Saturday, February 20, 2010

Little Mermaid Musings

I've been commissioned recently to do a painting of the Little Mermaid. It brought to mind instantly not Disney, but one of my favorite pieces by Edmund Dulac: his painting of the Little Mermaid as she swims through the dark waters on her way to see the Sea Witch.

This piece always captured my attention for its unusual composition. There is a strong diagonal cut as she swims down from the upper right corner, offset by the negative space of the clear water, and the vertical pillar of wreckage. The mermaid's tail isn't even fully visible, yet there is no doubt as to what she is, and her body glows in the gloam.

All of these aspects contribute to a moody piece that draws the viewer in, down into the eerie depths, and into the demesne of the Sea Witch; elements that I would not think to use in my own work usually. Cutting off the body of the central figure so critically? Having such a straight diagonal line in the composition? Pilings of wreckage that are somehow made to look beautiful?

These are things I like to think about when I come across a painting I like. What aspects about it are unique to that artist's mind that just wouldn't occur to me? Or that I would usually discard in my own compositions/color choices as wrong? And why do those choices make a particular piece strong? How can I try to capture some of those elusive qualities that I admire and make it my own? It's a method of looking for ways outside of my own comfort zones.


  1. love his paintings but we've mentioned that before ;)
    can't wait to see your take !

  2. That's a beautiful painting. I don't recognize any of his work that came up in a google search I just did. But I'm very interested now! Thanks for posting that.

    I'm excited to see what you do for the piece. You have such lovely work as well :)

  3. That's such a beautiful painting, the little mermaid is on of those stories that seems to always be beautifully illustrated.

  4. I love Dulac's work and that's a beautiful example of it, thanks for sharing it.