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Hans Christian Andersen Myths and Legends Pop Culture

Interview with Ashly Lovett

Book cover of Ashly Lovett’s colored adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s classic fairy of The Little Mermaid

Ashly Lovett is a very talented American artist, whose art and style is gaining a lot of attention. We asked Ashly a few questions about her art, career, and upcoming projects. 

How long have you been a professional artist?

 I graduated from Ringling College of Art and Design with a Bachelor’s degree in Illustration in 2010. Since then, I’ve been taking illustration jobs, but I didn’t start doing full-time freelancing until 2015.

What medium do you use for your art?

 In 2015 I started working exclusively with soft chalk pastels on paper. And more recently, I’ve been taking those pastel pieces and coloring them digitally in Photoshop.

How would you describe your artistic style?

 At the beginning of my career, I was never good at describing my style. It’s hard to step back and look at yourself from an outsider’s perspective. Fortunately, over the years, I’ve had others calling my work dark, ethereal, luminous, or haunting. My good friend Cory Godbey gave the best description with his Forward in The Little Mermaid. It was a feeling I always had about my artwork since I was a child. It is an almost therapeutic feeling that made me want to draw in the first place. I’ve never been able to put it into words. It was a warming surprise knowing others interpret my artwork the same way I always have deep down. Cory’s words were a gift. Here is a small excerpt of the Forward:

 “Ashly’s work is transportive. With ease, she guides the viewer from the familiar world to one dappled in a strange light. That world is steeped in a kind of bewitched nostalgia. There’s nothing mawkish or wistful there, rather, Ashly’s haunting portraits feel like a pang of remembrance, the shudder which comes from recalling a forgotten memory at long last.” 

Excerpt from Ashly Lovett’s adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid

What inspired you to illustrate Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid?

 It took me a while to find a story intriguing enough to dedicate two years to its creation. What I loved about the story was the tenacity of the main character, the little mermaid. Although naïve, she pursued her deepest desire to know the lives of humans and have her own soul. In the original story, mermaids live for 300 years, but they become seafoam when they die. They don’t have a soul that lives on even after your body dies. But if a mermaid were to join in a union (marriage) with a human, they would become one sharing the soul. 

Also, I knew the imagery would be right up my alley. I love drawing the flowing organic shapes of the mermaids and their long hair. The story is rather dark with a bittersweet ending, which appeals to my style. These are all visual narratives that played to my strengths. I went a step further and added my own elements. For example, I gave the mermaids bioluminescent hair to play up the luminosity. I gave the little mermaid a skull collection of creatures from the world above to make it more haunting.

Who is your favorite character in The Little Mermaid? And why?

 The protagonist, the little mermaid, is my favorite character. She’s never apologetic about what she wants and remains kind. At the beginning of the story, I do think she may have been impulsive to give up so much in hopes of finding love and an eternal soul. And although the ending is sad, her journey only made her stronger. I admire the emotional and physical strength it took, and in the end, she sacrifices herself for someone she loves. She never became bitter when she had every right to be. 

Illustration from Ashly Lovett’s colored adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid 

What scene was your favorite to illustrate in your book? And why?

 That’s difficult to say since each illustration presented its own challenges and enjoyment. But if I have to pick one, it would be the moment when the little mermaid rescues the prince from the shipwreck. I’ve always had the illustration in my mind. It was also a type of scene I’ve never tried to illustrate before. It was a sea landscape with a burning ship during a severe storm. I drew a lot of inspiration from Howard Pyle, an American illustrator from the 1900s responsible for the classic illustrations of Treasure Island

What lessons do you think people can learn from Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid?

 The biggest takeaway from the story for me was to go big or go home. The Little Mermaid made some overwhelming choices and sacrifices, but she was bold and stayed true to herself. She grew from her pain and became something more remarkable in the end. 

Illustration for Ashly Lovett’s adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s classic fairy tale of The Little Mermaid

How did you find out about your publisher, Eye of Newt Books? And what’s been your experience working with them?

