Inspiration: Jim Henson’s “The StoryTeller”

As an artist (and as a human being, because who isn’t?), I love being inspired in surprising ways. Something out of the blue will your turn your head just a bit. And like a gemstone catching the light, you see a new color in the world. What shouldn’t be actually surprising is the great Jim Henson’s too short-lived fairy tale series has struck such a chord. I’ve just finished watching the series on Amazon Prime, and ready to rewatch with a sketchbook in hand. And so here is my gushy little meditation.

*cue the intro music*

Jim Henson’s The StoryTeller has been a recent delight to me. The music, the weirdly wonderful creatures, the old world tales, etc. (I think it was the talented Benjamin Schipper who first mentioned it to me.) Then whilst hunting down clips on YouTube, it hit me that I had actually seen an episode or two when I was 5 or 6. Something about its had always stuck with me that I was still curious about, and had finally tripped over it in broad daylight.

Jim Henson’s vision and execution was magical. And Anthony Minghella’s screenplay, incredible. The fact that so much was hand built gave warmth and charm to the spectacle. Of course hand-built creatures and prosthetics would play a major role because we’re talking about the greatest puppeteer and animatronics.

“Jim was enchanted by the idea of a television series that remained true to the subtlety and metaphoric richness of ancient stories. He and Lisa brainstormed the concept of the series, basing all of the episodes on authentic folk tales. The result of a strong literary research team joined with the magical visual effects and animatronics produced by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, The StoryTeller is a rare combination of ancient tradition and modern technology artistry.” (Muppet Fandom Wiki)

Wowing people with Hollywood grandiosity wasn’t the point and I love that!

Telling a story with hands-on craftsmanship —that down to earth essence— was what captured me and probably all its other fans. And this was all amplified by my slightly haunted childhood memories (I say that in only the best way), making it completely enchanting to rediscover as an adult. (Also very fun to recognize several British actors throughout.)

Not every episode is my favorite, and I wouldn’t recommend them to your children without you looking into the content for your own family’s standards. It’s not for everyone. Yeah, they’re often weird. The trolls kinda terrified me as a kid (and, honestly kind of as an adult?) BUT. I have found some living fairytales, and if you get some of the fun out of them that I did, please let me know. I’d love to fangirl with you.

As an example of the writing, there’s this one line from “Hans My Hedgehog”, that runs through my head and I just have to share: “He was well on the way when he heard a sound that was a bitter sound and a sweet sound all at once, a music that began like hello and ended like goodbye.” With writing like that, and in John Hurt’s storytelling voice too, who could resist? That there are only 9 fairytales is unfortunate. I wish it hadn’t been cancelled when it was, but that makes them all that more special.

I’ve not seen anything like it before, and I wish I could see more. It’s got my creative juice bubbling, and boy am I thanking the Lord for Jim Henson and his crew!

Beautifying the studio

This is a little moment of victory for me.

For all the art I love, I have precious little of it framed, let alone a hard copy I can hold in my hands! That’s becoming more important to me. Seeing art digitally is great, but sometimes I forget it’s a supplement to the physical thing.

John William Waterhouse has been one of my favorites… I used to pour over his work when I was younger. The colors and brushstrokes are intoxicating. The other day I was at the Pittock Mansion gift shop (Portland, OR! yes, I traveled!) and saw this beautiful painting on a note card.  I had to get it. It was barely $4, and it’s a totally legitimate way of getting more art in one’s life.

From a box of frames beside my table, I dug out this frame (I had bought for photo shoot that never made it to the light of day) and quickly plopped it in. There she was. My old/new friend I can look at up close anytime I want. Like a little guardian of beauty.

And then this afternoon I decided to treat myself to more… I ordered a couple things from Cory Godbey‘s shop which I’ve long admired. It’s easy enough for me to collect beautiful things, but I’m liking this consciously adding art to my surroundings.

So here’s to more art in my hands, in my studio…. and in your life and heart, and hands, too!





Book Review: The Green Ember by S.D. Smith

One of my favorite reads this year has been S.D. Smith’s The Green Ember, and I had to share my review with you. If you have young children and are looking for your next read-aloud, look no further.

