Celtic Art: Celtic Mythology; realistic illustrations of Celtic Myths & Legends. An exhibition of Mythic Art by Contemporary American Illustrator Howard David Johnson, whose illustrations of Mythology, Folklore, Religion and History have been published all over the world by distinguished learning institutions and publishers including the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge.


Presents: Contemporary Mythical Art Galleries:

Gaelic Celtic Themed Artwork; A Gallery of New Illustrations~ Paintings, Drawings and Pictures from Celtic Mythology in traditional oil paints, Contemporary acrylics & colored pencils and cutting edge digital mixed media in a style inspired by classic illustrators. Left; "Cernunnos- Horned god of the Celts" and "Y Ddraig Goch"[the red dragon, right].



Myths and Legends of the Ancient World

The Contemporary Gaelic Celtic Mythological Art of Howard David Johnson

There are more than 33 million U.S. citizens of Irish ancestry, nine times the population of Ireland. I originally created these illustrations to share my Gaelic Celtic heritage with my children who also posed for some of them. This gallery is dedicated to my kinsmen, to kindred spirits everywhere, and to our children, and to our children's, children's, children...


The Morrigan or the Phantom Queen was the Gaelic goddess of War associated with battle, warriors, and bloodshed, as well as battle sorcery and prophecy known for appearances in bird form. Similar to Valkyries in Norse/Germanic culture, gathering the souls of the slain.

  " When most people think of Celtic Art they think of design or abstract Celtic Art such as Celtic Knot work or Celtic Tattoo designs, ornamented tools, weapons, or  jewelry. For centuries, there has been a shortage of Realistic Celtic Art and Illustration. 

Recently, there has been a world wide revival of interest in Celtic Art and Celtic Culture. Gaelic Celtic American Scientific and Historical Illustrator Howard David Johnson has worked from the latest archaeological and anthropological evidence to give us one of the most accurate views ever of the lost civilization of the Ancient Celts. His Illustrations from Gaelic Celtic Mythology with their authentic Irish settings, Standing stones, Celtic Tattoos, Celtic jewelry, Celtic Knotwork and Gaelic mythological characters are one of the largest exhibitions of realistic Celtic Art by a single Celtic artist in history. 

 Brigit (AKA Saint Brigit) was the Gaelic goddess of poetry which the Gaels deemed an immaterial, supersensual form of flame. She was also considered the most important of the Dagda's children. 

  The Celtic Art of Howard David Johnson: The Ulster Cycle illustrated... The Tuatha de Da Naan, the Fomorians and The Red Branch Knights! An exhibit of Photo Realistic Colored Pencil Drawings created in the 1990's & a full size image of one these photo-realistic Colored Pencil Drawings from the Ulster Cycle is displayed for close scrutiny- Plus exciting new pieces of Celtic Art created in mixed media for the 21st century and beyond. The Heroes of Ulster, the main focus of our exhibit, have no part in fairyland, but their enemy, Medb or Mave  (below right) is credited with Queenly rule among the Sidhe ( Fairies ) and is held by some to be the original "Queen Mab" (left). These illustrations are based on my euhemeristic approach, which attributes the origin of the gods to the deification of historical heroes or real persons and events.  I did these pictures to teach my children about their Gaelic Celtic heritage because I could find hardly any to show them when I told them the old stories. When I began working on these Gaelic Celtic Art illustrations in 1995 I employed the methods I learned as a scientific illustrator.  I thought I was dealing with Mythology, which I define as a dead religion.  I am so glad now that I treated the material with respect. What a surprise to find out after I exhibited them that this religion has revived in a new form. Of course I say a new form because claims that this Modern Celtic Paganism is the exact same religion practiced by the Druids and the Ancient Celts are impossible to substantiate.  This is because the Ancient Celts, like the Pre-Historic Hebrews had no written language and relied on oral tradition.


fantasy art fine art paintings of myth         



    Because of this, the harpist was of incredible importance to the ancient Celts. The harp is the living symbol today of the Gaelic Celtic oral tradition and Celtic music is now celebrated all over the world. The only extant accounts of the Druids are brief mentions in the writings of Julius Caesar from the first century B.C. which go into no useful details whatsoever on this matter.  I've heard it said: "Ask a hundred Pagans: What is Paganism and you're likely to get a hundred different answers." This does not make this any easier for contemporary scholars to sort out. However, It is my American Scots-Irish family's roots and cultural heritage after all and I feel what we do have is to be preserved and never to be treated lightly even if I don't believe any of the supernatural elements in it. ( For more on my struggle to sort out history from mythology see the essay "How do we sort out History and Mythology?" below ). My scholarly Gaelic Celtic sources* and also, more art & my essays on art and art and technology follow."

