Ardent Shadows

Gothic Fantasy paintings by Jemima Mantle



Progress Continues with my new Painting

After long hours taking care of subtle changes and tweaks, this week’s progress shows the addition of the cats facial features and continued progress on the mask. Whist I am still not getting into the final details, I am now beginning to give the characters more form and starting to make a difference to the story I’m telling.

I really like sharing the photos of this raw early stage. I think it’s very telling of the journey I have taken as an artist and hopefully  others will take it as encouragement that this is how the most realistic of paintings start. It is only as a mature artist that I can see this as a starting point and will be able to take this forward adding further detail and all those little features our beloved pets have. This is just one of several stages the cat will go through in its journey toward completion.


Continuing Painting Progress

This week I’ve been painting the background and have started to add some shadows around the figure. Even though at this stage the background is simply an exercise to block in some colour, I still want to add a sense of where the figure fits into the canvas. Until you add shadows the figure is simply hanging in space with no idea of how it fits into the over all composition. As you can see I have painted over where the hair falls down passed the figure. I am still roughing in elements of this painting and it’s very much a painting in progress. Elements like the hair will be some of the final details I paint however I like to create a sense of what it will look like early to help me balance the various compositional elements. I’ve also started to further fill in extra details to the mask. I thought red lenses in the mask may be an interesting design element but whether or not they make it into the final piece is a decision that won’t be made for a some time.


Painting Progress

Sometimes progress comes in massive waves and sometimes in little ripples. This week’s progress shows me balancing out the colour across the entire canvas as discussed in my last post. Although there is not much progress to really look at this week I felt it was important to keep it in the series to illustrate the timeline. It may not look remarkably different but there was a lot of painting hours invested in the colour work. I’ve also started to add shading and shape to the mask in exploration of its form.


Colour Progression

I’ve chosen this photo to share this week because it brilliantly illustrates the trouble you can get in when you don’t properly prepare your palette. I usually spend a good time at the start of a painting mixing my main colours and create accurate mixes for the colours I’ve imagined in my head. I would usually then do some tests to make sure it’s exactly right. This time I raced into starting the canvas and as you can see I’m having trouble balancing the palette. You can see that all the skin tones to the right of the hand are more yellow in tone, whilst the skin tones on the left are considerably pinker. This is because I refined the colours as I went along and the left side, that I painted later, is actually the colour palette I was aiming for in the beginning. In the area above the gas mask I have laid down some contributing colours to the palette as this helped me to identify what I am physically creating to what I originally wanted.

This mistake cost me time as I had to go back and correct the skin tones so that they all share the same pink hue. This is a good example of where planning a painting thoroughly, before starting out, can actually be a huge advantage!


New Painting

I’ve been quietly working away on a new painting and will be sharing progress pictures every Sunday. Follow me see it unfold.
I’ll be discussing techniques and inspiration along the way with more detailed posts. But for now, I hope you enjoy this sneak peek!


This week is another exploration of text. I chose ‘wanderlust’ because it’s a lovely word that I thought would fit with my botanical inspired drawings. ‘Wherever I may roam’ is just something that got stuck in my head when I was working on it. It’s also an excellent song and probably the real reason why it got stuck in my head to begin with!

The background for this week is one of my previous paintings – ‘Shelter’. Whilst I still love this painting and the mouse and birds look great, it’s now something that I consider to be part of my old portfolio. I have developed my painting skills such a lot since this painting. I know that the detail and amount of realism would far surpass this if I repeated this painting now. It does make a lovely backdrop against this week’s drawing.


Last weekend I exhibited at the Ink and Iron tattoo convention with the Light and Dark Exhibition. It was a really enjoyable show with a fantastically friendly and welcoming atmosphere. I think it’s important to mention that there’s been a change of venue this year and the light and space in the venue was perfect for displaying artwork. Additionally all artists were given ample hanging space along with a table for displaying prints and other interesting creations. The standard of work across the show was very high and I think everybody exhibiting enjoyed excellent feedback and good sales. It’s always a struggle for artists to make money from their art so simply covering costs of exhibiting is always going to be a gratefully received bonus.

