Friday, November 30, 2018


A couple of weeks ago I drew some digital illustrations of Elphaba and Glinda with their representative elements. I mentioned at the end of that post that I'd quite like to extend it with other characters from Wicked, and felt inspired to draw Fiyero in a similar design.

Like I mentioned in that previous post, Fiyero is from the West as he's from the Vinkus / Winkie Country, which is represented by the element of Earth and fits Fiyero's character well. However I'd obviously already drawn the Earth element for Elphaba, so this illustration ended up being a bit more literal and narrative driven rather than symbolic. I knew I needed to include Kiamo Ko in the background as it's his castle! And the Scarecrow is obviously both a reference to his story, but also represents the element of Earth as their purpose is to protect the crops growing from it. The sunflowers are a nod to the sunflower field that Fiyero is taken to to meet his fate in the musical, and I added the blue diamonds as diamonds grow in the Earth and it's also a nod to the book as he has blue diamond tribal tattoos covering his body. I'm not sure it comes across very well with the final colour scheme, but I also gave him a medium skin tone to fit the book description (it's more obvious if you compare it to the illustration of Glinda I did before)

I'm actually really pleased with how this illustration came out! I'm considering turning the three into a set of postcards and die cut stickers to sell in my Etsy store.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Folktale Week

I'm not generally a person who enjoys online challenges - partly as they're usually far too vague to pique my interest and I have no idea how to illustrate what feels like words picked at random out of a dictionary, and partly in the case of huge challenges such as Inktober I'm usually so sick of hearing about it before it's even begun and tire of it taking over all of my social media feeds. I don't see the point in taking part in such things when even my favourite artists become background noise, and I doubt I'm the only illustrator who feels this frustration.

However when I heard of Folktale Week, which was held 12-18 November, it definitely felt relevant to my interests and came with a prompt list that actually excited and inspired me so I knew I had to take part. Looking back, I think I aimed a bit too high - I purchased a concertina sketchbook and planned to create a double page spread for each prompt, coloured entirely with Copic markers and coloured pencils to give the storybook feel I was after. I opted to do a double page spread for each prompt as then it would allow each illustration to stand alone, and be less obvious that it was leading onto the next image. I wanted the concertina element to be a bit of a surprise that I could reveal at the end, with each prompt leading onto the next to create a panoramic woodland scene.

You can view a video of the full concertina here on my Instagram.

It ended up being a lot more work than I initially anticipated with each illustration taking on average 5-6 hours, and although I gave myself a few days head start I still ended up falling a little bit behind on the final two days as I was busy with other commitments - how people manage to do month long challenges is beyond me! I actually really enjoyed the process though, I haven't created work to a deadline since leaving uni and I thrive really well under that kind of pressure. Not having the time to over-plan and over-think everything is really liberating and allows me to just get on with it and switch off my perfectionism.

The first prompt was 'Forest' which is why I decided to set the whole thing in the woods, and apart from the reference to Baba Yaga in the first image, I decided to keep most of the prompts fairly vague and inspired by folktales rather than a direct representation of. I felt that if I tried to match each prompt to a particular tale, then the whole concertina wouldn't flow as well, and I wanted the viewer to be able to decide their own narrative from the images.

The very last prompt with the raccoons is definitely my favourite, but then again they are my favourite animals!

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

"It's not lying...its looking at things another way"

The Scarecrow (Fiyero) walks on stage. He bends down & knocks on a trap door in the floor.
Fiyero: It worked!
He opens the door & Elphaba climbs out.
Elphaba: Fiyero! I thought you'd never get here.
She touches his straw face.
Fiyero: Go ahead, touch, I don't mind. You did the best you could. You saved my life.
Elphaba: You're still beautiful.
Fiyero: You don't have to lie to me.
Elphaba: It's not lying... its looking at things another way.
I guess this illustration is a massive spoiler if you haven't seen Wicked, sorry about that. Personally I think knowing Fiyero's fate of becoming the Scarecrow from the beginning helps you appreciate his character more.

I've always found this scene really sad. I feel like the fandom generally focuses on Glinda and Elphaba so much, that Fiyero's sacrifice gets completely overlooked. He loses absolutely everything, even his body, for Elphaba, which is a pretty huge deal anyway but especially when you consider how proud he is at the beginning of the musical. To go from being the popular guy at school whom everybody envies and wants to emulate, who can have his pick of anyone he wants to date, to become reduced to a scarecrow is major to him. But he's OK with it, because it means he gets to be with Elphaba and he’s finally happy.

Fiyero has always been one of my favourite characters, and I do find it kind of sad (although also understandable with time constraints) how much his role was reduced in the musical. Although Fiyero only properly features in one section of the book, his presence is felt throughout the rest of the novel as his fate affects Elphaba so much. In the book, he's a tribal prince from the Vinkus who the other students at Shiz are both intrigued and racist toward - they consider his culture "barbaric", his traditional tattoos "silly", and make detrimental comments about his dark 'ochre' skin. His 'otherness' is a big part of why he and Elphaba bond so strongly, and his section of the book is one of the most heartbreaking things I've ever read. I'm always adamant that Fiyero in the musical is much deeper than most give him credit for; Dancing Through Life is incredibly nihilistic, and his mask to hide his deep unhappiness is quickly seen through by Elphaba. But it's a shame that his character couldn't be explored more, so casual audiences don't just mistake him as a spoiled rich kid.

