I'm made of the bones of the branches, the boughs, and the brow-beating lightThe Decemberists recently released album, The Hazards of Love, was inspired by English folksongs. The entire album is one storyline flowing though different songs, following the tale of two ill-fated lovers. One of the most intriguing characters, voiced by Shara Worden, is the Forest Queen. True to the traditional balladry, she is a mysterious, powerful figure whose morals are ambiguous — she is at times merciful and vengeful, lovely and wicked by turns. Much of the story woven by the album is reminiscent to me of Tam Lin (Offa's Wall does sound similar to Carterhaugh, and there is shape-shifting and an illicit pregnancy to be had), and I think perhaps this Forest Queen may be one and the same as the Faery Queen in that famous folksong.
While my feet are the trunks and my head is the canopy high
And my fingers extend to the leaves and the eaves and the bright
brightest shine, it's my shine
And he was a baby abandoned, entombed in a cradle of clay
And I was the one who took pity and stole him away
And gave him the form of a fawn to inhabit by day
Brightest day, it's my day
— "The Queen's Rebuke/The Crossing"
Thanks to Asharah and her blog Bellydance Paladin for exposing me to this wonderful video!
There is much more to being an artist than simply being able accurately reproduce an image, whether from a photo or from life. If that were the case then cameras and Xerox machines in and of themselves would be artists. Sadly most people seem to gauge artistic ability or virtue by how "realistic" a piece of art happens to be, however I've seen many realistic images which clearly display technical prowess yet completely lack the soulful aspect which I think is definitive to art — they were simply pretty pictures. On the other hand I've encountered work which shone with inspiration and yet the technical ability of the artist may have been somewhat lacking. Personally, I prefer the work which shows a real connection with the subject or idea and a less developed skill level to those works which flaunt realism without depth. Rendering is a skill, a useful and worthy one, but it is nothing without heart, soul, and inspiration. Skill can be taught and acquired, inspiration cannot. While experience and skill in reproducing the work of others is valuable, all of the training in the world with the most expensive materials will not make you a true artist — if your work lacks soul it's just a gratuitous display of your technical proficiency, nothing more.
Personally I believe that the best artists are those that have a great balance of both skill and soul. Skill gives you the dexterity and vocabulary to express your visions with clarity and precision, but without soul you have no real vision to express. Soul gives a purpose to your skills.
A man who uses his hands is a laborer.
One who uses his hands and mind is a craftsman.
He who uses his hands, and his mind, and his heart is an artist.
- St. Francis
He told me a little bit about what she likes: bright colors, pink roses, the night sky alight with moon and stars, etc. and I went from there. This is a bit of a different avenue from my preferred emphasis in Faery art, but I didn't get the impression that dark and brooding was what would suit her best.
It also have me the opportunity to illustrate moth wings which is something I have been wanting to do for a while. (Mind you, I'm not universally opposed to wings - I just think that for most artists they have become a crutch when depicting faeries and are included compulsively rather than with care and intention.)
This image is something of a speculation on the mythical origins of moths. Perhaps they are so attracted to light because of some sympathy with their birth place: a very special sort of rose glowing pink at the edges, the color of the illuminated thinness of flesh when cupped over a flashlight, with petals of tattered wings unfurled on a certain night, releasing them into the sky. The dust from their soft bodies, an interstellar medium, swirled, collided, and caught in its own momentum. Thus the stars sparked to life. Yeats speaks of "moth-like stars flickering out" in The Song of the Wandering Aengus, and maybe he had the same idea.
Size: 8 x 10 inches
Media: Prismacolor colored pencils, watercolor, acrylic, colored ink
I do not wish to paint Faery as all gloom and doom, for it certainly is not and there is true wisdom, beauty, joy, and inspiration to be found there, but in order to do so safely one must be honestly aware of the potential risks. To do otherwise is to stroll into the den of a mother bear and her cubs and expect to be cuddled because after all, you did say "please" before you entered. A mother bear likely would desire to cause such a person harm because a wounded intruder is less threatening than an able one. Faeries are not evil just as bears are not, but there are some creatures both in this world and the Other that are inherently dangerous to court and if you deny their existence, you do so at your own peril. Flesh and blood bears should not be confused with teddy bears and the same analogy applies with Faerie.
It must also be remembered that faeries do not prescribe to the same rules of etiquette and moral codes that humans do. Even if we believe we are being polite and courteous, it may not elicit the same reaction from a faery that it would from a human being despite the color of a person's aura or the quality of her energy. Faeries can pick up on a person's true intentions and can sense beyond the physical, but this is not always to the mortal's advantage.
Have a Blessed Mabon/Autumnal Equinox!
Perhaps the time was just not right, but with the new Summer 2008 edition of Goblin Fruit, the White Doe speaks:
I pull the landscape
into folds across my back,
a kimono of land and water.
To feel a leaf with one shoulder
or tree roots buried in earth
is a sacred thing
and cannot be imagined.
- spoken through the grace of Joshua Gage
I'd also like to take this opportunity to join the editors of Goblin Fruit in saying a fond farewell to The Endicott Studio which has been nurturing mythopoetic arts for the number of years as there are letters in my full name (a figure which also coincides with the day of my birth). I am too poor a writer to properly express how influential and inspirational the Endicott Studio has been for me, and I will miss it sorely. Thank you Terri and Midori!
This creature appeared in the margins of a notebook some time ago and decided he wanted to make his way into a more refined piece. I began this picture last year, and I nearly forgot about him until rediscovering him tucked into a pad of drawing paper after moving into my first apartment, which seems entirely fitting. He seems to delight in obscurity and even now after completing the piece, I cannot say I know a great deal more about him that when he first appeared as a simple pen sketch.
What I do know is this: He possesses keys to all the doors that ever were (and never were), including those subtle, metaphysical ones. His collection includes keys to rooms in buildings which have been demolished decades ago, keys to rusty vehicles moldering on the junk heap, keys to gates that no longer guard anything at all, and tiny keys to diaries whose pages have long since been torn out and burned away. No door, no portal is ever truly gone, he tells me.
In this image, his fingers originally grazed the key to the doorway between life and death, but we thought the depiction was a bit too literal. Now, petals from the flower of the Dogwood tree (Cornus florida) dance before his grasp. Evidently each petal represents one of his profound riddles - he reminds me that not all keys can be held.
Media: Prismacolor colored pencils, watercolor, acrylic, sumi ink, ink, collage (for the dogwood petals and flower)