Ardent Shadows

Gothic Fantasy paintings by Jemima Mantle



Wanderer: An Evaluation

So I’m excited to have another try with my oil paints and this week I’m  planning to choose an episode of ‘The Joy of Painting’ to give me more guidance in some of the weaker areas of my first attempt. However, before I can start aiming for improvement I need to first identify where my technique is weakest.

Firstly I have to say that painting in this wet-on-wet technique is considerably harder than I thought it would be. It’s also harder than expected to imagine a whole world of landscape. I usually work in the realm of imagination so I didn’t feel too daunted by this but facing a blank canvas with no real plan was definitely a challenge when exploring landscape. It did bring its own aspects of fun however as I had no idea I was going to put a stream in the painting until I got near the bottom of the canvas and inspiration hit. I think where I need more of a plan is in the mid ground. Background and foreground feel the most simple to develop a basic plan.

Regarding the individual tools and techniques in Bob Ross’ style, I have to say I struggled most with use of the palette knife. This is the tool which is most foreign to me and I have absolutely no experience with using one. My work usually has a very smooth finish with virtually no discernible texture. The idea of allowing the paint to go on thickly and unevenly still feels quite uncomfortable.

The other struggle I had was toward the end of the painting where I wanted to add more definition in little bushes and plants in the foreground. I found it very difficult to get the variety of shapes and colours that Bob Ross creates. On reflection I think perhaps I should have thinned the paint slightly to make it stick to the thick paint already applied in these areas. I felt that by the end of the painting I had lost a lot of the tonal contrast and the foreground was not cooperating. In the end I put this down to experience but couldn’t resist adding the little white wisps before calling it finished. I just wanted to put a little bit of more of myself into this; after all my aim here is to learn the technique, not to start copying Bob Ross paintings.

The last of the problems I encountered did not become truly apparent until the day after. I had applied the liquid clear undercoat much too thickly. I have a few areas where the paint had run a little after I’d finished to working on the canvas. Upon reflection I can see now where it hampered me during the painting. I had originally wanted to create a sky that was slightly less blended and still had shapes and suggestions of clouds. The canvas was too slick for the technique I was trying and so I blended the sky more to compensate. Next time I try this technique for the sky I will also put less white on my brush as I think this will also help to restrict how much the shapes blend together.

All in all I feel very encouraged by this first attempt and can’t wait to have another try. I will be trying to follow an actual Bob Ross tutorial (more or less) and will also be trying to push myself to explore the palette knife and that’s where I’m most uncomfortable.

Don’t forget to follow my blog or YouTube channel to see how I get on with this oil painting adventure.


Feeling the Love: Social Media Reach

I recently felt the success of getting a painting selected for publication. I created a piece for Out of Step Books, ‘Under the Sea’. I have previously posted the painting, ‘Sleeping With Fishes’ and shared progress shots but with my Screenshot_2017-07-24-10-46-30-1limited number of followers of social media, there was a small amount of people that could really get to see it. Out of Step Books however however have 330,000 on their Instagram and I am so pleased to say that I have felt the love that their reach can bring.

At last count my painting, on their page, has reached 3,188 likes. It feels unbelievably good to know that there are Ardent Shadows fans out there who I just haven’t found yet. It’s really spurred me on and given me the confidence to keep pushing forward. My own small Instagram page has been enjoying a new rush of followers. Yes my current number may only be holding around 240, but I few short weeks ago I was struggling to get over 160. Of course not all of that has been because of this one piece. My involvement in the Wolves in Wolves Project has also helped me gain followers. It just feels so great to know that there truly is a future for my work out their. The all consuming passion I have for my art means that I could never stop painting, but it’s so nice to know that others are getting enjoyment out of my craft, my love and my hours of hard work and dedication.

I am really feeling the love!

Prints available as below (8 x 10 inch print with multi-frame mount, £15 plus postage). The original painting, 20 x 16 inches is available framed at £185. Contact me directly for more.


