Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Queen of Spades Sends Her Regards

"The Queen of Spades Sends Her Regards"
Size: 11x16 inches
Medium: Watercolor
Prints & Original available -here-
Detail views -here-

Whew! That title is a mouthful. I seem to have a habit of long titles. This piece inspired of course by Lewis Carroll's "Alice in Wonderland". It's a wonder I've made it this long without doing something derived from that. For that matter, I was surprised to find I had not even read "Through the Looking Glass" yet until recently. I had a copy of it, and somehow just always thought I had read it.

-This- seemed too fun of a concept to pass up. Balloons! Alice! Why not??
It sparked an idea almost instantly that I scribbled a thumbnail of in my sketchbook: From the thumbnail I did more detailed and refined sketches of the figures.
"The Queen of Spades sends her regards," I thought as I drew the two Cards. That sent my mind meandering along a Carrollian nonesense spiral of speculation about what exactly IS the hierarchy of the various Queens and Kings in Wonderland?? They are a deck of cards, but there is only ever the Queen and King of Hearts in the book. The suits of the lower echelons seem indicative of their position in court (hearts being the children of the Queen, spades being the soldiers...etc). But then what of the Queen of Spades? And the Queen of Diamonds? Who might these mysterious Others be? Perhaps they are lesser queens to the Queen of Hearts? Or rivals?

After some scanning in and tweaking things around in photoshop to combine the various sketches, it resulted in this, prepped for painting on the illustration board:

At first I had in mind blue/gold color scheme.

Not thrilled with it, but kept working, hoping the colors would resolve...

After getting the red roses in, I realized I didn't like the color scheme. Hated it in fact. It felt too much "grass is supposed to be green, roses are red, sky is blue," rather than having any kind of mood to it. I think because in the early part it looked like it was going to have a blue/gold scheme to it, with bright red poking through. But the blue/gold somehow melded into greens. And then I was getting a rainbow effect.

I run into this phase often in paintings (The "I hate this painting!" phase). It's the hard part. People often ask me, "Do you mess up?" Answer is yes, but I don't toss a painting out if I feel it's been messed up (though I was tempted at this point because it was annoying me that much). I keep working at it and layering different shades in. Sometimes lifting colors out if I have to.

So I took a wide flat brush and started swiping in light washes of purple into the sky.

Not quite there yet...

More aggressive with the layering. Added red to it (since red on top of the blue that was already there would turn purple) and brushed yellow on top of some of the blue bits closer in the shrubbery to turn those into green. The extra glazes also had the effect of softening up some of the background foliage and making it all look kinda misty-dreamy.

More yellow to turn the last blue bits in the rose bushes into weird purple and green shades. And I was finally happy with the colors at this point, and glad that I had not given up on it!


  1. Woah! I'm so in love with this painting! <3
    I must buy a print! But why are there only small prints available? Noooo! ;____;

  2. What a great piece! The queen in profile with the headdress reminds me a little of the "World" card from your tarot series, but the rest of the composition is different enough it took me a minute to realize what it was reminding me of.

    This looks so classic, it would be fun to see you do a companion piece with a little more of the Tim Burton acid-trippy style of Wonderland =)

  3. I can do large prints too if you want! I will add that later today.

    And I had fun with this! Might do more.

  4. Such beautiful colors in this one!

  5. I saw that theme just as the notice that there were 4 days left in the contest up. I am so horribly late for this one!

    Either way, this looks beautiful and I love the vibrant color scheme and insubstantial roses in the background. Best of luck in Cypher's contest! Even if you don't win (which I'd be hard pressed to say you wouldn't), it's quite impressive and the fact you had fun with this definitely shows.

    With all the hubbub over the latest Alice film, I've realized I've not read it either! I only have the Disney version to reference to. I must remedy this, methinks!

  6. I was surprised to find that the Disney version actually mushes the two together. The Queen of Hearts character in the movie is actually a combination of her and the Red Queen from Through the Looking Glass. And the whole episode with the flowers is from TtLG as well.

  7. Someone bought the original already? That was quick!

    Something I really like about this painting is that it looks very friendly, dreamy and sweet in a way. I never really liked the Disney movie as a child because I found it kind of grotesque. Haven't seen the Burton movie yet, but I’m a little worried my adult self might still find the tale grotesque – Johnny Depp or not – but I’m usually a Burton fan so I hope I’ll like it.

    Your version is adorable though. And playful. It must be the balloons that do it. Balloons make me happy. :3

    Can't wait until I get to hang it on my wall. (Large print! <3) Thinking about buying some books while I'm at it...

    Which reminds me, I read Fantastical Visions III about a week ago. Nice illustrations and great cover art! I like the little pear stealing fairy even more now than I did before. :)

  8. I love you work so much! Thank you for letting us know you have periods of hating your own paintings and to try working through weird colors. I've been learning watercolor and just had a similar situation with having colors I didn't really like. After seeing this it's a good thing I haven't tossed it into the recycling!

  9. I'm in love with the white rabbit. I'm hoping one day you will illustrate a classic book of fairy tales, or the like. I've loved the anthropomorphic creatures you've created, the white rabbit, the fox in the Aesop's fable illustration you did when you started this blog. You haven't done many of them, at least that I have seen. Is there a publication with many of them in it?

  10. No Amy, I just don't do very many of them!

  11. Speaking of anthropomorphic creatures...that reminds me of the evil bunny that you painted many years ago. I loved that guy!