 I met them at a convention through a mutual friend. Eye of Newt Books has been very agreeable to work with and believed in my project. They’ve been very respectful of the book and my creative choices. Their enthusiasm was just what I had hoped for when imagining the future for The Little Mermaid.

What was the biggest difference between having a book published through Kickstarter vs having a book published traditionally?

 With a Kickstarter, you have to do everything. Not only do you have to have a finished high-quality product, but every Kickstarter campaign begins with budgeting. You have to find a manufacturer, choose materials (paper type, bookbinding, cover style, etc.), then work out the logistics of shipping, shipping materials, extra rewards, and then figure in how those rewards will affect said shipping and budget. Then you have to make a realistic funding goal.

On top of that, you have to create graphics, text describing your project, advertise for it, and there’s a considerable amount of customer service involved. Then there is shipping fulfillment and all your deadlines. I could go even further, but I think you get the idea. If you’re up for the challenge, it can be gratifying in the end. A funded campaign is always a source of pride and future income with the final product. 

The steps with my publisher were much shorter. They purchased exclusive rights to publish the book after a detailed contract was drawn up and reviewed by my lawyer. Afterward, I provided the InDesign files, and they took care of the rest. They took care of the logistics of choosing materials, manufacturing, advertising, etc.

What advice do you have for fellow artists and illustrators who want their work to be published either through Kickstarter or with a traditional publisher?

 Suppose you’re not someone who likes doing Excel sheets to work out a budget, logistics, schedules, customer service, shipping, etc., I would not suggest doing a largescale Kickstarter. It takes a lot of organizing and good budgeting skills to make sure you can have a profit at the end of it all. The most common mistake with a Kickstarter is underestimating the costs. I have a detailed article on MuddyColors.com titled “Check List for a Successful Kickstarter.” It goes over how to best prepare for a Kickstarter project. 

Going with a publisher is undoubtedly easier, but it’s not always a straight path to getting your foot in the door. I was fortunate to ask the right questions and be introduced to an art director in person. This goes back to the advice I give to all emerging illustrators. It is all about networking and getting to know others in the industry. I highly suggest attending conventions and workshops when possible. Some of my favorite smaller, more intimate conventions are Spectrum Fantasy Art in Kansas City, MO, Lightbox in Pasadena, CA, and Illuxcon in Reading, PA. The bigger conventions aren’t bad either. These would be the comicons in Chicago, New York, Seattle, etc. Always have plenty of business cards with samples of your work on the back. I love Moo.com for my business cards.

Do you plan on illustrating more fairy tales in the near future?

 I do. The one I’m currently working on is called The Book of Fairy Tales. It is a collection of fairy tale stories featuring famous and infamous fairies. There will be some well-known fairy tales like Beauty and the Beast and other lesser-known stories like The Water of Life. You can learn more about it at AshlyLovett.com/kickstarter. It’s been slow progress in finding stories I want to illustrate. I prefer illustrating tales with profound lessons and admirable characters. That can be difficult with older public domain stories.  

My long-term goal is to create a collection of books centered around the theme of fantasy. The first has been The Little Mermaid. The second will be The Book of Fairy Tales. And the third will likely be about mythology. I like having long-term personal projects that I can really dive into and create something different with my own voice while also having others interested in my passion projects too.

 

 

 

 

You can purchase Ashly Lovett’s book here: https://store.eyeofnewtpress.com/collections/frontpage/products/the-little-mermaid

Ashly Lovett’s Official website: https://ashlylovett.com

 

Categories
Myths and Legends Pop Culture

Feast of Li Ban Muirgen, The Irish Mermaid Saint

Saint Li Ban Muirgen of Ireland

January 27th is the feast day of Saint Li Ban Muirgen of Ireland. She is a lesser-known mermaid Saint of Ireland and her story is miraculous and mystifying.

Saint Li Ban Muirgen’s story dates back to the 6th century and passed down generation to generation with the oral tradition of scéalaíocht or storytelling. It was also was preserved in the medieval manuscript of Annals of the Four Masters, which isa compilation of medieval Irish legends written by Irish monks in the 17th century.

