Friday, June 19, 2020

Art Contest – Adult Winners, Midsummer 2020

Here are the adult winners! The Midsummer Art Contest 2020 had many truly fantastic entries from around the world in both the teen and adult divisions. You can view all the winning works in the teen division, read what the young artists say about their work, and check out comments from the judges by clicking here.

I'd again like to thank my fellow judges Dom Reardon (UK artist for 2000 AD, Judge Dredd Megazine, and other great comics) and Utkarsh Patel (comparative mythologist, educator, and novelist in India). This contest would not have been possible without their kind donation of time and insight.

The assignment was to create a piece that somehow relates to the myths of the World Tree and the celebration of midsummer. There was a really wide range of conceptual and technical approaches in the adult group this year, and it was very hard for each of us to rank them. Congratulations to all who entered! We are very thankful for all the artists who shared their creativity with us.

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

FIRST PLACE
Levi Simpson
Age 39
Bow, Washington, USA

Levi explains his winning entry:
Yggdrasil, the tree of life, can be seen standing tall in the distance as these Norsemen set sail this midsummer. Seeds have been sown, celebration has been had, and now it's time for the summer raids to see what treasures they might "persuade" the locals to give up.

My hope was to convey a scene where a longboat with a raiding party has set sail, now that summer has come and the weather is favorable for sailing. Just over the far bank, high above the trees, is a representation of Yggdrasil's massive trunk jutting upward far in the distance.
Levi tied for first place in the Midwinter Art Contest 2014 and tied for second place in the Midsummer Art Contest 2015. This year, he won first place outright by a wide margin. All of his entries have been fantastic, but this one is truly special. It has the feel of a classic pen and ink illustration from a dusty volume of tales from the Icelandic sagas, and it pulls the viewer in to imagine what lies beyond the white borders of the image. This is a well-deserved win. Congratulations, Levi!

Dom writes, "I love everything about this one – the light, the distancing, the reflections. Totally professional and really atmospheric."

Utkarsh comments, "The enormity of the tree has been depicted well."

First Place: Levi Simpson

SECOND PLACE (TIE)
Douglas Lange
Age 41
Huntsville, Alabama, USA

Douglas writes this about his entry:
At the very beginning of the Prose Edda, Snorri Sturluson goes to great length to relate how matter is defined in Norse cosmology. He does this by way of analogy on three points: (1) blood is close to the skin's surface just as water is to the earth's surface; (2) grass and flowers bloom and die off in cycles just as hair and feathers do in animals and birds; and (3) rocks and stones are comparable to teeth and bones in all creatures.

Where Snorri classifies the earth as a living thing, my goal was to render the sun in the form of a bonfire as Yggdrasil. The color scheme represents the building blocks of light (red-green-blue) and color theory (cyan-magenta-yellow-black).

I wanted to show that, if all matter has shape and form, then color is how the electromagnetic spectrum (the visible and invisible parts of light) interacts with matter. To me, if the Earth and all matter in the cosmos are alive, then light is its support and nourishment – ergo, Yggdrasil is the electromagnetic spectrum.

But, since this is a midsummer bonfire and not a TEDx Talk, I also wanted it to look fun and not take itself so seriously. The cosmos perpetuates itself by way of a party on an infinite scale – emphasis on party.
This entry is really in a class by itself and is unique in both concept and technique. I really love new takes on the old mythology, new ways of being inspired by the ancient tales. Douglas created a work that (rainbow) bridges the past and present in a truly striking way. I would love to have a print of this wonderful work on my wall!

Dom comments, "Totally different to all the other entries. I love this one. It's a more graphic approach, and it's really eye-catching."

Utkarsh adds, "The colors have been used very well."

Second Place (Tie): Douglas Lange

SECOND PLACE (TIE)
Neilma Kavanagh
Age 50
Nascot Wood, near Watford, Hertfordshire, England

Neilma wrote an incredibly detailed essay on all the elements of the work and her interpretation of their meaning in Norse mythology. Here's an edited version of her statement that introduces the central motifs:
Imagining Yggdrasil, the World Tree, at midsummer, with the sun is at its zenith, night never quite falling, I see a celebration of light and life. I picture a shimmering Bifröst bridge framing the tree, a rainbow in its branches becoming an aurora at the depths of the tree’s roots.

Midsummer bees are seeking the dew that falls from Yggdrasil’s leaves and boughs. The midsummer branches of the World Ash tree stretch up towards the full strength of the solstice sun. Its leaves and twigs in the canopy are eaten by four stags. Its roots are devoured by a dragon. However, to counteract this, the three Norns pour life giving sacred water from the Well of Urð onto Yggdrasil’s roots, sustaining the life-giving waters flowing through the tree.

The nine worlds of Norse cosmology are housed in the branches and roots of Yggdrasil. I imagine that hidden in the branches is Ljósálfheim, home of the light elves, sometimes called Álfheim, land of the elves. Maybe Vanaheim, home of the Vanir, the seer fertility gods, are also found here.

On the upper roots are Ásgarð, the enclosure of the gods, the Æsir, and Miðgarð, the realm we humans inhabit. The roots descend into the mysterious deeper realms: Jötunheim, the home of the giants; Muspellheim, hot and glowing land of fire, home to the fire giants; Svartálfheim, the dark subterranean realm of the dark elves; Niðavellir, the dark "down fields" of the dark dwarves; and Niflheim, home of mist, where Loki’s daughter Hel lodges those who have died of illness or old age.

