Ariadne was the daughter of King Minos of Crete and his wife Pasiphae. Pasiphae was also the mother of the Minotaur which means wee Ariadne had a very interesting half-brother. I bet he helped keep those teenage boys at bay when they were pestering Ariadne in Cretan High School.
Ariadne was in charge of the labyrinth and oversaw the sacrifice of Athenian youths to her ravenous, raging sibling so she must have had some mettle to her. However, when the hero Theseus turned up, Ariadne turned to mush in an instant and assisted her crush by gifting him a sword and a ball of thread with which to find his way around the labyrinth and kill the Minotaur. Mission accomplished, Theseus then took Ariadne away with him, as he had promised to do, but then dumped her on Naxos. There, Dionysus discovered her and married her so she did get her happily ever after in the end. Complete with never-ending wine.
I decided that Ariadne had to be naïve in order to fall for Theseus’ charms so readily and perhaps also lacking in self-esteem given that she was willing to leave her family behind and have her bull-brother killed by the hero just because he made her swoon and festooned her with promises of love and bliss. I, therefore, chose to depict her as being young with rosy apple cheeks suggesting the first flush of infatuation with dashingly treacherous Theseus. She holds a skein of thread in her hand which I drew in silver ink to connote its magical, GPS qualities. I then – in a rush with my drawing – made a terrible error and momentarily conflated Ariadne with Arachne, who was turned into a spider by Athena. I had drawn the spider on her headband and web on her necklace in ink before I realized the error of my ways. Oops. Draw in haste, repent at leisure.
My kids actually stated that I was to draw Jason and the Argonauts. Eh….No. It would take me at least a week to produce a drawing of a whole crew of Greek heroes and I am rubbish at drawing boats. Not happening. So I ignored their brief and decided to draw just Jason on his own.
Jason was the hero who led a bunch of other heroes on a quest to the island of Colchis to obtain the Golden Fleece. They travelled on the ship ‘Argo’, hence the moniker Argonauts. It was a vessel heady with testosterone. And probably body hair. The expedition involved encounters with six-armed giants, voracious women, clashing rocks and harpies until finally they reached Colchis. That was not the end of Jason’s tribulations, however. On Colchis (modern day Georgia) he had to plough a field with fire-breathing oxen, battle soldiers who grew from dragon’s teeth and then kill the dragon that was guarding the Golden Fleece. There were then more travails after the fleece was secured but, let’s face it, the crux of Jason’s story is the whole Golden Fleece shebang.
The Golden Fleece, therefore, was the key element that would signify that my drawing depicted Jason. Sadly, in my sketch, this all powerful sheep hide looked more like a deflated Shaun the Sheep. An ovine version of Davy Crockett’s raccoon bonnet. Not very rugged or heroic looking.
I was thinking about the old ‘Jason and the Argonauts’ movie and all those classic “sword and sandals” movies as I drew Jason and I think that informed my decision to give him a pretty 1960s beard and a manly chin-bum. Still that Golden Fleece was giving me trouble. I increased the scale of it to make it look less like a woolly cap but there was definitely still more than a little Shaun the Sheep going on with the head. The whole thing was starting to resemble a Judge’s wig. I ploughed on. The gold ink gave me hassle again but I enjoyed creating all the swirling patterns to represent the fleece. At least my comedy sheep was very much golden.
Dead Sheep Bunnet
PS Apologies for the shadow casting across the finished drawing. The photo was taken late at night with my phone.
Having drawn Medusa yesterday, it is entirely appropriate that today I was challenged with drawing Pegasus, apt because Pegasus is the offspring of Medusa. Of course, I don’t think that is why Pegasus was so high on the list created by my own offspring. Rather that would be because my 7 year old son is obsessed with horses, unicorns and pegasuses (seriously, what is the plural of Pegasus?).
According to some versions of the Medusa myth, Medusa was pregnant (to Poseidon) at the time of her death. Therefore, when Perseus beheaded her, that unborn child sprang forth as the winged horse Pegasus. No idea how the genetics works on that one. Pegasus was captured by the hero Bellerophon and agreed to help him with his heroic missions, including defeating the Chimera.
