Tag: Ladies of the Months Series

SKETCH DIARY: Lady of May

Here we are finally at the merry month of May with the Ladies of the Months series!  So many of my closest friends and loved ones are May babies, I knew that this month needed to be extra special!

Lady of May’s Mood Board

Lady of May Moodboard
Lady of May’s Mood Board on Pinterest.

Inspiration & Research

As ever, brainstorming begins with research.  I start by looking into the meaning and namesake of the month of May.  May is purportedly named for the Greek goddess Maia, meaning ‘the midwife’, with the month also the time the Romans venerated Bona Dea,”The Good Goddess”.  I focused my research on cultures of the northern hemisphere, as they tend to celebrate similar seasons.  For this series, I’ve focused much on the themes of the shifting beauty of nature, which reflects itself in countless ways in the way that people celebrate holidays around the year.

May Day, Beltane, and the May Queen traditions (among others) all informed the thematic image for Lady of May that was growing in my mind.  The month of May conveys the start of Summer, blooming flowers, the celebration of youth, and the height of our abundant life before the harvest and the cold of winter begin to creep in.

In the end, I envisioned the Lady of May as a dancing, joyful young woman crowned with flowers, the May Queen who celebrates the height of summer.

Lady-of-May-Thumbnails-lowres

Fashion Design

So far, this particular Lady has gone even smoother than any of the past Ladies!  The ideas have come together rather quickly and I’m excited to move forward.  With my theme of a dancer chosen, I began by exploring different kinds of dancers in my reference hunt on Pinterest.

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Lady of May’s fashion mood board on Pinterest.

For Lady of May, the imagery from the season that resonated with me from my research was the May queen’s crown of flowers and her connection with dancing, youth, and joy.  My reference hunt led me to beautiful recreations of Slavic flower crowns and the dancers of the Bharatanatyam tradition.  The wardrobe of the dancers and the idea that a dancer becomes an instrument for the expression of spirit resonated with my concept for Lady of May, who is in and of herself, an embodiment of the spirit of the month.  The fresh flowers crowning the hair of Indian brides also made it onto my mood board as another lovely example of the tradition of crowning women with flowers for symbolic and sacred purposes.

While Lady of May is inspired by all of these themes, I still wanted her to represent a wholly unique interpretation that doesn’t tie specifically to any particular culture, as all of the Ladies in the series are meant to represent their own unique embodiments of spirit.  As such, Lady of May’s fashion sketches combined inspiration from both Indian and Japanese dancers.

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Lady of May’s Fashion Plates. Drawn on a pre-printed croquis sketchbook.

With each Lady, I try to tie their birth flower into their wardrobe.  Notice the Lily of the Valley imprint on her belts and the Hawthorn in her ponytail and sash.  The design on the trim of the dress on the right is indicative of the red berries that both Lily of the Valley and Hawthorn have.  Fun Flower Fact: The Lily of the Valley’s berries are quite poisonous while the Hawthorn flower’s berries can actually be used to treat a number of ailments!

Window Design Elements

Next, it was time to design the window!  I went a little overboard with detail on this design because I wanted to emulate the intricate designs of Indian mandalas, while bringing an Art Nouveau flair with the Hawthorn and Lily of the Valley motifs.

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Left: First Sketch. Middle: Alternate design. Right: Final design.

The first sketch I made for the design was too simplistic while the next one was too detailed because of the layers of borders.  In the end, the final design was a balance between the two.

References, Composition, & Color Test

With the window design and fashion of Lady of May figured out, it was time to bring it all together into a single drawing!  I created a collage of reference photos to help give me a more grounded guideline to use for the line art.  This collage includes things like bits of scarves, flowers, hair, jewelry, all cobbled together to make something vaguely similar to the final look I’m going for.  From this collage, I create a line art base that I carefully tweak to match my own imaginary elements.

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As for the composition, The Lady’s wardrobe elements, window, and foreground flowers are so complex that I decided to go with a very simple background that implies the trailing ribbons of the Maypole tradition.  These ribbons also help reinforce the flow of her pose.  There are some tangents I still need to fix in the line art (the way her left foot and left side of her skirt touch the background flowers), but I can fix those when I transfer the lines to paper.  For now, the next step is a color test!

