Beauty and the Beast and Me

Departure time!

So … I’m kind of a tremendous nerd about Beauty and the Beast. (Surprise!) But although I have vehement personal notions about the tale, I’ve done lots of research, and might have something to offer other mildly interested or incurable BatB nerds out there.

First off—if you’re interested in originals, the first Beauty and the Beast story as we know it was over 300 pages long and written in 1740 by Madame Villanueve, arguably—and interestingly—as a tale of empowerment meant for young aristocratic French girls, who often had little or no say in who they married; the idea being that the transformative power of deliberate, intentional love can transform even the most distasteful creature into a person worth being with. A sort of quasi-feminist idea—difficult, maybe, for modern audiences, but lends the story an intriguing depth. Of course, that depth is stripped nearly down to its bare bones in the condensed, hamfistedly didactic retelling by Madame Le Prince du Beaumont, whose version is often mixed with Villanueve’s in later versions. A good place to start for both of these and other folktale versions is here at Sur La Lune.

As for more or less recent versions, there are four I love enough to own. First, naturally, is Robin McKinley’s flawless BEAUTY which likely sowed the seeds for Disney’s animated film. (She rewrote the story much later as ROSE DAUGHTER, but I liked this one far 222659._UY200_less—dark, confusing, and in desperate need of editing—three pages describing how every inch of Beauty’s room is covered in roses? Really?) My other three favorites are all illustrated and somewhat shorter, starting with Marianna and Mercer Mayer’s 514B35XE7ALBEAUTY AND THE BEAST, with hints of Jean Cocteau’s visionary1946 film (cat-Beast!) and some of the most gorgeous illustrations the story has ever received (those of you who only know Mayer for Little Critter, think again!) Next comes Max Eilenberg’s delightful retelling with Angela Barret’s poignantly delicate illustrations (probably my favorite Beast, even with the rabbit ears). Last (but by c6519dea9e456faa3c8043dcd3d7e5cfno means least!) comes Nancy Willard’s longish but not quite novel-length story, a vividly rich, achingly poetic prose sparsely interspersed with Barry Moser’s haunting woodcuts, unexpectedly set in Victorian New England.main-qimg-715b47a24cf39d6ba287b98414bf4931-c

As for more recent versions … friends, it’s a swamp—at least for me. There are probably hundreds, and it’s so long since I’ve been able to survive the first few pages of any one that I confess I’ve more or less given up on these. (Which kind of means I’ve had to resort to writing my own. One in submission, two in progress, multiple poems, and three comics. I know. I have problems.) So if any brave and fortunate soul has recommendations to impart, note below! No, really, please. I’m begging you … end my agony … (*gasp*)

P.S. – Also noteworthy is the true and somewhat tragic story of Petrus Gonsalvus. Though there is little evidence to support claims that his life and marriage actually inspired Villaneuve’s original story, the parallels are intriguing nonetheless.

So for those of you who skipped to the bottom hoping for some helpful bullet-points, happy birthday:

For originals, inspirations, and background stories:

For my favorite retellings:

10th International LDS Art Competition Entry

I just finished this — my submission for the 10th International LDS Art Competition this year. The theme was: Tell Me the Stories of Jesus.

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“And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.” Luke 2:52

If the judges like it, it’ll go in an exhibit this fall in the Church Art History Museum in SLC (which will also be online). I’ll keep you posted on that score …

I started with a graphite drawing and painted it in Photoshop. If anyone’s interested, I’m happy to post a quick process overview.

Mirabel and Toska

These were for my latest novel, which has just entered the submission process (fingers crossed). It’s a loose retelling of Beauty and the Beast, a story with which I resonate so deeply that not only have I collected every (well) illustrated version I can find, but I can’t seem to escape it. I’m actually working on a totally different spin, set in contemporary Hawaii, where a half-Polynesian “Beast” and his two siblings run a flower-shop and host luaus during tourist season. Yep. More on that later.

Autumn Walk

While we’re on the subject of old class assignments, this was one of my favorites – from a digital art class, if you can believe it. We were supposed to take the concepts we’d been working with digitally out into the real world. For me, this manifested in giant found-art collages on the floor of the Harris Fine Arts Center. This was one iteration. The silhouettes are from a photo I took of my brother and sister walking on the beach.

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