Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Snow Queen: 2 of 7

I regret that I still cannot weigh in on The Snow Queen as a whole, as I still have yet to finish reading it!  The first installment describes a sinister mirror that reflected things that were good and honorable unfavorably, and evil things beautifully.  The second story documents how fragments of that mirror lodged themselves in the eye and heart of a little boy, and how he was changed as a result.

Second Story:

A Little Boy and a Little Girl

“'Have they a queen bee?,' asked the little boy, for he knew that the real bees had a queen."
[Graphite on Moleskine]

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Snow Queen: 1 of 7

The Snow Queen is a tale in seven stories, so I deemed it worthy of seven drawings.

Story the First,

Which Describes a Looking-Glass and the Broken Fragments.

"...the people became hideous, and looked as if they stood on their heads and had no bodies."
[Grapite. Moleskine. ~2x4"]

What is it about drawing terribly ugly things that I find so satisfying?

Oh, and Happy Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Pine Tree

The Pine Tree (or, The Fir Tree, if you like) was an especially depressing read for me.  I find it nearly impossible to summarize the moral of this tale without spoiling it completely, so I won't try.  I encourage you to read it yourself - a recommendation that I make startlingly seldom on this blog.

Thus, without further ado, I give you my chosen quote (taken entirely out of context of course, just to be silly, and because it mentions bacon - [what's more popular than bacon these days, eh?])

"It is a particularly uninteresting story.  Don't you know any about bacon or candle stumps?"
[Graphite. Paper. 7x4.5"]

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Hideously Ugly Duckling

Everyone's heard some incarnation of The Ugly Duckling, so I won't bore anyone with the content of the story.  My illustration today doesn't exactly resemble a duckling or a baby swan, but I'm pretty sure I nailed the "ugly" part.

"...that is not a turkey; how well he uses his legs, and how upright he holds himself!"
[Graphite. Moleskine. 4"x6"]

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Sweethearts

... Or, The Top and the Ball, which leaves (regrettably) less to the imagination.

I read three different translations of the final two lines of this story, and the clear winner is as follows:

"You get over it when your beloved has lain in a gutter and oozed for five years.  You never recognize her when you meet her in the garbage bin."
[Haugaard translation]
[Ink / Copic. Sketchbook paper]

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Nightingale

"In China, you know, the emperor is a Chinese..."

What a great first line.  

I read The Nightingale a long time ago, and I can't fully remember how it went.  I started re-reading it, but when I got to the bit about the clockwork nightingale, I knew what I'd be drawing, and didn't feel like reading the rest of the story again.

I guess he's a little bit of a throwback to my Unnatural Miscellany series from last year.

"...the artificial bird sang only waltzes."
[Graphite. Paper. Smallish]

Friday, August 26, 2011

Death, God, and Flowers. And Doodles.

The Angel seemed nothing but a hurdle to be cleared right from the get-go. I can't believe I let it hang over my head for so long.

In The Angel, Andersen weaves yet another tale of Death, God, and Flowers; which I have come to believe are his three favorite themes. In fact, I'm beginning to suspect that nearly all of his stories can be more or less sorted into three categories: those centered around the theme of Death, those that are about God or Christian values, and stories about Flowers.

Anyway, I wasn't too keen on illustrating anything too central to themes of The Angel, but the prospect of drawing sick children held some appeal.  Alas, a fear of stealing outright from Edward Gorey's Gashlycrumb Tinies paired with the general half-heartedness with which I approached this story resulted in no more than a notebook page filled with doodles of pitiful-looking children.  I'm ready to move on, so I'll just post said doodles, and do just that.

“Down in that narrow lane, in a low cellar, lived a poor sick boy..."
[Graphite + Ink. Notebook paper. 8.5" x 10.5"]
This little guy is my favorite of the bunch.  Maybe I'll do something with him someday.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Buckwheat

Before reading Hans Andersen's The Buckwheat, I knew very little about buckwheat.  This limited information included namely that a) you can make pancakes out of it, and b) said pancakes taste much like dirt.  After reading (or sort of skimming, rather) The Buckwheat, I learned that it is a) a proud grain, and being so, b) it is particularly susceptible to lightning.

