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Portraits of Scotland – Dunvegan Gardener

Dunvegan Gardener web

copyright 2016 Mollie Bozarth

When I told my friend that I’d toured 3 castles during my first 3 days in Scotland, her thought was, “If you’ve seen one castle, haven’t you seen them all?” However, having visited several of Scotland’s castles this month, I can safely say that no two are alike! No one can accuse Scotland of lacking castles. I’d be interested to know what the ratio is per square mile. Some castles are mere ruins; others have been occupied by families and/or clan leaders longer than America’s existed as a country. Urquhart Castle (pronounced Er-keht), which looks out over Loch Ness, was purposefully blown up by its owners to keep Jacobite forces from taking control. Many castles are simple fortresses to claim or protect territory. Others were built as protective walls, with a village of people or armies living inside. Some were built for glory, (then torn down and rebuilt even larger) to declare the owner’s wealth. Each is famous in its own right. But a few are famous for their gardens. When a family has lived in one place for generations, they have time to cultivate trees, flower-beds, walled gardens, waterfalls, in some areas of Scotland even tropical plants. Think of it as “Let’s plant a bush for Mom for Mother’s Day”…then times that by several hundred Mother’s Days.

One garden especially well-known on the Isle of Skye is Dunvegan Castle garden. When you walk down Dunvegan paths, you feel as though you’ve stepped into a scene from The Secret Garden. Natural waterfalls tumble into streams, with foot-bridges crossing them. A fence constructed of sawn branches lines walkways, blending in naturally with its surroundings. The Walled Garden houses more protected plants, including a lily pond with deep pink waterlilies gracing the tranquil surface. Meanwhile, the Round Garden has sections of open lawn and monkey puzzle trees stretching up to the sky. Everywhere color explodes around you in flowers of all kinds, each labeled with name and Latin classification for those who care to know what they’re seeing.

Of course, these gardens don’t take care of themselves. Acres of manicured beds, trimmed hedges, and weed-free paths require work. So, today’s portrait is dedicated to the many gardeners working behind the scenes to maintain a castle garden’s majesty. This particular portrait is a woman who works part-time at Dunvegan. In the few minutes I spoke with her, it was evident that gardening is both an enjoyment and a labor of love. She seemed a quiet individual; perhaps shy, but happy to talk about the plants in her care. Each gardener is given a particular section of the grounds to maintain. Her segment includes Rhododendron hedges (Scotland’s famous weed), spotted with pale pink blossoms. It also includes several beds with springy green heather tucked amongst the flowers. As I photographed her, she was trimming the heather. When I asked when the heather blooms, she told me that this is a garden-variety heather that blooms in spring. The wild heather which transforms Scotland’s hills to gorgeous purple will bloom later this summer or early autumn. An old wheel barrow with tools and extra flowers stood nearby. And as we finished our conversation, she paused to put on “midgie gear,” a net-like head covering to protect her from midge bites. For those who don’t know, the midge is the national bird of Scotland. Just kidding! However, they are like tiny gnats that swarm and leave you itching. In a garden that looks like paradise, midges remind you you’re definitely on earth. With her midge protection in place, the Dunvegan gardener continued quietly and happily, content in her work.

Portraits of Scotland – Near Neighbors

Sheep web

copyright 2016 Mollie Bozarth

When you’re in the highlands, you may live in a village with houses clustered together, or your home may be tucked into a hillside at the end of a cart-track. Whichever the case, your nearest neighbors are bound to be hundreds of sheep. These neighbors can be found gamboling down the road next to (or in front of) your car. They camouflage with boulders on the hillsides, making you think: “I could have sworn that was a rock, but it just moved!” In rain or sun, high wind or gentle breeze, they seem to be forever grazing, head down, munching and roaming and munching again. If no sheep is within view at the moment, just listen. You’ll hear the “maaa” carrying across from a loch or hill behind you. After visiting the highlands, I now understand why streets in Edinburgh are lined with shops advertising Harris Tweed, lamb’s wool scarves, cashmere sweaters, and haggis. In a land of rocks, boulders, and turf (where even houses, walls, and barns are built from those very materials) farming sheep is both a way of life and a necessity.