Making the choice for what colors to use for these paintings has been one of the most challenging tasks for creating this series.  If the colors are off, she might not represent her birthstone well.  Lady of May needs to represent Emerald, but also too much green in this composition will make it flat and uninteresting, while not providing good focus and flow for a viewer.  I did quick color flats in Photoshop to test out different options before I put paint to paper.  It’d be far too easy to mess this up by skipping this step!

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Well, this didn’t help me out much because I love all of these choices!  2 and 4 are my favorite options because I like the clear silhouette of each one.  The contrast between the dress and the sari in 2 is lovely, but is there enough green in this to represent Emerald?  The contrast between the sari and dress in 4 is also nice, but is there too much green now?  Ah choices!

The Final Painting

In the end, I chose the 2nd color scheme, but with a cool grey background to make the warm colors pop with contrast.

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View Lady of May’s  completed painting and mask set 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!
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!

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:

lady-of-april---notes
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. Read more

Lady of March Set

The Lady of March bears Daffodils and dons the stone of Aquamarine.  The Daffodils represent chivalry and unrequited love. The Aquamarine will bring her foresight, courage, and happiness.

She ushers in a time of resurrection, renewal, and the bursting forth of new life.

Without further ado, here’s the final version of Lady of March from my Ladies of the Months series!  Created with watercolors, sepia ink, and metallic liquid leaf on illustration board.

lady-of-march-lowres

 

The Lady and her matching mask:

Lady-of-the-Months-Montage-MARCH

 

ORIGINAL ART: Available on Etsy.
ORIGINAL MASK: Available on Etsy.
OPEN EDITION PRINTS: Available on Etsy.
LIMITED EDITION PRINTS:  Available only via Patreon. Read here for details.
COLORING PAGES: Available via Etsy and Gumroad.

BEHIND THE SCENES:

Sketch Diary for the Painting
Design Diary for the Mask

PROCESS VIDEOS:

Creating the painting:

Crafting the mask:

For more about this series, see the Ladies of the Months dedicated site!

Sketch Diary: Lady of March Part 3

Last time, I talked about designing the narrative elements.  Now, I’m excited to start pulling everything together into a cohesive piece!  Working in Photoshop CC and using a Cintiq 21UX, I use a composite created from my reference photos as a basis for a rough line drawing.  Sometimes, it’s impossible to find the perfect pose and that’s where Photoshop can be really handy.

I’ve used the body from the photos I took, the head from another photo whose facial angle I really liked, and other reference photos (not pictured) to help me change the look and features of the model.  One of my intents for this series is that it should encompass all forms of beauty, including diverse women from different ethnicities.  I don’t want every Lady to look like me, since I’m primarily the model (a fact I hope to change once I can afford more models).

lady-of-march---composite-lowres

I also wanted to share this screenshot of the reference I used to draw the skeletal reflection from Proko’s Skelly app for Apple and Android.  It’s fairly easy to use and arrange with poses you can save.  I’ll definitely be using it more for study!

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With my line art figured out, I can finally move on to testing out a basic color palette for Lady of March.  I know I want a theme indicative of Easter, so I’m mainly drawn to gold, yellow, and blue.  The first thing I do with any of the paintings in this series is to make sure the birthstone is represented also through the color palette as well. Luckily, the greenish blue hue of Aquamarine suits my concept for this piece rather well!  This color takes up the majority of the background and influences the rest as well.  The only other element I’m sure about at this point is that I want the eggs to be the bright blue of robin’s eggs, which always make me think of Spring.

