I really need to take more photos of my process because this cactus lady has had quite the adventure.
The concept started with seeing a photo of a frowning young girl in an old book and immediately thinking of the word "prickly." That lead to pairing her angry little face with a cactus and I did a quick sketch of a floating head with a large cactus coming out of her head. I was a little distracted when I was erasing my pencil lines — my strategy for gouache is to leave a really light pencil mark to follow — but I got carried away and erased them completely.
Not wanting to start over, I just started painting. To make it more interesting, I challenged myself to not look at my reference pictures. The cactus turned out much better than my original sketch, perhaps because it was more "natural" where all the cactus lobes were popping out.
The face was a bit of an issue though. My original intention was no colour except the lips but through various smudges and smears I was forced to paint her skin a light pink, then dark pink, then the resulting brown. She got a little bit older after each layer and lost most of her angry expression. To cover up my many mistakes, I had to make her face bigger, add on a neck and then a shirt.
During that string of facial fuck ups, I was so ready to throw it in the garbage but I'm actually so pleased with how she turned out! I guess sometimes the best artist tool is being too stubborn and lazy to give up.