So, who was this mermaid Saint?

Our story begins in the year 558. Li Ban (meaning beautiful woman in old Irish) was the daughter of Eochaidh, King of Ulster.  When her father’s kingdom flooded, drowning all its inhabitants except for Li Ban and her dog, forming the Lough Neagh Lake.

Li Ban spent the next year, living under the lough with her dog. She would pray to the goddess Danu, asking to be turned into a salmon, so she could swim with the fish for company. Danu, did grant Li Ban’s wish, but only half of it. Li Ban’s dog became an otter and she was transformed into a mermaid.

Li Ban swam out of the lough and out into the sea. She lived in an underwater cave and like most mermaids, had the most beautiful singing voice. Li Ban drifted for three-hundred years, fulfilling a prophecy:

Liban will swim eastwards, westwards, hither, thither, over each sea.

300 years had passed, when Comgall had founded the monastery  in Bangor, that is known as the Bangor Mor. The Bangor Mor was revered throughout all of Ireland and became a place, where many young men came to study.

One day, Comgall sent Beoan and the monks to Rome with a message for Pope Gregory. While they were out at sea, Beoan caught Li Ban in his fishing net and she promised to return to them in a year.

A year had passed, Li Ban came ashore as promised, and Comgall baptized her with the name Muirgen. Li Ban passed away not long after her baptism. Comgall had promised Li Ban a heavenly reward and she became known as the Mermaid Saint.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Saint Li Ban Muirgen’s story is that there are remnants of it today. If you journey to Bangor, there is an abbey that remembers Comgall and the mermaid with a quilt, hanging on the transept wall, depicting the story of the mermaid.

Categories
Myths and Legends Pop Culture

Yasu Matsuoka

Serenity by Yasu Matsuoka

Yasu Matsuoka is a self-taught Japanese artist, who creates beautiful mermaid and mythology-themed art. He creates art for a variety of spaces varying from private collectors to art galleries to interior design installations.

Honored by Yasu Matsuoka

Yasu Matsuoka’s digital illustrations are so unique, because they tell a story of his own imagination. His passion for fantasy worlds, mermaids, and stories is apparent in his work.

You’re instantly drawn to the world he’s created with its vivid colors and exquisite details. The juxtaposition of his pieces are reminiscent of classical paintings.

Mermaid Transformation by Yasu Matsuoka

Yasu Matsouka also known as Yasu Art Studio on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter has gained a large following for his awe-inspiring fantasy art.

I highly recommend that you follow him. You won’t shell-gretic it!

Categories
Myths and Legends Pop Culture

The Water-Nymph by Alexander Pushkin

Rhinemaidens, from The Rhinegold & The Valkyrie illustration by Arthur Rackham (1910)

Alexander Pushkin was a famous Russian poet and is the considered the founder of modern Russian literature. He lived from 1799-1837.

The Water-Nymph

In lakeside leafy groves, a friar
Escaped all worries; there he passed
His summer days in constant prayer,
Deep studies and eternal fast.
Already with a humble shovel
The elder dug himself a grave –
As, calling saints to bless his hovel,
Death – nothing other – did he crave.

So once, upon a falling night, he
Was bowing by his wilted shack
With meekest prayer to the Almighty.
The grove was turning slowly black;
Above the lake a mist was lifting;
Through milky clouds across the sky
The ruddy moon was softly drifting,
When water drew the friar’s eye…

He’s looking puzzled, full of trouble,
Of fear he cannot quite explain,
He sees the waves begin to bubble
And suddenly grow calm again.
Then – white as first snow in the highlands,
Light-footed as nocturnal shade,
There comes ashore, and sits in silence
Upon the bank, a naked maid.

She eyes the monk and brushes gently
Her hair, and water off her arms.
He shakes with fear and looks intently
At her, and at her lovely charms.
With eager hand she waves and beckons,
Nods quickly, smiles as from afar
And shoots, within two flashing seconds,
Into still water like a star.

