A Rown-Tree, Witch!
I finally finished that big piece last week! It took an unusually long time because of the size and the amount of detail I put into the background and because I was making a point to be a little more thoughtful about planning and color selection. I was offered an opportunity to have some of my prints produced and up for sale on a site and I wanted to make something really over the top and brand new (exclusive! whatever...)
Anyway, here it is (ignore the light leak on the right side and definitely click to see it larger):
I was doing some sketching when I started this but couldn't land on an idea I was really excited about. I keep a little list of ideas, images and stories I think could turn into an illustration someday and I revisit it every so often to see if any of those ideas are appropriate for whatever project I'm working on. I had made a note to myself about how interesting this image was:
I found it in the "Mysteries of the Unknown: Witches and Witchcraft" with the caption:
"Satan directs his minions from a hollow tree in this 1591 woodcut of the North Berwick witches." I made a note of the fact that the devil was emerging from a hollow tree because it seemed unique to me and reminded me of some of the reading I did about forest demons while doing research for the Unclean Spirits show. Forest demons and tree spirits seem very common in the folklore of cultures all over the world. In reading you'll also see the association of forests and specific trees with the devil and witches as habitation and ritual sites, presumably a connection made during the rise of Christianity when all the trappings of the previous pagan religions were relegated to the supernatural and demonic world.
A lot of the Slavic folklore I read referred to spirits like the Leshii who interferes with humans in defense of the forest. Across many many cultures there are spirits that live in the trees themselves and live or die depending on the state of the tree, or will brutally avenge any harm done to it. German folklore seems particularly full of scary forest demons like the Bockmann and the Baumese as well as the Wild Hunstman. I like the idea of these spirits of place which have a sort of shared consciousness and are intimidating because...well forests are intimidating and were even more so when people couldn't hear the highway from them.
I think I drew the demon with european medieval images of demons in mind because I've always liked how bizarre and colorful they are. Here's a picture I took of a painting of one in the Cloisters in New York:
Sabbatic Goat and the Horned God without it looking directly like either of them and wanted it to be a composite of all the kinds of wildlife in a forest.
Anyway, if all goes as planned this piece along with a few others and another new design will be available to purchase through Shirts and Destroy in a few months. This is happy news because they are awesome and their products come out great and because I am fully aware that trying to deal with printing and selling prints on a person by person basis through email has been totally absurd and irritating for everyone involved. Up to this point I've really failed at making the things I make available for purchase online but hopefully that will change very soon!
In the course of working on this really labor intensive piece Mike and I watched countless movies and got particularly hung up on horror movie documentaries. Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship and Videotape was particularly good (and long!). We also picked through youtube and found the Fangoria produced "Scream Greats" series. Here's a link to the special on Tom Savini (Pittsburgh friends, I think this is the one that includes a lot of footage of him walking around Bloomfield) and one to a special about Witchcraft and Satanism (Wiccans with astounding NY/NJ accents). I also watched some old Satanic Panic videos. This British one "In Satan's Name" is particularly comprehensive (tons of "recovered memory" weirdness, also an interview with Boyd Rice if you're into that) and if you're into pointy eyebrowed Satanist hilarity (Gorgo, Mormo, thousand-faced moon!) please do watch Satanis: The Devil's Mass.
Leaving for Maine in the middle of the night tonight for a week of lurking in the fog by the ocean, taking hikes on the mushroom covered trails near my grandfather's house and sketching and hanging out and most importantly getting the fuck out of the garbage strewn sweltering pit that is South Philadelphia in August. See ya.