Tuesday, June 23, 2020


I've been drawing a lot lately - more than I think I ever have before? I don't know where all of the inspiration and drive is coming from, but it feels endless. A lot of it is currently in progress; works that are sketched and being held up by needing to be digitally coloured. I want to take the backlog to do an experiment of sorts on Instagram. I know the platform favours those who post everyday, which really isn't artist friendly and promotes quick, disposable art that's easy to both create and consume which makes me sad. But at the same time there feels no getting away from it while it's still people's preferred platform of choice. I've tried Twitter and had even less success, how anyone gets their work noticed on there is beyond me. My Instagram account has been stagnant for a while as my posting is so sporadic, so I've decided to just completely avoid posting there until I've got this mass of work I'm currently working on finished, and then I shall attempt posting everyday and see how much truth is in the theory. So all of that to say that this blog will be kept far more up to date than my Instagram for the time being!

One of my lifelong fascinations and artistic inspirations has always been Russian and Slavic folktales. It was my main focus for Folktale Week, and that art has always been some of my favourite that I've created and I've wanted to illustrate something similar for a long time. So I began looking up various Russian folktales to see which one sparked my interest and came across Безручка, or 'The Armless Maiden'. It tells the tale of an orphaned brother and sister, and when the brother marries he takes his sister to live with him and his new wife. The wife dislikes the sister and pulls all kinds of tricks to accuse her, but the brother is never angered. It culminates with the wife giving birth and cutting the head off of her own baby which she then accuses the sister of doing, and in retaliation the brother takes his sister out into the woods, cuts off her arms at the elbow, and leaves her there.

The sister wanders through the woods weeping, until she finally comes across a town and she marries a merchant's son who falls madly in love with her. He leaves his pregnant wife with his parents to go on a journey, and tells them to send word as soon as his child is born. The armless maiden gives birth to a son who has golden arms to his elbow, a moon on his forehead, and a sun on his heart. Word is sent to the merchant's son, but her brother's wife is still obsessed with ruining her life even though they haven't seen each other in years and she intercepts the letter and replaces it with one telling the merchants son that the baby boy is half wolf and half bear. The merchants son wrote back his support, which was again intercepted and replaced with a letter to his parents telling them to send his wife away with the child, so they strap the baby to her chest and cast her out.

When wandering through the woods the maiden stops to drink from a well, but her baby falls in and she weeps as there's no way she can save her baby without her arms. A random old man (who himself doesn't help but offers his sagely advise like they always do in these tales) tells her to reach into the well anyway, and she does and her arms grow back and she's able to save her baby. She ends up finding her brothers home, where coincidentally her husband is also randomly staying, and tells them what her brothers wife has done. Her brother ties his wife's braid to a mare and sends it across the fields, and when the mare returns only her braid is left of her.

It's pretty gruesome, which is typical of all folk and fairy tales - The Brothers Grimm and common European tales have been highly sanitised and edited over the years to make them more palatable for modern sensibilities. But I was still quite shocked at the brutality of the scenes with the brother, but it's important to recognise the symbolism in these stories as they're never intended to be taken at face value and were a way of passing on messages or warnings in the days of old. And so I recognised that the dismemberment could represent any traumatic experience, and the subsequent journey the maiden goes on shows how there will always be many more obstacles to overcome even when it seems like things are better. It's about the ability to not just endure, but to strengthen and regenerate as many times as you have to, and it tells readers that although they may feel alone in their journey, there are always others who have walked the same path before.

< Although it's a fairly long tale, I knew which part I wanted to illustrate on my first reading and I'm really pleased with how it came out. I had some Deleter screen tones which I'd picked up out of curiosity the last time I was at the art supply store. Now I live in Japan I'm having a lot of fun exploring new art supplies. I don't know if these screen tones are used in the West, but I understand they're popular in traditional creation of Manga. Comics and manga really aren't my area of interest and I know nothing about it, but I wanted to just see what using these were like and whether they could be incorporated into my work.

I'd hoped that it would add a sense of depth to the background, but I think because the colours are already dark that it's barely noticeable and doesn't make much difference! I'm definitely going to try again on something less colourful though. I guess they're usually used on grayscale or even just lineart pieces, but I don't want my work to take on a graphic or 'comic-y' look and would rather try and see if I can get the screens to work with my art, rather than adapt my work to fit the screens.

The other half of the screen tone. It's sticky backed and transparent once you peel the backing paper off, and it's made up of tiny little dots. You can get them in all kinds of patterns.

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