~Howard David Johnson  

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The chieftain gods of the Tuatha dé Danann were expected by means of their supernatural powers and their four magical treasures, the Cauldron of Dagda, the Spear of Lugh, the Sword of Nuada and the Stone of Fàl to secure and advace the welfare of the people. The men were the Dagda, Lugh, Nuada, and the women were Danu, Anu, Brigit, and Emain Macha. The heroes of the Celts, such as Cu Chulainn and Finn, although of divine ancestry are in a different category than the gods of the Gaelic Celts, just as Perseus and Siegfried are sons of Zeus and Woten in Greek and Nordic mythology. Here we see Cuchulainn going into battle in his legendary war chariot with it's deadly scythes.




"Cuchulainn's War Chariot" (MMIX Mixed Media)



"Blodeuwedd and Gwydion"MMXIV: Oil on Canvas .  Blodeuwedd means "born of the flowers" and is Welsh Celtic Mythology in English from "The stories of the Mabinogion" translated by the Lady Charlotte Guest AKA The White book of Rhydderch (Llyfr Gwyn Rhydderch) finally written in Welsh ca. 1350 & the Red Book of Hergest (Llyfr Coch Hergest) ca. 1382-1410. right "Morgab Le Fey" MMXV


 "Aibell the beautiful Banshee" MMXVII and " Dubhlainn Ua Artigan" MMXVII

In Celtic mythology Aibell (also called Aoibheall or anglicised as Aeval) was the guardian spirit of the Dál gCais, the Dalcassians or Ó Bríen clan. She was the ruler of the sídhe (SHEE) or the fairy people of Irish folklore, said to live beneath the hills and identified as the remnant of the ancient Tuatha Dé Danann. Her dwelling place was Craig Liath, the grey rock, a hill overlooking the Shannon in Cúige Mumhan a province in Souther Ireland. The Legends tell us Aibell had a lover named Dubhlainn Ua Artigan and a magic harp whose melody foretold immanent death.





"Queen Mab, the Bringer of Dreams" MMVI left (Oil on Canvas) and "Celtic Queen Boudica and the Morrigu" MMX right Oil on Canvas.




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The Ulster Saga and the chieftain gods of the Gaelic Celts 

Illustrated in Spectracolor Colored Pencils between 1995-1998


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From THE ULSTER CYCLE coloured pencil plate # 9 shown actual size

The terrible tragedy of the Irish Achilles: Cuchulainn unknowingly kills his abandoned son Conlaech.

'Celtic Art and Celtic Mythology: The Ulster Cycle illustrated.'


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Dechtire, mother of Cuchulainn Cuchulainn, chief hero of the Ultonians Domnu, goddess mother of the Fomorians
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The seduction of Aoife, the Amazon The wooing of Emer Conlaoch, The son of Cuchulainn and Aoife, the Amazon
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Death of Conlaoch Danu, mother goddess of the Gaelic gods Bodbh, goddess of war and death
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The Dagda, Gaelic god of the Earth    Titania, Queen of the Faieries Deirdre of the sorrows
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Cuchulainn, the Giant Slayer The Spear of Lugh Finn mac Coul
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Artio, goddess of the chas

The Sword of Nuada

The Tuatha De' Da Nann were the children of Danu, and the Gaelic Celtic gods. Their enemies were the Fomorians, paralleling the Greek and Norse myths, with the Giants versus the Olympians and the Jotung against the Aesir. 

The greatest of these Celtic gods appears to have been Nuada, called Argetlam, or "he of silver hand", after the first battle of Moytura in which he lost a hand subsequently replaced by one of silver. Nuada was at once the Gaelic Zeus, or Jupiter, and their war god; for among primitive nations, to whom success in war is all-important, the god of battles is the supreme god. 

The name the Gauls gave him was identified with Mars and he was  one of the most important gods of the Britons as well.

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 He was possessed of an invincible sword, The Sword of Nuada; one of the four chief treasures of the Tuatha De' Da Nann, over whom, Nuada was twice king and the British Isles were no doubt conquered under his auspices. The Ancient Celts were madly fond of war and worshipped this god, who delighted in battle & slaughter with human sacrifice - the Latin poet Lucan tells us.  

Over the course of a thousand years the Tuatha dé Da Nann and other Heathen gods of the Irish evolved into "the little people" AKA fairies and the Shee, ( or Sidhee in Gaelic. ) Other names for fairy and fairy like creatures include the leprechaun, fay, sprite, elf, brownie, pixie, pixy, Robin Goodfellow, dwarf, gnome, troll, kobold, peri, and the hobgoblin. For more of David's extensive work visit the Gallery links below.




