Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Ventriloquism

Ventriloquism : n. art of throwing one's voice so that it seems to come from some source other than the speaker. 1797, formed as a descriptive noun to ventriloquist, with substitution of the suffix -ism. The word has generally replaced the older ventriloquy. ventriloquist n. an expert in ventriloquism. 1656, in Blount's Glossographia; formed from English ventriloquy + -ist. ventriloquy n. ventriloquism. 1584, formed from Late Latin ventriloquus ventriloquist + English -y. Late Latin ventriloquus (Latin venter, genitive ventris, belly + loqui, speak) was patterned on Greek engastrimythos, literally, speaking in the belly.

~ from the Chambers Dictionary of Etymology


AND SUCH WAS THE TREASURE OF INSPIRATION I found in my beloved Etymological Dictionary, when I searched for Ventriloquism, upon learning that I was to paint the front cover for Catherynne M. Valente's wonderful forthcoming collection of short stories. Catherynne's world and mine intersect in some melancholic snow-bound medieval Slavic outpost, where freaks and outcasts, oddities and dreams wander the streets with sorcery in their pockets and an eye on another horizon. Truly her writing is exquisitely painted, and I was honoured indeed when she asked me to create the cover for this marvellous book.


She told me that it had the flavour of her other work - baroque and colorful and more than a little sad. It's full of duelling geographers, she said, dream-eating tapirs, winemakers in space, selkies, aeronauts, Venus and Mars, secret video games, a host of fairy tales, rusalka medical students...it's six years of my work, in one book. I kind of think of the whole thing like the witch's candy house in Hansel and Gretel.



Well! How could I not be inspired and delighted by all that?! And so in I delved...
I took the idea of belly-speaking from the original meaning of ventriloquism, and decided that the front of the book should show a kind of marionette figure (operating her own strings) whose body was the gingerbread house itself. From the belly of this character, from the stove of the gingerbread house/body, rises a smoke of characters from the world of these stories: Narwhals, bears, parrot-men, pickpocket pamphleteers, monks, dream-tapirs, witches, monopods, rusalki, selkies, blemmyae .... and a mystery of others.



In the sky above hang many strange planets, even a fob watch, and down below on a railway line from some eastern onion-domed city, travels a train whose track becomes a ladder to the moon. Underneath this, for the keen-eyed, is written in Cyrillic a Russian lullaby which goes like this:

Баю-баюшки-баю,
Не ложися на краю.
Придёт серенький волчок,
Он ухватит за бочок
И утащит во лесок
Под ракитовый кусток.

which means something like this:

Baby, baby, rock-a-bye
On the edge you mustn't lie
Or the little grey wolf will come
And will nip you on the tum,
Tug you off into the wood
Underneath the willow-root.

and sounds something like this:










This track is Yuri's Lullaby from Ludovico Einaudi's soundtrack to Doctor Zhivago, but you might have also heard the lullaby in the masterly 1979 animation by Yuri Norstein Skaza Skazok (Tale of Tales) ...










Russian animation delights and astounds me endlessly. I collect favourites on my youtube channel here for afternoons with rain on the windowpane and cup of tea in hand, and I sit and marvel at the patience and soul that goes into these masterpieces.



Anyhow, although I learnt Russian at school, and can just about order a cup of coffee and read road signs to Vladivostok, I seem to have made one tiny mistake in the lettering... exchanging a к for a ж! This was spotted by an eagle eyed reader of Catherynne's blog and is going to bother me forever now, as it was whisked to print before I could correct it! But perhaps it'll remain a little oddity, in excellent company amongst oddities of the highest order who inhabit the wonder-filled world of Ms. Valente.
I was chuffed indeed to read her kind praise of my work too, and to hear that she feels my painting describes her world so closely.




The painting took me absolutely weeks and weeks... I got more and more involved in it and happily lost in the world of gingerbread marionettes, medieval monstrosities, sugar-spun ships, sea-dwellers, forests in the snow... Here amongst my burblings are pictures of it in its birthing, pencil and then watercolour, and the title lettering too.


