aladdin peek online.jpg

“just one more chapter.”

inspired by the 1001 arabian nights

“the chain of anomalies always tends to lead back to normality… the protagonist of the stories is in fact destiny itself.”

~pier paolo pasolini,
filmmaker of il fiore delle mille una notte (1974)

i started out this piece more than a year ago with the intent of doing an “aladdin” piece. a big fan of the disney animated classic, it was an adventurous tale, and with the uptrend in arabian adventures in YA lit, i thought it perfect timing to re-explore the classic tale!

however, after much research, as i am wont to do with my paintings, aladdin turned out not just to be awful, but fake. (more on that later.)

so i broadened my topic to the arabian nights and scheherazade’s tales within tales within tales as her life is spared day by day as the king insists on “just one more chapter” until they eventually (according to legend) finally fall in love.

so have a look-see at my painting (mostly inking) process below, and then i’ll get more into the story and research and included imagery!

 
i started out reading a faerie tale collection that boasted it was “aladdin and the arabian nights” in october of 2018 or so. the story was so awful (bless disney for making it adorable and PC), that i of course delved deeper and deeper into the history of the arabian nights and the broader scope of stories from the silk road and what came to be known as scheherazade’s “1001 arabian nights.”

i started out reading a faerie tale collection that boasted it was “aladdin and the arabian nights” in october of 2018 or so. the story was so awful (bless disney for making it adorable and PC), that i of course delved deeper and deeper into the history of the arabian nights and the broader scope of stories from the silk road and what came to be known as scheherazade’s “1001 arabian nights.”

a few recent trips to the met in nyc had my iphone full of reference photos. i’m obsessed with the “art of the arab lands, turkey, iran, central asia, & later south asia” wing. (yes, i had to look at my framed met map to get that title right.) ;) and yes, you are correct this isn’t the  FIRST  faerie tale feet painting inspired by a trip to the met. or even the  first  from this wing of the met. but i got a lot of details from the rugs and tableware and walls and all the things on this last trip!

a few recent trips to the met in nyc had my iphone full of reference photos. i’m obsessed with the “art of the arab lands, turkey, iran, central asia, & later south asia” wing. (yes, i had to look at my framed met map to get that title right.) ;) and yes, you are correct this isn’t the FIRST faerie tale feet painting inspired by a trip to the met. or even the first from this wing of the met. but i got a lot of details from the rugs and tableware and walls and all the things on this last trip!

once i’ve compiled all my research (you can see my pocket-sized moleskin on the left there), i of course start sketching ideas both for layout and included, essential elements from the tale. so reference materials, sketchbook, drawings tools, and more… and yes, earbuds as i’m probably listening to a harry potter book again… ;)

once i’ve compiled all my research (you can see my pocket-sized moleskin on the left there), i of course start sketching ideas both for layout and included, essential elements from the tale. so reference materials, sketchbook, drawings tools, and more… and yes, earbuds as i’m probably listening to a harry potter book again… ;)

so here’s the FINAL drawing (patched together on tracing paper; you can also see i re-sized the lamp drawing)… as well as a few test patches as i wasn’t sure if i was going to stain my watercolour paper like i did my  merlyn piece , or leave it a clean white parchment. either way, i wanted it to look like an aged manuscript!

so here’s the FINAL drawing (patched together on tracing paper; you can also see i re-sized the lamp drawing)… as well as a few test patches as i wasn’t sure if i was going to stain my watercolour paper like i did my merlyn piece, or leave it a clean white parchment. either way, i wanted it to look like an aged manuscript!

i also mixed this one up as it’s the largest original i’ve painted for the faerie tale feet series! so i had to blow up portions of my drawing to fit the surface…! also, i discovered through google researching the  bata shoe museum  in toronto, and now i NEED to road trip there IRL. (they have collections online and you can even spin shoes in 3D and yes, it totally helped for these slipper drawings!!)

i also mixed this one up as it’s the largest original i’ve painted for the faerie tale feet series! so i had to blow up portions of my drawing to fit the surface…! also, i discovered through google researching the bata shoe museum in toronto, and now i NEED to road trip there IRL. (they have collections online and you can even spin shoes in 3D and yes, it totally helped for these slipper drawings!!)

once i have my full drawing, i blew it up to the scale i wanted to paint it (you can see my photo copies spliced together; i’m totally hi*tech over here), and used a piece of graphite paper to transfer all the details down to my watercolour paper.

once i have my full drawing, i blew it up to the scale i wanted to paint it (you can see my photo copies spliced together; i’m totally hi*tech over here), and used a piece of graphite paper to transfer all the details down to my watercolour paper.

