Author Archives: Pennie McCracken

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Jumbo – The Sad Story

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Sell Art OnlineJumbo the Elephant (1860 – 1885) was exported from Sudan, where he was born, to a zoo in Paris and then in 1865 transferred to the London Zoo in England. He was dearly loved, especially by the children who had the joy of riding on him, but in 1882, under great protest, he was sold to P.T. Barnum who took him back to his Circus in the USA. Over 100,000 children wrote to Queen Victoria pleading with her not to sell Jumbo, but legally the deal could not be stopped and Barnum refused to sell him back.

Barnum exhibited Jumbo in Madison Square Gardens and made enough money in 3 weeks to recoup the £2,000 he had spent to purchase him. He made £1.7M in the 31-week season due to his main attraction, this wonderful elephant.

Jumbo died in a train accident, right here in St. Thomas, Ontario where I live. In those days Barnum’s circus traveled North America via train and many rail lines converged in St. Thomas. After their performance here that night, they were being led to their box car and another train came speeding down the track. On that fateful night of September 15, 1885 Jumbo was hit and he died within minutes.

Such a sad story.


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Prolific – Locks of Love

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Sell Art OnlineThese heart shape grids can be found at the side of the lake Traunsee at Castle Ort in Gmunden, Austria. Decorated with padlocks, put there by couples as a commitment of their love.

This image came to mind for me today for the Weekly Photo Challenge, prolific. This tradition was also practiced by lovers in Paris who would scratch their initials onto a padlock and attach it to the Pont des Arts, the footbridge that crosses the Seine, and then throw away the key. It was so prolific that the Pont des Arts bridge had to be closed in 2014 as one of its metal grills collapsed under the weight of the locks. All padlocks have since been removed from the city, 45 tonnes in total, and panels were installed to prevent people from fixing new ones.


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Tarot de Marseille – Named deck – Red and Gold

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Tarot de Marseille – Chalk on blackboard

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Tarot de Marseille – Bright grunge

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Tarot de Marseille – vintage distressed

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Oracle Deck

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Lenormand Deck

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Tarot Card Backs

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Hey Diddle Diddle, Scandalous History

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Photography PrintsThis is my re-creation of a children’s book PD image by Randolph Caldecott, who was an illustrator and artist from the 19th century. He was a well-known children’s book illustrator and typically his books cost a shilling a piece. The image is based on the nursery rhyme, Hey Diddle Diddle, which I assume most people know. It is called “And the Dish Ran Away with the Spoon,” and was produced by George Routledge and Sons in 1882.

My version is modified from the original version, you can see the original version here which also includes the scandalous story behind the nursery rhyme. You should check it out.

Many of the old, well-loved, nursery rhymes were based on historic events. Mary Mary Quite Contrary was actually about the homicidal nature of Queen Mary I of England a.k.a. Bloody Mary. It’s quite fascinating actually and I often wonder if the children knew exactly what they were singing about. Interesting thought!


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Sell Art OnlineWe all know how much technology has changed the way we do things, but the other day I was thinking specifically about the print industry. How e-books, online magazines and news sites have almost taken over from their paper counterparts, if they haven’t done so already!

I enjoy reading an actual paperback myself, however as I was waiting for an appointment the other day, it was wonderful to be able to take out my tablet, purchase an e-book, and at least enjoy this ‘wasted’ time reading. (I bought Proof of Life After Death, by Vanayssa Somers, which is a very interesting read if anyone is interested). I rarely have time to read these days, simply for pleasure that is, so it was actually quite the treat.

It has been years since I have picked up a newspaper and, if I am honest, that’s mostly because I have no desire to read one. However, I always used to enjoy doing the crossword, but even that has changed to playing “Words with Friends” on my phone  So, out of curiosity more than anything, I thought I would do some research on the paper vs. tech trend and stumbled upon a clip about the newspaper industry and how it had changed historically. It was reading about the history that inspired this artwork.

In the late 1880s the majority of all newspapers were sold by newsboys. From street corners to theaters to train stations, anywhere where there were a lot of people ‘newsies’ could be found. Newsboys ranged in age from as young as six to grown men, however the majority were between the ages of 10 -13. It was a very competitive trade and you would hear them calling out the headlines hustling for tips. By 1920, tougher child labour laws and a growing desire for home delivery, ended the newspapers’ reliance on street sales.


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Vintage “distressed” creation of the John Noblet, Tarot de Marseille (c.1650)

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The original version of the Marseille Tarot was published in Paris circa 1650 by master card-maker Jean Noblet. The Noblet deck is known for having the title LAMORT (Death) on the XIII Major Arcana card whereas most of the other Tarot de Marseille decks have the card numbered but unnamed, e.g., Jean Dodal Tarot (circa 1701) and Nicolas Conver Tarot (circa 1761).

The Noblet deck is also known for its Fool card that has graphic attention to detail in the private parts of the Fool. As well, the animal on the Fool card is said by some to resemble a cat more closely than a dog. In other early versions of the Tarot de Marseille, the image of the animal depicted in the Fool card is such that there is less consensus as to whether the animal is either canine or feline.

Another particularity of this deck is its small size.

The deck (shown in the images) is my original 78-card tarot deck, created with a vintage “distressed” look, based on the original Tarot de Marseille. Each one is created by hand so even though I create them all similarly they are not uniform. Made from premium 330 gsm superior quality cardstock with black core (smooth finish) in the usual tarot size cards. They come sealed in a window tuck box. There is NO booklet with this deck. If you are new to reading the Tarot, there are many, many websites on the internet that offer free meanings and instructions on how to read the cards. Plus there are many how-to instruction books available on Amazon.

A love bringing history back to life and for all you tarot readers/psychics who appreciate the history of the tarot, this could be a deck for you. I created my images with a vintage “distressed” look, for two reasons…… a different appearance to other decks and as an acknowledgement of the age of their design. I kept the authenticity of the imagery, down to the minor details, intact; but I created them in the original tarot size of today.

They are for sale on Etsy, if you are interested in purchasing a deck for yourself or as a gift.

Have a wonderful weekend!

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