Dive Into MerMay
Design mystical mermaids with new brushes by Kyle Webster.
MerMay is just around the corner, and we are swimming with excitement! For the third year running, character animator extraordinaire Tom Bancroft has issued a challenge — #MerMay — on Instagram, inviting creatives everywhere to “post a new mermaid drawing every day in May.” We can’t wait to see what lies in store. Last year, Tom published an entire book, “The Mermaid Who Wanted to Fly,” featuring his character Lani, one page at a time. He’s even assembled a MerMay coloring book.
MerMay creator Tom Bancroft loves this particular type of illustration so much that he wrote an entire book about a mermaid named Lani who wanted to fly. Image: Tom Bancroft.
Participating in MerMay is simple: Draw a mermaid, merman, or anything with a tail and fins, each day during the month of May. Post your drawing on Instagram with the hashtag #MerMay, and explore the community of MerMay-ers while you’re at it. Need a magical touch? Find inspiration from Tom’s #MerMay prompts. And don’t forget to download our specially curated brush pack from Kyle Webster to help you bring your ideas to life in Adobe Photoshop.
Since most cultures have a tradition of folklore involving merpeople, mermaids have a complicated history. Their mystery and prowess date back to 2,000 B.C. and the Babylonian god of the sea, who had the lower body of a fish and the upper body of a human. Since that time, they have been portrayed as both goddesses and sirens luring unsuspecting sailors to their untimely deaths.
The variety of combinations presented by the half-human, half-fish creature make a mermaid or merman the perfect subject for creative exploration. In Scotland, the Ceasg was a half-salmon, half-human creature who granted three wishes upon capture. In Ireland, the selkie was a seal who shed its skin to become human on land. The different takes on what a mermaid illustration could look like are endless.
Modern takes on the mermaid tale
Dinara Mirtalipova grew up in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. She grew up reading Russian and Uzbek folk tales and was drawn into the stories and myths from the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen, and ancient Greece. “When I discovered my passion for art, these stories became the biggest influence in my style,” Dinara says. “Mermaids specifically are mesmerizing. There’s something so magical about them.”
As a toddler, Dinara’s daughter Sabrina became obsessed with mermaids too. “She asked me to draw mermaids for her over and over. So, I had an idea to design a mermaid wallpaper for her bedroom,” Dinara says. She partnered with Hygge & West to create a unique artistic take on mermaid decor and has continued to create everything from mermaid shower curtains to greeting cards.
When it comes to mermaid illustration, Dinara says there are no rules. Mermaids can and should be completely unique and different. “I like my mermaids to be mysterious, free from judgments and shame. I like to celebrate their body shapes and curves. I like their hair to be wild and floaty. Sometimes they are friendly and sweet, but other times they are villains,” Dinara says.
Allison Kirwan, designer and owner of Wild World of AK, has taken the mermaid into pop art with her unique line of celebrity mermaid paraphernalia. “What started as a pencil doodle of Biggie Smalls during my college drawing classes has now grown into a wacky, but unexpectedly successful business with over 40 celebrity mermaid designs,” says Allison. At Wild World of AK, you can get pillows, t-shirts, sweats, and more, all customized with a celebrity mermaid.
“Mermaids are fun, magical creatures to draw, and a great subject to put your own twist on,” says Allison. “The best advice I could give fellow artists is to have fun with your artwork and think outside the box. It will pay off.”
Tom also has some technical advice for designers and illustrators as they craft their MerMay ideas. And in true MerMay fashion, he is sharing them on his Instagram. Here are a few of Tom’s sketched advice posts to get you started.
1. Play with poses.
2. Have fun with fins.
3. Explore various activities under the sea.
4. Don’t forget to feature fish.
Download our free MerMay brush pack
Just in time for all your MerMay needs, Kyle Webster has created a new brush pack ready to complement your creativity.
“If you’re going to be making a mermaid every day, you’ll want to work fast. This brush set is designed to help you,” Kyle says.
You’ll find brushes to depict scales, shells, bubbles, and vines. Try layering them for a unique, quick background or incorporating them into the mermaids themselves.
Whether it’s Inktober, March of Robots, or MerMay, community challenges are an incredible way to take advantage of social media and connect with like-minded artists across the world. We can’t wait to see what you design during the month of May. Share your work with #MerMay and #adobesketch or #adobedraw.