Crooked Elf

 There was a crooked man, and he walked a crooked mile.

He found a crooked sixpence against a crooked stile.

He bought a crooked cat, which caught a crooked mouse,

And they all lived together in a little crooked house.

~ English Nursery Rhyme, There was a Crooked Man 

There once was a Crooked Elf who went by the name Kwissp E. Ceen. Not crooked in mind or deed, but in the spirit of the Bent, Slightly Twisted and Extremely Strange. He enjoyed many activities: walking crooked miles; finding crooked pennies to spend on smooshed glazed doughnuts or other irregular sweets; cataloging, archiving, and photographing all things crooked, bizarre and outlandish; getting lost in gardens and hothouses; and most especially playing hide-and-go-seek with his honorable friend, the most crooked and fluffy cat, Mimsy Poole.

Being a great appreciator of gardens, of course Kwissp tended to get lost in them. While rambling down some road or another he’d come across someone’s garden or hothouse and would be so enchanted by the sights and scents that he’d forget everything else. It always fell to Mimsy to find and bring him back home in order that he could get her supper and on occasion, a bit of catnap. This arrangement suited both of them. On one such day of rambles, Kwissp happened upon the garden belonging to Quentin the Vampire Botanist. And of course, he had never seen the like!

Magnificent flowers burst out of the ground in such a variety and a multitude of colors that Kwissp eyes crossed with delight. And what interesting flowers these were! Many of them had tiny vampire teeth or tiny vampire claws and some had both. How completely unexpected! How wonderfully, amazingly peculiar! And oh! He spotted a large conservatory. Imagine what might be growing in there! Like cream to pudding, he found himself deliciously drawn to the structure. Though he knew it was horribly impolite, he couldn’t help pressing his face to the glass and peering inside. Luckily Mimsy came to his rescue, for although she did share Kwissp’s admiration for gardens (what better place to take a well-deserved nap than under a lavender bush?), she couldn’t bear to see such an egregious breach of courtesy. Doing her cat best (which is infinitely better than a human’s), she urged him to knock on the owner’s door and gain permission to photograph, document, and classify each wondrous flora.

This could have turned out badly and may have even been the end of Kwissp. Quentin isn’t a social vampire, by any means. At best, he’s a recluse. At worse? Well, at worst let’s just say one should count themselves lucky indeed should they manage to even crawl away (with most body parts intact) from an encounter with Quentin. The only company he enjoys is that of his plants. Anyone or anything else is merely a nuisance…or lunch. Most fortunate for our crooked elf friend, it turned out that Quentin took a liking to him. This might be explained by their mutual affection and respect for plants. However, it didn’t hurt that the elf’s complexion was green as the leaves on the medicinal herb Groomwell. This could also mean that the Vampire Botanist may have devious (are there any other kind?) plans for Kwissp’s future.

I met Kwissp while sitting on a bench daydreaming in Quentin’s garden (I too, am allowed entry. Long story). He startled (nearly) the life out of me popping his little green face out of the orange, pink and golden tangle of some licorice vines (a new experiment of Quentin’s and exceptionally pretty). After I managed to get my heart out of my throat and back into my chest where it belongs, I asked if he minded that I sketch him. “Not a problem,” he says, “just so long as I can continue documenting these plants.” Since this bothered me not in the least, I sketched away. I think I captured his creepily soulful eyes quite well.

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Unscaredy Cat

Do the thing you fear most and the death of fear is certain.

~Mark Twain

Penelope the Cat once lived in dread of nearly everything. Especially high on her list were: giant spiders, trees with faces, dangling Jack ‘O Lanterns, and cat-eating flowers. As illogical as her fears may have seemed to others, she spent every waking moment and many sleepless nights living with a terrible anxiety that started like a hard ball in her small belly and seemed to shoot out her paws, tail, and whiskers. The fears were so big, that she wasn’t able to enjoy the wonderful people and treats when they came her way: Colleen, the nice old lady who always gave her lovely bits of cheese or fish, Danny, the neighborhood boy who delivered the papers and made a point of scratching Penelope in just the right spot, right behind her ears, and Lopsing, the Owl who watched over her, so she could try to sleep without worry.  Colleen, Danny, and Lopsing always had a kind word or a cookie for her. And they all told her that she needed to let go of her fears. Lopsing said to her on many occasions, “Enjoy what life offers, rather than worry over what may never be.”

