The Story of Two Storytellers

The framing device for my next art project is a trip taken by two travelers, one a storyteller by nature, who is not normally a person of action, and one a person of action, who learns how to tell stories.

My way of better understanding these two characters and their story together is to do portraits of them, full-front with a few props and simple backgrounds. I seem to need a time consuming element of repetitive work while I’m conjuring—so I’m doing paper cuts.

revising Jean

Cutting image

While cutting characters with a blade, I invariably change the drawing. Figures sometimes become more angular or jagged or intense, they look meaner or crazier or more tired or distraught. I may decide to add weapons. What starts out as something like a children’s book illustration gets a little nastier.





Here (below) are two versions of Legoe Matoe, the Devil’s Dressmaker, from Hell Hole Swamp (a real place in the Lowcountry of South Carolina). She starts out sort of cute and gets creepier (this is indeed part of her story)

Legoe 1

Legoe reverse


Here are versions of the other character, Janglin Jean. Unlike Legoe who progresses straight from cute to creepy, Jean just looks different in each case. Obviously I can’t decide if she looks like the Tin Man (woman) crossed with a skeleton, or Cher with plastic surgery and bioengineered parts. Actually, I’m leaning toward the latter, as this would fit her story (she’s done many things in her life and is feeling worn out and in need of a “lift”).


Mean Jean

Face Lift Jean


After finishing these exploratory paper cuts, I want to develop a strategy for reproducing sequences of images. I am thinking about cutting out black and white figures and arranging them on colored backgrounds. The paper cut helped me visualize how this might work.


About Lillian-Trettin

I grew up in the Appalachian "Bible Belt" of East Tennessee in the southern United States, listening to banjo music and gospel lyrics as well as the Beatles. As a kid, I was curious about religious rituals like speaking in tongues and snake handling but resistant to the fundamentalist thinking they involved. Flannery O'Connor's tales of religious fanatics, con men, bigots, and the spiritually bereft or ambivalent resonate for me. Despite having traveled widely and lived in other places, I am (as so many Southerners claim to be) permanently "South haunted." I returned to making art full time in 2011, following a career as a teacher, researcher, and consultant and after raising two sons. I’m convinced the delay enriched rather than impeded my growth as an artist.
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