the witch files

My project-file for Hansel & Gretel is growing fatter by the day. (Like Hansel in his cage!) Yesterday I mixed several paint combinations that may or may not be the colours I’ll use throughout the book. I need to experiment before deciding. In order to try them out I’m making a trial of one of the double-page fold-outs that will give a panorama format to some of the images. This is just a detail of it.

Here are some of the development sketches for the spread.

The witch in my recent Hansel & Gretel project for Random Spectacular looked like this…


… but after that, I made further images, which brought her to this…


… from which I reinvented her yet again for another project.

Right now I’m at a stage of thinking which brings together a combination of the two. I like the tight linen cap, which links her to an earlier, medieval tradition of witches, and the glaucoma-like eye. She’s blind… or nearly so… and the pale, bloomed orb will be lovely to draw and paint. But to make up for poor vision she has a fantastic sense of smell, and I have a trick up my illustrator’s sleeve to add a chilling aspect to her appearance that will account for her olfactory sensitivity. The pointy witch’s nose, sharp as a blade, is artificial, and when she really wants to get a whiff, she pulls it aside to reveal that she has no nose at all, just a skull-like cavity for sucking in the scent of children!


11 thoughts on “the witch files

  1. My favourite illustrated book of Hansel and Gretel is by Susanne Janssen, which is in German. She works with the version of the story wherein Hansel and Gretel are twins, and this theme of identical twin unity is strong throughout the book.

    Hansel and Gretel by Susanne Janssen

  2. Just to say this project of yours seems great. I hope the show gets filmed, so that people from all over the world can assist, even if it not the same as a live show.

    This past winter, I took my grandchildren to a beautiful Hansel and Gretel puppet show. It was the opera, with the Humperdinck music, but with puppets instead of live singers. My grandchildren loved the show, and afterwards they went to visit the puppets, calling the witch ¡ MALA !, and feeling very brave. (They are almost four years old.) The company is called La Tartana. And, just in case you are interested in looking at some of the photos of their version of Hansel and Gretel, you can find some HERE.

    • Hello Maria.

      This is not to be a stage production, but a book. And moreover, not a book for children… unless they’re very brave… but an ‘art’ book. It’s been a long-term ambition of mine to make a really beautiful illustrated fairy tale, dark and a little mad, and this is to be it.

      Thank you for the link to the puppet show. It looks wonderfully imaginative.

  3. It’s clear how much you’re enjoying this project Clive! I love all your witch manifestations, but that last image is the darkest of them all, medieval and mechanical. Never has a handbag been wielded so demonically

    • I am excited about this Phil. I love the art of books, especially the European traditions. And as this one is to be almost a picture book (there will be a text, but a spare one), I can get really creative in the way I make the images serve the narrative.

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