Ardent Shadows

Gothic Fantasy paintings by Jemima Mantle


painting in progress

Designing on the Canvas

Whilst I do a certain amount of planning before I embark on a painting, there are usually several unplanned elements that take shape as an ethereal part of the creation process. I like working in this way because I feel it gives me a closer relationship to what I’m working on. If you know exactly how the finished painting is going to look before you start, I think you take the life out of it. There’s no better feeling than looking at the structure of your composition and feeling where a flower should nestle in or a piece of ribbon should curl and flow. Whilst you can do this on paper before you start, why would you want to rob yourself of the joyous experience of doing it on a large scale where you can feel the shapes you’re creating.

I’ve decided to share a short video below showing me beginning to map out these unplanned elements. This is taking my earlier point to an extreme. I actually found myself a little stuck with this painting and went through a period of weeks when I wasn’t working it due to this sticking point. The question was this – who is my character and what setting would she be in? I didn’t want to leave the background as plain colour. That’s the freedom of creating on the canvas, you feel your way around it. That’s when you tap into a total state of calm concentration. That zen state which I’ve talked a lot about in my Mindfulness Monday posts. So, this is how I create on the canvas. Hopefully when I share the final piece you’ll be able to see why I think this is such an important part of creating artwork:



Continuing painting progress: A Grain of Sand

DSC_0656cThe kitten on the left and the plant far left, have both been filled with largely unblended colours. This is something I don’t usually do however, in the case of the kittens, I simply ran out of time when I was working and this photo has captured a technique I use but seldom acknowledge. I tend to work in this way when I start a new section that is complex. It helps to break down the subject into areas of dark and lights and helps me to start identifying the form of the subject. It was pleasing to see how well the light colours covered the graphite due to the layer of gesso I applied before painting.

The inspiration behind Black Bryony

I get asked a lot about my inspiration and where it comes from, so although the creation of a new piece is as natural and ephemeral as breathing, I thought it might be interesting to explain a little about this piece.

Following on from ‘Sense of Self’ I’ve known I wanted to do a neck corset for a while and the uncomfortable feeling of a nightmare was also something I was keen to portray. I felt that insects in the neck corset would create this emotion in the audience. An uncomfortable, uneasy feeling that there’s something creeping and crawling inside you. The exact insects to use was a much more difficult thing to decide. I originally wanted to use insects from the UK but eventually I had to change my mind and search globally for bigger and more varied insects. It was important to get bugs that were not too attractive for risk of ruining the emotive response I was looking to invoke in the audience.

Using the plant, Black Bryony, came about very differently. I was stopped in the car, parked next to a hedgerow in the countryside. From the window I noticed a beautiful plant that was winding it’s way through the hedgerow, creating beautiful shapes as it searched for places to cling to. I wanted to find out what the plant was but it took a lot of searching to find it. A waxy, heart-shaped leaved climber was the only thing I had to search for. Eventually I found Black Bryony and through my research found that it’s named after the black poisonous roots. It was instantly a keeper and something I knew was perfect for Ardent Shadows due to my interest in poisonous plants.

The colour scheme came about naturally after the concept had come together – black bryony and insects in a neck corset. I knew it was going to be largely green due to the subject and as I like to work with limited colour schemes depicting the flesh in blue tones seemed a natural choice. An accent in the complementary colour range is always a favourite of mine. I can’t explain why I chose do the hands and lips in this colour – that’s one of those little mysteries of the creative process. It just felt right.

Here are a few photos that illustrate my journey:



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

Black Bryony – Progress 7

Continuing progress of my latest piece. Here you can see that I’ve started to add shape and definition to the neck corset and added the branches which will display the main focus of this painting…

Black Bryony - progress pic 7
Black Bryony – progress pic 7

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