You absolutely must order a copy. It is available for pre-order now, ready for its December publication. Ventriloquism is being published here in the UK by PS Publishing, based in Yorkshire, with an introduction written by Lev Grossman, who writes of the book:

"When this book arrives it will destroy you. It is going to change things. As its herald I will be spared. But you? There is no safe harbor for you."



This is the final work - do click to enlarge


~~~~~~~~~

AND as a last post script, I'd like to say a basketful of thanks to all of you who read my recent post and wrote such kind, encouraging and thoughtful comments and emails. I am uplifted and cheered and more than a little astounded! Thank you!
Our late autumn days are rolling along happily, the Slavic aroma has drifted into other things, as it is wont to in this house: there's accordion and clarinet duetting, Baba Yaga drawing, and daily hound stomps out into the frost where the hills are crackling blue and Winter watches us all from over the hill, and throws her voice into this November, like the artful ventriloquist she is.




60 comments:

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

This cover takes my breath away.
Truly magical, Rima!

pRiyA said...

Oh this is such a fascinating picture in every sense of the word! Strange, haunting and intriguing.
Clap clap clap...:-)

FairiesNest said...

Artwork by you and stories by Catherynne M. Valente...now that is a plethora of riches!

Bruce Barone said...

Speechless!!!

Eva said...

Phantastic work! I was rocked with some bayushki-bayú in my childhood, although not entirely. You got the atmosphere! The close-up of the people's portraits can tell.
My mother told me about another Russian folk song with the lines: "The evil Chechen sneaks up the river bank, his dagger sharpened". Very good idea for a lullaby.

Griffin said...

Coo! Lucky Catherynne to have you do work on her book! If I write a book I would have to beg you to illustrate it.

...dream-eating tapirs?! :) I do like that!

Emerald Window said...

Oh Rima, Your book cover is so incredible.
I just found out through our geneology trek that my great grandparents came from Odessa. My name is the pronunciation of Cynthia in Russian (Xenia).
Your beautiful painting fills a place in my heart of heritage. Thank You.
Cenya

Shelley Noble said...

I love how you throw off astounding language, as the below, as though it were nothing at all. Everything from your lips reads like the finest tale to be told, even your Tweets, for sweet sake. I bet if you swore in anger it would make the heavens shimmer.

"Our late autumn days are rolling along happily, the Slavic aroma has drifted into other things, as it is wont to in this house: there's accordion and clarinet duetting, Baba Yaga drawing, and daily hound stomps out into the frost where the hills are crackling blue and Winter watches us all from over the hill, and throws her voice into this November, like the artful ventriloquist she is."

soeur de le lune said...

so beautiful, as always! you just reminded me that i need to buy one of your prints.

Heather said...

Your artwork is truly amazing - the book would be worth buying just for it's jacket! I love the photo of your dog in the frosty moonlight.

Annette said...

Your artwork is breathtaking. I enjoyed the videos as well.

Thank you so much!

gundula said...

Hallo Rima,
I'm glad to see, that you continue in your beautiful way of using words and colours. Of course I ordered the book immediatly! There was no choice.
Thank you for all.
Sincerely Gundula

Breenee said...

Delicious!
The first thought I had when I read your definition at the top was of baubo, speaking from the belly, and there she is, of course!
Thanks for sharing, and for the tip-off about the book!

aintshakespeare said...

What an enchanting painting. I love the smokey dream crowd and the minty sky. And how can you not want to buy a book whose harbinger predicts your demise?

Tonia said...

This is so wonderful I'm actually lost for words to describe how it makes me feel. Except that I'd like to sit down with the gingerbread marionette, watching and listening to her stories forever.

Swan Artworks said...

A wonderful piece of art, it will make a stunning book! There's always so much within those faces, postures of hand, turn of glance... deeply emotive and evocative.
And the animation had me deeply drawn in, such delicately and powerfully drawn symbolisms... and more than once reminding me of a touch of Tarkovsky and Stalker... Thankyou so much for sharing it!
Take care
Carrie...

Betty said...

