Illustrating Words

An illustration that does not complement a story, in the end, will become but a false idol. Since we cannot possibly believe in an absent story, we will naturally begin believing in the picture itself.
~ Orhan Pamuk, Turkish novelist, screenwriter, academic and recipient of the 2006 Nobel Prize in Literature

The origin of the word “illustration” is late Middle English (in the sense ‘illumination; spiritual or intellectual enlightenment’): via Old French from Latin illustratio(n- ), from the verb illustrate. Wikipedia.

Illustrators create visual representations, of their own work or that of others, in many mediums and industries: books, magazines, newspapers, poster art, advertisement, greeting cards, film, fashion, medicine and other sciences, manufacturing and technical design. Woodcutting, engraving, lithography, pen-and-ink, charcoal, metalpoint, pastels, colored ink, pens and pencils, watercolor and acrylic paints have all served them well. Today a trip to any art supply store is overwhelming—but exciting!—because of the wide-range of materials available for drawing and painting. Currently, digital options for making and adjusting images are constantly developing and increasing.

I “became” an illustrator, or at least got to the point of consciously being one, by accident rather than intent. I had done art most of my life, but never to be an artist as such. In the early 1980s, for my own pleasure and, frankly, sanity, inspired by a series about Edith Holden (1871-1920) and her nature notes, which, in book form and film, would become The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady, I embarked on a couple of nature journals. Tiny and private, wrapped in plastic for protection, worried over in case they were damaged or lost, eventually they found a public life because of the miracle of all-in-one (scanning) printers and, in 2011, my decision to begin blogging. I used my journal illustrations to accompany the poetry and prose I shared. When All Things That Matter Press took on my first novel, A House Near Luccoli, it seemed natural to use my own artwork for its cover. I’m so grateful they allowed me to. Now three more covers later (two my own and one done for Dancing in the Rain, a poetry anthology by Christine Moran published by Bennison Books), my accidental artist has ventured into the pages of my third novel.

Section of one of the illustrations from “Without the Veil Between” Copyright 2017 by DM Denton

 

Having just finished a number of black and white (and shades of grey) illustrations for my upcoming Without the Veil Between, Anne Brontë: A Fine and Subtle Spirit, while delving into research for my next fiction work about Christina Rossetti, Victorian poetess and sister of Pre-Raphaelite illustrator (painter and poet) Dante Gabriel Rossetti, it seemed a perfect time to explore the collaboration of artists and authors and the history of illustration production.

 

 

Expression through the combination of words and pictures has ancient roots, art clarifying and embellishing text bringing to mind the painstakingly illuminated monastic manuscripts of the Middle Ages.

 

 

 

 

The invention of mechanical printing by Johannes Gutenberg in 1452 took book production out of sacred seclusion. Initially, block books were the way forward, text and illustrations cut into the same wooden block. By the mid-16th century, copper-plating engraving and etching offered better definition and more detail.

Book illustration was established as an art in the 18th century and, with the onset of the Industrial Revolution, took hold by the 19th, printing processes improving rapidly with more publications seen by more of the public.

In the early 1800s, lithography, the process of printing from a flat surface treated to repel the ink except where it is required for printing, offered increased texture and accuracy because the artist could draw directly onto the printing plate.

Chromolithography, color lithography, was widely used for postcards and other printed products requiring color, such as playing cards.

Many names and nationalities were associated with the ever-growing popularity of illustrated newspapers, books and magazines. I mention only a few.

Thomas Bewick (1753-1828), best known for his A History of British Birds, helped to popularize the printing of illustrations using wood, adapting metal engraving tools to cut hard boxwood to produce printing blocks for metal typeset that were more durable than traditional woodcuts and lowered the cost for higher quality illustrations.

 

George Cruikshank (1792-1878), who depicted children as miniature adults, did the plates for all twenty-four illustrations in Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist originally published in installments between February 1837 and April 1839. Dickens worked closely with many other illustrators (i.e. Hablot Knight Browne – Phiz, 1815-1882, John Leech, 1817-1864, and George Cattermole, 1800 – 1868 ) and was very involved in the characters, settings and scenes depicted, even offering his thoughts on the colors of what he envisioned, although the drawings were in black and white. Only Hard Times and Great Expectations were originally published without illustrations.