The glum old man slept not an instant;
All day, not even once he prayed:
Before his eyes still hung and glistened
The wondrous, the relentless shade…
The grove puts on its gown of nightfall;
The moon walks on the cloudy floor;
And there’s the maiden – pale, delightful,
Reclining on the spellbound shore.

She looks at him, her hair she brushes,
Blows airy kisses, gestures wild,
Plays with the waves – caresses, splashes –
Now laughs, now whimpers like a child,
Moans tenderly, calls louder, louder…
‘Come, monk, come, monk! To me, to me!..’
Then – disappears in limpid water,
And all is silent instantly…

On the third day the zealous hermit
Was sitting by the shore, in love,
Awaiting the delightful mermaid,
As shade was covering the grove…
Dark ceded to the sun’s emergence;
Our monk had wholly disappeared –
Before a crowd of local urchins,
While fishing, found his hoary beard.

Categories
Myths and Legends

Grimm’s Fairy Tale of The Nixie in the Mill-Pond

Illustration by Otto Ubbelohde to the fairy tale The Nixie of the Mill-Pond

The Nixie of the Mill-Pond was written by the Brothers Grimm and is included in their collection of the Grimm’s Fairy Tales that was published in 1857.

The Nixie of the Mill-Pond tells the story of a miller and his wife, who are on the brink of losing their mill farm. One day, a beautiful nixie ascends from the water and visits the farm, calling the miller by name. The miller confides in the nixie about the state of the mill farm and how he’s going to lose his livelihood and home. The nixie strikes a deal with the miller, that he will give him wealth, if he gives her whatever is born that morning. The miller assumes that the nixie is talking about a dog or farm animal, so he agrees to the hasty deal.

When the miller returned home, his wife had given birth to healthy baby boy. It doesn’t take long, for the miller to come to the realization that the nixie knew that his wife was giving birth to his son and that he owed the nixie his son. The miller and his wife are perplexed on what to do, since they don’t want to give the nixie their child.

Years pass, the miller”s wealth grows, as does his son. Yet, the miller is still concerned about the nixie returning to collect his son.

The son became a skilled hunter and marries a girl from a nearby village. One day, the son shoots a deer and washes the blood from the deer in the mill-pond. The nixie snatches the son, taking him underwater with her.

The Nixie of the Mill-Pond illustration by H.J. Ford

When he didn’t return home, his wife becomes worried, and suspects that the nixie is behind his disappearance. She goes to the pond and calls out her husbands name and the nixie, begging for his return. She falls asleep at the waters edge and has a vivid dream, that she is climbing up a cliff and meets an old woman, inside a cottage. She wakes up the next morning, and does exactly what her dream had told her to do, so she goes up the mountain and finds a cottage with an old woman inside. The old woman, gives her a gold comb and instructs her to comb her hair at the pond’s edge on a full moon and set the comb on the water’s edge, once she’s done. Her husband rises to the surface, briefly, sorrowfully, then a wave drags him back into the water.

The wife is unsatisfied with having only seen a glimpse of her husband, so she returns to the old lady in the cottage. The old woman hands the wife a golden flute. She instructs her to play it on a full moon at the pond’s edge, just as before. She does as she’s instructed and places the flute on the sand.  Her husband partially ascends from the depths of the pond and is once again, dragged down from a wave.

The wife visits the old woman at the cottage for a third time. She is desperate to be reunited with her husband. The old woman gives her gold spinning wheel and instructs her to spin flax under the full moon, until she had a full spool to place on the bank of the pond. The wife does as she’s instructed, and this time, her husband breaks free from the water, enraging the nixie. The nixie conjures a large wave to pull the couple into the water, but they escape.

The couple goes to the old woman for help and she transforms the couple into frogs. A flood transports the couple to the pond, where they are transformed back into their human forms, but are separated from each other. The couple become shepherds as a way to support themselves and are lonely and depressed without one another.

