I had started this painting in December 2010, tortured it until mid March 2011, dropped it, tried a scant few things again in 2012, and finally picked it up again and finished it last month.
And details of her face and hand:
It took me such a long time for a number of reasons. One, I had in mind a specific way her face had to look, and it was difficult to get her expression and features right. I like keeping all my characters' expressions somewhat ambiguous, but this is easier achieved in looser works, where forms are not very clear to begin with.
Two, I had no idea what pretty much the rest of the image was going to be like, except for the snowy backdrop, her white fur cloak, and the gem-like bloodied object in her hand. In earlier versions she kept it close to her heart, but I didn't like how it made her look vulnerable. I wasn't sure what she should wear, either. I tried out a variety of outfits, from a white robe to plate armour(?), then a couple more armours of indefinite materials. I grew more and more frustrated as each attempt to add definition veered the image into stock fantasy territory - which is perfectly fine by itself, but not where I felt she belonged. In the end I sort of made up my mind and went for this oddly textured garment.
But what kept me back most of all was that I was getting more and more invested in the character herself. With a commission I can easily say "that's done", even if there are a number of things that bug me about it. I felt I had to do justice to this unnamed woman (Cania is the name of the place, not hers), and didn't mind wait until my skills were a bit more up to the task.
A few of a total of 32 different saves for this image: