Senior Project Sketchbook/A Decade of Progress (Part 3)

Posted by Shannen Luchs on

I didn't paint with oils again for years.  I hadn't touched them before college but watercolors I had more experience with.  So I took my crude watercolor set (I think it only had the primary colors and black - which should be enough to make any color but fall rather short when you're trying to get a good variety of hues for an important project) and supplemented it at the local art supply store - adding the three secondary colors I could barely afford.   I suspect my decisions for the outlines of this project were based on desperation - I chose 12 pieces because we had been told if we did smaller pieces we should do more (my professor was concerned that was too many, but I was ambitious to do much and well despite my struggles, and I certainly wasn't going to back down and risk further allegations of slacking).  I also decided to get 11 friends and family members pick the goddesses I chose to paint - which struck up and awesome variety of ladies I wasn't overly familiar with for me to study.  I gave each contributor the painting of the goddess they picked after my senior project.  As expected, the research and handiwork I poured into this project took up pretty much all of my time.  Nights and weekends were devoured in it; I installed a special (cardboard box) pocket on the back of my drawing board to hold my new paintings and hauled it to and from the art building almost every day.  Instead of running to the studio constantly I toiled away in my own room in between and after classes.

Unfortunately I was also working on the first part of my ceramics senior project during this semester, and it suffered immensely.  In this semester.  I only produced a few physical pieces and threw what little time I had to spare into research and brainstorming, but as usual experience was the best teacher.  This senior project was a learning experience, and I am a fast learner.  My next senior project benefited immensely from it.  

Part 3 - Painting IV (Watercolors Part 1)

Immediately beneath each sketch I will put the notes from the printout I had at my Senior Show - I had a page explaining a little about each goddess in the series. 

"Goddess Name - Origin

'name meaning/epithets,' myths and associations; symbols/commonly depicted with"

Unfortunately the scans and photos of these pieces are very bad, but I don't have the originals any more to make new ones.



"Nemesis - Greek

close to 'to give what is due,' spirit of divine retribution against those who commit hubris, originally distributor of fortune (neither good nor bad), festival held in Athens; white dress, wings"

Nemesis was chosen by a close friend who I'd known for about a decade (at the time).  I'm not sure what made her choose it but I loved the idea of painting the goddess of divine retribution.

This is the prototype piece I threw together to explain the new direction of my project to my professor.  He felt the colors were too close to how they look straight out of the tube so I started coloring each piece with colored pencil as well to get more variety of color.  Unfortunately I did not have the masterful skill of blending watercolor and colored pencil that I do now (or even good quality colored pencils, as I recall), so they looked pretty shoddy anyway.  But these little watercolor paintings are the immediate predecessors to my current watercolor and colored pencil series (though I didn't start adding in colored pencil again until the 7th goddess in the current series).

I completely redid this piece after getting approval for this phase of my project.

While it's a definite improvement over the previous version, it's still not great.  But I still showed some signs of improvement and growth despite the terrible rush and tremendous stress I produced these pieces under - and comparing them to the work I'm doing now it's neat to see the buds of what would eventually bloom into the forest of work that eventually lived up to my expectations.

I have tried several times to revisit Nemesis, but I always get frustrated with the sketches and we never make it to the paint.  Someday she and I will iron out the kinks and I'll be able to make her a better picture.


"Athena - Greek

'she who fights in front,' companion of heroes, virgin goddess, patron of Athens, wise (daughter of Metis, wisdom), also a warrior goddess, has many myths including how she won Athens (with the olive tree), and Arachne (who she turned into a spider for challenging her), also associated with crafts; olive tree, owl, armor"

An acquaintance at the time (another art major), picked this one.  Never spoke to her again after college.  I remember being disappointed in such a well known choice.  

If I knew then what I know now about ancient women's armor...but I did my research in a pinch so I didn't have the best source material.  Also I completely forgot that I ever painted Athena...I'd love to make another attempt on her if only to redo the owl because I am much better at doing feathers now.

Spider Grandmother

"Spider Grandmother - Native American (Navajo, Pueblo, Tewa, Kiwa, Hopi, Cherokee)

Creator goddess, threw a dew covered web into the sky to create stars, responsible for the sun, fire, the moon; spiderweb, loom, dream catchers"

My aunt picked this one out and I absolutely loved learning about her (I had never heard of her before this).  

This ended up being the only piece my senior project panel really liked.  I'd like to revisit her too at some point.


"Nephthys - Egyptian

'lady of the (temple) enclosure,' sister of Isis, associated with death and mummifying practices, protected breath of life, had fiery breath; kite or falcon, linen strips, breath"

A longtime friend (of...probably 12 years at the time of this painting) chose this one.  I don't remember if I knew about Nephthys or not before this, but I was very interested in her afterwards.

She's been on my list to revisit ever since I redid Isis; she just keeps getting bumped by other goddesses - like Xochiquetzal.


"Isis - Egyptian

'she of the throne,' sister of Nephthys, myths associated with Osiris' death, once she sent an asp to strike Ra and refused to heal him until he gave her his secret name thus giving her power over him, protected liver jar, associated with life (as opposed to her sister's association with death), goddess of the moon, associated with Hathor; kite, ankh, staff, tyet (knot of Isis)"

My mom picked Isis.  This was no surprise to me, she had always been her favorite goddess.

I revisited Isis in 2017 (and she looks about a million times better).



 "Rhiannon - Welsh

'queen,' linked to Epona, framed for the disappearance of her son, turned into a horse as punishment, accompanied by birds, the underworld; horses, birds.

A college friend who loves horses (and has actually been to Wales) chose Rhiannon.  I enjoyed making her part horse to reference her myths.

I'd love to revisit Rhiannon (and think I actually looked up some imagery to start a new sketch), but haven't gotten too far with her yet. 

I realized as I worked on these (and it's evident in this one in particular) that I really hated working on backgrounds - all that filler to no especial purpose.  And as I was in a rush, I didn't give them their proper due.  The next evolution of my work would see me abandon backgrounds entirely to focus on what interested me - and when I came back to my goddesses this meant incorporating their associations in different ways.  

Second Senior Critique

I honestly don't remember much about how this one went except that I was so nervous before it started that I thought I would actually die from anxiety.  I did not die, and the professors received my restructured project much better than before.  I remember passing around a stack of sketches and not much else.  


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