Whereas my previous 2 experimental images came together quickly and easily, this one took about an hour and a half to compose, and even then, I'm not sure I'm happy with it. I wanted to use sharks from a collection of shark drawings I just completed, but the composition consisting solely of sharks felt insubstantial, like a design for kids' wrapping paper. The longish shape and small faces of sharks made it hard for any shark to be the focal point of the composition, so I hunted around my scanned art folder for a more intriguing subject.
I found an old drawing of J, who was one of my favorite models for life drawing. The charcoal drawing of J is over three years old. I too, made her into a custom brush, which to my delight, captured the charcoal nuances (at least at a low res scale). Now I notice that I didn't quite finish her right hand, oh well. Anyways, for the longest time I kept J at a size that fit within the borders, when it dawned on me that expanding her beyond the borders would look so much more interesting. The strategically places colored stripes hopefully diminish the distraction of the sharks around her face.
As for the background, I pulled that from a kelp forest illustration I made a few months ago. Thank Photoshop for layers! I wanted a surreal quality. A calm image, in contrast to the average person's reaction to schools of sharks. The sharks are black tip reef sharks and thresher sharks, by the way.