Tuesday, December 29, 2009

I was thinking about the illustrative style to use when producing the images of my two jokers..... i remebered ben saying to consider using blocks of colour and geometric shapes, as is often used in the work of more contemporary illustrators. I noticed this pattern of owls on a dress which belongs to my sister, (which i photogaphed,) and thought it was particulaly interesting.

The body of the owl has been simplified into a singular block of colour, with a pattern added over the top to suggest feathers. The eyes are then depicted in two large staring circles with smaller circles inside to show pupils . I could certainly use a style like this to illustrate the jormungandr and quetzalcoatl.

Photograph of a bird featured on a oriental china plate

I found an oriental style china plate which has some illustrations of mythical beasts on it (which i have photographed). The illustrations feature a bird, serpent, a dragon (of some description - i think) and what looks to be a turtle. They are produced only in a limited palette of blues, greens, reds and purples with a gold trim. The style is typically oriental - decorative and inticately patterned, which is a feature i really like. I thought the serpent was interesting, particularly the manner in which the scales are depicted on it's body.

Photograph of serpent featured on an oriental style china plate

I really like the strong flowing lines of these illustrations and flat, block areas of colour.

Photograph of a dragon (or is it a lion?) featured on an oriental style china plate.

These images provide a useful reference point when developing the illustrations of my two jokers and the four top cards in my card suit. They could also be useful when considering the four card suit symbols.

Following the idea of using feathers as a basis for one of the symbols of my four card suits, i decided to take some photographs of a pheasent feather which i found when i was out walking my dog. This (and some peacock feathers which i had) will hopefully be a useful find as it allows me to get some direct reference from life as a pose to using other peoples photographs or images.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

For my 4 card suits i was thinking of having characteristics of my chosen mythical beasts, i wanted the card suits to be related to features of each of my mythical beasts in some manner. I was intially thinking of having talons, feathers and scales, but was unsure of what the fourth suit should be.
Talons and feathers are a feature of the Quetzalcoatl, Gamayun, and firebird
Talons could also be a feature of the jormungandr and rainbow serpent
Scales are a feature of the jormungandr, jengu and rainbow serpent

Having done some research into images of lizards, and spending some time drawing them, i came up with the idea of having my fourth suit as lizard eyes. This would then relate to the Jormungandr, rainbow serpent, quetzalcoatl and even possibly the jengu depending on how i decide to illustrate her.

I decided to research some images of the above so i could come up with some simplified versions to use as symbols for my card suits.

This is a very detailed photograph of a feather, Although an image like ythis is far to complex to use as a symbol, it provides some interesting information about the structure of a feather, which may be useful at some point...

I thought this image was particularly good at revealing the general shape of a feather, which is what i need when considering how i might simplify a feather into a symbol.

Finally, i thought this image would be useful because it shows several different shapes of feathers,
Very little informantion availible on the internet about my chosen myhtical creatures, i did manage to find this story about the rainbow serpent.

Far off in Dreamtime, there were only people, no animals or birds, no trees or bushes, no hills or mountains.

The country was flat. Goorialla, the great Rainbow Serpent, stirred and set off to look for his own tribe. He travelled across Australia from South to North. He reached Cape York where he stopped and made a big red mountain called Naralullgan. He listened to the wind and heard only voices speaking strange languages.

This is not my country, the people here speak a different tongue. I must look for my own people. Goorialla left Naralullgan and his huge body made a deep gorge where he came down. He travelled North for many days and his tracks made the creeks and rivers as he journeyed North. Goorialla made two more mountains, one of the Naradunga was long made of granite, the other had sharp peaks and five caves and was called, Minalinha. One day Goorialla heard singing and said, "Those are my people, they are holding a big Bora." At the meeting place of the two rivers, Goorialla found his own people singing and dancing. He watched for a long time, then he came out and was welcomed by his people. He showed the men how to dress properly and taught them to dance. A big storm was gathering, so all the people built humpies for shelter.

Two young men, the bil-bil or Rainbow Lorikeet brothers came looking for shelter but no one had any room. They asked their grandmother, the Star Woman but she had too many dogs and couldn't help them. the Bil-bil brothers went to Goorialla who was snoring in his humpy but he had no room. The rain got heavier and the boys went back to Goorialla and called out that the rain was heavy. Goorialla said, "All right come in now." The Bil-bil bothers ran into Goorialla's mouth and he swallowed them. Then he began to worry about what the people would say when they found the boys missing. He decided to travel North to Bora-bunaru, the only great natural mountain in the land. Next morning the people found that the boys were gone and saw the tracks of Goorialla and knew that he had swallowed them.
You may never see these lakes or mountains, but after the rain you will see his spirit in the sky , which is the rainbow. This is the reason why he is called Goorialla the Rainbow Serpent.

