And the Orcs fled before his face

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“Maedhros did deeds of surpassing valour, and the Orcs fled before his face; for since his torment upon Thangorodrim his spirit burned like a white fire within, and he was as one that returns from the dead.”

J. R. R. Tolkien, The Silmarillion: Of the Ruin of Beleriand.

Watercolour on Canson Vidalon paper, 28×38 cm.

 

I’m holding a little giveaway of a proof print of this (and others) on Patreon!

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Regular and matted prints will be available next week in my Etsy shop. Keep your eyes peeled!

 

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The Hunt

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The Hunt. Watercolour on Canson Vidalon paper, 19×39 cm.
Finrod Felagund joins Fëanoreans Maedhros and Maglor on a hunt in Eastern Beleriand. (Click to enlarge!)

After slowly easing back into art again with Inktober and the smallish and whimsical Newt Scamander piece this month, I felt ready to tackle a larger piece again. At first, I actually started it with gathering tons of reference, pasting and lightboxing horses and riders I’d photographed at reenactment events – and then I scrapped all of that and started the first stages loose, without reference, without correct anatomy, just to make sure it flowed the way I wanted it. (Much as I admire reenactors, they don’t flow. At least I can’t photograph them that way.) And suddenly everything just clicked into place again, the way it already had with the Newt piece. I then checked reference and reworked the figures and horses, but I’d once again found what truly makes me happy with my art.

Canson Vidalon paper proved a great choice for this. Its cottony texture allows very soft washes and keeps everything rather light; you really have to work hard for your darks and be very deliberate where you want them. The magnifying glass made another appearance, too. The detail shot below tells you just how small those faces are.

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Matted prints of these will soon be available in my Etsy shop – watch social media for more info.

A lot has been happening on Patreon recently! Ten new people have joined us, there’s been a giveaway for calendars and Inktober art, a livestream of painting this one with a Q&A, and the timelapse video for this one is available for my Patrons as well. Ever thought of joining, too? Take a peek!

A Herbology Lesson

“And remember the delicate wand movement we’ve been practising for the Severing Charm; you don’t want to harm your Bowtr—Mr Scamander, what are you doing?”

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There’s a scene in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, where the second-years are given shrubs with bowtruckles in them, and have to use Severing Charms to get the creatures off. I suspect Newt wouldn’t even need a wand. As opposed to some of his more enthusiatic classmates.

Watercolour on Canson cold-pressed paper, app. 17×22 cm.

Those of you who have followed me for a while will have noticed that there was extremely little art this year – and almost none between May and October. I did a few things, but wasn’t very happy with them; this has by far been the longest art slump I have ever experienced in my life.

A lot, I think, had to do with the class I took with SmArt School last year, paradoxically – in retrospect, I think that one thing it did was to show me how far I was from where I wanted to be, and where most others from my class were, and that added to the creative hiatus because whatever I tried to get to where I wanted to be, I didn’t get there.

Inktober proved to be a welcome ladder out of that slump. I had hoped that it would be, and the outcome surpassed my wildest dreams. The main, huge takeaway of Inktober for me was that I can do art every day. And it was small, quick art that I could pour my soul into, not huge, intricate portfolio pieces that occupied – and frustrated – me for a week or two, as many of my class works have done.

Using music to focus was another thing that has proven wildly successful. I even reorganised my desk to make it easier for me to feel tidy and ready.

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So not even a day passed after Inktober before I whipped out the watercolours again – and I found that somehow, my brain had kept working all these months, even if my hands at not.

Art is incredible – you can level up without playing the game. This isn’t the first time that has happened to me, but it’s been the clearest example of this I have had yet. I knew how I wanted this piece to turn out. In fact, I had wanted my art to turn out like this for more than a year, and was frustrated when it didn’t work. Now, after lying by the roadside for a while, suddenly all fell into place.

Art is a curious thing. I’m glad I have it back again.

Inktober 2017

My first ever Inktober! Inktober’s rules are simple: Post a piece drawn in ink, every day of October.

Initially, I did try actual ink, pen nib, and brush. After day 2, however, I decided that my inking skills were so lacking that I was in danger of totally frustrating myself, especially after almost a year of hardly any art at all. So I decided to stick with what little comfort zone I had left, and do these pieces in ballpoint pen.

I also had the idea that sustained me throughout this month: I decided to dedicate Inktober to my personal heroes of page and screen – all the film and book characters that have fascinated me in my life.

