Sometimes I don’t actually illustrate a particular character in a particular folktale, but either take inspiration from the essence of the tale, or wander down a completely different path. This was such a case.
When working out the composition for The Witch’s Daughter, I couldn’t decide between a portrait, or a full-body composition. I ended up choosing to depict the entire pose – I felt it was very important in order to convey the situation the girl found herself in – flung to the ground, awaiting her unfair fate.
The idea of a portrait however, nagged at my mind. I didn’t want this to be “The Witch’s Daughter #2”, but I struggled to find a suitable folk-tale to slot her into. The closest I came was a witch who traded specifically in eyes, and had a little shop set up in town. When a poor florist finds a blinded girl weeping by the road he takes her home, and goes to the witch to buy a pair of eyes for the girl.
Imagery of blind girls, milky eyes and witches began to meld together in my imagination. Once I finished painting her I felt she needed something a little more –she wasn’t eerie enough. I thought of the most horrible thing I could – moths. Not scary enough yet. Dead moths. Perfect.
In the end I don’t think she turned out so horrible and eerie anyway – which I am glad about. I prefer to show the proud and human side of the “ghastly” characters in traditional folktales, the ones you are supposed to recoil from in revulsion simply because they are different from the “common folk”. I also wanted to show that the ugly old blind woman was once young, able to see what you and I cannot.