For this issue, we commissioned Daniela Viçoso to illustrate a piece inspired by Portuguese folklore, a central and recurring aspect of her work. Speculative fiction has close ties with folklore all over the world—it's often the very source and drinking fountain of fantasy, and we wanted to highlight its importance, its imagery and the vivid narratives it can convey.
Below, you can see the finished piece for "the end of winter", and read Viçoso's words on the process and concept behind it.
After a few sketches, I settled on a type of imagery I paint over and over again: folklore masks. The red ones are based on caretos, diabos (devils) and other mask traditions from northeastern Portugal. People wear them at winter festivities, usually set around christmas and carnaval. These rituals go back to roman and pre-roman times, and are associated with cyclical rites of winter.
Besides loving to learn about folklore, I find comfort in portraying odd, mysterious, evocative scenarios and strange masked figures. I want people to look at this art and wonder "what are these figures? why are they posing like this?". The central figure holds a baby lamb and the frame around them portrays almond blossoms, the green man, clay animal figurines and swallows; all symbols of the changing seasons and renewal.
Amongst all the terrible things happening in the world, I painted this, wishing for peace and for spring.