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The Lute Player, A Russian Fairy Tale

As a children's book illustrator, Denise has many things to say about the process, her struggles, and children's books on the market today.

L is for the Lute Player

L is for the Lute Player

My Children’s Alphabet Book

If you have followed me, by now you may have noticed I created a children’s alphabet book using fairy tales for each letter of the alphabet. I could have concentrated on all the old favorites but I decided to make it a book with fairy tales and folk tales from all over the world. This particular story is more of a story for the father than for the daughter. The daughter was faithful but the father couldn’t see through to the truth underneath.

Global Fairytales

When it hit me to be more global I had already created the pages for R is for Little Red Riding Hood and J is for Jack and the Beanstalk. The research for the global fairy tales and folk tales from all over the world certainly added to my work but in the end, it became very satisfying. This story is a fairytale from Russia.

"Art will remain the most astonishing activity of mankind born out of struggle between wisdom and madness, between dream and reality in our mind."

— Magdalena Abakanowicz

The Value Sketch

The Value Sketch

The Lute Player, A Russian Fairy Tale

Long ago, a king wanted to win glory in battle so he set out against a wicked king, but was captured. He sent a message to his daughter to ransom him.

His daughter, the princess, thought that if she went herself, the wicked king would take her as one of his wives, and she did not know whether she could trust her father’s ministers. She was a clever girl so she cut her hair, disguised herself as a boy, and took her gusli (a many stringed lute). When she reached the court of the wicked king, she performed for him and charmed him with her music. He was so taken with the music that he promised what he thought was a boy whatever he wished, and of course, she said she wanted a companion for her lonely journeys, so she asked for one of the wicked king’s prisoners. He let her choose, and she picked her father, the king.

Even her father, the king, did not recognize her and so they went back to their country without his discovering who she was. Before they reached his court, she left him. When he got to his castle, he was very angry that his daughter had not ransomed him or even come to plead for him. He became even angrier when he discovered that she had vanished while he was imprisoned and had only just returned. He would not listen when she tried to explain. The princess could only do one thing. She disguised herself as the musician again and performed for her father. Thinking she was a boy, he promised her whatever reward she wished. She told him she wanted only him and revealed she was the princess.

The Color Composition.  You can see at this point I was thinking of keeping it minimal with no background.  I changed my mind later.

The Color Composition. You can see at this point I was thinking of keeping it minimal with no background. I changed my mind later.

Collage Illustrations

I didn’t want my book to be just one more “A is for Apple” alphabet book and since I love fairy tales, why not use them instead? After deciding that, I was told I should use my collage method instead of the usual watercolor illustrations that I had originally desired. The collage took much longer but in the end, it made for a very unique book.

I hope you enjoy my process here showing the start with thumbnail sketches, then value sketch, color composition and finally, the collage. My little princess does not look much like a boy in this illustration but I didn’t think that mattered. I used a reference of a girl from Peru because I wanted a more global feel than just another white girl.

When you buy something from an artist, you’re buying more than an object. You’re buying hundreds of hours of errors and experimentation. You’re buying years of frustration and moments of pure joy. You’re not buying just one thing, you are buying a piece of a heart, a piece of a soul… a small piece of someone else’s life.

— Anonymous

L is for the Lute Player.  You can see even the letters are collaged pages from magazines and wall calendars.

L is for the Lute Player. You can see even the letters are collaged pages from magazines and wall calendars.

Published with Lulu

This fairy tale has been shortened to fit into my book along with all the other letters of the alphabet. If you would like to read the full version, you can Google the title and find the story of the Lute Player.

My book, The FairyTale Alphabet Book, Fairy Tales and Folk Tales from Around the World, was self-published last year with Lulu.com because Amazon (Kindle Direct Publishing) refused to allow illustrations that spanned the central gutter of the page. They demanded at least a half-inch margin around the outside, which I could have done, and a half-inch margin through the center margin, which would destroy the look and cohesiveness of the double-page illustrations. I had to find a different publisher who would allow the illustrations the way I wanted them. KDP obviously does not understand illustrated children’s picture books.

You can see at the end I felt I needed something behind her for balance and collaged some tall flowers.

You can see at the end I felt I needed something behind her for balance and collaged some tall flowers.

Final Thoughts

I hope you like my story and my fairy tale alphabet book idea. I’d love to read your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.

Comments

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on September 12, 2020:

Peggy Woods,

I'm glad you like this one. In the original story, the characters are a bit different. I wanted the main character to be a little girl so I made her the daughter of the king, but in the original story, she was the queen and her husband didn't know her all the way home. Can you imagine? Some husbands are clueless as to what all we can do as wives, so maybe it isn't too farfetched. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on September 12, 2020:

You keep introducing us to fairy tales from around the world. It is fun reading them, but even more fun is getting to see your fabulous artwork in illustrating them.

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on March 22, 2020:

Lawrence Hebb,

I'm so glad you think so. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on March 22, 2020:

William Kovacic,

I remember having a Mother Goose book full of nursery rhymes that I cherished as a child and even loved reading it to my younger siblings as a teenager. I was hoping this book would be loved by children the way I loved that Mother Goose book. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Lawrence Hebb from Hamilton, New Zealand on March 22, 2020:

Denise

Delightful fairytale.

