Ardent Shadows

Gothic Fantasy paintings by Jemima Mantle


painting technique

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

One Stroke Technique in Painting Tattoos

So once again I found inspiration on Youtube. This time I stumbled across a video of artist Tatyana Kudryavtseva, doing some amazing free hand artwork in the street. I couldn’t stop watching it and soon found other videos by various artists practicing this one-stroke technique. Primarily used for decoration of household objects and keepsakes, it appears to be a craft in its own right. What particularly interested me was the speed with which very beautiful flowers could be created.

The technique itself involves loading your brush with separate colours which mix as you apply the brush to your chosen surface. Flat head brushes are key to this technique however chisel brushes are also recommended. There is also exploration to be done in prepping your brush in terms of how and where to apply your colour and how to work it deeper into the bristles before use. I have also seen examples of artists applying a third colour to the brush with hugely interesting and successful techniques.

One Stroke Painting
One Stroke Painting

It was with speed in mind that I decided to use this technique to create the tattoos on the female figure I was currently painting. After spending long hours carefully blending acrylics to create the smooth seamless skin, it was a joy to experiment with this super quick technique. I knew in advance that I would need to work back into my initial creation to make create the adjustments to make the painting look like a real tattoo. For example, tattoos are not going to be lighter than the rest of the skin with the exception of white highlights in fresh tattoos. You can therefore assume that the lightest colour in the tattoo would be that of the natural skin. This is important when skin is in shadow but particularly important when a tattoo wraps around an area falling into shadow. Ignore the light in your composition at your own risk! It will flatten the form and drastically reduce the level of realism. Also bear in mind that low light levels reduce chroma. Coloured light will have several colour interactions which should be observed to maintain realism.

One Stroke Tattoo
One Stroke Tattoo

I do admit that testing out new techniques should never be done on a primary work that you’ve already invested many hours in. If I had invested some time working in my sketchbook exploring this technique for myself I’m sure the end result would be technically stronger. Whilst what I created fit the requirement here, I’m sure one-stroke artists would be able to give me lengthy advice on how to better my technique. I hope to spend some time practicing this for future use. I can see where its application could save me a lot of time in roughing in many elements of my more complex pieces.

You can view Tatyana Kudryavtseva’s Youtube video here:

Finished Painting: A Grain of Sand

Other than a few more slight alterations and a few little adjustments, here is the finished image of A Grain of Sand. This has been the biggest challenge I’ve taken on in a very long time. It’s my unceasing passion and to be honest, blind determination that has seen me through to the final stages. I can’t say I loved every moment but I have truly learned a lot and developed my technique over the countless hours. I’m very proud of this piece and look forward to taking a high quality photo (without bounce) for prints and a new thing for me – getting it framed up (this is on canvas board).

Pretty much, very nearly, so close… sort of finished! I tend to spend a couple of weeks after finishing a piece weighing up how it balances, the overall composition and whether any of the colours need a little adjustment. So far I haven’t made these changes but I think I’ve identified a few minor things to make it absolutely perfect.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my creative process in this piece. I love to talk art so if anyone wants to discuss anything raised in my blog please feel free to get in touch.

Prints will be coming up in the next few weeks. To see the world in a grain of sand…

A Grain of Sand
A Grain of Sand

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 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.

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