Here be Dragons and Other Welsh Beasts

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Collette June Ellis is a Welsh artist and recently brought out a fantastic beast style book based on the creatures of Welsh myth and folklore. One of her favourite subjects is Dragons, not just the Welsh ones either. She went to China to research the dragon tales of the Orient.

 The Sunday Tribune spoke to Collette about her passion for these mythical and mystical beasts.

 

TST: Please tell me about your book.

CJE: ‘Welsh Monsters & Mythical Beasts’ is an illustrated compendium written and illustrated by myself that documents the fantastic beasts of Wales.

I started writing the book in 2015 after a trip to Iceland with my partner. In Iceland they are so proud of their mythology and mythical creatures but sadly here in Wales many of our legends are being lost. So, it became my mission to research and document our fantastic creatures and introduce them to a new generation.

TST: You are doing a great job keeping the Welsh mythology in the public eye, is it just the Mabinogion you cover or have you found other legends and tales?

CJE: There are a few creatures from the Mabinogion that feature in the book including Cath Paulg, a giant human-eating cat that became known as the plague of Anglesey and an Irish Prince who was cursed and transformed into a gigantic white boar covered with poisonous spines.

TST: Wales is such a magical place and its old tales are full of mythical creatures, what was it like researching this?

CJE: It’s been challenging but really fun researching for this project, luckily people have been really supportive and I’ve had a lot of people getting really excited about it and sending me information and legends from their local areas, this made it so much easier as they were giving me leads, I could follow up on. There were many creatures I’d never heard of when I set out of this journey four years ago and I’m very excited to share them with the world.

TST: Tell me about your favourite creatures and stories, which one’s appeal to you?

CJE: My favourite Welsh beast has to the Gwiber, an adder that has grown to monstrous size, developed wings and a very potent venom. Another of my favourites is the Afanc, gigantic water dwelling creatures that live in fresh water lakes in the Welsh Mountains. There is one particular Afanc that was eating livestock in Conwy and instead of killing the creature the local people trapped it and dragged it up into the mountains where it could live peacefully, I do love how in many tales the Welsh have a lot of respect for dragons and are wary of killing them.

TST: You are hoping to bring out a Welsh language version, is that correct, please tell me about this project.

CJE: The Welsh language is very important to me and I feel it’s important to have a version of this book translated for the Welsh speaking audience. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to produce a bilingual copy for the Kickstarter due to cost restrictions, however, it’s something I’m in talks about with my publisher.

TST: You have also produced a sketch book for the reader and artists to colour themselves, great idea.

CJE: Yes, there’s a sketchbook showing how the book was created but it is only available until May with the pre-order, after that there will be a limited number of copies available. I felt it was important to offer a unique insight into the development of the book, especially for fellow artists who are interested in seeing how something like this is made. The sketchbook features a variety of thumbnails, concept sketches and page plans so people can get an idea of my artistic process.

TST: And when will the book be available?

CJE: I’m looking to have the book completed and printed by Autumn of this year, if anyone is interested in pre-ordering a copy and supporting this project they can do so via my website. I have some exclusive prints available and some lovely dragon skull pins which I think people will love. As far as future projects go, I’ve got some really exciting ideas on the back burner that I’m looking forward to working on, of course documenting more fantastic creatures.

The book is available to pre-order here:

 

If you would like to find out more about Collette’s art and projects go to her website here- www.collettejellis.com

 

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