I'll go so far as to say that Andersen doesn't seem to have looped back around into sappy territory, but we are well within the realm of the tedious allegory.  See also: The Garden of Eden.  

I couldn't bear to do any translation comparison here, as I scarcely made it through two of the dullest pages I've ever attempted to read.  Having survived (remaining awake, at that!) I concluded that rather than drawing some buckwheat, I'd prefer to draw (as the story's title suggests, anyhow) THE Buckwheat.

“I am as valuable as any other corn.”
[Graphite. Moleskine. 4x6"]

And so I did.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Ach, du Lieber Augustin!

How silly of me!  I should have known that the one time I read only one translation, that would be the time that a real talking point would sneak by me.

While searching out the next story in chronological order in my Haugaard edition, I caught a glimpse of the ending of The Swineherd, not having read this translation of it before; you might recall.  What grabbed me right away was a conspicuous couplet in the center of the page:

"Ach, du lieber Augustin,
Alles is weg, weg, weg."

Conspicuous, of course, as it was written in a foreign language.  The version of The Swineherd I'd read was entirely translated to English.  Right away I sensed that these lines did NOT translate to "A jolly old sow once lived in a sty / Three little piggies has she…"  (yes, it was probably the proper noun, "Augustin," that tipped me off).

So, I typed the lines into Google and got my answer.  The original is actually a Viennese, plague-era folk song, Oh, du Lieber Augustin, and is about a bard who is nearly buried alive among the dead.  Nothing about pigs.  Wikipedia even includes a footnote referencing Andersen's use of a (modified) version of the song in The Swineherd.  It roughly translates to something like," Oh, dear Augustin / All is lost."  Of course, this fits the story as well, as the princess indeed loses everything in her greed and shallowness.  The use of this song rather than the one about the sow adds depth and the bitterness Andersen can't seem to resist to the tale.

And to think, I even used it in my caption!  I'll be more careful next time - which, if you're wondering, will be The Buckwheat.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Swineherd

The Swineherd wasn't exactly remarkable, but I liked that it was about a bitch getting her comeuppance - and hey, pigs.

I only bothered to do a quick, simple little doodle (although, I did bother to color it, as I'm rather in love with my Copic pens and eager for an excuse to use them).  I figured I've been drawing enough nasty pigs lately, and went for super-cute ones this time.  I've depicted the swineherd/prince character as a sort of wizard-like figure, and I guess he sort of is a wizard.

“A jolly old sow once lived in a sty,
Three little piggies has she,” &c.
[Copic. Sketchbook Paper. 6x4.5"]

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Sustainable Fertilizers for Flowering Shrubs

No, that's not the name of today's Hans Andersen tale, but it is relevant.  I just thought I'd title this entry something more eye-catching than the plain old story title; today's being The Rose Elf (or, The Elf of the Rose).  For those of you keeping score at home: this time, I only read one translation, that being the Haugaard.  I don't suspect there should be significant variations here, but for transparency's sake I'll disclose that I haven't yet read the translation I linked above.

Getting on with it then:

Any reader of some of Hans Andersen's more obscure works will notice that his storytelling (I say storytelling here, rather than writing - see next paragraph) seems to lack planning of any kind.  A story will begin about one thing, quickly shift to another, and more often than not, come to an abrupt and unexpected end, sloppily tying off, rather than weaving in, all the loose ends Andersen left hanging along the way.  So it goes with The Rose Elf, a story that begins about a tiny elf dwelling among the roses, and ends up a grisly murder tale centered around a severed head kept in a flower pot.  Oops, spoilers.  Nobody actually reads these stories, right?  Nobody even reads this blog, surely.

