Sunday, 31 March 2013

Jackalopes & Jays (Working Title)

Wishing you a Happy Easter

Here is a first look at the WIP for my new piece. Its still fairly large at around A2 but I'm planning to really push the detail to extreme on this one going from just a 0.3 pen to a tiny 0.05. I'm also playing a bit more with colour as the vibrant Blue Jays inspired this piece to get going. I've been wanting to do some "mythical" creatures for a while so the Jackalope is up first and then I really want to include a Dragon soon (this could be because I'm about to start watching the wonderful Game of Thrones again).

I'm hoping to get this one finished for submission into a juried show. This is just a small portion of the bigger piece and a close up of the bird.

Saturday, 30 March 2013

The Queen of Elphane
Finally finished today. I was fascinated by her dual nature so there are 2 bunnies but also 2 moths and 2 snails in the piece (can you find them ?)

Today I'm starting on a large piece to try in a juried show which is coming up soon and will be continuing with my new bird artworks. Here is a sneak peek of the first two- Cardinal and Sovereign, both these pieces will probably make it into the exhibition at Gallery Heinzel with my "Whisper of the Sith" pieces. Hope you like them.

Friday, 29 March 2013

The Queen of Elphane
I have been busy inking and coloring the background these last few days. She is almost ready :)
Here are some close ups of the first colour layers going down.

Friday, 22 March 2013

Exhibition News
I have just had confirmation of the exhibition dates :)

Gallery Heinzel- 24 Thistle Street- Aberdeen
Opening Preview- Saturday 27th April- 12pm- 3pm
27th April- 1st June 2013

The exhibition will go on show on the gallery website
Inquiries to

I hope if you are in the Aberdeen area you will manage along to see the exhibition in person

The Queen of Elphane
Project Update
I have started the "official" last piece in the project. The works will continue but after this one I will have the set of 8 large scale works for the exhibition. I'm delighted to announce that my "Whisper of the Sith" works will be shown together at Gallery Heinzel around May time- just waiting for the actual dates and will give more details soon. The overall theme is Wildlife and Animals so I am working on some small "bird" pieces too, which will hopefully make it into the show- I felt like breaking out the colour for those ones so they are not all entirely "Scottish". I will however be making some small companion pieces featuring native animals after this big deadline has passed.

So this one is The Queen of Elphane (also known as The Queen of Elphame in some parts).
I thought it fitting to end with the Scottish version of The May Queen or Queen of the Fairies since the works will be revealed during May.
One account has her riding a White Horse on the eve of Beltane and the horse has 59 bells woven into its mane. I'm not sure of the origins of this description or the significance of the bells but it certainly feels very much like the romantic imagery of The May Queen. This was the image I had in my head for the piece but after several "doomed" sketches of a horse I decided to abandon it. I always struggled to depict horses as a child and wanted to return to the subject as a challenge too, but it wasn't to be. I think I'll give it a go again when I have more time to "play".

The Queen of Elphane has probably gone through various transformations in our history. In ancient times she was seen as the triple Goddess- the mother, the maiden and the crone and her mythology was interwined with Beira (probably viewed as her "winter guise"). She was said to rule the Fairy realm and is dual natured, with the capacity for both good and evil.
On Beltane she takes to the skies with the "Seelie Court" (a band of benevolent fairies) spreading good magic and renewal to the land and on Samhain she appears with the "Un-Seelie Court" (an band of evil fairies intent on death and destruction). All things pertaining to Fairy Land were once revered and respected as part of the ancient belief systems but in later years she was tarred with the image as mostly an evil "deity". In some of the documented witch trials the accused were said to have been consulting with the Queen of Elphane, so she became known as the Queen of Witches.  In the last few hundred years she has regained her crown as Queen of the Fairies, a figure of power, mystery and magic. 