The King Arthur Legends' Celtic Origins:

It is now generally regarded as fact that the Celtic legends of history surrounding the medieval King Arthur and Guinevere are really derived from the Religion of the Ancient Britons ( Celts ) and the attributes and events of the life of King Artaius and Gwenhwyvar of the British gods have been applied to the actual historical King Arthur and Queen Guinevere in an attempt to preserve the oral traditions of their ancient Celtic spiritual and cultural heritage against the persecution of the Romans during the dark ages... Merlin was Myrddin, Mordred was Medrawt, Galahad was Gwalchaved and Sir Kay was Kai.  Was The Lady of the Lake a Celtic lake divinity in origin, the same kind as the Gwagged Annwn? Or was she originally a lake fairy from Welsh folklore. Of many, Vivienne is the best choice for the name of this Lady of the Lake - the one who also enchanted Merlin and imprisoned him forever. 

     King Arthur + Sir Lancelot Jousting  

For a gallery devoted to the Celtic Origins of The King Arthur legends see the links below...

The Red Welsh Dragon   
The Welsh Dragon or "the Red Dragon" or "Y Ddraig Goch" in Welsh, is the symbol of Wales and adorns its national flag. This dragon was featured on the legendary battle standards of King Arthur, the heathen Celtic gods and historic chieftains and kings.  In the treasured ancient Mabinogion legends the red dragon fights an invading White Dragon. For centuries their castle walls were demolished nightly by these spirit beings. The legendary fight was said to symbolize the struggle between the Welsh and English and prophesied that after years of tyranny the Welsh would drive the English from their homeland.

   In the search for a special boy to offer as a human sacrifice to rid them of this pestilence, the boy Merlin is found and through strange twists of fate becomes one of the greatest dragon masters of the Celtic legends where his vision of the red dragon is a prophecy of the coming of King Arthur. Arthur's father was known as Uther Pendragon or the “Dragon Chief."

   In factual history Henry VII [or Henry Tudor]  flew a red dragon of Cadwaladr ap Cadwallon on his battle flag, The earliest recorded used of the red dragon as a symbol of Wales is in the 'Historia Brittonum'.

   The red Dragon was first brought to Great Britain during the Roman era and history tells us they first learned of it from the Persians. The Red Dragon or 'draco' symbol was used as a standard by the Roman army but over time it was adopted by the Welsh people as their national flag. It is the oldest extant national flag flying today.

   The great Welsh king, Cadwaladr, carried the dragon standard as a symbol of bravery and fierceness. Welsh princes and warriors continued the tradition. In 1346 during the Battle of Crecy Welsh archers in the English army carried the same standard.

 Henry Tudor, who was descended from Cadwaladr, carried a banner with a Red Dragon into the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485. When he became Henry VII he decreed that the red dragon should adorn on Welsh flag. In 1959 Queen Elizabeth II declared that the red dragon on a green and white field should become the official symbol of Wales and thus this time honored legend is still vibrant and alive in the 21st Century.






MODERN MYTHOLOGY? ( "Goblin Fighter Halith" left 2010 digital) Was done for a Fantasy book cover. Chicks in chain mail? The warrior woman has emerged in recent times as ferocious and deadly as the mightiest male warriors of myth and history. The weaker sex? Not in these stories! The oddest part of this fun new phenomenon in fantasy art, cartoons, novels and movies is the eagerness of certain writers to pretend they always existed and to present historical figures in this light. Generals participating in battle plans? Yes! Judges and mayors? Yes! Battlefield combatants? No. Celtic Women were more like Warrior Queen Boudica (above right) and were more like cheerleaders on those days in history when the battles were actually fought. If their man was cowardly on the battlefield, they were eyewitnesses and you can rest assured he wished he was dead when he got home.



Enter a world of Beauty and Imagination...


The Realistic and Fantastic Art Galleries of Contemporary American Illustrator Howard David Johnson

Click on these Fun Educational Realistic Art Gallery link icons  for Two-fisted Tales of VALOR & Frontline Combat featuring Legendary Warriors of History, Knights and ladies of Arthurian Legend, Celtic, Nordic, Asian and Olympian gods & monsters, unicorns, dragons, fairies... and more!

