Friday, February 26, 2010

Strawberries in the Snow

Illustration by Charles Folkard for
The Three Dwarfs in the Wood, Grim's Fairy Tales.

Growing up with books like this, how could I not want to take up my brush and paint? That very world of snow and magic was right outside our door in Montreal: the deep woods and heavily laden trees, the glittering outlined branches and the long lines of shadows across the snow. Except for the strawberries, the dwarves and the maiden in her paper dress (for the dwarves' little house would not have looked out of place in our nearby St. Genevieve, Quebec) this was just how the maple woods appeared in those long winters. Incredible complex snow gardens bloomed along the lower edges of the window panes too, and like Kay and Gerda in Hans Anderson's Snow Queen, as children we used to press heated coins into the frost to make peepholes to look through.

A walk down the 16-mile Creek ravine on a recent sunny day took us by familiar sites made new with ice formations. An earlier freeze and thaw have turned the flood plain into a tumbled checker-board with slanting table-top sized slabs of ice, and delicate plates of patterned ice are reforming along the banks.

This one was as hard as parquet flooring,
while ice ledges with patterns like broderie-anglais were as brittle as thin glass
(so we stick together on these walks).
Turning to designs made by human hands, the Three Bears appeared close to home
and Queen Victoria, petite and poised, is right outside the door.I can do better - tomorrow I'll improve the shape and add a companion snow dog or two.
It is snowing outside (and snowing heavily as I type this, a good packable snowman-weight snow that will, tomorrow, make the neighbourhood ring with the sound of shovels on driveways) and inside, in progress on my worktable, is a summery fairy scene. But it isn't incongruous, for in both delicacy and transformative power the falling snow and bells of Elfland go hand in hand.


  1. Beautiful photographs. I love Queen Victoria!

    It is strange to be getting winter at last so late in the season.

  2. The snow and ice surely do look beautiful in your photos. I can definitely see the comparison with that book illustration.

    What inspriration you have been having outdoors!

    I've not before heard about the heated coin on the window frost. That's a grand image.

    Please do continue with the snow sculpturing.

    Also, thanks very much for agreeing to catch that tag. xo

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  4. Sorry to have deleted the last post, my spelling left a lot to be desired!

    Your walk sounds very hazardous, with so much ice and snow, although it is undoubtedly beautiful. I am sure all those wonderful ice patterns will weave themselves into your work before too long. In the meantime we can only imagine the magic you are painting inside.

  5. You know, of late I've been waking up in the morning, ready for spring. I'm a bit tired of the dreariness, the colorlessness of the winter, and here's what happens everyday: I sit down with my cup of coffee, and I tour blogs. By the end of my coffee drinking ritual, I feel refreshed, not just from the beverage, but from all the bloggers with their beautiful images of winter. Taking away that dreary quality, reminding me that winter is beautiful in its own turn.

    Such was the case with this post. Dwarves, as depicted in fairytales give me the creeps, and always have but it is that pleasant, thrilling sort of "I have the creeps!" feeling. Such beautiful photographs, Frances. The Brothers Grimm really were very aptly named, weren't they? The Red Shoes always gives me that "Eeeeek...but in a fun way." Then your follow up pictures were like the antidote to the grim quality of the Grimms.

    One M, or two? I can't decide. I'm going with two. (and as an aside, I think it is becoming clear that I've had enough coffee for the day, I think I might have ceased to blink just recently).

    I left instructions over on my blog for how to copy that image. I'll repeat them here so that you don't have to try and find them in amongst the lengthy responses I tend to produce:

    For a PC...right click ----> save image (or "save image as") ----> determine title and location ---> store in photos.

    That may not be the actual way to do it, but that image on my blog has no coding in it to prevent anyone copying it :-) Then just treat it as you would any other image from your photo folder.

    If you're on a Mac (I have both) ...I have yet to figure out how (so much for Macs being easier, I guess) ...but if you need a hand, I know enough techies that I can track down instructions. I've just been being lazy, and hopping back over to my laptop whenever I need to do any kind of images.