Bring a dark fairy tale to life

Rov­ina Cai il­lus­trates a fairy tale with a dark twist, ex­per­i­ment­ing with mixed me­dia tech­niques, while us­ing fash­ion and na­ture as her in­spi­ra­tions

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For this work­shop I’m cre­at­ing an il­lus­tra­tion based on the Broth­ers Grimm fairy tale Thou­sand­furs. One of the key el­e­ments in the story is a cloak made of dif­fer­ent kinds of fur and feath­ers. When I first read the story, I knew right away that I wanted to draw the cloak. There’s a lot of po­ten­tial here for cre­at­ing some­thing just a lit­tle creepy and un­usual with all those dif­fer­ent an­i­mals.

I want the fig­ure to be sur­rounded by an al­most ab­stract mass made up of an­i­mals and tex­tures. My aim is to cre­ate a strong sil­hou­ette shape, filled with smaller de­tails when you look closer. Al­though the fairy tale de­scribes the cloak as be­ing made of dif­fer­ent kinds of fur, I want to take it a step fur­ther and in­clude sub­tle hints of recog­nis­able an­i­mal parts as well, such as an eye or ear pok­ing out here and there. I love adding these de­tails for view­ers to find; they’re like se­crets hid­den in plain sight.

For in­spi­ra­tion, I’m look­ing at fash­ion de­sign­ers like Alexan­der McQueen and July 2016 Iris van Her­pen. These de­sign­ers cre­ate work with unique sil­hou­ettes, and of­ten use tex­tures in­spired by na­ture. Their work is also slightly dark and creepy, which is just the kind of tone I’m look­ing to achieve in my own il­lus­tra­tion. I’m not copy­ing spe­cific de­signs, but rather tak­ing note of the sil­hou­ettes and ma­te­ri­als they use. For ac­tual ref­er­ence, I’m us­ing a col­lec­tion of pho­tos I’ve taken at var­i­ous mu­se­ums, giv­ing me a wide range of an­i­mal pat­terns to re­fer to as I draw.

I’ll be us­ing a com­bi­na­tion of wa­ter­colour and pen­cil to cre­ate a monochro­matic im­age, with high­lights us­ing gouache. The wa­ter­colour tex­tures es­tab­lish the mood and tone of the il­lus­tra­tion, while the drawn lines cre­ate move­ment and de­tails. My fo­cus is on be­ing ex­per­i­men­tal and let­ting the process in­form my cre­ative de­ci­sions.

This ex­per­i­men­tal ap­proach means that the re­sults can be un­pre­dictable, and I never know ex­actly what tex­tures or shapes I’ll pro­duce when lay­ing down the wa­ter­colour. Be­cause this is a per­sonal piece and not for a client or com­mis­sion, it en­ables me to im­pro­vise and play with me­dia with­out wor­ry­ing about what the fi­nal will look like. Though I love work­ing with the con­straints of an il­lus­tra­tion as­sign­ment, it’s fun to ‘ let loose’ on these per­sonal pieces. I of­ten stum­ble across new tech­niques along the way that I can then take into com­mis­sioned work.

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