William Kovacic from Pleasant Gap, PA on March 01, 2020:

Amazing artwork, Denise along with an interesting story. Any child would love your book.

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on February 27, 2020:

Linda Crampton,

They are fun, aren't they? I love fairy tales so it's all good for me. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on February 27, 2020:

Devika Primić,

I'm happy you enjoy my work. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on February 27, 2020:

Lorna Lamon,

I'm so glad you agree about the flowers. I like to pop of blue too with all the reds elsewhere in the image. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on February 27, 2020:

Marie Flint,

I am so happy for your fan-mail comments. It makes my day. You certainly have a grasp of the complexity involved. I have to think lighting, value, cool or warm colors and then detail. Often I simplify things but I wanted to keep the colors and pattern of the poncho so it added to my work but it was worth it. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on February 25, 2020:

The princess has a lovely smile. Of course, I enjoy looking at your art in this series. I'm enjoying reading tales from around the world, too.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on February 25, 2020:

A great addition here and so enjoyed another tale with beautiful illustrations.

Lorna Lamon on February 25, 2020:

Hi Denise, Yes I like how the picture is balanced with the addition of the flowers, which are beautiful.

Marie Flint from Jacksonville, FL USA on February 25, 2020:

You have outdone yourself on the poncho--it's beauiful and looks authentic. I also love the flowers. Lupine is the closest to the image, I think.

The quote about "when you buy something from an artist" is so thoughtful and passionate. I'll try to remember this one.

As you put the tiny pieces together, I am reminded how detailed this is. You have to have a good eye and sense of lighting and color balance, and you do an outstanding job of this. The process is so much more complex than working a jigsaw puzzle, which I enjoy doing from time to time.

Thank you for sharing your passion and talent, Denise! I look forward to more of this alphabet series.

Blessings!

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on February 24, 2020:

Demas W Jasper,

Oh, I covet your good opinion. Thanks so much for commenting again.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on February 24, 2020:

RoadMonkey,

I'm so glad you think they are special. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Demas W Jasper from Today's America and The World Beyond on February 24, 2020:

As always, thumbs up!

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on February 24, 2020:

Donna Rayne,

You are so sweet. What a kind thing to say. I am blessed to have such friends and encouragers. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

RoadMonkey on February 24, 2020:

What a great tale! You have certainly found a great variety of tales for your book and more lovely illustrations too.

Donna Rayne from Greenwood, Indiana on February 24, 2020:

Oh, Denise, this one was a sweet story! I loved it and can't wait for the next letter you write.

You're an excellent writer!

Donna Rayne

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on February 24, 2020:

Eric Dierker,

I sure intend to keep them coming. Glad you like the stories. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on February 24, 2020:

Treathyl FOX,

Fairy tales are fun. I love them. I probably never grew up at heart, but I read them all the time. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on February 24, 2020:

Sergey,

You are right, the girl I used is not a Slavic girl. I mentioned in the description that I wanted to keep the children in my book diverse so she is darker than the story would indicate. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on February 24, 2020:

Lorna Lamon

Thanks. Do you think the addition of the tall blue flowers were necessary for the balance of the collage? I was going to leave them out at first. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on February 24, 2020:

Liz Westwood,

And so you are getting a global tour of fairy tales. Just wait, there's more to come. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on February 24, 2020:

I sure like this series, please keep them coming.

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on February 24, 2020:

Shaloo Walia,

I am glad you like it. I think it is a story about looks being deceiving. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on February 24, 2020:

Umesh Chandra Bhatt,

I'm happy you liked it. I hope you like the Sage's Daughter when I post it as well. It's a fairytale from India. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Treathyl FOX from Austin, Texas on February 24, 2020:

At one time I had considered writing books for kids. As part of the learning process it was suggested that I read world fairy tales. That was fun! I love fairy tales. https://virily.com/virily_poll/my-favorite-fairy-t...

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on February 24, 2020:

I don't know what else to add. Brilliant work!

Blessings always

bill

Sergey from St.-Petersburg, Russia on February 24, 2020:

===

but this is the tale of slavish people.

===

sorry for my spellchecker, of course Slavic.

Sergey from St.-Petersburg, Russia on February 24, 2020:

Character is pretending to be alive. I remember this tale from my early ages, and Liz definitely has enough charm and craftiness to fool two kings. To the greatest good, of course. And when i watched movie, i waited she starts playing. The only thing to add is that finally she looks like inhabitant of some far-north region of Russia, but this is the tale of slavish people.

Lorna Lamon on February 24, 2020:

A slightly different tale this time Denise which makes these stories so interesting. Beautifully illustrated and such an enjoyable read.

Liz Westwood from UK on February 23, 2020:

This is a lovely tale. I feel like I am getting a global fairy tale tour in your articles.

Shaloo Walia from India on February 23, 2020:

Interesting tale and beautiful illustrations.

Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on February 23, 2020:

Very interesting tale and well presented. Good reading.

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