They’re all available in my Etsy shop now!
I’ll be making a few others over the summer. If you’d like to get a say in which ones will be made, please check out my Patreon!
“She was chosen because she had not feared the heats of Laurelin, and was unhurt by them, being from the beginning a spirit of fire, whom Melkor had not deceived nor drawn to his service.”
Arien was modelled by my lovely daughter and me. Now she wants to cosplay her. XD
Prints available here!
Here are my first ever enamel pins! I can’t get over how well they turned out.
They’re available in my Etsy shop!
I’ll do the next batch with the same manufacturer – they probably won’t make it to MagicCon, but I’ll bring the two above.
Truth be told, the two above are actually my second ever enamel pins. The first attempt was a total nightmare. The bronze was smudged into the enamel in production, and Maedhros ended up a zombie smurf. (The one on the right is one of three or four, in 200 pins, that looked almost acceptable. All the rest were like the one on the left.) Luckily, the manufacturer immediately offered to redo them at no cost to me.
Here’s a little tutorial on how to make reference photos work in your art, by making them subject to the idea and an overall composition, not the other way round.
All my paintings begin with an idea of a scene I want to paint. Reference always comes in a second or even third step. I’d decided to paint the scene in the Silmarillion where Fingon’s mounted archers take on a young Glaurung. I had wanted to do this scene for a while.
Working from a photo from the get go never works for me, and certainly not in a complex, multi-character scene. Photos tend to be much less dynamic than the compositions I want to achieve (since I’m an artist, not a photographer), so working from photo without a lot of change often results in boring paintings.
Once I have a picture idea, my mind starts thumbnailing. I try out different compositions in my head, and find where the snags are.
Whenever I do a battle scene, I want to portray both combatants in some way, so it’s very obvious from the start that my camera angle needs some thought. If I want to show Fingon’s face, I can’t have Glaurung (left). If I want to show Glaurung, I’ll have a few Elves from behind, and Fingon somewhere off in the distance (centre). So I decided to show Fingon charging past and shooting behind him (right) – quite obviously, that meant some extremely good reference.
Refining an idea and finding (or shooting) specific reference
At this stage, the scene is still only in my head. I know Glaurung will be in the middle ground, so if Fingon is galloping towards us, he’s closer to us, and needs to shoot behind him. Riders further back will need to shoot straight to the side. This is the reference I need.
Very often, for complicated poses, I shoot reference myself. I know exactly what I want, and I avoid copyright issues. For riders, I often take photos of my daughter at her riding lessons. In this case, I came up blank. None of the hundreds of reenactment photos I’ve shot at events had any mounted archers, and I needed photos of people who knew what they were doing – because I don’t know a lot about archery. So that ruled out family members posing with a bow while sitting astride a sofa.
A Patreon supporter of mine then pointed me to several great mounted archers with Instagram accounts – and there were such an incredible lot of great photos! I immediately reached out to Erin Jardine and Freja Trulsdotter, who gave me permission to use their photos.
I started filing away those photos that were the angle and poses I needed. At this point, the photos and my idea start bouncing off each other in my head, as my idea is defined.
Making your reference work in perspective
A lot can go wrong when you combine several reference photos in one image. Ask yourself: Were the photos all shot from roughly the same height? Look at the horizon line for clues – it’s where the camera was, and your viewer’s eye will be. If the photographer was standing, chances are that the photos will work together. If you have one extreme bird’s or worm’s eye view in there, it won’t work with the others.
Here’s a trick to keep several people standing at different distances to the viewer in perspective: Assume the viewer is standing in the same room. If he is the same height as the characters, align all the eyes at the same level. Unless they’re a king on a dais. Or Maedhros. You can indicate different heights that way, too.
(I haven’t seen this lineart in years, and I apparently changed Celegorm’s expression before finalising this – he cracks me up!)
If you want to put characters into a bird’s eye view, you need to find another converging point by adding invisible heads to them. Or by handing each one a seven-foot lance and having their tips converge. The horizon line has to move up there, too.
