Zodiac Series: One Artist’s Personal Challenge
In 2016, I had an idea to create a series of twelve paintings, each depicting the personality of a zodiac sign according to astrology, which I later named Celestial Letters. Although I don’t consider myself an expert in astrology, I have always been fascinated by myths and celestial objects. Little did I know at the time how far this idea would take me. Now, years later, I’m happy to have finally reached a new milestone, but at the same time, a bit frustrated that it took so long to get here.
Storytime (skip this part if this is too long)
That said, I created the very first painting: Pisces (not the one you’re seeing in the picture above). However, so many things were bothering me then. My style was not really defined, and I wasn’t nearly satisfied with the result. I then spent one year searching for the proper materials (especially paper) for my mixed media technique.
In 2017, I came up with Aries, which was my favorite painting I had done so far. And still today, it is the general favorite of many Instagram followers. Second, I made Taurus, which I think was good as well.
But at that time, I didn’t have a clear plan for my professional life. I took every freelance job and opportunity that came my way, even if they weren’t ideal. As a result, I didn’t have enough time or prioritize my zodiac series. As Alice found in Wonderland, if you don’t know where you want to go, ‘then it doesn’t matter which way you walk.’ I didn’t have a clear objective for the zodiac series, beyond completing them and perhaps licensing them to a company someday. So, I kept putting other things in front of it.
While I was still working on Leo, the fifth painting in the series in 2020, I felt judged when people commented on how long it took me to finish a painting. Balancing the project with other commitments was challenging, and as a result, I rushed to complete the last two pieces, making mistakes and producing work I wasn’t satisfied with. Therefore, I plan to redo both pieces from scratch – but I’ll share more about that later on.
In 2022, I made the decision to transition from graphic design and focus solely on developing a career in illustration, using my designer skills for my own benefit. When reflecting on my previous work, particularly my Aries and Taurus pieces, I realized that I loved the style I had created. It was exactly the kind of artistic style that I had always envisioned for myself.
So now things are settled, and my illustration career is starting to work out, I decided to challenge myself to finish all 12 zodiacs.
The Zodiacs Challenge
First of all, I wrote down a process so that I’m not like Alice in Wonderland anymore. Now I know where I need to go. To restart my journey, I went back to the image that first inspired me:
Regarding the paintings I’ve completed so far, I’ve decided to keep three of them – Aries, Taurus, and Cancer – while I plan to redo Gemini, Leo, and Virgo.
I’ve decided to replace the two twins in Gemini with a different character of my own creation, but I’ll talk more about that in a future post. When I was a kid, I used to imagine stories featuring elves and magical beings, and this image will fit perfectly into that world. I’m planning on using the same purple and gold color scheme as before.
I’m not satisfied with its composition, so I’ve decided to make some changes. I plan to reuse the same characters (man and lion), but with a different arrangement. I already have a preliminary sketch. I will not use blue and will stick to the golden hues as the reference image.
I will change the composition slightly. I want to make the green more close to the Taurus hue, but I still have to plan this better.
Where I am now
As we speak, I am working on Pisces, having planned all the colors and now applying them to the final painting. It currently looks like this:
I’ve recently discovered the value of creating digital color studies before starting a painting. In the past, I used to jump right in and start painting without planning, thinking it would save me time. However, I realized that this approach actually slowed me down. Without a plan in place, I often found myself spending too much time trying to choose the right colors while painting. Now, by spending a few minutes creating a color study beforehand, I save myself from the indecision and delay of not having a clear plan.
Working in commercial illustration has also led me to implement this step, as it allows the client to visualize and make changes to the colors easily if needed.
Now I just make the painting planning detailed enough so it speeds up the process, but I don’t plan the painting excessively or it would become a very boring task. So I think I might have found a good balance between the planned and the unexpected.
So my plan goes like this: I challenged myself to create all nine remaining zodiacs in one year. This is realistic for me because I am very busy with jobs for clients; it wouldn’t be possible in less time, but I also don’t need more time. I will be my own client on this and follow this timeline:
- March: Pisces
- April: Aries – it is ready so I will work on refining the new sketches for Gemini and Leo
- May: Taurus is ready so I’ll finish Gemini
- June: Cancer is ready so I’ll finish Leo
- July: Virgo
- August: Libra
- September: Scorpio
- October: Sagittarius
- November: Capricornius
- December: Aquarius
That’s all for now! I wanted to share this to hold myself accountable and stay motivated. By publicly committing to this project, I’ll be more likely to follow through. Additionally, I’ll be checking in here regularly to keep myself organized and on track.
If you’re interested in following my progress, be sure to check out my social media accounts on Instagram and Tik Tok (yes, now I have that). I’ll be posting process images and videos there. I’m also open to hearing your thoughts on the project if you’d like to share.
Lastly, if you’re an art director or business owner who’s interested in licensing this collection, please feel free to reach out to me at email@example.com.
Warm regards 🖤!! We talk soon,