The Celtic & Faerie Art of Kate Monkman

When I first started painting faerie art back in 2004 the term faerie wasn’t that widely known and I had a few people inform me that I’d spelt ‘Fairy’ wrong,  thankfully the world of faerie has become a lot more popular over the years and most people recognise that it’s not actually a spelling mistake (though I am very bad at spelling!) The word ‘Faerie’ is the old spelling of fairy originating in France. I chose the old spelling of fairy on purpose as I knew the fairies I wanted to paint were not your typical fairies such as the Disney type, as lovely as these are and sometimes I am inspired to paint this type too but I felt something was missing from these depictions; the sweetness and light is defiantly not the full story of the faerie! I loved the Cicely Mary Barker flower fairies as a young girl and still do but even back then I knew in my heart that there was more to the faerie realm than flower fairies, something deeper.

I couldn’t put my finger on it for years but I felt it down at the bottom of my garden when I stood by an old tree stump covered in bracket fungus and I caught a whiff of it if ever I was alone in the woods, the feeling of being watched and something else, something magical and otherworldly but just out of sight. It wasn’t until I was 18 and someone showed me a Brian Froud book and I thought ah ha that’s it, that’s the real faerie realm! His artwork is always as if he has gained personal access to the world of faerie and somehow brought back the photos!
After thinking I had grown up and left the fairies behind back in my childhood suddenly all the old magic and wonder was re-kindled and I began the journey to becoming a faerie artist myself.

Whatever your beliefs there does seem to be more to this realm than meets the eye and my mind will always stay open to many possibilities. My own personal belief is that the faerie realm is nature itself, I believe everything is alive and has an essence or spirit and this is what tries to connect with us if we allow it to; the tree’s, plant’s, flowers, rivers, mountains and even the rocks all have a spirit.
This belief is felt strongly in the Celtic tradition and since moving to Wales in 2011 I have found myself drawn to the Celtic world. It’s sometimes as if the landscape itself whispers the old stories and the images seep into your bones, since moving here I have been reading the Celtic myths and stories and learning all about the different deities and this is becoming a big influence on my artwork.

I do use the term Celtic loosely as it encompasses such a wide cultural demographic, the exact geographic origin of the ancient Celts is disputed and the term Celtic refers to a collection of different nomadic tribes who shared, passed on and influenced each other in all areas of life from art to language and music, I use it here as it encompasses a lot of my beliefs and influences.

I feel so much when I’m out in nature and that’s where most of the ideas for my paintings come from, I do sometimes wish I was a bit more knowledgeable about all this stuff as I have bookshelves filled to the brim about everything from  mythology, Celtic magic, Shamanism, herbalism, druidism, paganism and the faerie realm and I do plan to sit down and read them all one day (honestly!) but a lot of what I paint just comes from my intuition, feelings I get when I’m out in Nature and my dreams, I will skim read bits that I’m really interested in and heaven forbid sometimes I even get through a whole book! I feel it can be sometimes just as important to get out in nature and make the connection and see for yourself what secrets will be whispered in your ear.

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