Ardent Shadows

Gothic Fantasy paintings by Jemima Mantle



This week is very obviously ongoing from the quote I shared two weeks ago. This proves that some thoughts and ideas stay with you. I wasn’t planning to revisit this idea but this is what came out of me this week. I like however that it’s moved on and become something else. I feel like if you look back over previous week’s post you can see my thoughts developing and changing as the project rolls on. 

The Ghibli fans amongst you will recognise some little tree spirits. It just felt right. It was feeling like a very tranquil and natural scene that was coming together whilst I was drawing. It felt like Ghibli tree spirits would live there.

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.


Mindfulness Monday #27


Coloured fractal-inspired drawing for you today. Check out the full post about fractals in Week 20’s post.

Mindfulness Monday #14

My main focus this week has been to get back the flow I missed so much in last week’s drawing; not my mindfulness flow, but rather the flow of the patterns around the page. I began by drawing long curved lines almost sectioning of the page. I haven’t started a page in this way since the early weeks of this project. It was nice to get back to this structure and reconnect with the initial concept of the project. Anyone who has worked on a weekly project will know that there is a natural growth and progression that develops week by week. In many ways it’s like writing an essay. You may have been carried away in the research but you have to keep coming back to the initial question you want to answer. This weekly project  is very much the same.

Am I unlocking my creativity by doing this practice? Am I achieving a mindful state of calm? Is this project still benefitting me? I am very happy to say that this project is definitely helping me reconnect with myself and is an important part of my mindful practice. I am not sure that it’s really helping my painting but in general it definitely stimulates my creativity and can give me the same sort of emotional satisfaction I get when I can set in front of my easel.

Finishing my first book has also been hugely satisfying. I’m really happy that my mindfulness practice will be able to help others in search of theirs!


Mindfulness Monday #10

This is my favourite drawing so far. It’s the culmination of so many styles and influences but is still true to myself. Skulls, flowers, filigree… I’ve also managed to achieve my goal of quickly accessing the state of calm and happiness that I’ve developed through this regular drawing practice. I’m finding it so beneficial that I carry my book and pens around with me.


Mindfulness Monday #9

This week I’ve decided to give you an insight into how I build up the two pages. I try and start each weeks drawing in a different place on the page. This just helps me stay mindful whilst drawing so I can really focus on what I’m doing. As you can see I move around the page and try not to finish one page ahead of the other. I like to work round in a spiral as much as possible.


This week I’ve also continue to play with the pens I use to draw with. Last week I was struggling to get used to using my two new pens and it took me a very long to complete two pages because I was using the smaller pen for all the construction lines. I therefore decided to buy more of the original pen that I started with. Using all three types of pen has really improved my technique and I’m pleased with how this has worked. So for those who want to know, that means I’m using the following:

  • Pentel: EnerGel 0.7
  • Pilot: Pure Liquid Ink 0.5 (V Ball)
  • Pilot: Pure Liquid Ink 1.0 (V Sign Pen)

The downside to this is that I now have to carry my book and three pens with me. I have been taking my mindfulness drawing to anywhere I might need to do some stress busting. I really have been able to achieve a total state of calm by doing these drawings and find that picking it up just for 5 or 10 minutes at a time is very beneficial for me.

Additionally this weeks’ drawing is also a ‘spot the panda’ by request of my sister. I invite you all to spot the panda and as I’ve uploaded this one in a special large format, why not print this one and have a go at colouring it yourself to enhance your mindfulness. If you do, make sure you share them with me – I’d love to see them!

Emelye Evans, this one’s for you:


Mindfulness Monday #8

Are two pens better than one? Last week I started coming to the end of my second Pentel EnerGel 0.7 pen, so I decided to experiment a little with different types of pen. I stood in front of rows of gel and ink pens and was so drawn to the array of possibilities. It’s so tempting to take my drawings into colour but I resolved that I don’t want to do too much too fast. So instead I settled upon a 0.5 pen and a 1 – essentially a thin pen and a thick pen. Both are from the Pilot range, Pure Liquid Ink. You’ll notice the difference it has had in the image below. I now have areas of high detail in contrast to thicker border lines and solid black fills. It’s been an interesting week incorporating these changes.