I use the Hue/Saturation slider in Photoshop on each element to see what color choices might surprise me.  I explore different options, including a dark dress or a light veil.  The 1st image is perhaps too monochromatic in the clothing so that the corset stands out too much.  The contrast between the dress and veil in 2 works well while the bodice also brings out the beige of the trees from the background so there’s more color circulation throughout the piece.  The 3rd and 4th images both have a nice clear silhouette that’s intriguing, but starts to get away from my liking of stronger blues and yellows in this piece.  I should also note that I try to keep the yellows subdued throughout this piece, except for the flowers, which are the strongest focal elements.

lady-of-march---color-test-lowres
Finally, I arrived at a color palette I consider to be the best of all worlds!  The dark veil allows a strong silhouette for the figure while the pale corset and pale blue dress work well together, leaving the eggs and flowers as the most saturated symbolic elements in the piece.
lady-of-march---color-final-lowres
This has been your final sneak peek before I unveil the final painting! You can see the unveiled piece here.

Watch a time lapse of the painting:


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Part 1 – Conceptualization
Part 2 – Narrative Elements
Part 3 – Preliminary Drawing

Sketch Diary: Lady of March Part 2

I had a general idea of the symbolism while I was sketching thumbnails in the last Sketch Diary.  Now, I get to tie it all together into something more tangible than scribbles!  My fear with this piece is that I wanted to cram too in with the nest, eggs, branches, veiled woman, reflection in the water, etc.  The key and main focus of this composition, however, needed to be first the Lady.  I was onto something with the poses I previously compiled, but they weren’t where I wanted them to be yet for this image, so I took the time out to do a photo shoot to capture the subtle pose that I wanted.

Specifically, I didn’t like the flatness of the hands in my mockup.  They weren’t as expressive as they could be in the original pose (and you’ll probably see me say this a lot while searching for the right pose for a Nouveau piece).  The hands needed to be more gestural and graceful, which meant much of the photo shoot was spent trying out different hand motions and head tilts.  The body is the most important narrative element in Art Nouveau pieces, since a stiff figure can make an image feel posed and disconnected rather than flowing and lively.

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Plus an outtake for fun taken during hand gesture practice.
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In the end, my final decision was a mix of the head tilt of the original pose plus the open hands of one of the poses I took.  The head tilt evokes a sense of meditation and harkens back to portraits of saints in contemplation, which very much suits this Lady and her spiritual themes of rejuvenation, resurrection, and baptism.  The upturned hands also speak of a deep breath, meditation, and more of a connection with the water and energy around her.

I also worked on the window design at this point, since I had a general idea of how much of it would be covered.  A lot of the window was going to be revealed this time, which meant I could work on a design that covered more of the area of the window rather than focusing on accents in the outer boundaries that would need to peek out from behind the figure.  I used a template of a circle I made for the previous Ladies and divided it up into sections to help make plotting out symmetrical elements easier.  Once I had a small section of the design done, I copy and flip it to create the rest.

Notice my designs start out with really rough shapes first to give me an idea of how the space is used rather than jumping right into the detail of the flowers.  Since I’m going with an Easter-inspired theme for Lady of March, I was inspired by faberge and decorative eggs for the window designs.

Lady-of-March-window-design-wip-lowres

Next, I whipped out my trusty fashion croquis sketchbook and doodled a couple of quick designs to see how I wanted to handle March’s corset, which is the other key area for symbolism and decoration in this series.

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

lady-of-march-fashion-ref-sheet-lowres
Lady-of-March-Fashion-Plates-lowres Colored and inked with my warm and cool grey markers set.
I like to use greys so I can establish the values without being tied down to any particular color scheme just yet.I ended up favoring the design on the right for the visual interest a more complex design brought to the stomach, which is located in an open and central area in the overall composition.


Want to see these Sketch Diaries before everyone else?  Consider pledging at my Patreon!
You’ll get early sneak peeks plus other exclusive Rewards!

Part 1 – Conceptualization
Part 2 – Narrative Elements
Part 3 – Preliminary Drawing

Sketch Diary: Lady of March Part 1

My journey continues this month with Lady of March!  I was very pleased with the outcome for Lady of February, which always makes the pressure high for the next piece in any series.

Brainstorming:

lady-of-march---research
As ever, my journey with Lady March begins with research and writing!  Wikipedia has excellently sourced articles for mythology of the months of the year that have been my go-to for this project thus far.  March is a time of resurrection, renewal, and the bursting forth of new life.  It is the time of the Spring Equinox.  March also presented a unique challenge because this year’s March happens to include one of the most influential holidays of the Spring season – Easter.

