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Art with Erika

the journey of an artist – painting life with purpose

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“A Witchy Afternoon – 13 Lucky Friends” – July 8, 2020

This painting was the largest most time consuming piece I have ever worked on, mostly because it was a big experimental learning process for me. I took many short videos while drawing the little details, which can be found on the highlights section of my Instagram (right under my bio HERE)

My original inspiration came from the crows, my favorite birds, who caw and fly around my apartment on the daily. I love them so much, and wanted to create a happy scene with books, tea, and animals. I also wanted to challenge myself to create a complex fairy tale environment filled with small elements and whimsical characters. Most of all, I wanted to play with dramatic light and shadows.

First sketches of "A Witchy Afternoon - 13 Lucky Friends" - created in Photoshop using a basic round brush. By Erika Robertson, Art With Erika.
First sketches of “A Witchy Afternoon – 13 Lucky Friends” – Digital Painting

The entire painting is created in Photoshop, using only a basic round brush on a blank canvas. I will post a video of a walk-through of this painting from sketch, to color, to shading and highlights, and final touches later this week. It will be available on my Instagram and Facebook pages. But for now, I will be pointing out the small intricate details and all of the “Easter eggs” in final painting!

First off, all of the characters have names…

13 lucky friends name chart - art with erika digital painting closeups of characters.
“Nice to meet you!” – Meet the crew from “A Witchy Afternoon” – each one of the 13 friends have names and a story

Let’s start from the top:

Boo-Booo: named for any and all little spiders that make their way into my apartment. All of their names are Boo-Booo. THIS Boo-Booo loves plants.

Poe: a playful crow whose best friend is Niko the cat. They like to play hide and seek.

Allen: a snarky teasing fellow who is the most outgoing of the three crows. He likes to laugh at the cats when he is just out of their reach. What a teaser!

Edgar: the oldest of the three crows, and a most serious and educated creature. He loves to look over Eliza’s shoulder and read along with her.

Pluto: named for the famous revenge-seeking black cat in Edgar Allen Poe’s short story. You can’t tell, but Pluto also has one eye. They to hide in the curtains.

Edward: an upright and pompous cat who pretty much wants nothing to do with anyone unless its on his terms. He secretly enjoys unwelcome hugs from Eliza, though he would never openly admit it.

Binx: he loves to tease the crows and run around. Named for the boy-turned-cat in Hocus Pocus, Thackery Binx.

Sesame: this is probably my favorite cat of the bunch. Sesame loves to rub its face on Eliza’s foot. You can almost see a little drool coming out of its mouth. I love black sesame seeds in ice cream and Japanese desserts! YUM!

Nori: this sleepy kitty is up all night and snuggles up in the shadows all day. She has a bad habit of keeping everyone else up during the night. MEOOOOW! Named for the delicious dried toasty seaweed, used in Japanese cuisine. YUM YUM!

Twinkie: a super sweet loaf of a cat. He likes to bask in the strong afternoon sunshine.

Periwinkle: a trouble-maker to the extreme! She likes to mess around with the lace and curtains. Eliza has almost given up on trying to stop her at this point, but the china must be saved!

Niko: a friendly and happy cat who loves to play hide and seek with Poe the Crow. Sometimes you can find him curled up and taking an afternoon nap in the cauldron.

Eliza: a tea-loving, book worm of a witch. Her great-grandmother’s enchanted silver moon earrings are her favorite pieces of jewelry, and she is rarely seen without them on.

Closeup of Eliza the Witch inspired by Kiki's Delivery Service. Art With Erika Digital Painting.
Colors and design inspired by Kiki the witch – Reference photo

Eliza was the last element that I drew. I didn’t know how I wanted to design her until everything else came together. The first sketches looked so much like the profile of my mom, and I didn’t want to steer too far away from her complexion, because it made me happy that she showed up so conveniently. (Hi mom!)

I started with lighter skin, brown eyes, black hair, and lace sleeves. A dark purple jumper with silver buttons seemed instinctively fitting. Silver is a witch-preferred metal used for its connection to the moon. When I was done drawing the outfit the colors reminded me of the title character from Hayao Miyazaki’s film “Kiki’s Delivery Service”. How ironic! Kiki is a cute little witch! All that I needed to do was add a little red bow to Eliza’s hair to make the look complete. In the movie, dark purple is a traditional color that is worn by witches. I think it’s fun how my subconscious lead me here.

