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Stepping into the Lane we are to turn left. The first building we pass is the Tower Bank Arms. It is here that Kep gathered his friends to help him rescue Jemima from the devious Mr. Fox. . . .
Hill Top is situated just behind Tower Bank Arms. Beatrix bought it in later years and gave it to the National Trust. The oldest part of the building dates back to the late 1600s. One of the first things Beatrix had built when she bought Hill Top was a stone wall between these two properties.....but I will let Jemima tell it her way. . . .
THE TALE OF TOM KITTEN
Pit pat, paddle pat! Pit pat, waddle pat! Quack! Quack! My story was first told to Ralph and Betsy. They belong to Hill Top’s caretakers, Mr. and Mrs. Cannon. This is Mrs. Cannon giving us our morning meal. . . .
And here is Ralph finding my eggs in the rhubarb patch. Mrs. Cannon would not let me hatch my own eggs so I was always trying to find a secret place to hide them!. . . .
Jemima, we know all that. Your story was told last month. Could we please get on with the walk through the village.
Oh, right, sorry. Oh, look. Here come my sister, Rebeccah, and Mr. Drake Puddle-Duck. . . .
“We are coming to see you, Jemima,” Rebeccah quacked. . . .
and try them on. . . .
Well, I think we've lost Jemima to her vanity. She is quite enjoying how fancy she looks. Earlier, Mrs. Tabitha Twitchit had dressed her children for tea and sent them into the garden while she finished getting ready for her guests. . . .
Uh, oh. I see her coming down the garden path to see what Tom, and his sisters, Mittens and Moppet are up to. . . .
This is the scene I've chosen to draw and paint this month. . . .
You may have noticed I did not draw in the tails to the two kitties to the left because, frankly, they looked out of place to me in relationship to the bodies they belonged too, and secondly, did anyone notice that Beatrix (or was it the printer?) gave the grayish/white cat a brown tail!
After spending a day drawing and painting, then trying desperately another day to salvage the background to my painting, making it worse each time, I finally resigned myself to doing the whole thing over! This seems to be my biggest obstacle in learning to draw--my belief I MUST get it right the first time. I knew it would not hurt me to redraw the picture--in fact, I knew the practice would benefit me....so why did I resist for so long?! In redrawing it I could see I had the proportions all wrong the first time. Then when it came time to paint, I took a much more relaxed approach. Even though it doesn't look exactly like Beatrix's, I'm pleased with how it turned out. ← I wrote those words before I painted my picture, hoping they'd be true.....but alas, I'm not at all pleased with my painting, as far as it looking like Beatrix's. I do wonder how she had such muted colors. Here is my colorful rendition. . . .
After much dithering about whether I should do a third try I wondered if it could have been the printing process that gave Beatrix's paintings that muted look? So I played around with my photo editor and decreased the color saturation. This is what I get. What a difference! At least now it doesn't shout at me . . . .
Rosemary Wells, a children's author/illustrator, had the chance to look at Beatrix's original watercolors when she visited England years ago. She writes, "The first secret I found was that Beatrix Potter made mistakes like any normal artist. She whited them out with white paint so that the camera wouldn't 'see' them. Because her paper has faded and dulled, the white paint stands out now as it did not eighty or ninety years ago when she applied it. At times she tried splicing." (Note: this is what I tried before I even read that Beatrix did it!) She continues, "....the final art in The Roly-Poly Pudding where Tabitha Twitchit is mewing on the stairs beside a cherry velvet curtain....[her] head is spliced on." Ms. Wells goes on to relate her own frustration of nearly finishing a painting, making a mistake, and having to redo it and how splicing almost never works. This was good for me to hear. Ms. Wells also gives me the names of the colors Beatrix used and brand and said they've held up really well. The paper, however, has not because Beatrix used inexpensive paper full of time-released acids. I found the paper I've been using for my paintings this year easily rubs off if I put too much water on it. I will have to go back to using what I used last year even though the bumpiness makes it hard to draw on. You can find Rosemary Wells' entire essay along with other encounters with Beatrix or her work in "So I Shall Tell You a Story..." Selected & Edited by Judy Taylor.
ABOUT BEATRIX AND HILL TOP
Beatrix bought Hill Top in 1905 after Norman Warne's death (her fiancee). She never lived there full time because she was still looking after her parents. When she'd go to Near Sawrey to supervise the improvements she lodged with the blacksmith and his wife at Belle Green. Her garden was one of the first improvements she made. Here is a map of it from Marta McDowell's book, "Beatrix Potter's Gardening Life". . . .
As you see, The Tale of Tom Kitten's illustration drew heavily on Hill Top's Garden, while The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck's illustrations are not only from the garden but from the farm yard next door. Beatrix had added on the extension to the left side of Hill Top for the Cannons to live in. Jemima's trek out into the countryside in search of a place to lay her eggs is drawn from the surrounding area.
You can watch both The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck and The Tale of Tom Kitten below. I enjoyed it for the beautiful watercolor landscapes--this is the style I hope one day to be able to paint. The stories are introduced by Beatrix Potter, portrayed by Niamh Cusack, and filmed in Near Sawrey at Hill Top Farm. At the end Beatrix walks through her garden out into the Lane and turns left just the way Jemima took us past Tower Bank Arms on her way to mail her picture letter to some special child. . . .
One of the books in my collection is "Peter Rabbit's Little Guide to Life". . . .
A wonderful book full of photographs of Hill Top Farm and the surrounding area is At Home With Beatrix Potter by Susan Denyer.
Until next month. . . .
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