Since the rainbow serpent is featured in Aboriginal folklore, it is often depicted in the aboriginal style - made up of dots of colours which create shapes making up an image.. I have found two quite different interpretations of the rainbow serpent, both of which are produced in the traditional aboriginal style. This image below shows the serpent as a flat black shape with bright glowing white eyes a very limited colour palette has been used, mainly dusty browns, blacks, reds and white. This is quite an interesting thing to consider when thinking about any colour i may want to use in the illustrations on my cards.

 I was thinking it may be interesting to depict each mythical creature i have selected to use for the four top cards in the manner which they are depicted within their culture. In this case, i think that the detailed aboriginal fashion of depicting mythical creatures would work well as a decorative illustration on a card.

I thought this image of the rainbow serpent was prticularly interesting as it shows the rainbow serpent as part of its cultural identity. The image shows the serpent depicted in a traditional aboriginal fashion, as well revealing some of the folklore associated with it. I also really like the bright colours used, which are very different to the image i found above.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Since the Quetzalcoatl is described as half bird half serpent and two of the other mythical creatures i have decided to illustrate (Gamayun and native American fire bird) are based around birds, I have also begun looking at imagery of birds (- found some interesting skeletons and stuffed birds in the natural history muesuem).

I thought that this image was particularly intereting as it shows a bird in flight, the black background really helping to define the white feathers of the birds wings. Often a Quetzalcoatl is depicted as a lizard with birds wings, so this image is particularly helpful as it is possible to see the birds wings in full extension.


I thought this image featuring a bird of prey may also be helpful as the wings are again fully extended, only this time the photograph is shot from a different angle, giving more imformation about a birds anatomy.

Finally, i felt that this image would be useful as it is a close up of a birds face, which shows the details around the beak and eyes of an owl. The hooked beak and almost cat like ears are particularly interesting.

To start thinking about the jokers i am going to have to illustrate, as well as the different card suits, i have decided to find some imagery of animals which have the same characteristics.

Below is an close up image i found of a lizard. This shows the detailed nature of lizards bodies - the intricate scales, cracks and folds in their skins.

This is a texas horned lizard. I found this image interesting because of the spines that the lizard has round it's neck, which reminded me of a dragon or a serpent.

Above is an image of a gecko, which has an unusal pattern on its body. Most lizards have some sort of markings on their bodies (sometimes to camoflouge them), which is an element to consider when thinking about how to illustrate my mythical creatures.

Friday, December 18, 2009


These are like mermaids.. When i tapped mermaids into Google image i just got loads of really corny images of mermaids. I did find this one though, which i thouight was quite good, i like the loose, expressive feel to i tand the painterly strokes which are visible.

This is quite a small image, but it captures the Gamayun in a bit of a different light - she doesn't look quite as imposing as the other image which i found.


(Here's the one they feature on Wikipedia.)

Images of my chosen mythical creatures.

These two are both images related to firebirds. The top is an illustration which i thought was interesting because it was not typical of most i found. It reminds me almost of the illustrations of Ivan Bilibin because of it's decorative style. The image below is from a Native American festival which featuring  the worship of the firebird.

Am going to go to the Natural history mueseum to do some drawings
need to consider my four suits.
I want to have them related to birds and reptiles/ amphibians (theme is air and land/water)
Was thinking of something along the lines of


and need to think of one more.

Mythical creatures

Here's some information on the rainbow serpent which isn't featured on Wikipedia....

The Rainbow Serpent (also known as the Rainbow Snake) is an important mythological being for Aboriginal people across Australia, although the creation myths associated with it are best known from northern Australia.

The Rainbow Serpent is seen as the inhabitant of permanent waterholes and is in control of life's most precious resource, water. He is the underlying Aboriginal mythology for the famous Outback "bunyip". He is the sometimes unpredictable Rainbow Serpent, who vies with the ever-reliable Sun, that replenishes the stores of water, forming gullies and deep channels as he slithered across the landscape, allowing for the collection and distribution of water.

Dreamtime stories tell of the great Spirits during creation, in animal and human form they molded the barren and featureless earth. The Rainbow Serpent came from beneath the ground and created huge ridges, mountains and gorges as it pushed upward. The Rainbow Serpent is known as Ngalyod by the Gunwinggu and Borlung by the Miali. He is a serpent of immense proportions which inhabits deep permanent waterholes.

Here's an image.

I know the serpent has wings, but the fact that he rises up through the earth and creates mountains and gorges is enough to make a connection to the element earth...

Here's some links to information about the other selected creatures...

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Have decided on my mythical creatures after lots of laborious looking through internet sites......
I am going to have each suit based around flight and land
the four top cards (Ace, King, Queen and Jack) will be based on a mythical beast from a different contienient and each will represent one of the four elements - earth, air fire and water.....
This should then fit in with my jokers which are a half lizard/half bird and a sea serpent.