John Tenniel’s illustrations for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There (1871), and Lindley Sambourne’s for Charles Kingsley’s The Water-Babies (1863) are some of the loveliest woodblock contributions of the mid-19th century, a time when wood engraving dominated.

Lithography (including color lithography) remained popular until the end of the 19th century, while a decade before the advent of the 20th century the photomechanical process—artwork transferred to printing plates through photographic means—found its footing in the book illustrating industry, moving image printing towards its future digital course.

 

In the 19th and 20th centuries there were a number of artistic movements that affected the design and illustration of books. Aubrey Beardsley  was a proponent of Aestheticism and Art Nouveau, influenced by Japanese woodcuts and often portraying grotesque and erotic subject matter.

 

 

Dante Gabriel and Christina Rossetti photographed by Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (AKA Lewis Carroll)

Many of the Pre-Raphaelites painters were also illustrators, most notably John Everett Millais, Holman Hunt, Arthur Hughes, and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, the latter, as above-mentioned, the brother of the subject of my next novel, Christina Rossetti. They brought the vivid lines, vibrancy, naturalness, emotionality and even mysticism of their paintings to  black and white wood engraved book illustrations.

Awaiting her brother’s creations, Christina required much patience. But patient she was, devoted to him and his talent, and he eventually completed drawings for her Goblin Market and Other Poems (1862) and the title page for her The Prince’s Progress and Other Poems (1866).

Even when there wasn’t any literary reference for a picture he was doing, Dante Gabriel Rossetti would often create a text to inspire him.

At first, I see pictures of a story in my mind. Then creating the story comes from asking questions of myself. I guess you might call it the ‘what if – what then’ approach to writing and illustration.
~ Chris Van Allsburg, American illustrator and writer of children’s books

Of course, of special interest to me are those authors who did illustrations for their own work, including, in the case of children’s books: Beatrix Potter, Kate Greenaway, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, and Maurice Sendak.

 

 

 

I’m particularly fond of the flower fairies, paintings and poems, of Cicely Mary Barker.

 

 

 

Other writers who did their own illustrations included William Makepeace Thackeray, William Blake, TS Elliot, Evelyn Waugh, Rudyard Kipling, and J.R.R. Tolkien.

It was an irresistible development of modern illustration (so largely photographic) that borders should be abandoned and the “picture” end only with the paper. This method may be suitable for photographs; but it is altogether inappropriate for the pictures that illustrate or are inspired by fairy-stories. An enchanted forest requires a margin, even an elaborate border.
~ J.R.R. Tolkien

There are those who feel illustrations in novels or accompanying poetry are a distraction, dictate the meaning, give away the narrative or define the look of a setting or character and, therefore, risk cheating the reader’s imagination. I believe illustration can actually expand it. That’s what happened when at the age of eleven I picked up my mom’s 1943 edition of Wuthering Heights with evocative woodcuts by Fritz Eichenberg. My imagination was rewarded not cheated, my involvement with the writing, story, setting and characters deepened by the drawings. Even if I skipped ahead to see them, I became more curious and committed to finding out what they depicted.

Perhaps writing that makes illustrations unnecessary sets the stage for them to be all the more illuminating.

Children love illustrated books. Creative images pull them into the words and often encourage them to read more and can increase what I saw one article call “visual intelligence“.  For me, a book is already a visual product, not only in terms of reading its words but, also, in its presentation, whether I hold it in print or on my Kindle device.