Despite the fact that my horse-mad 7 year old makes me draw them all the time, I suck at drawing horses. I just cannot get the proportions and shapes right. In my sketch version I scribbled and erased a lot before I got an outline I was satisfied, if not entirely happy, with. I also opted for a much more graphic rather than representational style of drawing because I was more capable of that than anything that actually looked like a realistic horse, even one with wings.
Traditionally Pegasus is a pure white stallion but part of my challenge is to work with watercolour in my drawings. I, therefore, opted to use some pale blues to underline the connection between the horse and the sky. I then drew the outline in ultramarine ink with my dip pen, except for the eye which is black.
As a horse, it’s a pretty rubbish drawing. My 7 year old, however, declares it to be “awesome” so that is all right with me.
Back to monsters again. I was pleased to see Medusa turn up, however, as it was a chance to draw something female (though I have subsequently learned that the Chimera is actually female too, despite the lion’s mane) and because I have always had a bit of a soft spot for Medusa ever since I first saw Ray Harryhausen’s model of her in ‘Clash of the Titans’ as a nipper.
Medusa was one of the Gorgons and had an ugly face and a head covered in snakes. The version of her story I am most familiar with (after ‘Clash of the Titans’) is Ovid’s ‘Metamorphoses’. In that version, Medusa was actually very beautiful. Her looks caught the eye of Poseidon who then raped her in Athena’s Temple. Athena, offended by such sacrilege, punished Medusa by transforming her from beautiful to so monstrous that one glance from her would turn a person to stone. That seems horribly unjust to me and, as such, I have always had some sympathy for Medusa as a character.
In my drawing, therefore, I opted to still maintain something of her prettiness. Her face is definitely human rather than monstrous and her expression is calm and content looking rather than raging and malevolent. In my drawing, her writhing snake hair is reminiscent of dreadlocks. The choice of green was obvious because of the whole reptilian thing but I chose to make her lips and eyes red to create some contrast and to make those human features pop in the drawing. In my preliminary sketch, the snakes looked worryingly phallic. Even in my finished version, I was worried they were going to look either completely silly or disturbingly wrong. Once I went over the green wash with some darker tones to create pattern, however, the phallic look started to be overcome and they emerged as more definite snake forms. I probably ought to have given them red tongues though.
Poor Medusa, of course, came to a sticky end at the hands of the hero Perseus. With assistance and equipment from several gods, he was able to defeat Medusa by only looking at her in the reflection of his shield, thus avoiding being petrified. He decapitated her and subsequently used her detached head to turn various enemies to stone. Poor Medusa. No dignity even in death.
I am pretty pleased with how Medusa turned out – slightly phallic snakes aside – and the drawing received eight thumbs up from my four boys so I must have met or exceeded their expectations too.
Three days and three monsters. With forty subjects to draw, there have to be some humans in the mix, but it seems my kids wanted me to start with monsters. Today it is the Hydra.
The Lernaean Hydra was a serpent or dragon that guarded one of the entrances to the Underworld. It had toxic blood and poisonous breath but it’s most famous feature was that, when decapitated, two heads would spring up in place of the one that had just been lopped off. Therefore, each attempt at defeating it would only result in making it much more deadly. The monster was, of course, slain by Heracles (and not Hercules since I am being Greek about this rather than Roman) as his second Labour. His novel idea was to cauterize the neck stumps each time he chopped a head off so that the Hydra was prevented from sprouting replacements. In such a way, the Hydra was then made vulnerable and was defeated when the last head was severed. In an act of “waste not want not”, Heracles dipped his arrows in the Hydra’s blood which then assisted him in completing other Labours.