Royal Albert Old Country Roses tea set closeup of painting by Art With Erika
Royal Albert Old Country Roses Tea Set – Reference Photo

The tea set on the table is one of the more traditional designs from the Royal Albert Collection, called Old Country Roses. If you are a tea-goer it is likely you have come across this pattern much more than once. All I want to do is eat the goodies on the tiered stand. Traditional afternoon tea happens around four o’clock in between lunch and dinner. It is meant as a pick me up as dinner is eaten much later in the evening in many European countries. A pot of tea is accompanied by finger sandwiches, scones with cream and preserves, and dessert. YUM YUM YUM!

Closeup details of "A Witchy Afternoon" painting - reference photo by Art With Erika
A tiny green bag from a past life – Me as Johanna in “Sweeney Todd” 2010 – Reference Photo

There is an unassuming green coin pouch hanging on the coat tree, decorated with stars, moons and glittery designs. I had received this green velvet pouch as a gift when I was little, and started to use it as my wallet around 14 years old (because Harry Potter characters did the same! haha!) I brought it with me when my family vacationed in the UK that summer, and filled it with English coins from my adventure. It sat in my room for a long time, until 2010 when I was cast as Johanna in Sweeney Todd at Sunnyvale Community Theater. It was the single most influential experience I had on stage, and I walked away having made the most beloved family and friends. This was the last time I used the little green pouch, but it was a symbol of things that were near and dear to me. It was surrounded by a lot of happiness.

Reference photo and close up of a painting by Erika Robertson Art With Erika
Hello, mom! – Reference Photo

I struggled trying to come up with things to put in the picture frame. Initially, I had frames on the wall as well, but those were replaced with a hanging plant in the final painting. I’m happy for that choice. But, I like to add little meaningful details in as many places as possible, so I decided to use my mom’s photo for the frame on the little table. I miss her so much. She passed away in August 2018, and in October of 2019, we had her Celebration of life Service in Maine. This is the picture we used for her service. It was one of her favorites, taken when she was in cosmetology school. I love you mom! ❤

Closeup details of "a witchy afternoon" by Erika Robertson, digital painting, bookshelves with witch books.
Closeup of the bookshelves for “A Witchy Afternoon – 13 Lucky Friends”

The bookshelves hold so much detail and information and I am excited to break this down with you. That being said, I am going to close out this blog post right now and leave you with the remainder of the images that break down the shelves one by one. With the exception of Eliza’s red book, EVERY SINGLE BOOK is a real book that is either about witches, for witches, or has witches/wizards in them. I have referenced and written out the titles for the most relevant and available fiction books. Most of the others are reference books for witchcraft practices (non-fiction). Maybe you’ll be able to add some of these to your reading list!

And, if you are interested in purchasing a signed art print of “A Witchy Afternoon – 13 Lucky Friends” I am offering a limited edition batch right now in my store. (Original Print/First print has been sold) I have printed a few copies so far, and the print looks FANTASTIC and even better than on the phone or a computer. The printer I use captures every little detail and is printed on a 13 by 19 inch sheet of archival paper. It is made to fit a standard 12 by 18 inch matte opening, so that you can frame it easily.

If you aren’t already, please follow me on Instagram and Facebook, and stay tuned for some exciting new artwork coming soon!

Thank you and stay healthy and safe everyone!

Practical Magic, Good Omens, and Lives of the Mayfair Witches
Practical Magic, Good Omens, and Lives of the Mayfair Witches
Witch's Bible, The Penguin Book of Witches, The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, A Wrinkle in Time, and The Brooklyn Brujas Series
Witch’s Bible, The Penguin Book of Witches, The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, A Wrinkle in Time, and The Brooklyn Brujas Series
The Wiccan Prayer Book, Celtic Magic, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Bone Witch Collection, Witches of East End Collection, and The Witch of Blackbird Pond
The Wiccan Prayer Book, Celtic Magic, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Bone Witch Collection, Witches of East End Collection, and The Witch of Blackbird Pond
Harry Potter Series, Akata Witch Collection, Lord of the Rings, and The Hobbit
Harry Potter Series, Akata Witch Collection, Lord of the Rings, and The Hobbit
The Crucible, The Witches of New York, The Witches of Eastwick, The Wizard of Oz Collection, The Wicked Years Collection
The Crucible, The Witches of New York, The Witches of Eastwick, The Wizard of Oz Collection, The Wicked Years Collection
All Souls Trilogy, Witch Child Collection, The Witch's Daughter Collection, and The Witch's Trinity
All Souls Trilogy, Witch Child Collection, The Witch’s Daughter Collection, and The Witch’s Trinity
Afternoon Tea Witch inspired illustration, digital painting with themes of black cats, crows, tea, and books. A Witchy Afternoon - 13 Lucky Friends by Erika Robertson with Art With Erika.
“A Witchy Afternoon – 13 Lucky Friends” – Digital Painting 2020 – 13 by 19 inches

“The Codependency Dance” – November 15, 2017

Note: Narcissists and the codependents can be any gender. In a majority of cases narcissists are men who seek female codependent counterparts. For the sake of this article the narcissist will be referred to as “he” and the codependent will be referred to as “she”.  These labels are not intended to be limiting.

