Of Rollers and Royals

E.g., Mary Ann, and Ginger are the respective daughters of three sisters — Rose, Theodora, and Helen — and are thus first cousins to one another. Mary Ann was born and raised here in rural New Brunswick, grew up on a farm, and married a farmer. Ginger was raised on a different sort of farm: a plantation in Kenya. She speaks “kitchen Swahili”, as she calls it, has retained her parents’ British accent, and married a successful public relations expert. E.g. was raised in a Saint John suburb, has travelled the world, and married nobody. Like their mothers, all three women are bright, talented, modest, considerate, and friendly. I like them all.

So for this Christmas, besides painting four greeting cards for Rose, I painted two each for Mary Ann and Ginger. Mary Ann received the cards showing the Grosbeak and the Tanager that you’ve already seen. Rose’s cards included a Cardinal and an Atlantic Puffin, neither of which you’ll ever see because I forgot to photograph them (wah!).

The route to Ginger’s present was more zigzagged. I’ve been reading Sir Thomas Malory’s stories of King Arthur, and one morning I decided to paint the dragon of which Arthur dreams, that presages his reinstatement as Holy Roman Emperor. Here’s the beast now, straight out of Turtle’s feverish brain, displaying both birdliness and an eerie resemblance to Marlon Brando in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof:

Now, if there’s one surefire topic on this side of the family, it’s the Royals. With Prince William’s wedding date set, I thought Ginger might appreciate this card hearkening back to England’s “first” king.

The second card was a challenge. In the library, I found a book on Kenyan wildlife. It’s forty years old, and the colour photographs have deteriorated. Still, how hard could it be to draw and paint a Lilac-breasted Roller or a Superb Starling?


After two attempts at the Roller, I gave up in despair. The shading didn’t make sense, the colours didn’t work together. I just couldn’t “get” this one. And I was running out of time.

As in, Dinner at Ginger and Blake’s was that evening.

Back to Malory. My edition is chockfull of illustrations, everything from medieval manuscripts to Pre-Raphaelite paintings. I chose one of Arthur and Guenever, and…and…I cheated. Instead of drawing the figures and architectural details freehand, I traced them and then used transfer paper to copy them onto the greeting card. I didn’t even have time to do a preliminary painting in my notebook.

My picture does vary in several ways from the one in the book. The illustration in the book is black-and-white, so I chose the colours. The wallpaper flowers had five petals; I drew four petals. The original expression on Guenever’s dog is one of a monkey with indigestion, and the rear and tail are visible; I tucked a happier pup into her cloak. Arthur’s dog was originally a fold in his robe that I misinterpreted in tracing. I liked the idea so much, though, that I kept it. From thence came the inspiration for the silly caption. Oh, and yes, the original artist had Arthur holding two gloves.

It sez, “Arthur and Guenever dispute which hound hath devoured the king’s other gauntlet.”

Alas, my gift backfired. Handing me the envelopes, Ginger vowed she would never mail the cards. She would, instead, frame them. I wonder if they’ll go in the room where that big frame is hung, the one with squares of linen painted with Kenyan birds, including the Lilac-breasted Roller and the Superb Starling?


Happy New Year, everyone! See you next year!

13 Responses to Of Rollers and Royals

  1. Today’s specials are beautiful. The second painting reminds me of a page from an medieval illustrated manuscript.

  2. Binky says:

    Mary Ann and Ginger? Really? Do they also have a Professor?

    Liked your dragon painting. The feathers give it a Native American feel to it.

  3. Jayne says:

    Love your paintings!
    Of course she’d never send them, they are collectables!

  4. Alyson says:

    LOL! Dammed (sp) Hund! That’s very good and very painterly of you to transform some folds into a more convenient hound as well! I received a very Merry dishcloth and a beautiful little bird the other day – they came on a day when I needed cheering and worked like a charm! They were charming and I was charmed. Thankyou so much LB – I wish a Happy New Year for us all!

  5. lavenderbay says:

    Thanks, Barefootheart! I wish the book that uses it supplied more information than simply “British Museum Picture Library” in its acknowledgements; I would’ve liked to know what century it dates to, at least.

    Ginger’s daughter is a schoolteacher, Binky, and Ginger and Mary Ann have a cousin named Gilligan — or almost…close enough? (Yes, they’re pseudonyms.)
    It was a little weird working on the dragon; it kept bringing up all sorts of associations. One was “Maya”, a culture of which I know almost nothing; but now that you mention it, I can see those wings working for more northerly peoples as well. Thanks for pointing that out.

    I’m going to plant a kiss on that big bovine nose of yours, Jayne! You have such a way with words.

    There used to be a children’s program called Mr Dressup, Alyson, and Arthur’s dog reminds me of the puppet dog Finnegan — I couldn’t omit him after that, now, could I?
    I’m so glad you got your package on a day when it could do you good. You deserve cheer and charm. May 2011 hold plenty of both!

  6. pennycat says:

    You are amazing!! First to take on the challenge….far braver than I! I love the dragon and your rendition of Arthur and Guenever is great. How thoughtful of you to take the time and make the attempt. Great job! I would never give them away!!

  7. The colours are so vibrant! Lovely!

    Happy New Year!

  8. Tony says:

    Love the mediaeval Authur & Guinevere. Those darn gauntlet devouring hounds. Arthur must’ve thrown down the gauntlet & that’s when the hound devoured it

  9. lavenderbay says:

    I dunno, Pennycat, but I’m pretty sure the cerebral lobe for courage lies right next to that for folly. Anyway.
    When my dad retired, he finally had enough time for woodworking projects (as opposed to household repairs). He took snapshots of the toys, jewelry boxes, and furniture he made, and kept them in a photo album. I’m doing the same (when I remember!), so that I can give the cake and still have it.

    I love, love, love, LOVE bright, contrasting colours, S. Le! The vibrancy in the second picture may also come from a recent acquisition of several Winsor & Newton colours. The couple’s skintone, his tunic, her robe, and the wallpaper were all done using these top-quality paints.

    You’re probably right, Tony, Arthur has no one to blame but himself; if he picked up his clothes instead of hanging them up on the floor, these things wouldn’t happen.
    I like the way the original artist conveyed conversation with the figures’ hands, leaving their mouths closed. He must have seen one of your sheep cartoons.

  10. Anne Gibert says:

    I have been reading here for quite a while, and so how did I miss it that your are such a fine painter? Are these acrylics?

  11. lavenderbay says:

    Oh hi, Anne! Alas, no, these are watercolours; I often paint my subject before deciding whether I would have liked a filled-in background, hence all the uneven strokes from a small brush behind the dragon.
    I’ve had a few posts displaying my work this past month. You haven’t seen any of my attempts before this because I haven’t had/made time to pick up a brush for a year or more. It’s great to get back into splashing about.

  12. eyegillian says:

    I’m suddenly picturing an “Arthur and Gwenever” cartoon series… a droll conversation similar to your caption here, maybe with a series of animals, curtains falling, flaming puddings, y’know… acts of dog…

  13. lavenderbay says:

    Hmmm… Not so sure about that, Eyegillian. I think “Arlo and Janis” will always enjoy more popularity, being a couple of Middle Age instead of the Middle Ages.
    Oh, wait! You said “cartoon”, not “comic”. Pratfalls were ever the stuff of amusement. It might fly!

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