I have completed another painting in the An-Noor series. I thought I was finished with this painting many times…I actually started writing this blog post a couple of weeks ago, and as I was writing it, it became really clear to me that it was incomplete. Anyway, the subject is Khuwailah, a woman I met in Durham a few years ago.
While looking for inspiration for this painting, I looked through my deck of Tarot cards. The deck is full of symbolic images (that’s kind of the whole point), and I picked out all of the images that spoke to me, and that included a female figure. I found surprisingly few female cards (like 15 or 16 out of 78 cards). Of those cards, there was one card that stood out to me, that connected to this particular subject… the Queen of Swords.
Her major characteristics are that she is “Honest, Astute, Forthright, Witty, and Experienced.” As I read more into her character, I found that it was really a perfect fit. But what do I do with this image? I included a few visual references to it in my painting.
I have never photographed a painting thinking that it was done as many times as I did with this one. Every time I took “the final picture” I would immediately see how I could improve it. It was unusual, but I’m glad I didn’t just settle for it being done before it really was. The biggest issue I had was to figure out what to paint through the window and how to paint it. I originally planned to have some stylized clouds very similar to those on the tarot card, but they didn’t fit with the rest of the image, to me. So then I just painted over them, but that was really boring. It needed more magic. Eventually I tried to channel some Bob Ross with the happy little clouds (and the trees that were there at one point, too). I’m really really pleased with it, finally!
Check out the gallery to see pictures of the process, and a few of the different versions of this painting.
A couple more things about this painting:
The pattern: I googled images of African patterns and textiles (my research methods are highly developed, clearly), and tried to get a good sense of what characteristics make them distinct. I saw a lot of these concentric diamonds. The pattern I ended up using (I design most of my patterns, but this one is honestly a bit of a knock-off of a rug I came across) is a more geometric and modern looking version of these concentric diamonds. I struggled some with finding the right balance of colors in the background and pattern… so that they pattern was not distracting but still visible, harmonious with the figure and the window, etc.
The window: I love when paintings have windows in them… I particularly like when they have a whole painting inside of a painting, basically, with the scene outside of the window. I wanted to give the sense that Khuwailah was sitting high up into the sky. Anyhow, the structure/form of the window was derived from the windows on gothic churches and buildings.