So lovely - might try to get hold of the book even. Your pictures, and especially this cover, remind me of childhood dreams and nightmares combined! there is always a certain 'something additional in the shadows' with your work that leaves your mind working overtime. The gingerbread house has that danger element that I always sense in your work.

farmlady said...

Wow! I was mesmerized by the Russian Tale of Tales Videos. Watched them over again and the 4th one( the last). That this was done without words, only being "spoken" in animation and music is astounding.I was just taken in with the story and the skill of the animation.
Your cover for the book is wonderful. So like you, filled with symbols and strangness.... and so much of the human condition.
You are an amazing artist...

Lrc said...

I love getting lost in the characters you draw and paint and this book seems a wonderful pairing. I agree with the comment about an element of danger in your creations. The people push at my eyes with their stories and expressions...This is the time of year that is cozy and dangerous too. I am sooo tempted to get this book!

jodi said...

Oh Rima, I love that I'll be able to go into a bookshop and see your marionette and all the dreamy passengers of your train lined up and ready to journey off and away with me. Congratulations, it must be exciting! How perfect, how lovely!

Aaron-Paul said...

As always Rima you blow my away with your words and paint....stunning

Mollamari said...

Oh my my it is absolutely enchanting! I love every cent of it! You are a master at painting, all the characters and everything in the picture are just perfect, making it so interesting and oddly beautiful.

Valerianna said...

A pleasure to come home from a long day of students and long drive in car and listen to the lullaby while traveling into your painting to the world I really belong to. Beautiful, thank you!

A mermaid in the attic said...

Wonderful, gorgeous, masterful (or should that be 'mistressful'...sigh, it doesn't quite mean the same, does it?!) Another piece of magic floating out into the world!

William said...

Rima,
I save my hard earned pennies in wait of your lovely posts showcasing talents like yours and your fellow artisans. I can not wait to get this.

Best wishes.

Shelley Bittick said...

Your creation is magical and I love how you included your self portrait.

Lynn said...

Achingly beautiful.

Snippety Giblets said...

Congratulations ! A wonderful triumph - it's beautiful. I love the tiny details too, like the shadowy train driver and the little man running from the forest. Lovely to have such well-deserved praise from the author xxx

Lady San Pedro said...

Beautiful. Congratulations!

mr-greenmouse said...

Потрясающая работа!
И было очень приятно прочитать о вашей любви к русской анимации.

Linda Ellett said...

Rima, Thank you for your wonderful posts, and for sharing the process and inspirations for your work. Your words and images go out into the world and inspire. Always looking forward to the next post.

Gypsy Moon Art Studio said...

Not only do I love the mood and energy of your beautiful creations, but the faces are amazing. With just the simplest of lines and shading, you can evoke the deepest of human emotions. Fantastic!

nina said...

rima, i am so excited about the book, and of course i've rushed right over to that site to order it. if only i could have it signed by you...perhaps if i sweet talk you, you can send me a bookplate that is signed?
i've been remembering doctor zhivago this week, and russian things, and even featured a quote from the book on my blog. must be in the air.
i have thought of you often, and hope you are well. xo

nina said...

ps. is that you, there, that i see below the bear?
the artwork is - as always, always, always - INCREDIBLE. xo

ezrablu said...

Rima...you're a beautiful soul. To have one moment in your heart and mind, I'm certain would be nothing short of astounding.

Sarah Franz-Wichlacz said...

this cover is absolutely stunning! it doesn't surprise me at all that you are captivated by russian animation- i've always loved it, too, and i can see it so clearly in your work. your art and your writings are such wondrous things... thank you for sharing them...

Heidi said...

Once again, thank you Rima for bringing apiece of beauty into my day.
Stunning, lovely and so YOU.

A.R. said...

Wonderful piece! Your artwork and Valente's stories are indeed a perfect fit.

LittleInsect said...

like Nina, I too would like it signed by you. Now here's a thought - maybe you could design a book plate, autograph it, and sell it to us to generate some extra cash?

Vivienne said...

Well done Rima. That picture is astounding. I could travel for hours in it. And why is your name not somewhere to be seen on the cover?

Coyopa said...

