Drawing Mab

By far the coolest part of my story “Mab Ipswich: the Wickedest Witch” getting published in the November issue of Underneath the Juniper Tree was the illustrations that came with it.

When UTJT accepted the story, they said they were going to get someone to illustrate it. I was thrilled, but also a little anxious. It’s nerve-wracking to hand a story over to people for them to read or edit, but it’s even more nerve-wracking to hand over a story and have someone make their own art out of it. As you might imagine, Mab is a character near and dear to my dark little heart, all the more so now that she’s gotten me a publishing credit, and I worried the artist would get her “wrong,” though I didn’t really know what that might mean, other than Mab not looking as I imagined her.

Mostly, though, I was excited to see Mab illustrated, since my own artistic skills withered long ago and the best I could do now to draw Mab would be a stick figure with a witch hat.

The first illustration of Mab ended up coming out before the story itself. Drawn by the artist Elizabeth Rose Stanton, it was posted on UTJT’s Facebook page as a teaser for the November issue.

copyright 2011 Elizabeth Rose Stanton

I instantly loved this portrait of Mab. The details are great: the big witch hat with the monogrammed “M,” the orange eyes, the little skull dangling from the tip of the hat and the spider on her shoulder. It doesn’t quite match my own image of Mab, but the mischievious, almost defiant grin perfectly captures the spirit of the character. And the toothy hat is awesome!

The illustration that appeared with the story in the November issue was done by the artist Stacey Byer and shows the climax of the story, when Mab’s teacher Mrs. Johnson makes Mab take her witch hat off and the hat lets loose a deafening scream.

copyright 2011 Stacey Byer

Byer’s Mab is more menacing and scary, and that fits well with how dynamic the painting is. I love the color contrasts and the colorful scream issuing from the hat. It’s also fun to see Mrs. Johnson pictured and I love that it includes the little detail of the evil eye necklace she wears. Like Elizabeth, Byer gives the hat’s screaming a great physicality by giving it teeth and a tongue, which is a vast improvement over my simple simile in the story (I wish I’d thought of it).

Stacey Byer also did a couple of other illustrations for the story that she posted on her blog. One is the very first picture of Mab’s hometown, the City of Wyrm! It shows the contrast between “quiet, leafy” Apple Street where Mrs. Johnson lives and the “dark houses” of the witch families on Black Cauldron Lane.

copyright 2011 Stacey Byer

And then there’s poor Mr. Patrick, Mab’s first grade teacher and first victim, who still hasn’t recovered his eyebrows after the day “they sprouted legs, jumped off his face, and scurried out the window.” I really like how the eyebrows are hiding behind a pile of books, holding hands, and grinning. Also, Mr. Patrick’s Dali-esque mustache. The man clearly has a complicated relationship with his facial hair.

copyright 2011 Stacey Byer

I’m thrilled that not only did Mab get illustrated, but that we got four awesome illustrations out of one story, from two very talented artists, and that we got not only two versions of Mab and her toothy hat, but also Mrs. Johnson, Mr. Patrick, and a glimpse of Wyrm itself.

A second Mab story entitled “Mab Ipswich and the Stinking Storm” will appear in the December issue of Underneath the Juniper Tree and I’m excited to see what UTJT’s artists will come up with next, especially since this story features the debut of Mab’s partner-in-crime, Beatrice. Be sure to check it out on December 1st!

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3 Comments

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  1. “The man clearly has a complicated relationship with his facial hair.” ha.

    i’m curious… i know seeing new pictures of jackie sometimes makes me reevaluate her. does seeing how the other people have interpreted mab change your picture of her at all?

  2. Yeah, definitely. I think Elizabeth Rose Stanton’s portrait of Mab, in particular, has influenced how I picture her. Especially that wicked grin.

  3. awesome work! luved the story very much!

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