I took a course on Craftsy http://www.craftsy.com Painting an Allegory: Concept to Canvas with Martin Wittfooth.
This covered use of symbols; then design, using the golden mean, thirds and diamond grids; using Photoshop to construct a layout and transferring this to canvas; painting using layers and glazes.
I chose elements that are meaningful to me.
My husband and I have spent seven years photographing all the UK butterflies (59 species) and finished with the Northern Brown Argus this year. I thought we would be joyous but instead we feel a bit flat! So we are considering pursuing (only with cameras) native british orchids, moths and/or dragonflies.
The image below is my Photoshopped design for the canvas - the Swallowtail is significant for the sheer elusiveness of it, also the puffins which we finally photographed properly this year at Bempton Cliffs which has provided the basic landscape and rocks etc. I always take lots of photographs so I had a lot of pictures to choose from. Though the puffins were incredibly hard to spot. Nev and I split up and right at the far end of the path I saw these, which put on a real performance. It was like the Kit-Kat ad where the pandas dance around behind the photographer's back. Poor Nev only really saw orange feet in a crevice in the cliffs.
(However, we went on a boat trip to the Farne Islands in June and landed amongst terns conducting bombing raids on us and saw hundreds of puffins, so we were both happy then).
The next picture shows the drawing transferred onto the canvas, using charcoal as pencil lines can show through the paint.
Underpainting one, building up the layers using lots of thin glazes
In progress - this is about finished but all on one flat plane
so the tutor, Martin Witfooth suggested picking up some background colour to glaze the puffins to add depth, so this is the finished version
The course was really intended for oil painters, but the tutor was really helpful and suggested using retarders to slow the drying time. I also used lots of thin, almost transparent washes using a glazing medium to build up depth.
I am now painting an allegory with guillemots and the Northern Brown Argus.