I first went with the basic exploration of sketching traditionally the more literal elements of the Butterfly Lovers, namely figures, butterflies, skulls and clouds.
I first attempted to see how composition would work and I drafted out several long horizontal thumbnail sketches.
However, that was very limiting and felt like this reduced my potential elements and ideas. Hence, ditching that, I just explored with the literal elements themselves, seeing what I liked, what worked and what could be expanded in meaning and variety.
Exploring motifs related to death and the unhappy characters who held the couple apart.
After I realised that the elements felt rather detached and typical, I decided to try and sketch the with elements that I enjoyed sketching- body parts (but mostly hands).
I thought about how the girl, Zhu, had to subtly show affection or even contain her affection for Liang because of how she had to pretend to be a boy and their families disagreeing with their being together.
I expanded on the idea of gestures and decided to experiment with different hand gestures or body parts that could be isolated in a way to show discomfort or a longing for the other.
The initial rough stages of sketching were very undecided but helped to direct where the following sketches were going.
I then went on to sketching these said gestures and body parts in a way that I felt were subtly expressive of longing and loneliness. Books were also added as part of them motif sketching because of how I liked that their time together in school was probably the most amount of time they would spend together unknowingly.
I used a brushpen for texture and the variation in line width to add more character to the body parts.