Friday, August 16, 2013


For a number of years we were ever so busy creating art for kids . . . one-kid-at-a-time. 

We were commissioned by loving parents to create imaginative environments to help inspire their children to have curiosity and the mental acumen to reach beyond the 'ordinary world.'

We weren't getting famous doing stuff like this, one-kid-at-a-time, but we were paid well and were given some free reign to create full-sized paintings beyond the norm. One special little girl was the recipient of a trip to Wonderland.

© 1993 Haller Buchanan

We were commissioned to tastefully fill the child's nursery with our version of Alice in that other realm— starting with her amazing dreamy descent down the rabbit hole. Alice's adventures have been pictorially rendered by many illustrators over generations, so it was hard to ignore their influence. In fact, we embraced the many influences through our various paintings by here and there paying homage to those who had traveled Wonderland before us.

You don't need to be terribly observant to see that we deviated from most versions by bestowing raven black hair upon Alice, and you might ask, 'why is her raven-hair like a writing desk?' Becaws, I mean, because the child who was to inhabit this room would be born with dark hair. That's right, the child wasn't yet born, but we were decorating her room with some foreknowledge that 'it' would be a 'she' and she would have the parents' gene for dark hair. I don't remember how that was determined so early, but it indeed turned out to be the case. 

SO, it was gently decreed that this Alice deviate from her literary blonde heritage. Interesting to realize that this lovely child is now 20 years old.

As indicated last post, this 6 foot tall canvas progressed in the non-traditional way of painting the foreground figure first, and then assembling the background behind her. It was always a curious thing, this rabbit hole, how it was full of things of the world decorating its long descent into the underworld. But rather than questioning the logic, we again embraced the concept and went to it. That map is of Tolkien's Middle Earth and the other stuff was, um,  stuff and nonsense.

More to come about this wonderland nursery.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Orange Marmalade

©Thomas Buchanan

Of course you know who this little girl is supposed to be and why she's holding a jar of marmalade. Hmm, such dark dark hair.  

This was painted with acrylic on stretched canvas, and only shows the first stage of completion. Normally I might paint a background first and paint the foreground figure over it, but I tend to work in contradictory ways.

Next post will show the background and will write up some notes about the project.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Fireflies in a Lantern

When Jill and I were Artists-in-Residence at the Children's Museum of Denver, we were involved in every aspect of creative planning and implementation. The projects were always diverse, and always loads of fun.

A Story Room was a natural fit for the Museum's mission but it was a plan that needed to be done in several phases, so as to raise money before proceeding to the next phase. The 'easiest' way to start would be to paint a mural on the long wall of the room. With only a verbal okay for a verbal idea pitch, we started in on this slightly fanciful nighttime scene of fireflies flitting to and fro and gathering in the lantern to shed some light on the kid's book.

This was one of those paintings that just flowed onto the wall, with no pencilling or guidelines of any kind. I don't remember where it began and where it ended, but it was alla prima and all at once all the way. It was started and completed in six hours or so, with lots of stepping back to view from the far wall to get a sense of scale. It was a satisfying day's work.

The next phase was to be a 3 dimensional fanciful tree that would reside in a far corner that kids could play in and around during scheduled birthday parties, and other times have a storyteller sit at the base of the tree and have some puppet work back her up. For this phase we did some careful designing, creating a number of studies and a finished elevation painting for committee approval.

Eh, the next phase funding never came through. One more project plan to file in the archives.

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Great Magical Record Book of Glinda the Good

A decade and a half ago we were commissioned to create a mural on canvas—celebrating L. Frank Baum's original Oz books for a children's museum, where we were Artists-in-Residence. It was to be the centerpiece for an exhibit promoting illustration as a 'Gateway to Literacy'. 

We had an 8 foot wide canvas stretched in an arch shape (not an easy shape to get just right), had it primed and ready to go. We did a comprehensive design that displayed most of the prominent characters, using the John R. Neill drawing style as guide and inspiration. We started creating finished color studies,  and were all set to start transferring the design to the canvas . . . when the project cancelled for various reasons.

We kept the blank canvas in storage for several years, finally deciding to go ahead and paint the image to sell or donate to a worthy cause for kids. Feeling excited that we could finally create this piece to live and prosper, we went to get the canvas out of storage only to find a huge rip right down the center of the fabric. Talk about taking the wind out of our sails.

We kept the sketches in our archives, along with the one finished color study painted in watercolor,  (which we posted on our Pictorial Arts Blog) for several more years. We recently received a nice note from the Executive Director of the Lyman Frank Baum Foundation asking to display a color photocopy of the Glinda study during a fundraiser event.

Feeling like this was a perfect home for the watercolor we offered to donate the original to the foundation. Happily accepting it, the director plans to place it in the Baum House after the event, where I'm most happy to have it reside.

Below, another study that fell just short of going to color.

I hope someday we still get a chance to redesign and create this Oz tribute in some form.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Snippets & Bibbets — REBOOT

Hello and welcome to Snippets and Bibbets version two point zero. 

My name is Thom and sitting over there is Jill, my studio partner, who's not saying a word at the moment, but she IS smiling and waving. She may be a 'silent' partner literally, but oh so active creatively. We've been doing projects for kids for years so we have a lot to share with you. The image above shows how our work sometimes comes together, ol' Will by me, background by Jill. 

This blog has been up for some time, but then we got really busy doing all kinds of fun things so that we hadn't posted anything in over a year. 

We thought we should start this blog over, more or less from scratch, so that we can organize our posts by our projects, some of them recent, and some of our favorites from our archives—and be a little more regular about it.

This blog is themed around the work we've created for children specifically, but also for the children in all of us. That sounds like a cliché, but we all know it to be true that some portion of each of us yearns to be ten again, on a comfy bed with a flashlight and a wonderful book, with pictures that help make the words come alive.

Of course you know to click on any image to see it larger.