Mermaids have been the inspiration of thousands of artists over the years (too many to mention, in fact), but one of my constant favorites from the last 10 years has been Dutch artist Lois van Baarle (Loish). Exploring her digital paintings is like floating though a dream world of of soft, wispy, swirling, colorful girls with big personalities. Bees, jellyfish, lollipops, flowers, long scarves, bubbles and stars add to the fascinating environment Loish has created for her strong ladies. The mermaids who swim from Loish's stylus have various characters and personalities; they range from the cute Disney Ariel to the sexy pinup to the dangerous lover of the sea. Loish describes her Ariel art as comfort art: The subject matter she goes back to time and time again if she's not feeling her best. She also mentions on her DeviantArt account that she receives daily requests to draw more because everyone loves the imagery so much.
It was normal for Rubens to have helpers paint the base so I do not see why it would worry YOU!
One of the first mermaids in ancient cultures was Atargatis from Turkey (700-1000 B.C.) who accidentally killed a shepherd whom she had fallen in love with. Disgusted by what she had done, she jumped into a lake to turn herself into a fish (all totally normal), but she was too beautiful for the water to completely change her — so she ended up half fish and half human. Sounds logical to me!
Having grown up with Disney's The Little Mermaid film on repeat, Ariel is my most well known and beloved mermaid. However, the vote is still out on whether the film is a horrific sexist disaster or a girl power feminist film.
These ladies are the femme fatales of the sea (Ancient Greece). It is believed they lured sailors to their deaths using sweet music and their seductive voices. To be honest, I always thought they were a type of mermaid, but upon closer inspection, they do not have a fish tail, but a set of wings. And they were sometimes depicted as having other bird-like features such as a beak or scaly feet. They are known as heartbreakers, killers and lovers who make men fall in love with them, and their stories never had a happy ending. Much like the mermaid love song by Belgian all-female group Nele Needs a Holiday, where the naughty mer-lady Nele steals your boyfriend and lures him with her spellbinding music. I'll try not to give away the ending, but I feel I should warn you: If fish soup is on the menu today you might want to look away now.
In 2009, Colin Farrell starred in the film Ondine, in which he finds a Selkie woman in his fisherman net (as you do). However, the next Selkie film on my watch-list is the Song of the Sea — a wonderfully pretty animated film featuring the dreamy voice of Lisa Hannigan. Now that I think about it, with her sweet, seductive voice, Hannigan would make an excellent Siren!
4. SWAN MAIDENS
We've all heard of the ballet Swan Lake, but there are many more stories featuring ladies who turn into swans. The guidelines for Swan Maidens seem pretty similar to that of the Selkies: They too must marry the man who steals their feather cloak. And if they ever find the cloak, they must leave and never come back.
So ends another tragic wild lady/animal story, and what have we learned from all this? Are mermaids a representation of the hardships and struggles of women? Are they the embodiment of behaviors that are perceived inappropriate in women? Are we attracted to them because they are free from the shackles of how people think you should behave? I guess this is not really a concrete conclusion, but rather a huge question mark.
Mermaids have always been mysterious creatures, but one thing we can be sure of is that they are beautiful. Even though they don't wear any clothes (with the exception of a shell or two), they have made a fashion contribution that cannot go unmentioned: The fabulous mermaid silhouette gown. I love this super glamorous shape, which is funny because my other favorite dress shape, the Empire Waist, flairs out under the bust in the complete opposite to this style. The mermaid shape flares dramatically at or below the knee, which I can imagine makes it just a little bit difficult to walk. But we will do it anyway, in ode to the mermaid ladies swimming in our seas: Ladies who teach us about love and empowerment and beauty and fantasy.
Images: Getty, Loish, Giphy; Author