Ardent Shadows

Gothic Fantasy paintings by Jemima Mantle



A Grain of Sand – New painting

I have just finished what was the last painting of 2014 but I thought it fitting to save it for the first post of 2015. It has been an important piece for me and the start of a new approach to my work. It was an experimentation of media, a challenge to myself and the first purely still life painting I’ve done in a very long time.

Whilst this was a chance for me to set up a real life composition to paint, I also wanted to create a perfect setting in which to display something which to me is beautiful and pure but something that many people will feel is a controversial. Please stay tuned for later posts where I will discuss the subject matter of this piece in more detail. First and foremost – I wanted to create a piece which showcased the beauty of life, all life, the beginning, the end, the oldest and most pure. Pure and raw nature.

For now, what I want to discuss is the preparation I went through for this piece. I have not put pencil to canvas for many, many years. Mainly because it muddies the pale colours but also because I found that painting outlines directly onto the canvas was a more pleasurable way of working and allowed for greater freedom and expression. For this painting I have also used canvas board – another change for me. I carefully drew the composition accurately and precisely onto the board with a standard pencil and then sealed it with a clear gesso.This seals the graphite and maintains an adhesive surface for the acrylic paints. Whilst this attributes mainly to my reflective learning and so this is not something I think I will do – I can certainly recommend the technique for anyone wanting a precisely drawn design to paint over.

A Grain of Sand
A Grain of Sand – Preparation

I will be sharing progress pictures here and on my social media pages so make sure you follow me for the full piece and related posts. Instagram: and Facebook:

To see a world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wild flower, hold infinity in the palms of your hand and eternity in an hour. William Blake.

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

Musings of an Acrylic Painter

It’s a question I’ve been asked a thousand times. Why don’t I paint in oils?

Whilst officially I say it’s because I like the speed of oils, or I prefer not to bring chemicals into a household with three very nosey kitties, the truth is this… My reluctance to venture into oils is a stubborn and slightly childish refusal to buy into the snobbery that still clings to oils.

It saddens me that many people still think that oil is better -that you can only be a professional artist if you buy into the oil elite. Many people adhere to the misconception that oil painting is more challenging and therefore you are a more talented artist if you use oil. Yes, there is a lot of technique and ‘book knowledge’ required to begin with and this does make it less accessible for beginners. But just because acrylics are a friendly medium for novice painters it doesn’t mean that the capabilities and possibilities of acrylics stop there.

It’s a wonder that with all the advances in technology and the developing modern world, some old attitudes linger on. If we look at how the attitude towards tattoos has changed just since the turn of the new century, why is it that a world so close to tattooing has not developed at all. In fact tattoo artists who turn to oil painting are somehow elevated above the talented artists choosing not to buy into oil fever… I want to halt my assault here just to add that I think it’s brilliant that so many tattoo artists are discovering their worth as traditional artists outside of tattooing and vice-verser that so many traditional artists are turning their talents to tattooing. It enriches both and movements such as lowbrow / pop surrealistic movements would be poorer without it.

Contrary to longstanding opinion – I don’t believe you have to be a better artist to use oils and I would like to see this view disintegrate as we have seen happen to the old edict that ‘tattoos are for convicts’ for example. In many ways I think tools and techniques exist in oil painting that can actually allow mediocre artists to cheat their way to creating pieces beyond their actual talent. If we take the process of colour glazing for example – it is possible in oil painters to create a piece with a fairly safe and limited use of colour and then, in the final hour of the painting, to use a colour glaze on top of the existing painting to create greater depth and variety in tone and colour. In acrylic painting however it is necessary for the artist to consciously seek out their desired colours. They must be skilled in colour mixing and matching, and know exactly how to create the depth and subtleties without the use of glazes and other techniques which to me feel like last minute shortcuts. The acrylic artist must be precise, skilled and have an exceptional feel for what they’re creating.

It’s time oil painting was taken down off the pedestal! Realism in painting is difficult to achieve. It is incredibly demanding and I would argue even more challenging for the acrylic artist. Lets stick two fingers up at the oil elite and start praising the acrylic artists out there – sticking to their love of acrylics and fighting against the old fashioned view that ‘real artists’ use oil.

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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Heartwork: If you missed it, you missed out!

The Heartwork Exhibition was easily one of the best and most enjoyable I’ve been to for a long time. Every featured artist displayed expertise with different media and techniques whilst creating work which was of equally high standard to the next. The subject matter for each artist was diverse however a love of alternative culture and the Heartwork theme ran throughout. Interestingly cats, moths and carrion birds remain popular choices and animals as a whole were a favoured subject, whether they were the primary subject or acting as ‘support’ for a female figure (which as usual featured largely over the male). To me, the predominant similarity between all the artists was the passion and intense amount of work that each artist invests in their art. The whole show had a fantastic energy which I attribute to the excellent selection of artists involved in this one-off evening event.

It was a huge pleasure to exhibit with such a professional and talented group of artists and I sincerely hope that our hosts choose to hold another. Which brings to me to my final thanks, to Jess ‘Crows & Crossbones’ Gough, Claire Corbey and the wonderful Digimem Studios I would like to say a massive congratulations on what was a truly wonderful event! Check out their links below.

You can see some of my phone pics on my Facebook page but there will be bigger and better coverage, by people with actual cameras, which I’ll link from this blog in due course. I’ll also add the full artist list and links in my Facebook album – so go and check them out!!

Jessica ‘Crows & Crossbones’ Gough can be found at: or

Claire Corbey:

Digimem Studios is a great space which is available to rent for a wide range of uses so if you’re a photographer, an artist or just have an event you’d like to hold please check out their pages below:

Finally I’d just like to give a shout out to Dawnii Fantana, Painted Lady Tattoo Studio in Birmingham, who once again had a huge amount of beautiful new pieces to exhibit and whose unceasingly optimistic and enthusiastic nature continues to push me forward. Check out her work and shop at:


Heartwork Exhibition – this Sunday!

Heartwork ExhibitionA pair of extremely talented artists have invited me to exhibit with them this weekend! Be sure to check out Claire Corbey and Jessica ‘Crows & Crossbones’ Gough and make sure you come by the exhibition on Sunday if you’re in the area. It’s going to be fantastic!

Custom Print – Ardent Shadows giclee print to fit 11 x 14 frame

by ArdentShadows (30.00 GBP)

Persuasion – giclee print with charcoal mount to fit 11 x 14 frame by Ardent Shadows

by ArdentShadows (25.00 GBP)

Ardent Shadows giclee print with black mount to fit 11 x 14 frame

by ArdentShadows (25.00 GBP)

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