bees made honey ardent shadows
The Bees Made Honey by Ardent Shadows

Personally I had a fantastic experience, receiving lots of encouraging feedback and meeting some great people. As I haven’t exhibited for a while it was also a chance to look at my full portfolio and identify which pieces interest people and capture attention. This all helps me develop as an artist and explore what work I may want to produce in the future. My highlight was seeing ‘The Bees Made Honey’ go to its new home. It’s always sad to see a painting go as I get really attached to them, especially when they’re a fairly recent piece, but I have to say I don’t think I could have picked anyone better to buy it. Sue, if you see this post, thank you for falling in love with this painting as much as I did painting it! It’s such an honour when somebody invests in an original piece. For those who haven’t seen it, you can watch the creation of this painting on YouTube – The Bees Made Honey

I also treated myself to a few small purchases and have got some excellent new curiosa for reference along with some prints that I’m busily framing up to add to my little gallery wall at home. If you want to check out a couple of amazing artists and a really lovely shop for curiosa check out the links below:

These are just a few of my favourites but check out the Ink and Iron website to see a full list of the wonderful artists that attended.

Finally I just want to say a big thank you to the Ink and Iron organisers, Jo Farn for so successfully organising Light and Dark Exhibition and everyone who stopped by to see it on Sunday; whether you bought something, chatted about our work or just simply stopped to say hello, thanks for supporting artists creating original artwork in our constant fight against a culture of cheap mass production. I’m already looking forward to next year’s show.


If you’re viewing this post of Facebook please see the full links below:

Ink and Iron Convention:

The Bees Made Honey video:

Feathers and Fur:

Annabel Leigh:

Crows and Crossbones:


It’s Halloween Tomorrow!!

So I’m very excited to be able to share this special Halloween painting with you all! It’s been tough working to a strict deadline but I’ve had so much fun creating this glam zombie. I’ll release some more detailed pics later but for now please feel free to share this e-card to wish your loved ones a very happy Halloween.

I hope you all have a wonderfully spooky weekend!


Painting Inspiration – The Bees Made Honey

It’s weird for me to hit a subject that’s almost trending but I feel that for whatever reason, bees are rather popular at the moment. I’ve signed plenty of petitions in the last year regarding the ban of particular pesticides, but this was not my inspiration for the piece. Neither was it the fact that my husband’s got a rather beautiful honey bee tattoo, done by Matt Youl in Birmingham (Instagram @theyoul). It’s certainly a bug rising through the ranks in the tattoo world. A year ago it was beetles with wings outstretched and moths adorning knees and ankles, but the bee is definitely an alternative gaining in popularity. Perhaps with all things considered it could be argued that bees were in the back of my mind before inspiration struck.

I was working, as I always do, with music in the background and found that I was particularly enjoying an Earth album ( I’d recently discovered. I think in part maybe I was drawn toward the album because of the artwork; something which despite the popular doctrine of ‘not judging a book by it’s cover’, I always allow to influence me. So that’s where I was, head in my work, letting Earth’s spellbinding drones wash over me, when I found myself entirely focused upon the music and starting to feel my creativity awakening. I looked up the song title and found that I was on the track entitled ‘The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull’ from the album with the same name. I found the title so evocative that I immediately found myself exploring concepts around lions, or rather lionesses, not as skulls but as beautiful women hard as bone and powerful as a lion. My original concept drawings were very much along these lines; a powerful female character with bees swarming out of her mouth and honey dripping from her fingers. I really wanted to capture those words – the bees made honey in the lion’s skull.

Eventually as I moved through roughs and my ideas developed I realised that I wanted to focus on the mouth and use the hands to frame this, providing further places for the bees to crawl and creep. All the time the words going around in my head like a mission statement.

It’s unusual for me to be able to pin point the exact time when an idea was born but in this case I can say with all certainty that this piece would not exist without Earth’s fantastic album and it’s stirring title. I have named my piece to honour that moment of inspiration.

If you haven’t already taken a look, you can now view the short video for the painting of ‘The Bees Made Honey’ on YouTube, featuring the beginning of the 8 minute track by Earth. Follow this link ( or click on the image below.

Painting Video - The Bees Made Honey
Painting Video – The Bees Made Honey

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