Wednesday, 28 March 2012

F is for...


Well, what else could it be? Even though the word 'Faery' is used to describe so many different types of creature, I thought it best to stick with the obvious for this one and drew a little Faery girl with delicate wings.

I must admit that, on the whole, I prefer to draw and paint Fae creatures that are a little more unusual or challenging than this. I love the idea of shape-shifters - that Faeries can take any form they want, or any form we want for that matter. I remember reading Geoffrey Hodson's book 'The Kingdom of Fairy' and being intrigued by the idea that the house Brownie he had observed over several weeks began to appear with clothes similar to his own. I also like the idea that some of these nature spirits incorporate elements of vegetation, insects or animals into their physical forms. Water Faeries with frogs legs, Meadow Tuft Faeries (like my profile pic) with grass for hair, Twig Men and Thorn Sprites.

But, as this Alphabet has been designed in the style of a children's book, I wanted to keep it quite simple and keep those more complex creatures for my Herbarium Intermundia project (new blog coming soon :0) ).

© Shona M MacDonald 2012. All Rights Reserved

Thursday, 22 March 2012

E is for...


Choosing which kind of Elf to draw for this letter was a little tricky. There seems to be several definitions and descriptions of this particular Fae depending on where in Europe you happen to live. In some cases they are the same size as us humans, seen as the 'royal line' of the Fae Folk and this was certainly the kind of Elves Tolkien portrayed in his books. But it appears that the name 'Elf' has often become interchangable with 'Faery' and so they come in all shapes and sizes. Light Elves, who are much like the benevolent 'trooping Faeries' or Seelie Court in Scotland; and the Dark Elves who live underground, attack humans and animals with 'Elf-Shot' and the equivalent of the Unseelie Court.

So which to choose? In the end, having looked at the diminutive nature of most of the other creatures in the Alphabet, I decided to go with the English folklore which describes Elves as mischievous 'fairy boys', perhaps like Puck or Robin Goodfellow, or Honeythorn Gump from the film Legend.

© Shona M MacDonald 2012. All Rights Reserved

With only a few letters left to paint, I'm planning a walkthrough of one letter - from sketch to finished page - very soon but in the meantime I've scanned a few of my sketches:

A and B:-

© Shona M MacDonald 2012. All Rights Reserved

And a sneek preview of two future letters, H and J :-

© Shona M MacDonald 2012. All Rights Reserved

Monday, 19 March 2012

D is for...


I love the idea that trees have resident spirits. There's something right about that - that these beings live in the forests for hundreds of years watching the world, passing on their stories to one another. I usually imagine them to be old and wise, like Tolkien's Ents, all gnarly-faced and mossy, keeping the secrets of the first Forest. But Dryads are something different, taking the form of beautiful women when they leave their trees at night. I can't really imagine one wanting to make it's home in a twisted old Oak or a Yew but it is quite easy to imagine one living in a Willow or a Silver Birch -  delicate, thin-limbed trees.

© Shona M MacDonald 2012. All Rights Reserved

I'm getting closer to completing the Enchanted Alphabet - I've only six letter left to paint - but as I mentioned in my first post, I've been struggling with choosing creatures for one or two of the letters. Q and V have been particularly annoying. There are some Faerie creatures for these letters listed in the various books I have but none of them are British/Irish/Western European and I feel it would be a little odd to be staying within those mythologies for most of the pieces then suddenly throw in something from Japan or South America. So if any of you reading this have any suggestions, particularly for Q and V but also for N, I'd be very interested, and grateful, to hear them.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

C is for...


After a couple of helpful and benign Faeries in A and B, it's time for a little bit of the other side of Faerie, the Unseelie Court as they are called in Scotland. It was believed that some Faerie Folk liked to steal children and take them away into the Hollow Hills. In their place they would leave a Faery child, a Changeling, so that their theft would go unnoticed long enough for them to make their escape back to their own world.

© Shona M MacDonald 2012. All Rights Reserved

Friday, 2 March 2012

B is for...


There were a whole host of Faery Folk to choose from for the letter B, from Banshees to Boggarts, Blue Men to Bucca but by far the most famous is the Brownie. As House Faeries they like to do various chores around the home or farm at night, cleaning, threshing corn, churning butter. It was thought that they would only stop work when a cockerel crowed in the morning, some people even believing that they turned into cockerels during the day.

© Shona M MacDonald 2012 All Rights Reserved

They seem to be particularly common in Scotland where there are many stories of them serving local lairds and their families, one even going out to get a midwife when the lady of the house went into labour.

While generally benign, Brownies do become angry with people who make a mess or are lazy and can injure people they've taken a dislike to for this reason. In extreme circumstances they have been known to turn into Boggarts, destroying property, stealing food and terrorizing the family. However, if they are looked after, given bread and warm milk or cream, they remain content and will stay loyal to a family for generations.

By far the most famous 'Brownie' today is Dobby the House Elf who appears throughout J K Rowling's Harry Potter books, closely followed by Thimbletack in Holly Black's Spiderwick Chronicles.

On the subject of Brownies and clothes, stories vary. In some cases giving a Brownie clothing as a gift is extremely offensive and he will refuse to do any more work. In other cases is seems that this was the Brownie's goal all along and when he finally receives this coveted gift he will skip away happily, never to be seen again.