Ardent Shadows

Gothic Fantasy paintings by Jemima Mantle


work in progress

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:



2 Days left…

These stripey vines definitely make an impact after adding the little highlights. Add some shadows onto the figure and you’ve got a design feature which I just can’t get enough of! Still more work to do but it’s getting teasingly close!



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?


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.

Mindfulness Mondays #35

When I showed my husband this week’s post his first comment was “woah its been years since you last drew women with wings, you used to do it all the time”; further evidence that this project has started to tap into something fundamental in my artwork. I don’t know whether this side of my art had been put aside, forgotten or simply demoted in favour of other projects. It’s so nice that I now feel I have a project where I can explore all manner of subjects and themes with little consequence to my portfolio. The problem with my larger paintings is always the time it takes to complete them. Because they take longer, I can only follow up the strongest and best ideas. I don’t have time to investigate the fleeting ideas and perhaps more importantly ideas which don’t steer my overall portfolio in the strongest direction. (Oh woe is me, the trials and tribulations of the poor artist working a day job to pay the bills…)

This was an interesting drawing this week, an idea which grew from nothing other than the starting point of wanting to draw a curled up figure. I was doing my mindfulness practice on my lunch break and was really tired at the time, wishing that I could curl up myself. The wings and horns are examples of those classic elements where I can honestly say “I don’t know why”, just that they felt right at the time. I think something like this would be lovely in a full colour piece where these mysterious little plants could be painted exactly as they are in my head, as bioluminescent plants belonging to a fantasy realm.

I hope you enjoy the gif that I’ve put together for this week’s mindfulness post. I am also keen to do another timelapse/speed drawing video but this will have to be reserved for a week where I can find more time to carry out my practice at home. So until then, enjoy:


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.


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.


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