Ghostly wilis are stirring in the misty, moonlit forest…

In Act II of the ballet, Giselle, we meet the ghostly wilis who haunt the forest. A pale spirit dressed in white is rising from the grave. Is that Giselle?

Paige Cockerton (my gorgeous ballerina model) and I have been creating a series of 8 fine art prints telling the story of Paige’s favourite ballet. Giselle is the ballet Paige dreams of dancing when she’s a professional ballerina – so I’m helping her make that happen!

(If you missed the 4 pieces in Act I, you can see Giselle starting her day, how she tests the love of the man she’s in love with, when she’s crowned queen of the harvest, and what happens when she’s betrayed by her love).

All caught up? Great! Let’s continue with Act II.

The trees cast dark shadows in the moonlight. Mist swirls through the clearing in the forest. Beside a crude wooden cross, a pale spirit dressed in white rises from the grave. It is Giselle.

Around her drift the wilis like ghostly brides. Myrtha, their queen, stands before Giselle, cradling her magic wand of myrtle branches.

“Join us,” she commands.

Giselle glides forward, her feet barely touching the ground.

My sketches of Giselle's story from the ballet
My sketches of Giselle’s story from the ballet

This is Paige dancing Giselle #5

Around her drift the wilis by Ailene Cuthbertson. Photograph (2017) 30 cm x 30 cm
Around her drift the wilis by Ailene Cuthbertson. Photograph (2017) 30 cm x 30 cm

When Paige and I first chatted about the series, one of the images she had in her head was Giselle, newly awakened as a wilis, standing gracefully en pointe and looking serenely down to one side. So here she is! In fact, Paige choreographed every beautiful pose for this piece. Doesn’t she make beautiful ghosts?

Behind the scenes

The pieces in Act II all take place in the misty, moonlit forest. Considering we took the photos in bright, summer sunlight, there is definitely some digital magic going on.

Raw photograph of Paige dancing Giselle at the Hamilton Gardens. Not very ghostly or moonlit!
Raw photograph of Paige dancing Giselle at the Hamilton Gardens. Not very ghostly or moonlit!

The whole image is covered in dark textures and layers, and then I essentially “painted” back in the moonlight gleaming on their skin and dresses. Along with having to add on those ghostly tree branches to the tops of all the trees, and pop in the moon peeking out, this piece was the most technically challenging so far!

Editing "Around her drift the wilis". Photo by Julie Maree of <a href="http://juliemaree.nz">Julie Maree Photography</a>.
Editing “Around her drift the wilis”. Photo by Julie Maree of Julie Maree Photography.

I get to play with actual paint too. Even though my work is digital, I love to create a painterly, otherworldly feeling. I overlay every piece with a painted background to add subtle texture. And besides, playing with paint is fun!

Playing with paint! Photo by Julie Maree of <a href="http://juliemaree.nz">Julie Maree Photography</a>.
Playing with paint! Photo by Julie Maree of Julie Maree Photography.

Next time…

What will Giselle do now she is a ghostly wilis? Remember the wilis are fond of catching men in the forest and dancing them to death. Will Giselle take revenge on Albrecht?

First print of the edition! Each print is 12" x 12" and inkjet printed on fine art paper (giclée). I've picked beautiful frames for them, but you can also order an unframed print if you wish.
First print of the edition! Each print is 12″ x 12″ and inkjet printed on fine art paper (giclée). I’ve picked beautiful frames for them, but you can also order an unframed print if you wish.

Keep on shining bright,

Ailene