Having grown up in the church, I’ve long been familiar with passages comparing humanity to sheep. Jesus grew up in a land like Scotland, with rough, rocky terrain well-suited to sheep-farming. I grew up in the wilds of Naperville, where soybeans and sod farms are pushed aside by shopping centers. Sheep are scarce, if non-existent. If you pause and listen, you’ll hear the rumble of a semi-truck, not the bleating of lambs. So, while Jesus’ listeners could easily relate to his parables about sheep, I’ve had to use my imagination. Visiting the highlands has breathed fresh life into the realities of his comparison.

This Sunday my family visited a church in Carloway (Isle of Lewis), where the pastor was preaching on Matthew 18:1-14 & 19:13-15. The passages focus on Jesus’ interactions with children and how we must become like children (as regards faith) in order to enter God’s kingdom. Pastor Davis talked about how children don’t know what they need, but they know who they need. A baby may refuse to eat because she’s gotten so worked up about being hungry. In her anger, she doesn’t realize that what she needs is being offered to her. Yet, from her earliest weeks she knows her mother and father’s voices (she’s been listening to them for 9 months in the womb). So, even if she’s too upset to know what she needs, she knows who to go to for comfort and provision. Pastor said that as adults, we have a pretty good idea of what we need. But we don’t know where to look or who to go to for provision. Instead of going to our heavenly Father (who knows and has what we truly need) we look for fulfillment in relationships, success, binges, etc. I confess I’m guilty of looking/searching for the next ____________ (fill in the blank) of life…the next stage (marriage/family), the next success, or the next book publisher. I often feel God tapping me on the shoulder, saying, “Mollie, slow down. What’s right in front of you – what I’ve provided – is all you need for now. Enjoy it! Be still in the midst of it. Stop searching for more when you’re not even sure what ‘more’ implies.”

In the midst of Jesus’ teaching on childlike faith, he interweaves a comparison to sheep (18:12-14). This comparison got me thinking about the similarities between sheep and children. Children implicitly trust the parent who loves them. Sheep implicitly trust the shepherd who cares for them. Children wander off, need guidelines/boundaries to feel safe, and sometimes need rescuing from foolish mistakes. Sheep are the same way. Children can identify their parents from across a crowded store, simply by hearing mom or dad cough. A sheep knows the shepherd’s voice and will ignore or run away from a stranger’s voice (John 10:4-5). This last comparison has gained new meaning for me here in Scotland. I’ve always heard that sheep run from a stranger’s voice. Yet, I will stand with my camera on the hills of Skye and call out to a sheep…trying to get it to look up from its munching so that I can take a good photo. I’ve even tried talking the sheep’s language (not Gaelic but “maaa”…and, yes, I’ve seen tourists from Germany and China doing the same thing). Inevitably, the sheep ignores me. If I approach her, she shows me her backside and walks away. That sheep knows I care little for her, beyond a photo opportunity. On the flip-side, I met a shepherdess last week. When I asked Linda if she would be sheering any sheep in the next day or so, she replied that the weather was awful and “the girls wouldn’t like it.” Linda knows her sheep. She loves, protects, provides for each one. Just as a trusting child, those sheep could identify her voice in any crowd.

In wrapping up his sermon, Pastor Davis concluded: as we approach God, our mindset must be that of a child. We should approach Him in humility, understanding our inability to supply our own needs. We should approach with a trusting heart, as children run with open arms to their parents’ protective embrace. We should seek to obey our Father’s voice as children who understand that rules aren’t about constriction but simply provide safety. And we should honor our heavenly Father as a child would brag about the strength of his dad. May I have the childlike (and sheeplike) faith to always trust that voice I know so well. May I always remember who to look to, even when I think I know what I need.