Why, it’s one o’ the books I bought at Partridge’s sale. They was all bound alike, it’s a good binding, you see, and I thought they’d be all good books. There’s Jeremy Taylor’s ‘Holy Living and Dying’ among ’em ; I read in it often of a Sunday.” (Mr. Tulliver felt somehow a familiarity with that great writer because his name was Jeremy); “and there ‘s a lot more of ’em, sermons mostly, I think ; but they ‘ve all got the same covers, and I thought they were all o’ one sample, as you may say. But it seems one mustn’t judge by th’ outside. This is a puzzlin’ world.
~ The Mill on the Floss, George Eliot, 1900

My own approach to adding illustrations to Without the Veil Between was to offer hints and stir curiosity—set up and anticipation, while creating a distinct visual to enrich the reading experience. I’m new at this, so I can only hope I have succeeded as I set out to do.

I close with another teaser clip of an illustration from Without the Veil Between:

Copyright 2017 by DM Denton

©Artwork and writing, unless otherwise indicated, are the property of Diane M Denton. Please request permission to reproduce or post elsewhere with a link back to bardessdmdenton. Thank you.

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Portrait of Mischief and Love: International Cat Day August 8, 2017

Why not see

Through the eyes of a cat

With jeweled vision

In topaz and green and sapphire

And the preciousness

Of each moment

 

Where was my heart when
my hand captured time in a portrait
of mischief and love?

Work in progress of my new kittens, Yoshi and Kenji, Copyright 2017 by DM Denton

Cats Between the Lines

Cats must be there. Even as I wander long ago and faraway, they follow me, rub my legs, curl on my bed and beg my attention without disturbing it. Their purring is my mantra too, so natural and deliberate at the same time, encouraging the perfect rhythm of my heart. They are soft to the touch yet strong enough in their will. One swipes at my pen to remind me not to take it all so seriously; another paws my arm, pleading, eyes green with envy for the obsession that seems to leave him out. Oh, no. How can I tell him? With a turn and a bow and a stroke he’s reassured; with an Eskimo kiss he’s a distraction but—as one of my favorite writers, Colette, once noted—never a waste of time. Yet another stretches, slithers and yawns like a serpent enticing me to a nap. And then I realize I’m being watched, by that scamp who only sleeps to run and jump and wrestle when he’s awake, small and smart and certain I can’t grab him before he runs away again.

Cats know more than they ever say, probably for the best if progress is ever to be made. A leonine length with legs neatly crossed and head shaped for stillness sets me wondering if any activity could be better than none. Oh, I know. I must make a living, eat and drink and pretend to hunt. So I do so with their goal in mind, eyes squeezed closed and whiskers and paws and tail twitching, to savor sleep as much as success—for the dream of the mouse even more than its taste. 

Cats can be characters, as many as I’ve had there’s no end to the possibilities. I can dress them up and use them in stories that otherwise might not welcome them. I suspect they would be flattered if they knew, that they expect me to take them everywhere I go and include them in everything I do. Saying that, they realize being ignored is freedom from expectation, especially if turned into a choice. And vanishing is just another way of being found.

In memory of my beloved fur-babies Gabriel and Darcy
who in 2017 left this world but not our hearts

 

 

The cat is the animal to whom the Creator gave the biggest eye, the softest fur, the most supremely delicate nostrils, a mobile ear, an unrivaled paw and a curved claw borrowed from the rose-tree.
~ Colette (French Novelist, 1873 – 1954)

donatellasmallest©Artwork and writing, unless otherwise indicated, are the property of Diane M Denton. Please request permission to reproduce or post elsewhere with a link back to bardessdmdenton. Thank you.

Solstitium … Once Again

There came a day at summer’s full
Entirely for me;
I thought that such were for the saints
Where revelations be. ~ Emily Dickinson

Copyright 2014 by JM DiGiacomo

Sunflowers: Copyright 2014 by my mom, JM DiGiacomo

My summer has begun

Softly, quietly; under a few clouds

that won’t block the sunshine.

A lonesome beginning,

just as I like it,

in order to feel glad for myself and

honor the ways of those

who don’t look for company

except as it finds them

through the touch of a breeze

or face of a flower

or sigh of a raindrop

or trust of a sparrow;

with nothing to yield for 

but the freedom to reach

and wither

and grow all over again.

