lucy almey bird’s gentle, whimsical world

Come and cozy up by the fire – you’re just in time for Sunday tea! Looks like our hosts have set out sandwiches, scones, and a Victoria sponge. Such an inviting scene; it must feel nice to have someone brush your hair.

We previously featured several of Lucy Almey Bird’s paintings in a Cool Things Roundup, but decided she needs to have her own post since she’s created so many wonderful new pieces since then.

Somerset artist Lucy Almey Bird.

A native of rural Somerset in Southwest England, Lucy is a self taught artist who was encouraged to draw and paint from an early age. Frequent trips to museums and art galleries in London ignited her passion for art.

Continue reading

dream job: poet or engineer?

Poets’ Corner, Westminster Abbey, London.
ENGINEERS' CORNER
by Wendy Cope

'Why isn't there an Engineers' Corner in Westminster Abbey? In Britain we've always made more fuss of a ballad than a blueprint . . . How many schoolchildren dream of becoming great engineers?' ~ Advertisement placed in The Times by the Engineering Council

We make more fuss of ballads than of blueprints --
That's why so many poets end up rich,
While engineers scrape by in cheerless garrets.
Who needs a bridge or dam? Who needs a ditch?

Whereas the person who can write a sonnet
Has got it made. It's always been the way,
For everybody knows that we need poems
And everybody reads them every day.

Yes, life is hard if you choose engineering --
You're sure to need another job as well;
You'll have to plan your projects in the evenings
Instead of going out. It must be hell.

While well-heeled poets ride around in Daimlers,
You'll burn the midnight oil to earn a crust,
With no hope of a status in the Abbey,
With no hope, even, of a modest bust.

No wonder small boys dream of writing couplets
And spurn the bike, the lorry and the train.
There's far too much encouragement of poets --
That's why this country's going down the drain.

~ from Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis (Faber & Faber, 1986)

Poets’ Corner (South Transept), Westminster Abbey, London.

*

I always enjoy Wendy Cope’s wit and humor, but when she discusses engineers and poets, it really hits home. 

Talk about satire and irony. I’ve been married to an engineer for over 40 years and he’s never frequented “cheerless garrets,” nor has he had to “burn the midnight oil to earn a crust.” These scenarios are more in line with my own experience. 🙂

Continue reading

Michael Sowa: Master of Comic Surrealism

My ongoing search for bear images online often leads to the discovery of some pretty amazing artists. 

Michael Sowa

Take German surrealist Michael Sowa, for example. Years ago, I ran across his painting of a teddy bear sitting alone at a table with a slice of bread and a glass of milk. When I saw that same bear hanging by his ears from a clothesline, that was it – I became a forever fan.

Little did I realize that the paintings were part of a book called A Bear Called Sunday, written by Axel Hacke (Bloomsbury, 2004).  Sowa has also illustrated two other children’s books: Esterhazy: The Rabbit Prince, by Irene Dische and Hans Magnus Enzensberger (Creative Co., 2000), and The Little King December, another title by Axel Hacke (Bloomsbury, 2002). 

Continue reading

“Hedonist’s List of Desert Island Essentials” by Vivien Steels

“Hawaii Retreat with Palm Trees, Sunset” via Beyond Dream Art.

It’s always fun to play with the “stranded on a desert island” trope: what item, other than food and water, would you take/most like to have with you?

Before the age of laptops and smart phones, people cited favorite books, or maybe a diary or radio. It’s quite a challenge to figure out exactly what physical possession you just couldn’t live without.

But what if the opposite were true: that you could be on that island with anything your heart desires (no limit with regard to quantity or practicality)? Say the word, and it’s yours.

British poet and artist Vivien Steels has come up with quite a provocative scenario.

*

“Hot Chocolate” by Brett Humphries (oil on board, 2020).
HEDONIST'S LIST OF DESERT ISLAND ESENTIALS
by Vivien Steels

Blue iceberg from Arctic shores
melting into cool, mountain streams.
Chocolate Emporium effusing cocoa --
door always open, shelves always filled.
Cooking pot permanently flame-hot
to bubble water within its depths for
Chinese Jasmine-scented tea,
fragrance rising in coils of steam.
Tent, the size of small bungalow,
with bathroom 'en suite' included.
Bombay Curry House,
waiters and cooks ever-ready
to conjure spiced masterpieces
served on white plates.
Library, walls resplendent with books,
superb poetry section --
no overdue charges.
Softest duvet fattened with duck down,
hammock fittings to lasso two palm trees
under indigo sky christened with stars.

~ This poem first appeared in 21st Century Poetry (October 2001).
“Significance” by Elena Tuncer (oil on canvas).

*

Continue reading

[Chat + Giveaway] Aram Kim on Tomorrow is New Year’s Day

Today we’re welcoming back NYC-based author, illustrator, book designer and art director Aram Kim to talk about her brand new picture book, Tomorrow is New Year’s Day: Seollal, a Korean Celebration of the Lunar New Year (FSG, 2022).

This year, Lunar New Year falls on Sunday, January 22. While many of us may think of Lunar New Year as Chinese New Year, there are actually other Asian communities (including Vietnamese and South Korean) who also observe this important holiday at the same time, each with their own set of traditions.

I was especially happy to see Tomorrow is New Year’s Day because I don’t know of any other picture books about Korean Lunar New Year. Aram has created a much needed, charmingly illustrated, truly delightful story centered around family, togetherness, and the joy of celebrating age-old cultural traditions.

Since it’s her favorite day of the year, Mina is excited to share the customs of Seollal with all her classmates. Dressed in traditional clothes (hanbok), she shows them how to play games, do sebae (a special bow to respect elders), and how to make tteokguk (rice cake soup). She’s proud to have both parents there to help, but her little brother Miro is in a bad mood. Will he spoil her special day?

I love Aram’s colorful, emotive illustrations. You can just feel the happiness and excitement of Mina’s classmates (as well as Miro’s obstinance), and there are lots of interesting details for eager eyes to discover in each picture.

She varies single and double page spreads (some with speech bubbles) with step-by-step action sequences, displaying a masterful use of scale and cool perspectives (check out the yutnori board game illo). There’s also an illustrated recipe! Dare I say, I find her art absolutely adorable (Cat on the Bus fans have surprises in store too). 

Let’s find out more from Aram, who was born in Ohio, grew up in South Korea, then later returned to the U.S. to study art and work in children’s book publishing. 

Saehae bok mani badeuseyo! Happy New Year!

*

Continue reading