I have chosen to portray her in a benevolent light to celebrate the month of May and the coming Summer.
I was intrigued with the association of "bells" so decided to weave the bells into her hair. The Fae folk by tradition fear both Iron and the ringing of Bells so I wondered if this was a sign of her power and status to overcome such trivial "defenses". I wanted to portray her as both a protector of woodland creatures and with a sense of mischief and magic so she is cradling a rabbit and holding a crystal wand. The Fae folk usually came under the guise of beauty and youth so she is seen as a young girl- another parallel with the crowning of the May Queen.  

Here are the first drawings and I will share more soon....


Friday, 15 March 2013

The completed artwork and a few close ups. I really enjoyed this one, she seemed to come together quite quickly. So tomorrow I'll be trying that horse for the first time and hoping it works out, I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Some more information about Beira, her origins and legends
In Scotland she is also known as Beira, Queen of Winter and she is said to have made the numerous mountains and large hills, which are said to have been formed when she was striding across the land and accidentally dropped rocks from her apron. In other cases she is said to have built the mountains intentionally, to serve as her stepping stones. She carries a hammer for shaping the hills and valleys, and is said to be the mother of all the goddesses and gods.
Also well known as the crone (or winter hag) The Cailleach. Known for herding deer and heralding the winter months- Often referred to as a seasonal deity or spirit, ruling the winter months between Samhain (1 November or first day of winter) and Beltane (1 May or first day of summer). Some legends describe Beira as turning to stone on Beltane and reverting to humanoid form on Samhain in time to rule over the winter months. 
Là Fhèill Brìghde(1st Feb) is also the day the Cailleach/Beira gathers her firewood for the rest of the winter. Legend has it that if she intends to make the winter last a good while longer, she will make sure the weather on 1 February is bright and sunny, so she can gather plenty of firewood to keep herself warm in the coming months.  It is seen as a good omen if the weather is bad on February 1st so that Beira will gather less firewood and as a result the winter should be shorter.
There are various Irish and Manx stories around this deity too. In the Isle of Mann where she is known as Caillagh ny Groamagh, the Cailleach is said to have been seen on St. Bride’s day in the form of a gigantic bird, carrying sticks in her beak.
On the West Coast of Scotland is it said that she washes her plaid in the Whirlpool of Coire Bhreacain. This process is said to take three days until the plaid turns white and snow covers the land.
Going back to her effigy as a Corn Dolly made by the farm folks I found this interesting superstition and decided that I had to include a Corn Dolly in my artwork-
In Scotland and Ireland, the first farmer to finish the grain harvest made a corn dolly, representing the Cailleach (also called “the Carlin or Carline), from the last sheaf of the crop. The figure would then be tossed into the field of a neighbor who had not yet finished bringing in their grain. The last farmer to finish had the responsibility to take in and care for the corn dolly for the next year, with the implication they’d have to feed and house the hag all winter. This created competition avoid having to take in the hag over winter. The Corn Dollies also served as protection from a harsh winter.
During her 7 ages of youth Beira populated Scotland with the tribes and clans giving rise to her power as the goddess to rule over all other deities.

Here are a few detailed close ups of my first layers of line work in ink. I plan to start the colour this evening so say tuned for more soon.

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Beira- First Sketches
Well I promised a horse but for my next piece I wanted to go with the squarer format again since I feel on a bit of a roll with that composition shape. The horse is hopefully coming in my "final" piece as I see that very definitely as a longer "landscape" sized work and I say "final" piece very loosely, as for the purpose of the exhibition I will have 8 large scale pieces ready in time and then hope to add more on this theme over time weaving in some of our broader Celtic and Norse heritage too. It has certainly given me a passion for reading more about our Scottish Myths, Legends and Fairy Tales.

