#ARThags: The twisted magical art of Shelli Le Fay
#ARThags: Shelli Le Fay, magickal artist
The latest showcased indie artist in our #ARThags series is Shelli Le Fay. Bring magic in to the moment and enjoy her art!
Describe your art in less than 100 words…
I am a painter of twisted, magical art, based on mythology, fantastical creatures, other worlds. In my work I explore all aspects of the feminine, drawing on both autobiographical and mythological sources for inspiration. I work with acrylic paint and ink on board or canvas.
Choose 3-5 pieces you really like…
I’m including four paintings that speak to me…
This is called ‘The Sisters,’ and is one of the earliest pieces I did when I did when I started painting again after my post-uni hiatus. From what I remember, I think this concept was a bit of a random stream of consciousness. I incorporated a couple of different symbols from different cultural traditions, including a double, conjoined halo inspired by paintings and stained glass windows of Catholic saints, an eye shared by the two sisters which comes from the Greek myth of the Graeae, and the spiral, which appears in Irish megalithic art and is believed to be symbolic of the gateway to the spirit realm. I have included this painting because it shows where my creative journey started, deeply concerned with the magical, the spiritual, and ancient representations of femininity as powerful, fearsome, mystical beings.
This painting is called ‘Unmother,’ and is a purely autobiographical piece. A woman lies peacefully in a bathtub, which instead of water, is filled with the ether of eternity. On the surface lie three cracked eggs, all of which will eventually dissipate and disappear into the nothingness that surrounds them. I painted this two and a half years ago for an exhibition and it was removed soon after the opening because of the nipples! Fortunately for me it’s one of my most popular prints so it’s lack of exposure hasn’t caused me too many problems!
This painting is another personal one. I had a relationship a few years ago with a person with an artificial valve in his heart, which you could hear ticking in a quiet room. The relationship failed but I was inspired by this experience to include hearts in my language of symbols that I used for my work. This was my first attempt to paint non-organic forms and I found it challenging because it was so far out of my comfort zone! However, I really enjoyed it and was proud of the result. I’ve included this because it represented a breakthrough in my work and broadened my style and subject matter.
This is called ‘Winter Queen’ and is one of my most recent pieces. The composition just flashed into my mind one day while I was day-dreaming and I quickly sketched it out so I wouldn’t forget it. This painting represents a huge shift in my style. I started using different colours and symbols, and I began to draw more specifically on the mythology of northwestern Europe for inspiration. This painting is based very loosely on Saint Brigid (or Brigid, the Irish goddess she was based upon) and Skadi, the Norse goddess of winter. I also decided at this point that I was going to let go of my idea that my obsession with unicorns was too childish and ‘girlie’ to be included in my art! This was a part of my own personal feminist journey, when I broke away from the idea that in order to be valid as a feminist and a ‘strong woman’ it was important to reject cultural symbols of traditional femininity. From this point on I have started to include much more soft, cute, ‘girlie’ elements in my work. Also, as a fan of cold weather, winter, and snow, I plan to continue the colder theme in my art universe from now on.
What do you aim to capture/reveal/explore in your art? Has this shifted over time?
I graduated from art school in 2011 and spent a while adrift, knowing I wanted to paint, but experiencing a huge crisis of confidence which blocked me for around 18 months as I desperately tried to figure out what kind of art I wanted to do. Most of the problem was that, early on at art school, I had been warned off painting the kind of thing that came naturally to me (magical creatures, fantasy scenes, mermaids, unicorns, etc), and that has stayed with me and meant I felt desperate to paint/draw those things, but weirdly ashamed when I did.
When I first started painting again back in 2013, I based my work on goddess figures from around the world, but over time I have focused in on myths and legends from European sources, particularly Irish and Scandinavian, which is my own heritage. Above all, my art is concerned with the feminine, and the power of the female. Over the years the subject matter of my work has become slightly more autobiographical, and I now draw on my own experiences for inspiration as well as the magical worlds that I have always loved. I find making art inspired by the big impactful experiences I have had over the years very therapeutic, and has led to me creating some of my best work.
Creativity vs. cost of living – your thoughts?
As someone who has to work full-time alongside creating art, I find the balance very difficult to strike. I have attempted to be self-employed in the past but struggled, mainly because I am not very confident or talented at marketing myself, so I have found finding work in my field quite a challenge. Because of this I ended up very broke and had to return to normal employment. I hope one day to be able to afford to support myself as an artist, but I graduated when the Tories first got into power which has caused huge problems for my generation.
The cost of living has increased enormously, and things such as Working Tax Credits and Housing Benefit, which used to be massively helpful someone just starting their own business, are now much more difficult to get. I don’t know anybody who is able to support themselves solely as an artist these days, although I’m sure a few of them must exist! Please email me and tell me how you do it!
What are your opinions on art’s place in society?
I have always thought that while science is what makes life possible, art is what makes life worth living. Art, music, fashion, literature, film, etc, all enrich and inspire and make life about much more than just survival. Unfortunately, I think art is massively undervalued, especially in the education system, which places the arts far below the sciences in terms of their usefulness. In my opinion this has led to a situation where everyone wants and even expects to have art in their lives, but no one wants to pay the makers for it, because it is viewed as a hobby or a past time rather than a valid way to make money or contribute to society.
Best piece of advice you’ve been given (or given yourself)?
Someone once told me: ‘put brush to canvas.’ Don’t overthink and give yourself analysis paralysis, just start drawing/painting/making.
Any upcoming projects or things you’re working on right now?
I am really interested in doing live painting at club nights and other events, so if you would like me to do that or any other kind of commission, message me on Instagram! I am also working on a few murals, some club flyers, and some artwork for an EP cover.
Where can people find out more about your art online?
You can find my art on Instagram: @shellilefay
Calling all artists with ARThag souls:
If you would like to be featured on Mookychick, please visit our #ARThags artist submissions page.