Beneath the sun, shining white with energy and light, is the mighty eagle that sits bathed in golden sunlight in the heart of Yggdrasil’s branches. Veðrfölnir, the "wind pale" hawk, is in silhouette, soaring from the brow of the eagle, ascending high above the midsummer sun. Upon the boughs of Yggdrasil, beneath the eagle, are the four stags feeding from the ash leaves and shoots. Further down Yggdrasil’s trunk scampers Ratatosk, the sun-kissed, glittering red squirrel.

Beneath the roots of Miðgarð, our realm, I have placed Jötunheim, the realm of the giants, where Mimir, the rememberer, guards his well of remembrance, the fount of wisdom and knowledge. I have reunited his head with his body in this picture, and you can see the horn, the loud Gjallarhorn. Inside the pool of water is Odin’s eye, which he exchanged for a single drink of enlightenment from Mimir’s well.

The roots of the tree are ringed first with the twin rivers that encircle the world, and beyond them is the mighty world serpent Jörmungandr, or huge monster, bound to eat its own tail, an eternal ouroboros, caught between death and rebirth until the coming of Ragnarök, the twilight of the gods, when its tail will be released, and the seas will violently rage, then the monster will thrash onto land.

I see Yggdrasil, the mighty World Tree, as the pivot of Norse mythology, both literally and cosmologically. Yggdrasil has so much more to teach us as a concept of stability, unity, and balance, especially in the strange world in which we find ourselves today.
Neilma won first place in the Midwinter Art Contest 2019 with an image of Odin that Wonder Woman and Green Lantern artist Liam Sharp called "the most ambitious by far of all the entries." Her latest entry makes another deep dive into the Icelandic sources. The full circle of the rainbow really sets this piece in a special way, and I appreciate the depth of Neilma's engagement with so many elements of Norse mythology.

Dom writes, "Beautiful symmetry and gorgeous green roots. The circular rainbow works great here."

Utkarsh comments, "Has used every aspect of the tree and all that's related to it, with a splash of vivid colors, which goes well with the concept of midsummer."

Second Place (Tie): Neilma Kavanagh

THIRD PLACE (TIE)
Regina Withington
Age 38
Denver, Colorado, USA

Regina writes about her artwork:
When I envision Tthe World Tree during the summer, I see it topped with a rich green canopy, surrounded by colorful wildflowers, Bifröst emerging from one of the tree's roots, waving its way to the top of the canopy.

Midsummer is a time of celebration, a time to enjoy the outdoors, bonfires, and barbeques. Nature has come back to life and is in full bloom.
This work shows yet another approach to the theme and really captures the feeling of midsummer celebrations. The fact that Regina places the threatening serpent below the joyous scene reminds us – as the Norse myths do – that darkness follows light, and death follows life. But we also know that light will come again, and life will continue. Regina should be very proud of this thoughtful artwork.

Dom comments, "The quality of the light shining through the leaves here is wonderful."

Utkarsh writes, "A good usage of all the right motifs and color."

Third Place (Tie): Regina Withington

THIRD PLACE (TIE)
Anaïs Salgado
Age 30
Tours, France

Anaïs describes here work:
My drawing represents Yggdrasil, the World Tree in Norse mythology, at midsummer. I decided to not draw a bonfire, one of the universal symbols of the summer solstice’s celebrations. I wanted to do something sweeter. For me, midsummer especially celebrates the return of the greenery in the trees, the sweetness and the perfume of the flowers.

Different characters are represented on my tree. At the top, you can see the eagle. Tangled at the roots of Yggdrasil, the dragon Niðhögg is peacefully asleep. Ratatosk the squirrel sneaks discreetly along the trunk to annoy the dragon. By dint of running through its branches, two deer have merged with the tree; they become one with it.
This work is very sneaky! At first glance, it seems just a simple tree. When looking more closely, the otherworldliness and mythic quality of the tree become apparent. Anaïs has done a fantastic job of creating a work that rewards the viewer who really pays attention.

Dom writes, "I love the quality of line and the minimal use of color here. Great tree design!"

Utkarsh adds, "Minimal, but has a pleasing appeal. Especially the overall green is interesting."

Third Place (Tie): Anaïs Salgado

RUNNER-UP
Dawn Reynolds
Age 40
Franklin, Tennessee, USA

Dawn writes about her entry:
Midsummer on my side of the planet is a very green time. Our family recognizes the Oak King's place. However, where I live is losing all of its forests.

I decided to replace the leaves with pink dots covering the tree. We can see our world of earth behind it. All of the pink dots represent the vibration, how busy this year has been.

The spirits of Dáin, Dvalin, Duneyr, and Duraþrór hover over the waters below their beloved tree, curiously trying to understand the pink dots. Why are things so crazy in 2020? I related to how they must be feeling.

The tree's sacred bees are represented: (1) the yellow dots across and interacting with the tree top represent Æsir; (2) the magical void of Ginnungagap can be seen behind the trunk of the tree, and (3) Hvergelmir and Niðhögg are nestled below, in the crook of the crescent moon.
Dawn won third place in the Midwinter Art Contest 2019. This time around, her entry shows great thoughtfulness and projects a feeling of unity and connectedness. I really like the meanings attached to the dots and the depiction of the deer as spirits. This would make a great poster for the next Earth Day!

Dom comments, "Nice design here, with the lower section echoing the upper. The lighting and color on the corner leaves is very pleasing in this one."

Utkarsh writes, "Interesting representation."

Runner-Up: Dawn Reynolds

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

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