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Ardent Shadows

Gothic Fantasy paintings by Jemima Mantle

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painting

3 days until Halloween

3days

One detail I was never in doubt about including in this year’s painting is the stylised pumpkin flowers and stripey vines. I absolutely love them! As always it’s a featured that’s painted in steps. This photo shows me mapping out these elements and placing the vines along the figure. You can also catch a little peek of how the face is coming along.

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4 Days To Go

4daysZombie texture added I can now start going back into the figure and tightening up the shading and details like the fingers. You can also see where I’m starting to develop the pumpkin and build up more of an idea of how all these different elements are going to work together!

5 Days Left…

5daysAnyone who remembers last year’s piece, or has watched the Halloween YouTube video I released at the start of the month, will know that giving the figure a textured zombie appearance is a big part of creating this character. It is however, an effect that is built up over stages. Today’s photo shows the first step towards the zombie skin is painting the base colours and loose shading.

Count down to Halloween with me!

I couldn’t resist the urge to create an all new Halloween Special again this year – and I think it’s going to be even better than last years!

Here’s the first installment to whet your appetite. You can just about see the pencil lines from dividing the canvas. My initial design was about A4 size so I drew a grid on top of that which matched the dimensions of the canvas. I could then freely paint the design onto the canvas ensuring that each part of figure filled the correct part on the grid. It’s an excellent method for ensuring your drawing enlarges correctly without distortion.

Can you tell what it is yet?

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You can catch up with all of last year’s fun by checking out last years countdown blog posts and watching the ‘in progress’ video on YouTube. Simply search ‘Ardent Shadows’ to find my channel.

Follow me to join the countdown!

And so to the finishing touches…

And so to the finishing touches… almost time to call this one done! #gasmask #fetish #painting #wip #wrd #darkart Counting down to the final reveal.

Developing A Face

In the early stages of this painting I loosely painted a cat face so that I could get a feel for how the painting would come together. Over the painting process I continued to change the features of the face in order to capture exactly what I wanted. As I didn’t have any reference for this element I was trying to work out exactly how the cat would be positioned and what angle it’s head was likely to be. I found it difficult to work out exactly where the leg would be. It wasn’t until I had thought about how the anatomy of the leg and where it would bend that this particular element started working.

Before I began to finalise the face, and went through the steps shown in this week’s photo, I decided that I needed to make sure I’d got the facial expression correct; so I gave my cat a good fuss with a camera in my hand. Luckily I managed to get just the reference I needed and could begin filling in the light and dark areas of fur. All of a sudden a realistic face started to appear.

I considered several possibilities for the eye but in the end settles on a simple vivid blue which is the accent colour for the whole piece. Since taking the photo to the bottom right I have added more shading to the fur around the chin and added some definition to the base of the whiskers. I love this little kitty and I’m really happy with how it came together. He’s the purrfect companion to my ‘mouse lady’.

New painting in progress
New painting in progress

​Imagining Flowers

After some brainstorming I felt that I can imagine my figure lying in a bed of flowers but the question remained, how does this relate to the painting, to the story? I realised that this piece is more about forging your own path and following your dreams and desires. It is so different than the underlying themes of my previous gasmask paintings than I wonder if that’s why the design process has been long and continually developing. Taking the time to explore where an idea has come from and what it may mean, before starting to paint, may actually be a lot more important to the process than perhaps I had ever realised.

So with the meaning loosely bouncing around I came to the decision that if I painted the bed of flowers as handmade entities in their own right, it would cement the themes a lot better than any other background/foreground I could add. The question of how to make flowers look man-made was a slightly different challenge but after searching around art and crafts methods I eventually decided that fabric flowers adorned with beads and buttons could be the quickest and most effective way of achieving this effect. It also gave me the chance to extend my colour theme and add more of the contrast colour which is playing around the canvas. A shot of blue against the soft red gives the sharp edge to this otherwise calm colour scheme.

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:

 

 

The Art of Feet – Painting Progress

I always aim to give myself a challenge when planning a new painting. I believe it’s an artist’s job to constantly develop and grow; but it’s a very humbling experience to find challenges where they were unseen and unexpected. So perhaps I should have felt slightly less irritated by how long I had to continue working on the feet in this painting. Now, I realise something important in reflection of this adventure, I have never painted feet before. They are difficult!

People talk about the difficulties of painting hands, something I’ve always enjoyed; I now feel I can relate all those conversations to feet. Even with reference it’s been a challenge to unpick where and how these little sausage toes fit to the foot and how the sole becomes not a flat shape but a curving fluid part of the foot which blossoms into the ankle and beyond. Even as I’m writing this I’m looking at my unfinished painting and anticipating further changes before I’m done.

Here’s a little insight into how I’ve gone back and constantly made little adjustments in order to replicate a visually accurate foot. Whilst I have named this post in a rather optimistic frame of mind, make no mistake, this post would have been more appropriately named ‘F***ing Feet’!

As Beethoven said “Nothing is more intolerable than to have to admit to yourself your own errors” but this is how we grow, how we learn and ultimately become better at what we do.

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