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Ardent Shadows

Gothic Fantasy paintings by Jemima Mantle

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exhibition

My Wolf for ‘Wolves in Wolves’

As regular visitors of my blog will know, I now have more time to dedicate to my art and I thought a great way to kick off this new start would be to get involved with a community art project. I came across the ‘Wolves in Wolves’ project in Wolverhampton and submitted a design which was successfully selected. I have now been working on my wolf for a couple of weeks and have been adding progress photos documenting this journey. Up until now however I have not shared the design I’m working toward, so without further ado here’s my design for the project:

Wolves in Wolves

Those of you who are familiar with my work will not be surprised that my design is based around trees and wildlife but what you won’t be aware of is that it is also heavily inspired by some of my favourites things about Wolverhampton, including feeding the squirrels in West Park. I find these animals so endearing and just full of character. I knew instantly that my design had to feature some of these furry critters, after all, this project is also public art so I  wanted it to appeal to a young audience. During my childhood in Wolverhampton I not only loved West Park but also adventuring down the Valley Railway, a beautiful nature reserve which even meets with some of the canals. It has always been a tranquil place where you can immerse yourself in the beautiful scenery.

The other influence on my design is my Mindfulness Mondays project. Those of you who were following the project last year will recognise the black and white linear drawing style and understand why I’ve chosen to free paint my Wolf instead of stenciling or drafting out my design. You can catch up on the project here, www.ardentshadows.co.uk/mindfulness , but here’s one of my favourite highlights: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GmN5Rp8XIe0)

We have fantastic green spaces in Wolverhampton and I’m really hoping my design will inspire people walking the Wolves trail to venture out into these places and discover the natural beauty that our wildlife offers. With the nod to my Mindfulness Mondays project I’m also hoping to inspire budding artists to get out their pens and pencils and enjoy the sense of relaxation and joy that art can offer.

The Wolf trail will be kicking off at the start of July so make sure you put a trip to Wolverhampton City Center in your diary this Summer!

For more information about the project and watch the continuing progress of my Wolf, sign up to my blog and follow me on Facebook or Instagram.

Last weekend I exhibited at the Ink and Iron tattoo convention with the Light and Dark Exhibition. It was a really enjoyable show with a fantastically friendly and welcoming atmosphere. I think it’s important to mention that there’s been a change of venue this year and the light and space in the venue was perfect for displaying artwork. Additionally all artists were given ample hanging space along with a table for displaying prints and other interesting creations. The standard of work across the show was very high and I think everybody exhibiting enjoyed excellent feedback and good sales. It’s always a struggle for artists to make money from their art so simply covering costs of exhibiting is always going to be a gratefully received bonus.

bees made honey ardent shadows
The Bees Made Honey by Ardent Shadows

Personally I had a fantastic experience, receiving lots of encouraging feedback and meeting some great people. As I haven’t exhibited for a while it was also a chance to look at my full portfolio and identify which pieces interest people and capture attention. This all helps me develop as an artist and explore what work I may want to produce in the future. My highlight was seeing ‘The Bees Made Honey’ go to its new home. It’s always sad to see a painting go as I get really attached to them, especially when they’re a fairly recent piece, but I have to say I don’t think I could have picked anyone better to buy it. Sue, if you see this post, thank you for falling in love with this painting as much as I did painting it! It’s such an honour when somebody invests in an original piece. For those who haven’t seen it, you can watch the creation of this painting on YouTube – The Bees Made Honey

I also treated myself to a few small purchases and have got some excellent new curiosa for reference along with some prints that I’m busily framing up to add to my little gallery wall at home. If you want to check out a couple of amazing artists and a really lovely shop for curiosa check out the links below:

These are just a few of my favourites but check out the Ink and Iron website to see a full list of the wonderful artists that attended.

Finally I just want to say a big thank you to the Ink and Iron organisers, Jo Farn for so successfully organising Light and Dark Exhibition and everyone who stopped by to see it on Sunday; whether you bought something, chatted about our work or just simply stopped to say hello, thanks for supporting artists creating original artwork in our constant fight against a culture of cheap mass production. I’m already looking forward to next year’s show.

inkandiron2016

If you’re viewing this post of Facebook please see the full links below:

Ink and Iron Convention: http://www.inkandiron.co.uk

The Bees Made Honey video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AwwzJKpPYgg&nohtml5=False

Feathers and Fur: http://www.instagram.com/beetlesbonesandbutterflies

Annabel Leigh: http://www.instagram.com/annabel_leigh

Crows and Crossbones: http://www.crowsandcrossbones.com

 

Painting Inspiration – The Bees Made Honey

It’s weird for me to hit a subject that’s almost trending but I feel that for whatever reason, bees are rather popular at the moment. I’ve signed plenty of petitions in the last year regarding the ban of particular pesticides, but this was not my inspiration for the piece. Neither was it the fact that my husband’s got a rather beautiful honey bee tattoo, done by Matt Youl in Birmingham (Instagram @theyoul). It’s certainly a bug rising through the ranks in the tattoo world. A year ago it was beetles with wings outstretched and moths adorning knees and ankles, but the bee is definitely an alternative gaining in popularity. Perhaps with all things considered it could be argued that bees were in the back of my mind before inspiration struck.

