To celebrate last week’s paperback release of Petit Lot et le Grand Cor de la licorne, I’m giving away ebook editions of Littlelot and Petit Lot.
I am thrilled to present the final rendition of the illustration for the cover of Petit Lot et le Grand Cor de la licorne.
Littlelot celebrates the discovery of the Great Horn
11.5” x 15.5”
Watercolor, gouache, colored pencil
During our biweekly progress meetings I had occasion to talk with David about his art. He quoted an early twentieth-century painter by whose work he’s inspired:
“I have inherited that strange love for things remote.”
—N. C. Wyeth
“I imagine a more romantic time before the Internet,” David said, “before television and the telephone—even before photographs. Characters in this environment are less distracted. They interact with the world in a more tangible way, and the interaction creates stories that transcend the setting.”
David prefers to illustrate for narrative works, including book cover and interior illustrations, comics, and graphic novels, as well as articles, poems, and book excerpts. He tends to use traditional, old-school media: gouache, watercolor, acrylic, and pen and ink.
In the painting above, as in much of David’s work, there is no digital rendering.
See the illustration at previous developmental stages in the category Couverture on the book’s website. Tomorrow on that site I’ll show the book cover for the electronic edition.
For more of David’s art, browse his website.
Born and raised in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, David Jones crossed the country to study art on the West Coast. He graduated from the Academy of Art University in 2016 and makes his home now in San Francisco. David’s art is influenced by John Bauer, N. C. Wyeth, and Arthur Rackham, painters from a more romantic time.
Stephen Wendell is the author of the Littlelot series of books for children and the grown-ups who read to them. The English translation of his latest title, Petit Lot et le Grand Cor de la licorne, will be the next book in the series: Littlelot and the Great Horn of the Unicorn.
et le Grand Cor de la licorne
Electronic edition, October 27
Paperback edition, November 3
Since antiquity, Mont Valérien was a high place of churches and hermits. Then, in the 19th century, long-range cannon came into wide use.
Louis-Phillip, last King of the French, made Mont Valérien a domain of the state in 1830 and built a star-shaped fort atop the hill in the 1840s. It was the only fort of the Parisian defensive belt to hold out against the enemy in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71.
During the war, 10,000 cannon shots were fired from the 162-meter high fortress. The largest cannon, named “La Valérie” by the troops, weighed 14 tons and had a range of 8 km (5 mi.).
Almost 150 years later, the fort remains. Now a modern military installation, it’s open to the public only on la journée de la patrimoine, French heritage day. The rest of the year, the best view is from a park just outside the curtain wall. From there, all of Paris is at your feet, and Tour Montparnasse is 8 km away…
In time primordial, before there were such things as music, story, or any art,
Earth and Sky were quiet, for no thought could yet be formed.
High atop Mount Helicon a winged horse touched hooves to ground,
Where sprung from Earth a fountain, jet of water unto Sky.
So from Gaia Mother Earth and Uranus Father Sky,
Were begat Melete and Mneme and Aoide, Muses of practice, memory, and song.
The concept of an inspirational muse was born as early as the eighth century BC. In that period, Hesiod dedicates the poetic Theogony as “a rhapsody in honor of the Muses.”
In his Description of Greece, the AD seventh-century Greek tourist Pausanias tells of two generations of Muses. The first consists of three elder Muses, daughters of Gaia and Uranus, born as water nymphs on Mount Helicon.
A second generation, offspring of the god-king Zeus and the memory goddess Mnemosyne, gives us the nine Muses of classical Greek mythology. Pausanias has the sisters comfortably installed in their home at the top of Mount Parnassus, one of Greece’s highest peaks.
Each Muse presides over her own domain:
Calliope — eloquence, epic poetry
Clio — history
Euterpe — music, song, lyric poetry
Erato — love poetry, elegy
Melpomene — tragedy
Polyhymnia — hymns, lyric poetry, pantomime
Terpsichore — dance
Thalia — comedy
Urania — astronomy
Relief sculpture of the nine Muses
from a second-century Roman sarcophagus, now at the Louvre
Such was the status quo until the seventeenth century, when artists, inspired by the Muses, began to imagine each their own personal muse:
“In the seventeenth century, muse was extended to the inspiration of each poet (1665, Boileau), often evoked in the feminine…”
—Muse entry from a French language historical dictionary, Dictionnaire historique de la langue française, Alain Rey (translation mine)
Instead of inspiring the multitude, the third generation muse tends to the creative spark within an individual artist. Furthermore, while in previous generations muses were feminine, in modern times a muse’s gender is open to the artist’s interpretation:
“Traditionally, the muses were women, but mine’s a guy; I’m afraid we’ll just have to live with that.” —Stephen King, On Writing
Meanwhile, still in the seventeenth century, students at the University of Paris, La Sorbonne, held regular poetry recitals to test their wit. They chose for their venue the Pré-aux-Clercs, an abandoned stretch of land along the Seine given to the university by Charlemagne and neighbored by the Church of Saint-Germain des Prés.
