Sunday, November 8, 2020

The Snow Queen

I've got such a backlog of artwork to share that it's difficult to know which order to even go in! I've written out a list and there's literally 20 things on it that I need to post here, so buckle up I guess as I'll try and post as much of it as I can over the coming weeks.

My recently completed Snow Queen project feels like the most natural place to start, as it's been occupying a large part of my mind for most of the year. Back in June I shared some original sketches that I'd created back in May, and even before then it was a project that I knew was looming for me. 

The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen is probably my all time favourite fairy tale, and it's something I go way back with. When I was in my foundation year of art school for my big final project I decided I wanted to illustrate my own version of The Snow Queen. The artwork is 10 years old and kind of cringey to me now, but it was a labour of love as The Snow Queen is an epic in length for being a fairy tale, and a lot of background research went into everything.

This feels really embarrassing to be sharing, but I also think it's really important to show that we all start somewhere as it's easy to fall into the idea that people can just magically draw like that when in fact it's taken years upon years of practise, hard work, and trial and error. I was definitely bound by the limitations of my skill level (perspective, what's that??) but when I look at all 23 illustrations I can see that I had some good ideas, and it's something I've been wanting to update for a long time. I'm still undecided as to whether or not I'll recreate the whole book as like I said it's a long one, but I'm really proud of these illustrations as they stand right now and am pleased to add them to my portfolio:

The Snow Queen illustration

You can tell that this is supposed to be a direct update of one of the old illustrations above, and I think because of that it really shows just how much I've grown as an artist. One of the biggest things I learnt at art school was the importance of backgrounds in telling the story and setting the scene - I can distinctly remember my tutor looking at my illustration of Baba Yaga and suggesting giving the fir trees a character of their own: "maybe they could look like they're leaning in and listening". And as much as I loathe backgrounds, it undeniably makes a huge difference! I did take Danish architecture into account, although I think there's so little of the buildings on show that it could also be anywhere which isn't necessarily a bad thing. 

I think my biggest struggle with this particular illustration was whether it matched the mood of the others and looked cohesive next to them as the colours are much brighter, but it's also at the very beginning of the story before the Snow Queen tries to ruin Kai's life so I figured it worked in that sense. The Snow Queen is essentially a coming of age story detailing the passage between childhood and adulthood, so I wanted them to look on the cusp of that.

The Snow Queen illustration

I've always loved this section of the tale where Kai is looking out the window at the falling snow, and suddenly the Snow Queen appears and looks at him through the window and beckons. Considering the magic mirror hadn't entered his life yet I've always found this passage a really interesting part of the narrative. This was the very last illustration I created, and it underwent the most changes from sketch to final piece as I'd originally envisioned the Snow Queen smaller, almost like a fairy, as she's described as a snowflake getting brighter and brighter until it formed the shape of a woman. But I didn't like the idea of her shifting sizes as it didn't make much sense, and as her size isn't mentioned in the book I changed it and I like it much better this way. 

The Snow Queen illustration

The mirror falling into Kai's eye and heart while it snows. I intended this to be more of a spot illustration to be surrounded by text.

The Snow Queen illustration

This was the first illustration I digitally painted, and it really set the mood for everything else. It's when the Snow Queen comes to take Kai away and kisses his forehead and touches his heart to freeze him where the shards of mirror are. 

I really wanted to keep some design elements of my original Snow Queen, as well as keeping it as far removed from anything to do with Elsa as possible! The character is always portrayed as a woman so white she's almost albino with equally white hair, and it's an interpretation that's never made much sense to me as I always figured she'd look more indigenous than anything else. But at the same time I didn't want to appropriate S├ími culture or identify it to any particular real world group in any way as she's a magical being and not a person. I tried to make her dress quite fantastical and kept it from following any historical period to keep that other worldly vibe, and as she lives in the mountains I figured she'd make do with the things around her such as a cloak made from the hide of a polar bear, and a crown fashioned from reindeer antlers strung together with brambles. 

Kai's design is the only subtle reference to Frozen as I wanted him to kind of resemble Prince Hans.

The Snow Queen illustration

Again this is another illustration directly based on one of my old ones, except this time I actually used reference for a running reindeer (I think I used a reference for a horse before and it shows!) I kept the red cloak as I love the pop of colour it gives to an otherwise very muted palette. I generally made Gerda very warm toned, and Kai very cool toned which I felt matched their character arcs.

The Snow Queen illustration

I think this one took the most work, but it paid off in the end! The hardest part was getting all of the ice to actually look like ice and not rocks or pieces of slate. I also tried to adjust Kai's skin tone to show how he's slowly freezing. I looked up pictures of frostbite but that was a bit too knarly for what I was going for! I also gave him heterochromia to signify the shard of mirror in one of his eyes.

I tried to create a selection from all different parts of the book, in the hopes that it would tell a condensed version of the story regardless of whether I expand on it. I'd love to create the whole book and self publish it, but at the same time these took so much work that I just need a break from it so I guess we'll see if that ever happens! I created these for my portfolio more than anything, as a self commissioned project to show an example of sequential illustration to any potential clients, but it seems a shame to just shove it in my portfolio and forget about it so I'm hoping to perhaps create some things for my shop out of the designs. Definitely a postcard set, but I'd like to do more with it if possible as it's all of my own original design and I want to move into selling my own characters more. 

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