The Underwater Lioness

Surreal and hyper-realistic at the same time, "The Lioness" is a self-portrait I created in June 2021, right after arriving in Lisbon, Portugal. It is done using colored pencils, turquoise, sepia and blue "Pentel" ink Brushpens and acrylic colors on a background of primed "Clairefontaine Paint-On Multi-Techniques" paper. The size of the artwork is approx. 20cm x 30cm, it is done on a slice of paper which I cut from a larger sheet.

I particularly like the warm brown shades below the curvature of the breasts, near the armpits and the pelvic region of "The Lioness". Against the backdrop of the overall cold, blue-ish, almost aquatic hue of the painting, these contrasting, earthy shades make for an especially realistic lighting. The overall color scheme of this artwork also matches the room in which I lived while spending June & July in Lisbon.

As most of my works, this painting is done from imagination.


The Lion's head has emerged as a recurring trope of my art, generally representing my value "courage". Presumably, the Lion's head appears to remind myself of the need to take courageous steps in order to shape my life according to this value. The Lioness in this picture seems a little lost, though, almost as if submerged underwater. Is she building up strength? Her body is tense and elastic like a spring, ready to dash forward into action. Her paws are suspended in mid-air, like an elegant, potentially threatening hint of her capabilities.

At the same time, "The Lioness" seems hesitant, unsure, isolated or confused, as if trying to protect herself from an ominous threat. For all the obvious physical powers of the Lioness, a painful strain of vulnerability shimmers through her defiant pose.

Much like the traditional representation of the Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot cards, in which a maid gently closes the gaping jaws of a lion, this illustration is not so much about strength as it is about weakness and the willingness to accept and expose vulnerability, in order to turn it into a virtue. 


For the Tarot card, I scanned the artwork using my EPSON ET-7750 printer/scanner and framed the painting with the Tarot card design in my design software of choice, Sketch. The Tarot card frame is a design element which I use with all my Tarot cards. With this artwork, the rich color and depth of the original reduced the need to digitally add more color layers, I merely adapted the color balance a little within the digital design tool to compensate for scanning / printing distortions. The writings on the card ("XI", "Strength", "Kruppa") are all vectorized scans of my actual handwriting. I use the "Protrace" plugin for Sketch to derive vectorized shapes from my handwriting.

Neighbors and visitors of Cologne may also spot this artwork pasted on one of the walls at Körnerstraße, Ehrenfeld. I am really happy with how this artwork is mysterious yet plainly comprehensible at the same time.

Feel free to reach out if you have any questions regarding this artwork.


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