The Dryad series: Symmetry Exhibition, National Arts Festival 2017

This post’s about the Dryad series.  They are the seven images that make up almost a quarter of my exhibition – Symmetry – which is at the Carinus Arts Centre for the National Arts Festival from 29 June to 9 July 2017.  I wanted to explore what happened when I placed a person into my images – rather than finding a Green Man or a fantastical pattern in them. I did that by projecting some images I’d prepared on to Natalie – she’s the dryad in the shoot – as she stood in front of a screen.  When her back’s turned she becomes enigmatic with a big shadow playing across the forest.

Stained Glass Dryad Original

I must say that technically this was really tricky to do.  Fortunately the mirrored organic shapes I’d chosen could be draped down her spine and that was really evocative.  The next picture’s from the exhibition. It shows the filigree of a tree-like skeleton in/on her dryad body.


Some time later I decided to mirror the dryad images and construct a triptych.  The two pictures here have the mirrored dryads on either side of the original.

Stained Glass Dryad

Green Dryad

All of the pictures so far have shown a dryad within a scene but I also projected one of my favourite tree images on to her so she became the screen.  In Scarab Dryad I love the way the tree branches burst out of her neck whilst a runic scarab perches on her shoulders.

Scarab Dryad

When I made the runic tree image smaller – so that it just fitted in her back – it makes the curved shape of an angel’s wing.  You can see there’s a wing on the back of each of the mirrored dryads in the Angel Dryad triptych.  The wings reappear as overlays in the original runic tree in the centre.  The contrast of the burning wings on the slender body reminds me strongly of William Blake’s etchings.

Angel Dryad

Lastly I did something quite fantastical.  I made Dryad Fantasy by overlaying the runic tree with the Angel Dryads in a multiplicity of mirrored images.  So it’s a re-composition of the originals: re-imagined shapes with new patterns and forms.

Dryad Fantasy

I wrote about some of these pictures last year when they were still a work in progress. If you are interested there are more pictures and descriptions in these posts.: Triptychs 1: Stained GlassTriptychs 2: The Figure in the ForegroundTriptychs 3: Angel Wings.

Triptychs 3: Angel Wings

‘Angel Wings’ and ‘They look like something from William Blake’ were the first responses I got to these pictures. They’re a little different to the other triptychs because there’s no background image, the runic tree is compressed to run up Natalie’s spine.  It really does look like the wing of an angel. So I copied and then mirrored her image, superimposing them on top of the original runic tree to get this dramatic triptych.

Triptych Flame 1

Triptych Flame 1

Its was an easy step to duplicate the image and get some lovely flowing lines.

Triptych Flame 1 Double

Triptych Flame 1 Double

I then worked on a version that kept the original orange colour of the tree but it’s cropped and follows her silhouette. The result is another striking image.  I’m really looking forward to getting some trial prints done of these.

Triptych Flame 2


Triptychs 2: the Figure in the Foreground

I was pleased with the stained glass effect and the repetition of the archway of trees in the triptych I posted earlier so next I experimented with blending together a different set of images.

Äsperöd Gnarly Triptych

Äsperöd Gnarly Triptych

The original inspiration is one of the Scots Pine trees on a rocky knoll at Äsperöd, Sweden.  I followed the same process as before, mirroring the central tree, enriching its colours and masking with an art filter before projecting it on to Natalie.

After I’d copied and flipped the projected image I merged the two of them together and, where the shadows overlapped, I superimposed the merged image over the earlier saturated, mirrored image. It sounds a little complicated but gives a richly coloured overlapping blend of foreground and background textures so you really feel there’s something other worldly in the scene.  I also made a mirror image of the triptych which would make a wonderful window!

Triptychs 1: Stained Glass

The visitors to my Portals exhibition gave me a lot of feedback and encouragement.  Some of the ideas really inspired me and so, whilst the Festival was quiet, I started working on this small series of triptychs.  I recently finished some of them and here’s a first look at what I’ve been doing with a description of how I produced it.

Gnarly Triptych

Gnarly Triptych

The centre panel’s a mirrored image of a beautiful bank of trees above the Coquet River in Northumberland.  I took the original photo looking down a steep slope to the gate – if you look carefully at the pictures you can just see the gray river.

On either side of the centre panel are images I took last year when Natalie and I did a photo shoot of tree images projected on to her back. I masked out the background image on the screen behind her with a black and white filter so that she stands clear of the backdrop.  I duplicated and then flipped one of the images so that she looks down into the centre image.

I really like the end result.  Her back curves to the shape of the trees and the repetition of shapes and colours give the triptych a stained glass feel.