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.

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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.

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.

The Lady of Heron Lake

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Watercolour and gouache, 37×22 cm. Original sold. Prints available here.

Another piece done in the vein of the “Dark Wings Downstream” painting – for years, I’ve had loads of cool visual ideas and never did anything with them because there wasn’t a story to them. But I’m coming to the conclusion that they can be just as rewarding.

I love herons. Behind our village, there are several miles of fields where you can see them all winter – along with storks – standing there regally and demanding to be drawn. I bet the rabbits sharing the same fields will be jealous now, and demand their painting next. I might. But they’ll have to put up with a dragon for company.

 

Dark wings downstream

“They laid him to rest in the ship with his sword upon his legs; and as he drifted home downstream, there came seven black swans, their trumpet calls guiding him to the Otherworld.”

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Some work (loosely) inspired by Arthurian legend that I’ve been wanting to paint for years. The clothes and burial gifts of the warrior are inspired by the Sutton Hoo treasure (as is the build of the ship, though much smaller). Watercolours on Fabriano Grana Fina, 29×39 cm.

Prints here!

Original for sale – contact me if interested!