Nacreous Fairies

I have a slight fascination with the word nacreous because to me, it never sounds like it should. It has a sinister sound to it, something repellent, there are undertones of putrefaction in there. It is something that appears to be sound, but it glistens with decay.

What nacreous actually means is ‘of or pertaining to Nacre’. And Nacre is merely the scientific term for Mother of Pearl: that lovely shimmery coating inside shells. It is also what pearls are made of. It doesn’t sound right. I think it is the aural closeness the word has to necrotic, narcotic, narcosis, naked. A wriggly, bare, sinister, slow sort of word.

So, with this in mind, how about a group of Nacreous Fairies?

Three Wise Fairies
Three Wise Fairies
Three Wise Fairies: hear-no-evil and see-no-evil
Three Wise Fairies: hear-no-evil and see-no-evil
Three Wise Fairies: speak-no-evil
Three Wise Fairies: speak-no-evil

It must be true that if a person did indeed have nacreous skin, they would not be at all healthy, but I think it’s all right for fairies. This is of course, not only the March painting for my calendar but also my variation on the idea of the Three Wise Monkeys: hear-no-evil, see-no-evil, speak-no-evil. Being fairies, of course, they know exactly what you did and they think it’s hilarious that they know and you can’t do anything about it. They heard it, they saw it… and they’re probably going to tell just at the point when they can cause the most amount of mischief!

The subtle colours on this painting were rather hard to capture with the camera, I think the scanner will capture a little more, but if you click on the close-up images you will get a reasonable idea of them.

Technically, this painting was a slight leap into the unknown. First I painted all the shading in Prussian blue:

work-in-progress: 'Three Wise Fairies'
work-in-progress: ‘Three Wise Fairies’

Then, having protected this painting with a subsequent layer of white paint, I painted the whole background with a very heavy layer of Prussian blue as well. When I washed off the excess paint I had this:

work-in-progress2: 'Three Wise Fairies'
work-in-progress2: ‘Three Wise Fairies’

…which was a little startling! I have never painted so much entirely in white before.

The rest of the work was done by a little careful removal of paint on the wings and highlights, and by adding very thin layers of translucent magenta and yellow and a little more Prussian blue. These colours are almost the colours of process printing inks (CMYK without the K), though the Prussian is a lot darker than Cyan, and as such it’s possible to get almost a full range of the spectrum if you try hard. If course it doesn’t really work quite like that and used in thin layers, all three colours on top of each other, what you get are shades of almost-seen colours that are hard to define.

Quite appropriate for a dodgy trio of fairies, I feel.

If my mentioning of removing paint has you confused, I do a lot of washing off paint again and this blog is in need of a lengthy explanation. Until then, though, this page on my website has some step-by-step photos on it where you can see my variously developed techniques of ‘un-painting’.


  1. I guffawed when these dodgy fairies hove into view.

    1. oh yes, these ones are seriously suspect, glad to have amused! 😀

  2. They’re so darn cute! I love ’em! They make you just grin. And then you notice their simple yet clear message: advice that never gets old and is always wise! Heh-heh. Wonderful and fun art, Nancy, as always. 😀

    1. Thanks Mgon… yep, wise advice, seldom followed 😀

  3. […] will be counter-productive. I am thinking more of painting them basically pale like the ‘Nacreous Fairies‘ two paintings ago. The white, however, was a bit overpowering of the blue under-painting, so […]

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