Today I’ve had a pretty quiet day, I watched some films and I tried to get more into creating the illustrations for my artist book project.
I now have 2 just about ready (still got lots more!), one of which is Nilsine, or the “Shadowy Woman”. The Shadowy Woman started appearing in my mind in about 2011/2012, it’s hard to pinpoint when exactly. At the same points along the Brainport Trail I would picture her, and I was very afraid of her. Afraid to the point where I’d run through these sections of path, constantly looking over my shoulder in case she was following.
When I came up with my faerie world, there was one character directly inspired by the Shadowy Woman; Nilsine (it’s supposed to be pronounced Nil-sin, but I always say it Nil-seen).
In that world, Nilsine was the leader of a species of faerie, which was also a religion, called folamhs (gaelic for empty). They are prophetic creatures, ruled by females. The males have their third eyes removed at birth, so they cannot see the future, and are treated mostly as slaves. They have been treated this way for generations, it was only at Nilsine’s downfall, and the rise of Faolei, that that began to change.
Nilsine was raised to be cruel and powerful and cold. She ruled with an iron fist, and her punishments were dark and often violent. A a half folamh child (such as Iarann), would have their wings sliced off with a red-hot iron blade. Folamh women who slept with males outside of the species (such as Iarann’s mother, Alva), would often have their third eyes removed, be reduced to a life of utter servitude, or even executed by fire.
I felt there needed to be a sort of tangible sense of Nilsine’s power, so I created a black, vein-like shadow by blowing ink. I love the effect it has, it’s really beautiful, and reminds me of the dozens of pictures I take of trees silhouetted against the sky.
Nilsine I cannot hate. I feel as though she is more of a manifestation of the darkest parts of me. I always take some of myself and put it into every single character I’ve created. I know that I can be cruel and a little heartless. Sometimes I do feel as powerful and dangerous as her. So I suppose, if Iarann is what I am, and Elva is what I want to be, Nilsine is what I sometimes fear I could become.
Where I see Nilsine