1.)Phoenix (Native American) - which is a firebird - represents element fire
2.) Rainbow Serpent - (Ngalyod/ Borlung - Abopriginal) - which is a reptile like creature and represents earth
3.) Jengu (African tribal) - which is a mermaid like creature and represents water
4.) Gamagon (Russia) Which is a bird with the face of a woman and represents air.
Right, this has been difficult,
have found it really hard to try and decide on my four suits and which creatures to use for the Ace, King, Queen and Jack.

At the moment am thinking of using
firebird - phoenix or similar (this represents fire, would be male, maybe the king card???)
Yuki-onna or Gamayun (Japan/Russia) (air, both take on female forms so could be either Queen cards or the ace card.)
Jengu - from Africa, a mermaid like creature, could be used as basis for a Queen card.
Chupacabra - from native American folklore, meant to be a creature which sucks the blood of goats be reptile like in appareance. This could represent earth, the connection is a bit loose though......
Going along the theme of using the four elements to create my four card suits from, i was thinking that since my two jokers are a Norse sea serpent (Jormungandr) and a Mesoamerican half bird half serpent (Quetzalcoatl) i may have each of the mythical creatures for my four suits based on either a bird or a serpent/dragon. Each of these could then be related to one of the four elements.....
the four suits could be based around serpents - water etc. and beasts which fly - feathers.......
Something to think about.
I could then have the Jack, Queen, King and Ace of each suit as a mythical beast associated with one of the four elements.

I want each different suit to represent beasts which come from different contienents......

The back of the cards could then be based around a bird and a serpent.

Looking at Contemporary stuff.....

Visited the association of illustrators website
found these...

This is by Chris Garbutt, (black and white) features a unicorn, (this wasn't intentional) but is really simple.

(Right) By Dandi Palmer

Also found these - possibly more decorative than Ben wanted us to find, but i really like them..They do feature mythical beasts though.

Thought this one by Johny Voss (Woof!) was also good, again, simple, but the way the dog has a bright red ring aroud him really draws attention to him.

Lindiwe Mafusire-Strawford - Harpie, i thought this was quite interesting, like the decorative pattern of lines.

I found some work by someone called Alberto Cerrinto, i couldn't copy it, but here's a link


Two jokers

My two jokers are:

1.) A jormungandr (Norse sea serpent)
2.) A Quetzalcoatl (Mesoamerican deity which is a half lizard, half bird)

Both of these appear to be serpent/ dragons of some description..

links to info about these creatures from wikipedia:

Jörmungandr (Norse) - Sea serpent - which features in 3 Norse legends...

Jörmungandr (pronounced [ˈjœrmuŋɡandr], mostly known as Jormungand or Jörmungand, the Midgard Serpent, Midgårdsormen, or World Serpent, is, in Norse mythology, a sea serpent, and the middle child of the giantess Angrboða and the god Loki. According to the Prose Edda, Odin took Loki's three children, Fenrisúlfr, Hel and Jörmungandr. He tossed Jörmungandr into the great ocean that encircles Midgard. The serpent grew so large that he was able to surround the Earth and grasp his own tail. When he lets go the world will end. As a result he earned the alternate name of the Midgard Serpent or World Serpent. Jörmungandr's arch enemy is the god Thor.

When I reasearched Jormungandr on google images i found that the sea serpent is often depicted in a ring, almost as if it is eating its own tail. I also found this more traditional representation of him..which is from an 18th century manuscript called Prose Edda and features all the Norse mythology.

I also found this image, which i though was good because it was a totally different take on what i was expecting the Jormungandr to look like. This image also shows how it is possible to simplify the Jormungandr which is shown in quite a detailed fashion in all the other images i found.

I really like this image, which captures the Jormungandr quite simply in ink, it is much looser and more expressive than any of the other images i found.

Quetzalcoatl (Aztec) - half bird half lizard from Aztec mythology

The Quetzacoatl was related to several different cultures - Mesoamerican cultures including Mayan and Aztec.
Among the Aztecs, whose beliefs are the best-documented in the historical sources, Quetzalcoatl was related to gods of the wind, of Venus, of the dawn, of merchants and of arts, crafts and knowledge. He was also the patron god of the Aztec priesthood, of learning and knowledge.[5] Quetzalcoatl was one of several important gods in the Aztec pantheon along with the gods Tlaloc, Tezcatlipoca and Huitzilopochtli.

When I looked up Quetzalcoatl in Google images, i found many of the same style of image - those which are iconographic depictions - these reminded me of the playing cards Mel showed us on Monday (were they Mayan?)

A lot of the images were pretty similar to this... The iconographic style of these type images would work quite well on a playing card design.

i found this one too....

