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Fairy Tale Landscapes

Almost all the fantasy landscapes, whether showing a day or night scene, depict a road or paths winding uphill and down into the distance, or a river curling in great loops from far hills. These paths, roads and rivers draw the viewer into my imagined Lands of Hearts Desire – places all of us carry in our hearts but never quite attain in this mundane life; many of my poems and fantasy fables are also set in such places. And while this Land of Heart’s Desire can’t be found on any map, each picture I draw is based on real regions on our planet, most in the vanished landscapes of Old Europe. My buildings always show architecture and geography correct for the region I visualize, and the same goes for the trees, plants, animals and birds in the scenes. I can spend hours leafing through my treasured photography books of European landscapes, which include a precious few published before the First World War, until finding the terrain of mountain, hill country, meadow, forest or seashore coming closest to the image in my mind; after this, more hours are spent researching the flora and fauna of the chosen place.

These Landscapes of Enchantment are executed in pencil or crayon – and very occasionally ink. Fine and medium point pencils are my choice for these now – and all of them, whatever medium, are very much ‘slow’ art. Though not large, none are finished quickly – each of the pencil scenes takes more time to complete than the ones executed in crayon, pastel or ink. Spending three or four months on one of the pencil landscapes, such as ones illustrating day or night scenes of mountains and castle, is not unusual –October Night with Moon & Castle took over four months.

Pencil provides the fine-detailed realism I desire in these scenes, giving the effect that every needle on every fir tree is shown, and every leaf on every flower. This hyper-realism beyond what the human eye can take in with a glance gives the drawing a pronounced naïve effect – that of a ‘wise child’ looking at the scene and setting it down with fresh eyes – and contributes greatly to placing the landscape into a fantasy ‘otherwhere’. This ultra-realism is especially visible in facades and angles of buildings and walls, roads and rivers coiling uphill and down dale, and in the tiny flowers and small animals and birds depicted belonging to these places.

Sometimes I use wax crayon for these pictures, and the crayon can provide a marvelous textured effect when thickly layered, giving almost the look of oil paint to the drawings; for fine detailing I shave the crayons to a fine point with an Exacto knife – the ‘Pink & Green Castle in Loire Valley’ is a good example of this. The crayon fantasy scenes use an Impressionistic-Pontillist style similar to that of the pastel drawings, rather than the fine-edged neo-realism of the pencil drawings.