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".



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