Sunday, May 17, 2009

California Fairy Tales (Confession)

California Fairy Tales is a book passed on by my mother. It was published in the late twenties, and is a mashup of legend and fairytale from many traditions, Spanish, Irish, Native American  and Chinese, supernatural creatures meeting up with the immigrants to California and working out ways to interact. That sounds so dry - they are very funny and whimsical stories, and have characters like the Freckle-faced Giant, the Big White Woolly lamb, the Learned Cat (I always think of him when I see this cat), and Pajaro, a tramp who became a sorcerer, whose "brains were buttered all over with surprise" by a piratical adventure he had one stormy night.
     The illustrations though...the illustrations are by C.E. Millard, there is not much about him on the net. But the illustrations turn line into an sinuous organic thing, particularly remarkable with his hand-lettered type - helpful in supporting an argument that words are living things. Below is an illustration that has stayed with me, and is the source of both my singing bird and flower-breathing dragon illustrations. Now you know - This artist is a magpie with borrowed diamonds! 

17 comments:

Jocelyn said...

Visiting your blog is such a pleasure; I learn so much from you. Also, I want to thank you for your comment on my vlog and for mentioning the annual illustrators' periodical; my husband is all excited about it and is tracking down a copy. He's felt like he's making stuff in a void, to a certain extent, and likes being able to see what else is out there.

And I can't remember if I've ever asked you if you've seen the work of Brian Andreas? When your work has captions/words on it, the spirit often reminds me of his words.

tony said...

Sounds Good.Is It still in Print (?)

ArtSparker said...

Tony -
I'm confused about this - as of a couple of months ago, it looked as if amazon had reissued it because it was out of copyright and there were new paperback copies available. However, I checked today, and I was only able to find second hand copies.

?

Chrisy said...

That book is a real treasure! And a heartfelt thank you for the insightful comments you leave on my blog...I often have to go and do some research afterwards and the results have enriched my thinking....

jude said...

a fabulous kind of perspective in that illustration...
i love when things stay with you.

rosedale's 4 head said...

perfect heirloom, for daughter-artist...nice

grrl+dog said...

YOu know, I have this theory that the art of a childhood favourite influences you throughout..
For me it was Edward Ardizzone.. I fell in love with line then, and the booksd I treasure turn out to be all illustrated by him. The witch family and Stig of the Dump being the top two.

ma grande folle de soeur said...

Hello Susan. I come everyday but doesn't have time enough to comment on your always extraordinary work... the translation of the haiku is something along this line: " the wind voices tell me the truth hiden by the sea". Have a good working § creative week..

Isabel said...

Ahhh what a book Susan! You are right, it reminds me of my old Chinese Folktales book.
I truly believe that everything we are exposed to in our upbringing reflects itself in facets of our life, our creativity, the way we intereact with people and nature. I have to check if my library carries a copy. Amazon only has a couple of used ones for sale, and I know I will love reading it.
The artwork your book inspired is truly beautiful!

matt dawson said...

There are so many 'shiny things' for an artist / illustrator magpie to look at. I say as long as you inject yourself into whatever you do homage is entirely allowed! Beautiful sinuous line work and really great hand lettering. LOVE your Alice pieces by the way... a wonderful extension of the originals!!!

Vanessa Brantley Newton said...

Can I say I just love coming to visit your blog. You are such a wonderful source of information and oh how I love your stories and findings! You amaze me with each entry! I just loved reading this! It was awesome! I love the picture as well.

Tammie Lee said...

This image will stay with me as well. You have posted a wonderful writeup on this book, making me want to read it and share it with children.
Thank you.

ps you are so observant to remember my previous budding tamarack photo to compare to the the recent one ;-)

Son of Incogneato said...

I’m thinking if an illustration-interested mad scientist were to do some gene splicing with the artistic DNA of Aubrey Beardsley and Kay Nielsen, this might be the resulting child.
Something about this classic b & w style that I just can’t get enough of.

As for your book California Fairy Tales, it looks like Kessinger Publishing Co. did a limited paperback reprint in 2004. Ecampus.com has a print-on-demand offer for 24 dollars.

From the web:
The Beggarstaffs, as well as Aubrey Beardsley and other British designers, in turn inspired American poster art. It is said the Beardsley's effect on the American, William Bradley, was so marked that the latter became known as the American Beardsley. Edward Penfield, too, fell under the Beardsley spell. Among other notable early American designers whose work is still seen or whose influence is still felt are F. G. Cooper, C. B. Falls, H. M. Meyers, C. E. Millard, Harrison Fisher and Adolph Treidler

Also - http://www.cartoonbrew.com/wp-content/uploads/colony1.jpg

Cheers!

ArtSparker said...

D- I like Edward Ardizzone a lot. I think he illustrated "Land of Green Ginger"? do you know William Steig - I'm very fond of his work too.

Son- I think Millard is Beardsley without the agenda, that is Beardsley brought a more deliberate (and dark) sensibility to what he was doing, while my impression is that Millard seems to take joy in whatever is around (in the story). But pretty much, I'll always pick the minor artist over the more famous one.

Adam said...

What a fascinating document, and an interesting influence. You can see the 1920s in the pictures, a time when flowery art nouveau was giving way to the smooth, monotone lines of art deco or modernism.

Coreopsis said...

I hadn't heard of this illustrator, though I LOVE that illustration. I'll have to check him out. I have books from my childhood which have illustrations that have inspired me my whole life.

And I wanted to say that I have so much appreciated your comments on my last several posts--very helpful! (and I totally agree with you on both of those--I did put a darker wash on the owl background, and rework the lap for the dog).

Sparkle Plenty said...

Man! What a treasure. I think I've got a book in the basement that you might like. If I can find it, I'll put up some photos!