We can’t ever seem to learn from what others say, even when it’s your best friends who say it, though can we? Penelope stubbornly continued hold onto her fears, refusing to attend parties with neighbors or go anywhere with anyone. She even began to avoid her best friends, believing that she was right and that someday her fears would be realized. “Then they’ll believe me,” she thought to herself. “Then they’ll know I was right.”

Not-so-strangely, one day it happened. While rushing to avoid one of her neighbors (who carried yet another invitation to yet another party) Penelope was so busy stealing looks behind her that she didn’t notice where she was going. She headed straight into the Big-Bad-Forest that lurks behind the fair and fog of every neighborhood. By the time she realized where she was, of course it was far too late! Running quickly can make one clumsy and directionless and she found herself smacking into a giant spider that hung from a very large tree with a face that had Jack ‘O Lanterns dangling from her branches and was surrounded by cat-eating flowers! Except…the flowers, though they did have amazingly sharp teeth didn’t want to eat her. The Jack O’ Lanterns, only smiled while dancing and dangling. The tree’s face was quite large, but also quite friendly. And the giant spider? Well, she only wished to have a chat. After all, cats didn’t drop into her lap every day.

Now if Penelope isn’t found entertaining at home you’ll find her attending a party at one of her neighbor’s homes. Otherwise? She’ll be in the Big-Bad-Forest having a gabfest with her newly found friends.

As is often the case for every one of us, Penelope’s fears turned out to be nothing more than whispers from dark, unused corners. Although at times those whispers can get terribly loud…

Titled “Unscaredy Cat,” I hand doodled the scene, scanned to my computer then using GIMP, added one of my photos of some dark clouds as the background.

Contrary Mary

Mary, Mary quite contrary,

How does your garden grow?

With silver bells, and cockle shells,

And so my garden grows.

~English Nursery Rhyme “Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary

Contrary Mary loved her garden and never wanted to be parted from it. Unless she was eating supper or sleeping, everyone knew that if they wanted to see Contrary the only way was to tromp around behind her cottage where they’d find her amongst the ferns, freesia, and feverfew. “Plants are much better than people and flowers far more beautiful,” she could often be heard to say. Her neighbor Quentin could not agree more.

Contrary did not care if it were a rainy a day. She would still spend hours in her garden, tending and babying her flowers, lucky ladies that they were. Far too busy snipping, trimming, mulching, and talking, she never bothered to protect herself from the elements. Daily her mother cried and wrung her hands while her father railed bitter warnings that she would catch her death. Contrary gave not a hoot and did as she pleased, day after day. Her parents should have known their counsel would be to no avail. They named her, did they not?

On that gloomiest of mornings when she fell quite ill, no one was really surprised it had happened, though it was sad none-the-less. The worst was to hear Contrary begging, “Do not part me from my garden, I care for naught else.”  No one could figure out how to get her bed out into the garden, so they settled on moving it to the back door, which they left wide open. Not the best of plans, leaving her exposed in this manner, but her pleas were so tearful. Contrary made all of them promise: father, mother, and older brother to bury her in her garden after she died. Her love was too great to be parted from it. It was her last wish and of course they could not refuse.

All fine and good, but Contrary happened to be admired quite secretively, by Quentin the Vampire Botanist who lived just down the road and across the way. He had long loved and admired her from afar. Viciously, he cursed his lack of fortitude, which caused him to delay and now never to tell her how he truly felt. If he had, she could be by his side, as his “Bella Vampress il Fiore” (when in a romantic mood, Quentin always thinks in Italian).  Unwilling to let her go, Quentin came up with an idea. Beware of ideas, my friend, for although some of these are quite grand, others can be just as easily quite tragic.

Utilizing his botanical science and his vampire magic, he infused her spirit with the fertile soil of her garden.

