Monster Monday! 6/6/16

Monster Monday: W. Woods Illustration and Art

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You can buy W. Woods art!

My online store is up and running now. In the next couple of weeks, I will be expanding to include a variety of prints and art-related products. I also take requests if you’ve seen a piece of art on my website that you would love to see hanging on your wall.

Click here to check out the small selection of prints and tarot cards I have available now: http://woodsillustration.bigcartel.com/

Madame Bovary, Art and Illustration by W. Woods
Madame Bovary 11″x14″ Prints Available

Woodland Creatures

Recently, I started drawing cute lil’ woodland creatures. This is definitely a departure from my usual interests of ghosts and vampires, but hey, what can I say? The weather is lovely right now, and I live in Minnesota: woodland creatures are going to start appearing in my illustrations from time to time.

Woodland Creatures - Art by W. Woods

Woodland Creatures - Art by W. Woods

In fact, I’ve enjoyed making these little guys so much, I’ve begun laying out an idea for a children’s book (my beginning sketches and writing below). So, yes, this is a bit different than my usual work, but I have no problem with adding a little cuteness to my life from time to time.

Woodland Creatures - Art by W. Woods

The premise? A little bear named Birch is just a bit too impatient and a tad too curious, and it gets him into a small adventure in the woods.

The Shirley Jackson Project

I recently finished a series of illustrations that will be included in a compilation of comics entitled, “The Shirley Jackson Project: Comics Inspired by her Life and Work.” The entire collection will be released this coming fall, and it is edited by comic artist Rob Kirby http://robkirbycomics.com/Rob_Kirby_Comics/Home.html, who has been great to work with and an inspiration with his own unique portfolio of art and comics. I’ll also have my work featured alongside many other talented artists, so it definitely didn’t take long for me to give an emphatic YES! when I was asked if I wanted to be a part of this. Below is the cover of the upcoming compilation, designed by Michael Fahy.

The Shirley Jackson Project

Amazing, right?

I’ve previously written about how much I love Shirley Jackson, so when I was invited to contribute to this project, I was overjoyed by the prospect of honoring my favorite author. However, when I actually sat down to create the work, I became paralyzed by what seemed like the insurmountable task of doing justice to Shirley Jackson’s work.

So…I had artist’s block. Pretty hardcore artist’s block. The kind that keeps you up at night with guilt, because you know deep down that you have it in you to complete the project but something – be it fear, intimidation, laziness – is getting in the way. Thank God for deadlines. I knew I had to finish the project, even if I was struck with the fear of not doing Shirley Jackson’s work justice. So, I whittled away at the project, and at last came up with some pages that I felt pretty happy with.

I used my very favorite book of all time, We Have Always Lived in the Castle, written by Shirley Jackson in 1962, as my inspiration. It’s just the right amount of mid-century goth with all my favorite themes—alienation, isolation, murder—mixed together in one delightfully morbid novel. Below, you can see the title page I created for my submission to the Shirley Jackson Project:

Merricat: The Shirley Jackson Project

And another drawing detail included in my work:

The Shirley Jackson Project

An aside note: I have always ALWAYS ALWAYS wanted We Have Always Lived in the Castle to be adapted for film. I’m just sayin’ if any producers need a creative consultant for a film adaptation…I’ve got ideas and I’m just an email away.

New Work: Horrors

I am working on some new pieces that began on a whim and have turned into a larger project that I am continuing to explore and work on. Someone gave me a large stack of 40″x26″ bristol paper. I wasn’t sure what to do with all of it, but I always get very excited about new sheets of blank, white paper.

I began creating work with no end in mind. Usually, I like to have a purpose or a job for my paintings and illustrations, but these were made purely out of my own interest in creating something for myself. Luckily, I began to really enjoy creating these large watercolor and gouache paintings, and I have now begun creating an entire body of work based upon them.

They are definitely inspired by my love of psychological horror. There’s no subject that interests me more, and I’ve always felt a kinship with horror that I do not feel with any other genre.

New Work

New Work

New Work

The Six Wives of Henry VIII

I accidentally stumbled into this project. The other day, I overheard a woman say to another, “Here’s how you remember King Henry’s wives: divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived.”

Like a song stuck in my head, I kept repeating this little rhyme for the rest of the day. When I got home, I started creating what became this finished illustration:

The Wives of King Henry the Eighth

Here’s some very brief overviews of each of his wives. I suggest reading in depth about them, because they are all fascinating women in their own right. The political implications of these marriages and of the king’s erratic behavior shines light on a tumultuous time in English history.

Catherine of Aragon

Catherine of Aragon

Motto: Humble and Loyal

The first wife of Henry VIII, she was a devout Catholic and a Spanish princess. She had first been married to Henry’s older brother, Prince Arthur. However, the ill-fated marriage lasted only a couple of months before Prince Arthur died of illness. It was asserted that the marriage was never consummated, therefore it was acceptable for Arthur’s younger brother Henry VIII to marry her afterward. She was a bit older than Henry, but they did live in relative peace and happiness for awhile. However, Henry wanted a son, and Catherine bore him a daughter (Princess Mary) and had several miscarriages and stillbirths thereafter.

Henry then got it into his wacky head that the reason he wasn’t bearing children with Catherine was because her marriage with his brother had actually been legitimate. Maybe, just maybe, they really did bone and consummate their marriage after all. That would make Henry’s marriage to Catherine illegitimate and an abomination. He also had begun courting Anne Boleyn, whom he would eventually marry.

So, then he treated Catherine and his daughter Mary like crap and tried to annul the marriage. The Pope, however, denied the annulment, causing Henry to break England away from the Catholic church. Catherine of Aragon was exiled from court. She lived her life asserting that the marriage was, and always would be, legitimate and that she was the true Queen of England. It is rumored that she died years later due to the stress and mistreatment she received from the king.

Anne Boleyn

Anne Boleyn

Motto: The Most Happy

Probably the most famous of the wives, she caused a political stir and gave birth to the future Queen Elizabeth I. King Henry VIII was besotted with this lady-in-waiting to Queen Catherine of Aragon and courted her while still married. Anne was vivacious and lively, teasing and flirting with the king while refusing to simply be his mistress. The king was enraptured and pursued marriage with Anne. He argued his current marriage was null and void due to Catherine of Aragon’s previous marriage to King Henry’s late brother. The pope in Rome refused to grant an annulment. King Henry VIII declared himself the head of the Church of England and a divorced was finalized. As a result, he was excommunicated from the Catholic church, and thus began a continual back and forth between the Catholic church and the Protestant Reformation in England.

Anne and King Henry VIII got married. She had a baby girl, Princess Elizabeth. Henry was kind of happy (but not really because he wanted a boy). However, Anne kept having miscarriages. Henry was losing interest in Anne and paying attention to his future wife, Jane Seymour.

In a complicated series of events, Anne was accused of adultery, treason, and incest with her own brother. Gross. None of the accused men confessed accept for one man, Mark Smeaton. However, he was tortured into confessing, so that’s not very compelling evidence.

She was lead to the scaffold and before being beheaded recited, “Jesu receive my soul; O Lord God have pity on my soul.”

Really sad.

Jane Seymour

Jane Seymour

Motto: Bound to Obey and Serve

Jane Seymour is remembered as the favorite wife of Henry VIII, because she gave him the one thing that the other wives did not, a son. His affections for Jane started before the beheading of Anne Boleyn, and he didn’t waste much time securing her as a wife after Anne’s death. Jane was everything that Anne wasn’t: meek, humble, and subservient. Although used as a political pawn by her notable family, she humbly accepted her role as wife and remained dutiful. Unfortunately, giving birth to the son that Henry wanted caused her demise. Twelve days after having Prince Edward, she died due to complications from childbirth.

Anne of Cleves

Anne of Cleves
Motto: God Send Me Well to Keep

Anne didn’t last very long as a queen (six months), but luckily she left with an annulment rather than a lopped off head. Before marriage, King Henry VIII was presented a portrait of Anne, painted by Hans Holbein the Younger. Apparently, the portrait was more pleasing than her actual appearance. When she arrived, the king was not attracted to his new bride, and they never consummated the marriage.

Anne probably breathed a sigh of relief at the annulment. At this point, the king was not so hot himself. She accepted it without complaint.

Catherine Howard

Catherine Howard
Motto: No other will than his.

Poor Catherine Howard. Perhaps being the cousin of Anne Boleyn was the first big sign that things weren’t going to go well. She was young, flirtatious, emotional, and probably not very aware of how erratic and cruel the king could be. She started as a lady-in-waiting to Anne of Cleves before catching the eye of the king, and when the king sets his sights on you, it can be both difficult and dangerous to spurn him.

She was only 19 or 20 when she was beheaded for adultery. While Anne Boleyn’s alleged indiscretions are dubious at best, it was confirmed that Catherine Howard did have something going on with a guy named Thomas Culpeper. But, really, who hasn’t been young, reckless, and in love?

Catherine Parr

Catherine Parr
Motto: To be useful in all that I do.