I spent a really long time working on this drawing - I started it last time I saw Wicked which was on 1st October, and have been working on it on and off ever since (more off to be fair, as I've had major surgery on my arm during that time too.) I'm mostly pleased with how it's come out, I'm still working on my style so there's a few elements that I'm still working on and ironing out. I stopped drawing this to work on my illustrations of Elphaba and Glinda that I posted yesterday, and all three of these drawings were done in Procreate. It's crazy how far I've come with the app, because I was struggling so much when I began drawing this, and finished it up today in a jiffy now I know what I'm doing!

I have a few more Wicked illustrations in the works, but I'm putting them on hold for now as I need to work on some other things. Although I'm seeing Wicked again next week, so I'm sure I'll come away with even more ideas!

Elphaba and Glinda

Elphaba Thropp Wicked Witch of the West illustration Wizard of Oz musical Glinda Galinda Upland Good Witch of the North Gillikin Country Wicked Musical Wizard of Oz

I've been working on some bigger projects lately, and took some time to just doodle these illustrations which ended up turning into a whole project of their own! You can see below the original illustrations in my sketchbook, they ended up being back to back which I thought was a shame as they were supposed to be a duo which was my initial inspiration for turning them into proper pieces of their own. So I photographed them with my iPad and completely re-drew them in Procreate.

Originally I just wanted to draw Elphaba in a nice woodland scene as it's currently Autumn, and then decided to draw Glinda in a similar style surrounded with air elements purely due to the fact that she travels by bubble (with the Mucha inspired art nouveau ring representing the bubble Glinda arrives in during the show)

It wasn't until I was halfway through digitally colouring Elphaba that I began to think about it a little more deeply, and I looked up which direction traditionally corresponds with which element. I should point out here that it varies depending if you're in the Southern hemisphere (as obviously everything becomes inverted, as North is hot and South is cold, whereas it's the opposite way for the Northern hemisphere). But for me in Europe, West corresponds with the element of Earth, and North corresponds with the element of Water. And the more research I did the more I realised this couldn't be a coincidence!

Elphaba Thropp Wicked Witch of the West illustration Wizard of Oz musical

Elphaba is obviously the "Wicked" Witch of the West, so obviously that firmly plants her as the element of Earth. I was immediately reminded of a quote I'd read by Wicked's costume designer Susan Hilferty:
"If you look at the Elphaba dress up close, you’ll see that it’s not black. It’s actually filled with color. The color that I was responding to was from looking at stones in the earth and gems. The design of her dress is layers that are built with over 40 yards of fabric that are stitched together to have a continuous sense of being from the earth. It’s created to look like the lines you would see in a chunk of earth."
Gregory Maguire, the writer of the book Wicked that the musical is based on, also mentions several times how Elphaba has an earthy smell about her, and obviously her green skin is very representative of the earth also. The element of Earth is also representative of "solidarity", which is a word that fits Elphaba very well - most of the trouble she finds herself in is due to her unwavering beliefs, she refuses to back down from her morals that she holds so dear, and she is fiercely loyal to those she loves.

Although I didn't draw him, it's worth baring in mind that Fiyero (Elphaba's love interest if you're unfamiliar with the plot to Wicked) would also be represented by the element of Earth as he is from the Vinkus/Winkie Country which is located in the West (which is how Elphaba becomes the witch of the West as she takes shelter in his family castle Kiamo Ko). In the original novel Fiyero is prince of the Arjiki tribe, and it's detailed how he lives off the Earth in a much more natural way than the rest of Oz (which marks him out as 'other' and is part of why he and Elphaba bond). Although he doesn't have that back story in the musical, he is turned into the Scarecrow which one could argue is also representative of the element of Earth as it's whole purpose is to guard the crops growing from the Earth. ALSO going back to the book, part of Fiyero's culture that marks him as Arjiki are the blue diamonds that are tattooed over his body, and diamonds and gemstones are obviously formed deep in the earth. Which is why I made sure to include a cluster of blue gemstones in the drawing of Elphaba to represent him!

Glinda Galinda Upland Good Witch of the North Gillikin Country Wicked Musical Wizard of Oz

G(a)linda Upland is the witch of the North as she hails from Gillikin Country. Although I had originally taken Glinda's bubble to represent Air, bubbles are obviously formed by water so once I made that connection it made perfect sense! Whereas I'd given Elphaba a warm, earthy colour palette, I cooled things right down for Glinda's illustration which further contrasts her against Elphaba. Water is representative of 'fluidity' and 'emotions', which again suits Glinda's personality perfectly: she is ruled entirely by her emotions and makes all of her decisions based on how she is feeling, and is the most fluid of all the characters as she makes the biggest change throughout the story line - she goes from hating Elphaba and being judgemental and conceited, to being one of the most empathetic characters who loves Elphaba with her whole heart.

I'm quite tempted to add to these and perhaps draw Fiyero! (and Nessa? And Boq?)
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