Lately I have been working on two illustrations for this book called the Midnight Phantasmagory, a horror-themed art book with many talented contributing artists, organized by Grace F. and Rachael H-N. We were asked not to post the images online until the book is published, but I’d like to show how I developed each of them.
The first illustration features Baba Yaga, a character from Slavic folkore. She is an old witch that flies around on a giant pestle, while rowing with an equally-giant mortar and sweeping away her trail with a birch branch. Baba Yaga lives in a hut that walks around on big chicken legs surrounded by a fence of human bones; she is also said to kidnap and eat small children. I had spent quite a bit of time figuring out how she would look because I wanted to avoid the trite big-warty-nose-ugly-old-hag thing. She had to look intimidating, not obviously evil, and bizarre and yet fun.
Initially, I drew from people that I had seen before, or those that happened to be right in front of me at the moment and looked witch-like, but those fell into traditional way that witches were depicted.Then from those, I drew from imagination, thinking of features that made a face scary. Finally I settled on the one I had made while thinking of a vampire bat. I think she kind of looks like a goblin. Here is a preview of her from the final painting.
The second illustration presented more of a layout/composition problem. The legend of Jorogumo, from the Edo period, has it that a beautiful woman would entice a man into a quiet shack and start playing the Biwa (Japanese lute). As he is distracted, she’d wrap him in spider silk and devour him as her next meal. Here is the quick sketch of the thumbnails and color scheme for the characters I did on Colors! For this illustration, my idea was hide Jorogumo’s spidery parts so that the viewer would at first only notice her beauty. I proceeded to implement this by playing with the layout and values. A big part of it was figuring out where to put the light source.
And a sneek peak at the final illustration: