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All Underneath the Eildon Tree by sphinxmuse All Underneath the Eildon Tree by sphinxmuse
I was contacted by Aranea/Drema of If... Journal with the prospect of illustrating the cover image for the July 2007 issue on the potent topic of Spiritual Transformation. She presented me with three visually evocative ideas:
"Either:

the face of a person, the face appearing worn, slightly off-color or
sickly, peeling away (like an apple peeling, reminiscent of the
Escher sketch?) to reveal the same face beneath, but clean, shining,
healthy and glowing

Or

a face peeling away to reveal the same face beneath, but the face
that is peeling away is all black and white, while the face being
revealed is all full color

Or

a person's face with their hand reaching up to pull away the outer
face as if it were a mask (same with coloration and imagery above,
but pulling away a "mask" instead of peeling it away)."
She also suggested perhaps a background of butterflies. The imagery in all of the options was definitely appealing and I intended to stick to those ideas fairly closely. I was a bit strapped for time, so I had decided to take a straight forward approach and depict exactly what was suggested in my own style. Actually, I chose to accept the commission in the first place due to the tight deadline. It had been too long since I had the luxury to make a piece like this, and I knew the time constraints would prove a great impetus to complete such a work.

Somehow along the way though the image became much more personal. The idea of the removal of a mask or the shedding of a worn skin morphed into the semblance of dry and crackling leaves being torn away by the wind. The leaves necessitated a tree, and that tree became one with thorns (representing the fact that spiritual transformation rarely comes without pain and/or sacrifice). "It should be a hawthorn tree," I thought to myself.

I was determined from the beginning that the figure would be male. Again it was another challenge I presented for myself on top of the short time period I had to complete the piece. As the face progressed layer by layer it appropriately went through a similar transformation. The golden yellow of the paper made him initially sallow and wan, and early in the process he had very deep crevises along his nose and mouth which made him appear almost sinister. Along the way the background illuminating the tranformed face glowed a vibrant green.

Although at first unbeknownst to me, it later became clear that this was my vision of Thomas the Rhymer. True Thomas (another of his well-known epithets) has featured very strongly in my own personal spirituality over the past year or so, corresponding with my immersion in traditional faerylore. I have been in the process of writing a very pivotal essay (pivotal to me, anyways) revolving around both the themes of the Ballad of Thomas the Rhymer and the Romance of Thomas the Rhymer since last October. In brief, Thomas Rhymer was a medieval bard who was taken by the Faery Queen to Elphame where he remained for seven years. There his eyes were opened and he was given the gift of a tongue that cannot lie - in other words, he was transformed. At the end of his seven year service, he returned from the realm of Faerie with the inspired abilities to prophesize and write profound poetry and songs.

When Thomas first meets the Faery Queen she is wearing a "shirt o' the grass-green silk." Upon his return to the mortal world, he was given "a coat of even cloth / and a pair of shoes of velvet green" which were a tokens of his transformation. Clearly in the ballad and the romance, green represents Faery and its gifts, therefore it only makes sense that the verdant glow in my image is associated with the transformed portion of the face.

The title of this piece is a verse taken directly from the ballad. Thomas meets the Faery Queen after awakening from a nap which he has taken beneath the boughs of the Eildon tree, a particular hawthorn which once grew in the Eildon Hills of Scotland.

Media: Prismacolor colored pencils, watercolor, acrylic, sumi-e ink, pen & ink
Size: approximately 8.5" x 11"
copyright Desirée Isphording 2007 - all rights reserved -
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:iconhislilkid:
Hislilkid Featured By Owner Mar 5, 2013
The perfect song was playing and when i saw this i actually cried.
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:iconrochyz:
rochyz Featured By Owner Jan 4, 2013
i love it!!!
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:icontendershark:
Tendershark Featured By Owner Jun 5, 2012   Traditional Artist
Breathtaking!!
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:iconidakris2:
Idakris2 Featured By Owner May 19, 2011  Hobbyist General Artist
Wow this is really beautiful. You are a really great artist!
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:iconnannusinsanus:
nannusinsanus Featured By Owner May 4, 2011
I have long loved the ballad and the character--went looking for Eildon Tree and Huntlie Bank nr. Melrose. This is a beautiful version of Thomas :-)
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:iconanjaleck:
anjaleck Featured By Owner Feb 13, 2011  Hobbyist General Artist
Featured! [link]
Hugs,
Anj
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:icondragonkira:
DragonKira Featured By Owner Oct 5, 2010
This is amazing!
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:iconsphinxmuse:
sphinxmuse Featured By Owner Oct 29, 2010   Traditional Artist
Thanks :)
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:icondragonkira:
DragonKira Featured By Owner Oct 30, 2010
You're welcome!
Reply
:iconhorseygal101:
horseygal101 Featured By Owner May 7, 2009   Writer
This painting is amazing! I love it! One of the best paintings yet!
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:icontytaniafairy:
tytaniafairy Featured By Owner Apr 27, 2009  Professional Digital Artist
Hello! :wave: I am letting you know that I have Featured this image in my journal this week [link] Please let me know if you would rather not be a part of this collection for some reason. Otherwise, thank you for creating such lovely artwork! :deviation:

Blessings of Light and Love and Magic!
:frail: Tytaniafairy
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:iconlani1402:
lani1402 Featured By Owner Nov 28, 2008   Photographer
this is AMAZING!
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:iconsphinxmuse:
sphinxmuse Featured By Owner Dec 14, 2008   Traditional Artist
Thank you :)
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:iconjadedroach:
jadedRoach Featured By Owner May 20, 2008
i saw this as a book cover in wegman's today!! i was so excited because i recognized it as a fellow deviants work!! congratulations!
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:iconsphinxmuse:
sphinxmuse Featured By Owner May 23, 2008   Traditional Artist
They sell the book at Wegman's? Wow. I didn't think it was up their alley. I know they sell books on nutrition, yoga, etc. Nifty! At which Wegman's did you see it?
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:iconjadedroach:
jadedRoach Featured By Owner May 25, 2008
wegmans in syracuse, NY...
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:iconsimanion:
Simanion Featured By Owner Apr 13, 2008  Professional Traditional Artist
Wow! Stunning imagery and amazing details, with a great back story as well :D
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:iconamazonofexeter:
Amazonofexeter Featured By Owner Apr 6, 2008  Professional General Artist
That is gorgeous and I love the story behind it!
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:iconpupasoul:
pupasoul Featured By Owner Feb 2, 2008  Hobbyist General Artist
This is amazing in so many ways! Love it!
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:iconjadedroach:
jadedRoach Featured By Owner Jan 4, 2008
this is an amazing work. i can barely tell that you switched between so many media! love the subject matter too!
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:iconrobertsloan2:
robertsloan2 Featured By Owner Aug 13, 2007
This is profoundly moving. I went through many emotional reactions to this piece until I gave it full view and looked at it close -- and then it struck me why it mattered so much to me. It has many personal meanings for me as well and I think it will reach many others, each in their own ways.
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:iconsphinxmuse:
sphinxmuse Featured By Owner Aug 21, 2007   Traditional Artist
Thank you very much. I love knowing that my work has meaning for someone beyond myself.
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:iconrobertsloan2:
robertsloan2 Featured By Owner Aug 22, 2007
Something this rich, I think it will have some personal meaning for anyone who sees it. Transformation is part of life.
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:icontehuti:
tehuti Featured By Owner Aug 10, 2007  Hobbyist Writer
It's so beautiful...I can't even describe. Simply gorgeous work.
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:iconrita-ria:
Rita-Ria Featured By Owner Jul 31, 2007  Professional Traditional Artist
Incredible work!
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:iconpaulaspixies:
paulaspixies Featured By Owner Jul 21, 2007  Professional Artisan Crafter
Very Cool
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:iconm4g1c4lm3:
m4g1c4lm3 Featured By Owner Jul 6, 2007
WOW
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:iconboggleboy:
Boggleboy Featured By Owner Jul 5, 2007  Professional Traditional Artist
Another beautiful piece! Exquisite, rich and full of magic!
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:iconsphinxmuse:
sphinxmuse Featured By Owner Jul 7, 2007   Traditional Artist
:aww: Thank you very much!
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:iconskoane:
Skoane Featured By Owner Jul 4, 2007
Fantastic work..great drawing!!
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:iconmivva:
mivva Featured By Owner Jul 4, 2007
This is simply a beautiful work. And your skills are amazing, it's very hard to tell where you have used for example watercolours, coloured pencils and so on. That closed eye is wickedly good, I didn't notice it at first.
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:iconsphinxmuse:
sphinxmuse Featured By Owner Jul 7, 2007   Traditional Artist
I tend to layer media rather than use one medium for one area and another for a different section, for example I usually lay down a base of watercolor then go over that in colored pencils and then layer that with acrylics, etc. It is literally a mixed-media piece, all of the different materials get fairly blended together in the end product. I think that's why it's often hard to tell where one media leaves off and another beings - I cannot really chalk it up to pure skill!
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:iconcockrocket:
cockrocket Featured By Owner Jul 4, 2007
Ah, here is your work for that magazine, yes? It is a very beautiful piece :) I love your choice of colors, and the glowing butterfly cocoons are looking really awesome :D
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:iconsphinxmuse:
sphinxmuse Featured By Owner Jul 7, 2007   Traditional Artist
I forgot to mention that I'm really happy you could tell they're cucoons/pupas!
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:iconsphinxmuse:
sphinxmuse Featured By Owner Jul 7, 2007   Traditional Artist
I did a cover piece for this magazine when it was under it's former title PagaNet News (it was also a printed publication as well at the time, not simply an ezine and the scope of the publication was more limited to Neo-Pagan religions), which was a few years ago. It may have been for Samhain 2004. That piece is actually here on DA; it's called 'Living Ma'at.'
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:iconassylem:
assylem Featured By Owner Jul 4, 2007
I love it. I really want to hear your interpritation of things/what this is about. But I am enjoying letting my mind wander about this a bit.

While I love his face, I think the colors are my favorite part. I can almost smell damp fall leaves looking at this. The tones in his skin are *great* I wish I could do that with skin tone!

Very much faved!!
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:iconkupi:
kupi Featured By Owner Jul 4, 2007
Fantastic. I find it very difficult to look away from his eye. It's very captivating.
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:iconsphinxmuse:
sphinxmuse Featured By Owner Jul 7, 2007   Traditional Artist
The eye is actually one of the only sections where the original color of the paper still shines through fairly clearly. The paper is a warm gold/yellow-orange. I usually save the eyes until later in the piece, and I liked the original tone so much I decided to leave it for the most part untouched.
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:iconelfin-grrl:
Elfin-Grrl Featured By Owner Jul 4, 2007  Professional Traditional Artist
Amazing! :wow: So good to see it in its full glory. I could stare at him for ages :heart:
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:iconsphinxmuse:
sphinxmuse Featured By Owner Jul 7, 2007   Traditional Artist
Thank you! He's not a bad-looking fellow afterall! ;)
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:iconjeff1966:
Jeff1966 Featured By Owner Jul 4, 2007
Incredible work. :+fav:
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:iconkatjeya:
katjeya Featured By Owner Jul 3, 2007  Hobbyist Photographer
Beautiful, truly beautiful. He reminds me of The Green Man.
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July 3, 2007
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