~ DM Denton

Earth, Teach Me

Earth teach me quiet ~ as the grasses are still with new light.
Earth teach me suffering ~ as old stones suffer with memory.
Earth teach me humility ~ as blossoms are humble with beginning.
Earth teach me caring ~ as mothers nurture their young.
Earth teach me courage ~ as the tree that stands alone.
Earth teach me limitation ~ as the ant that crawls on the ground.
Earth teach me freedom ~ as the eagle that soars in the sky.
Earth teach me acceptance ~ as the leaves that die each fall.
Earth teach me renewal ~ as the seed that rises in the spring.
Earth teach me to forget myself ~ as melted snow forgets its life.
Earth teach me to remember kindness ~ as dry fields weep with rain.

– An Ute Prayer (Utes are indigenous people of the Great Basin, now living primarily in Utah and Colorado, USA)

Do you have A Friendship with Flowers?
Available in Kindle and Print Editions
Click on “Look Inside”

Love flowers? This book was originally created by hand in a small journal while I was living in Oxfordshire, England (most of the flowers included are found in the US, too). I am so pleased that I have been able to preserve it to share with a wider audience. It was done with gratefulness for the flowers that graced and healed me with their beauty, wisdom, and playfulness.

Diane Denton’s skill with visual and literary expression gives me pause. To have introduced such beautiful “friends” to her readers is a gift to be long cherished. Denton’s skill with words and with illustrations not only provide delight to her in the producing of such, but provides us as readers the joy of her discoveries through sight and words. These flowers actually sing to us, in their pleasure of being in good company with their companions of the soil. And so it is with joy I keep this publication available to read and gaze upon over and over again.
~ Jean Rodenbough, author of Rachel’s Children, Surviving the Second World War and Bebe and Friends, Tails of Rescue

Blessings on this Summer Solstice
and 
Winter Solstice, for those in the southern hemisphere  

donatellasmallest©Artwork and writing, unless otherwise indicated, are the property of Diane M Denton. Please request permission to reproduce or post elsewhere with a link back to bardessdmdenton. Thank you.

A Home Where Heart and Soul May Rest

My mom turns 88 today/tomorrow, depending on where you are when you read this: March 10th. 

We have lived together since my return from England in 1990 (my father died in 1986) after we had been apart, except for a few visits one way or other, for 16 years. It’s difficult to remember when we were so estranged from the everyday of each other’s life – even though we acted as though this was meant to be, we knew, in our hearts, it wasn’t.  As the French Philosopher Simone Weil wrote: “When friends are far apart there is no separation.”  

Yes, we are mother and daughter, but I think, what has been more affecting in my life is our friendship: the best I have known because it has been honest and difficult and, yet, supportive and enduring, especially as it has tested our ability to remain friends, loving friends. As with any close relationship, there have been tricky moments (and still are), and it has evolved and required adjustments and a fuller appreciation that giving and receiving love is not for making us feel better but BE better.

I first posted the piece below for Mother’s Day a few years ago, when I had no idea I would return in more depth to what she wanted us to have in common, obliging then through my reading and now through my writing: a novel about Anne Brontë, which is very near to being finished, Without the Veil Between.

Happy Birthday, Mom …

You gave me many gifts, like the gods and goddesses gave Pandora: a sense of beauty, charm, music, curiosity and persuasion. In particular there was a book, large and beautifully bound, its writing in columns and essence carved in wood.

Wuthering Heights

You were as naïve as I was.

For it was also a box of unknowns, like Pandora’s, that unleashed more than either of us bargained for. I preferred the version of the myth that claimed good things were allowed to escape. All except for one.

We never lost hope.

You put the faraway in my hands, so how could I not want to go there? Of course, you meant for me to travel pages not miles.

You said you would never forgive me.

How many months we didn’t speak; how many years we paid dearly for conversations in such different time zones, trying to being ordinary when it was all so impossible.

We were both alone with our mistakes.

I never thought it would be that difficult to be away from you. My youth was lost, not to romantic discontent but missing what was true.  

Could you ever forgive me?