I was working, as I always do, with music in the background and found that I was particularly enjoying an Earth album (https://www.facebook.com/thronesanddominions) I’d recently discovered. I think in part maybe I was drawn toward the album because of the artwork; something which despite the popular doctrine of ‘not judging a book by it’s cover’, I always allow to influence me. So that’s where I was, head in my work, letting Earth’s spellbinding drones wash over me, when I found myself entirely focused upon the music and starting to feel my creativity awakening. I looked up the song title and found that I was on the track entitled ‘The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull’ from the album with the same name. I found the title so evocative that I immediately found myself exploring concepts around lions, or rather lionesses, not as skulls but as beautiful women hard as bone and powerful as a lion. My original concept drawings were very much along these lines; a powerful female character with bees swarming out of her mouth and honey dripping from her fingers. I really wanted to capture those words – the bees made honey in the lion’s skull.

Eventually as I moved through roughs and my ideas developed I realised that I wanted to focus on the mouth and use the hands to frame this, providing further places for the bees to crawl and creep. All the time the words going around in my head like a mission statement.

It’s unusual for me to be able to pin point the exact time when an idea was born but in this case I can say with all certainty that this piece would not exist without Earth’s fantastic album and it’s stirring title. I have named my piece to honour that moment of inspiration.

If you haven’t already taken a look, you can now view the short video for the painting of ‘The Bees Made Honey’ on YouTube, featuring the beginning of the 8 minute track by Earth. Follow this link (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AwwzJKpPYgg) or click on the image below.

Painting Video - The Bees Made Honey
Painting Video – The Bees Made Honey

The Bees Made Honey – New Painting Video

I’m very excited to have just finished my third YouTube Ardent Shadows for my new painting ‘The Bees Made Honey’. Please head over and give it a thumbs-up. I’d love to get some feedback on these videos!

This piece has been a bit of adventure. It’s a little smaller than my usual pieces being approx 12 x 16 inches and  started as a way of painting with a different colour palette and a different approaching limited colour schemes. I really wanted to do something a little less planned and a bit more instinctive. Accepting that the bees and honey would always look best when painted golden yellow, I felt that the skin could be any tone or colour way. The only other decision I’d made ahead of setting up that first palette was the decision to have a solid black background which the face and hands would dissappear back into. I wanted to ensure this piece felt a little uncomfortable, and empty darkness lends itself well to unnerving the audience.

I decided that I wanted to hinge the scheme around the use of Buff Titanium and Pale Violet and chose not to plan the rest of the scheme but instead, to mix as I painted, allowing the colours to essentially choose themselves. I really loved the interaction between these two paints. I left open sections of each colour unblended and allowed them to describe areas of highlight and shade. Each owning it’s individual values. This was a really pleasing approach and something I would like to use in future paintings. The main stumbling point I found in not have a planned palette was in the shadows. Particularly when I was adding the finishing touches such as the shadows underneath the bees. At first it felt like they should be warm toned perhaps matching that found on the skin of the hands, but after inspection is appeared that a cooler brown looked much more realistic.

It’s also been interesting to push fantasy toward abstract with the honeycomb. I would usually paint this sort of detail to appear as a tattoo or a pattern on the skin itself. But it’s been fun to leave it open to interpretation this time. I intend to continue pushing forward with this as I find it very difficult not to tackle every idea in terms of ‘how would that work’. Although in my usual fashion I did research some bees and used the UK buff-tailed bumblebee for my reference.

So without further ado please use the following or click on the picture to view this short video and watch me paint these lovely bees. I’m also going to be posting on the blog later this week regarding the inspiration for this piece. The song used in the video is Earth’s ‘The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull’, which had a lot more to do with this painting than you might think!

The Bees Made Honey by Ardent Shadows
The Bees Made Honey by Ardent Shadows

Exploring Video

I recently began filming myself painting with the intention of producing ‘painting in progress’ videos. It has been a steep learning curve and if I’m being honest, setting up and maintaining recording equipment can be rather obstructive to the painting process. To date I have produced two different videos which explore its use in different ways.

The first video I released was actually the second painting where I used a camera and is in time lapse style. I therefore had some experience of which technique to use and how to set up my equipment. Comparatively it was much easier to produce this style of video. Step 1: Mount the camera in a set location and in an unobtrusive place, and Step 2: Paint. If it wasn’t for the short battery life of the camera, which necessitated several breaks in recording, it would have been a fairly low effort task. It took me a good few hours to prepare a work space suitable for recording but this is something I hope to overcome with the completion of my studio. Also upon reflection I should have mounted the camera in the same direction of the light to reduce ‘bounce’. It was however immensely enjoyable to view the results and compile the video. I’ve also received very positive feedback from people who enjoyed viewing it.

