SKETCH DIARY: Lady of April

My journey continues this month with Lady of April!  Lady of March broke through creative boundaries with her unique imagery and presentation.  That once again made the pressure high for Lady of April! I had to work through art block with this piece, but in the end, powering my way through equaled something grand!

Brainstorming:

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My research began initially with some overlap with Easter, since Easter is a movable feast that can take place in March or April.  I initially thought I’d make March and April inverted twins of sorts, but I moved away from this idea by the end, though you’ll notice both Ladies still stand in water, representing renewal.

Over the course of my research, I discovered the festival of Demeter which is a famous April celebration.  Women dressed in white take torches into the dark of night, representing Demeter searching for her daughter, Persephone, the goddess of Spring.

I also noticed many cultures in the northern hemisphere take this time of year to honor trees with arbor festivals.  In the end, the imagery of fire, light, and the growth of trees that came up during research helped April to emerge in her final form.

You’ll notice in some of the thumbnails pictured below, I represented Easter by including rabbits, symbols of fertility and light bringers, though I eventually moved away from this imagery in favor of focusing on the Lady holding a tree, evoking her as a giver of life and promoter of growth.  In the end, I preferred this unique imagery over repeating Easter’s themes.

 

Reference Gathering:
A mood board helps organize my muse’s random visions into something I can translate into my painting.

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A peek at a small section of Lady of April’s secret board on Pinterest.

Thumbnailing:
Moving on to thumbnailing, I used a light table to trace a printed grid onto my toned paper.  Unlike March, many more of April’s poses came straight out of my imagination, since I couldn’t find the expression I wanted.  I wanted something flowing and inhuman which was difficult to find in model stock photos.

Out of these initial poses, I was drawn to 4 and 5 because they echoed the cropping of March and her symbolism while focusing on the Lady’s relationship with the life force of trees, since I decided by this point that I no longer wanted to include the rabbits as a symbol.  The link to Lady of March was made more subtle at this point.

 

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Composition Mockups:
However, I still wasn’t satisfied with the poses I had come up with during thumbnailing so I continued to explore with more detailed studies.  At this point, I also showed the first two sketches here to a private critique group which helped me arrive at my favorite pose on the right.

While the first pose was very dynamic and unique, I felt like the pose of 3 was more gentle and nurturing and combined what I like about the dynamism of the 1st pose and the gentleness of the 2nd.

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Gathering Reference:

Creating the anatomy for Lady of April was a bit more challenging since I chose to work with a pose straight out of my imagination.  Usually, I would take the time to set up a photo shoot, but time was already running short on me due to being slowed down by initial art block.  I also really loved the energy of the pose in the sketch and I wanted to try and preserve it.

When working from the imagination, I use a mannequinization process suggested by Stan Prokopenko, where you break down the form into simplified shapes and use cues from plane shifts to define bony landmarks and bring volume and form to an imaginary pose.

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Designing the Window:

I use the template I created as a base for sketching the window designs.  These sketches are usually very sloppy and are more about discovering how I want the flower motifs to occupy the space of the window.

I also have to keep in mind how much of the window is showing in the painting to make sure it isn’t too distracting and helps fill up the space behind the Lady in interesting ways.

I ended up with the final design because I liked the way the rays radiated from the center, which were evocative of her themes of light and growth. These rays also provided an area I could paint darker in order to set off the Lady’s pale hair while creating a symbolic halo around her head.

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Designing the Fashion:

For Lady of April, I once again favored a Grecian goddess look.  Instead of a head garland which I’ve used to tie in the flowers for the previous Ladies, I liked the idea of Lady of April being more natural and having her flowers tangled or braided into her hair.

As ever, Pinterest is always my first step when brainstorming for fashion (or anything else)!

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A lot of Lady of April’s midsection was covered, save for the bottom, so I had to make sure the bottom of the corset was detailed and visually interesting.

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Color Testing:

Lady of April’s color scheme was extremely challenging!  I usually let the color of the birthstone define what the major elements of a color scheme for a Lady be, but what do you do when your birthstone can have all colors in it?  Diamonds are famous for being brilliant rainbow gemstones, so anything was game!

I decided to keep my color scheme on the cooler end with accents of warmer colors in her hair, the daisies, and the window that shine against a dark background to emphasize her symbolism as a light bringer (and to push the figure forwards).

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In the end, I decided to go with the 4th theme because it was more subdued and I liked the shape that leaving the window flowers created by being against a paler color.  I also liked that having less dark values in the window meant that our eyes would be drawn to the heavy dark areas in the rest of the piece and flow down through along the twisting tree, rather than being overwhelmed by so many dark values spread evenly across the piece. 

Details from the finished piece!

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You can see the final piece here and watch a process video on YouTube:

For more in-depth instruction on how I created an image similar to this one, including step by step narration from start to finish and a tools and materials list, upgrade your pledge to the Premier Patron level on my Patreon to gain access to the premium video tutorial OR purchase the premium video individually at my Gumroad shop or on DeviantART with devpoints!

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