This one reminds me some what of a Chinese Dragon.

I also found these images, one shows how to you could begin drawing a Quetzalcoatl in a particular stance (it was from quite a good website called dragonart - will post the link later if i get time....)

I also found this more detailed image... i don't know how much i like it but i thought as a kind of more detailed representation of the Quetzalcoatl it was quite interesting.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The amphibitious craft in the exploits of Moominpappa

This is an illustration by Tove Jansson - who created the Moomins, i like the creatures which are shown
in the bottom - we can see mermaids (selkie, naids, asrai all are very similar!) as well as wonderful yet strange fish. It is interesting how Jasson creates each creature holding a light, as if to help guide themselves through the dark ocean.
The features which have drawn me to this illustration of mythical creatures are the same as those which drew me to the work of Ivan Bilibin - the strong emphasis on detail and decorative qualities.

The History of Playing Card design

Playing cards originally came from China where they were closely related to the money used at the time - there were a two different types of playing cards and designs, one which featured three suits, including:

Strings of Coins
Myraids of strings of coins

(This style pack was found in Northern China and known as Kwan Pai.)

The other type of playing cards were very similar having one suit more which was tens of myraids of strings. These were found in Southern China and known as Lut Chi

It is thought that some of these playing cards developed into Dominoes.

There are several different theories as to how Playing cards moved over to England, the most accepted one being that in the late 1300s Marmelukes of Egypt introduced their style of cards to Europe.

These are similar to those around today, consisting of 4 suits of 13 cards each. The suits were

The earliest references to playing cards in Europe are mainly in France and Germany, (although, different European countries each had their own variations, each ones featuring four suits of different styles)

German cards featured the four suits Acorns, Hawk Bells, Hearts and Leaves.

The french are responsible for the modern design of Playing cards, which was supposedly created by a french knight.

The French suits include:

Hearts - denoting the church
Diamonds - denoting arrowheads
Clubs - denoting husbandsmen
Spades - denoting the points of a Lance - symbols for the knights themselves.

The English adopted this style of playing cards, which were slowly refined over the centuries. It was around the 1860s that borders (featuring suit type and numbers) , numbers inscribed into the suits and having double ended figures were introduced to playiong card design. These features were readily adopted in America (but not so much Europe) were the joker was created.

Over time loads of different types of playing cards have developed, each type however still features the 4 main suits Clubs, Diamonds, Hearts, and Spades, the designs have just varied in style.

I like the design of playing cards by Ruth Kedar (below, left) which is much although still decorative has more bright block colours used than a more traditional playing card pack.

I think that the Dirty Harry playing card is particularly interesting because of the way different textures and media have been used to illustrate Clint Eastwood and the character he plays. The background looks almost as if it is made from tissue paper.


I have looked at the list of mythical creatures on Wikipedia and have selected all the creatures associated with each of the four elements. I kind of wanted my myhtical creatures to be related in some way rather than to be selected at random, but not sure what this will be yet.

I have gone through each list and only kept links to the mythical creatures that i am interested in
- those which have certain characteristics such as not being too stereotypica, and those which quite obiviously portray the element they are associated with.

List of Mythical beasts associated with Air:

Okay- some of these are weather affecting, so that could be something to consider when creating the symbols for the card suits...

List of mythical beasts associated with Fire


Mythical Creatures associated with Earth:


This listing also includes subterranean and cave-dwelling creatures,

there are loads of mythical beasts associated with water, i will have to sift through this!!


found this work by John Bauer - saw it first in Illustration magazine
from a Nordic fairy tale - princess, mother troll and sons,
i know its not quite what i was first looking for, but i really like it
The ornate detail is beautiful, it is the princess who interests
me most she looks like she is glowing....
I think that the princess looks almost like a fairy because she is so small in comparison to
the trolls who surround her.

i also really like the illustrations of Ivan Billibin - a Russian illustrator
his illustrations are beautiful - really detailed with lots of pattern......something to consider when designing the back of the card pack.

This is a Baba Yaga, a Russian witch who rides in a mortar and uses a pestle to move herself along.

This is an illustration from a story about a firebird and a grey wolf

I like the borders and the way the illustration is like a print with blocks of colour, it is almost quite card like in it's design.

I think this is one of the playing card designs that Mel showed us, it reminded me a bit of Ivan Bilibin's illustrations because of the way it is so ornate and decorative.
Mythical Beasts
I am thinking of using the four elements (Air, Earth, Fire and Water) as the basis for my four card suits........
Each card suit will then feature a mythical beast which is related to it's particular element.
I wanted to try and have each mythical beast coming from a different contienient - but i need to wait till tommorow to find out what beasts are going to be my jokers before i decide this.
first i want to just have a look at different mythical beasts with a connection to air, earth, fire and water.