In addition to love sonnets and heroic epics, bawdy limericks and derisive satire were among favorite forms. These later, fueled by quantities of alcohol and directed at clergy and church ladies, prompted a veritable war between students and churchmen. At least one death was reported in ensuing riots. Eventually, the university sold the land, and the students were encouraged to take their Dead Poets Society elsewhere.
On the outskirts of the city, a mound of rubble, piled up from a nearby stone quarry, became a convenient dumping ground. Once the city walls were pushed beyond the man-made hill, the dumping ceased, and nature reclaimed its rights.
Over time the mound was packed into a smooth hillock. It was covered with high grass and rampant weeds when the student poets moved in. Having learned well their lessons in Greek mythology, they welcomed inspiration to the recital space by naming the hill after the Greek home of Muses.
In this seventeenth-century drawing by Israel Silvestre, the butte of Montmartre rises in the background, while the artist does his work on Mont de Parnasse (foreground)
The hill itself is long gone now, flattened to make way for Parisian boulevards. However, the name remains. As the city grew, the neighborhood that sprouted up around the old trash heap became known as Montparnasse.
Most recently, in the 1970s, the city’s only sky scraper was pulled up out of the ground: Tour Montparnasse, new home for muses.
The first part of this article is myth: “a usually traditional story of ostensibly historical events that serves to unfold part of the world view of a people or explain a practice, belief, or natural phenomenon” (Merriam-Webster). In this case, the myth explains the source of human inspiration.
The second part is legend: “a story coming down from the past; especially one popularly regarded as historical although not verifiable” (Merriam-Webster). Though many guide books and historical street atlases make reference to the hell-raising student poets, I've found no primary source to support the story.
The map is oriented with north to the lower left corner. “Mont de Parnasse” is found in the upper right. The site today is Place Pablo-Picasso in the 6th arrondissement. It’s completely flat.
I recited the legend of the Great Horn of the Unicorn and went on to describe the image I had in mind. I knew exactly what I wanted for the book cover. The difficulty lay in putting the image into another mind—one attached to an artist’s hand.
The target of this latest attempt was the mind of Cris Hammond, who now pulled a graphite point across rough grain paper. As a kind gesture, he agreed to make a sketch I could show to potential illustrators.
Sketchpad on knee, Cris began to draw. He guided the pencil, held between thumb and two fingers, in smooth broad curves and quick strokes. The wrist remained fixed, the elbow supple. The artist directed the work from the shoulder. I listened to the scratching of pencil on paper and resisted the urge to peek.
Twenty minutes later, Cris held up the pad. “What do you think?”
“That’s it. That’s the image in my head!”
This sketch by Cris Hammond is being further developed by another artist to become the cover illustration for
Cris also gave me the name of an artist he thought capable of realizing the illustration. In October, we’ll see the finished drawing by David Jones.
San Francisco Bay area artist and writer Cris Hammond earned fame as a nationally syndicated cartoonist with “Speed Walker, Private Eye” in the 1980s. After one career in special effects design at Industrial Light and Magic and another as a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, he navigated the rivers and canals in southern France aboard a barge with his wife, Linda, mooring for a few years at the Port de l’Arsenal in Paris. There he painted landscapes of the French countryside and wrote a memoir of the journey, From Here to Paris. Cris is also the author of Short Pours: The Stan Chronicles, a short fiction collection set on the U.S. west coast.
Returned to the homeland last year, Cris and Linda are planning their next adventure from Sausalito, California.
Between the Second French Revolution (1830) and the Third (1848), was the reign of Louis-Philippe. France would later have one more emperor, but Louis-Philippe was its last king.
During the First French Revolution, the ruling National Convention abolished the monarchy. Beginning in 1792, a series of parliamentary regimes called the First Republic followed. It was a period of wars and civil unrest that began with the Terror and gave way to the First Empire in 1804.
After the fall of Napoléon I in 1815, the monarchy was restored. Under Louis XVIII then Charles X, though the King of France was limited by a constitution, he still enjoyed divine right and the nation conceded to the absolute sovereign.
This period, called the Restoration, ended with the Trois Glorieuses, the Second Revolution named after the “Three Glorious” days in July, 1830, in which it took place. The last king was then installed. No divine right, no absolute sovereign, not even properly King of France, Louis-Philippe was titled “King of the French.”
Occupied with matters of state and his own head, Louis-Philippe, like the Restoration kings before him, paid little attention to the state of the capital. This was Victor Hugo’s Paris: impoverished, polluted, overpopulated, and disease-ridden. The growing working class, fuel for a nascent industrial economy, crowded the city center. Population density rose to 100,000 per square kilometer (compared to today’s 20,000/km2), a propitious environment for the spread of cholera. Above this cityscape, increased iron and coal production clouded the air with black soot.
In winter 1837, Jean-François Millet left his Normandy homeland. In a letter to Alfred Sensier, the peasant-painter later wrote (translation mine):
“I left with a heavy heart, and everything I saw on the road and in Paris only afflicted me more. Seeing the wide, straight roads, the trees in lines, the flat plains, the pastures so rich in verdure and livestock, that they seemed to me rather theater decor than real nature…! And Paris, black, muddy, smoky, where I arrived one evening, was for me the most painful as well as the most discouraging.”
Les Halles by Léon Augustin Lhermite (1895)
Get the paperback edition of
The Way to Vict’ry: Haiku Illustrated by Cristina Basile
at up to half off the cover price
This offer won't last long — Get it now!
|Taxes not included|
The Way to Vict’ry
Three haiku about success, happiness,
“The most extraordinary book
The proof copy of The Way to Vict’ry: Haiku Illustrated by Cristina Basile has arrived! It looks great, but the printed proof reveals a couple problems that can be fixed.
Perfection is possible on rare occasions. This is one.
The corrections are easily made, and the proofing process will require only a couple more days delay. I look forward to the release announcement around the middle of the week.
Keep a peregrine’s eye out for that, because I expect to launch with a special reduced price for the first few days.
Title haiku and facing illustration from the proof copy
The Way to Vict’ry
“The most extraordinary book
In ebook and paperback editions
This is a layout preview of the second haiku from the paperback edition of The Way to Vict’ry: Haiku Illustrated by Cristina Basile, scheduled for release Friday, July 28.
The Kindle edition is available now.
The Way to Vict’ry
“The most extraordinary book
In ebook and paperback editions
Now that the statute of limitations has run out on aiding and abetting escape from an institution of higher education, I can make it generally known that Bruce Nellsmith was my mentor and art professor at Newberry College.
For three semesters, Bruce and I drank Chock full o’Nuts from the all-day pot and discussed philosophy, the nature of art, and the artist’s challenges. Mixed aromas of burnt coffee, turpentine, and linseed oil filled the studio, and Lou Reed jangled lyrics over guitar rhythms, while I pushed thick paint across canvas and plotted evasion.
In those days, Bruce painted over-sized pieces, which only galleries could accommodate. The artist justified the choice, “This isn’t the kind of thing somebody’s going to hang on a wall over the sofa anyway.”
Indeed, critics raved about the abstract images in earth tones until, looking closer, they understood the subject matter. Then they were outraged by the socio-political themes and wanton violence.
Bruce’s art has evolved since then. These days he spends a few weeks in France every year, touring the country and drawing inspiration from meandering streets and shady avenues, crowded markets and bridges over languid rivers. He winds up the tour in Paris, where he and I got to catch up last month over drinks at a terrace café in the Marais.
I asked him what happened to the enormous canvases and grim topics.
His reply: “Eventually, I decided to paint what appeals to me, what moves me, and let go of the political statements.”
Bruce told me about his current exhibit, “A French Connection,” at Ellis-Nicholson Gallery in Charleston, South Carolina, which showcases work from his tours in France. It’s more colorful, less controversial, and it fits conveniently on a wall above the sofa.
The images here are from that show.
Bruce Nellsmith is Professor of Visual Arts at Newberry College, South Carolina. He splits time between teaching in Newberry and working at a studio on the beach in Edisto, where he lives with his wife, Kathy.
An art degree stuffed inside his shirt, Stephen Wendell escaped from Newberry College over 25 years ago. Now a writer, he enjoys working with more talented artists to make beautiful books. His latest collaborative endeavor, The Way to Vict’ry: Haiku Illustrated by Cristina Basile, is available this month in ebook and paperback editions.