The Making of a Celtic Festival Design

Wisdom Sees, gouache and ink on paper, for the 2014 Celtic Roots Festival in Goderich, Ontario
Wisdom Sees, gouache and ink on paper, for the 2014 Celtic Roots Festival in Goderich, Ontario

The Celtic Roots Festival in Goderich where I live is about to celebrate its 22nd festival. Every year, I have had the pleasure of designing a new image. So that makes this year’s owl number 22. Not every festival wants new art for each year. This request is special and unique.

“How do you come up with a new one each year?” I am often asked.

I am an artist. Image making is my thing. I make new images all the time. These are the easy answers that come to mind. After 22 years I realize that this is a ritual, a gift that I create as an invitation to a celebration that honours music, dance and craft art in community. Celebration of the arts in community is very important to me.

The process of deciding on what the guiding image will be comes after a time of simply asking myself about it. Sometimes I can tell you where I was standing when I received and decided on an image. Last year’s turtle came to me while walking to piano lessons. This year, a number of people reported seeing snowy owls in their travels. I decided it was time for an owl to be a part of the series.

Early on, the natural elements were included in the name of the festival. I found this aspect most inspiring and these elements -earth, air, fire and water- continue to guide the work. Within every design you will find them coexisting as animals and sometimes plants. The way that they interact and connect tells a story.

Like most artists, I make sketches first. I look at a number of images to find the one that seems right and offers details that will help form the design. I look for basic shapes – circles are common – ways for the elemental animals  to fit within the shape. Leaves are arranged in a number of spaces on the owl. I wanted s/he to seem as connected to the earth as the sky. The disc on the wing connects to the stars and the moon as well as the fish of the sea. The fiery dragon was added to the wing for the energy of flight. Spirals are energy and movement that exist in all of the natural elements. Celtic knots fill spaces and offer a web of interconnection.

Sometimes the animals tell me something in the process. While drawing this one I was aware that this bird quietly watches and sees; that the way we choose to live on this planet is not necessarily judged but it is noticed. The title Wisdom Sees comes from this awareness.

When I am ready, I draw it onto the “good” piece of paper and play with adding colour using gouache. Once I decide on a section’s colour I am committed and don’t make changes. When the paint is dry I outline with ink. After 22 years, I now wear reading glasses to help my eyes focus.

The owl’s eyes were painted near the end of the process. When I sat back and looked at this being I felt a whole lot of love and I knew that I needed to keep the original for my own collection. I haven’t done that yet. Usually the originals are donated to the raffle as a festival fundraiser.

As a way of sharing the image beyond t-shirts or posters or programs I have asked Elizabeth at Elizabeth’s Art Gallery to print an edition of 22 in honour of the 22nd festival. They are fine art quality and archival meaning that the colour and paper will maintain its integrity over time and you can reliably pass it on to your grandchildren. I will also sign, title and number each one. They are priced at $45 each and paper size is 12″X18″. Each one is packaged with a 25% off framing coupon at Elizabeth’s Art Gallery. One or two will be donated for bidding at the Silent Auction Tent on the weekend of the festival. The rest can be ordered through me or purchased at sales tables at the Celtic College and Festival. To be sure that you get one of the 22 feel free to contact me at


4 Comment

  1. Mike Scott says:

    Gotta have a copy! Looks wonderful . Did you know that the owl is the symbol of the Medicine Women of the Anishnabe people (Ojibwe, Oddawa, and Pottawatami) ? Definitely a symbol of the feminine spirit. It also may symbolize death ( not necessarily physical death ). A very powerful symbol.

    1. LindaWiebe says:

      Yes!! you now have a copy! There are 10 left out of 22. Thank you for purchasing one. Perhaps the power of the image is why I am keeping the original this year.

  2. Jeff Brydges says:

    A wise choice for this year.
    Bright and colourful.
    Will we see a clever celtic fox or hare next year?

    1. LindaWiebe says:

      It is quite possible. A fox has been requested and someone mentioned the rabbit to me at the pool yesterday and I thought yes! that could be it! I think of these next few months as time to gather ideas and reflect and will definitely keep these animals in mind.

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