Ellie Mulhern is an artist based in Scotland who creates enchanting landscapes that capture the beauty of the hills, coastline and the northern lights.
The northern lights have appeared in art long into the past. Before photography, it was only through art that the phenomenon could be captured at all. Historical works from central Europe in the sixteenth century show the aurora in the superstitious light of the time, depicting it as flames or knives in the sky. Later, scientists often penned their own pictures for their records and works, such as de Mairan’s early textbook on the aurora in the 1700s.
With the ubiquity of photographs now, it is lovely to see that the aurora is still celebrated in art. I asked Ellie some questions about painting the aurora.
1. When did you begin painting aurora and why?
I was born and brought up in the Shetland Isles, where they get stunning shows from the aurora when the conditions are right. I was inspired by their beauty and have always been fascinated by the night sky and universe. A few years ago friends of mine, Maurice Henderson and Craig Mann, took some beautiful photographs of the Aurora and I painted my aurora collection gaining inspiration from those wonderful photographs.
2. What are the biggest challenges for you when painting the northern lights?
There are techniques I’ve developed to capture them in a painting. Once you have developed a technique you feel happy with there aren’t really any challenges as such painting the northern lights, not any more so than painting any subject matter. It just requires a lot of patience.
3. What’s your favourite memory of them?
My fondest memory of seeing the aurora was actually in a plane flying from Canada to Scotland. Seeing them from such a high altitude was a whole new perspective of them.
4. Do you have any advice for aurora watchers or budding artists?
Capturing them is quite is quite difficult, it’s often about being in the right place at the right time. But modern technology can make it easier to find out when and where they might be showing.