Blodeuwedd – Oak, Broom and Meadowsweet

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Welcome the May-queen
Sing for her now
For as the year turns to Samhain
She’ll return as an Owl
(Damh the Bard) 

Blodeuwedd. Watercolour on Bockingford paper, 21 x 21 cm.

This is a piece I’ve wanted to draw for years, even started it twice and scrapped it all.”Blodeuwedd” (Blo-die-weth) is Welsh for “owl”. Literally, it means “flower face”. In the Mabinogion, the connection is explained like this:

Lleu Llaw Gyffes, the later king of Gwynedd, was cursed by his mother never to take a human woman. Lleu’s uncle, the magician Gwydion, then formed a woman out of oak flowers, broom, and meadowsweet, which he enchanted to come alive. He named her Blodeuwedd, and she went on to marry Lleu.

But she fell in love in another man, the hunter Gronw. Together, the lovers plotted to kill Lleu (which, because this is a Welsh legend, is incredibly complicated and involves a cauldron, a fishing net, a spear forged for a year during times when everyone is at mass, and a goat). They succeeded, but Lleu was transformed into an eagle and flew away, badly wounded. Gwydion found him and nursed him back to health, but not before hunting down Blodeuwedd and turning her into an owl, so that she must shun the light of day and be hated by all creatures.

Today, in Pagan tradition, Blodeuwedd is seen as a sympathetic figure rather than a mean one. Formed of healing herbs and oak flowers, she represents Lleu’s marriage to the land, and the governing and healing powers of a prince. It is through her treachery, his death and subsequent healing, that he attains kingship and transformation.

Prints can be bought through the costum print option in my Etsy shop.

Taliesin – Hare, Salmon and Wren

“A radiant brow, shining bright for all to clearly see:
Taliesin is your name, the greatest Bard that this land will ever see!”

(Damh the Bard, Ceridwen and Taliesin)

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Watercolour and white gouache (harp strings) on Fabriano cold-pressed paper, 19×19 cm.

Matted prints available in my Etsy shop!

Original will be framed and available soon!

Taliesin began life as the boy Gwion who had to stir the kettle for the sorceress Ceridwen, in which she was brewing a potion to give her very ugly son Morfran the power of foresight and inspiration. When the potion boiled, it was Gwion who caught the three first drops of potion that would bring power. Fearing the sorceress’s wrath, he used his new skills to turn himself into a hare and flee. But she turned into a greyhound and pursued. He then changed into a salmon, but she took the shape of an otter and pursued him still. He then turned into a wren, but she changed into a falcon and chased him until she brought him to bay in a barn. Desperate, he took the shape of a grain of corn. She turned into a black hen and ate every single piece of corn in the barn.

Nine months later, she gave birth to a son and knew it was Gwion. Though she had vowed to kill him, when he was born, he was so beautiful that she could not bring herself to do it, but placed him in a basket on the sea, where he was found at length, named “Taliesin”, radiant brow, and went on to become the greatest Bard of all time.

Again, I used extensive reference (myself in a plaid scarf, photos of harps and harpers, though the harp is pretty much without direct ref). The face is based on a model, Nick Heymann, and dear me, is he beautiful. As befitting for Taliesin.

Artbook News (feat. Maglor’s G-string)

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Long, meandering post coming up, mirroring the long, meandering process of getting this artbook out there.

TL;DR: You can now buy the hardcover directly from me, with a white G printed mistakenly across the cover. Sketch copies will take slightly longer – but I’m on them!

Oloris is shipping out the books (the softcover versions) to pre-order buyers, and it’s available from their website now. A lot of people have already received theirs.

The plan was to ship 120 books to me – some author’s copies, about 20 for the sketch book preorders that I was going to sketch in and ship to the buyers, and the rest to sell in my Etsy shop.

Unfortunately, that shipment was totally destroyed in transit. It wasn’t shipped by Oloris but by the printer they worked with, who packed them without any protection whatsoever, just plonked 30 heavy, bendy softcovers into boxes that just couldn’t hold them. The boxes came apart, and DHL repacked them, but the damage was done (and got worse because DHL’s boxes were bigger, so they could just flop around in there to their little hearts’ content). I was devastated, and thoroughly disinclined to trust the company with another shipment, so I told Oloris I wanted to have the books printed here in Germany. They made some size adjustments to make it fit European standard formats, sent me the files, and I had 120 copies printed last week – in hardcover.