The world of psychology uses “the codependency dance” to describe the intimate relationship between two very broken, dysfunctional, opposing, but balanced people:  the fixer and the people-pleaser (the codependent), and the controller and taker (the narcissist) The destructive behaviors that each one has formed throughout their childhoods and into their adult lives seem to complement each other perfectly. The two of them mesh together in a seductive and dysfunctional dance where the codependent individual will give up her power and the narcissist will thrive on that control and power so that no one’s toes get stepped on.

The Dancers

Codependent individuals are enamored with the needs and desires of other people. They were groomed in their childhood to be servants and later in life they find themselves on a dance floor where they are attracted to people who are a perfect pairing for their submissive dancing style. They are natural followers, and most of them find narcissists extremely appealing because of their charm, confidence, boldness, and dominant personality.

The perfect dancing partner for a narcissist is someone who lacks self-worth, confidence, and self-esteem. A narcissist looks for a dancing partner who he can manipulate, so that he can control the dance. He looks for someone who has a warped sense of reality and codependent people fit this role perfectly.  Individuals who have grown up knowing who they are, who are confident in their capabilities, and who are strong-willed (or normally-willed) rarely stay with the narcissist long-term, because they are able to see the red flags of the narcissist’s selfish personality early on.  (ie: they don’t put up with crap, like gaslighting).

Codependent people confuse caretaking and sacrifice with true love and loyalty. They are dedicated to their partners but feel used, which makes them bitter later on.  Her hunt for love is ultimately an unconscious motivation to find someone who is “familiar”. (Familiar isn’t always good)  It stems from childhood trauma and the lack of healthy love, respect, and being cared for by adults.  She fears being alone and her compulsion to control and fix things at any cost motivates her. She is comfortable in her role as a martyr who is endlessly loving, devoted, and patient.  She dreams of dancing with somebody who loves her unconditionally.  She believes that she must sacrifice herself in order to obtain this love because it is the only way that she has ever known how to express love.

Codependency dance - RBG - square - low res 2

First Dance, Honeymoon, and Return Home

In her eyes, at first sight, the narcissist is the embodiment of Prince Charming. He woos her and caters to her every whim, makes her feel like she is the center of the universe, pours out excessive expressions of love (love bombing), and he does his best to figure out what it is she likes and what she is looking for in a mate so that he can wear that mask for her, in the beginning. 

The honeymoon phase of the relationship lasts anywhere from a handful of weeks to about six months (but for more experienced narcissists, they could keep up the act for years) and after this threshold is approached the good graces of the narcissist start to dwindle swiftly. Complements and catering to his new love have been replaced with gaslighting and correcting, and she takes the criticism because she believes that he loves her and that he knows what’s best for her. If she argues with him, he will convince her that she is wrong, and because of her weak self-esteem and trust in him, she will slowly start to adopt his mindset and become the image that he wants her to be. She holds on, hoping for things to get better, and hoping for things to go back to the way that they were before; she hopes that after a period of time her partner will finally start to understand her real needs instead of critiquing her over and over again. She doesn’t know that he doesn’t have the ability to truly empathize with people. She has been trained to withstand the pain, and to power through, like she did when she was growing up. Her whole dysfunctional life has led her up to this dysfunctional relationship and she executes it beautifully.

In a sense, the narcissist is never completely whole without a partner to dote over his every need. As she is compulsively corrected by him, she starts to become a memory of herself for the sake of him, their relationship, and for her own survival. Any deviation from his plan is met with aggression and sometimes violence. His partner, always seeking the love that he had given her at the start, is forever confused. She doesn’t know what is false or what is true anymore. She will believe cunning lies that come from his lips, because he is a master gaslighter who is able to whip up verbally abusive concoctions that cause her to believe that she ‘needs to be corrected’.  The narcissist will isolate her, and start to cut her off from the rest of the world, including her own friends and family. She will become completely dependent upon him for every need, and she clings to him for safety.

