Ardent Shadows

Gothic Fantasy paintings by Jemima Mantle


acrylic painting

Technique Close Up

This painting has offered me a great opportunity to compare one area of it, halfway through completion and then with the final result. I usually aim to finish a section in one sitting so it’s unusual for me to step back and look at what’s happening halfway through. As you can see, in the first photo I have laid down unblended colours which indicate the final values and describe the darkest and lightest parts of the subject. I have begun to give the subject form.

It’s important to have an understanding of the form as a whole before you start adding detail so that you can weigh up how it is working with the subjects around it but also because this is where your artistic license comes in. Even when painting realism the artist needs to ensure that the placement and flow of the composition is as visually pleasing as possible. You want to make sure that you understand exactly how a composition is working before you commit yourself to the detail.

Finally I also want to quickly discuss something which I have used for the first time in this painting – Acrylic Medium. I have experimented with retarder but have never used it a great deal. Whilst you can use the medium to create similarly thin layers, you can also use it in several other ways. In this painting I used it in my mixes instead of water which gave me smooth fine paints to work with. It prolonged the drying time, although not to the same degree as retarder and so allowed for easier blending. An unexpected benefit was that you can also apply it directly to the canvas in order to create a sort of false blending with the colour underneath. I can see several other possible uses for medium and look forward to exploring it further. I would urge any acrylic artist to invest in some medium to have an experiment and look at whether it could enhance your techniques and preferred way of working.


Continuing Progress…

I aim to take a photograph at the end of each painting session however… here I missed several opportunities. This picture was a considerable number of painting hours after the last posted picture.

As you can see, it’s really started to take shape now. It’s a shame I missed the photos inbetween as you’d be able to see the colour adjusts I made as I painted each one. I usually premix the main colours in my scheme and preserve them with a little acrylic retarder and seal them thoroughly to keep them fresh. I didn’t do this as I wanted to explore mixing from tube colours every time. I had hoped that  it would add more colour tones and therefore interest to the fine detail and whilst I think it has achieved this, it was very slow going. I found painting these succulents incredibly difficult! Although I’m equally pleased with the tall red ones as I used just a subtle shift in colours to bring one to the foreground. I think it was very successful.

Subjects and interpretations

I named this piece based on the William Blake poem. I include two excerpts below:

To see a world in a grain of sand
And heaven in a wild flower.
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour.

Every night and every morn
Some to misery are born.
Every morn and every night
Some are born to sweet delight
Some are born to sweet delight
Some are born to endless night.

It’s a result of the human condition – we constantly questions the world around us and come into conflict with issues which challenge our morals, views and ideals. I think artists are probably more self-reflective and naturally questioning of my feelings and thoughts. This is how we grow and develop – something which is key to constantly developing artwork, pushing yourself, growing and improving yourself. This reflective state is where I found myself when I first discovered Bone Kitty Curios, ethically sourced wet specimens. Whilst I found their animals incredibly fascinating I was unsure of whether I could own something like this. I first encountered them at Custom Carnage convention but didn’t purchase anything. By the time I saw them at the next show I had decided that I wanted a little kitten of my own to admire and love. You only have to talk to them to see that these little animals have been treated with such a huge amount of love and respect, and in the end I was delighted to be able to give two of their fetal kittens a new home. My kittens, like all Bone Kitty specimens, died of natural causes and has been lovingly preserved so that we can enjoy the natural beauty of life and the melancholy of death.

Enjoying the natural beauty of the life around us is what A Grain of Sand is all about. I wanted to create a piece which celebrates the beauty of the world around us. My kittens offer a glimpse of pure and innocent beauty but I also feel it tells us something about creation. I have put them next to a quartz crystal as this gorgeous natural creation is one of the oldest beauties we can bring into our own homes. They also bring elements of the mystical and spiritual into this piece. The succulents not only frame the central focus but in themselves represent the diversity of creation.

