Ardent Shadows

Gothic Fantasy paintings by Jemima Mantle




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, , but here’s one of my favourite highlights: (

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.

Mindfulness Monday #20 – Mathematics, biology and art.

First, a brief note about this weeks drawing: This is the first week where something’s gone wrong in an unsolvable way. I had initially hand written the text but it had not worked well and I felt that it was certainly beyond saving. That is why the text this week is added by computer. It’s disappointing but better than the alternative.



I’ve always found the relationship between the natural world and mathematics fascinating. Relationships between mathematical theories and art are already well documented. If you’re an artist, you’re probably familiar with the Golden Section and other related composition theories. But there are also undeniable relationships between organic structures and mathematical patterns which feel almost magical; an awareness of which gives such a profound respect to the natural world around us. Of course mathematicians and scientists would emphatically disagree that there is anything magical about this, but I’ll leave you to make up your own mind.

It was thinking back to a video that I watched, about how the Fibonacci series relates to a spiral growing pattern shared by many plants, that prompted me to explore whether there are any mathematical systems which I could incorporate into my mindfulness drawings. As I love drawing botanical inspired shapes it seemed like a natural progression. It’s something that I felt was particularly relevant to a botanical heart which I had already started to draw.

I found the solution to this desire in the exploration of fractals. This is something that I’ve been vaguely aware of for some time, largely due to my brothers impressive and extensive interest, however the equations and mathematics of fractal digital art go far beyond my understanding. I was however very pleased to discover that there is an application for freehand drawing. Whilst not precise it allows me to capture the essence of this mathematical drawing technique. Essentially for us laymans, it’s drawing using the same shape over and over again which vary in size but not in construction. In this way the relationship of the straight lines create curves. A more official definition is given as:

Fractal art is a form of algorithmic art created by calculating fractal objects and representing the calculation results as still images, animations, and media.

Here’s some drawing I did to explore the theory, how it can be utilised within art and my exploration of how far the theory can be pushed.


Anyway this is all getting me a little of topic but if like me you love nature, have an interest in biology or simply have a mathematical mind I would wholeheartedly encourage you to watch the ‘Doodling in Math Class’ video that got me hooked:


Anyone who’s bought one of my colouring books will already have seen a version of this weeks drawing. The majority of the images used in my book use my previous mindfulness drawings and as the most recent one, I couldn’t resist including this one. For my colouring book I scanned the original image and removed some of the lines to create more open space to colour.

In the UK the moon gazing hare is recognised as a very traditional pagan image but it seems that it is actually known in many religions and can be seen in historical art and cultural mythology from around the world including Japan and Egypt. It’s certainly a symbol that a lot of people feel connected to. It’s also popular amongst artists as I have often seen sculptural depictions of hares in this pose, not to mention all the illustrators and pagan artists who have created their own versions. I have recently discovered the beautiful work of Amanda Clark (@earthangelart) at a gallery in Boscastle. She is one of the many artists who have shared in the spiritual connection this imagery offers. If anyone reading this post is looking for pagan artwork I would certainly take a look at her extensive and beautiful portfolio.





Mindfulness Monday #10

This is my favourite drawing so far. It’s the culmination of so many styles and influences but is still true to myself. Skulls, flowers, filigree… I’ve also managed to achieve my goal of quickly accessing the state of calm and happiness that I’ve developed through this regular drawing practice. I’m finding it so beneficial that I carry my book and pens around with me.


Mindfulness Monday #6

This week’s pages were started in a different way. The binding shows on these pages and I thought that instead of trying to hide them or work round them, that it would be interesting to highlight them using negative space. I then used these shapes as the starting point for the whole design. It was fun to work on something that grew from the central point of the double page. I always try to start in a different place so that I vary the experience I get from the exercise. I’m very keen to avoid these drawings becoming in anyway planned or predictable. I want to ensure that they continue to demand my full attention. I feel that if my approach becomes systematic, I will lose a lot of the freedom and mindfulness which I’m currently enjoying.

The choice to draw more hearts is something that I think has come out of allowing myself to add my husband’s name last week. It’s always something I’ve doodled absent minded in notebooks but it was lovely to incorporate it into a mindfulness drawing and reconnect with what it really symbolises. If mindfulness is about calm and focus, shouldn’t we also find a way of celebrating love and happiness. I don’t know why it’s only just occurred to me. Of course these things go hand in hand. Is there anything in this world which makes us feel more calm, and more ‘in the moment’ than love. Whether that’s love for a partner, your family, your pets or just looking at a stunning view and connecting with how that makes you feel. I certainly feel that love is something I will be connecting with a lot more in my mindfulness drawings from now on.


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

It’s all been happening on Instagram!

Have you wondered why my blog has been quiet? Do you want to see more posts like this one? Check out Ardent Shadows on Instagram for more.

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