During the last three years I have been busy co-authoring a fantasy novel that features a naera–a watery abomination with eel tails for legs and the torso of a woman. The term naera is one of my own making, derived in part from the Greek nereids and naiads–mischievous water spirits that were said to inhabit seas and rivers.
I was vacationing in Turks & Caicos and had just finished an arduous day of diving when the story came to me. Unable to sleep, I got up in the middle of the night and began writing about beautiful Avaren and her enchanted cavern of wonders. My novel, The Tendrils of Fate is finally finished and will soon be sent to agents, but through the course of writing it, I have found myself drawn to the literature of mermaids, sirens, nymphs and water spirits. One day I hope that my novel joins the ranks of literary classics such as Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué’s, Undine, Hans Andersen’s The Little Mermaid, Jean d’Arras’ Melusine, or more contemporary tales such as The Moon and the Sun by Vonda N. McIntyre and The Merman’s Children by Poul Anderson.
I held off revealing the exquisite cover painted by UK-based fantasy artist Emily Hare (Manon Delacroix) of Waving Monster Studios because I wasn’t sure if I was going to self publish or go the traditional publishing route. Regardless of what happens next, the cover of The Tendrils of Fate should be seen. It is a beautiful piece of artwork that embodies the very soul of the characters I have created.
Before I go on to introduce you to ten book illustrators whose artwork have maid mermaids sing, I’d like to tell you a bit about how our cover came about. I found Emily Hare’s work on DeviantArt while browsing images of underwater scenes. From pegasus rising from the waves to a kraken snapping a ship in two, it was instantly evident that Emily knew how to treat water in her paintings. Her use of reflections and light and motion were simply fantastic. Even though I am an artist and could have probably come up with something decent for a cover, I just knew I wanted to work with Hare. There was a magical quality to her work that was a mix of gothic horror and fay glamour that grabbed me. Once we settled on a price, she asked me to send her pictures of the characters. At the time my supermodel friend Andrei Andrei was living in New York with his model roommate Carmen and they were game for a photo session. Perfect. I showed up with lights, backdrops and a plan and we got right to work in their tiny apartment. After picking the top five shots, I sent them over to Emily who began to paint. I was dazzled by each black and white sketch that landed in my inbox. Emily used a hodgepodge of pictures I had sent of Mexican cenotes and underwater caverns into a glorious composition as ingenious as Leighton’s The Fisherman and the Syren. What I love about the cover the most is how mysterious it is. Is the siren good or evil–a lover, a monster ore a little of both? Guess you will have to read the book to find out.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on the cover. Leave me a comment!
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Emily Hare is an Artist and Illustrator and the mastermind behind Waving Monster Studios. She was brought up on a diet of Sci-Fi and Fantasy movies like Clash of the Titans, Sinbad the Sailor, Labyrinth, Legend, Flash Gordon and Star Wars. Emily began drawing and sketching at a very young age and her inspiration comes from classic Myths and Fairytales, particularly when there is a blurring of lines between the beautiful and grotesque. Her work is filled with a unique visual language that is part horror, part storytelling and part humor. Read an interview here.
The second illustrator that comes to mind is Arthur Rackham. One of the most famous book illustrators of all time, Arthur Rackham rose to fame during the ‘Golden Age’ of British book illustration (1890 until the end of the First World War). The Golden Age ushered a demand for high quality illustrated books which were often bestowed as Christmas presents. Arthur Rackham was the most successful English artist in this field. The ‘gift’ books were of more consequence to children than other gifts: they were heavy and thick, with beautifully blocked covers, they often had a colored illustration mounted on the front cover, and gilded heads, ornamental headbands and colored endpapers.Inside, there would be colour plates tipped on to cartridge mounts and protected with tissue. These books were precious objects and handled accordingly. There was much criticism of the so-called ‘gift’ or ‘fine art’ book. For many years no publishing season was complete without half-a-dozen of these exotic extravagances until, as a result of over-production, the public became sated and the publishers exhausted their own market.The onset of the war in 1914 curtailed the market for such quality books, and the public’s taste for fantasy and fairies also declined in the 1920s. Prior to that Rackham illustrated quite a few titles with merfolk and fairies among which is the short story Imagina by Julia Ellsworth Ford (shown), The Little Mermaid by Andersen, Siegfried and the Twilight of the Gods by Wagner which features three Rhine Maidens, and Undine by Fouqué.
