The Púca

detail of illustration of the irish puca pooka spirit ghost fairy of rural ireland

A book cover style illustration about the rural Irish folktale mythological character, the Púca. (Graphite pencil on paper, and Digital)

colour illustration of the irish puca pooka spirit ghost fairy of rural ireland
Above: The finished full-colour version. c.A3 size

A shape-shifting, Irish folk-tale spirit, ghost or fairy. Usually seen as a black—but sometimes white—stallion, but transforms into other animals or ‘Goblins.’ Usually wicked or mischievous, occasionally helpful, less occasionally even referred to as a vampire! And you know, I actually grew up near a place called Poulaphouca on the County Wicklow/Kildare border. The original Irish name, Poll an Phúca, means the ‘Hole of the Fairies.’ I imagined that it lived, like a troll, under one of the 2 the big bridges beside the entrance to Poulaphouca House. It’s a type of character that also appears around Britain, and may be related to the horned, cloven-hoofed character Puck in Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night Dream.

colour illustration of the irish puca pooka spirit ghost fairy of rural ireland
Above: The finished full-colour version. c.A3 size

While making this, I also had in the back of my mind, the following recollection: my in-laws sitting watching TV one night in their farmhouse, in the middle of the pitch black County Meath countryside. The curtains were open, and suddenly two horns appeared—framed by the window—outside against the darkness. Like the cover of a Dennis Wheatley novel  What a shock! Thankfully, it soon revealed itself to be a goat that had wandered into the garden. Yeah, a goat. Of course. That’s what it was. Rrrrrrright…

pencil illustration of the irish puca pooka spirit ghost fairy of rural ireland
Above: The pencil version, pre-digital stage. c.A3 size

Progress/Process Images

As always, I sketched some thumbnails, and even tried colouring them digitally to get an idea of whether this was going to work or not. I then did a larger sketch, and moved onto the full-size pencil image. Having tried to do something other than a front-on, symmetrical composition, I found that what I came up with looked disorderly and a bit silly. Sure the Púca is supposed to be mischievous but I didn’t want him to look cartoony, goofy or whacky! So I reverted to a simple composition—which was much better and led to the final piece.

pencil sketch of the irish puca pooka spirit ghost fairy of rural ireland
Above: Thumbnail sketch using a more symmetrical front-on composition
puca sketch rough try-out
Above: Trying a bit of colour on the thumbnail sketch
pencil sketch of the irish puca pooka spirit ghost fairy of rural ireland
Above: A larger sketch, very slightly side-on. Note the more human hand on the left.
pencil illustration of the irish puca pooka spirit ghost fairy of rural ireland
Above: The first, silly full size pencil version. Abandoned thankfully! Again, note the human/goblin hand on the left, and crucifix on the right.
puca pooka
Above: I prefer the sepia version. I like the cool blue moonlight too, but you can’t have both!

Final Piece

colour illustration of the irish puca pooka spirit ghost fairy of rural ireland
Above: The finished full-colour version. c.A3 size

Illustrator: John White
Drawing: pencil (and ink) on paper
Colouring: Photoshop

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