Halloween Painting: The Apprentice Witch

After three weeks of traveling abroad I am finally back home with a more regular schedule. Last month, I missed my usual character design post due to an extended period of being away from my studio. But, I am planning to make up for it in October with a new painting: The Apprentice Witch.

As is often the case with my personal work, The Apprentice Witch is a rambling continuation of a previous concept.

You might remember a previous post in which I mentioned this painting I was planning featuring two sisters. I kept bouncing back to this idea in between client projects, pecking away at it whenever I had time. Something about the relationship between the two just wasn’t jiving. I couldn’t come up with a good story to justify their connection and I felt stuck.

I kept returning to this reference image, liking it but not sure of how to make it work. My wife Laima and her sister Gunta graciously offered their time for this photoshoot and I got some wonderful shots. The costumes and drapery are just the kind of thing I’m looking for. The trick was how to use them. This happens to me a lot with personal work: I’ll have a wonderful reference to work from, but it takes time to puzzle out what to do with it. For weeks, I fiddled around endlessly in Photoshop, but nothing was really working.

I put it away for a while and didn’t come back to it until I was on a plane coming home from Europe. I had the reference image on my iPad and decided to just start drawing it on my travel sketchbook. There’s something freeing about being on a plane and just working with the materials at hand. I think I needed the limitations of that environment to break the creative stalemate!

It occurred to me that it was the background figure that I just couldn’t resolve. I hadn’t planned out her gesture in the photoshoot and things didn’t land. It happens sometimes. But, the character in front was really working pretty well. So, dropping the background figure, I decided that she is a witch in training. She’s picking up arcane lore from the spellbook in front of her and a winged creature is on her shoulder offering guidance (that’s the scribbly bits behind her). Obviously, the creature is still very unresolved but I have a bit of an idea in mind for him to be a sort of miniature demon character, similar to an imp or gargoyle.

Though it is far from realized, I am much more excited by this concept. I can’t wait to share more with you as this piece develops!