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Glasgow, United Kingdom
An illustrator and games artist living and working in Scotland. I have various hobbies: coding, travel, art and games; and I enjoy writing about them.

23 March 2013

The Witch Baby Silhouettes

The next character on my list is the horrid witch with iron teeth.

The motif of iron teeth can be traced back to Ancient Greece. When depicted in her bad form Baba Yaga often has iron teeth that make terrible sound and she eats children. This is a Russian fairy tale character. Moving southwards towards the Mediterranean, in Bulgaria and Serbia there is a character named Ala. Ala is a demon of the bad weather who steals children. The demon also has iron teeth.

Now we're going a bit into linguistic differences of the different cultures. The Greek demon Lamia is also known for eating children. She doesn't have iron teeth, or she might be there are no accounts of it, but the word Lamia exists in Bulgarian as the word Lamnja, which is synonymous with the Serbian word Ala (Slobodan, 1981). So now the chain is complete.

Zečević, Slobodan (1981). Митска бића српских предања. Belgrade: "Vuk Karadžić" : Etnografski muzej.

I suddenly had a realisation that inserting the actual Baba Yaga into the story is a little bit pointless due to the fact that her and the Witch Baby are essentially the same character. However, my Baba Yaga is a nice old lady witch that lives in the swamp. The Witch Baby is a horrible monster that eats people. Therefore I'm going to run with it.

Initially I visualised the Witch Baby as a dry old woman. But that spot is already taken. Thus I let my imagination roam.

I want her to be properly repelling and terrifying. She gluttonously ate an entire kingdom. She devoured the Prince's parents and the entire court. She is going to be big and nasty. An amorphous blob of half digested bodies and rotten flesh as far removed from humanity as possible.

I started with some sketches.

Here we see two methods of silhouetting. One is with a traditional black marker. Please note the level of detail created with seemingly random strokes. The second one is digital. This looks a lot more smoother but at the same time loses some of the rhythm and flow the original has. Both methods are valid and both are widely used.

This stage I find the most fun and interesting of all. That is when you get rid of the cliches and start developing new and interesting ideas. As I draw I remember bits of stories or images that inspire other ideas.

It is important to have a large mental library of images you can use in your art. More on the topic of visual library can be found in this Feng Zhu tutorial. In it he describes the importance of having something to fall back on in your design and how to distinguish between an amateur and a professional.

In any case, here are some images and and bits of inspiration that popped into my mind as I was drawing these thumbnails.

BPRD Ectoplasmic Man One Shot, Art by Ben Stenbeck.
Brood Mother, Dragon Age, Bioware (2009)
Excellent mix of Russian imagery and modern concept art. Little details like wooden dolls and white/blue colour scheme adds authenticity. (2010)
Gluttony, Dante's Inferno, EA Games (2010)