I could ramble on about this piece and why I chose to create it but that’s not the point of the post. Whilst many of you may instinctively pull away from my kittens, I wanted to challenge your preconceived ideas and ask you to consider why we shouldn’t celebrate all aspects of life, for it is beautiful. Dr Gunther von Hagen has already broken down some of the taboo’s of death in his autopsy TV programmes and exhibitions, why shouldn’t we behold the beauty of the creations of this world that have died even if they sadly never took their first breath. To me, it is no different to the ethics of framing a pinned butterfly and hanging it on your wall.

I want to stress that I do not condone the killing of animals for people to preserve, stuff, skin or do anything else purely to appeal to a human desire. No life should be taken for the enjoyment of another. If you are interested in owning your own fetal specimen I cannot stress enough how important it is to check how and where that animal has been sourced. Please do not buy taxidermy or any similar ‘artwork’ from any unknown sources especially eastern countries where the torturous farming and murder of animals for this purpose is still practiced.
I cannot recommend Bone Kitty Curios enough – visit: or

Here’s a photograph of my continuing progress:
Painting Progress
Painting Progress – A Grain of Sand

Further Musings – Acrylic Artist, Greg ‘Craola’ Simkins.

So, having been very opinionated in my last post about the differences between oil and acrylic painting, I find myself considering the art of Greg ‘Craola’ Simkins and wondering where his technique fits in. He uses acrylic paints but with, what I consider to be, an oil painting technique.

What I didn’t discuss in my last post is the use of retarders and mediums as there is a huge variety to discuss and I must admit I have fairly limited knowledge as I’ve only experimented with a few. Craola has been quoted as saying that he doesn’t like to mix too much stuff into his paints – but quite frankly you simply could not use acrylics his way without either the use of the mediums OR alternatively you can get acrylic paints which become workable again when sprayed with either water or a relaxer. Safe to say this is not an acrylic artist using standard acrylic paints alone.

Whilst his work is incredible – so beautiful and complex – I think what has really pulled me towards his work is his YouTube videos. It’s a real pleasure to watch an artist working in this much detail. Despite the questions it raises for me and the personal discomfort of watching an acrylic artist harnessing oil painting technique, I can’t help but be thrilled by his work and his videos. It is through artists like this that the whole of art society grows and develops. He’s a real king of lowbrow, or pop-surrealism depending on your take.

‘Finding Home’ by Greg ‘Craola’ Simkins

This is the first time I’ve shared another artists work on my blog but I am very happy to have discovered this artist and feel that it’s made me question my technique. I’m sharing this in the hopes that it will encourage other artists to go through the same self-reflection. This is how we learn and grow as artists. I just can’t shake the niggling question…. As an out and proud acrylic painter, can we really stick up two fingers at the oil elite when we are developing techniques more akin to oil painting?

So without any further comment – here’s an example of Craola’s videos. Whether it’s right for acrylic artists to mimic oil technique is a question I’ll leave with you…

Enjoy x

Black Bryony – Progress 12

Continuing progress of my latest piece. Work continued across the canvas sharpening up lines and adding depth and detail where needed. Black Bryony produces berries which I decided to add at the final stage. The colour of the berries (some ripe and some not) bring the entire colour scheme together and finish it off perfectly.

Black Bryony - progress pic 12
Black Bryony – progress pic 12

Black Bryony – Progress 11

Continuing progress of my latest piece. The bugs come to life and sharpening/detail work continues across the piece.

Black Bryony -  progress pic 11
Black Bryony – progress pic 11

Black Bryony – Progress 10

Continuing progress of my latest piece. Introducing the stars of the show. This is early progress of my bugs where I’m still developing their look and feel. As you can see they started life as block black shapes as I worked out positioning.

Black Bryony - progress pic10
Black Bryony – progress pic10

Black Bryony – Progress 9

Continuing progress of my latest piece. Here I’ve started to add more definition and depth to the hair and increased the detail of the plants in her hair. The plants will keep developing throughout the final stages of this painting. The balance, detail and amount changing to match the needs of the final piece.

Black Bryony - progress pic 9
Black Bryony – progress pic 9

Black Bryony – Progress 8

Continuing progress of my latest piece. The corset detail has been added and I’ve started to rough out the leaves in the hair. Have you worked out the choice of title yet?

Black Bryony - progress pic 8
Black Bryony – progress pic 8

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