Perhaps you did a little. When you traveled as I did, because I did: over the sea, to another country, to places you had and hadn’t visited. You walked up the hill, heard your heels on the cobblestones and voices of the dead, inhaled the mist, saw the parsonage, the windswept trees and moors, and turned the pages back.

I didn’t see if your eyes sparkled, but I like to believe they did.

Bronte Parsonage, Haworth, West Yorkshire, England
Painted in the 1970’s.
Copyright 2013 by DM Denton

Though solitude, endured too long,
Bids youthful joys too soon decay,
Makes mirth a stranger to my tongue,
And overclouds my noon of day;

When kindly thoughts that would have way,
Flow back discouraged to my breast;
I know there is, though far away,
A home where heart and soul may rest.

Warm hands are there, that, clasped in mine,
The warmer heart will not belie;
While mirth, and truth, and friendship shine
In smiling lip and earnest eye.

The ice that gathers round my heart
May there be thawed; and sweetly, then,
The joys of youth, that now depart,
Will come to cheer my soul again. 
~ Anne Brontë, Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell

 


donatellasmallest©Artwork and writing, unless otherwise indicated, are the property of Diane M Denton. Please request permission to reproduce or post elsewhere with a link back to bardessdmdenton. Thank you.

Playing with Ambition (Remembering Gabey)

Below the first image is a repost about one of the greatest loves of my life …

It has been almost two weeks since I lost my beloved Gabey-kitty, leaving a large hole in my heart and space in my life that had been so sweetly and feistily and affectionately filled by his physical presence for 13 1/2 years. I miss those sparkling amber eyes that looked into my soul and his confidence in his own magnificence and just all those little ways and means that were specific to him. His kitty brother and “cousins” are feeling his absence as profoundly as we are, breaking my heart a little more when they look for him or at me asking “Why?”, but they are also mending it, filling the deep sense of loss with their individual precious presences. Comforting and caring for them is a way to actively do the same for myself. And, through their natural awareness of the energy of the non-physical, they are a constant reminder that, although Gabey’s mortal body is no longer here with me, his pure, loving, blessed spirit can never be absent as long as I stay in touch with my better self.

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Playing with Ambition

He makes a grab for my pen, puffing his cheeks, twinkling his eyes, smiling if he could. It’s not that he wants me to stop writing, at least not in the long term, for it keeps me captivated and close to him. He likes to interrupt my ambition, a playful swipe over the page I stare at for a thought too good to miss if only it would come.

He came, small enough to fit in the palm of my hand, with topaz eyes and quick sharp teeth, infecting my hand and heart with feisty vulnerability. Then he was gone, taken as I allowed, others to care for him better. Except I wasn’t convinced, traveling far and near to find the dirt road and unclear path to making him mine.

No one wanted him like I did. Certainly not those who had more than they could handle, separating themselves from his beauty as I thought impossible. In my arms he pretended he didn’t know me, hadn’t tempted and tasted me, too young a fellow to know he shouldn’t cry. I assured him that a love like mine, patient and doting, was all he needed. Slowly he believed, fed on fairy tales and fancy feasts.

Copyright 2012 by DM Denton

Copyright 2012 by DM Denton

And now he’s only for losing if eternity fails us. At times he prefers his own space and I’m more distracted than when he steals my pen and chance for inspiration. Somehow I always convince him to lie again at my feet—on my feet, warming them, massaging them, numbing them, until he notices my papers set aside. He moves up the bed for undivided attention, licking my cheek, nuzzling my ear before smothering me with his love, his gingery mane blinding me as his unexplained pleasure eases my doubts.  

Then it’s all too serious for him. He makes a grab for what is still in my hand, holding it in his teeth, his head and shoulders performing a tango. I laugh though not too loud for it is the middle of the night. We dance for a few moments longer, light on our feet with no need to exercise more than our imaginations.

“The cat is the animal to whom the Creator gave the biggest eye, the softest fur, the most supremely delicate nostrils, a mobile ear, an unrivaled paw and a curved claw borrowed from the rose-tree.” – Colette (French Novelist, 1873 – 1954)

angel-wings-picture-frame-2zxda-58kcv-normal

©Artwork and writing, unless otherwise indicated, are the property of Diane M Denton. Please request permission to reproduce or post elsewhere with a link back to bardessdmdenton. Thank you.

