Growing up, my mom obtained a collection of almost all (if not completely all) of the sequels to the Wizard of Oz. For those not in the know, after The Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum went on to write 13 novel sequels that introduced new characters and locations that expanded upon the Oz universe. After Baum, a number of other writers wrote sequels as well (but they really just were never as good). Over the course of a couple of years, my parents managed to read her entire collection to my sister and I as bedtime stories (click through the jump to read more).
I grew up thinking that every kid knew about the lovely Polychrome (the daughter of the rainbow), Billina - Dorothy's talking chicken, Tik-Tok (the mechanical man - not the song), the (oh-so-annoying) Patchwork Girl, Jack Pumpkinhead, and, the source of many nightmares, the dreaded Wheelers (I couldn't find a picture, but they are creepy!). I loved these books and read a number of them over and over again. The story of Princess Ozma (as told in the Marvelous Land of Oz) was especially interesting. It follows the adventures of a little boy named Tip as he escapes the grasp of the witch Mombi and makes all kind of friends on his journey through Oz. At the end of the story we find out that Tip is actually the Princess Ozma who was given to Mombi by the Wizard (from the first book) so that she could not usurp his rule! I found a really interesting article on a trans reading of the Ozma/Tip story here: http://www.fantasy-magazine.com/2009/05/the-marvelous-land-of-oz-the-tipping-point/
But even more than the Oz stories I loved the illustrations. Oh, the illustrations!
John R. Neill, who illustrated all of the Oz books (except the first) is absolutely one of the most influential illustrators on my work today. I loved his art nouveau-inspired style, his re-styling of Dorothy once she returned to Oz, and the sense of humor and playfulness that permeated all his work (see the image below). His linework was so lovely and joyful that all of his characters, even the most gruesome were fascinating. I wasn't the kind of little girl that wanted to be a princess when I played pretend (mostly I played that I was a hamster), but Neill's drawings of Ozma spoke to me in a way that most similar characters didn't. I didn't want to be Ozma, but I wanted to embody Neill's drawings of her.
(Dorothy laughs at a statue of herself depicting her as she was drawn by the original illustrator W. W. Denslow)
So given all that, here's the final version of my Ozma and Tip painting! Of course it is nothing like Neill's work, but I had fun working with his characters in my style. I especially enjoyed drawing The Sawhorse (he was always one of my favorite characters). Again, you can read the book where these characters (or character I suppose) first appear here on Google Books (along with many of the other Oz sequels).
Next up in my series: Meg, Calvin, and Charles Wallace from A Wrinkle in Time!