“the circus arrives without warning.”
like millions of us around the world, i absolutely am in love with erin morgenstern’s book the night circus.
full of magic, romance, mystery, and a “circus that arrives without warning.” all in black & white and shades of grey, none the less. and those who are hopelessly devoted (and even travel wherever the circus appears next) attend the circus in the same colour scheme, but with a wardrobe accessory of red. call me a rêveur. i’m there, “like stepping into a fairy tale under a curtain of stars.”
have a peak at the painting and research process below, and then i’ll tell you all i included within the painting to allude to details and characters from erin’s marvelous tale.
(i started my re-read and research of this novel on the day i spoke to a local elementary school art class about my career as an artist; so that’s me in the teacher’s lounge trying to pretend i’m the world’s best public speaker and kids don’t scare me. it actually went quite well.) ;)
so THAT was a process, no?
here’s all the story icons and illusions you’ll find in my finished painting. (yes, i edited down my ideas, as usual. but i still crammed quite a bit in there.)
the striped tents of le cirque des rêves
prosper the enchanter (hector bowen)’s top hat
^often found alongside the man in the grey suit’s top hat
the teacup, flowered porcelain that celia would break and repair as a child as she learned
the binding rings: celia’s silver & marco’s gold, interlocked and inseparable as their fates
the dove that celia couldn’t save is also reflected at the end of the book, next to a book of shakespeare’s sonnets, which is why my doves are literally cut out of a book of the same.
marco alisdair (le bateleur, the magician)’s bowler hat
^and i made his suit deep green because of his remarkable (mesmerizingly green) eyes
isobel martin’s glove doubled in meaning with poppet’s tiny white glove she gave to bailey in proof of his dare to sneak into the circus during the daytime
there was a butterfly suspended in glass at the first planning meeting for the circus at la maison de fèvre
the plain grey envelope containing the proclamation “your move.”
the ravens from celia’s audition
herr thiessen’s intricate and huge detailed clock i condensed down into the twinkling stars, the silver dragon, the curls of steam from the teapots, and the clouds
tsukiko’s folded paper cranes for the twins’ birth
the wide black cauldron with clawed feet with dancing white flames from the entrance to the circus
the black & white striped bag of popcorn (who doesn’t go to the circus for the junk food?)
the black umbrella (swoon; the revelation)
the flying hippopotamus is a reference to pg. 368 ;)
the two of hearts playing card (the stabbing, but more happily, the ending of the book)
the twins’ black & white kittens
and the scroll-y pattern at the bottom is all an allusion to ghost hector’s lace cuffs, the shawl celia left behind, the ice garden, and the white flames of the circus cauldron fire.
and yes, i put my own (imaginary wardrobe) red shoe there next to my signature as a proper rêveur would.
limited edition signed reproductions of my painting “the circus arrives without warning” now available HERE on my halthegal etsy shoppe!
coming soon: bookmarks (in time for beaulitfulcon!)
and valentines are here. the best holiday of all. ;)
i hope my painting inspires you to step back into the tale.
(i also listened to the audiobook narrated by in the incomparable jim dale while i painted; recommended story time!!)
and if you’re interested in the original painting, it’s framed in a soft black wooden frame (and comes with my annotated edition of the book with all my post*its & margin notes of ideas!) and available for $560 +$40 for safe US shipping. contact me if interested.
and to wrap it up, here are a few of my favourite quotes from this remarkable book:
“People see what they wish to see. And in most cases, what they are told that they see.”
“Once [the Burgess sisters] were librarians, but that is a subject they will only discuss if heavily intoxicated.”
“If we do things properly, it will undoubtedly take on a life of its own.”
“I was distracted by the size of the library. I did not think anyone would notice I was missing.”
“I am certain that they would,” Marco says. “Though I have been distracted by the library, myself, many times.”
“The world is a more interesting place than I had ever imagined…”
By the time he reaches the farm, he is sure that the Bailey he is now is closer to the Bailey he is supposed to be than the Bailey he had been the day before. He may not be certain what any of it means, but for now he does not think that it much matters.
In his dreams, he is a knight on horseback, carrying a silver sword, and it does not really seem that strange after all.
We add our own stories, each visitor, each visit, each night spent at the circus. I suppose there will never be a lack of things to say, of stories to be told and shared.
“Who doesn’t like a good cake analogy?”
“I would have written you, myself, if I could put down in words everything I want to say to you. A see of ink would not be enough.”
“I feel like one of those girls in fairy tales, the ones who don’t even have shoes and then somehow get to attend a ball at the castle.”
“Did it work?” he asks. “Please tell me that it worked.”
In response, she kisses him the way he once kissed her in the middle of a crowded ballroom.
As though they were the only two people in the world.
you can also visit my instagram page. i’ve put together a highlight reel of the whole painting journey!