“Sometimes my hands remind me of two snakes in love!”

I took advantage of my most recent illustration assignment to work with an idea I was kicking around in my brain for some time now.

The ram-horned serpent is a creature which has lived in my collection of personal symbols for several years. Horned serpents in ancient, Northern European art are thought to have been a storm symbol (snakes are shaped like lightening, ram-horns clap like thunder.) At least according to the speculation of art historians. Some Celtic scholars, like Miranda Green, suggest that they were a regenerative symbol as well.

detail of the Gundestrup cauldron

I’ve always appreciated this interpretation, looking at what happens after lightening or a fire obliterates a chunk of forest. The nutrients in the ground get recycled, the sun reaches stuff that was beneath the canopy, plant growth increases and spreads providing more food for animals, etc. As someone who has dealt with more than one trial by fire, I know the rush of creativity that follows personal transformation. I am nothing if not resilient.

The official Herron family crede is “Nil Desperandum.” Seriously.

With all of that in mind, I decided that my current assignment in Advanced Illustration would be a great opportunity to finally create something with this symbolism. The assignment was to create an icon or an iconic image with a symbol or animal of your choice. I decided that there needed to be two serpents for a few reasons. Visually, I was most interested in designing beautiful shapes with the subject matter. This is easy enough with one snake, but I think that snakes make some of the most impressive shapes in their mating rituals. This idea certainly fit the theme of regeneration that I wanted to capture, and I wanted an element of connection and sweetness in the image that lead the viewer away from their potential ophidiophobia.

I finally decided upon a composition I liked, spent a looooooooooong time hand drawing the line work, scanned it in, scanned in some watercolor texture, and finished it all in photoshop.

endurfæða, digital media
Valerie Herron, 2012

The resolution on the image that I’m posting here doesn’t do it much justice, it was created to be blown up BIG! My professor mentioned something about this piece getting displayed in a gallery show, I will definitely post details as soon as I find them out.

Endurfæða (pronounced: in-dur-fy-thuh) is the Icelandic word for “regenerate.” The image is a symbol and an affirmation. It’s appropriate that I finished this on Mabon, not only for the horned serpent – harvest connection, but for personal reasons too. If I can take anything away from the transformations that have happened to me this year, it is the overwhelming amount of raw inspiration I have garnered from my experiences. This piece is an act of thanks.

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2 thoughts on ““Sometimes my hands remind me of two snakes in love!”

  1. I love the mix of contrary emotions I see in / get from that piece. They seem alert, but comfortable; pissed and affectionate – I simultaneously want to hug them and stand back with my hackles up.

    Nil Desperandum. Do Not Despair. 🙂

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