Portraits of Scotland – Charles

Glencoe Guitarist web

copyright 2016 Mollie Bozarth

When traveling, you meet many people along the way. Some are faces in passing: the friendly young woman in a dress shop; an Irish gal who visited Edinburgh for a month and decided to stay a year; a young rugby coach who serves Subway sandwiches; the Edinburgh native who shared stories of her city as we hopped on a tour bus. Others we’ve been in contact with for several months and may stay in contact with long after we leave…such as the lady who owns our tiny rental home on Storr Loch. Each face is a Polaroid snapshot of our time in Scotland. A snatch of conversation here, a smile or word of advice there; all lives colliding, intermingling, then going our separate ways. I suppose daily life is like that back home, but I notice the people and remember the conversations more here because they’re connected with new sights and experiences.

Today’s portrait is one of those passing faces. In fact, I only know his first name because I happened to ask the receptionist at our hotel. Charles performs at Glencoe Inn several evenings a week. If I remember correctly, he was a drummer in a band that traveled ’round parts of Europe. But he felt that drums drowned out easy conversation. So, he picked up a guitar instead, where he can play and sing more as background music in the local pub. Simon & Garfunkel; the Beatles; Peter, Paul & Mary; and several other favorites are now part of my Glencoe memories. We talked of guitars – the tone difference between a Taylor and a Gibson. My dad has a 12-string he’s played since I was born. Charles has a 6-string, specially made for his left-hand playing. Mom and I will pass through that area again at the end of our trip. So, perhaps we’ll see him perform once more!

Watercolor tips:

My brother and sister-in-law gave me a pocket-sized Winsor & Newton Cotman watercolor set for my birthday this year, in anticipation of this trip. They also gave me a couple of watercolor sketch pads. So, I came to Scotland prepared to paint! Winsor & Newton is the brand I’ve used since high school. The colors are rich; the texture is creamy. They cost more but are worth the investment if you plan to work long-term in watercolor. When you’re purchasing paints, cheaper brands tend to have a duller color and dusty texture as they dry. It’s as though they sit on top of the paper and don’t want to soak in or blend properly. My Cotman watercolors have never disappointed. And the pocket set is wonderful, including a tiny paintbrush that holds its tip shape and carries pigment well. The above portrait is approximately 7″x7″, all done with a Winsor & Newton sable (round, size 4) brush and the tiny brush from my new set. Sable brushes can cost anywhere from $20 – $60 each. However, if you take good care of them, they’ll easily last you 6+ years. This painting is completed almost entirely with blue, Alizarin crimson, yellow ochre, and burnt umber. My pocket set doesn’t include Payne’s Grey (my students know this is one of my favorite colors) or black, but I can get by without those…mixing burnt umber with blue to make a grey. I hope to post a few more “Portraits of Scotland” in the next few weeks, so stay tuned!

Borrowers

 

Borrower web

copyright 2016 Mollie Bozarth

What happens to your household items when they go missing? Why do hairpins and spools of thread vanish? Where did your pencil go when you know you set it on the table? What about the heirloom pocket-watch you kept so carefully in a dresser drawer? You’ve looked everywhere for one of the knights in your favorite chess set. And, why do Lego pieces regularly disappear? Mary Norton proposed a solution to these mysteries in her Borrowers series, which first came out in 1952. The Borrowers are tiny people who live within the walls of our homes. They believe that the only true purpose for “Human Beans”…as they call us…is to provide the basic necessities for their lifestyle. They have no qualms about taking everything from potatoes to pins to pieces of cloth or paper. According to Mary Norton, their rooms are papered with letters rescued from a trash can. The handwritten script runs as vertical stripes up each wall. A chess piece becomes the marble bust on a column in their living room. Bits of pencil may look like rolling-pins in their hands but are still useful for writing. A Borrower’s main goal, besides living comfortably, is to NEVER be seen by a human. Their fear is that (if seen) the humans may buy a cat or some other deadly pet who would force them out onto the streets, looking for a new home.