Did you know that in some traditions, Easter eggs represent the empty tomb of Jesus and were painted red to symbolize the blood of Christ?  Or that Easter was actually named for a lesser known goddess of Dawn, Ēostre?  One of the aspects of creating this series that I’ve really enjoyed has been learning so many things about cultural traditions that I never knew before!  For me, Easter has always been about chocolate bunnies and egg hunts from a childhood that didn’t focus much on the religious aspects.  My fondest memories are decorating a forsythia ‘easter tree’ with little eggs with my mother.

Easter also provides an interesting challenge because it is a ‘movable feast’, which means that it happens based on a time of year that can change (the ecclesiastical full moon that occurs on or soonest after 21 March).  I decided that with so much imagery to play with,  I would extend the Easter symbolism across both Lady of March and April, which both have the potential to host the Easter celebration.

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 March’s secret board on Pinterest.

 

Thumbnailing:
Moving on to thumbnailing, I used a light table to trace a printed grid onto my toned paper, which saved me a bit of time (only took me 3 Ladies in to figure this out ha).  As I sketched, I referred to poses I had previously found plus poses from my imagination.  I also made the decision of which symbols from Easter that I wanted Lady of March to have, mainly easter eggs and the theme of resurrection and baptism/renewal, which the water evokes.  However, I didn’t want my eggs to be too stereotypically easter, so I’ve kept them subdued as decorative elements that are naturally placed in the nests.  In the final image, I already know I want the eggs to be the striking blue of robin eggs (though I may find a place to add blood red eggs, depending, we’ll see!).
Out of these poses, I was drawn to 4, 5, and 7 because she seems to be more engaged with the water, which is meant to be a symbolic source of renewal and resurrection in this piece.  Pose 3, for example, seems more sensual and posed rather than emotive.  The other poses also lack dynamism.  This can be a highly intuitive process since I’m making decisions about what symbols to include at the same time.  Lady of March, however, went far easier than Lady of February did at this phase!
lady-of-march-thumbnail-sheet
Thumbnails created in pen, grey markers, and white color pencil on toned paper.

Composition Mockups:
Next, I drop some of my favorite poses using stock art as stand ins on a frame template I had previously made in Photoshop.  At this point, I play around with different layouts and arrangements to test how the Lady will look in a more finalized form.  In the end, poses 1 and 3 are my favorites because they have clear and interesting silhouettes and she feels more connected to the water.

lady-of-march-comp-mockups-lowresStock Credits:Lockstock, Kuoma-stock (for poses 2 and 4), and Senju-HiMe-Stock.

After all that, pose 3 is still my winner!  Now, with my final pose chosen, I know how much of the window is showing and can finally start on the design for it!


Want to see these Sketch Diaries before everyone else?  Consider pledging at my Patreon!
You’ll get early sneak peeks plus other exclusive Rewards!

Part 1 – Conceptualization
Part 2 – Narrative Elements
Part 3 – Preliminary Drawing

SKETCH DIARY: Lady of February Part 3

In the last Sketch Diary, I made decisions about the narrative elements and wardrobe. I still haven’t left Photoshop while I gather reference and photo bash them in where needed. This helps me get a more realistic grounded base for elements like the hair, candles, etc. I use anything that’s useful.  For instance, the hair comes from bits of someone’s bangs and at least four different photos of hair.  The main pose comes from a set of stock photos I shot myself, which are available for other artists to use here.

These photos are just a guideline and are changed later to suit my needs.  I also made a last minute change to her right hand (on our left).  The original hand wasn’t elegant enough, so I took a quick photo with my webcam to replace the hand with fingers that are more interesting.  The ankles and waist have also been thinned.

lady-of-february-ref-vs-line-art

 

Next up, I do a digital color test! That’s right, I still haven’t left the prep phase.

After exploring different options, I find that I like 3 the best.  The Lady’s silhouette is the clearest  since the warm colors push her forward from the cool background and I like the way the purple and yellow play off of one another in a complementary scheme.

