The Arc of (an Olive’s) Life

Life & Death© Durga Yael Bernhard

Olives are on my mind lately.  I’m in the process of designing and illustrating a new picture book, to be published this fall by Heliotrope Books: The Life of an Olive.  I’ve been researching and drawing olives for over a month, cobbling together the long history of these amazing trees into a picture book for children.  It’s a huge project – but I keep reminding myself of a saying from the Talmud:  Just as the olive yields light only when pounded, so are man’s greatest potentials realized only under the pressure of adversity.

Olives have much to teach us.

Several years ago, I was commissioned to create a piece that symbolizes the arc of a life.  What kind of life, I asked the publisher?  The answer was up to me (we artists get to mimic our Creator now and again).  I love everything about olives, except the way they taste right off the tree (don’t try it) – so I chose a ripening olive to represent waxing life; and a wrinkled and aging one, dropping to the ground, to represent waning life.

What of the hands?  Well, humans play a direct role in the life of an olive tree, as it cannot thrive without regular pruning – whereas a well-pruned tree can regenerate and produce fruit for thousands of years.  It therefore made sense to depict a human hand reaching to pluck the young fruit, and letting the dying one return to the earth.

I don’t often produce such a simple image as this one.  I enjoyed the lack of detail, and painting the gradient by hand.  Sunset and sunrise colors create a sense of transition.

If anyone has an idea for a better title for this piece, do let me know.

Order Life & Death as a POSTER this week, and get a free greeting card (of the same image)!   $10 for the poster and card, shipping included.  Order your poster here!

Wishing you a good week,

D Yael Bernhard

Author / Illustrator of
JUST LIKE ME, CLIMBING A TREE: Exploring Trees Around the World – new!! 
THE JEWISH EYE 5776/2015 – calendar of art – new!
NEVER SAY A MEAN WORD AGAIN – A Publisher’s Weekly Starred Review;
winner of the Sydney Taylor Award and National Jewish Book Council Award
THE DREIDEL THAT WOULDN’T SPIN – A Toyshop Tale of Hanukkah
WHILE YOU ARE SLEEPING – A Children’s Book Council Notable Book
GREEN BIBLE STORIES FOR CHILDREN – Nat’l Green Book Festival Notable Book
A RIDE ON MOTHER’S BACK – An American Bookseller Assoc. Pick of the List
– and more!
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