Sunday, October 13, 2013

Meeting the Nutcracker Prince

Early this past Monday morning, our class with Lilla Rogers was given a brief to begin working on.  It was concise, stipulating that we were to study and sketch Winter Holiday ornaments and candy, in order to create a Greeting Card later in the week.  
My little Santa Belles started chingling in the background, 
and within an hour, I had gathered my inspiration board to work from.

Inexplicably, instead of the Reindeer and Snowmen and Candy Canes I had expected, my board was filled with Nutcracker Ornaments and Ribbon Candy.  Neither of which I have EVER had anything to do with at Christmas.  What the heck? 

Grumbling at what I believed to be wasted time, I began sketching, drawing the ferocious teeth that every operational nutcracker automatically has. 
How would he crack those nuts, otherwise?

And then, without volition or conscious reason, I went back and erased those teeth and drew real lips, with a reserved but sweet smile.  The eyes became kind and open, instead of ferocious, and the contour of his face became less of a caricature and more of a man.  I was falling softly in love with this Sweet Prince, and I didn't even know who he was.

Image courtesy of
I was remembering that about 15 years ago, Husband and I went with friends to a presentation by the Atlanta Ballet of The Nutcracker.  Halfway through, the men were glassy eyed, and I was struggling to understand the wordless ballet.  It was beautiful, but I had never read the Nutcracker story, wasn't raised with it, so I didn't know what was going on.  I felt bad about that, since this was obviously a beloved cultural tradition.

Enchanted by the ballerinas "on point", and the graceful strength of the men, I missed the whole story line and was sleepily glad when the final curtain fell.

Image courtesy of

So, as I drew and amended my Nutcracker, I decided that after I had finished this brief, I would go and find out what the story was behind this beloved symbol of Christmas that had 
taken command of my easel.  But first, it was more important to finish the assignment 
than to understand the story - at least to my way of thinking.

I kept working, unconsciously adding candy sketches, cedar trees, and a snowstorm.  Again and again, I edited out the candy and snow flurries - too busy, too busy - and they kept creeping back in like little mice.  The background kept on being black, when I wanted it to be Christmas Red.  As the deadline loomed, I sat back in my chair, arms crossed, and studied my results.  A drawing I was no longer in control of...somehow, my Nutcracker Prince had softly but firmly steered my artwork to what HE wanted it to be, and I knew it.  
I turned off the lights, and went to bed.

The first thing I did this morning was to search the Internet for 
"What was the story behind The Nutcracker Ballet"?

And there it was.  The girl falling asleep with her Nutcracker Christmas gift wrapped in her arms.  The dream battle with the evil forces, and the girl's decisive throw to kill the evil Mouse King.  An enchanted forest, the candy kingdom, and the snow storm - all introduced by this gentle Prince, who had taken over my drawing.  
This all took place in the deep of the night, of course, so the background had to be black.

I won't question  how that happened, or try to reason through it.  I would rather accept the sparkling enchantment that came alive in my studio for a few days, 
the traces of which linger still.  

Hello, Sweet Nutcracker Prince.  It is lovely to meet you, and more than a little mysterious that you took charge of my drawing, over and over.  You wore me out.

I know you now, and I can't wait to meet you under the Tree, 
or perched on the corner of my desk again.  
This time, I won't fight you so hard, and will get a lot more done with that extra time.

And now, I wish you Good Night - I am off to dream of cedar trees and snowstorms,
with Tchaikovsky's Dance of The Sugar Plum Fairies wafting through the cool night air.

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