The Princess and The Pea

King, Queen and Prince by Ayesha Gamiet (2009)

Yesterday, I mentioned that I’d taken an evening class in Children’s Book Illustration. Above is one of the illustrations that I produced on the course. We were set a brief to produce illustrations for a children’s picture book (no longer than 700 words). It could be for a story that already existed, or one written ourselves. I decided to write a retelling of ‘The Princess and The Pea’ by Hans Christian Andersen… it has my own little twists, both in terms of the story and illustrations!

This scene illustrates the moment when the King and Queen tell the Prince that he needs to find himself a bride. I wanted to portray him looking slightly apprehensive, yet compliant to his parent’s wishes. You see, my Prince is quite the romantic – only willing to marry his true love… all this stuff about finding a Princess is just a minor detail to him! I haven’t yet added text to the illustration, but it should read something like this:

“Once upon a time, in a land far away there lived a King, a Queen and their son, the Prince. The day came when the King and Queen decided it was time for their son to be married.
“Only a real Princess will do” remarked the Queen, sipping her cardamom tea.
“Yes, your bride must be of pure Royal blood, just like you” added the King.
Knowing that he would get no peace until he said “yes”, the Prince agreed to his parent’s terms – though in his heart he knew that he would only ever marry when he found his true love.” 

As before, you can see that this illustration uses shell gold and gold leaf. I also used a mixture of gouache, watercolour and inks (walnut ink in particular for detailing the fine outlines and features such as hair and eyes). The geometric backdrop was inspired by a zellij pattern that adorns walls of the Alhambra Palace in Granada, while the roses were inspired by the rose garden that exists in the Palace gardens. I had so much fun dreaming up patterns to paint on the garments, tablecloth and tea set! While the King and Queen had to be ornately dressed and authorative, I wanted to Prince to be fairly simple and humble in contrast. He wears white, which is symbolic of purity and innocence. In comparison, the pattern on the Queen’s gown hints at peacock feathers – “as proud as a peacock”, I think. The King wears a combination of orange and gold, expressing power, but also warmth (note how he reassuringly rests his hand on the Prince’s arm).

… And I think that’s all for now! I really hope that you enjoy viewing the work as much as I enjoyed painting it!


This entry was posted in Children's book illustration, Pattern in Islamic art, The Princess and The Pea, Writing. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to The Princess and The Pea

  1. The Orange Tree says:

    Cant wait for the rest of the story! May send you some ideas if inspiration inspires…

  2. Ayesha Gamiet says:

    Hi Orange Tree! I'd LOVE to hear your ideas if inspiration inspires :) Everybody loves a good fairy tale, don't they? Take care!

  3. Aminah says:

    I certainly enjoy looking at your illustrations. The detailing is quite simply breathtaking, and you could always go into fabric/fashion design as the robes of your characters are exquisite!

  4. Ayesha Gamiet says:

    Thank you Aminah! During my teenage years, I went through quite a serious phase of wanting to become a fashion designer… that interest in textiles, costume, fashion and design has never really left me.

  5. arub says:

    I also love the detail and accuracy you've put into the design…the variation of scale is also great; how some patterns are so fine and some quite heavy. It really breaks the piece up and gives it that collage effect- I can really tell you enjoy painting…otherwise the lazy way out would just be cut and paste ^_~ that border of small flowers at the bottom is such a finishing touch! Seen it on countless Mughal buildings – on pavement skirting, still survived after all these years…awesome :3

  6. Ayesha Gamiet says:

    I am tempted to experiment with collage, but then I'd miss out on all the fun of designing my own patterns on fabrics, architecture, flora and fauna etc…! I love those Mughal borders too… when I see a pretty design, I love to borrow it and re-interpret it for my own work! The miniature paintings provide such a huge source of inspiration in terms of pattern, colour, composition and design. Those miniaturists were geniuses!

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