Tuesday, September 28, 2010


R. Dragon, © Donna Miskend, watercolor

And now for the lighter side. I love doing the the elaborate borders, but I also like to work in a simpler style. He's the dragon in Kenneth Grahame's The Reluctant Dragon, who prefers poetry to dragon-like behaviour. You may know Grahame's other popular work, The Wind And The Willows. But don't miss this little gem too. The townspeople hear there's a dragon nearby and rush to call on the dragonslayer. But a young boy knows better. He knows all about dragons, and goes to see for himself. What he finds is a dragon who loves poetry, nature, and wants to live in peace. Yep, appearances are deceiving, and now it's up to the young boy to save the dragon. It's a wonderful story.

I couldn't decide between the 2 books chosen to inspire 18 illustrators for CBIG's exhibit Dragons & Magic on view at the Jefferson Market Library through October. But as the September theme on our web site is dragons, in the end I could do both.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Dragons and Magic

Donna Miskend, Title: The Magic City: "You go through the dreams and come out the other side where everything is real."
Medium: watercolor and colored pencil, Image: 14"x22"

The Children's Book Illustrators Group, (CBIG) exhibition of work is now installed at the Jefferson Market Library branch of the NYPL. There are 18 members participating, and the work is truly wonderful. The theme, Dragons and Magic, comes from the books chosen by the librarians: The Reluctant Dragon by Kenneth Grahame and The Magic City, by E. Nesbit. I chose The Magic City. Here's the passage that inspired me:

" Philip's buildings had been made on the carpet...And this carpet had turned into grass...following that strange law which caused things to change into other things, like themselves, but larger and really belonging to a living world."
In my illustration, the green border represents the green carpet. The border contains the found objects that Philip used for the construction of his cities: dominoes laid out for paths, a mother of pearl calling card becomes the square pavement, chess pieces, toy soldiers, candlesticks with inkwells on top he used for columns, a toy set of Noah's Ark, finger bowls that became domes, vases and the domino box that became buildings, a glass ashtray with a silver needle holder that transformed into a fountain, and especially books. Philip loved to read and had books about different places, mythical beasts, poetry, literature and history.

The center of the painting is the magic part where all these things transform to real life. The carpet extends up to the rook chess piece as it becomes a castle. In the distance is his first construction, Stonehenge, made from wooden blocks. The inhabitants of the cities are an international cast of costumed people, along with the toy soldiers, Noah and animals that come alive. On one side of an opened book on Roman History is a picture of Caesar, on the other, one of the illustrations of a Roman soldier is crawling out of the book and border, into the center/real world. Philip appears in his pajamas and slippers about to slay the wind up clock lizard that the inhabitants call a dragon. This is the moment when he closes his eyes just before he strikes.

Throughout the piece I played with reality and imagination. I loved working on the painting and there is a lot to discover in it. You do need to read the book to understand all the references, but that's part of the fun!

I recommend you take the winding, castle-like staircase to the 2nd floor where the works are displayed around the Adult reading room. Mine is a bit out of reach to see all the details, but a print out copy of all the pieces are also on display in the Children's room on the 1st floor. They are mounted on foam core and can be used during story time, and gives the kids an opportunity to view the work up close. There are also coloring pages and activity sheets available. The library is planning additional activities and readings related to the exhibit, so check their web site, blog and Facebook pages. I'll post these here and on my web site under NEWS, and a larger image of the illustration is also posted there at www.DonnaMiskend.com.

The exhibition runs from September 7 - October 29, 2010. Enjoy!