Lleu Llaw Gyffes was cursed by his reluctant mother – he could never have weapons & armour, a bride, or even a name until she gave them to him. His foster-father, Gwydion ap Dôn, tricked her into bestowing the first and the last, but there’s nothing she could do about the second, and frankly that family was screwed up enough already.
So Gwydion and his uncle, Math ap Mathonwy, made a bride for him out of flowers. This branch of the Mabinogion is usually told as Gwydion’s story, and to an extent Lleu’s, but I’m not the only one with a lot of sympathy for Blodeuwedd. She didn’t ask to be made, or to be married to Lleu. When she falls in love with Gronw Bebyr, she tricks Lleu into revealing the arcane way he can be killed (it involves taking a bath with a goat) and then murdering him. It’s a bit extreme, but then so is everything else in that drama-laden family.
And she really didn’t ask to be turned into an owl by Gwydion.
I had a lot of fun making this. It started out by working out what kind of owl she was (I decided on the secretive and nocturnal long-eared owl, widely hated in the avian world) and as you’ll see took a lot of liberties with the design. The text panels are from the portions of the Fourth Branch that deal with her directly, in both English and modern Welsh. I’d originally intended them to show up more clearly, but this dense green works well with the brown – which I’d planned to be lighter, but the technique I’d been envisaging didn’t work out the way I’d thought it would! The rose is adapted from a jewellery design I’ve been playing with, using hand-assembled lasercut petals.
This one was inspired by reading the Silmarillion, and remembering holidays in the islands of Western Scotland. From the southwest tip of Mull, you can look out to sea and see the Atlantic curving away into forever over the shoulder of Iona. I’ve posted some of them in my Etsy shop. The one at the top there is actually from the second set I did—originally, the plan was to do them all in white on black, but that ran into two problems.
First, the white ink was giving me a lot of trouble—it wasn’t gluing the paper down nearly as much as the black does, so I was finding it quite a bit harder to keep registration and avoid getting messy ghost images. That was a problem with the Fabriano Tiziano I normally use for black (shown at the right) and even worse with the Arches Velin Noir I’d got specially for this. It’s incredible stuff, a really rich deep sexy black, and a nice rough texture—but the combination of that and the white ink, which had been oiling out slightly, gave me a great deal of trouble, and I managed about one good print in three from the run. Secondly, I found the sharp contrast a bit much—with that density of line, it gave a very different impression from the one I’d had in my head. I went looking for coloured paper (I’d been planning that all along, but hadn’t thought of using black on colours until I saw how the white on black had come out) and—unsurprisingly—it’s very hard to find paper the colour of a Highland sound in late summer. The blue at the top is Daler-Rowney Murano “Dusk”; this next one is Fabriano Tiziano “Sugar”.
This is actually the first time I’ve re-inked a block with a different colour of printer’s ink, rather than using acrylic as I’ve tried a few times. Since it was black over white, not the other way around, it worked out—in fact, the black woke up some of the white (it had been a few days, so the block was dry) and you can see white foam on the tips of some of the waves in the “Dusk” print at the top.
This one was truly horrendous to ink & print from. I ended up cutting away most of the plate rather than simply leaving the raised area, since the sheer size of the open areas means it’s almost impossible to avoid inking the cutlines and then rubbing the paper down onto them. In the end, I managed to pull a half-dozen good prints, but produced quite a lot of offprints in the process – I’ll have to find something interesting to do with them. My normal reflex for this sort of thing is to cut scraps, varnish the hell out of them, and turn them into earrings, pendants, or the like, but this ink doesn’t take varnish well. I’m going to experiment with a protective coat of spray varnish before putting the good stuff on, but that will take a warm day and more energy than I have right now.
Found while wandering the internet in search of SFnal livejournal icons – Minerva McGonagall, in the style of Aubrey Beardsley.
Discovered by chance from a Gutenberg ramble – Sime was an early 20th century artist who did a lot of illustrations for Lord Dunsany.
Gallery and Wikipedia link.