Nature Insight: In a Cold Climate

Am working on a new post, but, in the meantime, something to help you pause and reflect, first shared a few years back …

 

yew-1With shorter days come slower nights,

more time to settle for solitude.

Love is gone and is here still,

more in the heart than can be lived.

For all there is a season and this is mine,

evergreen, and woven into wintery cobwebs.

Somehow I resist the temptation to brush them away.

 

I prefer winter…when you feel the bone structure of the landscape – the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter.

Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn’t show.

Andrew Wyeth, American Painter (1917 – 2009)

holly-with-bird-winter-border

©Artwork and writing, unless otherwise indicated, are the property of Diane M Denton. Please request permission to reproduce or post elsewhere with a link back to bardessdmdenton. Thank you.

Some Feline Understanding

Copyright 2012 by DM Denton

Copyright 2012 by DM Denton

For National Cat Day (10/29/16):

Where is it? I asked,
that gift I gave you,
perfect for your imagination
and paws to throw around.

For days it’s been missed,
not missing;
your eyes playing with
my questioning
like fate
hiding what it has in store.

But, really.
Do you understand what I’m asking?

It seems so, when
you deliver
all that I wish for,
laid at my feet—
as instinctively
knowing to leave me to
my wonder
and that it’s time to
take a nap.

Play-N-Squeak-Play-N-Squeak-Mouse-Hunter-Cat-Toy







 

 

Cats are always present for me, including in my prose writing: novels and short stories. Here are some samples:

 

Signor Stradella enjoyed a bowl of broth as though he had never eaten at a better table, laughing at Golone’s drooling, and breaking off a steamy piece of bread, complementing Cook with his mouth full. He was amused, not unkindly, when Despina, leaving, almost tripped over the cats who had decided the kitchen was where they should be. They rubbed the men’s legs, as enticing as enticed by oyster stock that eventually found a second table on the floor.
~ from A House Near Luccoli

 

She reached for the eiderdown to wrap herself in, Bianchi whimpering and darting under the bed, Caprice leaping onto it to catch the unseen. They were expected to be a little crazy, even magical, conjuring a great life out of a small one. When they slept, their whiskers and eyelids quivered for their wildest dreams. Were they back in Genoa, too, in Nonna’s darkened room and big chair where falling asleep was required? Or wandering down to the kitchen so Cook would scold and then reward them? Or, as their legs extended, sneaking up towards what was off-limits but inviting, were their thoughts about how they escaped but never got away? Would they wake to the confusion of why bells weren’t ringing from every direction and the sea wasn’t close by? Did they miss not knowing what was beyond the window, the view of the street, or smell of the bay?

No, they just stretched and yawned and accepted that all they ever needed had come with them.
~ from To A Strange Somewhere Fled

 

One or more cats might defy exclusion from the parlor, a little nuzzle pushing its door already open a crack to allow them access to whoever welcomed their leg rubbing or not. Rose did, especially once the reading was done, bowing to escape any reaction rather than acknowledge it. Gathering them up was a reason to crumple to the floor without seeming to faint or rudely reveal her relief. Taking them out was a way to escape before she might be asked to recite more or even sing, and disappear until no one expected to see her again that evening.
~ from The Library Next Door

Illustration for Kindle Short Story: The Library Next Door

Copyright 2014 by DM Denton

 

Maudy excused herself to baste the ham and continue what was left of the Christmas she had planned. She didn’t say anything about needing to be alone, which she wasn’t for long. A kitten had slipped into the house and then the kitchen, interrupting Maudy’s self-pitying for a little canned tuna and place on her lap to curl gratefully.
~from The Snow White Gift

Copyright 2013 by DM Denton

Copyright 2013 by DM Denton

 

 

donatellasmallest©Artwork and writing, unless otherwise indicated, are the property of Diane M Denton. Please request permission to reproduce or post elsewhere with a link back to bardessdmdenton. Thank you.