What is MerMay and why are people so into drawing mermaids this month?


Former Disney artist Tom Bancroft draws two mermaids on his “shell phone”, the popularity of which inspired mermaids.

tom bancroft

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tom bancroft

What began as a single sentence has become a worldwide art challenge beloved by countless painters.

this is mereThe month-long art challenge in which artists are invited every day to create a masterpiece depicting a mermaid and then post it online with the hashtag #mermay.

In 2016, Tom Bancroft, a former Disney animator, drew two lounging mermaids while looking at his “shell phone”, a scene inspired by his own daughters. When he posted the picture on social media, it went viral, he told NPR.

“And I realized that ‘Oh, wow, people really like mermaids.’ And there is no way to harness that field of imagination,” he said.

Freelance artist Sylvia Brunetti said she thought of seahorses for Merme Day 13 prompts “cyberpunk”.



Sylvia Brunetti


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Sylvia Brunetti


Freelance artist Sylvia Brunetti said she thought of seahorses for Merme Day 13 prompts “cyberpunk”.



Sylvia Brunetti

The popularity of the image inspired Bancroft. He came up with the idea to try posting a mermaid picture every day – with weekends being optional – for the whole. Month of May 2016. Bancroft invited fellow creators to join him. He already had a significant following online thanks to his work with Disney, so it quickly caught on.

Hundreds of thousands of people attended Merme’s first year, Bancroft said. To help inspire artists each year, he comes up with a list of daily prompts to include in their works.

Bancroft said that many people enjoy this aspect of the challenge, especially since they can check out the hashtags of the day, where they can see how other artists approached.

People can now also tag their works to participate in the MerMay 2022 art contest, which offers prizes such as the Wacom Cintiq drawing tablet.

Artist Liana is using gouache paint to make her mermaids like this one titled From 2021 Amaryllis.



liana itself


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liana itself


Artist Liana is using gouache paint to make her mermaids like this one titled From 2021 Amaryllis.



liana itself

Part of MerMay’s success may be due to its theme. Disney’s the little Mermaid It was a commercial hit when it was released in 1989. Some of the kids who saw it in theaters grew up to be actors who now participate in the mere.

“I’ve drawn mermaids since I was a very young girl, probably when I was four, because that was little mermaid came out for me,” character designer and illustrator liana itself “I just fell in love with his design,” told NPR.

Hee, which is based in Los Angeles, has performed Merme every year since it began. This year, she was brought in to help judge the competition.

She doesn’t follow Merme’s daily cues, but she finds other ways to challenge herself. Rarely attracts mermaids based on the actual type of fish or the pattern of its clothing. This year, she’s making all of her work in the form of mini gouache paintings; Each piece is just 2 by 3 inches.

“It’s really neat to be able to bond with strangers on the Internet like this,” Hea said. “It’s the artists really supporting the artists. And I think for us to be such a small community — it’s really special.”

For Day 9 of Merme, “#sealife,” Rome-based artist Silvia Brunetti said she drew “an old mermaid and her beloved catfish.”



Sylvia Brunetti


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Sylvia Brunetti

for artists like Felix D’On, MerMay is your chance to show that mermaids don’t look a certain way. The Mexico City-based artist celebrates queer, trans and obese bodies in her work.

“I think when people generally look at mermaids, there’s a lot of things that are like sexy white women. And mine isn’t,” D’One told NPR.

It is not uncommon to see mermaid art with partial nudity during MerMay. Usually, mermaids are thin and based on western beauty standards.

D’On said she had deactivated her Instagram account after she posted a painting of a fat mermaid. He said that he is still not well as his income has dropped by 60%. He sees this as censorship of bodies which are not accepted by the society.

coral and kisses One of Felix D’On’s paintings that celebrates bizarre love and identity using mythical creatures.



Felix D’On


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Felix D’On


coral and kisses One of Felix D’On’s paintings that celebrates bizarre love and identity using mythical creatures.



Felix D’On

He considers it the double standard that his piece was reported when many others are not. She added that it’s great that other people can post their mermaids, but “when I post queer mermaids, when I kiss mermaids… when I post fat mermaids, trans mermaids — I’m hard. I fall.”

Mythical creatures like the mermaid are of importance to queer people who feel they don’t fit within the culture they live in, D’On said.

“You see yourself reflected there, you know,” he said. “As these people are, you know, both and neither at the same time… they encapsulate these really beautiful fantasies of being among people.”

For the past two years, MerMay has had a mascot. artist and toy designer Whitney Polette, Which is helping Bancroft tackle the challenge this year, both of which have been designed.

Polette incorporated elements of toy design into her concept for the mermaid mascot: fun, fashion, friendship. He drew the mermaid wearing starfish all over her body, each with a different personality.

“It’s like a tough guy. And it’s an explorer. And it’s really cute and cool,” said Polette. “The more I started making new starfish, the more I started to fiddle with myself, as if You’re having a lot of fun.”

This year the mermaid’s name is Harmony.

“Because we felt the world just needed a little more reconciliation,” Bancroft said.

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