Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Day 25: Work with Nature

I've been saving certain absolute favorite books for the really good projects, and I guess I've given in to the realization that some of what I come up with is just too big to create in one day. This only took two, at least, and part of that may have been the material itself.
This slightly ambitious creation is none other than Peter Pan.
He's made from sticks and leaves collected at the back of our apartment, and, I admit it, some old moss that was actually from our millipede cage. We no longer have millipedes, and it's pretty clean. The catch that made this so tricky was that the sticks were fallen branches from the wonderful tree that sits just outside our fence, which happens to be an oak.
I went through a few years were I did a lot of wood carving, and later moved on to soapstone (which I prefer, but is expensive), but I don't think I've ever carved oak before. My hands hurt. The smaller pieces, like his feet, were the worst. Each foot is about as long as the last segment of my pinky finger, and while I didn't snap a photo of the bottoms of them, they doe have the curved arch of the instep and a general toe shape. That may have been excessive of me.
The limbs are all separately carved of sticks, and obviously I had to choose some Y-shaped branches for the arms and trim away a lot. Arms and legs all fit into sockets carved into the body, and while I did glue them into place, the arms at least actually fitted in tight and stayed without it. The feet needed the glue, but the end result actually stands on its own and is very stable.
His face isn't quite what I'd like it to be, but the direction of the grain made it very fragile and difficult to carve, and his nose actually broke at one point, leaving it crooked. I would have liked to do more detail and get a better shape to the whole thing, but it was pretty clear it just wasn't going to work with this.
Peter Pan is a captivating story in its own right, but what really captured my imagination right from the start is the illustrations in the copy I grew up with. I still have the same copy, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman, and you should go google her work.
There are who knows how many versions of Peter Pan out there on screen and stage and picture book, elfin and delightful. The way she draws him isn't delightful or cute. He's scrawny and all limbs, wild and rough and almost primal. He wears barely enough leaves to cover what needs covering, and she draws him with expressions that can be carelessly cruel as well as sweet. I don't think I've ever seen an illustration of him by anyone else that so perfectly captures him as the wild animal of a boy that's described in the story.
I don't think I've gotten close to the illustrations at all. The face isn't much like the pictures at all, and his pose isn't as fluid as I'd like. On the other hand he's a slightly awkward, long-limbed wild little thing, so maybe I did all right, after all.


  1. Fabulous! This is such a great character -- and I love the portable forest.

  2. Thanks! I feel like this one came out really well. The portable forest is neat but a little fragile, I probably should have taken more time on it.