Update: This is the first of what ended up being a series of Chinese folktale calendar repaints.
Sometimes–actually, often–I get stuck on paintings. Sometimes I get stuck from being unsure how to fix a layout, or get a certain color or texture, and just need to set it aside so I can come back to it with fresh eyes. Sometimes, though, it just feels like the wrong time. That’s what happened on this one. I knew I wanted to create another in the same vein as the original House of Chu calendar repaint I did a few years ago, and began by painting out all of the calendar parts. It was the middle of winter, and I just couldn’t motivate myself to work on it while it was cold and gray. The only thing that came to my mind was Bunnicula, or just painting some extra blossoming branches into it. I didn’t really want to do either, so I left it out and hoped for inspiration to strike.
Spring seemed to do the trick. A week ago, after a passing glance at the mist, it occurred to me that I could fill the rest with a meandering creek to echo the shape of the Great Wall and the mist. I took a picture and sketched out what it would look like in Photoshop, and while doing that realized I could make a nice big reflection of the moon–specifically, the “rabbit in the moon“. Perfect!
I had an idea now and a fitting deadline of Easter, so here’s the progression I went through this week to finish this up. The creek and the grass detail came easily. I thought I’d see if I’d stay motivated by alternating between painting this and painting a few miniatures with the extra colors as I went (verdict: kind of). It slowed down when I got to the moon, as it took a bit of trial and error. And then: stuck again! As I looked at my sketch I decided the blossom reflections were too noisy, but I wasn’t sure what else to do.
I’d kept the first repaint next to it the whole time to get a sense of how they’d work together, so I studied it closely. I saw that I should add more of a border back along the sides for a similar look. That wouldn’t be enough though. I hadn’t considered adding any illustrative or outlined areas like the clouds and dragon foot, and saw now that it was the biggest omission. I outlined the creek on my printed sketch, and it seemed right; but despite the test run it felt much more uncertain when I started actually painting it. It was either going to fix it or really screw it up, as it wouldn’t be easy to correct. I only felt certain once I saw it done and could see that the visual theme held.
Now that I have the theme, I would love to make more if I can track down another chinese zodiac scroll calendar or two.