Anywho.  I suppose I should not be surprised at this lack of planning.  With a bit of imagination, I can clearly picture Andersen, huddled by a dwindling fire in a rustic cottage, surrounded by, oh, some fifty or so filthy, sick, and dying children.  In a malnourished stupor, he attempts to spin a yarn that will shut them up and/or briefly take their minds off of how frozen and starving they are.  Needless to say, the story need not be terribly cohesive or even interesting.
**The preceding has been a FICTIONALIZED DRAMATIZATION.  I have NO IDEA whether Andersen was poor or wealthy, had children or not, etc.  And for once, I'm not bothering to do A LICK of research.**
How all the bizarre false starts and plot holes got into the versions that were actually written down on paper is beyond me, but that's my little story, and it's good enough for me.

Without further ado, two versions (colored and uncolored) of my illustration for The Rose Elf.  Enjoy.

"...she took the largest flower-pot she could find, and in this she placed the head of the dead man, covered it up with earth, and planted the twig of jasmine in it."

[Copic. Moleskine. 5x8"]

If they look slightly different to you, that's because they are.  Neither are scans, they're low-quality photos with skewed perspective.  I'd ask which one you prefer, but the point is moot, as the b&w one doesn't exist anymore, having become the color one.

Sunday, July 10, 2011


When I guessed that the next story would not be as sappy as A Rose From Homer's Grave or The Friendship Pact, I must confess, I was not completely in the dark.  I'd been reading in my (chronologically arranged, print, Haugaard edition) and peeked ahead enough to see that the next story, The Sandman, looked much more fanciful and interesting than the previous two had been.  When I finally did read it (taking a break from Jeff Mudgett's Bloodstains [frightful - not so much for the content as for Mudgett's artless writing and self-indulgent frame story]) I found it to be precisely that, with (when will I learn to expect this?) a dark twist at the end that I somehow failed to see coming.

I haven't been able to carve out much time for this blog at all lately, so recent posts have more or less abandoned my comparative study of different translations.  When I opted to read this tale on my Kindle (translated by Anon) for convenience, I noticed that I couldn't find it by searching for "sandman."  Further investigation via Wikipedia revealed that the story I sought was actually more commonly known as Ole-Luk-Oie or Ole Lukøje.  Indeed, the Kindle edition titles it Ole-Luk-Oie, The Dream God.

Ole-Luk-Oie is interchangeable enough with the figure the English-speaking world calls The Sandman; he sprinkles sand in the eyes of children, making them drift off to sleep, then decides whether or not to bless their sleep with dreams (by the means of magical umbrellas) depending on whether they have been good or bad.  At first, I (reluctantly) convinced myself that it didn't do terrible harm to the tale's integrity to call Ole-Luk-Oie "The Sandman" instead.  I'm assuming the change was made so that English-speaking readers would not stumble over an unfamiliar and difficult-to-pronounce name when a suitable substitute was so readily available.  That excuse, however, only made me wonder why Haugaard would keep the name of the child in the story, Hjalmar, the same, but not Ole's.  If you're changing names for the sake of simplicity, why didn't Haugaard just call the kid Bobby or something?  Not to mention, just how suitable is this substitution?

I read along and found that the story was largely unaffected by the name-change, that is, up until the end.  I'll go ahead and say SPOILER ALERT here, just in case anyone wants to read it for themselves.  After telling Hjalmar  a week's worth of stories (i.e.: giving him a week's worth of dreams), Ole-Luk-Oie introduces Hjalmar to his brother, who happens to go by the same name, Ole-Luk-Oie.  The Kindle edition, earlier on, had revealed that "Luk-Oie" literally means "eye-closer," and while the first Ole closes children's eyes every night when they go to bed, his brother, also known as Death, only closes a particular pair of eyes once.  I figured that was reason enough for a translator to have kept the original name intact.  It makes sense that the "eye closer" would bring either sleep or death, while, in my experience at least, the popular image of The Sandman dealt exclusively in sleep: harmless, albeit creepy.

