Wow! It’s been so long since I’ve had time to sit and blog…not that artwork hasn’t been produced in the past several months. I finished illustrations for a children’s book this past summer. That book is in print now! The children’s book is a blog post for a different day, but a love of books is what led me to illustrate in the first place. And a love of books is the jumping-off point for today’s blog.
I recently heard about some gal who’s made herself famous by telling people to: “hug every item in your house. If it doesn’t bring you joy, then get rid of it.” Apparently, she’s inspiring people to declutter their homes. Don’t know her name, and frankly don’t care who she is because I also heard that this same gal thinks you should get rid of all your books…except maybe your favorite 15. Obviously, this lady isn’t a reader. Perhaps she’s never read a book in her life. She needs help, and I pity her deprived existence.
The bookshops of Scotland were some of my mom’s and my favorite memories of the trip! We’d hunt for them in every place we visited. Some were hard to find, tucked next to a road on a barren hillside with a sign out front to catch the eye of people driving by. Some were merely corners in a village historical museum or church. Others were jammed into rows of bookstores on Edinburgh lanes or peppered amongst other shops along a town’s main street. One in Inverness filled an entire church building, complete with vaulted ceilings, a wood-burning stove, stained glass windows, and a wrought-iron spiral staircase! Each was unique. And each bookseller was as unique as his/her shop.
There was a dapper older gentleman in Edinburgh who sat behind a tall desk, dressed in tie and tweed sport coat. There was a chatty gentleman in a roadside bookstore who regaled his guests with coffee, tea and scones. Then we stepped into King’s Bookshop, in the village of Callander. What a gem of a shop! It’s a cozy space, complete with cat, stag’s head, and decorative medallion on the ceiling. This bookseller seemed shy. He was happy to help us find the authors we were looking for. And, thankfully, he was willing to pose for a few photos so that I could piece together this portrait/illustration! It seemed that the garden (hidden behind his shop) was his sanctuary. He would fade away, back to the garden whenever he felt he wasn’t needed in the main shop.
This portrait is a common example of me hating to paint patterns…and realizing partway through the illustration that endless rows of books are an organic pattern. Needless to say, I don’t plan on painting books again any time soon. But the tedious task was worth it for this particular portrait. Lines of hand-built shelves frame the central figure. Colorful spines create almost a white-noise backdrop for the quiet man in the peaceful shop. Cat’s tail hangs down like a poised pendulum on a clock, as time barely matters in a place like Callander. The stag’s head and ceiling medallion speak of tradition, adding a regal touch to a simple bookstore on a typical village street. The bookseller’s focus, fittingly, is on a book. My goal with this illustration was to make it feel as though the viewer had just stepped off the street and into a candid, common moment. If you visit the King’s Bookshop some time soon, perhaps you’ll see just that.