November is one of my favorite times of year because 1) I get to take a week off for Thanksgiving, and I use it to watch lots of T.V., read lots of books, and take lots of naps and 2) it is National Novel Writing Month. I attend meetups to write with the NaNo North Shore group, a wonderful group of people who encourage each other and have fun together. We always hold an event one day each November where we write all day and night (24 hours), eat lots of food, and talk in between writing (another November favorite). I never actually do what I am supposed to do during NaNoWriMo (write a novel that is at least 50,000 words); I usually use the time to work on whatever project has been brewing in my head for a while. This year I have decided to spend the month fleshing out this fictional art colony that has been taking shape in my mind since January. The paintings I have been creating this year have come about because of this fictional place which I have named The Isle of Adelle. I imagine that Adelle, the woman pictured above, founded this special art colony on an island off of the coast of France circa 1920. You will hear more about this special place after I have a chance to fully imagine what it is all about – who the people are, what they do each day, the climate, and so on. I am excited by the idea of building my own world and letting it take shape on paper. If you are participating in NaNoWriMo this year, happy writing!
Esme always had an affinity for birds – feathers, nests, eggs, and birdhouses in particular. Her favorite bird was a hummingbird because of its diminutive size and feisty spirit. She collected all of her avian treasures as a child in a little fort in the back yard, and old garden shed that her parents no longer used. Esme made it cozy with green walls, white bedding, and lots of shelves lined with bird treasures. She put three birdhouses just outside the door, each with different types of bird seed to attract different birds.
Esme’s friends would often come to visit, and there was one visit from her friend Carrie that would prove to be life changing. Carrie accidentally knocked over the contents of one shelf and all the feathers landed in a pile on the floor. Before she could bend down to pick them up, they started floating under Esme’s gaze, surprising them both. They swirled slowly in a circle as if held together by an invisible globe. Esme fell into a sort of trance, and she saw Carrie as an adult performing as a trapeze artist at a circus and loving all aspects of circus life. Carrie gasped because she had never told anyone about her secret daydreams for fear that they would think she was silly, but it thrilled her to think that what her friend said might come true. From that day forward, Esme asked her friends to choose the feathers that spoke to them and then she would make them float, go into a trance, and tell them the most vital parts of their future. Then she would give them a feather to keep as a good luck talisman to ensure that they would always remember their dream and that it would come true.
Over the years, Esme’s abilities grew to the point that she could alter the visions to fit some of the desires expressed by her clients, but only if they were in line with their big dream – their destiny. Over time, she came to be known as the Dream Maker, and was respected and beloved in her community.
This illustration is available on Etsy
Sayuri has always loved hats. She had the good fortune to be born to an exceptional milliner and his wife in a small Japanese village during the early part of the 20th century. Her father learned his craft from his grandparents and he passed along everything he knew to Sayuri, his only child. Her mother functioned as his assistant, helping the customers and managing the hat shop with the utmost care.
Even as a young child, Sayuri wore the finest hats with confidence and finesse. Because of her confidence, she was never teased for wearing hats – instead, they became her signature. Sayuri worked in her parents’ shop when she was not at school, and nothing made her happier. She enjoyed every part of hat making – picking the materials, stitching the hats, displaying them just so to appeal to customers.
Once Sayuri grew up, moved away, and established her own shop, she truly realized the power of her sartorial gifts. For you see, she can take one look at a customer, and know exactly what hat will suit them – the style, colors, and lifestyle. She is able to intuit their personality and preferences without them saying a word. For this reason, she tends to make custom hats. She has some hats on display just for show, but the real magic happens when she creates a hat just for the person who orders it. Each time she sees one of her hats out and about and perched just so on top of her clients’ heads, she smiles to herself and feels satisfied.
This illustration is available on Etsy
I am always inspired by beautiful gardens with impossibly large blooms, and that was my inspiration for this week’s painting. I hope you enjoy this little story about Molly.
As a young girl growing up on a farm, Molly discovered early on that she had a special gift with flowers. Better than a green thumb – more like a golden thumb. See, as soon as Molly places seeds in the ground, flowers begin to grow. Not as fast as what you see in time-lapse videos when everything is moving fast, but within 24 hours, they are in full bloom. It doesn’t matter what the soil is like or the weather, or even if they have received water. They spring up perfect and as a big as they can possibly grow in vibrant colors like cotton candy pink, indigo, and corncob yellow. Molly’s favorite flower is the dahlia – she never gets tired of gazing at its perfection. The townsfolk all know about Molly’s talent, and they flock to her floral shop to buy choice blooms for all sorts of occasions.
Molly has taken up the violin to balance out the ease with which she grows flowers. She really has to work at the violin to get it to sound decent. She squeaks and sqwacks along, breaking bow strings and assaulting the ears of her patient music instructor. It surprises her how happy it makes her to work at something that challenges her. One day, she hopes that playing the violin will come as naturally as growing flowers, and she’ll have the added satisfaction of knowing she worked hard to learn how to play.