Beira is the Scottish Goddess of Winter and is said to be the mother Goddess or Goddess of Everything.
Beira is most often depicted as hag or crone and she has immense power over the elements, predicting the weather, raising storms and casting rainfall. It is not surprising that she is revered and feared by the farm folk who would fashion a corn doll in her likeness to protect their crops from her wrath.
Beira was said to have carved the mountains with her enchanted hammer in her form as a giantess. Her time of year is Autumn to Spring where around the Autumn Equinox she was said to wake from her slumber and gradually pull in the dark and the cold. In giant human form she would tread through the mountains and with her feet and her staff she could turn the ground hard with frost and ice. In the form of a stag (her totem animal) she would ride the forests whisking the leaves from the trees.

Part of the legend refers to Beiras seven cycles of youth and I thought this would be an interesting aspect to represent as its less commonly told. 
Beira is said to have lived through seven cycles of mortal youth before becoming the great "hag". In each cycle she takes a new husband, who she is with until his death and together they populate the lands. When her own life cycles end in the mortal world she is transformed into the all powerful deity who has control over the land, the elements and its people. 
I decided to show the young and mortal Beira in a state of "becoming". The season is her waking in Autumn "becoming" winter and the animals shown are young deer "becoming" the future stag which is her symbol of strength.  I have a few more ideas to add in regards to her symbolism but here are the first pencil sketches.

          The first pencil sketches- still some tweaking to do

Friday, 8 March 2013

Baobhan Sith
Here is the completed artwork and some close up details. I'm attempting my first ever horse in the next piece so will keep you in suspense a bit longer about the story because I may have to change my idea if the horse doesn't work out (all fingers and toes crossed though). It's not Tam O'Shanter, although I think that would make a really good subject to do (I might put it on the list for the future).

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Baobhan Sith

More Inking down on Baobhan Sith.
So the Baobhan Sith are a Fae race of Scottish Vampires. They are forest dwellers who hunt in groups and lure unsuspecting men by their great beauty. Unlike traditional vampires the Baobhan Sith use their talon like nails to draw blood and drink from their victims rather than fangs. It does not appear that there is any "coming back" from an encounter with the Boabhan Sith, they always kill their pray.
The descriptions I found say these Sith have flowing hair and are dressed in a green gown. They use their beauty to seduce men into "partying" with them and after they are intoxicated by the music and dance they fall victim to the Sith's vampiric ways.
I chose to dwell on the beautiful aspects of the Baobhan Sith in my drawing. I think my girl is waiting at the edge of the forest looking out for travelers to lure to her waiting sisters. The cat and the owl represent creatures of the night and the nocturnal. There is just a tiny hint of a more sinister side to her with her long nails, in particular the one she uses to puncture her victims is shielded from view by some ornamentation. There is also a scent bottle and herb pouch which I see as her tools for seduction.
So really in this one you need to look deep within the "disguise" to see the story itself, a bit like the mysterious Baobhan Sith.

A few close ups of the inking in progress- Adding the colour today. This will be my sixth piece in the series (now including Dia Greine) with 2 more large pieces to go. I hope to continue with a series of small works after that to tie in with the theme.


Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Baobhan Sith
Hot on the heels of Whuppity Stoorie here is a sneak peek at my next piece "Baobhan Sith". I had spent most of a day playing with some initial sketches only to find I really didn't like them- it sometimes happens. So I now have a piece in my "limbo" box which might transform into something else at some point. Much happier with how this one is going so started to ink today.
This is the left hand side, I will reveal more soon and share a bit about the "Baobhan Sith" with you in my next post.


Monday, 4 March 2013

Whuppity Stoorie- The finished piece
Here is the finished artwork. I'm happy that I went with retaining a more playful fairy tale vibe on this one. I did debate on whether to leave the pig "smiling" but I think it fits his benevolent nature and in the end the pig saves the day. I took quite a lot of liberties with the story. Traditionally the female character was a farmers wife who had been left holding the baby when her husband ran off and the pig was not such a key element in the story, nor was he magical- that is the more known traditional version. I suppose in this case I have retold it to fit with my artwork, so both things inspired each other and its more of a children's tale.
I may have a venue for the project exhibition lined up now and the deadline has been moved forward to the end of April so I have put all other works on hold to work on these pieces full time over the next month.

