Ardent Shadows

Gothic Fantasy paintings by Jemima Mantle


work in progress

Wanderer No.2

This week’s painting was based more closely upon a real Bob Ross tutorial and I thought I’d choose a fairly simple one to get a handle on the basics. Also, mainly due to impatience I decided to work on a white background. This is the first thing which I have definitely learned this week. I like working over a black base. It keeps these landscapes more closely related to my own aesthetic and I feel that it just creates a deeper atmosphere. There’s more magic to be found in the twilight.

The biggest problem I came across this week is actually the same issue I had in my first painting. When I got to adding bushes and details in the foreground, the paint wouldn’t stick, or maybe the base layers were eating up the tonal variations. Again, I also struggled to create all the different shapes and patterns so important for creating a believable world of natural flora. The remedy for this was only realised after I thought I had finished.

I went back into the painting after it had been left drying for a few hours. I can’t be sure that this is the reason why I was more successful on my second visit but I think it played a part. The other reason I went back into it was that I felt it had turned out to be a very boring landscape. I felt much happier after adding in some large trees in the foreground. This also provided me with an opportunity to play with the palette knife more. This is something else I highlighted in the first painting as an area of weakness which needed attention.

All in all I am pleased with this second entry into my oil painting diary. You can’t love every result when you’re learning new skills, but you always learn a lot. Next week it will be back to black.

Wanderer No.2 on YouTube

Wanderer: An Evaluation

So I’m excited to have another try with my oil paints and this week I’m  planning to choose an episode of ‘The Joy of Painting’ to give me more guidance in some of the weaker areas of my first attempt. However, before I can start aiming for improvement I need to first identify where my technique is weakest.

Firstly I have to say that painting in this wet-on-wet technique is considerably harder than I thought it would be. It’s also harder than expected to imagine a whole world of landscape. I usually work in the realm of imagination so I didn’t feel too daunted by this but facing a blank canvas with no real plan was definitely a challenge when exploring landscape. It did bring its own aspects of fun however as I had no idea I was going to put a stream in the painting until I got near the bottom of the canvas and inspiration hit. I think where I need more of a plan is in the mid ground. Background and foreground feel the most simple to develop a basic plan.

Regarding the individual tools and techniques in Bob Ross’ style, I have to say I struggled most with use of the palette knife. This is the tool which is most foreign to me and I have absolutely no experience with using one. My work usually has a very smooth finish with virtually no discernible texture. The idea of allowing the paint to go on thickly and unevenly still feels quite uncomfortable.

The other struggle I had was toward the end of the painting where I wanted to add more definition in little bushes and plants in the foreground. I found it very difficult to get the variety of shapes and colours that Bob Ross creates. On reflection I think perhaps I should have thinned the paint slightly to make it stick to the thick paint already applied in these areas. I felt that by the end of the painting I had lost a lot of the tonal contrast and the foreground was not cooperating. In the end I put this down to experience but couldn’t resist adding the little white wisps before calling it finished. I just wanted to put a little bit of more of myself into this; after all my aim here is to learn the technique, not to start copying Bob Ross paintings.

The last of the problems I encountered did not become truly apparent until the day after. I had applied the liquid clear undercoat much too thickly. I have a few areas where the paint had run a little after I’d finished to working on the canvas. Upon reflection I can see now where it hampered me during the painting. I had originally wanted to create a sky that was slightly less blended and still had shapes and suggestions of clouds. The canvas was too slick for the technique I was trying and so I blended the sky more to compensate. Next time I try this technique for the sky I will also put less white on my brush as I think this will also help to restrict how much the shapes blend together.

All in all I feel very encouraged by this first attempt and can’t wait to have another try. I will be trying to follow an actual Bob Ross tutorial (more or less) and will also be trying to push myself to explore the palette knife and that’s where I’m most uncomfortable.

Don’t forget to follow my blog or YouTube channel to see how I get on with this oil painting adventure.


Changing Faces – A Dragon Sickness GIF


I love looking back at the early photos of a painting and watching it come to life as I add each little detail. A GIF is the best way to showcase these photos and share this insight. Photos of these early stages hint at, but not describe, the full process and whilst it looks like it’s all linear progression there’s actually a lot of tweaking and an almost continuous need to adjust. Facial tones are difficult to do in one sitting, and when you add elements like the hair and background it can highlight subtle details which a first pass has overlooked. The face has many different contours which need describing but lighting and expression can drastically change where highlights and shadows should be.

This is the first ‘portrait’ I’ve painted in a long time. Whilst nearly all of my painting feature female characters, they’re usually a secondary part of the painting. Second to an idea or concept that I’ve wanted to capture. This painting’s concept works so well that there’s no need for anything outside of the character. Dragon Sickness, something from the imagination of JRR Tolkien, needed nothing else to come to life. As I started out I wondered whether I had set too much of a challenge but I feel I have achieved a really beautiful painting. I can’t wait to share the finished piece.

Ardent Shadows on Instagram

#TBT This was the beginning of something great! This was snapped during one of my mindfulness drawings when my hubby peered over my shoulder and asked what I was doing. I matter-of-factly told him “it’s a tree” #mindfulness #drawing #meditation #tree #doodle #wrd

October 29, 2015 at 06:24PM

We’re nearly there!!! #Halloween Countdown. Are you ready for the final piece? #zombie #sclera #demon #cryptobotany #pumpkin #spiderweb #wrd

3 Days till Halloween

This little black dot has a big future with just 3 days till #Halloween … #darkart #wip #wrd #darkart #cryptobotany #timburtoninspired #zombie #acrylic #painting

4 Days till Halloween

#pumpkin still in progress and only 4 days till #Halloween !! #wip #workinprogress #spiderweb #gothicart #zombie #darkart #demon #wrd

New Painting: Halloween Special

Scaling up my new piece from linear sketch to canvas. I guess this is probably the old fashioned way these days! #creativeprocess #canvas #painting #wrd – and yes this is a Halloween special 😉

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

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