One of my favorite stories is the Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving. For years, I have wanted to create images based on the beautiful descriptions penned by Irving. This year, I finally was able to capture my two favorite characters in the peek of autumn. Let me quickly introduce you to my two models for this project. I feel that I need to post a regular portrait of each because both guys were kind enough to let me exaggerate their features or decapitate them all together, and they really are both too dashing to deserve such treatment. I am glad, however, that they were willing to help me bring Ichabod and the Headless Horseman to life. Thanks to both of them! They spent a considerable amount of time working with me on this. I love the characters in this book, and maybe someday I will come back to it and explore more of them.
For the rest of my blog I will let Washington Irving quotes show you what inspired me with these images…
“The cognomen of Crane was not inapplicable to his person. He was tall, but exceedingly lank, with narrow shoulders, long arms and legs, hands that dangled a mile out of his sleeves, feet that might have served for shovels, and his whole frame most loosely hung together. His head was small, and flat at top, with huge ears, large green glassy eyes, and a long snipe nose, so that it looked like a weather-cock, perched upon his spindle neck, to tell which way the wind blew. To see him striding along the profile of a hill on a windy day, with his clothes bagging and fluttering about him one might have mistaken him for the genius of famine descending upon the earth, or some scarecrow eloped from a cornfield.”
“thus going the rounds of the neighborhood, with all his worldly effects tied up in a cotton handkerchief.”
“The school-house stood in a rather lonely but pleasant situation just at the foot of a woody hill, with a brook running close by, and a formidable birch tree growing at one end of it.”
“As the enraptured Ichabod fancied all this, and as he rolled his great green eyes over the fat meadow-lands, the rich fields of wheat, of rye, of buckwheat, and Indian corn, and the orchards burthened with ruddy fruit,”
“On all sides he beheld vast store of apples; some hanging in oppressive opulence on the trees”
“He was a kind and thankful creature, whose heart dilated in proportion as his skin was filled with good cheer; and whose spirits rose with eating as some men’s do with drink. He could not help, too, rolling his large eyes round him as he ate, and chuckling with the possibility that he might one day be lord of all this scene of almost unimaginable luxury and splendor.”
“He was, moreover, esteemed by the women as a man of great erudition, for he had read several books quite through…
“…and was a perfect master of Cotton Mather’s history of New England Witchcraft, in which, by the way, he most firmly and potently believed.”
“His appetite for the marvelous, and his powers of digesting it, were equally extraordinary; and both had been increased by his residence in this spellbound region. No tale was too gross or monstrous for his capacious swallow.”
“Another of his sources of fearful pleasure was, to pass long winter evenings with the old Dutch wives, as they sat spinning by the fire, with a row of apples roasting and spluttering along the hearth, and listen to their marvellous tales of ghosts and goblins, and haunted fields, and haunted brooks, and haunted bridges, and haunted houses, and particularly of the headless horseman, or galloping Hessian of the Hollow, as they sometimes called him. ”
“But if there was a pleasure in all this, … it was dearly purchased by the terrors of his subsequent walk homewards. What fearful shapes and shadows beset his path amidst the dim and ghastly glare of a snowy night!”
“How often did he shrink with curdling awe at the sound of his own steps on the frosty crust beneath his feet; and dread to look over his shoulder, lest he should behold some uncouth being tramping close behind him!”
“Local tales and superstitions thrive best in these sheltered long-settled retreats…”
“It was the very witching time of night that Ichabod, heavy-hearted and crest-fallen, pursued his travel homewards, along the sides of the lofty hills which rise above Tarry Town, and which he had traversed so cheerily in the afternoon. The hour was dismal as himself.”
“Over a deep black part of the stream, not far from the church, was formerly thrown a wooden bridge; the road that led to it, and the bridge itself, were thickly shaded by overhanging trees, which cast a gloom about it, even in the daytime; but occasioned a fearful darkness at night. This was one of the favorite haunts of the headless horseman; and the place where he was most frequently encountered.”
“The dominant spirit, however, that haunts this enchanted region, and seems to be commander-in-chief of all the powers of the air, is the apparition of a figure on horseback without a head.”
“It is said by some to be the ghost of a Hessian trooper, whose head had been carried away by a cannon-ball, in some nameless battle during the revolutionary war; and who is ever and anon seen by the country folk hurrying along in the gloom of night, as if on the wings of the wind.”
“Just then he saw the goblin rising in his stirrups, and in the very act of hurling his head at him.”
I am probably not finished perfecting any of these, but projects like this never feel perfect enough when I am working on them. This was definitely a tricky project. I especially wrestled with the edit where I decided to play with a bit of an optical illusion with the trees- I wanted to see my horseman without spacial boundaries. I am not sure that I am comfortable with that, but I didn’t want to wimp out on posting it. Even as I post this, I already see things I want to retry, but its time had come. If you have never read the original work, I encourage it. I read it every fall.
If you love this story too, leave a comment! I hope this added some magic to the end of your autumn.