Monday, June 22, 2015

Art Contest – Kid Winners, Midsummer 2015

The kids' division of this year's Midsummer Art Contest had some really wonderful entries. It was very difficult for us to rank such great work!

I'd like to thank my fellow judges Simon Fraser (comics artist for Doctor Who and Judge Dredd) and Merrill Kaplan (Associate Professor of Folklore and Scandinavian Studies at Ohio State University) for the time they spent considering the entries and for their thoughtful comments on the works created by these talenting young people. This contest would not be possible without their participation.

Congratulations to our four winners! The assignment was to create a piece that related to an excerpt from the Old Norse poem Sigrdrífumál ("Sayings of Sigrdrifa") from the Poetic Edda, the great collection of mythological and heroic poems from medieval Iceland.

At this point in the poem, the dragonslayer Sigurð has just woken the Valkyrie Sigrdrífa (who may or may not be the heroine Brynhild under another name). She had been mystically put to sleep by the god Odin as punishment for vanquishing his chosen hero in battle.

As she wakes, the Valkyrie sings a beautiful song of celebration. In the classic 1923 translation by Henry Adams Bellows, she sings:

Hail, day! Hail, sons of day!
And night and her daughter now!
Look on us here with loving eyes,
That waiting we victory win.

Hail to the gods! Ye goddesses, hail,
And all the generous earth!
Give to us wisdom and goodly speech,
And healing hands, life-long.

These four young artists created wonderfully imaginative works of art inspired by this scene. I hope that they will all continue exploring Norse mythology and developing their artistic skills!

Note: You can click on the art to see larger versions.

Paul Jules Butler
Age 6
Schweich, Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany

Paul writes, "Sigrdrífa is cooler than a superhero, because she cares for real heroes. Is the sun behind her too bright for morning?"

What a powerful image! I'm particularly impressed by the maturity of Paul's design concept.

Merrill says, "Sigrdrífa is indeed cooler than a superhero, and that red sunburst is fantastic. Even if the red is 'too bright for morning,' the Valkyrie’s wings are the colors of clouds at sunrise: pink and yellow. Her body is made of strong blues and blacks, which keeps her from seeming like a shadow or mere silhouette. There’s real substance and power to her. The dynamism of the colors really makes this piece for me."

Simon adds, "Graphically and technically, this was the strongest of the group."

First Place: Paul Jules Butler

London Hatrak
Age 10
Belleville, New Jersey, USA

London writes, "This shows Sigrdrífa being reborn. In her song, she asks the gods and goddesses to watch over her, since her Valkyrie life is gone, and she is now only a mortal."

London tied for third place in the Midsummer 2014 contest and now moves up to second place. This is a fantastic work that really captures the spirit of Sigrdrífa's transformation. Wonderful!

Simon says, "I like the duality idea, and it's well drawn."

Merrill writes, "The contrast between grays and color to mark the distinction between death and life is very effective, the more so because neither half of the composition is allowed to dominate visually. Instead of color, the grey side has line: London put care into the ornament of both helmet and byrnie with a repeating motif. I also like the contrast between short and long, loose hair. Loose hair would have marked a medieval Norse woman as young and unmarried, appropriate for a newly-reborn Sigrdrífa about to swear herself to Sigurð. This drawing gives us true narrative, before and after, and not just a moment."

Second Place: London Hatrak

Leo P.
Age 4
Chicago, Illinois, USA

Paraphrased by Leo's mom: "Sigurð is cutting off the armor of Sigrdrífa as she's asleep on the hill. His armor and sword are gold, but she is green because she eats greens because she is a warrior. There is an oak tree on the left, and the helpful nuthatches are watching in the sky – two green, four blue, one brown. Under the hill is 'a mummy with bright yellow skin' buried with the dragon's gold coins. Leo really likes mummies right now!"

I love the depth and richness of Leo's imagination. What a thinker this one is!

Merrill had a lot to say about Leo's entry:
I love how many narrative elements are present in this composition: the cutting of the byrnie, the tree, the nuthatches, the dragon’s gold. I’m reminded of the runic inscription at Ramsund, Sweden, where several moments in Sigurð’s story are present at one time. This drawing also includes three layers of the cosmos: the sky full of birds and sun, the surface of the earth inhabited by people, and a kind of underworld or realm of the dead.
Leo’s mom seems surprised by the mummy, but I think it makes excellent mythological sense. The gold in the Burgundian cycle is tainted by death from the very beginning, when it is used to pay compensation for a slaying. Death follows it everywhere, and ultimately it is lost from the realm of the living when it sinks into the Rhine. In Norse myth, gold seems to me inherently of the realm of the dead. Depicting it here buried under a mound, accompanied by a mummy, is perfect!
Simon writes, "So many good ideas and graphically strong, despite only being four years old. I feel that Leo's mother should get a lot of credit for transcribing the mythos, too."

Third Place: Leo P.

Rune Hatrak
Age 8
Belleville, New Jersey, USA

Rune writes, "Fire ends life and starts life. Sigurð and Sigrdrífa are surrounded by fire that ends their old lives and starts their new lives. The picture shows the happiness in Sigrdrífa 's song, and she asks the gods to watch over her new life on earth."

This is such a strong piece, we had to include it with the other three winners. Excellent work!

Simon writes, "I really like this one. They both look so happy, and it's very clear what's going on."

Merrill says, "The shape of the flame is a great compositional element for this scene. The cut paper overlaid on black catches the marked-off space in which this narrative moment takes place. In Sigrdrífumál, Sigurð and Sigrdrífa meet in a tower that resembles a flame from a distance; in other versions of the Sigurð-Valkyrie encounter, there is a wall of flame. In every case, the location is high up and separated from the usual world – appropriate, since the things that take place there are anything but usual."

Runner-Up: Rune Hatrak

Teen winners will be announced tomorrow!

1 comment:

Mihaela Lica Butler said...

All such lovely, pure, artworks! We are happy and honored to be in such good company. Congratulations to all the winners from Paul Jules Butler, and thank you for inspiring us to learn more!

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