Information on authors is much easier to find than information on illustrators. They enhance an author’s work, solely in the background without even as much as an acknowledgement in a book. Such little material exists that is concerned with Dulac, that finding it is an experience close to ecstasy.
Born in 1882, Toulouse, France at ‘56 Rue Montaudron,’ Edmund Dulac was the only child of Pierre Henri Aristide Dulac and Marie Catherine Pauline Rieu. Growing up he was surrounded by art, creativity, colour and antiques; his father being a commercial trader in textiles with a small sideline dealing in paintings. He was also exposed to the work and collections of his uncle, who ‘sold Japanese prints and oriental objets d’art.’ Thus becomes evident Dulac’s oriental/persian artistic style.
In order to obtain a full appreciation of the work of Dulac, it must always be remembered how extensive was the range of his output. Covering, as he did, almost every facet of fine art, his interests were limitless, and his achievements myriad. He spread his nets so wide that, taking into consideration the quality of his work, he appears as one possessed with supernatural powers.
Colin White in his biography of Dulac writes that:
Dulac’s rendering of creatures of myth and fancy particularly stand out. These creations are something into which deep thought and originality have been infused. Not mere frightening fantasies, these are beings whose very existence can be believed. Intrigued by spirituality and the connection of madness and genius, Dulac’s was influenced by Marcel Réja’s book, L’Art Chez les Fous. Realism was never something Dulac wished to emulate; his images are full of otherworldly uplighting, dreamlike situations, and escapism.
Victor Nizovtsev was born in 1965 in Central Siberia, in the city of Ulan-Ude near Lake Baikal. When Victor was a little boy his family moved from the Russian Federation to the Republic of Moldova. Victor grew up in Kotovsk, a town located in the heart of the region’s wine country and 30 miles southeast of the capital of Moldova, Chisinau. At age nine he entered Kotovsk’s Art School for Children where he studied for four years. In the 9th grade, he left home to study at Ilia Repin College for Art in Chisinau. He then studied at the prestigious Vera Muhina University for Industrial Arts in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Victor Nizovtsev’s rendering of mermaids is simply wonderful. He captures the fantasy magic of an underwater world in brilliant oil color. Scales shimmer like golden discs, reflections almost seem real. I’d imagine that if mermaids did exist, their world would be like a Nizovtsev painting.
Victor is a Russian painter who draws inspiration from Greek mythology, Russian folklore, childhood memories and great masters of the past. His mermaid art is symbolic and rendered in a mannerist, textured style that really captures the waving, fuzzy watery realm. Victor’s bold work invites the onlooker and beckons them to step into his fantasy.
Nadezhda Illarionova Sokolova
Nadezhda Illarionova Sokolova is a graphic artist and illustrator. She was born in Dresden in 1973. In 1986 she studied at the Art school in Novgorod and in 1995 she graduated with honors from advertising department of the Novgorod school culture. During 2000 she got her first degree at the Faculty of Arts and Technology. Her art is consisting in mostly soft, sleeping faces with gentle pastels. Her whimsical painting is evocative of magic and dreams and complements a long tradition of fairy tale illustration. What I like most about Sokolova’s work is that she stays true to the darker aspects of Grimm and Andersen, often working with dark, earthy palettes and imbuing her characters with memorable facial expressions that range from surprise to deviousness.
This illustration is by Nadezhda Illarionova,it shows the sea which granting the little mermaid’s wish. The Little mermaid–innocent and pure–is rendered in light colors and appears petite and ghostly with long blonde hair. Her body language is dainty and meek, a sharp contrast to the witch’s hungry, lascivious tentacles which enclose her. The contrast of light and dark, good and evil is charming, lending the entire composition a sinister, grim feel. What I find compelling is that the old witch’s expression is one of resignation rather than malice.
Charle Santore is a renowned illustrator of children’s books. Born in Philadelphia in 1935, he attended the Museum School of Art (which is now the University of the Arts) to study illustration. When he graduated in 1956 he served in the Army and then returned to Philadelphia to work in a small art studio. He started to get assignments from the N.W. Ayer Agency and his first editorial assignment was for the old Saturday Evening Post headquartered in Philadelphia. He has illustrated many classic fairy tales and received numerous awards including the Society of Illustrators Award of Excellence, the Alumni Award of the Philadelphia College of Art, and the Hamilton King Award. Charles Santore’s illustrations are part of the permanent collections of the Brandywine River Museum, The Free Library of Philadelphia, New York City’s Museum of Modern Art and many private collections. Each book takes him two years to complete.
