The Evolution of a Witch

From first sketches, to the final dummy-copy of the book.

The Witch begins as a design for a glove-puppet. The image of her (above right) is a collage.

From the beginning she’s shortsighted and has eyes on her garments, the latter borrowed from a portrait of Queen Elizabeth I wearing a gown embroidered with eyes and ears. (I see all, I hear all.)

In 2012, for a notional German ‘Alphabet Primer’ (don’t ask!) she becomes quite grandmotherly, her steeple-hat swopped for a headscarf and always carrying a handbag. (Mrs Thatcher!)

In 2013 she’s carrying it still when she becomes a design on an enamel plate. (And yes, there is a complete Hansel & Gretel set, including a chocolate-pot and mugs with gingerbread men. Only one set, I fear, for use in my kitchen.)


 I’m invited by Simon Lewin to make images for his magazine, Random Spectacular No 2. Simon tints each of the images a different colour, and I think the results work beautifully. The magazine is published in 2014.

After the publication of the magazine, Simon suggests that together we make a picture-book of Hansel & Gretel under the Random Spectacular imprint. When I begin work on the project, I return to the original idea of a witch in a steeple-hat over a tight-fitting linen cap.

The first drawings for the book are of her flying…

… and the eyes on her garment, are back in play.

The idea evolves that she should have a prosthetic nose.

I make a single, worked-up drawing, to give an impression of how the illustrations might appear. The plan has always been to render the final images in colour, but this sample drawing is made in black on white. In the image the Witch hurtles through a storm of Liquorice Allsorts, Lovehearts, liquorice ‘shoelaces’ and other traditional confectionary.

The compositional images are initially roughed out on a small scale. Above is a double-page spread, with the right-hand third of the image made as a flap that opens to reveal the next stage of the action. Now the Witch pursues the children from left to right, which is a reversal of the versions of the scene to date.

A detail of the image from the finished, made-to-scale dummy-book, which is the non-colour version produced to show the publisher the layout before the finished artworks for the illustrations are made.

Before work begins on the dummy-copy, I construct two maquettes of the Witch. One is a full figure, and the other a head and shoulders made expressly to work out the details of what’s under the prosthetic nose.

Neither are intended to be final versions of the Witch, but are used to help in the process of making compositions for the book.

I’ve always loved the ‘horror’ genre, and the moment where the Witch shows her ‘secret self’, is a reveal in the ‘Lon Chaney’ tradition!

You won’t see what’s under the prosthetic nose until the book comes out, but here’s caged Hansel’s response to it!

Hansel & Gretel is due out from Random Spectacular next year.

13 thoughts on “The Evolution of a Witch

  1. I collect Witches and yours is wonderfully wicked Clive! I have several editions of Hansel and Gretel so I shall definitely be buying a copy when it is published next year , I’m so delighted to have been introduced to your work by Mark! Good luck in your new Hansel and Gretel!

  2. Pingback: Er, I wouldn’t go down there if I were you…. | hedgecrows

  3. You do enjoy teasing us Mr Hicks-Jenkins! The expression on poor Hansel’s face, on seeing the Witch in all her ghastly glory, brings to mind the famous line from Aunt Ada Doom in Stella Gibbons’ Cold Comfort Farm: “I saw something nasty in the woodshed.” Will the poor boy ever recover I ask myself?! Do we really want to see what he is seeing?!!

  4. Great to see the various incarnations of the witch together in one post; I love them all, but I sooo love the full-blown horror of the latest, ghastliest evolution of the creature, she’s pure wickedness! Beautiful drawings, wonderfully imagined, it’s looking knockout Clive.

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