But I am most excited about the second video which I am posting here for the first time today! In many ways this was more problematic and it took long hard hours of video editing to put it together. As it was a completely new adventure I decided to experiment with several different camera mounts and camera positions. This meant I had to carefully edit footage from each individual angle and occasionally I found that after hours of editing, some footage was just not suitable for inclusion. What I have created through this experimentation however is a video which I feel is most interesting. Different views and speeds intermixed with stills and sweeping panning shots keep you interested as the painting develops.

I was surprised to find that one of the most successful pieces of video is towards the end where I’m repainting details of the skirt. I put this down to the experience I had already gained at this point both in real time filming, but also as it was the last section to be edited. I cut out sections of whole piece, then sped up individual clips in order to create an ever moving, constantly evolving piece of video which has both a good pace, and level of detail.

I consider the creation of these videos a project in its own right and something which is very much in its infancy. I have a lot to learn but I am excited to meet the challenge and look forward to creating videos of my future paintings. After all, what better way to capture the creative process?

So without further ado, I present the video for ‘Sense of Self: Faith’

Faith on Youtube
Faith on Youtube

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C4Cg2hkRekY

And in case you missed it, you can see my ‘time-lapse’ painting here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_yXEtGVrWZE

Mr Tibbs’ Fundraiser for Cats Protection

So firstly I need to say a massive thank you to everyone who donated this year. Despite the bumpy start I did manage to meet my target, albeit my revised target, raising a total of £167 for the Cats Protection. Without the support of my family and friends I couldn’t have raised a penny! I cannot say thank you enough!!!

I’ve now done the draw and by random selection I can now announce the winner of the painting:

Free Draw Winner
Free Draw Winner

The free draw has taken place but my Just Giving page will remain open until the end of the month for anyone who would like to contribute. Don’t forget you can still check out the video on Youtube at:

Mr Tibbs’s Annual Fundraiser 2015

The painting you can win this year.
The painting you can win this year.

In memory of a my dearly missed best friend Mr Tibbs, I have created this painting to raise awareness for the Cats Protection.

https://www.justgiving.com/ardent-shadows

I’m also excited to share the link for my first ever ‘painting in progress’ video. Any comments and/or feedback are welcome. I’m still trying to get used to the technology and I have made a few beginners mistakes.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FXrrBavb1dM

My beautiful boy. The inspiration for this yearly fundraiser .
My beautiful boy. The inspiration for this yearly fundraiser.

Donating through JustGiving is simple, fast and totally secure. Your details are safe with JustGiving – they’ll never sell them on or send unwanted emails. Once you donate, they’ll send your money directly to the charity. So it’s the most efficient way to donate – saving time and cutting costs for the charity. https://www.justgiving.com/ardent-shadows

Portfolio Diversity

Ardent Shadows
Ardent Shadows

Last Saturday I had the best show I’ve had in ages at the Alternative and Burlesque Fair in Birmingham. I firstly need to say a massive thank you to the the A&B team because it was hands down the most professional and well organised event I’ve worked at. I’m looking forward to their next event in June – which is why I’m now spending some time reflecting on my sales.

It was lovely to have a big space to fill on Saturday. It gave me the opportunity to display several large canvases alongside smaller originals of all shapes and sizes and whole plethora of prints. After four years of painting for Ardent Shadows I have certainly built up a diverse selection of work. I have often pondered whether to gain popularity and to progress as a professional artists, I should narrow my portfolio and limit aspects of my work. When I look at my contemporaries it certainly appears that artists with a very specific subject matters or techniques are those rising to fame. To have a specific and limited style is something I’ve always admired in other artists.

Hanging by a Thread
Hanging by a Thread

It’s with this in mind that I began to look over the prints and pieces that sold, and the pieces that got the most attention, but I can’t see a pattern or a theme emerging for this particular show. At some shows I can sell multiples of the same prints or prints of pieces which are

similar in subject or at least the style or medium. Across the years I have been taking my work to shows, the self titled piece ‘Ardent Shadows’ has remained one of my most popular pieces and I remember Tattoo Tea Party in 2013 was dominated by ‘Hanging by a Thread’. But at the weekend I sold pieces painted in inks, acrylics and biro studies. Paintings that were sweet and light sold alongside the darker and more oppressive pieces. If diversity of portfolio is really a bad thing shouldn’t it have hindered my sales instead of amplifying them?

I have several ideas for new pieces, all in various stages of development, and for now I’m certainly not going to be limiting myself. Perhaps portfolio diversity is something that every artist starts out with, but the success of just one aspect of their work demands the artist to concentrate on that particular style or subject. I definitely think that diversity within an art project in its youth is no bad thing. I will however continue to envy those who have already made the choices which lead to a focused portfolio, but for now I still feel the benefits of a currently diverse portfolio.

Etsy shop restocked

I have restocked my Etsy shop  – so go and check it out. What are you waiting for? There’s a few reduced items as well as some originals still up for grabs. If you see something in my portfolio that’s not currently available please feel free to get in touch. I’m happy to do custom orders for prints alongside commissioned originals.

I’m also hoping to list some large scale canvases in the upcoming weeks so follow me on wordpress, facebook, twitter or instagram to keep up to date – or you can favourite my shop if you’re an Etsy regular.

Fancy a chat? Get in touch at ardentshadows@gmail.com

 

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