I've been using acid-free 19" x 25" Strathmore 400 Series 160gsm black paper for this series, which means I have to cut away two strips from each sheet to get the 14" x 14" size I need. At least it leaves me with a nice 11" x 19" piece for later use.
The first thing I do is use a white Crayola pencil to mark out the 10" x 10" image size. I make thumbnails in my sketchbook first so I can 'assemble' the different elements in a way that works, then I divide the 10" square into the basic sections I need to work in.
Next I do a basic white outline of the main elements. This composition features the rowan tree in winter (January 21 - February 17), shown in the main body, and the leaves/berries in the small window above it. The green dragon (or, in this case, rat with wings) is one of the two related creature symbols and one of the associated gods is St Brigid, so I include the St Brigid's cross (made from rushes), a favourite symbol of mine ever since my friend Molly sent me an actual St Brigid's cross last winter. I totally forgot an element that I always include, though -- can you figure out what it is?
Using Prismacolor pencils and some gel pens for highlights I draw the main pictorial elements. My tonal plan for this, being winter, is mainly white/silver monochrome but the red berries of the rowan tree and the green dragon are important and complementary spots of colour. I usually include a patterned section but am having real trouble coming up with any ideas for this drawing and at this point am still thinking about it.
Starting to fill in the background, I choose a white Crayola pencil (these cheap but useful pencils are much less opaque than a Prismacolor) to add tone to the area behind the tree, a silver Sharpie for a textured background behind the dragons and one of my favourite drawing tools, a silver Pilot Super Color Extra Fine permanent ink pen to add the background to the St Brigid's cross panels. The spiral frame around the berries and leaves is done with a Gelly Roll medium point silver gel pen.
To finish, I use a white Prismacolor pencil to set off the berries and leaves. Check out the difference in opacity between this white pencil and the Crayola! And I finally decided that the patterned area would be a network of bare tree branches. I use both types of white pencils to create the branches and decide on a muted gold background. Since I can no longer get a replacement for my beloved pale gold Gel Works Metallic marker I decide to use a gold Prismacolor pencil first, then layer silver Prismacolor over top to get the muted gold tone I want. I think the effect works great! The finishing touches include a silver border, using my Pilot pen, and I sign it with the Prismacolor white. In the lower left hand corner I include the Celtic rune for the drawing's theme (Luis).
Final stage: the frame! This 20.5" x 20.5" x 2" black wooden frame with glass comes with a white mat and I use acid-free tape to attach the drawing to the mat.
I'm in the home stretch ~ only three drawings to go! As I finish them I add them to my website here.