(This post contains affiliate links. Any purchases you make through my links will provide me with a small commission at no extra charge to you. Thank you for your support! I appreciate it so much! See my disclosure policy here.)

This is a wonderful story full of adventure, friendship, betrayal, and redemption. That the characters are Rabbits only adds to the delight, and the pacing sweeps you into a worthwhile tale not to be soon forgotten.

Picket and Heather, a brother and sister who live in a peaceful wood, are beginning to learn about their family history in their Father’s bedtime tales. But when their home suffers a perilous attack from wolves, their family is separated. Heather and Picket have to fight for their lives, and soon they are guided to a safe warren. Here they gain loyal friends, but also more than a few cold skeptics.

While finding their place in the community, Heather and Picket’s family connections add to the rising tension in the warren. Rumors of a coming attack from the wolves, the unsettled longing for King Jupiter’s heir to rise, and the whole community’s yearning for their true home all collide into a test of loyalty and character.

Some of my favorite characters and imagery included Heather the budding Storyteller, Smalls, the Gardens, Maggie O’Sage, “The Mended Wood,” the stained glass windows(!!), Uncle Wilfred’s faithfulness, Emma’s journey to becoming a doctor, and of course the flaming crown jewel, the Green Ember. I also love the importance placed on craftsmanship, the necessity of art, and everyone’s skill having weight within the community. (And I hope we get better acquainted with Picket and Heather’s parents in a future book!) The whole book is a gem I can’t wait to share with my children someday.

The styling, character arcs, pacing, and imagery are all artful and compelling. Beautiful scenes of home, purpose in one’s work, and loyalty are deepened by the honest depictions of exile, the consequences of treachery, bitterness, and fighting for one’s home. Not only a book of action, it’s a thought-provoking tale that glories in the good, the true, and the beautiful.


Listening to the audiobook I missed the illustrations, so I loved getting to linger over them when I got my hard copy. Zach Franzen has done a lovely job with this book, and I’ve so enjoyed learning from him, especially in this article.

Directed to middle-grade readers, it’s a book the whole family will enjoy as a read-aloud. Having just finished the audiobook, I’m already starting it again to better savor the details and characters I love.

You can find copies of this delightful book in paperback and softcover at Story Warren Store, or via my Amazon link below. Happy reading!

The Green EmberThe Green Ember by S.D. Smith

Visit the author’s site here.

A fall afternoon in the studio

Sweet autumn’s days of sun and extended summer benediction are nearing to a close…


Elephant sketches! Can’t say a lot about the current book project just yet, but it does require watching videos of baby elephants.  Tough job.  Some animals are more challenging than others, and somehow elephants are one of those!  The leg joints are especially tricky, but studying their bone structure has been a big help.

Another work in progress: A prototype for a new planner – in an old Moleskine!


For a few years I’ve tested out Moleskine daily planners, my little black notebook, and this year I’ve been using NeuYear‘s Dominator (which are all worth-while tools).  But the the Dominator’s daily columns ended up being too narrow for my style, and while I just loved Moleskine’s thin paper, I missed the monthly calendars.  So, I’m back to a plain notebook, but this time in a larger size with extra writing space whenever I need it.  Drawing my own calendars still holds it’s irresistible charm over me as it did the previous two years, so here’s to a new venture!

I love learning about others’ planning tools and work flow.  Systems, y’all.  It’s an INFJ thing.

And speaking of systems, I’m currently inspired by illustrator Christopher Denise’s work process:
Read his interview on All Creativelike
And on his blog he shares about his latest book’s development. I’ve ordered my own copy and can’t wait to soak up every illustration.

Also enjoying:
Audrey Assad on YouTube, and Two Benedictions
How to Discourage Artists in Church, from the Gospel Coalition

Sally Clarkson and Kristen Kill’s new podcast! (Great for single ladies as well as mothers!!)

What work inspiration have you been enjoying lately?

A little reminder


Some days I need a little reminder from my friend, Mani:
“Perfection is the enemy of completion.”

Sometimes we creatives want to finish a piece and make it “presentable.” Knowing that other people are going to see our work somehow puts pressure on us. What we end up doing is wasting time “improving” something that was most beautiful at it’s first blush. That sketch? It already has a life of it’s own.

