Arrow: A Look Into The Process, Part One.

Quite often while I am online I will come across and image that sticks with me for some reason. Quite a while ago I can across this image on Pinterest, and there was just something about it that really drew my attention. So I put it into an inspiration folder to think about later. 

Alfred Cheney Johnston. Ziegfeld Girl

Alfred Cheney Johnston. Ziegfeld Girl

There was something about the softness in her face, and the grace of her pose that I really loved and wanted to try to emulate in a drawing. So I sat down and started sketching a few things, trying to focus on her figure a bit and incorporating other elements around her until I thought I had an idea that I liked. 

First pass at a sketch I liked, but still too close to the original figure

First pass at a sketch I liked, but still too close to the original figure

I liked the idea of a classical Greek or Roman looking figure, some god or goddess perhaps. A few had sprung to mind as I played around with the idea: Eros, and then Demeter. But ultimately I wasn't sure, and felt that maybe I could make it androgynous. 

By lack of confidence I turned my attention elsewhere, to the arrow. The idea that it could be a key sprang to mind as around this time I was thinking about the possibility of participating in Kristina Caroll's Month of Fear/ Month of Love duo. One of the prompts was Key, and I felt like I could probably juxtapose this idea with something a bit more treacherous. But then life got a bit swept up in client work, conventions, a wedding, and a move to the other side of the globe. 

When I was able to come back to this piece, quite a few things had changed. For one, I no longer liked the original direction of keeping the figure androgynous. I did still like the idea of the arrow being a key though. Secondly I knew I wanted to flesh this out further while I was in SmART School with Rebecca. 

Given what I had learned while creating Ariadne, I knew that it was better to take my own reference image using myself. It had worked well before, but I was still not really comfortable with using myself as a model. In the end the benefits, and the want to explore this idea, plus lack of time to find another model outweighed the squeamishness. 

Self Reference, and hours upon hours of cutting out and arranging birds in Photoshop

Self Reference, and hours upon hours of cutting out and arranging birds in Photoshop

I had my husband help me take new photos for reference prior to my next class. At this point I was still struggling to finish working on Ariadne, and neither Rebecca nor my classmates had seen the original sketch for this concept. 

Once I chose one of the pictures from the shoot, I sat down and laboriously  found, cut out, and arranged the doves in Photoshop. During this time I started to think more about what I wanted this piece to be. The figure wasn't going to represent any of the Goddess or Gods, but I did like the idea of the arrow symbolizing some of what they stood for. 

With Eros, the arrow is a symbol for love. With Demeter much more symbolic of the sacred hunt. But why couldn't this arrow be both of those things?

First draft of new sketch

First draft of new sketch

By my next class this is the piece I had to show. I was anxious about showing it because i thought that there were probably a lot of things that just weren't working with it. Namely I was afraid the birds would be too much, since I struggle with composition. But I had looked over my previous notes from Ariadne, and I tried to be more mindful about paying attention to negative shapes and eye flow. 

She loved it, and she helped me to fix the issues I had in this piece. Namely the tangents created by the wisteria in the back, which was not super apparent what that was supposed to be, and also didn't help frame this piece at all. And of course, the face needed work too as I was still struggling to see the information that was in play. 

Revisions in photoshop from class

Revisions in photoshop from class

I was really happy that I had less to revise in this piece, but a bit bummed out that I was still missing things in the face. Having suffered from really low self body image it's rather difficult to use myself as a model. It is hard to plow ahead, wondering if you are able to capture certain things you've set out to do, when you have a horribly self biased notion of how you look. And trying to separate that bias is very challenging. 

So I had to pause here and look back at Ariadne. I looked at the original reference I had put together and how horrible it had looked. And how much Ariadne had been after using reference I had taken of myself, even if in the final image it showed where I was not comfortable rendering. And then when I was ready, I made the edits I needed to Arrow. 

Final revised drawing for Arrow

Final revised drawing for Arrow

By now I had a completely amended drawing that was clean, clear, and ready to be traced out onto a sheet of watercolor paper via the light box method. I just had to get going on my color and tonal comp by next class, as well as finish up Ariadne. 

And also by now this was starting to get easier to work on than Ariadne had been. I hit a wall when it came time to paint the last piece because I wasn't comfortable enough to render out parts of her. That anxiety still persisted with Arrow, but the reality was that I couldn't set this piece aside and start something else, and I had to work with what was available to me. 


Stay tuned for the next post, which will go over the final steps of the process in finishing up Arrow.