For the Three of Swords I decided to change things up a bit from its traditional depiction in the Rider-Waite deck.
I always felt like this particular card never really symbolically or narratively fit in with the rest of the deck (it featured a heart with 3 swords stuck through it).
Therefore, my first decision was to change the artwork to something figurative so it was more consistent with the other cards. I also made the decision, like the other swords cards, to depict the artwork in winter (as the suit of swords is primarily associated with the season of winter).
After some research on other decks, I stumbled across a title for the Three of Swords on the Hermetic Tarot Deck, which is an extremely ornate and heavily symbolic deck originally created by the Hermetic Order of the New Dawn.
It reiterated the original meaning of the card, which is called: "The Lord of Sorrow."
Using this title as a basis, I sought to capture the essential feeling of sorrow (which skewed slightly towards betrayal in the Rider-Waite deck). My primary vehicle to convey this was to paint the model alone in an isolated and desolate place. By extension, she is feeling lonely and sitting completely by herself, surrounded by feelings of sorrow and pain. Furthermore, I chose to make the pose pensive and slightly defensive in nature. She is covered and guarded, thinking about things that have recently happened to her.
The tree behind the figure symbolizes her current feelings: bare and raw. However, when the spring comes around, the tree will begin to bloom, and just like the tree growing buds and blooming, feelings of sorrow will eventually pass with the season.
Finally, the tree also serves as a marker of a memory, something that happened in the past or recent past that the figure is despairing over. It symbolizes something important that causes her current feelings, and it is shown as weak and sickly, barely holding itself up and covered in snow.