A Whimsical Witch, for wishing a merry, witchy Christmas.
I haven’t had the chance to make anything since Drawlloween as it’s been a hectic couple of months and I’m still feeling pretty done in most of the time. But here is a nice witch. I decided she is the witch in one my stories. She is called Linnet.
She was first drawn solely in colour pencil, but I wanted to keep going with my digital practice and give the scene some atmosphere using procreate. Plus, it was nice to be able to polish some of the finer details since traditional media can be a bit messy!
New Year plans are to work on more of my pencil art with procreate!
It was over before we knew it, and the relief and heartache are still there in equal measure.
I, of course, was utterly pathetic at remembering where I had planned to share my spooky offerings so here is the collection of them all. I didn’t do each day, but I did a lot and I think I enjoyed it more because of that.
This month I’ll be focusing on writing and junk journalling. I have been very busy since the summer using some of my pressed flowers for vintage/floral collages and I’ll sling some of that on here soon.
Vampire Ku is that gaudy vampire of mine and has always been a flashy fellow. I’m learning the ways of digital art using procreate and I cannot explain how long this took to make, but no paper has been wasted! Digital is very tree friendly!
This was originally drawn in pencil for last year’s Monster Me. I plan to redraw more of my past drawings for this year as I’m learning digital art using procreate and I want to take some of my older drawings a little further. I hope to do as many as I can. It’s been a crazy time for me lately and I really need to de-stress a little, so hopefully Drawlloween will be as fun as ever and I can learn some new techniques.
I’ve also just started a master’s degree in Creative Writing which means I haven’t had the time to write any stories or poems for my Drawlloweens this year, which is a shame as that was such a highlight for me last year! If I find a minute, I will try! I offer zero promises. 😀 I really am excited to be trying some new things. I hope it will help ease some of the anxiety and depression I have accumulated over these past few dreary years.
The farmer had cut his crop. With singing hearts and shining eyes, we looked on in wonder. There was so much hay! Planning out our evenings adventure began in earnest. It was going to be so much fun! We felt so lucky to have a house on the edge of the estate – overlooking a farmer’s field that went on and on until it reached the tree line of the woods and the farmer’s cottage beyond. Such a wonderful playground – speaking to us in seasons – its colours changing with the crops.
It had been a hot day but also rainy, so we decided to wear our cagoules. The front pockets of those raincoats were amazing! Not only did they store the raincoat itself, but it was great for carrying sandwiches in, and once the sandwiches were eaten, we would fold them and compete for the star prize of “prestige” for the tidiest packet pocket. I think that’s what we used to call it, anyway.
Having met at the arranged time, just after tea, we climbed with well-practiced skill over the green mesh fence. It was about a metre high, but it was not in the slightest bit stable so choosing the right foothold and momentum to lift yourself over was quite important. The foothold needs to be not too high and not too low – swinging as the fence bent with our weight from a high foothold was terrifying but not being able to climb over from a low anchor would lead to scratches and possible failure.
We scrambled gracelessly over to the other side, landing on the furrowed edge, and stepped up on to the slightly higher flats of the field. It smelled delicious. Dry and grassy, yet hot and damp – earthy and humid and buzzing with insects and faint whispers of dust that had yet to settle after all the hectic harvesting.
Racing across the field, I was feeling slightly terrified. We were, after all, trespassers.
Our crime was immediately forgotten with the first hay fight of the summer. Racing and dancing, howling, flinging handfuls of hay at each other. We were positively wild!
The plan we had made to build hay hills, no… haystacks, was a success and we used them as trampolines and crash mats– catapulting and somersaulting with running jumps as terrifying human projectiles – practically screaming with laughter. I don’t think we’d ever tried this before, and probably never would again, (but we had planned to), on that fine and lovely day. Such fickle children living in a shining moment forgetting that tomorrow was another day. Having played until it started getting dark, the streetlamps flickering from across the field were now telling us it was time to go home. I didn’t want it to end and perhaps the others thought so too, judging by the bereft looks on their faces. It had been so much fun!
A little dishevelled, I was surprised when my return was not met with too much commentary, but the next day was a different matter. Somehow, I’d managed to bring a million caterpillars back in my raincoat. They were everywhere and causing all kinds of upset from the cupboard under the stairs where we hung our coats and kept the vegetable rack. It was initially received with humour but in the end, it became clear that I would be scolded all that morning when enough was most definitely enough. The thing is the caterpillar problem just would not even try to die down as a new caterpillar would rear its hairy head every other minute. It was as if that cupboard was haunted by caterpillars, and it became draining. My mother was huffing, and my older sister was puffing – deep down glad it wasn’t her who created such a drama for once. Because she often did, I can tell you! But it was worth it. I still remember the absolute joy for that haystack adventure and the caterpillars who came, too.
Oh, so long ago a lovely collection of seeding dandelions were collected and collated into a collage. The perfect store for my Seed Fairy’s fashion inspirations. She wears fluffing dandelions in her hair, a pretty petalled gown and dusty moth wings. She is ready for the fairy ball. Or so you’d like to think. But no, she is the worlds biggest trickster as she loves to hide out of sight and have seeds rain down on any unsuspecting fairy she takes a shine to.
You’ll meet that fairy next time.
I drew her using aged flowers that had been collected and displayed in a picture frame. The dried fluff on a dandelion is perfect and I began with graphite with the idea that I would finish with coloured pencil. I love to draw in graphite, but I know colour would enhance a lovely fairy, so I decided to make my graphite work as an under drawing and then I can add colour later. Grey scale underpaintings are a useful step towards your finished piece as you can solve quite a lot of problems at an early stage. I always find this part relaxing. I think giving yourself freedom to make mistakes is very important to enjoying the process – art shouldn’t be stressful. I find painting stressful as I’m not a painter and this is my answer. And once the graphite drawing is ready, I plan to scan a slightly paler version of it and print it on the same good quality paper so I can then continue safely adding colour to the drawing. Colour pencil directly over graphite is not a good idea – it looks dirty and you can ruin quite a lot of effort that way.
Going back to the initial graphite I used a few mark making techniques that I find work quite well with graphite pencils. You can get them reliably sharp and work at different angles and pressure to get some interesting effects.
The frothy hair was made with twists and flicks, the smooth skin was made by transferring graphite from the pencil via the paper to the tornichon – I find this so much smoother than lines – especially for such a small face.
As I refined the sketch, I noticed that the proportions needed a little attention, her neck was a little too big and her jaw too manly, so I slimmed that down and sharpened her jaw – something I would have struggled with had I dived straight in with coloured pencil. I continued this way until I was satisfied that she was believable. This particular fairy is based on human anatomy and so I used a selection of references that helped me check that she was correct. I find manga and anime art is very helpful with this sort of project because it is very dynamic.
I continued working on her skirt – which is an inverted flower, and I made plump petals to give it a bell shape. I gave it movement by pushing them forward to show she was flying, and they were interreacting with her lower body. Her legs were loosely based on flower stems.
Since I have other plans, there is no point trying to finish this as a very detailed graphite drawing, so I scanned it, and printed it on to the same paper I used for the first stage. I added some pale layers of browns and reds and greens. Too many colours are likely to spoil the drawing and I like to use Autumnal colours for this type of creature so I am keeping it simple. I think a mix of different browns can look so lovely, and I’m pretty sure this is why I get so much inspiration from Froud and Rackham as their work features these colours a lot. I like working with muted tones. They seem more delicate to me. More subtle. They are not as simple as they look, but it’s nice that they give that impression.
There is still a lot of work to do at this stage. Make no mistake, it is not colouring in. The graphite is an underpainting and I’ll probably be here a while!
I’m using subdued colours for this fairy. Medium terracotta, Lincoln green, and a mix of browns. Understanding the colours will be helpful. Greens and reds are complimentary colours so tend to make each other appear brighter if they are next to each other. You can also use a red to mute a green – or vice versa – if your colour looks too bright. Mixing them creates different browns depending on the type of red and green you choose. I think this can make colours marry nicely as your parent colours will work without too much trouble with the brown you made them with.
Hot, dry weather and a cloud of green followed by ravenous red. The aphids had taken over and all hope was lost until the ladybird swarm of ’76. I ran happily through a storm of hungry ladybirds – my world suddenly filled with scratchy flapping wings of red and black, and it felt like pure joy. I had never been this fearless of insects. I loved ladybirds so much and I didn’t see them as a threat. Not at all! Not like earwigs, and spiders, and wasps, and bluebottles. Ladybirds are the absolute best. I loved them. Unconditionally. I liked it when they landed on my knee or crawled up my arm from my wrist to my elbow. I liked providing assisted launches if I thought they were in danger. I loved their trusting natures, and their strange bellies and their strange cousins. Their poisonous yellow cousins. They’re not really poisonous, though. I’m sure of it. I think… But they look it! Don’t you think? Honestly, I want one as a pet.
I swirled and danced with the ladybirds, along the narrow path of paving slabs that lead to the bottom of the garden and to the garden shed, then on to the grass that lay just before the shrubs and bushes that nestled against the brick garden wall, and I knew I would never forget this moment. It felt otherworldly, as if anything could happen. It felt like a dream!
My mother started scolding me to come indoors, but I would not budge. I could not budge. How would I see them from inside the cold, dark kitchen? Its ghastly outer walls pebble dashed for a long serviceable reign, overlooking my mother’s rockery garden, the washing line, and a discarded tricycle. Between them, they were trying to dash my hopes of being whisked away on an exciting adventure with that red flurry. (Although I’d probably draw the line at eating their version of healthy greens). But to come indoors? If I went inside, they would never find me there! Despite her pleas about not letting them in the house all she had to do was close the doors and windows and leave me outside. What did it matter which side of the door I was on?
“I want to stay outside!” I insisted and she looked at me.
She had dragged me inside, unappreciative of the ladybird hoard, somehow forgetting their dramatic, heroic arrival and aphid decimation. She began slamming shut all the windows with an angry bang!
She had run out of patience.
I was in serious trouble, and it was so, so hot inside. Pinned to the kitchen chair by fear all I could do was look up to the sky to catch glimpses of the ladybirds as they continued to swarm, eating their fill and then eventually moving away, moving on, to aphid pastures new. I felt forlorn. I had wanted to be with them right until the end, and I could only view them from the chair I had been unceremoniously dumped in, restricted by someone else’s idea of what was and what was not fun, or interesting; by a grown up bound by her need to keep bugs out of her laundry, out of her kitchen, and out of sight. I swore I would never be that type of grown-up. “I’ll take my child to go look for ladybirds, not run from them!” I vehemently promised, inside my busy, buzzing head.
And, in a few years’ time I’d get my revenge with a caterpillar invasion. But that’s another house and another story.
I think making imaginary creatures believable should come from things that work and are recognisable in the real world. Believable anatomy will make you think the creature could exist, or make you hope it exists, at least. I have tried making creatures up just from my head and they are never as believable as they are when I have done some forward planning. Even borrowing tiny snippets from something real can really add to your own freaky freak. I don’t think that approach is due to a terrible lack of imagination (at least I hope not), they are useful to help you make real the thing you already thought of.
A few years ago, I was participating in the Twitter Collective Animaloonies (a very silly art challenge to inflate creatures) and one month it was the turn of the elephant – an elephantloon. I always hesitated at just inflating them into balloons and often chose other whimsical ways to play. So, I went the way of the chimera, combining a jerboa with an elephant and insect wings. This work was ultimately used in a Twitter Art Exhibition (TAE) charity auction and seemed to be well liked, too!
My creation has since evolved and is now based on the body of a jerboa, an anteater’s snout, and a hummingbird moth wings.
I call it the humming pig. I named it before I discovered the hummingbird moth so I feel this is some sort of destiny, and that makes me happy. I like moths. I know some people don’t but since they are the cool and darker cousins of the butterfly, I’ll take it.
As you can see, my humming pigs are based on a number of real animals to help make it believable despite them not being real at all. I’ll just put it out there. All of them were fun to draw and explore, but Jerboas are ridiculously adorable. Those things are so cute it’s heart-breaking. I drooled over and drew many examples preparing this. Just for practice, you understand.
Sketching out the real animals helps us to learn more about them – such as their form and proportions, and the correct positioning of the limbs and wings. It also serves as a practice run for the animal they will eventually become. You can try out different angles and figure out what your imaginary creature is doing, and how it functions in the world it inhabits.
I looked at lots of different examples of each animal and considered how they would work together to make something believable. Some things were simply abandoned. Not just because they wouldn’t work, but because they just didn’t appeal to me. The anteater snout replaced the original elephant trunk, but it isn’t that prominent – and to be honest this is maybe a sign that the elements are blending successfully as I make something new. The original proboscis wasn’t there in my first attempts either, but I think the proboscis is important for my redesign since I eliminated the elephant trunk, the kids got to eat after all, and I wanted to make something that might actually survive.
My humming pigs will continue to evolve, and I look forward to continuing my project. I’ll be trying different animals as a way to take my humming pigs forward and expand their natural history. I plan to keep exploring and testing new ideas so I can build a world for them. I want to explore geographical considerations which would inspire distant cousins – humming pigs from different places, evolving in different climates and with different diets, all influencing the final creature.
There is a huge line of animals just waiting to be transformed!
It’s worth mentioning that looking at other artists is always helpful. I like to collect art books and I have a couple of really nice ones about imaginary creatures. So, here’s some recommendations:
Principles of Creature Design – Creating Imaginary Animals by Terryl Whitlatch, 2015, Design Studio Press
Mythical Beasts – An Artists Field Guide to Designing Fantasy Creatures, 2017, 3dtotal Publishing
Sketching from the Imagination – Creatures and Monster, 2019, 3dtotal Publishing
There’s an animal anatomy section in a magazine which is still available:
The Creative Masterclass Anatomy Essentials ImagineFX, Future Publishing.
As you can see, my Folksy Board theme this week is animal art! All graphite illustrations inspired by birdlife and marine life – originally made whilst participating in the Animal Alphabets art collective on Twitter
I have some prints available of the birds at the moment. The Weedy Sea Dragon is an original illustration only available in my Folksy shop.