Saturday, 17 January 2015

Mermaids, calling each to each.

A mermaid detail.
The painters, writers and illustrators of the past had a thing for mermaids.  The Pre - Raphaelities, the symbolists and illustrators like Arthur Rackham and Edmund Dulac all touched on the subject, as well as writers such as Alfred Lord Tennyson and William Butler Yeats.

And of course, T S Elliot in his ‘Love song of J. Alfred Prufrock.

‘I have heard the mermaids calling each to each.’

I want to try to vary the kinds of thing that can be found at Impspace, my Zazzle shop front, and I’ve designed a few images based on classical relief sculptures (which I’ll probably talk about in a later blog) but mermaids seem to me to fit the fantasy base of most of my other design work fairly well.  Again, I take the mirrored approach to the design and a fairly linear style.  These images are digital and the software layers the work, so that the line can float above the colour.

The first mermaid design I made, very linear very Beardsley inspired.
The hard work is the drawing itself.  I have with difficulty coloured scanned drawings in the past while using a mouse, but it's just impossible to draw with a mouse.  (I often forget how long ago I first learnt to use a mouse  and am often astonished that computer newbies find it so awkward to use them - and then I remember.)

These designs were drawn using a drawing tablet, which facilitates a more natural approach to a digital image, and allows control at every stage of the procedure.  You still lose a tiny amount of the spontaneity of a drawing on paper but it's worth it after you've experienced the problems of trying to 'clean up' a scanned drawing.

Quite difficult to get the sweep of the body and tail properly drawn to my satifaction, and again its cramped up there.  I had to carefully scale the figures so they appeared a pleasing size, but not too small.  Nor did I want a 'my little pony' feel to them, where characters have pink, green and blue hair and big googly eyes.  (even if that would make them more successful).  I was thinking again about those illustrators I mentioned at the beginning for inspiration, often artists from the Art Nouveau period used a highly decorative style, a step between painting and illustration that I've always liked.

An elongated approach to the figure.
When I work at decorative line and patterning I always have the work of Aubrey Beardsley in mind, and although the Rhine maidens he drew for his 'Comedy of the Rhinegold' may not be mermaids exactly, I'm sure they're a distant branch of the same family tree.  Of course, Beardsley almost never used colour in his work (I think with one exception) and therefore I can't look to him for inspiration there, but his wide ripple of influence did catch no lesser artist than Gustav Klimt.

Beardsley's Rhine maidens, I like their billowing hair.
I loved the work of Klimt when I was about seventeen, and studied it very closely.  I learned a huge amount about drawing and painting, and the basic use of colour from Klimt and I still find his influence appearing in my work today even when I'm not concious of it.  With the image below, I was thinking of his painting 'Goldfish'.

A Klimt like mermaid - via 'Goldfish' - with maybe a little Art Deco thrown into the mix.
Again, I'm not sure if the women in Klimt's painting can be exactly termed mermaids, (I'm not going to reproduce it here as I'm concerned about copyright problems) for they appear to have legs, - the painting shows a large goldfish, embossed with gold leaf and in the foreground a young woman sticks her large moon arse out in the viewers direction.  (I can't imagine why that appealed to a seventeen year old!) while behind her other 'mermaids' cavort.  I suppose with their legs they can only be thought of as 'aquatic females'.

My image tries (in less time) to give something of the style of the Klimt piece, while also keeping a little of Beardsley's decorative line approach.  I like a good mix.

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  1. gan good job, this article is very interesting to note, cool deh,, of course we have new insights that we get after reading it, thanx yah :-)

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