The next piece I have started on is Baobhan Sith, a seductive Vampire Fae particular to Scotland. Stay tuned and in the meantime here are the pics of Whuppity Stoorie and the last part of the story.

Whuppity Stoorie- The story, final part
Jeanie thought to herself that there was no point fretting any longer as she only had 2 days to spend with baby Angus. She decided to go on one of her long favourite walks with Angus and Fergus and try to enjoy the time. Jeanie wasn't sure what she was going to tell Tom or the family so she would have a think about that too.
On the first day the sun was shining and they visited all Jeanies favourite spots, the secret clearing in the woods and the sandy bank by the burn. Fergus was rooting about for truffles but seemed distracted. He kept trying to pull Jeanie west in the direction of the old quarry.
"Don't be silly Fergus. I don't want to spend our last days at the old quarry, there is nothing beautiful there, just a pile of old stones and a dirty big puddle at the bottom".
The next morning they set off again but Fergus was determined they were heading to the quarry, he set off at quite a pace and Jeanie had to run to keep up with Angus bobbing to and fro in his blanket.
Reaching the edge of the quarry Jeanie peered over and to her surprise she saw the old witch perched on a rock half way down. The witch was spinning gold thread and as she worked she sang to herself in a low croaky voice.
"The Quine is fair, the Quine is Bonny"
"The Quine disnae ken this Story"
"She'll naer guess in all her days that my name is...."
"Whuppity Stoorie"

Jeanie chuckled and couldn't believe her luck. She gave Fergus a big hug.
"You clever pig. I would never have guessed that name"
At night fall the witch came knocking and looked very pleased with herself.
"Well dearie ? You have 3 guesses"
Jeanie could not resist to have some fun so she scratched her chin and put on her best worried face.
"Is your name Mouldy Green Stink Foot ?" she said with a straight face.
"Hmff- No" said the witch and managed a cackle.
"Is it Warty Nose Puce Face ?"
"Eh- No. Hurry along dearie, your time is running out"
"I know, I know" said Jeanie and smiled.
"So I think your name must be...... Whuppity Stoorie"
Well the old witch gave a howl and before Jeanie could say anymore she vanished in a puff of smoke.

The family never saw or heard from Whuppity Stoorie again. Late in the evenings they could see smoke rise from her chimney pot and hear the sound of her spinning wheel but it was safe to say that the old witch was making her mischief elsewhere. She knew that the wee pig that she had saved could out smart her too easily.

     "Whuppity Stoorie" Finished Artwork and some close up details

Friday, 1 March 2013

Whuppity Stoorie Progress 

More Inking today on "Fergus" the pig. Going to have a short nap and settle into a marathon inking session this evening

Whuppity Stoorie- The Story Part 3
Jeanie got the fright of her life when the old witch woman came knocking at her door. So much time had gone past that she had forgotten her promise.
"I'm here for the baby" was all she said.
"No" cried Jeanie "You can't take him, that is ridiculous and I won't let you"
"You have no choice" said the old witch "I placed a fairy curse on him and they will spirit him away regardless of anything".
Jeanie started to cry and shake "Is there nothing I can do ?"
"Well dearie, the only way to break the curse is to guess my name and that you will never do. You have 2 days, as I'm a fair witch, but after that I will ask you my name and if you cannot guess after 3 tries then whooosh baby Angus is off to the fairies. He will fetch a good price for me and an old lady has to eat after all".
With that the old witch disappeared again leaving Jeanie in despair. All night she stayed awake trying to guess the witches name- Long Stocking, Crinkle Hat, Wrinkle Nose, Dumpling Toes...... Cat Whisper, White Whisker, Pudding Mixer......... and on and on her mind races. There must be a clue somewhere. Soon the sun was coming up and the Cockerel crowed. Poor Jeanie was none the wiser.

Some more details added to the Pig