Art Journal: The Victorian Halloween Stage by Stage

For this artwork, I first sketched out the rough shapes onto a piece of A3 (poster-sized) paper with a light 2B pencil, and then gradually added the finer features with a graphic pencil. One of the first items to be detailed-in was the marionette stall.

I had put out a request online for suggestions and one person had asked for a “dancing skeleton”; this gave me the idea of a puppet.

I have a mini-desk and tiny stool set up beside me and my daughter sits there beside me in the early morning whilst I work, with her own little art set. I keep a sheet of laminate close by that I can pop over my work-in-progress so that she can point out features she likes.

One request was for a “spooky merry-go-round with skeletal horses” and for this I referred to a veterinary anatomy book – even though the horse is actually only a centimetre in size.

A special friend, who is fighting a very brave health battle, requested a little girl with Star Wars buns in her hair, accompanied by her pet dog. I gave the girl the central position in the whole piece.

One suggestion was for “spiders with hats.” The town’s tavern therefore found its name: The Hatted Spider.

I was asked to include a “wizard with a huge beard that gets everywhere!” This developed into a mischievous character who used his beard to steal both hot chestnuts and a toffee apple. Local children can be found using it as a skipping rope.

“A mother witch with her children, all on broomsticks” was another suggestion. I imaged that this would probably require reigns of some sort to keep the little ones from flying off. The witch family can be found in front of the milliner’s, the mother witch balancing groceries on the back of her broomstick.

If you peek in the top window of Dr M. Shelley’s, you might spot Dr Frankenstein tinkering about with some cables that he should really leave alone. Both the Book Depository and the Physician’s have “established” dates that match the dates on which the famous books were published. B. Stoker’s book shop is “Open From Dusk.”

Gradually, it begins to take shape.

Here is the haunted mansion on the lower right corner being drawn in:

The outline finished. Time to add colour.

I wanted to create a sense of the orange-yellow glow that always accompanies a fairground at night. I focused on the areas of bright light first; the carnival rides, street lamps and windows.

The little dog here belongs to a lovely friend who gave me a photo of their pet in a woolly Christmas jumper. The witchy fortune teller was another brilliant request.

Nearly there.

The Ent-like tree, with his arm around the letterbox is one of my favourite parts of the poster.

Mrs Hudson hails a cab for Sherlock from a first floor window.

After everything is complete, we scan them and my husband turns them into digital artworks for

I want to thank the 130+ friends who took part in creating this artwork, with cheery company and fantastic suggestions.

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