Beardsley and Mari Lwyd
What do this Welsh custom and Beardsley's drawings have in common?

In this creative blog, Kelda (Skulls and Sheets) demonstrates some magnificent mari lwyd drawings and traces their Beardsleyesque sources.

Kelda (Skulls and Sheets), Mari Lwyd based on Ballerina

Aubrey Beardsley has proven to be a great influence on my artwork, which focuses on the Welsh yuletide tradition of the mari lwyd. Since Beardsley was my father’s favourite artist, I was exposed to his work from a young age. However, it wasn’t until my mid-thirties that his work also became a favourite of mine.

Kelda (Skulls and Sheets), Beardsley Inspired Festival Sigil

What is fascinating about Beardsley’s creations is their hidden complexity. Disguised under the simplicity of a monochrome palette, the amount of detail and talent in his pieces is not truly visible until you devote time to study his line-work. After borrowing one of my father’s art books The Best of Beardsley, I became intrigued with the challenge of applying his style to my own muse, that of the mari lwyd.

Kelda (Skulls and Sheets), Mari Lwyd in the forest

The mari lwyd is a type of mast beast from South Wales that is believed to bring good luck for the upcoming year. The group carrying the mari lwyd needs to win a rhyming battle against the home’s owner in order to be let in and fed sweet treats and cider in return for their service. One of the most striking aspects of the mari lwyd is its form. Although it is a simple combination of a mare’s skull and a sheet, its simplicity, much like Beardsley’s work, holds a deeper meaning, that of the transition between life and death.

Kelda (Skulls and Sheets), Mari Lwyd Beardsley stamp

Whilst to an outsider it may seem a little strange to connect Beardsley’s style to the mari lwyd, they actually complement each other well. Embracing Beardsley’s work has encouraged me to not only think outside the box but also to try things that used to fill me with fear, such as attempting to make intricate floral patterns.

Kelda (Skulls and Sheets), Mari Lwyd ghost inspired by Beardsley’s Under the Hill

I am very grateful that I was made aware of Beardsley’s work and I hope that his work continues to provide inspiration in the future.

Kelda (Skulls and Sheets), Mari Lwyd figure based on Beardsley’s Female Forms
Kelda (Skulls and Sheets) is an amateur artist who, in their spare time, uses a wide variety of inspirations ranging from nature to historical art styles to create representations of the mari lwyd and other folkloric figures. Visit Skulls and Sheets Store and Twitter.