My only negative experience this week is something that may seem a little strange to some. There’s a lovely tactile quality to these drawings. With my old pen it was a smooth and steady texture where you could feel the slight indentation of leading lines, the ones which require more precision and consequent pressure. My new pens however are rather displeasing to the touch. Each pen has a different texture when the ink is dry. There’s also a slight difference in the opacity of each ink but it’s the touch which bothers me. I’d got used to slowly gliding my hands over pages and enjoying the feel of the patterned paper. I wonder if this will always be lost to me when using two pens or whether there’s a better combination I could use.

The positive outcome is that I could feel myself getting lost in the rhythm of changing pens. This feels like it’s adding to my flow but it also exercising my concentration as each change is a little moment that takes me away from the paper. I’m also feeling conscious that each development is taking me closer towards my normal artwork. I haven’t decided whether that’s a good thing or not…



Mindfulness Monday #1

This year I have decided to share a personal project which centers around mindfulness and whether it could have a positive effect on my creativity. Google defines mindfulness as a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.

I’ll discuss mindfulness more broadly in future posts as there is a lot to cover. Several events in the last few months have pushed me towards exploring mindfulness and I’ve been pleased to find that there is an abundance of information on the web and a huge variety of tools and techniques related to it. Perhaps the most encouraging thing about this wellbeing concept is that it’s user friendly, easy to understand and so flexible that you can really personalise your practice.

After reading many webpages and articles about mindfulness I have picked up on the idea of drawing as a way of accessing a calm mind and maintaining focus. It naturally appeals to me as something which I feel I can integrate into my daily routine much quicker than learning something completely new. In a good painting session I naturally achieve a state of total out-of-body calm which mindfulness should allow us to achieve. What I want to do is find out whether I can reach a point where picking up a pen allows me to quickly achieve the same state of calm; much like when somebody practiced in the art of meditation can quickly bring themselves back to this state. Furthermore, will regularly drawing pieces (which are not contributing to a portfolio or developing techniques) actually benefit my creative practice.

I recently discovered a book which discusses creation as a spiritual path, and uses spiritual thinking to nurture creativity. Whilst the methodology explored in this book was not for me, reading about it did send me on an interesting journey of reflection. I am a stop/start artist but now I recognise this, how can I overcome this? From what I’ve discovered so far, it appears that mindfulness, which in itself does not involve religion or spirituality, could actually be integrated with personal believes to achieve a whole state of wellbeing which is very personal to the individual. Similarly I believe that my creative practice could be incorporated into mindfulness and hence actually enhance my creativity. I have the urge to be creative every day and I find that I am constantly developing new ideas for pieces and coming across things I long to paint. So why don’t I constantly have a painting in progress? I am starting 2016 after two months away from the easel but it’s not for lack of inspiration. I have a new piece ready to paint– the concept is developed, references gathered, and the canvas is ready to go – yet I have not begun painting. Can mindfulness practices really help me become a more focused and consistently productive artist?


My Mindfulness Drawing Technique

Before I share my first attempt at this, I want to explain what decisions I have made about this practice and how I hope to use it. Firstly and most importantly is the difference between mindfulness drawing and doodling. Whilst doodling is often subconscious or absent minded, mindfulness drawing demands full attention and focus. Every stroke must be deliberate and intended. That said, I will not be planning pieces in advance, nor preparing the page with layouts or guidelines. I believe focus will be easier to achieve if every stroke needs to be considered fully at the time and moment of its creation.

Secondly I am not trying to create beautiful pieces of art here so I will not be using reference or drawing pictures. In my mind drawing from reference is much more akin to still life and art skills in general. In line with this I will set out on this journey using a gel ink pen and an ordinary notebook of reasonable, but not artist quality. I do expect that pages full of black and white designs will create some visually stimulating work, but I want this to remain a by-product of the experience.

Lastly I want to make it clear that I am not following Zentangle or any other established method of mindfulness drawing. I think that following a set programme with rules and instructions is excellent if you are not artistically skilled. They can provide an excellent platform to allow someone with little artistic talent to utilise this type of technique but I am personally hoping to use my artistic skills to find my own path.

Follow my blog to keep up to date with how this project progresses and find out whether mindfulness drawing techniques can be a successful tool for artists hoping to kick start their creative flow. I’m aiming to post every Monday with a photo of my latest creation and an update on how the experiment is progressing. Can mindfulness nurture my creativity?

Happy New Year! Here’s week one:

Mindfulness Monday #1

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