28 April 2015

"What I'm (Re)Reading" - The Mabinogion {Ancient Welsh/Briton Texts}

I touch frequently on how mythology holds particular interest and creative relevance for me.

Personally, as well as in my work, I find the importance of telling stories best represented within our myth and legend; ancient, as yet immortal tales still breathing the life from our histories, our cultures, and our expansive human qualities, hold invaluable richness in our world, like deep, unrelenting wells for the psyche, and the species.

So I visit what I love, again and again. And I discover new ones to love, to learn from.

I started with a fascination in Celtic culture because of my Irish and French heritage. My tribes were fierce and formidable, and as a child, I was eager to better understand what kind of people they were. What stories they shared with each other.

I've been to Wales, on my travels, and I look forward to going back. It is truly a beautiful country, rolling, vibrant, ancient and tired old hills bound snugly within a small border, still seemingly bountiful. I wrote some of my better poetry while in Wales. And I climbed inspiring geography in Snowdonia while there.

There are two illustrated versions of "The Mabinogion" that I'm deeply fond of:

"The Mabinogion", translated by Gwyn Jones and Thomas Jones, illustrated by one of my favorite artists Alan Lee, and "Tales from the Mabinogion" by Gwyn Thomas and Kevin Crossley-Holland, illustrated by Margaret Jones.

I'll simply say these are a heartily recommended, happy addition to any library.

Now for those who are not familiar, the Mabinogion is a collection of tales encapsulating the heroes, gods and elemental powers native to Welsh culture. They are ancient myth recorded between 1325 and 1400 c. into two manuscripts, and only first translated into English by Lady Charlotte Guest in 1838 +.
{And there is much to say besides about all of that...}

However, as similar in Celtic cultures, the Mabinogion and it's supporting mythos reflects strong associations between animals and powerful rulers, heroes, gods, in their way. The culture again is highly elemental, and powers between the Otherworld and the human world, or the top world, are key components to influencing characters' experiences.
Relatedly, there is magic and shapeshifting, animal representation, and such.

I'll be keeping you up on the details as it moves forward, but for now, as a minor series within the portraiture style I enjoy, I want to play with chiaroscuro and the guise between animal and human form in a three part bit on memorable characters from the tales.

Here are my rough sketches laying out the initial idea:

The Mabinogion series - or triptych: the flower-face turned night Owl, the Otherworld, red-eared white Dog, and the ever-elusive, tauntingly feminine Horse.


I'm shooting more reference and roughing up some chiaroscuro-centric color comps next, amongst other projects, so more will come on the backstory of the characters' meanings and project execution.

In the meantime, if you enjoy mythology, fairytales, epic and heroic legends, dragons, giants, trickery, war strategy, romance, and betrayal, with some history, try picking up your own copy of either of these excellent reads (or another version of the manuscripts, as there are countless publications), and see where the adventure takes you.
For a kid friendly and thrilling story-time, I recommend the latter of the two versions I mention above, the "Tales from the Mabinogion".



04 April 2015

"Aderyn" - Final Art & Prints

In Welsh, the name 'Aderyn' means 'bird', and is of particular interest to me. (I love birds, particularly birds of prey).

This piece is now called "Aderyn", and is a mythological illustration, a Spring moment of transformation, ambiguity, elemental sensibilities, and feminine introspection, trimmed in Celtic weave bordering and 'stone' work.

Process shot, on the board.

The myth allusion is the Welsh tale of Blodeuwedd - pronounced arguably as 'blod-EYE-weth' or 'blo-day-wathe' - who was created from the flowers of oak, broom, and meadowsweet blooms by two great magicians to be the most beautiful bride for the great hero Lleu Llaw Gyffes. Her name means 'flower-face', essentially.
In her story, she is transformed again into an owl to forever roam the night, as a punishment.

I'll save the story for a later post, on the same subject.

But in some cases, Bloduewedd is considered the goddess of Spring and owls, maintaining a vital and shape-shifting aspect to her persona.

Process shot, in the studio.

I started this piece a long time ago, truth be told. But in the process of starting the painting, I discovered it needed a different direction, and due to a number of components, this different direction took time off from production before being fully realized.

I worked on other pieces, keeping this unfinished yet persistent concept in the back of my mind. I knew I would finish the start of this version eventually, but I needed a new direction for the second attempt before I set down to finish the first attempt, first.

Here is the final *first* attempt, and it is named alternately, "Aderyn", taking on a more personal aspect:

Traditional media on hot press, 10x14", Spring 2015
Detail One, 2015
Detail Two, 2015

This is only the initial version; the next incarnation of this concept is going to be reborn in a small series of Welsh mythos illustrations that balance the enigmatic line between animal and human shape. It's going to play with totem motifs and natural elements, and chiaroscuro. All traditionally.

I'm excited!

I've been asked, so yes, you can purchase your own print of "Aderyn" for your home collection, a friend, or to share, HERE.

New! iPhone and Samsung Galaxy cases as well as Tote Bags are also available with "Aderyn" featured art:

And as always, if you have any ideas or questions, contact me directly HERE.


02 April 2015

"What's Happening Now" - Moving March and the Interim

I'm not sure how the Ides went for you lot, but whew, on the whole, March went by in an ernest blur.

Between Buffalo, NY and  Lancaster, PA, the relentless cold of the northerly country quickly paled into the wet warmth of a quick Spring; as soon as I made my way south, startlingly steady 50+ degree fine weather replaced 20 and below snows.

My preparation to move Studio involved the two eternal imperatives: books and weapons...Bit of a violent streak there? ...The rest are out of camera frame.

{Moving} Books and swords are imperative! 
Suffice it to say, it was a bit of a squash in the car, and I drove down in a straight shot over the wee hours in the morning, arriving in my old college town by 5am. But that's another story, well worth the telling, to the appropriate audience.

Green is the color of home:

I'm back, baby! 
And then it was my birthday. In the middle of new paintings getting done and new work schedule settling in, a box-burdened mess of a fresh space, a deconstructed studio, and no lights, or internet, or...Well you get the picture.

A better picture would be the market fresh, birthday Spring-themed, green and floral salad I tossed up on my otherwise minimal day:

Art is in everything, especially food, and there lies the little celebrations:

Sunflower shoots with sugar snap peas, parsley, purple green onion, pansies, and others, with a grapefruit honey vinaigrette.

Here's to April, my favorite month, by just a smidge. And here's to longer sunlight, Gallery Row skylines, bigger work, and new friends.

April 1st, 2015

Follow up next for the catch-up full reveal of my new piece "Aderyn", meaning 'bird', in Welsh.

New reading, what's inspiring now, and art-behind-the-scenes to come in this month's posts!

Until then,
Happy Spring!