They arrived today – and my delight by the wonderful print quality was soon shot to pieces by a large, white letter G planted in the middle of the cover, on Maglor’s sleeve, right over his harp string.

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Oloris hadn’t caught it, I’d managed to miss it, and my printing company must have thought it was deliberate. They even phoned me about the cut-off signature, but they missed the G. Hubby – unhelpfully and hilariously – immediately said Maglor was clearly playing in G major. The string association doesn’t help either.

I went straight to Moo and had 100 little stickers made with exactly that image section, so I’ll have something to cover up Maglor’s G-string, which is definitely something I have wanted to say for all my life. They won’t be here until November, so anyone buying before that will get a different little sticker that they can stick over it (or keep it for other mistakes, like a typo in a cover letter or something) plus a few postcards.

I’m slightly frustrated at this point (slight understatement) and while I still think that the book looks gorgeous and the hardcover is a real looker, so much has gone wrong with this project that feel totally exhausted.

There’s one bright spot in my morning today: While I used the same printer I did for Cannae, they’re using different paper now – paper that you can sketch on with pencil!

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If you want a sketch copy but haven’t preordered, you will need a bit of patience – it will take me a week or two to do the preorder sketch copies, but then yours will be shipped. :)

If you have read up to this point, I want to thank everyone who has been following the project since its beginnings (a long time ago) for sticking with me so patiently. You deserved better. But I hope that now, at long last and generously overlooking an intrusive G, you will love the final product when you hold it in your hands.

 

Small Goddesses

(Anyone who caught the Pratchett reference, have a cookie!)

I’m in an exciting phase with my art. I’ve felt a latent unhappiness with aspects of it for several years, and this SmArt School class is such an amazing ride. I’m shaping up my stuff for submission to galleries, I’m learning loads, I’m trying out new things, I’m having my butt kicked by truly remarkable people.

These are small, coaster-sized pieces done using very close reference for the basic figure work and facial structures, but then deviating from them for almost everything else.

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Freya, with a peregrine falcon. Watercolour and gouache on Clairefontaine Nuageux paper, 13 cm.

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Tears of Isis. Watercolour, gouache and lavish gold leaf on Clairefontaine Nuageux paper, 13 cm.

These little beauties are available from my Etsy shop, readily framed and matted!

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Loki – Cloak of feathers

I’m taking a SmArt School class with Rebecca Leveille-Guay this autumn, and it’s great! Working with so many creative people, the invaluable art tips, critiques and pointers (on my art and on the others’) are all so inspiring.

The first piece I decided to take to completion in Rebecca’s class was this one – Loki posing with Freya’s cloak of feathers, before flying off in search of Thor’s stolen hammer (and before him and Thor both ending up in drag, but let’s not mention that!)

I used tons of reference for this. The face is a much modified Matt Smith, and for the rest, I actually built part of a feather cloak to take exactly the ref pictures I needed! I’ve never gone to such lengths in a piece, but that was an eye-opener. Rebecca also suggested re-wetting and lifting off dry paint for highlights – something I had never really done and that’s totally addictive.

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Watercolour and gouache on Bockingford cold-pressed paper, 29×21 cm.

Original for sale!

 

The end of a realm, of a world, of a dream

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“Jenny bowed her head again. For a moment, the rough clang of blade on blade filled her ears. She remembered that noise, and the cry of the dying, atop a high hill beneath a scorching sun. Black armor and a bloody blade. And the battle. Such a battle, one worthy of the world’s ending. And hadn’t it been? The end of a realm, of a world, of a dream…”

Watercolour and gel pen on Fabriano paper, 28×38 cm.

The battle of Camlann – the calm before the storm. From an upcoming novel by Paul Leone, merging a Victorian vampire tale with Arthurian legend.

Prints here!

It’s been a crazy summer, with a lot of unforeseen stuff that ate up my summer holidays completely. This is the only full painting I got done during that time, which is slightly frustrating, but it’s also another bit of proof for my conviction that breaks in your art transform you. Months ago, I resolved to try a softer approach to colouring than the one I had developed over the last four years (not fully intentionally either). I tried it, but it didn’t work – I just slipped back into old habits. Now, after three months with virtually no painting, it was incredibly easy to incorporate new habits. So – the break was a good thing in the end.