I haven’t done a mermaid for a while — I kind of got burnt out on Mermaid Mondays. They really need a good story behind them to inspire me, but good stories take time, and without that time I come up with things like the laundry mermaid. So I’ve been neglecting them, and I thought I’d do a mermaid tail tutorial to make up for it… Please forgive me for not putting it up tonight – it is about 30 images long and they all need to be resized, thumbnailed, etc. I’m ever so tired of looking at this single tail, I just don’t have the patience or the eye strength anymore! I will try to get it up tomorrow, though. So watch this space…
As you know I generally have a soft spot for anything flowing and cool-colored, so I wanted to do a generic Queen of the Seas costume this month. If you were wearing this to a party with no particularly picky mythology or history geeks in attendance, you could perhaps call yourself the Queen of Atlantis, but I can’t just go blithely saying something like that somehow.
Lindsey commented on my blue and gold princess gown and said that she’d seen a similar one on Zwinky, but I can’t check it out because I use a Mac; can someone take a screenshot of it and send it to me, please?
The verdict is still out on the Good Queen…
Prismacolors used: Cool Grey 30%, 70%, 90%, Black, White, Indigo Blue, Denim Blue, Light Cerulean Blue, Sky Blue Light, Marine Green, Jade Green, Tuscan Red, Poppy Red, Pale Vermillion; Verithin Black and Cool Grey 70%; Sakura Soufflé White.
Now, mermaids love color; it’s a precious thing because their environment itself makes the bright shades they prefer transient. Get even a little ways down, without the benefit of the magic lights many mystics make a living out of producing, and everything is just blue and purple. But because of the intermittent nature of underwater color, the ensembles worn to well-lit mermaid gatherings are wonders to behold, and even just knowing you have shining auburn hair or that the emerald and opal bracelet on your wrist is absolutely fabulous in the sunlight is enough to be happy, most of the time. This is also part of why mermaids value their tail color so highly: feeling like a brilliant blue or gold is an intrinsic part of you gives you a pleasant warm sensation when you’re feeling grumpy or plain.
This means that grey-tailed mermaids, like the one we see today, have an unfortunate tendency to be maladjusted or insecure, more than those with other tail colors do. Even colors like white, black and brown are thought of as preferable. After all, white has a sort of unearthly cachet, while black has a rakish, cool image, and both of them are easy to match with other, brighter colors. Even brown can look good, assuming you can afford the right shades of red, gold and so on. Grey doesn’t seem to match with anything, really: blue and green, maybe, but the combination just seems glum. This mermaid, I wouldn’t precisely say she’s come to peace with her grey tail, but she’s scared of mystics (some of whom might be able to change it for her… for a price), so she overcompensates with long skirts and vivid colors, and she has a habit of tucking her tail close to her body while she works, so only the pale edge of the fin sticks out from under her skirt.
This would, certainly, be hard to swim in, but she works as a scholar in a big city, and so she doesn’t generally have to get around very quickly; in any case, she thinks it would be better to meet her end courtesy of a shark than to live a long life with her tail in full view. It’s a shame to feel that way, but that’s what happens when you feel hideous all your life. Honestly, I think it draws more attention to her than a skirt with a more normal cut, or a sheer skirt, would: no one wears skirts like this underwater, and even the mermaids with big old scars on their tails are often proud enough of them to not much care whether they show or not. So even though this is a mermaid equivalent of wearing a sandwich board that says “I’M INSECURE ABOUT MY TAIL,” it makes her happy. And heck, if I had a rainbow-colored skirt with a coral and fish pattern that cute, I’d probably be happy too.
I was asked to list the colors I use for each drawing, and I’m going to see how it works out to list them…
Colors used: Colorless Blender, French Grey family, Cool Grey family, Black, Sky Blue Light, Greyed Lavender, Violet, Ultramarine, Violet Blue, Spring Green, Dark Green, Yellow Chartreuse, Grass Green, Sunburst Yellow, Crimson Red, Poppy Red, Yellowed Orange, Tuscan Red
For obvious reasons, mermaids prefer thin, delicate fabrics for their undersea fashion statements. These are usually just in single layers, possibly two or three extremely light layers for special occasions or if your situation in life is such that you don’t have to move around too much; anything beyond that registers less as sumptuous and more as vulgar and ridiculous, if not simply dangerous. There is a mermaid fable, in the Aesop vein, about a particularly vain young thing with a pearly pink tail and a fondness for adornment. Despite the warnings of her more practical sisters, she kept adding layer after layer of richly embroidered skirts and tops and sleeves, as well as bangles and necklaces and hair ornaments; in the end her outfit becomes just too heavy and billowy to swim properly in, and she gets eaten by a shark. But then, there is also a mermaid fairy tale about a vain young thing with a pearly blue tail, who starts out with too many layers and sheds them, one by one, to give to others in need; in proper fairy tale fashion, the recipients repay her kindness later on. (From the mermaid point of view, neither story is a caution against vanity per se: the latter is about generosity, the former merely about self-preservation.)
This sleek, light aesthetic often carries over to what mermaids might wear on land. As a matter of fact, most mermaids mentally class humans with other mammals such as dolphins, so it’s only natural to them to consider themselves superior in every way. Because of this perspective, mermaids tend to consider their own style to be obviously better than the fuller, often gaudier fashions popular among human women. Still, sometimes even for a mermaid it’s fun to pile on the fabric. This bride wanted most elements of mermaid wedding gown design for her own dress: the traditional red, the romantic tatters, the bare midriff that would shock most human brides. Indeed the top is such a common design for mermaid wedding outfits that it’s rather cliché. But now that she doesn’t have to worry about sharks, she wanted a skirt with something like ten layers of fabric. The resulting creation looks odd to both human and mermaid eyes alike: the mermaids criticize the mismatch of tatters and heavy skirt, while the humans scorn just about every other part of it. But the bride and her partner adore it, and they’ve never quite been known for paying undue attention to the opinions of others.
The tatters are a long-standing symbol of enduring, patient love among mermaids (and someday, remind me, I’ll tell you the story that most mermaids know a version of that started the trend). Of course, to humans, it just looks ragged and ridiculous. The tailor of this particular outfit took one last look at her beautifully balanced layers of fabric, then actually curled up in a corner of a different room and cried while her apprentice “distressed” the edges.