Most of my inspiration for my painting “Sirin” came from my general love of Russian Fairytales and Medieval painting. I spent a lot of time looking at 3 books I have on Russian Lacquer Miniatures. The art is usually on a black background with strong red and orange colors, with some lovely blue and green accents. This one in particular was very inspiring- “Sleeping Beauty.”
But I also used a few Pinterest pictures for reference and keeping me on track. With children about, I’ve found it easier to have a board rather than my usual pile of books. I still work with books of course, but I’m able to cut down on how high the stack gets by having my board up on the computer. –I made a separate board called, “Sirin.” At the top you have the “Maiden Tsar” from the Russian animated film, “The Magic Pony.” When I was a child, they used to show this movie all the time on KTLA’s Sunday Family Film Festival. In what seemed like a sea of wide eyed blonde princesses, she was a lonely island. Between her brown hair and her long, dark eyes with heavy eyeliner, she hit every mark on my childhood “pretty” target. Everything in this film is gorgeous. Don’t even get me started on the horses! Below, the two Ivan Bilibin pictures, as well as the image between them were helpful in my process of narrowing down my colors. I briefly considered a cream background. You’ll notice the Sirin on the left is holding a flower. She is proably a Gamayun, which were more likely to be shown with arms in addition to wings. I found this picture after I’d made my final sketch, but I still feel quite indebted to it. I gave my Sirin a sunflower to tie her to the Slavic solar god, (Dazbod or Belobog) as well as possible slavic solar symbols embroidered on her headdress.
Unfortunately Slavic mythology is still much of a mystery. A few beliefs which used to be taken for granted, like the Belobog/Chernobog dualism, are now questioned. (You may remember Chernobog from Fantasia’s amazing “Night on Bald mountain”.)
(PS- This is not a Danzig logo)
The Sirin in the center, with the red sun stayed with me, because for many decades I’ve had a reoccurring dream of a world lit by a black sun, black, not red like this picture- a sun that looks like an eclipse. The last time I started having the dream again was when I first got sick in the Fall of 2015. I made a few drawings and took some reference photos, but they’re somewhat sad and make me uncomfortable. It’s still there sometimes, that world lit by a black sun.
Russian headdresses, often called kokoshniks, vary from region to region. I have a little notebook with all the ones I’ve collected so far which I’d love, time permitting to turn into little paintings. Headdresses from the north usually feature freshwater pearls, while those from the south are more likely to have copious amounts of gold embroidery. I chose the more crown-like one on the upper right as my main inspiration. I loved the contrast of the blue ribbon and gold embroidery on the bottom left, which I incorporated, changing the blue to pale green. The totally bonkers beautiful bird woman in “Sadko” makes me want to track that movie down. The colors in the center picture made me change the background from black to a softer grey. The “Last Unicorn” has been on my perma watch list this winter. Amalthea has the best hair in animation, along with Aurora. The bottom center picture is a favorite of mine- midcentury art is the last time we saw art with small, dark eyes on a regular basis. Not soon after this, the adorable Dollybird’s with their saucer eyes began their beauty domination. And finally the amazing iridescence of raven wings. It helped me to be brave and add blue and green to the wings.
I have plans and sketches for more, but next I’d like to finish and paint my wolf girl sketches from November. Then, perhaps I’ll return to the “Land Beyond the Blue Mountains.”
gouache, acrylic, and pencil on 185 lb paper
I love Russian fairytales, folktales, and Slavic mythology. The Russian Sirin is thought to be a descendant of the Greek Sirin. Said to reside near the Garden of Eden, they sang beautiful songs of joy. Some stories tell that only truly happy people could hear the Sirin.
The Sirin often has two similar companions; the Alkonost, who sang sorrowful songs that inspired forgetfulness and oblivion in the listener, and the Gamayun, who sang songs of knowledge. All three birds were considered prophetic.
In line with my New Year’s resolution, I had planned on putting her up for sale, so that she could sing joyful songs to whoever wanted her. I even asked around to figure out a good formula for pricing my work. The “by the hour” doesn’t work for me. My work is too detailed. I ended up going with the “linear inch” model, which multiplied by our minimum wage gave me a fair price, at least fair in my mind. So, 9 + 12 = 21 x $12.00 = $252. But my husband ended up asking me to please not sell her. He’s grown quite attached to her, which is unusual for him. So, she’s staying here.
A photo of the finished painting. Unfortunately neither the scan above nor the photo capture the creaminess of working with gouache, but I still thinks she’s lovely. If you’re not familiar with gouache, it dries to a matte, suede like finish. Not fuzzy, but incredibly soft looking. It’s quite unlike anything in its strange, subdued beauty. Two of my initial sketches (there were two more that may become different paintings later). I wasn’t sure if I wanted to show her feet as well, but I decided to focus on her face, so I went with the sketch on the right. I took a photo for reference and started drawing.
I finished the drawing and transfered it to paper. I use a heavy duty 185 lb Canson paper that’s actually made for acrylics.
I love drawing hands. And here is the finished drawing on acrylic paper, ready for paint. I left out a lot of the details because I knew they would be filled in later by paint. I scanned her in and created a color key. The color key helps me to make sure my colors have some contrast and that I don’t end up with some random color in there which would stick out like a sore thumb. I also created a color map (not shown), which is where I took these colors and rough colored the drawing in photoshop to get an idea of where they would go. In that way I balanced the deep red of her crown with the deep red of her sleeves. After laying in the background color in gouache, I used burnt sienna acrylic to paint the outlines with a tiny brush. Next I did the coloring book colors. This part is always very hard for me because it looks like such a disaster. I felt much better once I had a chance to work on the background. The long process of creating the wings starts. I was inspired by iridescent raven feathers to use green to contrast with the red-orange.Sirins typically have bird bodies, but I wanted it to blur the line between whether she’s wearing a dress or whether those are her feathers growing out of her body.
Hanging out with Van Eyck’s Mary for inspiration. My photo reference is up so I can get the pink on her hands right.
I added gold paint to a few places. And some gold on her sunflower.Fin~