Creating Great Mother, Queen of the Faeries

by Catherine Restivo


I’ve loved to read fantasy since I was a young girl. Anything to do with magic or magical worlds fascinated me. Ray Bradbury was one of my absolute faves and I still re-read his books (The Illustrated Man & The Martian Chronicles – love!) As an adult my favorite books are written by Stephen King, Clive Barker and Anne Rice. I devoured the Harry Potter series, and wished I was a wizard going to Hogwarts, and I went bonkers visiting Universal Studios’ Harry Potter land… er, on my 50th birthday (OMG the butter beer tasted exactly as I had imagined!) Sorry, I digress – don’t get me started about Disney World.

I got the idea for the faeries when I took a photo of a mannequin and thought I could use it as the body for some imaginary being. Then I had to figure out what the different parts would be made of. I am a terrible illustrator, so I knew that drawing apps such as ProCreate wouldn’t work well for me. One of my favorite subjects to photograph is nature: flowers, bugs, trees, etc. and my camera roll is filled with this subject material. So I chose various bits that I would imagine a faerie would be made of: a dead moth, the tops of a cone flower, and variations of my beloved peony worked great as clothing. The lotus pods I shot at a botanical garden, and they just screamed *odd magical world* to me.

Apps used:

  • Image Blender
  • Juxtaposer
  • VividHDR
  • Mextures
  • Gelo
  • AltPhoto
  • Snapseed
  • Filterstorm

I’ve been thinking about creating a matriarchal faerie for quite awhile now, and I thank Bob Weil for asking me to contribute a tutorial and spurring me on to finally create it! 🙂

Step 1 – Preparing the background

I started out with a textured background that I’ve used on some of my other Faeries, and ran this through Gelo to add the yellow tint for a more vintage, aged feel.


faerie steps1

Step 2 – Adding elements to the body

I brought this into Juxtaposer and added the lotus pod (I have several faerie bits saved there as stamps, which makes life oh-so-easy when you are creating a series with similar components.) I also added my faerie body and the faerie head, sculpting the head a bit to narrow the face since she is a senior citizen.


Step 3 – Refining the body

Next came her hair… I took a photo (in my bathroom because there’s good light!) of one of my very dried and wilted Black Eyed Susans using VividHDR . . .


then brought this into Juxtaposer and erased all of the background and placed it atop her head.

faerie steps0


Step 4 – Adding the face and the dress

Since she is the Great Mother of faeries, I wanted her to have a more flowy, dramatic dress. I had an old photo of my dying peonies from last year . . .


and it has the perfect color tones and movement that I was looking for. I brought the piece into Image Blender and blended in her dress, and then used a wrinkled texture I had saved on my camera roll and blended that into her face to give her a nice, aged look.


Her head is still floating in mid-air, so, while still in Image Blender, I blended/sculpted part of the peony again to create a neck.


Step 5 – Adding the wings

Much as I really love the flowing scarf, she needed wings because she is, after all, a faerie. I couldn’t add the wings AND the scarf as the scarf covered most of the right wing and made her look lopsided. I brought her into Filterstorm and erased the scarf using the clone tool. Then came Juxtaposer where I added her wings which I had saved as a stamp.

faerie steps3


Step 6 – Adding texture and grunge

Next came one of my favorite apps, Repix, where I painted her wings to make them appear older and worn, using the Scratch, Stain and Vintage brushes, and then used my all-time fave brush, Undoer, to erase and tone down the grunge.

faerie steps2

Step 7 – Refining the texture, adding the frame, and adding the finishing touch

A run through Mextures added a small amount of texture to the overall piece to unite all the elements, and AltPhoto gave me the perfect rough-edged, vintage frame. As a last step, I like to run the piece through Snapseed and apply a little bit of the Structure tool (faerie09 FINAL.jpg).

faerie09 FINAL

I hope this tutorial was helpful, and I thank Bob and Nicki for this wonderful opportunity!

See more of Catherine’s amazing Faeries series here, in her Flickr set.

Bob Weil

Bob is the co-author of The Art of iPhone Photography (with Nicki Fitz-Gerald), published by Rocky Nook photography books and supports Nicki in managing iPhoneography Central and the associated Flickr group.


  1. Liz Traynor said:

    Oh I am so you did this as a tutorial. I was blown away by this image. It is spectacular!! I love how you have little bits and pieces saved as stamps on Juxtaposer to make faeries. I have learnt so much from this tutorial. Thank-you, thank-you Catherine. Just wonderful!

  2. Sara mccracken said:

    I have some tiny fairies hidden round my garden. You have inspired me to make some personal ones for myself and my nieces etc. I can’t wait to get time to try this. Thanks for such a wonderful tutorial!

  3. Janine Graf said:

    I really enjoyed reading this Cat! Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful . . .

  4. Anne Highfield said:

    What a lovely image and a generous tutorial. There is so much to learn here. Many thanks Catherine!

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