sunday and today the main events take place at the centre of town. But a few people came here this morning to leave their poppy and remember the fallen. I came over early, camera in hand, to take a picture with the sun rising - and the camera jammed completely. But I do remember them.

I remember ... my mother telling me of the skies over her London suburb dark with planes, of hearing Chamberlain's 1939 radio broadcast "This country is now at war with Germany"", of their classroom windows covered with glued shatter-proof netting, of nights spent in an air raid shelter, and more. It wasn't sure that the Allies would win.

And we are in uncertain times yet. Young people who don't look much older than my teenager's friends have enlisted, wanting to be a force for good in the world. So I am grateful this day to be here, a fortunate descendant of brave people, that kind hands loaned me a camera, and that good brave people - before whom I am humbled - are passing on the torch and going forward, despite the dangers.