Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Art Contest – Adult Winners, Midwinter 2019

There was an amazing number of adult entries in this year's Midwinter Art Contest. We received wonderful pieces from artists in Colombia, England, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, and the USA.

It was very difficult for the judges to rank so many pieces that were all at such a high artistic level. For the first time since The Norse Mythology Blog began hosting international art contests back in 2013, both guest judges asked for extra time to rank and comment on the adult artworks. The fact that we ended up with a three-way tie for second place shows you how difficult this contest was to judge!

I'd like to thank my fellow judges Liam Sharp (comics artist for 2000 AD in the UK and a great many Marvel and DC titles in the USA) and Ragnhildur Jónsdóttir (Iceland's "friend of the elves and huldufolk"). I greatly appreciate the time that they have volunteered to rank and comment on the entries in all three age divisions. This contest would not be possible without their generosity and kindness.

The assignment was to create a piece that somehow related to the character and myths of the god Odin and the celebration of midwinter. Congratulations to the winners and to all who entered!

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

FIRST PLACE
Neilma Kavanagh
Age 49
Nascot Wood, near Watford, Hertfordshire, England

Neilma describes her winning entry in detail:
As I read the words Odin at midwinter, all I could see was Sleipnir careering through the winter sky leading his wild companions on their timeless chase to bring back the failing sun. This Yule, especially, the planet seemingly poised on a dangerous ledge of shifting climate, so many are suffering destructive deluges of rain and storms, whilst others are being threatened by spreading wild fires devastating natural wilderness and the world of men alike.

I have painted Odin riding through the darkest solstice midnight, on the back of eight legged Sleipnir. I’ve alluded to the Mari Lwyd, the horse skull of Welsh tradition. The Yule Father Odin is accompanied by his ravens: Muninn, memory, the memory of Yule past followed by Huginn, thought of the unwritten future. The chase is lead by Gullinbursti (“golden bristles”), the boar that glows in the dark made by the dwarf Eitri. Odin’s wolves, Geri (“ravenous”) and Freki (“gluttonous”) lead Sleipnir over the shimmering Bifrost bridge, which I’ve depicted as a purple and green aurora borealis.

As he rides across the heavens, mighty nine-branched Yggdrasil spans the worlds. You can see the four reindeer that chew its twigs flying in the background. You can also see the shaggy Yule goat, Julbocken, which delivers midwinter gifts in Scandinavia. I’ve included some mistletoe hanging from the World Tree, both in honor of Baldr and to reference local druidic Yule tradition.

Behind Odin and his wild animal company, the ghostly giant figure of Fenrir looms in the sky, reminding us that all things are part of the cycle of renewal. Odin may feed his wolves Geri and Freki in Valhalla, but when the final day of Ragnarök comes, it will be he who is consumed.

I’ve included some Amanita muscaria, otherwise known as fly agaric, the toadstool of the woods, at the bottom of the picture. I always think they look jolly and festive, and there are quite a few of the about in the woods near me at the moment. They usually appear at the end of November. These fungi are a favorite food of the semi-wild reindeer of Scandinavia who become intoxicated from the hallucinogenic muscimol it contains. Sámi and Siberian shamans are reputed to use this fungus in their rituals. I think this is why the reindeer are flying.
I really like this depiction of Odin. He almost looks like he's winking at us! It's interesting to see a depiction of the Wild Hunt using animals instead of ghostly warriors or other undead figures. There's a real sense of movement here, and the image of Fenrir adds a spooky sense of midwinter darkness.

Ragnhildur comments, "This picture is captivatingly full of joy and life! Really well painted, seeing the difference of fur and feathers of each animal. All the animals around Odin and the color combination is so meaningful. This picture keeps calling me to look again and again."

Liam writes, "The most ambitious by far of all the entries, and a delightful composition, too. I love the ghostly Fenrir at the back and the inclusion of fly agaric toadstools. There is so much symbolism crammed into the image without it looking at all cluttered. What’s abundantly clear is the depth of knowledge here, too. Neilma certainly knows her stuff! Well done!"

First Place: Neilma Kavanagh

SECOND PLACE (TIE)
Carl Olsen
Age 41
Oakland, California, USA

Carl explains his painting:
I’ve always liked the image of Odin as hooded/disguised wanderer. Odin is also known for seeking knowledge among the giants, so I thought an image of Odin tramping through Giantland in deep snow might be a fun aspect of the wandering/exploring Odin to play with.

