Witch Challenge: Looking Back

Witch Challenge: Looking Back

Posted by Robyn Wall on

June through August 2021
Read time: 10 min
List challenges have been all over the internet for years. They are great for staying motivated, building skills, and achieving new goals. So it’s not surprising that those are a few of the reasons I wanted to finally have a go at an art challenge. 
I have taken plenty of creative classes, art and photography, and learned plenty of new things, but my favorite part about these classes is the fact that the assignments pushed my creativity out of bounds. That is one of the big things I wanted to get out of doing this challenge. I was also looking to explore new styles and techniques in search of what I hope will become a strong artistic voice.
For each prompt, I wanted to push myself to try something new. And at first I really wanted to encourage myself to create at least two different sketches, as I have a tendency to sketch one concept, fall in love, and then not explore other paths.
I’d be lying if I said that did not still happen a couple of times.
But despite falling into some of my comfort zones, I learned an immense amount about watercolor and even branched out into some new mediums. And I improved my skill level immensely.
So let us look back at what I achieved over the three-month challenge.
Week one saw me designing two completely different Ghost Witches and in two completely different mediums!
With this prompt I wanted to focus on trying some environmental compositions as I tend to stick with study compositions. The Wispy Ghost Witch was one of my first genuine attempts at a painting with a fully conceptualized background and I struggled with complex backgrounds A LOT. Despite the struggles, it actually turned out okay. It is funny though, after only three months of creating art, I look back on the piece now and I don’t think it is as good as I did when I first finished it.
Unfortunately, that is kind of a theme, it seems.
The Green Witch from week two does not fall into that theme, thankfully. I do still adore this piece. I especially love that it was done with graphite and fine-tip pens, so that goal of using a new medium for this challenge worked out well. This also makes it a standout piece in my portfolio.
During the third week, I had some challenges creating a concept I really loved for the Storm Witch prompt. That was not a surprise to me though, as I knew week three was going to fight back a little.
When I finally devised a concept I liked, I added an extra layer of difficulty by painting on black watercolor paper.
Painting on black paper is one of my favorite things, but not every piece is right for it. The best part, though, is that the lighting would be done with an iridescent watercolor called Interference Blue. These paints are unique in that they are translucent even without adding water and just have a lovely shimmer to them. 
While I think this piece could be better, specially the hair, I still very much adore it.
My Vintage Witch posed a lot of problems in the sketching stage as well. At first, I was very focused on a female Victorian style witch, but I just could not get the sketch to feel vintage. It was laughably bad, lookin like a circus ringer with a cauldron.
Finally, I focused on more “traditional” vintage objects to come up with a concept and drew a character into the composition afterward. This tactic worked surprisingly well. I ended up with a male Vintage Witch surrounded by some of his favorite things. My additional test with this painting was actually done by accident. I drew the lamp on the left-hand side, which meant that the light source would come from the opposite direction of my typical top-right corner light source I am so fond of.
The best part of this piece, in my opinion, is the color pallet. I love it so much!
Week fives Fire Witch was a daunting one. Aside from fire being a super difficult subject to represent in a painting, I also tried out another environmental composition for this piece.
As if representing fire wasn't enough of a challenge, I had to go and put twenty tiny lanterns in the image. Anxiety about being able to pull this piece off with the finesse that I desired set in full force. 
Instead of jumping right in with this challenge the way I had in the past, I took a more conservative route and decided I should practice some of the unfamiliar components such as the lanterns and the fire on separate pieces of paper.
Taking the time to practice the hard parts served me well, and this piece turned out better than I thought it would. Looking back, I still love the background but I can see plenty of ways I could execute the Witch better now with my more developed skill set.
The Crystal Witch during the sixth week presented me with a new obstacle; too many sketches! Not that this is particularly surprising. Crystals are a subject I am already very familiar with, so I had a bunch of ideas buzzing around in my head. And for whatever stupid reason, I decided I would execute all of them.
The first concept I took the digital route again and I am so fuckin glad I did. This digital painting turned out sooooo well.
But it took forever and so I was a tad pressed for time when I took the other two concepts into the studio. These are two pieces that when I look at them now, I am considerably less impressed by them than I was at first. And that is saying something because the painting of the two hands with the arch of crystals was bad when I finished it. It’s extra bad now though. Lol.
This simply means that my skills and talent have expanded past what I honestly expected would happen during the challenge. It’s a good thing.
Oh! But this was the week I first started putting some Paynes grey into the shadow areas of the skin, which really improved my skin tone techniques immensely.

Week Seven’s prompt is still one of my very favorites. Divination, clairvoyance, intuition, these are all witchy aspects that I love exploring with my creativity. And since I had already created quite a few pieces involving a Divination Witch, I really encouraged myself to try something new.

That is how I discovered Aruspicina; divining the future using intestines. I can’t say why I was drawn to the concept exactly, but I was excited to show a little of my dark side.

The problem was, I had already completed a sketch that I was excited about.
So here I was again, taking on a little too much in the name of creativity.
My favorite part of the Aruspicina Warlock (aside from him being super fuckin creepy) is the background. It developed from the idea that there would be a pool of blood underneath the entrails and I thought that using blue for the top half of the background would offer the essence of a night sky and, if I manipulated the paints correctly, the blue and the red would blend in the middle around what is sort of the horizon line to create a magical purple color. 
The way the colors blend together and the soft, magical feeling really make this piece much more approachable. It somehow turned something that is strange and gross into something super pretty.
My Divination Witch also turned out splendid! The contrasting colors make that piece really pop, the background is soft and magical, and the skin tone was executed exceptionally well Oh and... she has rune freckles and I just find that so charming!
Just don’t look too closely at the third eye. Lol.
During week eight, I remember feeling really depleted and overwhelmed, which meant not being able to pull off the concept I was most excited about.
But that led me to produce something completely new and unique compared to my usual style. I definitely wanted to push myself to try a new kind of composition. It was technically an environment but executed in a way that made it seem like you were looking at the Death Witchs’ cabin through one window.
Their potion bubbles up on the counter, releasing a menacing trail of smoke that curls up and out of the frame. Bottles and jars and scattered about on shelves. A book lay open on the workspace.
I remember thinking that if I tried to paint the entire image, things could quickly become muddled and confusing. Yet I still wanted some pops of color and I knew that watercolor would be the best medium to give the smoke the right kind of translucence.
Somehow, I concluded that combining techniques from the Green Witch with some carefully placed watercolor would be the way to go.
This was exactly the right move to make. The piece turned out great. And, while I don’t think this kind of composition will become common for me, I do think the mixed media techniques could be very useful in the future.
The Kitchen Witch aesthetic involves a fine balance of hanging flowers and herbs, owning a mortar and pestle, knowing every spice by heart, “have you eaten yet?” and endless tea at the perfect temperature. 
While brainstorming, I remembered a scene from a movie I love; Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Queenie magically prepares a meal for Newt and Jacob. With a wave of her wand, there are ingredients floating to their predetermined destination, and assembling themselves, a knife chops a carrot in mid-air. “You prefer strudel, huh honey,” Queenie says and pastry crust cooks to a crisp gold brown color.
My inspiration came from a rather dark movie and yet, my sketch ended up being very Disney Princess. Something I do not love. Not that there is anything wrong with Disney Princesses (my favorite has always been Bell) it’s just not my usual aesthetic.
This piece encouraged me to try out a different technique for my signature magic background style, which I greatly appreciate. And I love the recipe book has such a worn feel to it. Makes it appear it was passed down from generation to generation. That or this Kitchen Witch is hundreds of years old and maintains her youthful appearance with the blood of her enemies. She must be friends with the Death Witch. 
Week ten had me exploring galaxies far and wide. The thing about galaxies, though. Is that they may seem haphazard and random, but unless you know the technique, they easily become overworked and decidedly un-galaxy-like.
Luckily, I had plenty of practice with galaxies by this time, so creating a Galaxy Witch wouldn’t be so hard.
I tried out a new pose with my first Galaxy Witch facing away from us and surrounded by her own little ring of galaxy. The second painting had a much more surreal vibe to it which I totally love.
I think it may have actually been the fact that the Galaxy Witch was done in all black clothes and even had black hair that led me to discover I really love doing paintings with simple color pallets and high contrast. This is the technique that explored during week eleven.
The Tea Witch challenge was my absolute favorite.
Have you ever gotten that feeling that something big is about to happen? You don’t know what or when, but you can sense it coming. It is like a vibration in the air, a pulling at your soul. 
During this three-month challenge, I felt excited about many pieces. But in a normal way, just that I knew the piece would turn out well. And I had that at the beginning of this challenge. I knew the piece was going to be exceptional as I was collecting inspiration and sketching ideas. 
As I got further into the Tea Witch project, the buzzing started. There was something different about this piece. I could feel it.
And the feeling only got more intense as I worked on the outline. A little muse whisper in my ear to leave some edges open. I could not tell you why, but I am glad I listened. Even though it took all my strength not to outline the entire thing (perfectionist tendencies are BITCH).
I began painting, and it became apparent why I was meant to leave some openings in the outline. My favorite background style of soft, cloud-like magic was to become integrated with my subject. Almost as if she was dissolving into the magic or being formed from it. 
My skin was electric, my soul was singing, for I had discovered an aspect of my authentic style. All the work I have done over the last year and specifically during this challenge came together in that moment.
I tried to take that same electric excitement into the last week to help me create a Witchy Couple, but outside circumstances made that a little difficult.

I completed week twelve in a similar style as week eleven, and it looks great. But there is just something about the Tea Witch that makes her enchanting. 

Looking back over my last three months of artistic achievements, I am floored by how far I have come. I never expected for my abilities and style to grow this much over the course of twelve challenges. In the beginning, I was skeptical if I could stick to the schedule. I was hesitant that I would learn anything or improve much at all. Sometimes it is nice to prove yourself wrong. 

While I am thankful that I can let my creativity be free during my September break, I actually look forward to starting my next challenge.

The holidays are many people's favorite time of the year and I am only a little different. I am infatuated with Halloween/Samhain and autumn. Cooler weather, hot drinks, roaring fires, cozy sweaters, the colorful leaves changing and blowing away in the wind. I think it is truly the most magical time of the year.
So to help us celebrate starting, I have created this Haunted Holidays challenge that will begin the week of October 3rd and would very much love if you would participate in the challenges with me! I want to see your fantastical concepts for each week's prompt. No pressure to do every single one, but I hope you’ll consider taking part in this festive creative celebration with me.
Tag me on Instagram @artthroughprettyeyes or use #hauntedholidayschallenge and I’ll repost your creations to my page and maybe even include them in my blog post!
Which one of the Witch Challenges are you most looking forward to having available on my website? Let me know in the comments! 

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