my trusty magnifying lamp, trying to help me not go blind for details as i re-trace my drawing down to the watercolour paper.

my trusty magnifying lamp, trying to help me not go blind for details as i re-trace my drawing down to the watercolour paper.

starting to add colour! i wanted to keep it monochromatic. i lasted for a while… ;D i painted everything in layers of washes of bombay india ink in turquoise from dr. ph. martin’s.

starting to add colour! i wanted to keep it monochromatic. i lasted for a while… ;D i painted everything in layers of washes of bombay india ink in turquoise from dr. ph. martin’s.

here's just a bit of time spent inking my new "just one more chapter" faerie tale feet painting inspired by scheherazade and the 1001 arabian nights tales.
once it was ALL BLUE (ceramic references from the met as well as classic genie!), it needed some visual variations. so i used lighter washes of cerulean transparent water color for the background arches, and added a few dabs of acrylic sepia to the slippers. then they were too green, so i added some opaque gouache paints in a variety of sandy colours. and some metallic gold. because, who am i to deny the world more shiny? ;)

once it was ALL BLUE (ceramic references from the met as well as classic genie!), it needed some visual variations. so i used lighter washes of cerulean transparent water color for the background arches, and added a few dabs of acrylic sepia to the slippers. then they were too green, so i added some opaque gouache paints in a variety of sandy colours. and some metallic gold. because, who am i to deny the world more shiny? ;)

you can see the shiny in this lighting. ;) as well as my paper plates i use for mixing gouache so i can re-use it in future paintings. :)

you can see the shiny in this lighting. ;) as well as my paper plates i use for mixing gouache so i can re-use it in future paintings. :)

i wrote a pretty scathing review of my main source material HERE on goodreads. and as i mentioned, both the stories of “aladdin” and “ali baba” didn’t appear in arabic until after antoine garland’s les mille et one nuits contes arabes was published (all twelve volumes between 1704-1717 when faerie tales were at their most fashionable in europe)… so there's considerable proof that they were both forgeries.

the earliest tales from india and persia that we have that were translated into arablic in the 8th century are known as “alf layla”- the thousand nights. more arab stories were added in the 9th & 10th centuries. and syria and egypt added stories in the 13th century and onward. and honestly, i find them all pretty awful… there's drunkenness & lots of beheadings & cutting off (even unmentionable) body parts.
there's demons and more drunkenness & sleeping around & it all gets quite tedious after a while.

i appreciate that this is ancient literature. orally passed down for centuries, then finally written down. and the 1990 english translation i used for my painting went back to the 14th century manuscript edited by muhsin mahdi.

it’s stories within stories within stories.
shahrazad (“she was intelligent, knowlegeable, wise and refined.”) is prolonging the invevitable— “i would like you to marry me to king shahrayar, so that i may either succeed in saving the people or perish and die like the rest.”— as are all the characters within her stories. they're telling their own stories. or someone else's stories-- in order to spare their own lives. but even more super confusing to the reader is to imagine that arabic has no punctuation.
so to sort out who's talking to whom stresses me out. even when reading it in english, it's difficult to remember who's telling a story from which story in which episode to which jiin or demon to save their lives through bargaining...

every night ending on a cliffhanger, “the king thought to himself, ‘i will spare her until i hear the rest of the story.’” and therein lies our quest for just one more chapter. :)

alas, there were a handful of repeat elements throughout the tales that weren’t TOO scandalous to paint.

so look through the lamp’s smoke and you’ll find not just decorative motifs from the region, but things such as:

  • trees

  • scimitar

  • parrot

  • great column of smoke (usually preceding a monster)

  • sword

  • lamp

  • horse (i did the one from the 62nd night)

  • the magic carpet/rug

  • and mostly just lots of floral/decorative swirls because the rest of it wasn’t even PG… ;)

i enjoyed researching all i didn’t know about the history of these tales. and i really DO LOVE how the painting turned out. even if it wasn’t the one i started out to paint, i think it’s lovely. and as enchanting as can be. :) even if a bit happier than the stories within…

“without the coincidence there would be no story. without pattern, there is no meaning.”
~robert irwin

signed limited edition reproductions available HERE on my etsy shoppe. and don’t forget to collect the matching greeting card, too!!

the original mixed media (ink, watercolor, gouache, acrylic) painting on handmade indian watercolour paper is available in a white washed wood frame for $545. (+$40 for safe US shipping.) email me if you're interested in collecting the original! it's beautiful! :)