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8 alternative interpretations of love

Love can mean more than just romance, fairytales and Hallmark poetry. These artists and illustrators have all captured the theme of love in new and thought-provoking ways. 

(If you've come here in a panic looking for inspiration for your own grand gesture, allow us to guide you to our pick of the best last-minute Valentine's Day gifts, and TechRadar's ranking of the best flower delivery services in the US or the best Valentine's Day flower services in the UK on T3.com.)

The illustrations in this article are part of the Month of Love, a project launched by artist Kristina Carroll back in 2013. Each week in February, Carroll sets challenges loosely based around the theme of love, and the artists taking part interpret them in their own way. 

Click on the icon in the top right of each image to enlarge it

01. Beauty and the Beast

(Image credit: Abigail Larson)

In her reimagining of Beauty and the Beast, Abigail Larson wanted to challenge the fairytale romance concept of true love. This illustration represents a classic after-the-kiss moment in a secluded garden, but in a more natural, expressive way. "I wanted to show a moment of vulnerability for the characters," explains Larson. "She passionately clutches tightly onto the monster, in contrast to him handling her tenderly. It wanted to capture their true selves in this gesture – her passion, his gentleness." 

Larson also took some time to create the right effect within the design of the garden background. The aim was to give it an autumnal look that was spooky but still inviting. 

02. Truth

(Image credit: Hilary Clarcq)

Hilary Clarcq's painting focuses on the concept of self love. "Many of us have stale thoughts that are holding us back or keeping us down," she says. "One loving thing we can do for ourselves is to take an honest look at these unhelpful thoughts and emotions, and then rid our minds of them to move forward." 

The painting is just 6x6 inches, which caused some logistical challenges when  putting it together. Clarcq had to downsize or replace many of her tools in order to create the textures and effects she wanted. There were positives to working on a compact scale, however: "On the flip-side, working small can be less intimidating, so I felt freer to experiment," she adds.

03. At World's End

(Image credit: Daria Theodora)

In 'At World's End', Daria Theodora hoped to convey through her artwork a sentiment that's difficult to express.  "The title of my piece actually has a continuation: 'At world's end, there is still only you'," she explains. "Even though I would never say these words to real people in real life, I thought I could say them in my painting."

The design started as a pencil sketch, which was then inked in sepia ink. The colours are a mix of watercolor, gouache, Japanese paint, and some details in coloured pencil. (Take a look at CB's pick of the best pencils for artists.)

04. Angela Rizza

Angela Rizza uses the Month of Love project to try out new directions and techniques. In this piece from 2018, she focused on playing with positive and negative space, mixing highly detailed areas with areas of empty space. 

"For the Beauty challenge, I immediately thought of Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty," says Rizza. "I imagined her birth as something maybe more natural than her rising from the ocean, and ended up liking the composition of her in the foetal position among seaweed in the receding tide."

05. Jessica Shirley

This drawing by illustrator Jessica Shirley focuses on the theme of 'lies', and is based on a quote from Dorothy Allison: 'Things come apart so easily when they have been held together with lies.'

"The quote has such intriguing imagery. It was a good summary of how many moral tales about lying turn out," she explains. Shirley incorporated animal symbolism into her piece, noting how ravens and crows are often used to represent trickery and deceit.

"I wanted to show a person coming apart when their lies were discovered," she continues. "Also, the feeling of wanting to flee or be invisible in that moment when you have been exposed."

06. Shannon Knight

Shannon Knight's piece exploring the theme of 'beauty' plays on the traditional mirror image style found on a playing card. "I wanted to paint a face card that represented both the king and queen as one entity, showing both genders blooming from the same body," she says. "To me, this celebrates the beauty and the natural inevitability of gender fluidity and transgenderism, something that should be celebrated more."

07. Julia Griffin

Julia Griffin decided to draw a friend of hers as a representation of 'beauty'. "I wanted to show her personality and vibrance, and also illustrate the beauty of the natural world through the Luna moth she is conjuring," she says. Griffin drew the design in charcoal on paper, before scanning it in and adding colour digitally. 

08. Kelly KcKernan

Kelly McKernan decided to challenge herself by working on a crescent moon-shaped painting panel. "In that composition, I found an underwater scene with these bright, two-dimensional fish surrounding a woman glowing with promise," she explains. "In my work, I think fish represent possibility and change, and in this piece, their presence is a positive one."

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