Ardent Shadows

Gothic Fantasy paintings by Jemima Mantle



Mindfulness Monday #45 and #46

This week’s a double bill – the drawings from this week and last week. Both of these weeks were incredibly relaxing and a joy to work on. The first captures which something of a personal mantra – choose happy. It’s a simple idea but if you make this the first thought of the day you set a tone for your whole day and with some work maybe your whole life. Like many things in life happiness sometimes requires hard work, determination and dedication. Just like your body can’t thrive without exercise and a healthy diet, your mind needs feeding with positivity. This week I invite you to give it a try. Choose happy!

Mindfulness Monday #40

This week has been a week of reflection.

I didn’t have anything in particular that I wanted to draw this week. Usually I’ll get an urge to start with a skull or a flower or perhaps I’m yearning to create a little furry creature, but not this week. So I thought back to some old techniques, freely drawing shapes to the music. This technique allows the music to effect the breath, to move the pen, to create shapes devoid of conscious thought. I used this to build a framework for the two pages and then started to fill different areas with different patterns as the mood took me.

What’s interesting to me is that it almost acts as a showcase for what I’ve learned over the last 40 weeks. This is a collection of patterns, lines and forms that I’ve become very comfortable with over the course of the project. They have come out of a mindful concentration not on the drawing itself, but on the emotion behind it. When I’m painting I get very focussed on what I’m doing and it’s mindfulness in a different state. It’s the total abandonment of everything else. This project however is almost about the abandonment of art. It’s not drawing to create art, it’s drawing to tap into the calm and peaceful state that painting takes me to. In a way this week’s pages are a showcase of forms which are visual representations of the process of accessing calm, and accessing your breath.

Mindfulness Mondays 40

Mindfulness Monday #34

I love my mindfulness drawing this week. I feel like it ticks all the boxes for me. It’s serene, beautiful and quirky enough that it still feels like something that belongs to me.

The face is probably the most successful so far being simple and attractive. My biggest love this week has got to be the peonys though. The little black heart-filled centres just give it a little hint of something girly and gothic. They’re also an example of where I have been able to create something using some very loose flowing lines whilst having some fun giving them a more stylised twist. The stripes in the background also make it feel very much part of me. Sometimes there’s nothing more beautiful than some simple black and white stripes.

At several points in the creation I felt that the outline of the composition was creating something beautiful in the negative space of the white page. The beautiful empty shapes and balanced perfectly across the page. The striped areas have done a nice job of keeping a sense of what I loved about the negative space but everything considered I feel that I could have left these white areas blank. So far I have been stuck in the concept of completing a full double page each week. Perhaps it’s only natural that the parameters of this self-directed project will continue to developing as I move through the weeks?


Mindfulness Monday #29

Another week, another experiment with colour. I like this a lot less than last week’s but it’s only through experimentation that we can develop and improve. This might be the last time I use colour for a week or two. I feel that the colour is taking me away from my aim in this project. In its simplest form it’s an experimentation in escape and finding peace. Loving how something looks at the end is a wonderful side effect but none-the-less something I have become to value as much as the activity.

The background this week is my painting ‘The Seeker’.


Mindfulness Monday #28

This week I feel like I’ve really used the coloured pens to maximum effect. The foreground in black and then fading through blue into the background. I decided to try finding some new ideas for drawing patterns and the flowers and leaves are actually inspired by a 19th century Mason’s plate. It was really fun to have a loose reference for a different type of pattern but  I still loved being able to draw the border at the bottom from my imagination as normal. And as I’m sure you can see I returned to my familiar drawing style for the background. It’s been an interesting experiment this week and one that I feel has been most successful.


Beltane brings the passion to grow
To reap the benefits of seeds we sow

This should be the last text week for a while. Love this text though! Think the rose worked really well too. Altogether just loved it this week!

(Thanks to my hubby for helping with this week’s photo.)

Mindfulness Monday #13 – Bats, Rats and Cats.

