SKETCH DIARY: Lady of June

My journey continues this month with Lady of June!  Lady of November represented a milestone of high quality and attention to detail in this series that was hard to beat!  How could I make the rest of the Ladies as good as November?  That was the difficult challenge I set for myself as I moved on to this month and ventured into the first of the Ladies of summertime!

After the dark whimsy of Lady of November, we’ve returned to the Ladies of Summer!  Admittedly, this Lady has been a challenge thus far.  While November had a lot of amazing imagery to play with, June is more of a subtle time of year.  Its celebration of youthfulness and young brides reminds of May’s themes, with one of the only unique events being the Summer Solstice.  I’ve been struggling to find Lady of June’s unique visual story to make her different enough from the other Ladies, but that’s what research is all about!


One of the most prominent themes I found while researching the Summer Solstice via Pinterest image gathering was the celebration of Litha and the Sun Wheel.  The Solstice celebrates the reigning power of the Sun.  The Sun Wheel was an old tradition where a representation of the sun was set aflame and rolled down a hill to symbolize its shifting phases.  As soon as I saw the Wheel, I knew it’d be the perfect inspiration for the mandala window!


Research for the Ladies always begins with the origin of the month’s name.  In this case, June was named for Juno, the goddess of marriage and well-being of women.  She was also wife to Jupiter/Zeus.  I look across different cultures and see what about this time of year strikes a chord with humanity.  June in the northern hemisphere is a high point of Summer, a time of divination, and a powerful phase of feminine power.

Writing notes helps me to search out the imagery and symbolism I want to include in this Lady’s painting.  I think of flowers, plants, and brides.  The symbol of the well as a tool of divination also struck a chord with me, which is why it shows up so much in my thumbnail sketches.


Many of these thumbnails explore using water in a well or pond as a divination tool.  2 and 4 feel a little close to Lady of March, with 4 feeling a bit more like a representation of Vanity.  3 captures a more traditional bridal theme, while 1, 5, 6, and 7 seem to capture that theme of a bride searching for her love in the reflection for a more unified theme.  In the end, my favorites are 1, 5, and 6, with 5 and 6 having the clearest shapes and classical feel.

Character Posing

I whittled my choices down to two of my favorite thumbnails, then took the poses from my two favorites and rounded them out with a stock photo and a rendered pose I created using the free 3D program, Daz 3D.  Imagine the lady on the left would be holding a bouquet of roses. 

Seeing the poses with more finalized details helped me make my final decision on which one to choose.  I liked the one on the right for the subtle graceful curves of it and her inquisitive nature.  The pose on the left was still too rigid and didn’t interact as much with the well as the pose on the right, where I feel the pose ties her in more with her setting.

I’ve also adored the stock art pose on the right ever since I first saw it and always wanted to find a painting to use it in!  Ironically, the model, Lockstock, is also a June baby.  Got to love serendipity!


Next, I played with the window designs for the background with the Amaziograph ipad app.  You can see a little video of how I made the first one here.  I went with a shape evocative of the Sun Wheel from my earlier research, as well as the rose window shapes inspired by the shape of the rose flower.  In a straight read, I liked the one on the right best, but once I put the window designs in the composition mockups below, I changed my preference back to the first window again because the shapes were clearer.


You can see my original mockup on the left before I did any research.  The two mockups on the middle and right show my experimentation with fashions, changing the value structure, and also testing out which window design I liked best.  I ended up going with my first window design since its simpler and doesn’t distract from the many details of this composition.  

If I used the 2nd design, I feel that the composition would be too busy.  Also, the design with the bigger roses on the edges had more diagonals that lead the eye to the central focus of the piece (the Lady), instead of being more chaotic like the first window’s design.  I’ve also pushed the figure’s head up past the border a bit more so the rectangle of the frame is broken up even more, creating an interesting overall framing shape.

I’ve also made a monumental decision to add a title bar to the text!  I’m not sure this one is final yet, but I always felt like the titles for this series were too bare and boring.  I’m happy to find a solution that fills that space with something more unique and that I can easily alter on my past original paintings!

My first mockup of Lady of June in the montage on the left shows the first attempt at drawing her attire without worrying about reference and focusing more on where I wanted the drapery to lead the eye.

I wasn’t keen on this original look in the end.  It was too generic like a cheap Halloween costume.  I wanted to bring some originality and visual interest to my designs, so I started gathering references for unique dresses that still had a period vibe.




I tapped my Smithsonian Fashion book for reference and found a lot of inspiration in the depictions of the ‘fantasy’ fashion of medieval Saints, which were an amalgamation of high fashion of the time with oriental and other foreign influences.  

You can see this in the frogging I used on the front of the 2nd design mixed with Italian and English inspired dress shapes and sleeves.  I also included an English inspired headdress to bring more interest to her head than the standard ‘lady with flower head garland’, which I’ve used in past Ladies.

I also kept in mind the theme of the rose, especially in the 2nd design, where I was inspired to give the dress a ‘rosebud’ shape in the bustle.

Color testing

Finally, we reach the final phase of testing out different color schemes before transferring to the watercolor paper!  I knew I wanted a pale color to represent pearl with a bright red or pink accent to set it off.  I’ve never really done this color scheme before and had been looking forward to trying it for a long time!

I did explore using more green in her dress, but eventually came back around to my original idea of a very nuetral white and beige color set off by the roses.  I went with the last color scheme on the right with the vibrant pink roses of the choice on the left, which helped to pop the roses of the background and window design.  This combination creates a stronger surrounding silhouette around the central character with the bright spot of the well in the center, while also leading the eye around the image with flashes of pink falling petals.

Details from the finished piece!

You can see the final piece here.

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