Dorothy P. Lathrop
Dorothy Pulis Lathrop was born April 16, 1891 in Albany, New York. Lathrop’s stature as a color illustrator in the 1920s and 1930s was equal to that of her Art Nouveau contemporaries in fantasy, fellow Americans Jessie Willcox Smith and Maxfield Parrish, the popular Dane Kay Nielsen, and British subjects Edmund Dulac and Arthur Rackham.
The artistic household that Lathrop grew up in had much to do with fostering her creativity. Her mother was a painter, her grandfather owned a bookstore, and her sister, Gertrude, was a sculptor, so she seemed destined for a career in art and literature.
Fairy tales were a natural subject for her and her output was prodigious, even staggering. She worked in pen and ink, oil, watercolor, gouache, colored pencil, graphite, woodcut, wood engraving, lithographic pencil, and lithographic crayon. Each medium has its own exacting demand, and she mastered them all.
Born August 21, 1957 John Howe is a Canadian book illustrator best known for his work based on J. R. R. Tolkien’s worlds. While his work on Tolkien is indeed magnificent, I’d like to feature two illustrations he worked on for the Time Life book Water Spirits which are stunning. Lutey and the Mermaid (From Cornwall’s Wonderland, by Mabel Q. Couch) is a story of a beachcomber named Lutey who finds a mermaid trapped in a tidal pool.
The mermaid’s name is Morwenna and as a kindness, the man carries her back to the sea. Once he is in the water she tries to take him with her. He breaks free and repels her with his iron knife. She grants his three wishes: The power to break any witch’s spell, the power to heal illness, and lastly that these powers are passed onto his family for generations. Before Lutey accepts he is told that the wishes come with a condition. After nine years have passed, she will claim him back to the sea. The wishes come true, and Lutey and his family prosper. After nine years pass Lutey is out at sea in a storm and the mermaid reappears. She does not force him, instead, Lutey leaps into the waters never to be seen again.
Michael Hague, born September 8, 1948 is an American illustrator, primarily of children’s fantasy books. He was greatly influenced by the illustrations of Rackham, Ford, Pyle and Wyeth. Among the books he has illustrated classics such as The Wind in the Willows, The Wizard of Oz, The Hobbit and the stories of Hans Christian Andersen. He is renowned for the intricate and realistic detail he brings to his work, and the rich colors he chooses.
Hague’s treatment of the little mermaid suits the intense emotions of the prose; his muted palette seems an extension of Andersen’s imagination, capturing as it does the filtered half-light of the mysterious undersea world thronged with exquisitely sinuous merfolk. Lavishly detailed, his illustrations distill the haunting beauty of the century-old story.
H. J. Ford
Henry Justice Ford (1860–1941) was a successful English artist and illustrator, active from 1886 through to the late 1920s. Sometimes known as H. J. Ford or Henry J. Ford began exhibiting paintings in the Royal Academy of Art. However, he did not obtain real fame until he began creating illustrative works during his collaboration with Andrew Lang. Together they compiled twelve children’s books of fairy tales called the “Color” fairy books. Beginning with The Blue Fairy Book in 1889 and ending with The Lilac Fairy Book in 1910, their work spanned over twenty years and included 437 fairy tales in total, each volume including approximately 100 illustrations.
The work he produced is most well known for its complex and defined style in which he uses texture and value to guide the viewer through the image. His images clearly reference historical reality yet also bring the fairy tales to life with wild visuals and vivid storytelling.
The illustration shown corresponds to the German fairy tale The Nixie of the Mill-Pond by The Brothers Grimm. In the story a poor miller discovers a beautiful woman in the pond. H.J. Ford’s illustration depicts the miller coming upon the nixy (a creature in the form of a woman) living in his pond. This beautiful illustration shows Ford’s detailed use of line and contrasting dark and light value typical of most of his work. His masterful use of texture draws the viewer’s eye to the central figure of the nixy and then onto the simpler figure of the miller.