Painting available on Etsy
This painting really came about because I wanted to do a piece featuring a Victrola. I am still on the hunt for the perfect one to add to my vintage collection, and I am hoping to score one at the Brimfield Antique Fair that I will be attending in September. I hope you enjoy this little story and the painting:
Lily had a tough week at work. But now, among the hedges, Lily sets up stool in her favorite spot to relax – the one where the birds gather and complement her playing. She does not play a normal instrument – instead she plays a Victrola given to her by her Grandma Esther. This Victrola doesn’t even have a place for records or a needle, for the music comes from within Lily. She simply holds the Victrola close to her body, closes her eyes, and lets what she thinks and feels flow through the Victrola. Lily is partial to jazzy tunes, but sometimes she’ll play classical music. No matter what she chooses, the birds always seem to know and cheerfully accompany her. This is Lily’s definition of a perfect, relaxing afternoon.
This painting is available on Etsy: adellecirca1920.etsy.com
This painting was inspired by the song featured in THE GREATEST SHOWMAN called “Rewrite the Stars”. I wrote the following mini story for this painting:
Rearranging the Stars
Claire woke up with the moon shining on her face. After a night of dancing, she was still dressed in her green gown. Led by the moon, she walked outside barefoot to get a better view of the night sky. Dew was just starting to form on the grass and it caused her feet to make a slight squishing sound. She walked to an open field and started to survey the stars. Claire realized that something did not seem quite right. She closed her eyes and floated toward the stars, letting her intuition guide her to the exact star that needed changing. She realized that this star had been causing the recent bout of clumsiness she had been experiencing in her life. Claire moved it just to the right of the moon so it could benefit from its light and steadiness. Once she finished rearranging the star, she returned to the ground. Claire walked back home and settled into her bed by the window to examine her celestial handiwork. She smiled and fell into a deep sleep knowing that things would be better tomorrow.
I hope you enjoyed this mini story. This painting is available in my Etsy shop adellecirca1920.etsy.com
This painting was inspired by my shameless binge watching of CHARMED. There was an episode where Piper first learned to freeze time, and she was cooking at the time. As I was watching it, this image popped into my head. I also created a little story which conveys my feelings about cooking. I love food. I love the idea of cooking. I even love cookware and utensils. My problem is with the act of cooking. I hope you will get the picture after reading this mini-story.
The Reluctant Chef
The ingredients rested on the counter in pristine condition – homemade pasta, ripe tomatoes, crisp carrots, onions, and basil leaves – all ready to chop, boil, and release heavenly aromas. The chef, Penelope, seemingly ready in her white coat and red scarf, sharpened knives, shiny pots, leans on the counter with her head propped in her hands loathing the process required to make these ingredients edible. She daydreams about how the meal will taste, how her friends and family will applaud and rave about her meal. Then she sighs, and once again she puts the ingredients in the refrigerator, the cooking implements in the cabinets and drawers; then she picks up the phone to dial Luigi’s Italian Kitchen.
This watercolor painting is available in my shop adellecirca1920.etsy.com
I have started creating mini-stories and poems inspired by my paintings. Here is the poem for this painting:
Remembering Roses by Cindy Adelle Richard
A morning walk ripe with dew
shards of light reflecting you
butterflies swirling matching your pace
roses shimmering caressing your face
Nature’s canvas framed just for you
etched in your memory like cellular glue
love in your heart nothing to fear
enjoying the magic we all hold dear.
I hope you enjoyed my little poem. This painting is now available in my Etsy shop as well adellecirca1920.etsy.com
I have been taking a little hiatus from social media to do some deep thinking about my brand and my art business. I seem to think best by writing by hand with no interference from technology, and I used my time journaling and reflecting on my vocation productively. The series of practice paintings I posted today are based on characters from THE VAMPIRE DIARIES. Rewatching six seasons of the show and creating these paintings helped me to realize how much I love art that tells a story. I finally found something I can happily do for the rest of my life without getting tired of it. However, these paintings were based on photographs, and I decided I really want to create original art using my favorite stories as inspiration instead.
One of the big revelations for me while going this process was the role I came up with for myself – being a Story Artist. The two pastimes that have occupied my time throughout my life have been stories and art. From the time I was three years old, I have been obsessed with reading, and my favorite events were book fairs, weekly trips to the school library or the bookmobile, and story time in my classrooms. Eventually my love of stories expanded into movies, television shows, plays, operas, and ballets. I also started to pay attention to the arts as I grew up – painting, playing the drums, and dancing specifically. During the years that I was in college and building a career as a young person, I had forgotten how important these art forms were to me, and I am grateful that I have reconnected to my love of stories and art over the past ten years.
