Monday, October 11, 2010

Carmilla, the Lady Vampyre

In 1872 Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu penned the short novel, Carmilla about a female vampire that predated Bram Stoker's Dracula by twenty years or more. The story contains the majority of the vampire lore save that Carmilla would shape shift into a large black cat, not a wolf or bat as Dracula but she did spend her repose in a coffin.

Carmilla hunted primarily female victims and occasionally would emotionally bond with a few, and her real name was Countess Mircalla Karnstein, Carmilla being an anagram for Mircalla. Carmilla has influenced several films, one, And to Die of Pleasure, being the English translation of the French movie Et Mourir de Plaisir, by Roger Vadim in 1960, also known as Blood and Roses, which explored the lesbian undertones of the story. Other movies such as Let's Scare Jessica to Death in the '70s were heavily influenced by Carmilla.

Carmilla recently inspired me to do this sketch. I was walking into the local convenience store on the corner one afternoon and as I entered this tall, dignified woman was entering. I could guess from her complexion that she was of Indian nationality, though whether Creek, Cherokee or what I would be hesitant to guess. What struck me about her was not only her penetrating dark eyed gaze, but her inner sense of regal nobility. She had fine narrow cast features and long silky straight hair tied back and her face haunted me on the way to work.

I couldn't help but think of the novella Carmilla, So I combined the face of that encounter with my fancies about the story of Carmilla and came up with this sketch which I will be turning into a digital painting. It is 2B pencil on bristol with a vellum finish. To my surprise I had forgotten about her shape shifting into a black cat, so the cat is a happy accident. I find I have many of those in my work, perhaps it is my subconscious kicking in overdrive. But in the next week or so I will be working on digitally painting Carmilla.

Thought I would also share what I did for the Halloween Project at work. Below are photos of the endeavor. Now this project was simply for fun, it is actually acrylic painting on cardboard that was coated with black spray paint. I enjoyed doing it and it got me out of my regular duties. =)


  1. wow...beautiful...are you going to offer this as a print on DA? hope so!!! (cool story, too...had not heard of this vampire)

  2. If the digital painting goes well it definitely will show up as a print on Deviant and Cafepress too. Though I have to rework and add things to Cafepress sometime this month. I haven't paid much attention to that site and it shows.

    About Carmillia, I read it once very long ago and in my youth thought it a tad heavy, I need to go back and read it again. It is a very important piece of Gothic Literature that recently seems to be forgotten.

    Also, glad you like the piece and thanks =)