Haunted Holidays: Graves

Haunted Holidays: Graves

Posted by Robyn Wall on

Week Four

October 24th through the 30th

Graves, cemeteries, funerals...death...most avoid thinking of these topics. Yet we all know that they are things we will eventually have to deal with, in one way or another. You may view them as morbid, but I believe they can be beautiful and that the emotions these topics bring forth are powerful and enchanting. 

Beautiful, enchanting sadness is what I strived to capture in this week's piece. Emotions can be difficult to paint, especially for an Empath, as we tend to live in the emotions of our artwork and this can be a struggle. But I find that's when I create my best work.

This week I had two great sketches and, as usual, I fought with myself about which to follow through on. 


I was leaning toward the first sketch as I thought it captured the essence of a woman mourning, but the flowing hair really intimidated me. Putting the two sketches to a vote on Instagram, it surprised me that the first sketch won 60-40. The second sketch seemed much more approachable to me, which is what my community is typically partial to. I wonder what it was about the first sketch that captured my audience’s attention.

Whatever the reason, the first sketch was off to the studio.


Right away, the hair proved difficult. Single-pass lines have always been a challenge for me and using lightly textured paper can create problems with line work. But the most frustrating part of the line work was the little lacey pattern of her sleeve. I could have simply executed her ‘dress’ only using the smokey painting style I love, but felt something that gave the essence of a dress and not just a woman floating in a magical cloud of smoke was the way to go. 

I used a stippling technique in which I make small dots on the paper, some close together and some farther apart. This literally took two fucking hours. My hand was cramping so badly by the end. It was worth it, though. 


As I painted, my excitement for this piece grew and grew. It pleases me to see that my ability to shade faces is improving, as is the way I draw eyelashes. 


The stark contrast between the whites of her eyes and the darkness of her lips and eyebrows is so alluring.


Next up was a cloud of smoke. I’ll tell you, this was not as easy as it looks. A lot of time was spent working this part of the piece, getting the correct areas dark and blending everything smoothly. I worried that this would not turn out well. Even after I decided I couldn’t work it anymore, I wouldn’t know if it would end up going the way I wanted it to until I finished the graves. 


Luckily, it worked out just as I had hoped. 


As expected, the hair was the most challenging aspect. I should have taken more photos of this process so that you could fully grasp how much was involved to finish it, but since I didn't, I will just say that it took me over six hours to complete. Six hours. For just the hair. Six. Hours. If that isn’t some serious commitment, I don’t know what is.

Want to know my absolute favorite part???


The highlights I added to her hair using a white gel pen. It makes the entire piece soooooooo good and I think it will be a technique I use a lot in the future. It really brings a lot of life to the painting. Which, you know, is kind of ironic. 


I also put some highlights on the lips that I love.


I hope this piece, with its enchanting sadness and beautiful darkness, can help shift the way you think about morbid topics.

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