In Greek mythology, twelve is an important number. There were twelve main gods on Olympos, twelve Titans, and Herkales had to do twelve labours. And these are just the most well-known instances of the number.
When playing around with Adobe Illustrator, I created a system that automatically generated a twelve-fold symmetry. This yielded flowery shapes. Why not name them after Greek goddesses, heroines and other mythological ladies?
There were more than twelve designs. This was a cool toy, I made another image at least once a day. I started out on a white background, but other background colours were another nice thing to play with.
The names became more and more obscure, and it was a challenge to find out a bit about the demigoddess or personification whose name I was using for my pieces. Whose daughter or mother she was, and what she did. All these trivia are still on my Instagram. Use the #womenofmythology hashtag or scroll down on my feed (quite) a bit.
Groups of sisters are a common trope in Greek mythology. The main goddesses Hera, Demeter, and Hestia are full sisters. The three Erinyes are, as are the Hesperides (four) and Pleiades (seven). Helen (the Troy one) and Clytaemnestra were a mirrored pair, together with their brothers Castor and Polydeuces. I made series of ‘sisters’ in the same colours but with different shapes.
The system I built created shapes that are mostly symmetrical. There are some deviations, where some of the ‘petals’ are differently coloured than the rest. Good examples are Elektra (above) and Erato (below). I decided to leave this, as it felt to me that beautiful imperfection would honour their namesakes more than engineered perfection.
Variations on a theme?
When inspiration started running low, I tried to decide on a nice an symbolic number of images to aim for and then end the project. 144, twelve times twelve, seemed a good option. I wouldn’t nearly run out of mythological names to use, but… would there be enough variation in the images? Could I tweak my system to create a different kind of symmetry?
It was rather easy to have the system create a nine-fold symmetry instead. But how would I name these images? As the other well-known European mythology, my mind immediately went to the Norse sagas. As if I planned for it (I didn’t!), it turned out that nine is a very important number in exactly that mythology.
There are nine worlds in Yggdrasil, Heimdall was the son of Odin and nine mothers, Odin hung himself on Yggdrasil for nine nights. Nine is queen in Norse sagas.
Twelve times nine is 108. This ended up being the total number of images in this project.
Do you like one of these mythical ladies? Prints are available. Tell me who your favourite is, and how large you want your print to be!