Many years pass, and the couple are reunited tending to their flocks, but do not recognize each other. One night, the man plays on the same flute, the very same song that she had played years ago at the pond. The woman begins to cry, overwhelmed with emotion and tells him the story of how she lost her husband.

Moments pass, and they finally recognize each other. They kiss and lived happily ever after.

Categories
Myths and Legends Pop Culture

Kaysha Siemens: Fine Artist and Illustrator

WaveWatcher painting by Kaysha Siemens

Kaysha Siemens was born and raised in Canada, and currently resides in the state of North Carolina, USA. She is a very talented artist and illustrator, whose main mediums are graphite and oil.

Her style is unique and full of exquisite detail. Kaysha’s figures are flowing and fluid, while her backgrounds are linear and structured. This style gives Kaysha’s art balance and pulls you into her work!

Kaysha’s main source of inspiration is Greek Mythology. Her MNEMOSYNE collection is a compilation of all of her works inspired by the Greek Mythologies. MNEMOSYNE is the Greek Goddess of memory and the Mother of the Greek Muses. The Greek Muses were connected to the arts and to knowledge. 

Kaysha’s art and illustrations showcases an array of monsters, gods, goddess, NEREIDS (mermaids), and TRITONS (mermen).

According to Greek Mythology, the water nymphs were subcategorized into three kinds of species. The OCEANIDS resided in the sea, NEREIDS lived in freshwater and seawater, and the NAIADS lived in springs, lakes, and rivers.

Commissioned Mermaid Illustration by Kaysha Siemens

Kaysha’s mermaids are straight out of a fairy tale. In fact, none of   her mermaids are identical. They’re unique and have their own personality in their own little under the sea havens. Each mermaid is full of elaborate details, such as their hair and intricate tails. Her work is as compelling as a mermaid luring a sailor out at sea, singing her euphoric song!

Kaysha Siemens is definitely an artist to follow and she’s currently open for commissions!

Categories
Myths and Legends Pop Culture

The Rusalky of the Ukraine

Rusalka by Ashly Lovett

According to the legends in the Ukraine, the Rusalky, Rusalka or mermaid was a young, attractive water nymph who adorned her long green or blonde hair with wreaths made of marsh. Perhaps, the most prominent features of a Rusalky was their almost translucent skin and their eyes that were a green fire. They also have the ability to transform into animals, whenever it pleases them.

The Rusalky were the souls of drowned girls and unbaptized children, who reside in underwater crystal palaces for majority of the year, until springtime.They would however, emerge from the water on Rusalka Easter (six or seven weeks after Christian Easter), where they would come to land to dance and play.

In early June, during Rusalka Week, is when the Rusalky is said to be at their most dangerous. It is said, that during this time of year, people avoid swimming, in fear of being pulled underwater by the water nymphs.

When a Rusalky, is on land, they appear to be beautiful, lighthearted young girls, but they aren’t. They are dangerous creatures, especially towards humans. It is said, that a Rusalky had the power to enthrall a man with her voice, and would then proceed to drown or tickle him to death. She could also kill a man with her sensual laugh.

If a man wanted to protect himself from the Rusalky, he would wear an amulet made of wormwood or lovage, or carry pieces of lucky cloth.

The Rusalky are in many ways, the classic mermaid. They’re beautiful, yet dangerous creatures.

Categories
Disney's The Little Mermaid Pop Culture

Film Review: Howard on Disney+

Howard Documentary on Disney+

Howard was released on Disney+ on August 7th, 2020. For any fan of Disney, this film is a must watch.

The film opens, in the recording studio of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast with Howard Ashman and the cast recording the soundtrack. His passion for music, storytelling, and directing are evident in the footage.

From there, Sarah Ashman Gillespie (Howard’s sister) candidly talks about how some of her most fond memories of Howard, were of the world’s he created.

The film portrays Howard as a true creative at heart, who understood his purpose in life was storytelling through music. Like most creative personalities, Howard was both confident and self-conscious, seeing his vision crystal clear, yet struggling to make it happen. He was stubborn, yet passionate and in many cases, it’s that combination that innovators and visionaries are made of.