Now amongst all Quentin’s creature creations Contrary Mary’s ghost sprouts up in various guises and incarnations. She seems fond of changing her ectoplasmic outfits, as well as her hairstyle on a daily basis. What’s a lady ghost to do? She no longer has need for shoes.

As her name suggests, although she now can spend eternity with her beloved garden Contrary is, to put it mildly, annoyed with Quentin’s arbitrary decision to trap her essence this way. She expresses her annoyance in the only way available to her: by sprouting tiny thorns all over her stems. No one dare pick her, not even Quentin.

You may well wonder, if Contrary is a ghost why hasn’t she escaped? She can’t. Not yet. But if you witness the various expressions that move sometimes violently across her tiny ghost face, it’s not difficult to imagine that she’s working on it. And when she succeeds, which could be any day, I really wouldn’t want to be Quentin. Would you?

Inspired by the nursery rhyme, I drew Contrary Mary with a fine-tipped, black marker and then painted her using acrylics. Her story? After I finished painting her, she told it to me.

Doodle Framed!

Be still your rapidly increasing pulse. My doodles have not been set up nor are they in trouble with the law. As far as I know no one even has it in for any of my doodles. The title of this post refers to the action of placing one of my doodles in a frame. Big whoop, eh? It IS a big whoop! I’ve never framed one of my doodles…ever. I’ve framed photos that I’ve taken, but never a doodle.

I even painted the frame. Oh get me!

Without further gibberish, here’s my Step-by-Step Tutorial of Framing My Doodle:

1) Start with a frame. So far, so good.

Unfinished and very inexpensive (sounds better than cheap) wood frame. Poor little frame. It had no idea what was going to happen to it.
Note: I think calling this frame “unfinished” is misleading. What exactly is unfinished about it? It’s not like it’s in pieces and I had to put it together. I believe that undressed is a better term. Without your clothes are you “unfinished”?? I think not.

2) Beat up the frame a bit. Let out some of your aggression and it will give your frame that cool, distressed look. Distressed=beat up. I (lightly) used a butter knife and the opposite end of my artist brush. Note: Photos of this process were edited due to the graphic violence. The frame was indeed harmed, but only slightly.

3) Get some paints. In this case I chose silver, black, and dark teal. I use airbrush inks. I like their translucent quality. Plus they were on the clearance table at my local art shop. $0.99 each! Whoo-hoo!

Airbrush ink: translucent black and dark teal, and opaque silver. Part of my scattered workspace lies behind. Aren’t you glad you don’t live here?

4) Make sure you have one of these. Although, painting with one’s fingers does have its merits.

Yeah, I use airbrush inks without an actual airbrush. Why not? They’re just acrylics.

5) After removing the backing and glass insert, I generously painted the entire frame with the silver and let it dry for about an hour or so. I then lightly applied the black, some of which I used at its full inky strength and some of it I thinned with a small amount of water.

While I was painting, I imagined that the frame was actually made of silver. Pirates stole it from a lovely lady’s cabin. Originally, it held a portrait of the lady’s fiancé, who she was sailing out to meet. Of course the pirates had no use for a sentimental portrait, and after cutting the portrait from the frame they took it and the lady aboard their vessel. Their plan was to ransom the lady off to her fiancé. Only they never had a chance to do so. Ironically, these pirates were attacked by another band of pirates. After the looting and pillaging, they burned and then sank the ship. This frame is small, only 5″x7,” and it was missed during their raid. Sadly, it ended up at the bottom of the sea for over three hundred years.*

To give it that its-been-sitting-at-the-bottom-of-the-sea-for-over-three-hundred-years look, I used the teal ink thinned with a little water and a tiny amount of the black ink. Overall, I’m pleased with the results and for me that is huge.

My dressed frame. Not to be confused with a dressed salad.
I like how I managed to get that somewhat charred look about it. This whole distressed (beat up) thing is cool. It’s sort of organic and real. Even though it’s completely fake.