This is the last peek at Lady of February before I move on to putting paint on paper!

If you like this series and want to help support me while I create the Ladies of the Months,  check out the Ladies’ Patreon page!

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SKETCH DIARY: Lady of February Part 2

Last Sketch Diary, I talked about the research and design process.  Now, I’m diving into all the lovely details that make up the character and the mythos around her.

Before I could move on with this piece, I had to make a decision about the pose.  I ended up choosing pose 3 because I like the playfulness of it.  The other poses were too assertive or too tragic looking when February is meant to be more welcoming and playful.  The subtle smile really sold me on this pose too.

With the pose figured out, my next big decisions involved sorting out the character and her setting.  From the start, I knew I wanted to have clootie (hanging prayer cloths), a sacred well, and the beeswax candles, all which harken back to some of the most provocative imagery of February, mainly with saint and goddess Brigid and sacraments of purification involving the beeswax candles.  February also clutches an arrow representative of Cupid’s Arrow and the season of love.

I had already established a common element of corset, head garland, and dress with the past Ladies.  The corset, especially, is a nice area to include the birthflower element or other symbolic element.  I’ve also included a candle crown much like Lady of December‘s, but February’s candles have burned down to represent the end of Winter.  Her crown is also flowering, representing the presence of Spring.  With all of this in mind, I did some sketching in my croquis sketchbook first:

feb-fashion
Pen and marker on a croquis template.

With these basic costumes in mind, I blocked them in quickly in Photoshop and also explored more wardrobe combinations by cutting elements from each outfit and combining them.

Next, I block in the shape of the flowers at the bottom to make sure they work with the elements of the composition.  This also helps me make a final decision about which outfit to go with, since I can see how all the elements work together to fill up the space.  I don’t want it to be too busy, which is very easy to do in such a narrow space.

lady-of-feb-composition

The arrangement on the right is my winner because it allows for some of the background elements (ie. the well, more of the candles) to be shown more clearly.  With my major design decisions settled, it’s time to move on to refinement!

Next: Reference gathering, detail refinement, and color testing!

REMINDER!  Don’t miss the opportunity to pre-order Limited Edition prints of Lady of February via Patreon!
Other Rewards include process tutorials, coloring book pages, etc.  Check it out!

Sketch Diary: Lady of February Part 1

It’s been about a year since I completed Lady of January.  A tumultuous 2015 kept me from really indulging in this project, but I’m happy to be back at it full force now that the storm has passed!

Inspiration:
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.

Lady of February Notes
Instead of typing this out, I like to physical write it out on paper. This helps me retain the information better.

 

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An excerpt from my secret Pinterest board for Lady of February.

Thumbnailing:

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.

lady-of-feb-thumbnails lowres

 

Rough Compositions:

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.

lady-of-feb-poses-low

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.

Window Design:

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.

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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!

REMINDER!  Don’t miss the opportunity to pre-order Limited Edition prints of Lady of February via Patreon!
Other Rewards include process tutorials, coloring book pages, etc.  Check it out!

SKETCH DIARY: Lady of January

This series began as my annual Christmas card back in 2012 and as a homage to Mucha’s stunning series “The Precious Stones”!  I’m a long time fan of Alphonse Mucha ever since I discovered his work years ago in college and fell in love with his graceful, intricate compositions.  I thought it’d be fun to challenge myself to an entire series in this detailed and decorative mode of work.  The Lady of December sat alone as the only entry into this series until I recently decided to pick it up again!

The Four Gemstones by AngelaSasser

“The Precious Stones” Female figures embodying the gemstones Ruby, Amethyst, Emerald, and Topaz.

Lady of December by AngelaSasser
“Lady of December,” Digital Painting, 2012.

I had tried to do a monthly series before in the form of a series of angels, but I wasn’t quite satisfied with the layout of the composition of the first entry in this series.  The window and the figure felt disconnected, while the background seemed too empty with too much wasted potential.

Angel of January by AngelaSasser
“Lady of January,” Digital Painting, 2011.

 

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