A couple of days in, I had to ask myself: Do I want to have 31 top notch pieces at the end of October? That was my fuzzy mental idea when I started out, and I had to bury that as early as October 2nd. It was marking season; my desk was buried under a hundred exams. I thought about quitting. Then I decided to make this my personal “DO THIS” project. No matter how busy the day was. No matter how little time you have. No matter how crap the drawing is. Do it. Post it. Inktober is all about forming habits. I wanted to show myself that I could still art.

The only one I missed was 15 – we went to see Bayer Leverkusen play VfL Wolfsburg. In retrospect, I should just have done a scribble in the stadium. Today (Oct 31) I would. Two weeks ago, that prospect still felt daunting.

Here are the results, along with my thoughts and comments on each as I first posted them. You can navigate through them by just clicking on the image that’s open.

 

Inktober has been an incredibly valuable experience for me – over the last few years, with two small and then borderline teenage kids, a taxing day job and sky-high levels of exhaustion, I had a lot of excuses for not being creative. Those excuses had become so ironclad that they effectively kept me from creating for about a year. Even the things I did draw and paint were a huge effort. At times, over the summer, I felt that maybe it was time to stop being an artist. The most frightening thing about that thought was that it didn’t frighten me at the time.

I was totally sure I would never finish Inktober (as with the ill-fated Junicorn I tried one and a half years ago), so I hardly advertised it, and hardly prepared for it. Maybe that was good. It definitely took the pressure off me, and uploading even the pieces that were sub-par in my eyes proved unexpectedly cathartic.

A wonderful asset of Inktober has been the flow of positive vibes I’ve been getting through social media, talking to people about the films and books we love (and even encountering some of the authors – talking to Tamora Pierce and being shared by Guy Gavriel Kay and Tad Williams).

Thank you! <3

Ser Loras Tyrell (More experiments: acrylic gouache)

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The Knight of Flowers.
Turner acrylic gouache on Etival cold-pressed paper, 20×30 cm. 

This piece was done for a scholarly work titled “The Heroic and Chivalric Codes of Westeros”, by Dr. Carol Jamison.

It’s also another media experiment. This time, I gave acrylic gouache a go. It’s something that a lot of people have never heard about (and that a lot of stores don’t stock), but it’s actually really, really cool as it combines several features that I like about both watercolours, and acrylics, and gouache.

  • When applied thinly and with much water, it looks like watercolour.
  • It dries to be water-resistant, so it allows glazing (unlike gouache). That also means it dries on your palette, so you need to work with porcelain palettes rather than plastic. Fortunately, a little drop of paint goes a long way, so it’s not much of a waste.
  • In thicker layers, it becomes opaque, but you have a lot of control over how opaque you want it.
  • Even in thicker layers, you don’t get the flaky stuff you tend to get with gouache, unless you want to get very, very thick.
  • When dry, the pant looks matte, like gouache, but unlike acrylics (which is why I don’t like thin acrylics – just don’t like it shiny).

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Left: I did a lot of detail and shadows first (unlike with watercolour, where you’d do those last) and then glazed over the detailing with thinly diluted colour washes; the detailing remains intact.

 

Roast rabbit – and an art revelation

I had a clear “where have you been all my life” moment yesterday. After using gouache quite satisfactorily on Gil-galad, not just for highlights but also for some rendering, I decided it was time for another stab at gouache.

Gouache is often described as opaque watercolour (and indeed, many languages use no separate word for it), and can either be applied thickly and even paste-like, much like oils, or in thinner washes, much like watercolour. I’d often thought about trying around with the former, mainly because I’d been using only the most transparent of watercolours in recent years and felt that going opaque was just the opposite of what I wanted. One and a half years ago, roughly, I bought a book on painting animals in gouache, and faithfully copied the examples. It worked, but I didn’t like it. My gouache tubes went to the bottom of my art cupboard again.

I’d been thinking about the medium again and wanted to take another shot at it, when I looked at some paintings in my “inspiration” folder whose technique had always baffled me and it hit me: They weren’t watercolours. They were thinly glazed gouache paintings.

Gouache has a pastelly, fuzzy quality to it that I’d never really given much thought.

I immediately decided to try that. My mother had asked for a picture of Sam Gamgee roasting a rabbit, and it looked like just the thing to try in gouache.

I painted very much the way I always do, except that I mixed in white instead of relying on the white of the paper. The white gouache made for a fuzziness that just turned blending colours into an absolute dream. The greenery in the background also just fell onto the paper effortlessly. The only thing I’ll do differently next time is that, instead of a thin blue shadow map, I’ll do a bolder, more neutral shadow line the last time, and drop in the blues later, while it’s still wet.

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I recorded the painting process and uploaded it as a timelapse here.

The original painting is available in my Etsy shop!

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