I have decided to use my favorite stories in various forms and genres as the starting point for the watercolor paintings I produce. This blog will be about my life behind the stories – my life as a Story Artist. In addition to creating and sharing my art, I am still in the process of writing a novel set in the 1920s, so you will still see content based on my discoveries from that glorious era. I am truly excited about this new direction my art and writing are taking, and I hope you will stick around to be a part of my creative journey. Thank you for reading and supporting this blog, and I look forward to sharing more story art and content with you.
I just finished one of the most eloquent memoirs I have ever read called West with the Night. I marked so many passages that I almost thought about giving up the task of marking my favorite passages, but I persisted. I was so impressed by this memoir that I turned to the biography at the back of the book, and immediately started thinking of ways that I could share this remarkable woman’s story. By the way, the remarkable woman of which I speak is Beryl Markham – aviatrix, horse trainer/racer, and an adventuress extraordinaire. I hope you find Ms. Markham as fascinating as I did!
Beryl Markham was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic from east to west. Her flight took off from Abingdon England on September 4, 1936, and crash landed into a peat bog in Nova Scotia about 22 hours later. Although her target was New York, she still achieved a record by making it to North America.
Markham was the first licensed female racehorse trainer in Kenya. She was successful and well-known throughout the colony. Some of the most memorable passages in West with the Night relate to her work with these thoroughbred horses.
Markham was friends with Karen Blixen and Denys Finch Hatton from the well-loved book and film Out of Africa. The outspoken character named Felicity in the film version is based on Markham. She also had an intimate relationship with Denys; in fact, she was scheduled to be on the flight that killed Denys. However, Tom Black, her flight instructor and friend, had a premonition that things would not go well and asked her not to fly with Denys that day. It was a good thing she listened.
Markham was rumored to have had an affair with Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester, and son of George V. They became acquainted when Prince Henry, and his brother Prince David, came for a royal visit to Nairobi and visited her father’s horse farm for riding lessons. Needless to say, his family cut the romance short once it was discovered.
Ernest Hemingway spoke highly of Markham’s writing. Hemingway met Markham on a safari in 1934, and obtained a copy of her book. In a letter to his editor, Maxwell Perkins, he wrote:
Did you read Beryl Markham’s book, “West with the Night”? I knew her fairly well in Africa and never would have suspected that she could and would put pen to paper except to write in her flyer’s log book. As it is, she has written so well, and marvelously well, that I was completely ashamed of myself as a writer. I felt that I was simply a carpenter with words, picking up whatever was furnished on the job and some times making an okay pig pen. But [she] can write rings around all of us who consider ourselves as writers.
After reading this quote in one of Hemingway’s letters, George Gutekunst (a friend of the family) sought out Markham’s book, loved it, and helped to get it reissued so that more people would be able to read it. It became a bestseller and allowed Markham, who was living in poverty in Africa at the time, to spend the rest of her years in comfort.
As a child, Markham used to hunt with African warriors who were part of her community in Nairobi. She was one of very few women allowed to go along on expeditions; women from the tribe were expected to stay at home and take care of the domestic sphere. They called her Lakweit, which means “little girl” in Swahili, but they respected her in the same way they respected the young boys being trained as warriors.
Markham was attacked by a neighbor’s “pet” lion when she was an adolescent, and lived to tell the story. There is a humorous antidote in her memoir where one of the African men who helped to save her told her father that she was only eaten a little bit by a lion in an attempt to try to minimize his panic.
Paula McLain wrote a fictional account of Markham’s life in 2015 called Circling the Sun. I read the book as soon as it was released, and I loved the poetic descriptions of her life and the sweeping landscapes of Africa. That was actually the first time I encountered Markham, and I just had to know more after reading all about her singular life. If this post has intrigued you, then I recommend starting with McLain’s website and reading her book to learn more.
I included a few of the most striking quotes from the book West with the Night to give you a preview:
Fitful splashes of crimson light from crude-oil torches set round the field stain the dark cloth of African night and play upon his alert, high-boned face. Pg. 14
There was nothing but the distinguishing formation of high, grey rocks piled against each other, jutting from the earth like the weather-worn ruins of a desert cathedral. Pg. 36
Delamare’s character had as many facets as a cut stone, but each facet shown with individual brightness. Pg. 71
The distant roar of a waking lion rolls against the stillness of the night, and we listen. It is the voice of Africa bringing memories that do not exist in our minds or in our hearts – perhaps not even in our blood. It is out of time, but it is there, and it spans a chasm whose other side we cannot see. Pg. 98
The automobile so sharply sketched against this simple canvas was an intrusion; it was as if a child had pasted the picture of a foolish toy over a painting you had known for years. Pg. 152
I hope I have sufficiently piqued your interest about Ms. Markham. If you know of any details I failed to include or find out anything else fascinating, please let us know.