At this stage, the drawing is linear and stark. The quality of the line is determined by the length of time it stays in the acid, the longer in the acid, the darker the line becomes. This whole process is described by professor Paul Coldwell. Drawing is central to the painter's work, being the way in which her works are born.
The Portuguese painter found her source of inspiration in fairy tales like Fantasia, Snow White and Pinocchio. And she made her pictures resemble the children's drawings. But as compared to the representation of beautiful figures, illustrating the good characters of the fairy tale, Paula Rego's characters are far from being described by the adjective "beautiful" in the sense we understand the meaning of the word "beauty".
Taking as example the painting entitled "Swallows the poisoned apple" we notice how different the Snow White we are shown here is from the image of the young and delicate charater of Grimm's fairy tale. It's definitely not a beautiful young girl what we see. On the contrary, the female character in the painting looks old and ugly. She doesn't appear as it would in a common drawing, lying artistically on the floor, but she is half on the floor, half on the sofa, in a position that conveys pain realistically. Although dressed like a princess, the background against which she is painted is a modern decorated room and not the fairy tale dwarves' house. There is a combination of myth and reality in this painting that makes us think of the combination myth-reality we find in our own lives. We thus, could see these paintings as symbolical representation of our own lives.
Represented in another painting, with a stag's head on her lap, Snow White doesn't look more beautiful than in the other painting described. The painting is called suggestively "Snow white playing with her father's trophies." Seated in an armchair, she has an indelicate and unaesthetic position, with her legs spread. Just like in the previously analyzed painting, Snow White looks older than she is supposed to be and her appearance is not as delicate as we are used to imagine it. There is no trace of happiness or at least serenity to be noticed on the face of the two Snow White figures. If in the previous painting, pain would appear as understandable, the character being shown in a critical situation, in the second the grief is not so explicable. Although traditional by subject, the fairy tales inspired drawings cannot be considered traditional. The way of treating them is startling and this makes their contemplation the source of mixed and confusing feelings. This kind of illustrating fairy tale images can be viewed as a sort of debunk. Myth is given certain realistic features and at the same time, reality is transformed.
Nursery Rhymes (from 1989) show a girl - although we could not really use the word girl for her as she looks aged and three strangely big and frightening mice. The painting looks at the same time funny and horrible. The exaggerated size of the mice as well as the way they look is scaring. Yet, there is something amusing in their behaviour, as they look like whimsical children. We notice a synthesis of opposites that the painter achieves in her paintings, be that a synthesis between comic and scaring, young and old, myth-reality or beautiful and ugly.
As frightening or at least confusing