My journey continues with Lady of November! I’ve been looking forward to this Lady for quite some time, being a November birthday, myself! She’s a very special Lady who challenged me more than any of the others had before with the ambitious ideas I wanted to implement.
November, November! I’ve been looking forward to this month for a while, not only because it is my own birth month, but because it represents my favorite time of year – Autumn and a time of spooks and spirits! I decided to skip ahead in this series so that I might be able to finish some of the later Ladies by the time I reached the end of this year. But never fear, the other Ladies of the summertime will be explored come next year!
Lady of November’s mood board on Pinterest.
November is named for Novem, meaning the 9th according to the Romans. This month used to be the 9th month of the year before other months were added to the calendar. November in particular carries a personal meaning for me. Growing up, I was always the first child rearing to dress up for Halloween. I’ve been a vampire, a cat, a genie, and so many other creatures brought to life by the sewing skills of my mother, who was just as excited to make a costume as I was to prance around in it.
The Puerto Rican side of my family is also Catholic and even though I wasn’t raised with a strict religious upbringing, the imagery permeates my subconscious (much as I’m sure Mary and goddess imagery have seeped into this series at every turn). As I grew up and learned about the true nature of Allhallowtide (October 31st to November 2nd), I started my own tradition of commemorating my loved ones who have passed with candles and offerings. For me, it is a liminal time where I believe they can hear my thoughts and know that they are loved and remembered.
Needless to say, it is this liminal time between the physical world and the spirit world that represents the main imagery I’ll be pulling from for Lady of November. In particular, the strongest imagery that came to mind when planning for this Lady are the monarch butterflies of Mexico. Every year, these particular monarch butterflies make a long journey to Mexico where they stay over winter. Their arrival coincides with the Day of the Dead festivities, where the locals believe that the butterflies represent the returning souls of deceased loved ones.
Other interesting imagery permeates this month, much of it dominated by the Day of the Dead, the origins of which link back prior to Mexico’s Catholic conversion to the Lady of the Dead, Mictecacihuatl, a goddess of the underworld who was celebrated by pre-Christian Aztecs and who presided over the festivities of the dead. I also can’t help but think of the more modern representation of La Muerte with her marigolds and candles from the movie The Book of Life, who presides over the land of the remembered dead.
It seems no matter where you are in the northern hemisphere during this time, the dead are remembered with candles, bonfires, and soul cakes, as there are countless recipes for the cakes from around the world.
Unlike some of the other Ladies, the concept for November was coming in loud and clear from the beginning. I created this exploratory sketch to try and encapsulate that strong feeling I was getting for Lady of November’s concept. I knew I wanted the Lady to be in a graveyard filled with candles awaiting the return of the monarchs, representing the souls of the dead, who she guides on their journey to return to their loved ones. She and the candles act like beacons for the spirits’ return.
With all of this amazing imagery in my head, I ended up with these 4 thumbnails describing various aspects of the idea. Thumbnail 1 is my favorite and closest to my original sketch. This thumbnail represents a kind, gentle Lady awaiting her charges, while 2 speaks more of a strong figure of guidance and also has a saintly presence (though perhaps too close in pose to Lady of March?). 3 seems to get across the aspect of waiting the most with her hand gesture. 4 is very dynamic, but perhaps loses some emotion and atmosphere.
The next phase of Lady of November involves creating her look and specific details. As always, Pinterest provides a good place to gather references. I drew upon Victorian mourning fashion, the Mexican death goddess I mentioned last entry, and many lacy long veils, as the veil was a key component I knew I wanted to include. The veil stood out in my mind because it symbolizes her connection to death and mourning, but also represents her role as one who stands at the veil between life and death.
Drawing on these influences, I set to sketching in my trusty croquis sketchbook with my grey pen set. I ended up with a final look reminiscent to a veiled fortune teller, which goes well with her concept of being a spirit guide. I hope to include more of the chrysanthemum flower in the pattern of her lace and sashes in the final art to bring in more of her visual motifs.
Next, I arranged reference images based on my rough sketches to get a solid image to work from. This helps create a base with physical elements to work from to help my imagination in filling in some of the physics and details. It’s easy to tell when an artist made up something that they know nothing about from scratch.
With the Lady’s compilation figured out, the Window design was next! A good portion of the window design was showing this time. Even though this usually means I can go crazy with the design, the already complex detail of the Lady’s lace veil and numerous butterflies meant I wanted to keep the design simple and monochromatic.
I tried something different this time and used an app for the iPad called Amaziograph for creating mirrored elements more quickly than my usual Photoshop method.
I went through a few color tests using the Hue slider in Photoshop on the various elements. This was a particularly challenging piece because I needed to convey the golden orange of the topaz birthstone, but also set the scene at night to match her Day of the Dead theme.
This meant that the dress ended up being the element to carry most of the topaz palette, which equaled a tricky balance between other golden elements like her veil and the butterflies. I knew I wanted the butterflies to be the most saturated element in this composition as well to emphasize their ephemeral nature.
The Final Image
Here we are at the finished piece! Created at 10×20 inches on Arches watercolor hot press paper with M Graham Watercolor paints.
Want more art? Check out videos about each painting at my YouTube channel!
View the finished painting here.
[Time Lapse Video Coming Soon!]
For more in-depth instruction on how I created a painting similar to this one, purchase the Lady of February premium video individually at my Gumroad shop or on DeviantART with devpoints! You can also Pledge on Patreon for access to all of my Premium Tutorials!