Howard founded the off-broadway company WPAwhich years later, which impressed Jeffrey Katzenburg, who years later, would beg Howard to work with him at the Walt Disney Studios. Howard eventually said yes and brought his friend and fellow composer Alan Menken on board for a little project called The Little Mermaid.

Howard Ashman Credit: Disney +

Alan Menken, Jodi Benson, Glen Keane, Ron Clements, John Musker, Roy Disney, and Jeffrey Katzenburg in the documentary talk about their experiences working with Howard on The Little Mermaid. Howard at the time of film’s production had learned that he had AIDS, yet continued to work in spite of that. He had worked on two other Walt Disney Studio films prior to his death in 1991 that included Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin.

For any fan of Disney or of The Little Mermaid, Howard is a must-watch. It explores the life, struggles, career, and untimely death of a man who changed the Walt Disney Studios and musical theatre forever.

Thank you Howard for giving a mermaid her voice and a Beast his soul. We you and will remember you for your contribution to musical theatre and Disney. 

Categories
Myths and Legends Pop Culture

The Legend of Moana-Nui-Ka-Lehua

Official Disney Moana movie still

Did you know that Disney’s 2016 film Moana is based on a Polynesian legend?

Moana-Nui-Ka-Lehua was a Polynesian water goddess/mermaid, who resided in the ocean between the two islands Hawaiian islands of K’aui and O’ahu. It was Moana’s duty to guard the Ka’ie’ie Channel with the help of two two shark gods named Kuna and Kahole-a-Kane.

According to some legends, Moana appeared as a fish, while in others she was as a half-human half-fish hybrid (mermaid). Moana had the power to summon storms whenever she wanted.

Official Disney Moana movie still

Moana according to legend, wasn’t always the well-mannered goddess as depicted in Disney’s film version of Moana. Like many other deity’s and goddesses, Moana was mischievous and playful.

Moana prevented the volcano/fire goddess Pele from being with her human Lohiau by brewing a storm, so that the couple couldn’t go beyond the reef to be married.

However, there was one god, who could match Moana and that was Maui. Moana met the fisherman god, Maui (the island of Maui is named after him), when she found him fishing in her waters. She snatched his fishhook from the rock it was sitting on.

Maui, was known for being a trickster god and wasn’t going to take Mauna stealing his fishhook lightly. So, he pursued Moana, until he was able to capture her. Maui, then brought Moana to shore, where she passed away. Maui, paid his respects to the mermaid goddess by burying her body and built a shrine in her honor. Moana’s spirit was metamorphosed into a oli’a lehua, which is one of Hawaii’s most sacred trees.

 

Categories
Hans Christian Andersen Myths and Legends

The Myth of Ondine

Undine illustration by Arthur Rackham. The illustration is featured in Baro Friedrich De La Motte Fouque romance novella “Undine” that was published in 1811.

The myth of Ondine or Undine has been around for centuries, as far back as the Ancient Greece. Unda is Latin for “wave” or “water”.

The story of Ondine has been adapted and changed throughout the centuries, yet, astonishingly, key elements of the story has remained the same.

The story is of a young water nymph named Ondine who is beautiful and has an enchanting singing voice. Ondine is immortal, but doesn’t have a soul. The only way for Ondine to obtain one, is to marry a human, which would  then shorten her life, but she would gain a human soul.

Ondine falls in love with a human, and becomes human to be with him. If Ondine’s husband was to be unfaithful to her, he will die. She soon marries him, and bears him a mixed-breed child. Her child is born with a soul and has many aquatic attributes.

Ondine finds her husband with another woman and he soon dies.

This legendary story, would later inspire French author Baron Friedrich De La Motte Fouque and his novella of  Undine that was published in 1811. Years later, his version of the story,  would inspire the Danish author Hans Christian Andersen and his story, Den Lille Havfrue or The Little Mermaid and was published in 1837.

It’s truly incredible, that these mermaid myths and legends, never die. They adapt and change with the times. They are immortal and live on forever in our hearts and our minds.