6) Get to doodling! Yeah, some might advise creating your art first and then framing it. I’m sort of a build-it-and-he/she/it-will-come sort of gal. So, I did the frame first and then decided on what to doodle. Did this add to the pressure while I doodled, knowing that a frame was awaiting its completion? Sure, but if we don’t challenge ourselves, where’s the fun?

7) Ta-da! Finished product.

Ta-da!

This particular framed doodle will be added to the Halloween Artist Bazaar’s Trick or Treat Giveaway, coming soon for (duh) Halloween. Now that I’ve opened the proverbial Pandora’s Box, I’ll be venturing further into my madness and dressing up more frames, filling them with doodles, and finally posting them to my Etsy Shop, Cards for a Gloomy Day.

Thanks for tuning in. You may now return to your regular program.

*But how did the frame get here when it was at the bottom of the sea? Obviously someone found it, but who? And what happened to the lady?? I’m working on it.

Carrothes Krazerous

Carrothes Krazerous is a member of the “How does Your Garden Groan” Plantvampings Series. What’s the “How does Your Garden Groan” Plantvamping Series? I’m asking myself the same damn question. 

I’m certain it won’t surprise you to hear that Carrothes has a majorly bad attitude. This attitude stems from his complete annoyance over the bright and cheerful orange color of his flesh. I cannot say that I blame him. Wouldn’t you be annoyed if you were orange? Since I didn’t want to cause him to go on a tear (have you noticed those teeth?), I decided that it best to doodle his portrait in black and white. I’m lucky that he sat for me at all. Actually, I’m lucky to be alive.

Like his creator the Great Vampire Botanist Quentin (who has become considerably more pretentious since my last encounter with him), Carrothes doesn’t like humans, except at mealtimes. But they must always be dressed. When Mr. Krazerous decides to have you for supper, he expects you to be wearing lots of butter and brown, organic sugar. A touch of cinnamon is always welcome. Go figure. Apparently it makes us taste better.

Although he looks small in this portrait, please note that I failed to include anything in the drawing to indicate scale. I’m fairly certain Carrothes would not have let me leave his cellar if I had! Although he may not appear frightening, he’s actually six foot, ten inches tall. Think about that for a moment. Are you back? Now then, would you want to meet up with 6’10” angry, chip-on-his-symbolic-shoulder vampire carrot in an alley? Or anywhere else for that matter? And not only are his teeth sharp, so are his wits. Do make sure that you keep yours about you.

Daiseous Vampireous

We always think of plants as pretty, decorative, and often useful. Other adjectives might include tame. Safe. We forget about carnivorous plants. Sure, those are dangerous to ants and flies, but what danger could they be to us? None. Until an introverted botanist named Quentin became a vampire. Quentin never connected to his fellow humans, preferring to spend all his free time in a garden or hothouse.  As a child he was heartbroken that the plants didn’t win at the end of “The Day of Triffids.”  Nothing has changed since he’s become a vampire and now the only way he relates to humans is as a food source.

Since he doesn’t associate with vampires any more often than he did with humans, to combat his lonely existence Quentin decided to experiment with his beloved flowers and plants. Daiseous Vampireous is his first achievement.

“The Day of the Triffids” would have ended differently in Quentin’s world and he has made very certain that his Plantvampings will always have the last word.

Vegetarians and florists, you’ve been warned.

Although Daiseous’ teeth are tiny, you should never judge something’s danger based on size. One mere scrape of those tiny teeth and you may never wake again. And her defenses do not end there. When she’s at rest, two small dragon leaves uncoil and stand guard over her. At her base, Oveous with its big, yellow eyes keeps watch. It would be unwise to skip through a field of Daiseouses. Luckily, there is only one of her. For now.

Bits, Bobs, and Frederick

His name is Frederick. A truly Old World gentleman. He enjoys long strolls along the Seine River, reading the latest books on meteors,  deep sea diving, and brownie tasting. He also has a penchant for ladies undergarments, but try not to focus on that, all right?

Frederick all set for his daily constitutional along the banks of the River Seine. He is not a lover of the sun, so he often sets off in the early morning hours or just after sundown. He’s wearing a new pair of sunglasses that he fashioned himself.