The Forgotten Room

Illustration of a haunted corner of an abandoned old house.

Every so often I'll use an assignment that my students are working on as a starting point for a drawing of my own. I give my advanced digital studio students a project where they have to choose one prop from my prop collection and one genre from a long list I provide. The props are a hodgepodge of costumes, weird instruments, anatomical models, toy animals, and other strange things I've collected, and they can pair them with genres like steampunk, low fantasy, Lovecraftian Horror, silent film, and many others. Basically each kid chooses one prop and one genre and then creates a character or scene that marries the two of them.
I usually pick from the leftovers, and this year my prop was a small pile of red maple leaves and my genre was "haunted." 
Thanks to my student Erica for posing for reference photos. She nailed the intensely-creepy-but-totally-normal facial expression I was hoping for.
I really struggled with finding a place for my prop, but putting just one in her hand provided a nice splash of color. 
I wanted to make the general vibe unsettling without just covering everything in gore like I usually do. I was totally at a loss for ideas in my classroom one day after school when an idea hit me: ants. I actually shouted that word across the nearly empty room without providing any context for anyone who was listening. Thankfully the lone student working late had a good sense of humor.
I wanted wallpaper that looked old and faded, but not so decrepit that it was completely falling off the walls. Just a tiny bit of peeling and some marks left by old frames felt just right.
My model happened to wear two different socks that day. Mismatched socks are so much more interesting than something more ordinary, like a pair of boring shoes.
Outline mode. Yes, there is a figure buried under all of that woodgrain and damask wallpaper.

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