Forgiving Medusa | The process

Forgiving Medusa | The process


So, why did I decide to depicted Medusa in this way? Firstly, mythology and archetypes are a recurring theme throughout my work, and, shock horror, I have recently been reading a lot of Greek Mythology. (If you're interested, Stephan Fry’s 'Mythos' is a great source for this.) Anyway, after delving into these works, I had the idea to do a painting of Medusa. I just found the idea of her so appealing, and I got to work on ideas for a piece right way. Unsurprisingly, this piece took on a life of it's own, as other things in my life started to bleed into the work. Jordan Peterson’s New book - 'Beyond Order (12 more rules for life)', is a book I'm currently listening to (audible is life!), which covers themes such as psychology, philosophy, and humanity's greatest myths and stories. Many of the ideas, and insights in that book really got me thinking, and really excited, and inspired me. Peterson actually uses Medusa as an example in that book, which was a weird coincidence as I was listening to it on audible whilst I was actually painting her.

Another source of inspiration for this painting was actually a game I was playing at the time. Yep, artists must unwind somehow, I too have my own snakes to deal with! The game was called 'Hellblade', which is about a girl called Senua who is a celtic warrior. Senua embarks on a journey in the 8th century after Vikings raided her village and killed her love. She hopes to redeem the soul of Dillion, her love, by going to the Norse version of hell, Hellheim, where she must confront the underworld goddess, Hela. Senua is plagued by her own inner darkness as she experiences visions, voices and delusional beliefs – symptoms of what we now call psychosis. I love the idea behind this game and I decided I had to depict my Medusa in this way.


Medusa is most commonly thought of as a monstrous figure, something to be terrified of, something you shouldn't look at. Yet, while I was reading, and researching for this piece, I kept thinking 'why?'. I know in science your not supposed to ask why, your supposed to ask how, but, in relation to Medusa, we  already know 'how', as there are many many stories about her out there. To sum up for those that aren't familiar with her story, it goes something like this... Medusa had two immortal sisters, yet she was mortal. Now, I imagine that might come with it's own large case of sibling resentments, but she was also monstrous in character and appearance, you know, the one head full of snakes thing? Not only that, but anyone who dared even to look at Medusa was instantly turned to stone. Surely leading to a rather lonely existence?

There was so much in her story that was symbolic of the shadow, the dark side of humanity, the voice of sin. I couldn't help but think how overwhelming, and loud that voice must be. Again, a head full of snakes all chattering at once, must be all consuming, surely that in itself could drive you to madness.

Preliminary Work

I had the main themes that I was excited to run with. The next step was to create visual ideas to explore how the final piece might come together. I was thinking about how it would feel to be Medusa and to be burdened by these snakes. Are these snakes a visual representation of her struggling mental health? When I thought about this I imagined her to have a face that was pretty tormented. I liked this idea and wanted this to be the focal point, so I started by sketching close up portraits, where the emotion seemed the most powerful. I wanted her anxiety to be captured in her face, but also in her body language. You can tell a lot from someones body language, and I imagined her taking cover and holding her head. I added in her hands desperately clawing for peace and escape. 

Naming The Piece

How do we even attain peace when our minds have ‘lost it’? How can we better ourselves without the ability or skill to quieten the mind? Forgiveness can be a good place to start. If Medusa could start to forgive herself, and accept her issues, could she begin the process of becoming better? Maybe? This led to the title of the piece - Forgiving Medusa.

Painting Process

Here are some photos of the preliminary drawings and the painting process.

 Planning the snakes and their composition.

Final line drawing and chosen colour swatches... time to paint!

 Embracing my love for texture!

 Roughly mapping out the snakes and their tones.

Beginning to add in some detail...

My gut told me to add these Yellow highlights so I just went with it ... sometimes these risks pay off and sometimes they ruin it ... this time luckily, I was feeling it!


Here is the finished Painting!

Important Links

Mythos: The Greek Myths Retold - Stephen Fry's Greek Myths 

Beyond Order (12 more rules for life) 

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice. 

I hope you enjoyed this blog post as much as I enjoyed sharing the process. Namaste x

Topics: Mental Health Awareness • Forgiveness • Empathy • Understanding • Anxiety • Freedom • jud 

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