Of course, the "giants" (jötnar) are not necessarily represented as "gigantic" in the myths and are treated more like a rival tribe/family with occasional markers of monstrousness (multiple limbs or heads, etc.) as needed by the story, but since we have the primordial frost giant Ymir (certainly gigantic) as well as not explicitly "giant" characters like Utgard-Loki (who is explicitly gigantic), I thought it would be nice to have someone of excessive stature peeking over the hill as a way of marking that this is an otherworldly journey, not just a normal stroll.
I'm a big fan of Carl's artwork. He won first place back in the 2014 Midsummer Art Contest with a beautiful image of Norse gods quietly and secretly observing a human celebration of the longest day of the year. Here, he has created a mysterious image of Odin that seems like the first verse of a longer mythological tale. There's a wonderful weight to the snow that the Wanderer pushes through and a fantastic sense of wariness on his face as he scans for signs of danger. Does he know the giant is there? I really want to know what happens next!

Liam comments, "I just love the atmosphere of dread here, and I feel cold just looking at it! Some journeys are hard but worth making. Odin cutting his way through the snow here – which would be nothing, of course, to the giants! – makes for a fine allegory for the quest for knowledge!"

Ragnhildur adds, "The beautifully painted snow has the real wonderful violet color of northern winter. One can feel how cold Odin must be wading through the deep snow, and with the huge dark jötunn lurking in the background, it really gives chills into the bones."

Second Place (Tie): Carl Olsen

SECOND PLACE (TIE)
Rebecca C.
Age 21
Gambolò, Pavia, Italy

Rebecca writes, "This was made in a series of three artworks, each representing a different aspect of Yule. In this particular one, I've presented Odin as Huginn and Muninn, his ravens. The hats are the symbol for Yule and they are inspired by the Tomtenisse."

This image shows great skill at creating textural detail, and the intertwining caps are reminiscent of the intricate and intertwining designs of ancient rock carvings. Fantastic!

Ragnhildur writes, "The ever-powerful two ravens of Odin with the fun 'tomtenisse' hats in old Celtic style. I really like this humor. Beautifully drawn."

Liam says, "I absolutely love this. The clever design of the hats is brilliant, and the whole piece speaks to an abundance of good cheer! Very charming, indeed. I would like a card with this design on to give out at this time of year. Great work!"

Second Place (Tie): Rebecca C.

SECOND PLACE (TIE)
Naoma Stiltner
Age 28
Huntington, West Virginia, USA

Naoma writes, "The painting portrays Muninn holding Odin's eye as a reminder that, even in the depths of winter, Odin watches."

I love the mood projected by this piece. It really gives a powerful feeling of the mystical dark of the midwinter season.

Liam comments, "So much atmosphere! The raven looks extremely pleased with himself. The glint in Odin’s eye is the final perfect touch! I love the suggestion of old man Odin also looking on as the moon in the background."

Ragnhildur writes, "The raven really stands out and shows that, even though we call the color of ravens black, they certainly do have many colors, depicting their many attributes."

Second Place (Tie): Naoma Stiltner

THIRD PLACE
Dawn Reynolds
Age 40
Franklin, Tennessee, USA

Dawn explains her work: "This is an idea of Odin that I painted after learning tidbits of Norse mythology. It is winter, and the animals travel at night by the moonlight, but it actually Odin guiding their way. The moon highlights a natural blonde that may be left in his hair."

The composition and color work here are excellent. Dawn really captures the magic of Odin glowing in the midwinter moonlight.

Liam writes, "Charming, festive, and lovely colors! I love Odin’s hair and beard. The wolf looks glad of his help!"

Ragnhildur adds, "Love the use of color, especially in the sky and snow. So much life."

Third Place: Dawn Reynolds

RUNNER-UP
Colin O'Dwyer
Age 51
Kenmare, County Kerry, Ireland

Colin explains the symbolism of his piece:
The spirals represent male and female, and the spinning of the planet and the path of the Sun as it changes direction, the straight line being solstice. The earth, stone, and grass represent solidity, timelessness, and the oldest roofed building on the planet: Newgrange, County Meath, Ireland. Also, it looks like a shield and our planet.

I wrote the runes for Odin opposite a vague set of interlocking triangles in the thunder under the lightning. Then you have the universe, Asgard, infinity. The white at the bottom represents nothingness.
This is a fascinating piece that takes a completely different approach from all the other entries we received this year. It has a timeless spiritual quality that sets it apart and draws the viewer in to contemplate the meanings behind the myths. Well done!

Ragnhildur comments, "Complex symbolism with so much detail gives much to think about."

Liam writes, "Very clever design-work! This is the most purely symbolic of all the entrants and would certainly speak to those that know their mythology!"

Runner-Up: Colin O'Dwyer

Thank you to all the kids, teens, and adults who entered this winter. We really enjoyed everyone's work. See you when the next contest rolls around!

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