Where’d You Get That Idea? The Inspiration Behind My Painting, “Camelot”

Posted: November 8, 2014 in Art and Creativity
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Camelot, a mixed media painting by Jaime L. Hebert

Camelot, a mixed media painting by Jaime L. Hebert

There’s a story, long ago told, about a lady with a lovely face who was imprisoned on a beautiful island overlooking mythical Camelot.

Day after day, she weaves and avoids looking toward Camelot, or else a curse will fall on her.

Until the day her mirror, until now only showing shadows of life in Camelot, broadcasts the arrival of a handsome, dark-haired knight, riding into town in glittering armor, atop a galloping steed.

In her tower prison, the lady looks toward Camelot for the first time. She leaves her weaving loom, causing the web to fly out and crack the mirror.

She fears her curse has arrived.

Resigned to her fate, she leaves her tower prison, going down to the river that flows around her island toward Camelot.

She climbs into a small wooden boat and lies down in it, wearing a snow white robe.

Alas, when the boat comes ashore in Camelot, it only carries a lovely corpse.

Does that story sound familiar? It’s what was on my mind when I created this painting, and it’s based on a famous poem.

A while back, I started painting this after coming across a tutorial suggesting I start my painting with a grid, and then combine colors and images with the grid in mind. As usual, when I was getting together the things I wanted to use on my canvas, I wondered how I could make them “go together.” After looking over the items I had picked out, the word Camelot popped into my head, and once it did, I went searching for other things that fit the theme. My brain led me to the following items . . . see if you can find all five in the finished painting!

A page out of an old copy of Mark Twain’s “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.” (I know, right??)

A map of the United Kingdom.

A glittery paper with an illustration of a knight on horseback.

A stencil of a castle.

Two horseshoes (turned up for good luck, of course!)

This is the Camelot according to the legend of King Arthur, with his knights of the Round Table and the ill-fated romance of Sir Lancelot and Queen Guinevere. I like to use quotes, words, or phrases in my paintings, and I wanted to find a quote that related to Camelot. I did a Google search, and not much inspiring came up. After trolling several quote sites, I came upon the quote that is at the bottom of the painting, and I suddenly remembered one of my favorite “Camelot” related things: a song by Canadian musician Loreena McKennitt. You may remember that name from when she had a popular song on the radio—I think it was about 1999, “The Mummer’s Dance.” For a while, I was a little obsessed with her music, and I had a two-disc live recording of a concert she did in Grenada, Spain.

There’s a song she did called “The Lady of Shalott.” It’s one of several where she took an old poem, set it to music, and made it into something that won’t leave your brain alone once you’ve heard it. If you like old poems, or if you paid attention at all in high school English class, you may recall “The Lady of Shalott” was written by Alfred Lord Tennyson. When the poem is read, it’s good, don’t get me wrong. But when it’s sung by Loreena McKennitt, you can feel the desperation of the poor cursed Lady of Shalott, trapped in her tower and sick of having to view the shadows of the world outside her prison. The music is beautiful, and as you’re listening to the words, you want to stop the action as soon as her mirror cracks, and she goes to her little wooden boat and you realize what she is about to do. (If you haven’t read it and you’re interested, here’s a link: The Lady of Shalott. Even though there’s some old language—it was the 1840’s after all—it’s a pretty quick and easy read.)

There you have it, the inspiration that led me to create this mixed-media painting . . . an ancient legend and a sad lady who freezes herself to death. You kinda wish you hadn’t asked now, right? It’s okay, those are just some of the morbidly fascinating things that inspire my art!

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments! If you liked knowing the story behind the art, let me know because I have a bunch more weirdly inspired pieces of art I’d love to tell you about!

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