The power of story

Documentary filmmaker Ken Burns discusses the art and the power of storytelling in the video above. The team that made the video discusses the subject further in an interview in The Atlantic. This video is wonderful, and relevant to all of us who create stories in our various ways. Please don't miss it.

The Boyhood of Raleigh by MillaisThe painting above is by Sir John Everett Millais (1829-1896), a founding member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood

This Sunday, at The Picture House in Exeter:

The Laidley Worm



I'm still on my "online hiatus" this week, but wanted to pop in briefly to post the flyer above, for the premier of the new fairy tale film by the Chagford Filmmaking Group. We'll all be there (our daughter played the dragon in the film, and Howard's mum worked on costumes)...and perhaps we'll see some of you who live in the West Country at the premier too...?

I'll be back on this blog on Wednesday, May 2nd. In the meantime, a few quick recommendations, if you haven't come across these items already:

New Portrait of Janey Morris; Molly Crabapple's Week in Hell; "Dear Daughter" by Mur Lafferty; "Girls Who Read" by Mark Grist, and Axel, the thatcher's dog.

Tilly sends her regards.

Bluebells3 Click on the picture for a larger version, in which you can see the bluebells....

Sir Lanval in Exeter



The poster above is for the English opening of the French/English "Sir Lanval" art exhibition, which had its French opening in Brittany earlier this year. It is connected to the new "Sir Lanval" film (based on a medieval fairy tale by Marie de France, scripted by Elizabeth-Jane Baldry and Ari Berk), and is part of the English/French "Shared Legends" project. For more information, please see my previous posts on the subject.

The film itself was premiered in Brittany in October, where it was very well received -- and will have its first English screening (at The Picture House in Exeter) in March, 2011. In the meantime, you can see a snippet from the start of "Sir Lanval" on YouTube, here -- featuring purple-clad fairy maidens in the magical local landscape as it passes through four seasons.  (Some of the film was shot in Brittany and the rest of it here in Devon.)

The "Sir Lanval" exhibition is based on the original Marie de France story, rather than the film, which none of the artists had yet seen. Each artist was asked to read the 12 century tale and to interpret it in his or her own way. Brian Froud's contribution, for example, was "Guinevere" (the large image on the poster above): a dark version of Arthur's queen, who is dark indeed in the fairy tale. The smaller image on the poster is by the French painter and graphic novel artist Olivier Ledroit.

Rima Staines drew on medieval art and traditional Breton costume for inspiration in the beautiful paintings below; you can read about their creation on her blog, here. My own contribution was a fairy tale collage, which you can see and read about here.


Lanval doorways

Artists in the "Sir Lanval" exhibition (curated by Virginie Ropars & Kelly Martinez)

English: Ian Daniels, Brian Froud, Wendy Froud, Alan Lee, Kelly Martinez, Jaqui Martinez, Ed Org, Marc Potts, Linda Ravenscroft, Gentian Sims Revill, Rima Staines, Josephine Wall, and me.

French: Brucero, Erle Ferronniere, Didier Graffet, Olivier Ledroit, Jean Lemonniere, Yoann Lossel, Severine Pineaux, Jean-Sebastien Rossbach, Virginie Ropars, Erwan Seure Le Bihan, Anne Smith, and David Thierree.

A number of the French artists will be coming over for the opening of the exhibition this weekend, and we'll be hosting them here in the village for a few days. They're hoping to see some of the mythic sights of Dartmoor, so my fingers are crossed that we're not snowed in. . . .


And while we're speaking of France and fairy tale films:


The magical and sumptuous home of Jean Cocteau (writer, artist, dramatist, opium dreamer, bon vivant, and director of the fairy tale film classic La Belle et la Bête) is now open to the public, just south of Paris. You can read more about it here.

And if you can get somehow your hands on a copy: Beauty and the Beast: A Film Diary, Cocteau's journal about the making of his famous film, is an absolute treat.



The Fairy Handmaidens

In the Meadow by Terri Windling "In the Meadow," full size: 16 x 20 inches (click on the art to view a larger version)

The collage above is the piece I've contributed to an exhibition that will appear at venues in France and England when "Sir Lanval," a film by the Chagford Filmmaking Group, premiers this autumn. It's all part of the Shared Legends Project, a collaboration between the CFG here in Devon and the Centre de l'Imaginaire Arthurienne in Brittany.

Ten French artists and ten Devon-based artists were asked to contribute works based on "Sir Lanval," a 12th century lay by Marie de France about a poor Arthurian knight and a beautiful fairy queen. I struggled for inspiration at first, for my art these days is a long ways away from Arthurian castles and knights in armor. . . but Elizabeth-Jane Baldry (the film's director) assured me that they weren't looking for illustrations of the film, but rather wanted each artist to interpret the lay and depict fairyland in his or her own personal style. In other words, they'd known they would get a "Windling" and not a "Burne-Jones" or an "Alan Lee" when they asked me. Whew!

In the Meadow detail

I originally sketched out some ideas for paintings, but then my thoughts turned to collage instead. There are many other painters in the show (along with sculptors, dollmakers, and other artists), and I thought perhaps one of my hand-sewn assemblages might be useful in striking a slightly different note. I collect old damaged books of myths and fairy tales as source material for my collages (I wouldn't want to rip up a book otherwise) -- and you can imagine my delight when I found a retelling of "Sir Lanval" in one of them. Perfect! Considering the obscurity of the tale, this felt like a gift from the fairies themselves and made me feel I was on the right track.

IMG_0423I chose the scene in which two fairy handmaidens appear in a meadow, carrying a golden basin and a towel. Later in the tale, we learn that the fairy queen rides with greyhounds, so I put a somewhat comical fairy greyhound in there too. And some bunny girls, because in my version of fairyland there are animal critters who follow in the fairies' wake. The twigs and pressed wildflowers come from the meadow behind my studio. The lace comes from my mother-in-law, a theatrical costume maker, who was busily sewing medieval costumes for the film while I was working on my piece.

Four of my village neighbors have also contributed to the exhibition: Alan Lee, Brian & Wendy Froud, and Rima Staines. You can see a preview of Rima's gorgeous, gorgeous Sir Lanval paintings over on her blog, and read a fascinating post about how she created them. For more information on the show itself, go here. There will be a "Meet the Artist" event in Brittany in July; I'll post more information about that as it becomes available.

Edited to add: Here's a link to the promised post on the Sir Lanval event in Brittany.

Sir Lanval update


The Chagford Filmmaking Group is wrapping up the filming of Sir Lanval here in Devon this weekend. The film has been shot in both Devon and France as part of the Shared Legend project created in collaboration with the Centre de l'Imaginaire Arthurienne in Brittany. Sir Lanval is based, appropriately enough, on a story by Marie de France (a French poet who lived in England in the late 12th century), directed by Elizabeth-Jane Baldry, with a script by Elizabeth-Jane and Ari Berk. Good luck to everyone involved -- including my stepdaughter, who is catering the film (as well as acting in it), and my mother-in-law, who's working on the costumes. May your energies, and the weather, hold out for two more days!

For more information, visit the CFG's website, or follow the progress of the film on Facebook, here. The CFG is a nonprofit group that was created to support fairy tale films and involve local kids in the filmaking process. They are always in need of funds, so if you can donate to their Feed a Fairy campaign, the fairies would be grateful indeed.