The Hydra was another child of Typhon and Echidna and is, as such, a sibling to my Chimera from the first day of the challenge. That gave me the idea to draw the Hydra as a baby, as I had done with the Chimera. That handily also meant that I avoided the pressure of trying to make it look terrifying. I find it much easier to draw cute than scary. This, however, was the first drawing in which my finished drawing diverges from the sketch. I had been trying to make the juvenile Hydra look dissimilar from a dragon so had given it horns in my sketch but somehow the other dragon elements crept in so I capitulated and decided to just go with the many-headed dragon look. In that case, the horns just looked lame so I added sharp triangular plates along the length of the body, heads and tail for my finished drawing. When it came to choosing the colour, I was tempted by purple and aqua just because I happen to like those colours together right now. I also thought that the Hydra was definitely a reptile who would not need to resort to camouflage so could be whatever colour it wanted and that, as with poisonous lizards and frogs, maybe a bright colour would advertise its deadly potency. So I justified my use of purple and aqua. I think he looks rather endearing. Nasty Heracles for killing such a cute wee beastie.
It’s the second day of my Drawing a Day challenge and this is my second monster. Hmmmm. My boys definitely like the mythological monsters. Yesterday was the Chimera and today is the Minotaur.
Americans pronounce the word Minotaur as Minn-ah-Tar, which I find quite discombobulating since we pronounce it Mine-Oh-Torr. As another aside, my youngest sister looked a bit like a minotaur when she was born. It was the snouty nose and the nostrils like the barrel of a shotgun that did it. My mother, of course, was oblivious to this fact and thought she was nothing other than perfectly adorable. Now as a mother myself, I know this to be the effect of a whole load of hormones, post-delivery endorphins and maternal love. As a 14 year old, I just thought my Mum was demented. And in need of an eye test. Yes, my new baby sister was cute. But she was cute in a peculiar way and she definitely had the look of a baby minotaur about her. Thankfully her face evolved fairly quickly and she became a regular version of cute.
But I digress.
The Minotaur was a ferocious creature, half-human and half-bull, who roamed the labyrinth designed by Daedalus for King Minos of Crete. The myth tells that King Minos was to slaughter the Cretan Bull in order to honour Poseidon. However, Minos decided to keep the bull for himself so, as punishment, Poseidon made Minos’ wife Pasiphae fall in love with the bull. That relationship produced the Minotaur. Suffice to say, I was not even remotely tempted to draw that bit of the story. I rather imagine that the baby Minotaur was not unlike a human toddler, all tantrums and demands, but then he got older and started devouring people. That behaviour obviously required some stern disciplining so Daedalus was commissioned to construct the labyrinth and the Minotaur was imprisoned in it as some elaborate “time out”. When Minos went to war against the Athenians and won, he found himself a regular supply of Minotaur meals. He demanded a tribute of seven young men and seven young women be supplied by Athens every year and these youths were chucked into the labyrinth to keep the Minotaur occupied and fed. This went on for a few years until the hero Theseus, given a nifty tip by Ariadne, managed to defeat the Minotaur.
Mr Pict and I, along with our oldest son, went on a vacation to Crete back in 2004 and we soon noticed, as we visited several archaeological sites and museums, that the Minoans were completely obsessed with bulls. They had a sport that involved jumping over a bull, there were libation vessels (oh so very many libation jugs) that depicted bulls or were in the shape of bulls, and there were wall paintings galore of bulls. I think that probably settled where the myth of the Minotaur sprang from.
My kids are big fans of the ‘Percy Jackson’ series of books by Rick Riordan and – at the risk of a tiny spoiler – a Minotaur turns up early on in the first book in the series. So that became the Minotaur that inspired my drawing: confrontational, pugilistic, raging with anger and physically strong. I’ve drawn him with a snarling facial expression and brow furrowed with anger and concentration. I tried to create a pose that looked as if he was getting ready to attack. My nod to the Athenian tribute is the skull on his belt that is – thankfully – holding his loincloth up.
Finished Minotaur Drawing
A couple of details from the finished drawing
So that, folks, is my version of the Minotaur. I am happy to report that he looks nothing like my youngest sister.