Learn to stop the fuss and step away. You’re done. You’re welcome.

Book recommendation: This summer I read Austin Kleon’s “Steal Like an Artist” and “Show Your Work“—I highly encourage you to read them both. If you’re looking for ways to improve your creative side and share what you’ve been making, these are for you!

Revisiting the Library


I sold my last “Library” print two weeks ago and it *almost* feels like the end of an era. I’ve had a stack of this print from when I first started my Etsy shop back in 2008, when we were using a local print shop. Has it really been seven years since I first painted “The Library”, and six since I started the shop? And now we’re printing from our home, using a beautiful, watercolor-like paper that honestly rivals the originals.

“The Library” has been a faithful piece, and well-loved. I think I’ll really miss the dear old thing. But no fear, “The Library” isn’t gone for good. While we won’t be seeing the old version, I’m creating a new one in the same spirit, just a jolly little revision and soon it will be back in the shop!

A Sale for Mother’s Day

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Mother’s Day is just around the corner!  To celebrate, we’re having a sale at The Breezy Tulip Studio shop! There are also some new prints available. (The one above is still in progress!)

Use coupon code MOTHER15 at checkout to take 20% off your order. Sale ends tonight at 11:59 pm!

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Above are two new prints, “Good Morning, Piggy!” and “We Will Serve the Lord.” Hop on over the The Breezy Tulip Studio’s shop to take a peek!

Daybook: 12 February 2015

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Thursday, February 12

Outside my window… The sunlight, wide and warm across the field, mixes with patches of darkness from the clouds. The atmosphere has that clear, hopeful brilliance of coming spring but the snow, which gives the appearance of melting, belies the thermometer: it’s a mere 22 degrees!

In the kitchen… In the evenings I’ve been making hot chocolate for mum and myself.  When your work is always nearby, it’s the perfect incentive to call it a day and pick up a good book.

I am creating… copies of Pauline Baynes’ style of pen and ink, practicing my own style of miniature drawings. Her thoughtful details on such small scale are captivating!

2015_2_pauline baynes_study

I am reading…
“The Bird in the Tree” by Elizabeth Goudge
“Morning and Evening” by Charles Spurgeon
“Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less” by Greg McKeown

I am thinking… about adding color to my blog design

I am visiting (online)…
The thought-provoking Audio Library at the CiRCE Institute
The oh-so-delightful Read Aloud Revival Podcast
Karen Andreola’s blog, “Moments with Mother Culture


Around the house…
Dad is finishing up remodeling the bathroom, and mom has started the spring cleaning.

I am looking forward to…
a St. Valentine’s event this weekend with the girls!

And the winner is…

There were 176 entries in the art print giveaway, and so many wonderful traditions people shared in their comments! I loved reading them, y’all, it was inspiring and really gets one in the spirit of Christmas. And a big thank you to Sew Mama Sew for the giveaway week! It’s always so much fun to find other creatives and enter their giveaways.

This morning after the giveaway had closed, I used to select the winner.  And the comment number selected was . . .

Screen shot 2014-12-13 at 12.11.48 PM

Number 118: Afton from Quilting Mod!
Afton’s favorite Christmas tradition? “
I love decorating gingerbread houses.”

I’ll be sending you an email and you can pick your favorite art print our of my Etsy shop!

Thank you, everyone, for entering! It’s been a lovely time getting a peek into your homes and traditions this wonderful season. I hope you all have a beautiful, restful Christmas and a joyful New Year! God bless!

It’s a giveaway!


It’s Giveaway Day at Sew Mama Sew!  And guess what– the giveaways are going to last all week so we’ll have plenty of time to browse and enter.

I’ll be giving away one print from my Etsy shop, The Breezy Tulip Studioyour pick!  Take a look through my Etsy shop and see what you like!

To enter, leave a comment about one of  your favorite Christmas traditions!  I love this time of year, and I’d love to hear about the ways your family makes it special.

This is an international giveaway.  The giveaway will be open through Friday 12/12 midnight, and the winner will be announced and notified on Saturday 12/13.  Best wishes!


This Giveaway is now closed!