Changing Faces – A Dragon Sickness GIF


I love looking back at the early photos of a painting and watching it come to life as I add each little detail. A GIF is the best way to showcase these photos and share this insight. Photos of these early stages hint at, but not describe, the full process and whilst it looks like it’s all linear progression there’s actually a lot of tweaking and an almost continuous need to adjust. Facial tones are difficult to do in one sitting, and when you add elements like the hair and background it can highlight subtle details which a first pass has overlooked. The face has many different contours which need describing but lighting and expression can drastically change where highlights and shadows should be.

This is the first ‘portrait’ I’ve painted in a long time. Whilst nearly all of my painting feature female characters, they’re usually a secondary part of the painting. Second to an idea or concept that I’ve wanted to capture. This painting’s concept works so well that there’s no need for anything outside of the character. Dragon Sickness, something from the imagination of JRR Tolkien, needed nothing else to come to life. As I started out I wondered whether I had set too much of a challenge but I feel I have achieved a really beautiful painting. I can’t wait to share the finished piece.

A Little Progress Report

As you know, I quit half the day job at the start of this year to spend more time on Ardent Shadows, and you can see this in my work! I’ve had a fantastic few days in the studio this week so here’s a little peek at what I’m currently working on:



Under Milkwood Part II

I know you’ve been on the edge of your seat waiting to hear what’s the secret feature of this new piece. So here it is:

I planned this piece to work both landscape and portrait. The figure lying down and the foliage in one axis, and the sleeping animals all the other. The juxtaposition represents the balance between dreams and reality. Under Milkwood is all about seeing things that only exist in dreams. I wanted this piece to capture some of the magic of dreams.

Under Milkwood

Anyone who’s familiar with Dylan Thomas might be wondering where the connection is to his famous play Under Milkwood but this piece is not intended to be illustrative of the text. I have titled this piece to honour a single moment of discovery which instantly created this image in my head. Last year I saw the introduction of Under Milkwood by Michael Sheen as part of the celebration of the Dylan Thomas centenary. It was spectacular. The sounds and atmosphere created with the gentle rhythm of Sheen’s narration made for the perfect performance. I’m sad to say that it is no longer available to view on YouTube but hopefully the BBC has it squirreled away somewhere and it’s not gone forever.

Here’s a few key excerpts which so strongly suck in my mind from the introduction:

You can hear the dew falling, and the hushed town breathing.

Only your eyes are unclosed to see the black and folded town fast, and slow, asleep.

Listen. It is night moving in the streets.

Dewfall, starfall, the sleep of birds in Milk Wood.

Time passes. Listen. Time passes.

Again I’m not sure anyone would feel the link here to the painting I’ve created but it is so strong and clear in my mind. I find this text so hugely emotive that for me it’s connection is undeniable.

There is also an interesting additional feature to this painting which I will be sharing in a later post so please sign up to my mailing list or follow me on social media to read Under Milkwood Part II. See if you can spot what the hidden magic of this piece might

* I’m thoroughly delighted to say that I’ve found the video elsewhere so here’s the link:

Enjoy x

The Threads of a Dream

So a little later than planned, here’s the full image of ‘The Threads of a Dream’. For the longest time I couldn’t title this piece but in the end I realised, it’s not so hard, I just had to think about what it means to me. The artist’s real gift is the ability to a visually express ideas, dreams, and emotions. My hope is that in this painting others might find a visual representation of something they’ve been feeling or thinking but are perhaps unable to express. One of the joys of art is that everyone can interpret the meaning differently and take away something different from the experience of seeing it.

I have recently quit one of my ‘day jobs’ to spend more time painting and creating. I think this is the perfect piece to celebrate this exciting time and many possibilities ahead. Prints will be coming soon, email for information.

thread_master to share.jpg

Time for Tiny Brushes

Painting the red cardinals into my new painting means one thing – it’s time to get out the tiniest of my brushes. Here I’m starting to add the details, but there’s a lot way to go on this painting!

Happy Halloween for 2016!

It was a pretty close thing this year but I am very pleased to share the final image of my Halloween special! I’ll do a further post later in the week and share some close up photos of the full painting. There are lovely little details in this one that I just can’t wait for you to see. Until then, Happy Halloween!


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