After the success of breaking out of my established approach last week I decided to follow it up with another free flow design this week. I’ve also had the desire to include a cat for some time. This didn’t work as well this week but I’m really happy with some of the elements I have included. I like the patternwork I have worked into the bat wings and I’m really happy with how the rat turned out. As enjoyable as it was to work with animals this week I feel that this is possibly one of the weakest drawings I’ve done. I was surprised because I love painting little critters into my big pieces so I thought the subject would encourage greater success. Perhaps I should stick to paint brushes when it comes to our furry friends. To be true to the project I will revisit animals later on. I feel like there must be some potential there.

I’m hoping to get back into painting over the Easter break. I’m also working at a convention on the 3rd April, so it would be lovely to have a new piece to take with me. Because of the deadline it will only be a small piece but I’m hoping that small steps will lead to bigger things. I still have an exciting new piece stuck at the ‘blank canvas’ stage. Make sure you’ve subscribed to my blog (or followed my facebook page) to see all of my upcoming work.


Please excuse the rough-and-ready photo this week. I’m blogging on the go!

Mindfulness Monday #12

And now for something completely different. You may look at this week’s drawing and think that it’s not really that different so read on to find out why that’s not the case!

I have been experimenting with my creation method and trying to find new ways of getting lost in my drawing. This week’s is so different because I began by drawing free flowing lines without an aim of what I wanted to create. I haven’t experimented with sort of technique since my college days. You simply put your pen to the paper and let the music move you.  The tree is a brilliant example to discuss as I have left this area quite raw and you can still see a lot of the initial lines I put down. It was lovely to break out of the very controlled patterns I have been working on. It reminded me how successful if can be to allow the pen move where your mind takes you rather than aiming to create something specific. I also allowed myself to have a lot of fun with this abstract landscape decorating the tree with hearts and flower rather than feeling the need to create a more traditional leaved tree.

The other thing I really love about this mindfulness drawing is that I’ve created a sort of landscape where you can keep noticing more and looking beyond your initial view. The more you look, the  more you see. For example did you notice the skull in profile at the bottom left the first time you looked? I like the fact that with a mindfulness landscape I could also use this for my meditation practice. Being a fantasy obsessive I would always prefer to journey to somewhere strange and new than say the beach or something else more traditional. This is a great way to integrate mindfulness drawing practices with other methods of relaxation.

Project reflection and book recommendation:

This week I also want to discuss a rather pleasing side effect of sharing a regular project. I am used to being solitary in my art practice, so it has come as a pleasant surprise to find that my mindfulness drawing project has opened the door for friends and family to give me their input. Most recently a colleague, at the day job, loaned me a mindfulness book with a twist; ‘The Ladybird Book of Mindfulness’ (you can find it on the Penguin Books website). This book reuses original illustrations from the original Ladybird books but brilliant repurposes them to give a satirical look at Mindfulness. I’ll skip straight to the end and tell you I love this book! For a start it’s a very lovely looking book and the traditional cover brilliantly keeps up the facade of it being from the original Penguin Book series. It’s very helpful to remind yourself that mindfulness should be a practice which is easy to utilise and enjoyable to do. This tongue in cheek look at the practice definitely reminds you not to take the whole thing to seriously. Have fun with your practice and make it work for you.


Mindfulness Monday #11

Most weeks what comes out of this exercise is a surprise and this week’s is no different. It started in a completely different way and where it ended up was totally unexpected. This week I did the two top corners first and created what felt almost like a frame for the rest of the page – at least this is how I felt when I started it. The next part I added was the skull moon – I’ve totally fallen in love with this. It’s fun to draw and this week I definitely perfected it. The moon felt like it needed a long curl from the top point, which I did and after adding a few other lines it began to feel like a net. So I connected the dots and ended up with something which was shouting ‘dream catcher’ at me. Having recently done some drawings with text I wanted to avoid writing in this one but every time I picked up my book the words kept coming back to me again and again. Eventually I gave in and filled an unusual space with text, which was another interesting problem to tackle.

It’s only just occurred to me that most people will probably hear ‘dream catcher’ and think of the Native American circular hoop, beads and feathers. Understandably – but if you’ve arrived at this point, you need to retrace your journey. I encourage you to think about the individual words; imagine a calm night sky filled with stars and a glowing moon hanging in the distance, waiting to catch your wishes and dreams as they float up and away from you.


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