Today’s artwork was inspired by the SCBWI prompt – Borrow. While brainstorming ideas, I remembered stories I’d heard as a child. I also remembered a TV cartoon series called The Littles, which I’m guessing was based on The Borrowers. So, I borrowed (no pun intended) my mom’s copy of the book and began researching this month’s illustration. Most aspects of my illustration come from the book…including the wall paper, chess piece, sofa, pencil, diary, wall art, and spool of thread. The girl is based on the main character, Arrietty, age 14. And the boy is a human she meets, age 10. These roles were played by my niece and nephew. While mine is a more modern version of the setting, it remains true to the heart of a Borrowers scene. My aim was to capture the very moment Arrietty is seen (and no, this setting is not true to the book…they first meet outside). It’s that frozen second of calm before the storm, where she’s been writing in her diary and hasn’t even had time to think of escape. I hope you enjoy it! And, if you’re looking for a good book for young readers, check out Mary Norton’s stories!

Tips and tricks connected with this illustration:

Obviously, when compiling photo references for an illustration like this one, you can’t get everything in one shot. First, I made a rough sketch of the poses, expressions and setting needed. I took photos of my nephew looking through a cardboard cut-out hole. He quickly learned that acting surprised while trying not to turn your face (lest you cast shadows in the wrong place) and peering through a hole in cardboard is…tricky! Thankfully, he has a dramatic flair and was up for the challenge. Then, I set my niece up in the pose I’d sketched and took her photos. We placed a chess knight on top of a Lego column for that particular reference, and I took close-up shots from the angle needed. Other items were found online. All images were pieced together in Photoshop. Here I could use the skew and perspective tools to tweak angles. I could play with filters, lighting, layer-effects, and brushes to bring a consistency to the scene as a whole. Once finished, I printed out the compiled reference, projected it onto watercolor paper, and went from there!

Arrival

Sunrise of your Smile web

copyright 2016 Mollie Bozarth

“Arrival” is a word steeped in anticipation. It’s the long sigh when you hadn’t even realized you were holding your breath. It’s a first breath, followed by the unmistakable newborn cry, proclaiming: “I’m here, and it’s been a traumatic few hours! So, wrap me snuggly and hold me close.” It is awed joy as you stare at the tiny creation in your arms. It’s nearly imperceptible toenails and invisible eyelashes, a trusting fist gripping your finger. It’s the fluff of silky hair. It’s the expanding walls of your heart as you suddenly love in a new and deeper way.

And this arrival is actually the beginning of a journey.

I saw this month’s prompt for SCBWI – “Arrival” – and thought, “my new niece just might make it in time for me to base a painting on her!” My sister-in-law’s due date was the 27th, my illustration deadline was the 20th, and baby girl arrived on the 13th. Perfect timing! Needless to say, this is the youngest model I’ve ever photographed and painted. She was both cooperative and photogenic, which made my job easy!

The calligraphy verse is a line from a Michael Card lullaby. Twenty-something years ago, I rocked my baby brother to sleep while singing that song. Perhaps that’s why it came to mind when I started this painting. The full chorus says, “I would wander weary miles, would welcome ridicule my child, to simply see the sunrise of your smile. To see the light behind your eyes, the happy thought that makes you fly. Yes, I would wander weary miles, if I could see the sunrise of your smile.” (Poiema, Sparrow Records, 1994) That moment when a smile first quirks the corners of a child’s mouth – that is the sunrise. And as their face lights up with humor or happiness, the glow warms those of us who love them. It is partly why I love teaching and working with kids. And it’s definitely something I love about being an aunt! So, as my brother and sister-in-law start on this new journey of baby #2, I enjoy watching and being a part of it all.

Blessed

M Reading web

copyright 2016 Mollie Bozarth

This portrait will be on the SCBWI Draw This page in early April. The prompt for this month was “Lucky.” As I brainstormed ideas, I looked up synonyms for lucky, which brought me to “Blessed.” The funny thing is, my friend and I had just been having a conversation recently about the phrase “Good Luck,” and the meaning behind it. Luck can be such an abstract concept with superstitious connotations. We all say, “Good Luck!” without thinking anything of it. It’s a cultural nicety basically used to mean, “I wish you well.” My friend comes from a Jewish background, so I half-jokingly offered “Mazel Tov” as an alternative. We laughed and our conversation moved on. But, in a way, I really like the message of “Mazel Tov,” which (according to Fiddler on the Roof) means: “a blessing on your head.” Now, I think even that phrase is basically taken as good luck or congratulations. But I like the imagery of a blessing being place on your head! There is something a little more meaningful about blessing someone. Placing that blessing on their head is like crowning them with encouragement. I know I can always use encouragement! I also know I don’t always give it out to others as I should. We can be a blessing or a curse to those around us…and much of that has to do with our words.

