behind the scenes: concept work for a court of thorns and roses
Final concept sketches for the Autumn and Night Courts: my sketchbook is not a place for final work, but rough and quick sketches and paintings.
As an artist, there’s nothing quite like the excitement that comes from working on a piece or a series that you truly love and resonate with. I’d read the “A Court of Thorns and Roses” by Sarah J. Maas last year, and found myself really inspired by not only the journeys the characters go through, but the descriptions of her world building. I jumped at the chance of bringing this world to life, and was so excited when the SJM team was onboard, too.
My process for creating these paintings is challenging but rewarding. Fortunately, I’m working with excellent source material: Sarah does an amazing job and describing not only how places look, but how they feel. My first step is to read (and re-read) descriptions of the Courts in the books, and also recall the surrounding context.
If you can read my chaotic handwriting, I’m making notes here about the darkest parts of the final painting and what areas I want in focus for the Winter Court painting.
A good example of this is in the first book during chapter 25 during Summer Solstice. Here is an example of notes I jotted down as I read this passage and used it to inform my Spring Court painting (all from “A Court of Thorns and Roses, by Sarah J. Maas):
“Everything became a blur of color and sound” “Navigating the path by moonlight” “Soft grass cushioned my steps” “the sighing of the trees in the night breeze” “The high grasses moved like water as the last of the moonlight danced upon them.” “I followed him through the trees, through the ever-lightening world” “We passed through low lying mists and he helped me up a bare hill slick with dew” “It was the happiest moment of my life.”
I loved this scene when I read the book, especially the last line. It reminded me of my own experience, with my husband when we moved to London and stayed out all night walking through the city, just talking, until we stopped to sit on a park bench across from Westminster to watch the sun rise. Everything in that moment was just perfect, and I felt like I knew what Feyre had experienced in this scene. Somehow, I wanted to capture that.
I start by creating rough sketches for composition and perspective, and then move into something called a “Notan” sketch, just black sharpie, to understand how light and dark will work within each piece. Sometimes I then do a gouache painting to get a feel for color palette. (I’m not great at gouache, so these are truly for my own studies!) At this stage, I generally set a loose palette and a dominant color for each work, before sketching on canvas with pastel.
“The sky shifted into periwinkle, and the clouds filled with pink light. Then, like a shimmering disk too rich and clear to be described, the sun slipped over the horizon and lined everything with gold. It was like the world was being born, and we were the sole witnesses.”
— Sarah J. Maas, "A Court of Thorns and Roses"
Before: I am not great at gouache but it is helpful for pre-sketches like this one for the Spring Court painting
As my time painting the Courts comes to a close, I may revisit this again if it does well. There are more locations (The Court of Nightmares!), as well as scenes that I think would be amazing to paint (Nesta and the Kelpie!), including those imagined by Feyre, an artist herself.
I am excited/nervous for fans of the series to see my interpretation, and where this may take me on my career as an artist.
Thanks again for being part of this journey with me