Saturday, November 16, 2013

I want to live in Narnia

The original art for this tribute to C.S.Lewis and all things Narnian hangs in a hallway of my home. You can see it from the living room and we have kept it there for many years. I created this art in 1981. It was originally a gift to dear friends who had helped us  during a crisis. Knowing that the writings of C.S.Lewis have meant and still mean a great deal in shaping the lives of those friends (and ours), I spent a great amount of time on this. And, since I wasn't very long out of the Art Center years, I then thought of a way to make this into a portfolio piece. I had it printed as a poster with additional quotes from the Narnia stories printed on the bottom of the poster. The company who printed these for me did a wonderful job. I was ignorant at the time about violating copyright laws by using quotes from books without permission. I now know that the estate of C.S.Lewis is very serious about protecting these words. (I have only kept those posters for private use, and have never sold or used them for commercial purposes.)
Well, so I call it a tribute. The Narnia story books have been part of me for a very long time and I will always have a home in Narnia.
My first exposure was in the fourth grade when our teacher began reading aloud "The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe" to us. I did not wait for succeeding days of chapter reading in the classroom, I found a copy of the book and voraciously devoured the rest of the books. 

For this nine year old girl, the world of fantasy was a refuge. (I had always been a searcher in the shadows for fairies and more.) C.S.Lewis was not the only fantasy author who transported me, George McDonald and Tolkien and many others have been my inner life companions.
I was a dedicated reader early on and still am. My family and friends will attest to my ability to immerse in a book and not be able to hear them calling me. I frequently was in trouble as a child at boarding school because I would be curled in a corner, nose in a book, and the dorm mistress could not rouse me even when she stood above me shouting my name (to come to dinner). (Boarding School can bring out all sorts of strange survival traits) I continue to keep up this annoying ability to this day, my family thinks I do it on purpose. I don't, I really am deaf to the world when I read a good book.
Eventually I left home and went off to college, and Narnia continued to follow me. The day that I met my future husband (I was only 17!), he approached me and tried this cool pick-up line: He; "So, who is your favorite author?" Me, (very shyly) "C.S.Lewis". He; (head over heels in love with me already) "Wow, that's my favorite author too!" Four years later we were married.
Eventually we had four children ourselves. Two Sons of Adam and two Daughters of Eve as they say in Narnia. Of course we read all the Narnia books to our children just as soon as we thought they could understand. I continued to work from home as an illustrator through all the years of raising our family. My children were frequently my models for children's publication assignments. They were accustomed to being asked to pose "stand here, hold this, now turn and look sad, or happy". Because I had the original art hanging in our hallway, my kids always thought they were the four children depicted in the art. At some point I explained to them the startling idea that I actually drew this art before they were born, before I had any idea what they would look like.
I still have a few copies of the poster left. I have given these away as personal gifts for years now. I have never sold them, although I have been asked. I have a file folder of letters that people have written to me. My poster was passed on to them from a friend of a friend and they don't know me but want to tell me their story and how my art has affected them. How unbelievably heart touching for me to hear that my art is meaningful to a stranger. One letter is from a mother whose little boy was killed in an accident. He had the poster hanging in his room,(I think my Mom might have known them and given them a copy). This woman wrote of gazing at my art while sitting in her boy's empty room.  I have also heard from people who were clients of a counselor who had the poster hanging in his office. These people wrote that they felt the healing gaze of Aslan (Jesus) while going through therapy.
These and many more stories are the reason that this art has been significant in my life. Another reason for posting this lengthy explanation would be that this November 22 is the 50th anniversary of the death of C.S.Lewis. On that same day, same year, 1963, Aldous Huxley (Brave New World) died and John F. Kennedy, the 35th American president was assassinated.