The cover is a thing of beauty and wonder - as ever, I feel myself blessed to witness the dreaming and making and evolving of it. I too am particularly fond of the fellow in the woods... perhaps he's one who is intimately acquainted with red and white mushrooms? But I'm really here to say what a fantastic idea I think the Rima Staines bookplates are (see the comments above)! Can't wait to see what's next! x

bunbury in the city said...

Rima, I have been pouring over each new blog addition and rationing out the backlog written prior to my discovery for those times in my life when inspiration, warmth, and beauty are most needed, but I have heretofore remained a silent watcher.

That said, I could not remain silent at the marriage between your art and Catherynne Valente's, as it is a perfect match! I bemoan the fact that I must wait most impatiently to find a copy here in the U.S. I will simply have to console myself with a reading of Palimpsest and more backlog of your blog while I wait for the next great work!

Lunaea said...

"...the patience and soul that goes into these masterpieces..."

That's just how I feel about YOUR work, Rima. Thanks, as always, for sharing some of your magical world.

mrsduncanmahogany said...

Stunning, beautiful, magickal, mysterious, wondering, I could go on. Fabulous work Rima! Such a delight to gaze upon. You are such a beautiful composer of art...

Blessings,
Dianna

Amas Veritas said...

How in the world did you paint the most precise-yet-abstract depiction of how characters housed in my home library appear to me?

I read your present blog entry yesterday evening, the promptly dreamed in the language of your art last night. I think at some point I need some of your work. Being a lowly bank clerk, it won't happen tomorrow, but eventually.

Cheers, dear!

Anonymous said...

Regretfully I am not good enough in English language to express what I alway feel when reading in this blog. It is a very special kind of magic which you you create with your words, pictures and artworks. Thank you very much for this very special gern in www

Funny
a reader from Germany

Victoria Rowland said...

Rima I deeply admire your paintings, they are so emotional, this place of yours is not only a window but a door to a bizarre and fantastic medieval-ish world we all love.

I dare to ask a favor, could you please put your images in real size, just like before? These old eyes would thank you.

And if you're having problems with copycats, you can always use a watermark.

Thanks again for sharing your art and time with us, strangers.

x

herhimnbryn said...

Hallo Lady Rima,
Beautiful work. It will sit in peeple's hands and they will look and then look again.

steven said...

rima thankyou for another peep into the deep communion you share with the worlds within this world - and especially with the ones without! steven

Ciara said...

Oh how beautiful!

I absolutely LOVE this one, Rima. Yet again. :-)

Velma said...

beautiful illustration, edgy and uncertain and rollicking and make me want to read this book!

Owen said...

Beautiful Rima ! Can only add two more hands clapping to this round of applause.

Every time you take the stage here you get a standing ovation... how else can we express the inspiration and magic you transmit in every work of art ?

I think the seal is a silkie, as in...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6zZy2Q3QY0Q

Curious Art said...

Stunning, Rima!

Plumrose Lane said...

What a treasure of a find you are!
♥Sharon

tracy said...

hello Rima
I've been away too long from your enchanting words and art. However, whenever Troy draws a face I think of you and the time you gave to him. This book cover is truely magical to say the least. The detail is astounding and at first glance you miss all the tiny details encapsulated within.
I was sorry to read about the refund misunderstanding, and wish I could buy that clock off that lady for you. However, such is the way of people in todays society.
We miss you and Tui but are glad you have found a sweet haven.
I am also glad you have a beautiful dog.
Much love comes to you from both of us and keep on with your weird and wonderful art and words.
Yours forever Tracy x

Anonymous said...

Hello, you site is very funny he told me to cheer up .. Merry Christmas.

Carma Baker said...

I so very much enjoy reading your posts! they are like a beautiful quilt each one like a patch I can get lost in and drift to another place, another time and connect with you... Thanks!

Carma

Carma Baker said...

I so very much enjoy reading your posts! they are like a beautiful quilt each one like a patch I can get lost in and drift to another place, another time and connect with you... Thanks!

Carma

Anonymous said...

I llove your article

Graceful Moments said...

I never cease to be amazed at your wonderful work! Brilliant!