Behind the Scenes: Sketches from Our New Micro/Macro Issue

We get hundreds of email messages, postcards, and weird/wonderfully crafted packages every month from illustrators clamoring to be a part of this magazine. If you saw the stack of them that piles up occasionally, you might not believe that I actually look at each submission. But I do! And so when I choose the handful of artists to work with for each issue, I'm pretty attached to what we come up with together. As Bitch hits issue #59 with Micro/Macro, I thought I would shine a light on some of the “micro” behind-the-scenes thought that goes into the eye candy you see in our pages. This post features sketches from illustrator Adriana Vawdrey.

Photos of illustrations in magazine featuring nuns

Adriana is a former illustration student of mine from Pacific Northwest College of Art. Since graduation, she continued to push herself to explore ideas weekly in a visual journal and I've been following her thought process from afar via her excellent blog, “Make Lemonade”. In her “Train of Thought” entries, she starts with one concept and digs into whatever associations arise in rapid succession as she sketches. Her expressive style and nuanced take on complex personal issues of faith and personal identity made her a perfect choice for our article, “Dark Habits: American Horror Story: Asylum and the Gothic-Nun Tradition.” While one artist may have focused more on the secretive and salacious depictions of nuns, I wanted to highlight both the macabre and a sense of humanity.


sketches of nuns and a church in silhouette

Adriana writes:

It's interesting to me that when it comes to nuns, and really when it comes to organized religion as basic concept, we use the media to explore our fascination with a private religious lifestyle that is so foreign to most of us. Taking vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience is something most of us can't imagine doing, and so we are riveted by questions about whether or not these people can possibly stifle these 'carnal passions.' We dissect this 'mysterious' lifestyle, and personify it.
Rather than to get super-literal by using American Horror Story characters in this illustration, I want to rely very much on aesthetics to communicate a sense of antiquity, darkness, solitude, femininity, and perceived loneliness. I also want to hint at the fact that western media is pretty obviously entranced by the idea that nuns are secretly very sexual people, and more than that, they are just human with the same temptations and passions that we all have, but those urges are repressed and hidden, and often resurface in these stories as horrible attacks on other people. It's something that shows like American Horror Story like to grab their audiences with.
 sketches of nuns and silhouettes

I love how the round halo / aura around the figure functions like either a stained glass window or an xray through the nun's habit, highlighting her goodness but also containing and trapping her, entangling her with the roots. That circle motif repeats like a lens or a moon in the second illustration.

Adriana also sketched out some beautiful lettering, shown below, which we did not end up using in the final print edition.


image of church silhouetted in moonlight.

photo of trees and church illustration in magazine

You can read Adriana's profile on our site here, see more of her illustration portfolio (and buy prints of other work!) on her website, and follow her train of thought on her Make Lemonade blog.

Buy the issue here, in print or digital formats, to read the article.

Dark habits, in hand-lettered blackletter text

Stay tuned for future behind-the-scenes art posts, including and a bit about our cover for this issue.

by Kristin Rogers Brown
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Kristin Rogers Brown is a creative director, designer, and problem-solver. She was Bitch Media’s Art Director (2010-2018). When not designing, you can find her teaching illustration and design at PNCA or hoping to pet your dog. Follow her on twitter or instagram.

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