Her gauge of reality is so warped that she wouldn’t even know what to do without him because she has completely lost herself and her ability to make decisions without his direction. She doesn’t want to make him angry by moving in any direction other than what he has designated for her. She will adopt the image of the type of woman he is attracted to, she will eat like him, she will absorb his political and religious beliefs, she will consult him on what she should wear, how she should talk, what job she should take, what she should and shouldn’t approve of, what friends she should have, what family members she can’t be around, how she should be in the bedroom, and how their home should look. She becomes a tool for him to use, so that he can create an environment for which he can impress people, not an environment where she will feel comfortable.

 

Codependency dance - RBG - square - low res 1

The Breakup

Narcissists are rarely faithful to their partners. If the relationship does not end with the narcissist cheating on her, and leaving her, it usually ends when she starts to discover her real self, and when she starts to find her own independence.  He needs to be with somebody who obeys him at all times.  Unfortunately most codependent people are deep into a dysfunctional relationship when their eyes start to open. She fell in love with an image all those years ago, but that image that he presented to her was not a real person. During a break up, and throughout her relationship with him, she mourns the loss of this image. She confuses the image with the abusive person.  The breakup will be a vicious battle between the functioning, healthy, and newfound realizations of her personality and the manipulation and tyranny of the narcissist. When a breakup finally happens, the narcissist will never provide closure and draws out the breakup as much as possible.  Stalking is not uncommon, and could continue for many years down the road.  Most narcissists like to keep tabs on their former partners.

Codependent individuals desire balance and harmony, but they typically fall for people based on initial attraction, and unfortunately this initial attraction is most prominent with narcissists because of their charm and boldness. If she finds herself without a partner to dance with, she doesn’t wait for somebody who is healthy, but she jumps into another dance, usually with the same type of person. Loneliness is too much for her to bear. She will continue dating the same type of person over and over again, and endure the same kind of abuse, until she realizes that she is a broken person and that she needs to fix herself. Until she learns that she is the root of all of her own problems, that she is the one who chooses abusive partners because of her own brokenness, and until she heals herself, she will keep on dancing the same dysfunctional dance.  The cycle continues until it is broken (and it usually continues for decades, through generations of family members).

His Crap and My Choice

This codependent woman was me.  As I said before, I grew up in an extremely abusive home, and the adults in my family did a fantastic job at raising me to be an excellent codependent woman.  They taught me the turns, the dips, and the footwork, so that when I became a young adult and ventured into the dating world, I would know how to dance with narcissists.  I would be lying if I said that I never enjoyed the thrill of each one of them in the beginning.  Each one was a ‘love-bombing’ prince and I was a lonely princess.

Not all of the men that I have dated have been narcissistic. I have dated a number of young men who have been absolutely pleasant, wonderful, and kind.  They were people who I took for granted because of my own brokenness.  I didn’t know how to love with proper boundaries and I still feel guilty for the pain that I had caused.  For that, I am sorry.

As for the three who were narcissistic, I don’t feel guilt except for the damage I did to myself.  I can’t feel guilty for men who had knowingly abused me and “debated with me” about the justifications for their actions.  I have been manipulated, I have been brainwashed, I have been made to feel like the scum of the earth, I have been the punching bag for their failings, I have been hit, I have been sexually assaulted, I have been verbally abused, and I have been mentally abused.

Sometimes, people are dealt crappy cards.  Crappy things happen to awesome people.  No one can control everything that happens to them, but, each of us has control over HOW WE REACT to the crap that is thrown at our feet.  We can either choose to step in it, or we can choose to walk away. 

Two years ago, a familiar pile of abusive crap was thrown at my feet.  I was tired of the same dysfunctional patterns, but I didn’t know why they were happening to me.  I was angry with my unhappiness and empty romantic relationships.  I confided in my friends who turned around and told me that I was my own problem.  THAT made me angry, but they were right.  I realized that I had dated a string of abusive people, but that I was also in control of my own narrative, and that because I was in control that it was my fault for making the choice to step in the crap in the first place.

So, I took a good, long, glaring look at that smelly, steaming piece of rancid crap at my feet.  Then I mustered up the courage to look up into his proud ‘know-it-all’ face.  And for the first time in my life, I made the choice to walk away from the abuse.

The first step to recovery is realizing that there is a problem…

But, breaking up with a narcissist is not something that you just do, either…

Codependency dance - RBG - high res
“The Codependency Dance” – 2017 – Digital Sketch – Photoshop – Erika Robertson

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