Often, ideas will come to me when I learn a new tool–suddenly I see new possibilities. In this case it was learning how the layer overlay function works in Photoshop. Something about the quality of the colors suggested silk, and from there it took no time at all to need to draw a cherry blossom kimono.
This is version two. Version one met an unfortunate demise entitled 'too much reference, not enough originality.'
I am slowly learning the value of contrast and darkness. (I'm a little slow... I read 'In Praise of Shadows' seven years ago, but apparently I wasn't paying attention. It's out of print but if you can find a copy, snap it up: an excellent explanation of a difficult aesthetic.) 'Kill your darlings', the old William Faulkner advice, applies just as well to visual arts as to writing. In order to set up a background that makes sense, I had to draw all of it in some detail. But then I went back and added deep shadows. This is an overall improvement, but there are now parts I drew that I liked a lot that are invisible: The sliding door lit from behind by a single candle is the best part of the background...but I put a lot of work into making the individual squares on the door be lighter in the middle than the edges, and evenly spaced, and textured, and you just can't see any of that with the shadows.
Also, texture. I did ceramic tile, adobe, and woodgrain textures in this piece. Because I decided to use a bit of focal distance blurring on the background and close foreground elements it's not as noticeable as it might be (kill those darlings; it's for the best) but I think it still matters.
Surprise favorite: The slushy streets. The whiteness was actually an accident as I was messing about trying to find a useful textured brush, but I liked it so I kept it. Now with the falling snow it seems like it was intentional all along. An excellent accident all 'round.
That umbrella... I'm done with umbrellas for a while. It's okay now, but sometimes simple mechanical things like folding staves are much harder to get to look right than something like an automatic rifle.
There are still three nagging problems that I just couldn't figure out how to fix. First, there is something subtly wrong with the angle/width of the near side of the Maiko's face. Something to do with the angle of the hinge of her jaw and near eye I think, but I just couldn't quite get a handle on it. Secondly, her obi seems to be floating off of her rather than going underneath her arm. I tried all kinds of variations of shading, but just couldn't make it behave. I'm having a similar 'floating' problem with her right hand: Some of her wrist should be shown disappearing into her sleeve, but every time I tried to draw that part it looked worse, so eventually I let well enough alone.
But I don't care about the less satisfactory bits, because the kimono works. That the initial seed idea for this whole painting turned out to be the best part? I'm totally okay with that.