Saturday, January 24, 2009

Climbing/Excelsior

This entry for illustration friday was inspired by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's ode to untethered (possibly unhinged) heroism, Excelsior, the first stanza of which reads:

The  shades of night were falling fast
As through an Alpine village passed
A youth, who bore, 'mid snow and ice,
A banner with the strange device -
                                           Excelsior!

Oh dear, I see I have left the exclamation point off...in any case, I was introduced to this poem in The Thurber Carnival, James Thurber being a domestic diety in my childhood home. You can see Thurber's own interpretation here. I think I made the climber a fair-haired Englishman because I had in the back of my mind the Scott expedition member Captain Oates who famously said "I am just going out and I may be some time". If you would like to see some actual icy expanses, Transient Lives has posted a virtual tour of a glacier in Patagonia.

Edit: Avid reader has commented that I left the L out of the banner. It was not intended to make the piece more editorial and is in fact an error...I will have to see if my conscience forces me to fix it in the course of the day, or I leave it as a happy accident. [Fixed]

23 comments:

Eva said...

This reminds me of the dry comment my mother used to murmur, when she heard about some accident of mountaineers: "What for did they creep up there?"

John said...

I like it ..makes me feel like climbing to the top

ArtSparker said...

Heh. Eva, I can imagine that the no doubt practical inhabitants of the Alpine village would look upon the climber pictured with more bewilderment than admiration.

Vanessa Brantley Newton said...

I just love when you do this style of your illustrations!! It's straight delicious and fun and has a cool vintage quality that is so fabulous. I could just see you doing a short film in this style with like cutouts of your work. It's just yummy to me!!! I love it!

j. said...

i really like this a lot.
it's one of my favourite of the things you've done.

bindu said...

The illustration is very fitting! Thanks for linking to my glacier pictures in this post. I'm thrilled that you liked them enough to do so! I will be posting some more - close-ups of the ice taken from on top of the glacier next.

ThomasLB said...

Nicely done!

mouse (aka kimy) said...

and how delightful that the link you included which took us to the thurber illustration...and longfellow's poem also included a poetic parody by the ever whimsical edward lear!!!

Avid Reader said...

Is it just me or did you leave an L out?

Avid Reader said...

Maybe Excesior is a nod to excess? time to be frugal?

Avid Reader said...

How rude of me not to mention the quality of the artwork, well-done again! The whole winter (practically the whole winter) lies before me , I should get out my pencils and do something. You've inspired me time and time again.

I am a said...

i like the deep orangy black of the sky.

California Girl said...

Okay. You caught my attention with this one. Thurber, Jean Shepherd, Longfellow? Never would have linked them all.

Paula. said...

I love it. Beautiful houses. :) ;)

tut-tut said...

hey, even without the L and ex pt, I like it, a lot!

grrl+dog said...

This illo instantly transports me to my childhood texts, the Struwelpeter, a darkly gothic bit of german propaganda for kids on the dire things that will happen to you if you dont eat your soup and cut your fingernails.

And you left the L out to see if we were all awake, didn't you?

To lodge in our subconscious like a subliminal message to excel.

oh, and - no banana. You have to think like a guerilla to get the answer.

Nao said...

I thought for sure the L was missing for some kind of fabulous artistic reason, that not being an illustrator, I was simply missing some kind of important and ironic point. You are after all delightfully witty Susan, and you always amaze me in that department.
Great illustration! Great poem! Great everything!

Michael O'Connell said...

wonderful work… not only do i admire your fantastic ability with pictures… and words… and the ability to make me stop (for even a moment) and think… i do admire the fact that there is just so MUCH in your posts…

get zapped said...

LOL, what an interesting post, so full of life and fervor. I truly enjoyed the process as it make the illo even more powerful!

Peter Breese said...

Wonderful, really like the background on the black and white line work.

Thank you for the supportive words on my blog!

aimee said...

what an excellent drawing and literary tie-in!

carla said...

This works well on all counts! I love the contrast between the background and the drawing in the foreground. carla

Carmen Saldaña said...

Great illo!
I like the combination between the white figures and the colored sky. Very powerful!