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Angel Art King Arthur Norse Mythology Greek Mythology Legends of History Fantasy Art Celtic Mythology Great Religions  Mythic Women Fairy Paintings Asian Mythology Russian Mythology
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Mermaid Art  History Part Two

Classic Fairy Tales

History of Dragons Pencil Portraits I Studio Photography Colored Pencils II

Art Instruction

Realistic Paintings Pre-Raphaelite Art Legendary Women Warrior Women
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The Art of War  Mythic Creatures About Realistic Art Science Fiction Art Beautiful Women Art NuVeau  Fantasy Pin ups Fairy Lore Flower Fairies

Spartan Warriors

 Lost Atlantis   Lady of Shallot
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Catholic Art  Art of the Bible Symbolist Art Surrealist Art Commercial Art Business Center Style & Technique  Biographical Paintings in Oils ELVES Digital Techniques Art Link Exchange

All these pieces of art and the text are legally copyrighted and were registered with the U.S. Library of Congress Office of Copyright by the author, Howard David Johnson All rights reserved worldwide. Permission for many academic or non-commercial uses is freely and legally available by simply contacting the author via e-mail or visiting www.howarddavidjohnson.com/permission.htm

  Who is American Illustrator Howard David Johnson?

In one of David's many invitations to the Florence Biennale Contemporary Art Exhibition, (a partner in the United Nations' Dialog among Nations), UN Secretary General Kofi Anon wrote: "Artists have a special role to play in the global struggle for peace. At their best, artists speak not only to people; they speak for them. Art is a weapon against ignorance and hatred and an agent of public awareness... Art opens new doors for learning, understanding, and peace among nations."

   Howard David Johnson is a contemporary realistic artist and photographer with a background in the natural sciences and history.  David works in a wide variety of mixed media ranging from oil on canvas to digital media. David's realistic illustrations have made appearances in every major bookstore and game shop chain in America as well as magazines and educational texts around the world. 

   Some of David's more prestigious clients have included the University of Texas, the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge in England, The Australian Mint, The National Geographic Society, Paramount Studios, Universal Studios, MGM Studios, Warner Brothers Home Video, ABC/Disney, CBS TV, PBS TV, The History Channel, Enslow Educational Publishers, Adobe Photoshop, Auto FX, Tree-Free Greeting, Verizon wireless, Apple IPOD, Penguin, Doubleday (Now Random House), Harlequin Top Historical Romances, and the History Book of the Month Club, as well as appearing in periodical publications like Popular Photography and the Wall Street Journal.   


A Traditional style portrait of the artist. [Photo by his son Erich.]


  After a lifetime of drawing and painting, David's Traditional Art was exhibited in the British Museum in London in 1996, ( 3 years before he got his first computer ) as well as numerous American ones since, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art. 


    Working in a variety of media David offers his customers a variety of options and more than three decades of experience. As an illustrator he has not only used the computer but has been involved in the development and marketing of software for Adobe Photoshop. Digital art, Colored pencils, Pastels, Mixed media, & also Oil Paintings can also be commissioned for select projects.Digital illustration projects start at $500.U.S. and group rates are available. David delivers custom made copyright free illustrations & old fashioned customer service when he does work-for-hire. To publish existing pieces of his realistic art, David sells licenses starting at only $99.USD.




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Bibliography/ Acknowledgements

some key text sources and recommended reading:

Mr. E.W.B. Nicholson, M.A.   "Keltic Researches"

The Lady Wilde "Ancient Legends of Ireland"

Crofton Croker "Fairy Legends and traditions of the South of Ireland"

John Rhys: "Studies in the Arthurian Legend" and " Lectures on the Origin and Growth of Religion as Illustrated by Celtic Heathendom"

Alfred Nutt: "Popular studies in Mythology, Romance, and Folklore"

O'Curry: "Manners and Customs of the Ancient Irish"

De Jubainville: "Cycle Mythologique Irlandais"

Tacitus: " Annals" and "Agricola"

Julius Caesar: "De Bello Gallico"

Nennius: Historia Britonum 



A brief essay by the artist


 As a professional Illustrator I am called upon to illustrate Legends of History and Mythology, Fact and Fantasy, the Sacred and the Profane. In as much as I have endeavored to sort them out accordingly, it has become one of the more fascinating challenges I have ever faced. As I am ever mentioning, the advances of science are constantly giving us a clearer view of the past even causing Mythology to become History as in the case of the Trojan Wars, the legendary Helen of Troy, and the Trojan Horse. The archaeological excavations of Troy may prove the existence of the city of Troy and the Trojan War. They in no way make The Iliad a history book however, because of the unprovable spiritual and religious occurrences in the narrative. This sorting out of myth and legend from history is no less difficult today because of their intertwining influences on one another.