All syntactical debate aside, when I think of how I’m blessed, my littlest niece quickly comes to mind. She (along with her parents) has been living with me for several months while my brother sells their townhouse and looks for a bigger place. Entering into this living arrangement, I looked forward to her toddler age and stage. My time with her has been even more of a blessing than I’d imagined! Nighttime routines, snuggles, kisses, playing make-believe with her baby doll, eating pretend food, building cardboard houses, coloring (mostly, she tries to eat the marker), dancing to nursery songs, all the new words she says weekly (including her name for me…which started as Memew and is transitioning now to Mahyee). Last, but not least, I LOVE reading books with her! The portrait above is from a moment caught on camera by my mom. It belies my niece’s inability to sit still. Yet, it perfectly captures the trust, the gentleness, the wonder of time spent reading with a child. As a writer and illustrator, story time has always been my favorite time. As an aunt, story time will always be a blessing.

Murray Tinkelman

Carol and Murray Tinkelman

Photo by Walt Engels ©2014

My grandparents have often talked about which of them will go first (pass away). They’ve given each other permission to die and honestly would be happiest if they died at the same time. When you’ve lived most of your life with the love of your life, it’s hard to be apart even for a short time. Murray Tinkelman said goodbye to his bride of nearly 60 years and knew that his job here on earth was done. He had run the race. He had lived a full life: enjoying children and grandchildren, a successful career, and the respect of colleagues and students world-wide. So, only two weeks after Carol’s death, I received news that Murray has also passed away.

Murray Ill web

Pen & Ink Illustrations by Murray Tinkelman

I wish my students could have met this man. His rough language (thanks to the army) and his tough persona (thanks to a stubborn disposition and a childhood in Brooklyn) could not hide his deep love for illustration, art history, his wife/family, and teaching. I mentioned in my last post how Carol kept the Illustration MFA program running smoothly. But the program would never have existed without Murray’s vision, knowledge, and contacts. For over 40 years, he’s been a highly respected illustrator. His work has been included in the National Baseball Hall of Fame, Brooklyn Museum, the New Britain Museum of American Art, and the Norman Rockwell Museum. In 2013 he was inducted into the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame, joining artists such as Norman Rockwell, Winslow Homer, Maurice Sendak, and Charles Schulz. In 2014 the Norman Rockwell Museum honored him with its Artist Laureate Award and an exhibition of his work.

Murray’s first illustration was published in Seventeen Magazine. When asked about that illustration, Murray is quoted as saying: “It was awful! I was paid $10. You’re right if you assume I was grossly overpaid.”

That sense of humor – quick-witted, blunt, unvarnished, and extremely funny – is what I will miss most about the man. Murray planned to retire from his role as head of the University of Hartford Illustration MFA in June of 2016. Perhaps that is the only goal he failed to achieve. However, knowing Murray, I don’t think he would regret “dying with his boots on.” His job and his life were about people. The relationships we illustrators built during our years in the Hartford MFA reflect Murray and Carol: their genius, their teamwork, their understanding that artists can’t survive alone; we thrive in an atmosphere of collaboration and accountability. Murray and Carol created just that with their program. I am honored to say that I knew him and learned from him.

About the artwork:

Murray worked mostly in pen & ink, using Rapidograph pens in a hatching and cross-hatching technique. Being color blind never held him back and probably helped to develop his sense of value range and contrast. To hear Murray describe his technique and process, click here.

murray 1

Murray Tinkelman

* If you’d like to learn more about his life and work, check out the following sites:

Murray TinkelmanUniversity of HartfordFerris State University

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