Illustration inspiration: Varenka


A long while ago Audrey and I happened into a used book store. From the shelves I pulled this old library book, some of its pages stamped "discard" and from the moment I saw it, I was in love. Published in the 70s by "Bernadette", (later editions say Bernadette Watts)  the book Varenka tells the story of an old peasant woman who lives alone in a little house in the forest. She bakes and prays and lives a secluded life, until one day she sees villagers fleeing from the area saying that soldiers are coming-- and not the good kind. They urge Varenka to flee with them, but she decides to stay. She prays at her icons and stays warm within her little house.

  Ever so often, others displaced from their homes find their way to Varenka. A goatherd, an artist, a little girl. Together they make their home in Varenka's little house, praying for safety, and becoming friends. However, the war and its fighting and violence are coming closer... 

  So all the friends huddle and pray together for God to help them stay safe, and the night before the soldiers march through the forest a deep, deep snow falls, burying the little house until it looks like another snow drift, and the soldiers march on past, never knowing that Varenka and her friends are hiding inside.


And so, the story of Varenka ends with a miracle and thankful hearts-- a very sweet little story. But what I also love is the whimsical and childlike artwork that accompanies it, with all its folk motifs and bright, rich colors. For me, this book is so inspiring. I love the little domestic scenes and the little paintings within paintings-- whether its an icon or a beautiful painted pieced of furniture.

I'm pleased to see that some copies are available on Amazon-- and this book makes me curious to see other books by Bernadette Watts who both wrote and illustrated the story. It also makes me think of my own writing and painting...a project that I have not forgotten about!

I hope you enjoyed this little peek at Varenka-- Have a good weekend!!!~

~H

12 comments

  1. Does this story come from Eastern Europe or Russia? It reminds me of two children's books my children had: Rechenkas Eggs and Babuska. I love the Russian peasant bright colors with scarves and aprons to brighten the outfit. Also, the Russian psanky style Easter eggs are so beautiful and rich in colors. For sure there are some motifs and color palettes that inspire! I can't wait to see what comes from these ideas!!

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  2. I just realized you changed your new blog header and it is beautiful! I love the hints of spring colors and flowers that will be winning out over Mr. Winter soon! AS February winds down, it certainly feels like we just done with winter. done!

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  3. i was just watching an artist create paintings for his book on youtube.always fascinating :) i love the folksy look of this one you've found.
    have a super weekend~

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  4. Oh - thank you so much for sharing this, Heather. I LOVE it, and will certainly look for it on Amazon. I have a friend who has a baking blog. She is also a writer and book lover - I can hardly wait to share this post with her! :)

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  5. I enjoyed this too Heather. I also love these graphics especially in children's books. That is why I started collecting these books before I even had kids. You had me hanging on every word till the end of the story, lol! That was cute~

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  6. I totally have a thing Russian folk tales. I grew up with Baba Yaga and "Three Rolls and a Doughnut" as well as Patricia Polacco's early books. Now if only I could get my hands on a reasonably-priced samovar...

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    1. I want a samovar too! And I adore Baba Yaga! What a lovely book Heather!

      I adore Russian lacquer art, have you seen any of that? I used to collect russian lacquer boxes. And somewhere I used to have a fairy tale book and the illustrations were russian lacquer art, I'll see if I can locate it :)

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  7. A sweet story and lovely illustrations.

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  8. What a soothing story this is! Quite a nice surprise for you to discover it by chance in the bookstore. It was meant for your eyes to take in. Enjoy the inspiration, Heather. I'm looking forward to seeing where it leads you. :)

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  9. Love your new spring blog header, too! Emma looks beautiful with her bouquet.

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  10. Oooo, there's a Bernadette Watts-illustrated Little Red Riding Hood that is one of our favorites from the library. She was a student of Brian Wildsmith, another favorite illustrator of mine. I've never sought out any of her other books, though! This one looks stunning!

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  11. What an amazing find and beautiful story! So heartwarming. Thank you for sharing this.

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Each and every comment is appreciated! Thanks for coming to visit me :) ~Heather

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