Witch Challenge: Vintage

Witch Challenge: Vintage

Posted by Robyn Wall on

Week Four
July 20th through July 26th

Vintage is always an aesthetic I have been particularly inclined to. Fashion from the 1920s-1950s was so classy and sophisticated. A time of detailed simplicity. My love of vintage things made me think that this challenge would be a b r e e z e. 

But I think because of a lack of specificity and inspiration images I was really passionate about, this week actually proved to be quite difficult. 

In search of inspiration I put out a call for ideas on social media. One brilliant suggestion was to take vintage waaaaay back and do a Victorian style witch. I loved this concept… yet still could not wrap my head around it. The outfit I drew felt more akin to that of a circus ringer than a Victorian Witch, and that was laughably bad. Then I tried drawing her as inspired by 50s fashion, with a big circle skirt, high neckline, and rounded two-inch heels. Something about that did not feel quite right either, though.

This was extremely frustrating. An entire day dedicated to brainstorming and sketching for this challenge had come up with nothing exciting. 

So on day two I decided I would focus on vintage objects rather than vintage fashion and see what kind of character development came from that. To my delight, I found a lot of really great inspiration images.


Initially, I was thinking of having this character at a desk, studying a grimoire or book of shadows. Perhaps sipping a cup of tea or burning some sage. While I am completely in love with the record player, the stack of books and lamp were particularly inspirational for this challenge. 

I began sketching by placing an oval shape slightly off center of my paper where I planned to draw in my character. I draw the record player on what would seemingly be the ground. Okay, another Witch that is sitting on the floor, like in week two. That helped a little because at least then I had a general idea of a pose I could use for figure drawing. 

The rest of the objects got drawn in to create a cozy space. Some little containers next to the record player, a stack of books to the right of my character, a lamp a little further back to light scene. 

Looking at the sketch I had composed, it felt inherently masculine. I can’t explain why exactly. It is just an energy. So that was that, then.

A Vintage Warlock!


I drew some little gemstone runes and decided it would add a dynamic and magical essence if I drew the Warlock spinning a couple of these around above an open palm.

Taking a different tactic, starting with the surroundings of my character instead of the character itself, was a good way to work around my slight creative block. And if I am completely honest, the Warlock himself has a very minimal vintage aesthetic. If I were to remove all the small vintage details, the piece would feel completely normal. 

Looking at my sketching I knew that this would lend itself well to being a mixed media piece with fine liner pens and watercolor. I outlined my sketch first, paying close attention to my line weight to denote POV proximity and importance within the piece. Heavier lines for the Warlock that is the primary subject and extremely thin lines for unimportant objects further in the distance. 

Beginning with the outline meant that when I painted the piece, I would not accidentally wash away an important line. However, I did still have to go pack at the end of everything to touch up some lines that had been painted over too much. 

Choosing the color palette for this piece was probably the best part. My favorite colors right now sort of have a vintage feel to them, so I was excited to play with a Yellow Ochre and a Burgundy for this piece. 

I also knew I wanted to experiment with depicting light as part of my background technique. Using a wet on wet application method, I laid down a base coat of water over all the parts of the background that I wanted to be effected by light. I dropped in little doses of color here and there, specifically concentrated around the lamp area. And I made sure to have beams of light coming from the top and bottom of the lamp. 


Also, I find it slightly amusing that I placed the lamp on the right side of this piece. I did this really without considering that it would be my dominant light source and that it would come from the opposite direction of my typical light source placement. It’s amusing because I talked about how I have a comfort zone for the direction of light I draw in my pieces in week two’s challenge. I must have internalized this and instinctively did something different from the usual. 

Painting in the books was fun. They are the most detailed aspect of this piece in my opinion but I didn’t want to make them too complicated or difficult to execute. Detailed simplicity.

I kept repeating this to myself as I was working.

Detailed simplicity.


I completed the record player in much the same mindset. It was my goal to capture the likeness of my inspiration photo without agonizing over too many of the details. I was particularly interested in capturing the reflection on the golden parts of the record player. 

I think the attention to detail here, as with the base of the lamp, really helps to bring this piece to life. I used a metallic gouache paint to help me achieve the golden shimmer. Unfortunately, this does not come through well when photographed. 


Even now, I am still unsure that I made the correct color choice for runes. I thought that purple would be a suitable color to represent their magical properties and abilities, but I’m uncertain that it goes with the rest of my color pallet. I can't say that I regret the decision completely, though. It does not look bad, but it does not feel exactly right. 

Sometimes there are mistakes made when painting with watercolor that can be fixed or reworked in some manner. I could have tried to change to color of the runes, but I would have only been able to use a darker color. If I went that route, there was a very high risk the runes would be indistinguishable on the gemstones. So I stuck with my original choice. 

Painting the Warlock was a piece of cake. His character just screamed for a simple black outfit with slight variance in shade and tone throughout the design. 


Overall, I am very pleased with how this piece turned out. My Vintage Warlock is the first male character I have ever executed, and I am thrilled to represent Warlocks in a challenge I thought would be exclusively about Witches. My favorite part of this piece is definitely the background though. Even the shadows turned out really well. 

What is your favorite part? Let me know in the comments!


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