Owl Art, Luna Moths and Golden Balls in this Nocturn Painting
Symbolism, luna moths and a foray into owl art make up my latest imaginative realism painting, Nocturn.
Where Do You Get Your Crazy Ideas From?
People often ask me where I get my ideas from. It’s the hardest question to answer, honestly. Because the answer is “the depths of my weird brain.” I tend to interpret the question as more of an enquiry into process. More of a “how do I tap into the part of my brain where the ideas live?”
The answer is: it varies, honestly.
Some ideas linger around the edges of my mind where I’m unable to pin them down for weeks, and sometimes months, at a time. I generally have about five of these pesky, elusive ideas rocking around my subconscious; eventually, they’ll collapse into my design centre and the metaphorical light bulb goes on. Generally while I’m just nodding off at night and then I get too excited to sleep. It reminds me of those coin games that charities used to plant in supermarkets where you put a coin in the slot and it swirls around and around a bowl until it eventually works its way to the middle*. Sadly, if I don’t write the thoughts down, they can pop back out of the design centre and then they go back in the queue.
Whereas some ideas are inspired by an idea, a time of year, a myth or a face and then I build on that with additional symbolism on the theme. One of my favourite things to do is mix different mythologies, folklore and religions into one work. And it’s more along these lines that Nocturn, my mystical owl art piece, was born. In fact, it was an impulsive purchase that was the impetus for this painting. When the iridescent gold paint arrived, I was unsure about it. I suddenly had my next idea, and I also had an effect in mind, but I didn’t want it to look gimmicky or tacky, so I vowed to use the gold lightly and take it from there. I’d been wanting to create a piece similar to Blue Moon, but with more warmth and I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the paint was exactly what I wanted. The other effect that I hadn’t quite anticipated was that the painting looks completely different from different angles and in different lights, so it seems to change throughout the day, adding to that mystical feel.
The Moonlight and Nocturn
Unlike Blue Moon, I didn’t want to have the moon in my Nocturn painting to take a prominent position – there’s a lot going on in this piece as it is, and I wanted the whole feel of Nocturn to be warmer in tone. But I did want to create the impression of moonlight streaming in from the left hand side of the painting. Against the warmer tones of the gold and browns in this piece, the pale moonlight creeping into the nocturnal scene adds a slightly surreal feel. The pale light also illuminates half of my subject’s face, casting stark shadows down under her neck. Her dark eyes are almost entirely black, with just a hint of a reflection in the moonlight; with the shadow cast on one side of her face, her eye is barely visible and her raised eyebrow gives her an almost confrontational expression. She is undeniably fierce, with her shaved head, dark lips, tribal face markings and unblinking stare – there is almost something other-worldly about her.
Nocturn, Catholicism and Cannibalism
As with a lot of my work, I’ve taken an element of religion and fused it with symbolism from other belief systems. The Nocturn is a nighttime ritual associated with the Catholic church – it forms part of the midnight service of matins consisting mostly of psalms and prayer. I also like the nod to nocturne, which can allude to a dreamy piano composition or a work of art that deals with evening or nighttime. All of these elements are brought together in Nocturn. While the piece isn’t particularly rooted in Christianity, there’s a certain feeling of ceremony to it – like the ritual of spellcraft. Something I like to represent in my work a lot.
The Roman Catholic Church is fascinating in the way it was introduced to the UK, an almost entirely Pagan country. It’s not advisable to storm into a country and demand that they change their beliefs, so the Romans began to gradually introduce Catholic rituals into the Pagan faith. If you’ve ever been in a cathedral, you’ll notice that the statues all face east, a hangup from previous faiths. Catholicism also has parallels with Egyptian rituals associated with eating the body and drinking the blood of the embodiment of God. And then there’s the fact that Christian holidays are held on the anniversaries of the Pagan wheel of the year, which follow the rhythm of the seasons and solstices.
In Nocturn, I wanted to take the nature elements of paganism (one of my faves for imagery). The luna moths represent determination, which echoes the expression on my subject’s face. Luna moths also symbolise transformation, and the way that the golden balls in the piece emerge from the golden crescent moon pendant and work their way skyward in ever increasing size indicate change and growth. Luna moths also glow in a wonderfully luminescent way, which makes them appear to be glowing in the moonlight.
The owl in this painting sits on guard above my subject’s head. Owls represent paranormal wisdom, so the owl was a key element when I was working out the concept for Nocturn. The expression on the owl’s face mirrors my subject in its fierceness. Owls have appeared in art as religious symbols in many ways over the centuries and they form an important part of pagan
Working on Nocturn
It was a slow start with this piece. The details on the bark took a long time to build up, and creating the knots in the wood was a fiddly task. But there was a hypnotic aspect to concentrating on such macro parts of painting and the painstaking task was almost meditative. Once the tree trunk details had been filled in, the rest was surprisingly fast work. I absolutely loved working on the highlights in the golden orbs. The reflections in these balls could almost be another tree reflected back. Although, one visitor to the site asked if they were cat bells, and I also loved that idea. As with all of my work – I had my reasons for painting this piece, but I much prefer it when people make their own interpretations.
Get Your Hands on Nocturn
The original painting of Nocturn is available to buy direct from the art shop. The art download can also be purchased from the art shop – art downloads give you the freedom to create your own prints and merch as many times as you like.
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