While I always thought the idea of the Sandman was a little scary, I'd never heard of him being the brother of Death.  Death, the second Ole-Luk-Oie, is a benevolent figure in the story, yet one can't help being just a little creeped out by him.  What little research I did (again, going only as far as Wikipedia could take me) mentions nothing about The Sandman being kin to Death, (although the Wikipedia entry relies heavily on Andersen's Ole to flesh out the content).  Furthermore, Ole Lukøje is said to actually be Morpheus, the Greek Dream God.  Morpheus, in turn, is not specifically cited as being the origin of the Sandman character (except in the Neil Gaiman series).  Therefore, they seem to be fairly distinct characters.  Why confuse things?

Anywho, I can't resist drawing an umbrella, so here you go.

"But the other umbrella has no pictures, and this he holds over the naughty children so that they sleep heavily, and wake in the morning without having dreamed at all."
[Graphite. Moleskine.  5x8"]

For absolutely no reason I have made Ole's umbrella a Kasa Obake, a spirit I'd researched when I was planning a series of drawings of legendary beasts (since abandoned).  Although, maybe it makes more sense than I thought: Ole being an ancient god, his umbrella(s) are bound to be at least one hundred years old.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

A Rose From Homer's Grave

I think I may be reaching the end of Hans Christian Andersen's sappy phase (I don't want to speak to soon, the sappiness very well might return). Anyway, A Rose From Homer's Grave was pretty sappy indeed, but a brief mention of sprawled-out camels inspired this doodle.

Speaking of camels, have you heard THIS??

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, May 16, 2011

Hans Meets Wes

So, I bet you're wondering, "what's with the goofy title?"

I read The Friendship Pact, a.k.a. The Shepherd's Story of the Bond of Friendship, long, long ago.  Probably even before that last *cough*filler*cough* post.  It inspired in me a very specific idea for an illustration.  So specific, and - dare I say - so grand, was this idea, that I knew I could not (or at least, would not) devote the time and energy toward doing it justice.  Thus in the grand tradition of How Sarah Does Shit, I put it off forever and ever until I finally just wound up doing a kind of pared-down, half-assed version of my original, fantastic idea.

Have I overhyped it?

The Friendship Pact - yes, I prefer the shorter title - in short, tells the tale of a guy, (presumably a shepherd, as per the wordy translation of the title - honestly it's been so long since I read it I don't remember whether he was a shepherd or what, but I don't feel like re-reading it now) who has an adopted sister and a best buddy.  Stuff happens, the two friends make some elaborate pact of friendship, and in the end, they confess to each other that they are both in love with the shepherd's adopted sister.  Upon reading this, a veritable Christmas tree's worth of tiny light bulbs went on in my Wes Anderson-obsessed brain.  Of course!  It's just like The Royal Tenenbaums!  How profound!  

Several minutes later, said brain was even heard to exclaim, "Andersen, Anderson; brilliant!!"

The original (and fabulous) plan was to draw the three main characters of the Andersen tale as Richie and Margot Tenenbaum and Eli Cash performing the friendship pact as per the story.  Who would've guessed I'd never follow through with that one, eh?  So, in the end, I just did a little sketch of Margot and Richie from a screencap.  Lame as it may be, I'll still consider it a little homage to one of the best films EVAR, and a little portrait practice.  My likenesses pretty much suck.  Oh well.
Kudos to moleskine paper for taking all my erasing like a champ.

You're in love with Richie. Which is sick. And gross
Graphite on moleskine. 

Saturday, February 12, 2011

First Anniversary

How silly of me.  I let the one-year anniversary of my Hans Christian Andersen project go by unnoticed.  Honestly, I only just realized it myself.  I posted my first illustration for The Tinder Box on 25 January of last year.  Since then I've managed to do drawings for an astounding 17 stories (16 within the year from my launch date) - a far cry from doing all 156 of them in a year like I'd sort of hoped at first (even though I knew that was basically impossible).  Ah, well - 139 to go.  Or, to put it visually:

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Bronze Pig

I read The Bronze Pig (The Metal Pig, according to older translations, which actually say that the pig was made of brass) some time ago, but have only just gotten around to doing a drawing from it on account of some turbulence in my life.  (Speaking of my life, I showed some art this past weekend at Zeitgeitst's Analog Frontiers show - it's up until the end of March, I believe.) Anyway, The Bronze Pig is sort of an art-appreciation story for children.  (Maybe I should do a fully illustrated version and pitch it to some publishing houses as such?)  The statue of a pig comes to life and escorts a street urchin around Florence, exposing him to such works of art as Michelangelo's David.  These adventures inspire the child to devote his life to art, he achieves some success, and - almost as an afterthought to the body of the story - dies.  I suppose Andersen at the last regretted not making this tale more morbid, and tacked on that last little detail: that, in death anyway, this young artist gained recognition.
It has become my custom to illustrate specific lines from these stories; the ones I found especially irresistible.  I haven't done that this time*, instead I've chosen to depict the scene in which the pig and his young charge gaze in awe upon the statue of David, who - if only in part - was a pleasure to draw.  And, what can I say?  I heart drawing piggies.

The little boy said not a word; he was half pleased and half afraid.
[Graphite. Moleskine. 5x8"]

* If I were to choose such a delicious line from this story, it may very well be this one: "it is quite a picture to see a half-naked boy clasping the well-formed creature by the head, as he presses his rosy lips against its jaws."

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Other Pigs

What I said previously about the storks was probably a lie.  My Avicides idea has been ditched, or at least put on hold indefinitely.  I enjoyed reading The Bronze Pig/The Metal Pig, but have not done my illustration yet.

In the meantime, here are the pigs I have been working on:

Monday, January 17, 2011


Avicide (n) the killing of a bird or birds; also, something used to kill birds

It seems everywhere I turn, I find more dead birds.

A simple illustration this time for The Storks, (but with paint this time - how exciting!) because I think there is much, much more to come based on this story.


[Acrylic + Graphite. Moleskine. 5x5"]

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Flying Trunk

After reading The Garden of Eden, I flipped a few pages further along and noticed that the next story, The Flying Trunk, was quite short, so I went ahead and read it, too.  I did not like it.  The tale reaches something of a climax with the main character telling some kind of (allegorical? perhaps just nonsensical)  tale about kitchen matches, so I've taken this opportunity to do a little exercise of a still life drawing featuring a jar of burnt-up matches that have been collecting on my kitchen window sill.  I've always admired artists who could paint trompe l'oeil pictures of glassware, what with all the reflections and shadows and transparency - it presents quite a challenge.  Those things are not easy to draw in pencil, either, but where I really failed with this one is with the shapes.  I have a tendency to hold my paper at an angle while I draw, thus making all my shapes look distorted when I hold it up straight.  D'oh!
May I present what is probably the most awkward thing I've drawn in recent memory (but I suppose a crap story deserves a crap drawing):

"I feel as if I were really in the kitchen, and could see the matches; yes, you shall marry our daughter.”
[Graphite. Moleskine sketchbook. 5x~3"]

How's that for a caption?  Yep, that's how wacky this story was.
Wow, three posts already this year?

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Garden of Eden

Haugaard translates the title of this tale as The Garden of Eden. Older translations call it The Garden of Paradise. Either way, I suppose you'd call it a Christian parable about man's inability to resist temptation. I won't dwell on the story; I spent far enough time poring over the illustration. What started as something simple quickly evolved into a fairly intricate and detailed work. I thoroughly enjoyed creating it, in fact, I couldn't put it down.

"Why, frost is my greatest delight."
[Graphite. Moleskine sketchbook. ~6 x 8.25"]

This is the North Wind, personified as one of four brothers who inhabit a cave with their mother. Yes, Andersen manages to weave all that into a story about Eden.
Buttons are the result of residual textile-themed influence from Kirby's Epic Yarn.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Wild Swans

Today's offering is The Wild Swans.  No time for comparing translations today - I was far too busy drawing boobs.

... and the third snuggled as close to her heart as it could.

Have I mentioned that I'm in love with my Moleskine sketchbook?  Graphite flows onto its pages like a velvety dream.