EDITOR’S NOTE: For this Sunday’s Washington Post Magazine, staff artist/designer Mark Giaimo created artworks to illustrate the 7 Kinds of Halloween Characters You Meet at your door — or might well dress up as yourself. Because Comic Riffs likes to offer behind-the-scenes looks at the artistic process, we asked Giaimo to illuminate how he worked on this assignment. Here are his insights.


by Mark Giaimo

I was asked whether I would be interested in illustrating Beth Chang’s witty Halloween vignettes. I had only about three weeks to do them, but it looked like a fun challenge.

That weekend, I bribed my brother-in-law to allow his adorable kids and wife to model for me by promising them they’d get to keep the costumes. Being young, frazzled parents — not unlike the vignette I was illustrating — he readily agreed. I took a lot of liberties with their features. Translation: I’m getting rocks instead of candy this year.

My niece could only manage to sit still for two shots with the head of Olaf, but that’s all I needed.

I took selfies to exaggerate certain expressions. I do this a lot, as I’m a lot cheaper and convenient than a professional model.

In the evening, I went out with my camera and stealthily shot some houses, hoping I didn’t get busted by cops who might mistake me for a burglar casing the neighborhood. (It rained and yes, it made my photo even blurrier.)

I took the photos and assembled master drawings. Deadline for all seven was mere days away. (My wife slid food under the door while I locked myself away in my studio.)

The drawings were approved — always a good thing! Time to paint. Fortunately, I had a week and a half to complete them.

Here’s a quick sequence of how it develops. I transferred the drawing to canvas, inked the lines, varnished it so they wouldn’t erase when I start painting in oil. Then I went to work. Each small painting took about four hours. The big one took at least 10 hours — I lost track.

I finished the painting. I found a nice moonlight shot online and put that in.

Then I crawled under my easel. And I slept.