In 2016 my anthropological fieldwork took me to the rural highlands of Bosnia with the objective of researching and learning as much as I could about traditional female tattooing. I interviewed the elderly women who bear the last of these tattoos, the roots of which are embedded deep within a pre-Christian Illyrian past.
I collected not just symbols, but the stories and wisdom of strong and resilient women that had survived not one, but two wars.
All of this made me wonder; if I could talk to the women of the past, what would I learn? And if I could talk to the wise women of the past – those who were familiar with a wider world, those familiar with spirits and the invisible forces hiding within nature – then what would they tell me?
Women were given little space in historical record, and wise women even less, often being from marginalised fringes of society. My mind started to spin, and the idea for this book was born. Through the years I have learnt so much about history, folklore, beliefs and customs, and this seems like the perfect project to put that information to good use.
I wanted to meet these witches, to give them faces and voices. Weave their stories in the fabric of history.
A Compendium of Witches is the result of an ongoing project started in 2017.
The art book will feature watercolour portraits and stories of 29 witches from all across the world and in various carefully researched historical settings, ranging from the Palaeolithic to the present.
Please note, depending on the printing company I will decide to use, these specifics might be altered slightly (e.i. 171x248cm instead of 176x250cm, 170gsm silk paper instead of 150gsm)
The book will be filled with sketches, spot illustrations and notes that will delve deep into their worlds.
Curious about the writing? Excerpts from the book, including the complete introduction, are publicly available on my Patreon page!
The book will feature 29 portraits and stories. 4 pages full of art, stories, sketches and notes will be dedicated to each witch, totalling 130 pages. 14 of the portraits are already finished, with 15 more to come.
Here’s the complete list (you can view the images in a higher resolution by clicking on the image):
Please note that the book is not suitable for a young audience, as some of the images contain nudity (albeit very moderate, and not of sexual nature - i.e. Boneweaver). The stories can also reflect historical events that are in some cases violent (i.e. Baltic Crusades, witch trials).
Nataša grew up at the foot of the Italian Alps; here, amongst dense woodland, limestone mountains and opal streams, she developed an affinity for the natural world. Guided by her passions, she studied Archaeology in Padua and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Venice, where she graduated with honours with a thesis on traditional Balkan tattooing.
Following her studies, she moved to Scotland to pursue a career in art and illustration. Her work is heavily centred around mythology and inspired by dark corners of history and folklore. Symbolists, Pre-Raphaelite artists and Art Nouveau are some of her main sources of inspiration, as are Decadent literature, European polytheistic spiritualities and folktales.
Her work has been shortlisted for the Folio Society Book Illustration Competition 2017 and World Illustration Awards 2018, and has been published in books, magazines, role playing games, posters, and exhibited in various galleries including London House of Illustration and Somerset House. She lives in Edinburgh, with her partner, and a little jungle of plants.
• Rewards that include original art will be shipped with Tracked and Signed Service via Royal Mail, all other rewards will be shipped using their International Standard service.
• Local pickup: from around Edinburgh? Want to save on shipping and meet me for a chat? I will organise a small gathering once the book is printed, you can come along, collect the book and I'll refund your shipping cost :)
Click here to view the art prints and postcards in higher resolution.
Risks and challenges
The writing for the book has been completed, edited and is now being reviewed.
I've accepted a limited number of client jobs for the upcoming 5 months, keeping my schedule light enough to ensure that I will have time to focus on the remaining illustrations for the book. Half of the portraits are completed, which means I still need to paint the remaining half and a number of spot illustrations.
• The book:
I'll be printing the book here in the UK. I will request a proof from the printing company I will decide to use in order to make sure that the printing quality is spot on. After having put so much energy into this project, the quality of the book is my top priority.
In case of any changes you'll be promptly notified! That's the beauty of Kickstarter, it creates a direct communication between you and me. You'll be kept updated on the progress of the work, and if any difficulty arises I will let you know and do my best to find a solution.