       Did you know the real life Robin Hood ( before the legend was Christianized ) actually fought the ancient Romans during the reign of Emperor Claudius and was really a Celtic Warrior named Caracticus?  Consider as a more recent example of this problem, 20th century American President Theodore Roosevelt. He lives in history because of his heroic charge up San Juan hill with his legendary roughriders. When this story was printed in William Randolph Hearst's newspapers it catapulted him to fame and ushered him into the White House as a glorious American War Hero. Everyone has seen the paintings and statues of Teddy Roosevelt and his roughriders dressed in khaki, mounted on horseback and charging fearlessly forward waving their swords. In reality, it was a group of Heroic African American Buffalo Soldiers who took San Juan Hill in spite of their heavy casualties. They did not wear khaki. They were not mounted on horseback, but were foot soldiers in the same dark blue uniforms of the U.S. cavalry as worn during the Indian Wars. Roosevelt's group actually took a nearby Hill against light resistance but Hearst said that would not sell newspapers so he created an American Myth. So as we see, here is something taught to children in schools as history is just not true at all, but yet, this myth shaped the true history of the world in  the 20th century and beyond.

            If Teddy Roosevelt had not been elected president, neither would his nephew, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who provided very real and crucial leadership during the Great Depression and the Second World War. Neither would Theodore Roosevelt have built the Panama Canal or established the conservation of our natural resources. So here we see Modern Myth not only influencing, but creating History. In reality, I perceive Theodore Roosevelt was a much greater president than history gives him credit for. Although it is true his kindness created the "Teddy Bear", He really was also fit and trim, vigorous and active, and a very tough president in his foreign policies. He was instrumental in America's emergence as a world power. It is also true that he came from the upper upper class - old money in New York with a background of great wealth and limitless luxury and chose to be an outdoorsman, a cowboy, and soldier. When he was given office, he embraced the concept of being a good Shepherd , of seeking justice for all Americans - for this he was called a "traitor to his class".

         Actually, he is the savior of his class. In my estimation, it is President Theodore Roosevelt who is most responsible for the end of the then imminent threat of communist revolution or takeover in America. Throughout the early 20th century Socialist Revolutions were sweeping across the globe. Conditions for the workers in America were appalling. Child Labor, dangerous working conditions, ungodly long hours, degradation, and shockingly low pay. When Karl Marx wrote his "Communist Manifesto" he never dreamed of an affluent MIDDLE class. A middle class that is comfortable and savoring, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is not going to rise up in murderous anger and "Storm the Bastile". What Global Communism could not contend with was America's happy and prosperous middle class. Theodore Roosevelt practically invented America's affluent middle class and eliminated the threat of Communist revolution in America.  Although he was well loved, he was also hated and caught tremendous heat from the wealthy elite for sharing a small portion of their wealth with the common man. He saved them from a Second American Revolution by customizing capitalism to a kinder, gentler form than the horrors of the late 19th century. Like General Winfield Scott, who won The American Civil War before it started, he defeated his foes with an idea. If the Robber Barons had had their way, their greed could well have caused America to fall to communism. Today, we have a new generation of robber barons but no Teddy to stand up for the little guys. I feel the true history about American President Theodore Roosevelt is more amazing than the myth, but they are interwoven and inseparable, without the one, we would not have the other. He was both a glorious and a tragic figure. As a leader and as a man I believe he is badly underestimated. It was only when his beloved son, nicknamed "Quinnykins" died fighting in World War One that he finally saw through all the myths and glamour to see the awful truth about war face on. He never got over his guilt for glorifying war to his son. We could all learn a lot from his experiences.

         War costs money...trillions of dollars. War takes human lives...millions of them! War makes children old, breaks parent's hearts, kills morale. War destroys cities, art treasures, civilization! The first world war alone cost thirty million lives and 4 trillion dollars when adjusted to the buying power of modern U.S. dollars. With the money at the time we could have built a three bedroom two bath house furnished with fine hardwood furniture on five acres of quality land for every family in The United States, Canada, Australia, England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, France, Belgium, Germany and Russia. There would have been enough left to build and stock a first class library and a proper university in every town of 20,000 people or more. Out of the balance we could pay the salaries for life of 125,000 teachers and 125,000 nurses. The remaining balance could have bought 1919 Belgium and France and everything in them.

           I see History as an endless waltz. Three beats over and over. War, Peace, and Revolution. Three beats over and over in an endless cycle of death, destruction, and regeneration. An Endless Waltz... and those who do not learn the lessons of history are doomed to dance this deadly waltz and pay this Frightful price for War. As modern technology such as jet aircraft and thermonuclear missles make the world smaller & more dangerous everyday, tolerating each other's racial, social, & religious differences & living together in peace has now become key to the continued survival of mankind through the 21st century...

~H D Johnson 2003


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