I always begin the brainstorming for each month by examining the origin of each month’s name. February was named for the Roman festival of purification called Februa. Digging deeper into February revealed even more interesting symbolism with Brigid (both a goddess and a saint) and the martyred Saint Valentine, the namesake of Valentine’s day.
I like to jot down my notes and thoughts, along with symbolism in a list that helps my subconscious start absorbing and processing the imagery before I move on to making thumbnails. I also start a mood board on Pinterest, which is a great place for visual meditation on a topic.
Once I’ve identified the imagery that resonates with me the most, I begin thumbnailing, usually in pencil with ink and white color pencil on toned paper so I can get a basic idea of my value structure and composition from the start. For February, I was very drawn to the imagery of Brigid, especially of the sacred wells and blessing ties (or clootie) that are left around her sites. I also feel that Cupid’s arrow is a strong symbol for this month, but I didn’t want to get too overdone as far as Valentine’s imagery goes.
I’ve also filled the background with what will be beeswax candles, which are often utilized in blessings for Candlemas and Imbolc during February. I’ve pictured February with a candle crown similar to Lady of December with the intent to mirror her symbolism, while also harkening back to the flame of Brigid. While Lady of December ushers in Winter, the Lady of January closes the door of Winter and welcomes Spring. I also like the idea that while Lady of December’s crown was metal, January’s will be blooming with flowers.
We’ll see what sticks as this image develops, however! It’s a very intuitive process when you’re working with such abstract concepts and themes.
The poses that stand out the most for me were 1, 3, and 5, but I still couldn’t make up my mind! To help me out, I take the stock photos I’ve been referencing and, with a bit of photobashing, lay them all out next to one another to see how the poses look on the actual template of the window shapes I’ve already defined.
This time, 2 seems the strongest and fits the space well, though she bears a resemblance to January’s pose that might be too strong. I like how assertive this pose feels, while the others like 1 and 4 are more shy and submissive, while 3 is pensive and playful.
While I ponder on making up my mind about what pose to go with, I at least know that a good majority of the window design will be shown behind the figure instead of covered up (like it was in January with the veil, where I had to make sure the flower designs in the window were on the sides so that they were viewable).
Designing a window starts out very rough. I lay in where I want the main foci of the design to be, remembering to keep in mind the shapes of the flowers, like Violets, which bloom in tight bunches with round leaves. I sketch knotwork and design elements loosely, rotating as needed until it hits all the sweet spots.
Window #1 hit the right sweet spots, but then the celtic knotwork clashed with the weaving motif I’d been working with based on saint Brigid’s cross. The 2nd design feels more consistent with the interlocking star shape that echoes the woven design. I’ve also arranged the secondary circle of flowers in a way that I feel utilizes the space better.
Next: Creating narrative design elements and composition!