Comparison of the feet of the Sun King vs COVID Queen

The COVID Queen gives a nod to the Sun King with her powerful pose

Audience as inspiration is how I get ideas for paintings like “COVID Queen.” The friend that received this card has a quirky sense of humor, and it was obvious to me she needed something quirky in the midst of #QuarantineLife. I worked on this card for several weeks in April and May because I wanted to get it just right.

The “COVID Queen” Concept

By mid-March, COVID had forced many of us into #QuarantineLife, and various necessities were becoming hard to find. This painting was conceived when shelves were still bare of toilet paper and disinfectant spray. I thought about the thrill of finding toilet paper and how anyone would feel powerful if they were stocked up with both toilet paper and disinfectant. But how to convey that sense of power?

When struggling with an idea I, turn to Google Image Search and search keywords associated with my idea, diving down the visual rabbit hole in search of inspiration. My study of French history was a long time ago, but something in my Google search triggered my memory of King Louis XIV (aka The Sun King). Jumping from that memory, I rediscovered this iconic painting by Hyacinthe Rigaud.

Painting of King Louis XIV by Hyacinthe Rigaud
King Louis XIV (aka The Sun King)

When I saw this painting, I envisioned “COVID Queen” almost immediately. The powerful pose and structure of the painting was perfect for highlighting the feelings of power associated with toilet paper and disinfectant stock piles. The cane would be swapped for a can of disinfectant spray, the furniture for toilet paper, the king’s ermine-lined cloak for a bath robe, and the royal bouffant for, “Big Hair, Don’t Care: COVID edition.”

Making a Digital Study for “COVID Queen”

For this card, it wouldn’t work to go directly from a sketch to the final painting. To get everything right, I needed to create a few studies before moving on to the final painting. My creation process began with Adobe Fresco on an iPad (with an Apple Pencil). I started by sketching out the skeleton, and then fleshing out the body of the COVID Queen.

Initial sketches for COVID Queen, showing the posture of the skeleton, and then the skeleton over-layed with flesh and clothes
Initial Sketches for “COVID Queen”

Next, I used the digital paint brush tools to overlay the color. Although “oil” painting in Adobe Fresco is nothing like acrylic painting with CMYK on paper, it allowed me to fully conceive the painting quickly and easily.

The first sketch, partially painted digitally.
“COVID Queen” digital study in progress

My Acrylic Study for “COVID Queen”

I’m still fairly new to acrylic paints. I had never painted something this intricate with acrylic, nor had I ever used acrylics to paint a human. I wanted to make sure the card to mail was as good as could be, so I also did a study with acrylics. First, I took my digital study and added a grid to it, to make a more faithful transfer onto paper.

After using the grid to draw in the design lightly, I worked to recreate the digital study with acrylic paints. It helped me get a feel for the paints and brushes, while determining out the best order to paint the elements. It went well, and I learned some lessons to improve the final painting.

Side-by-side of digital study with grid and acrylic study
Digital Study / Acrylic Study

The Final “COVID Queen”

Honestly, it was nerve-wracking starting in on the final painting. I had already made the complete drawing, did a digital study, and an acrylic study, but I still had to take a deep breath before the final painting. It started like the acrylic study, working from the digital study with the grid. As I was painting, I referenced both the digital and acrylic studies.

Because of the way I was using the acrylics, I found it best to paint in the background first. Next up was the toilet paper. First I painted all the individual rolls, then used a glaze to paint the plastic wrapper over top of the rolls. The hair was the final part of the painting.

COVID Queen compared to King Louis XIV
COVID Queen / King Louis XIV