Catherine Parr is notable for surviving marriage with King Henry VIII and for also being one of the most intelligent and capable of the six wives. After marrying Henry, she took it upon herself to care for her stepchildren, Princess Elizabeth and Prince Edward, providing a lasting influence to their lives and educations. She cultivated her own mind by continually studying languages and theology. This penchant for learning, not to mention her Protestant sympathies, nearly got her in hot water when she tried to engage Henry in a discussion about theology. Keep in mind, due to England’s split from the Catholic church and the general spread of the Reformation, theology was a hot-button topic. Henry didn’t like Catherine taking about religion to him (because god forbid a woman has an opinion) and his irritation nearly got Catherine arrested. She managed to placate him by assuring him that she was inferior and was merely trying to distract him from his gross leg pain.

Despite all this, she was intelligent and capable enough to become regent of England while Henry was on a military campaign in France. Upon his passing, she was allowed a cozy living at court until Edward VI came into power. She remarried to Thomas Seymour soon after, but unfortunately died due to childbirth at the age of 36.

Making a Tarot Deck: The Process and Outcome

I always wanted to illustrate my own deck of tarot cards, but the task of creating 78 individual pieces of art, each with its own hidden meanings and thoughtful details, seemed insurmountable. But a couple of months ago, I decided I was going to see the project through.

I started with research. I looked at other tarot decks, both historical and contemporary. I noted what I liked and disliked. While I do enjoy themed decks, I wanted to make a generalized deck based upon the traditional 78-card tarot. I was inspired by the tradition of the Tarot de Marseille and by the Rider-Waite tarot deck.

After the research, I set about planning each card with rough sketches. I carried around a small sketch pad, and whenever an idea for a particular card came to me, I jotted it down. This proved to quicken my entire brainstorming process. I realized that I do my best thinking and sketching in the middle of a busy day, and not when I’m actually sitting in the studio. Of course, some cards were harder than others, and at times I found it difficult to create an image that could conjure different meanings and interpretations. I didn’t want to create images that were one-dimensional in meaning. I wanted to make sure each image could be interpreted in a variety of ways.

Tarot Sketches 1

Tarot Sketches 2

I spent many hours in the studio converting the rough sketches to fully realized illustrations. I used ink and watercolor on 4″x6″ bristol. After several months, I had finished 78 multi-colored pieces of art.

Tarot Cards

That was the fun part of the project. Like most artists, I always prefer the creation of the art over the end steps of making the art into a finished product. A 4″x6″ card is an unwieldy size and not very suitable for someone who actually wants to use the deck. Based upon most standard size decks, I went about trying to create a decorative border and design to accommodate the art I created. I created test backgrounds and prints to figure out the final look of the cards.

I had to make some final design choices that I had not intended on. For instance, I was going to keep my hand-lettering on the cards. However, after viewing a test print, I preferred to use a font alongside my artwork. I also had intended on a sepia background and border, but then decided on a greyscale background.

After a few test prints, I decided upon a final design. I saved them, printed them, and now I have self-published working decks. I made some decks available online for tarot enthusiasts and art collectors: http://woodsillustration.bigcartel.com/

Tarot Cards

Knight of Wands

9 of Swords

9 of Pentacles

As a whole, I consider the project complete. However, I have not yet decided on the future of the original tarot watercolors. For now, I have them safely stored in my studio until I can figure out a plan for them.

Dead Heads and Things I Like Right Now

So, this is definitely a departure from my last post about adorable kittens. What can I say? I am versatile. One day it’s all about kittens, the next day I’m drawing dead heads in my sketchbook.

So here’s a mashup of the small sketches I’ve made:

Dead Heads: W. Woods Illustration

It’s not really my fault. I am often inspired by the things that I read, and I’ve been on a horror kick for the past couple of weeks. I’ve been enjoying short stories by Stephen King and taking comic / graphic novel recommendations from my friends and fellow artists.

First, I was recommended the work of Junji Ito. Junji Ito is a horror manga artist, and a friend and graphic novel connoisseur suggested I read his three-volume work Uzumaki. I don’t read much manga, so I didn’t know what to expect. I bought the first volume just to try it out. Immediately after reading it, I was compelled to purchase the next two. I finished the three volumes quickly and then skimmed through them again, taking in the beauty and horror of Ito’s art.

The gist of the volumes (for those who haven’t read them already): a town is possessed by spirals. It sounds odd, and it is, but delightfully odd and utterly horrific. It definitely gave me chills and made sleeping more difficult after I put it down before bed.

An image from Junji Ito’s Uzumaki
Uzumaki

Next, I started reading some old comics from the 70s called Grimm’s Ghost Stories. Another friend of mine collects these as reference in his own art, so I borrowed a couple. These are all campy, short, and, well, kind of low-quality…and I really enjoyed them. I still get a kick out of horror cliches and these comics have them in abundance. It got me in the mood to think up my own horror comics.

One of the covers of Grimm’s Ghost Stories
Grimm's Ghost Stories

These are the things that are fueling some of my ideas and sketches, as well as just providing some needed entertainment. Read them…if you dare! MWAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Flash of lightening, clap of thunder