• Annalisa Rivera

2020 in Symbolism: The Process Behind "Almost Home"

Painting the empowering, colorful, and complex nature of costume or garb is a passion of mine. I was extremely fortunate to meet several wonderful models in January at New England's largest fan-run Sci-fi & Fantasy Convention, Arisia before the pandemic impacted the states. So, my theme of Cosplay Empowerment was able to continue!

As always, my work began with photographic reference, and I thought it might be nice to show you an example behind the scenes. Here, Meg H. is modeling for a sketch class. I sketch and take photos to generate ideas for future paintings (with verbal and signed permission of the model).


While I usually do a face forward shot, I just loved this pose! I kept thinking what would this character be looking at? Where is she? I got my inspiration not long after when I returned home.


Like many artists, the challenges of 2020 gave me extra time at home but also left me heartbroken and grieving. I allowed myself downtime for physical and mental health needs and rotated through whatever arts called me once I was able. Painting a symbolic image of 2020 is what pulled me back to the canvas.



I started out with many clouds to represent the uncertainty, but I couldn't help but make them colorful. Even in chaos, you might find something beautiful worth taking with you. The clearing in the distance - well - no matter how far away it is, change is always certain, and with it, hope for a better future.

After that, it was time to sketch and paint the model, as well as a beautiful "castle in the clouds". For those who are better traveled than I am, it may seem familiar. An island on Earth served as a reference - Mont Saint Michel - a stunning location with a complicated history. But I simply felt it visually matched what I was looking for. Maybe beautifully complicated was a subconscious choice!


I placed our character on the edge of a precipice as she looks to the distance. I also added dragons. The red dragon in the foreground is at her feet, tame and watchful, represents strength, a protective element. The dragon in the distance snapping at the birds in silhouette represents unpredictability, perhaps the danger that's ever-present in our world.


All my works are a labor of love and a form of art therapy, but this one really brought me a much-needed outlet to express the range of highs and lows of this year, and was a joy to work on.


It's up to you to decide if she makes it home, to the castle under the brighter spot in the sky - but as for me, I'd prefer to think so. I'd love to know if it inspires a story!

Want more behind the scenes stories and symbolism on my works? Let me know!

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