If you align the eyes of people on horseback, it will look as if the viewer is also sitting on a horse. (Plus, eye-alignment can sometimes look a bit like differently sized people all dangling from a washing line.) Here, I wanted to put the viewer in the middle of the action, but not on a horse, to add a sense of “Gosh, I’ll be trampled!” to the scene. So what you do is align not the characters’ eyes, but a point that is level with the (standing) viewer’s eye. When you stand next to a charger, your eyes are barely above its rump. So this is where I aligned my riders. I chose their saddlebows, allowing for some unevenness for the movement and uneven terrain.
Plus, the fact that the characters’ heads are all at different levels adds a lot of movement again, forcing the viewer’s eye into an up and down movement, like a gallop.
Instead of choosing three poses that were roughly the same, I decided to use three slightly different ones for the main riders, two slightly from the right, one slightly from the left side. Fingon would be passing us on the right; the one to his left would thunder past us on our left side, while the one to his right is already swerving to cut right across us and vanish off to the right. That way, pressing a mental “play” button on the scene, we see ourselves standing right there as the cavalry passes us left and right. This is a very effective way to thrust the viewer into the middle of the action. It works with any movement.
Compositional rules – distance, crumping, overlap, line of action
I did my best here to adhere to the rules of composition. Putting figures at several distances is a great way to add a sense of space. Having elements or character overlapping each other adds to the sense of space. “Crumping” means clumping several elements together in uneven numbers – here. the three main riders. The line of action is very much defined by the horses’ movement, and I added several elements to the piece that lead the viewers eye – the dragon’s tail, the eyes of the riders and the dragon, all converging in the middle of the piece; the tree trunks that lead the viewer’s eye back into the image in places where other elements threaten to lead it out.
“Again after a hundred years Glaurung, the first of the Urulóki, the fire-drakes of the North, issued from Angband’s gates by night. He was yet young and scarce half-grown, for long and slow is the life of the dragons, but the Elves fled before him to Ered Wethrin and Dorthonion in dismay; and he defiled the fields of Ard-galen. Then Fingon prince of Hithlum rode against him with archers on horseback, and hemmed him round with a ring of swift riders; and Glaurung could not endure their darts, being not yet come to his full armoury, and he fled back to Angband, and came not forth again for many years. Fingon won great praise, and the Noldor rejoiced; for few foresaw the full meaning and threat of this new thing.”
Watercolour and gouache on Bockingford cold-pressed paper, 29×39 cm. See my shop for prints! Original is sold. :)
Huge thanks to Erin Jardine (@eyesoferin) and Freja Trulsdotter (@artofliberty) for permission to use their mounted archery photos as reference for Fingon’s archers!
I can’t believe I never designed pins until now. It’s so freaking addictive!
The Maedhros pin is in production; I’m biting my nails to see it! It’s an exclusive special for my Patreon supporters. If you want one, you can still join up by March 25 to claim yours!
Others will be more openly available in the coming weeks and months, like the #Team Feanor, #Team Fingolfin, and #Team Finarfin pins. ;) I’ll be doing more too, but there’ll continue to be Patreon exclusives. It’s certainly worth a peek!
Watercolour on Bockingford cold-pressed paper, 36×26 cm.
I recently asked my Patrons for suggestions for Maglor scenes, and his slaying Uldor came up several times. It’s such an unusual moment for the gentlest son of Fëanor, to be showing that he, like this brothers, was also a warrior.
I’ve finally done what I’ve been wanting to do for ages and designed my first artist pin!
I’ll be celebrating my four-year anniversary on Patreon next month, and decided to do something special. Can’t wait to see what they look like! I was sure the manufacturer would whistle me back on the design, but they said it was fine like this. =O
Want to know more? Click here!
“And his heart was filled with longing”, watercolours on Bockingford Torchon paper, 21×31 cm. Tuor by the sea.
This started out inspired by a line of the “Book of Lost Tales” as I was re-reading/listening to John Garth’s “Tolkien and the Great War”, and ended up being what I feel whenever I’m in Cornwall.
I recently got an extremely sweet collection of handmade watercolours from Katie of KWARTSCreations, and I really love how vibrant the colours are! They’re also nicely transparent. Katie also does paints with minerals and pearlescent pigments; I’m not too wild about those and asked for transparent earth tones and blues – but she included a very cool tone called Vivanite, which is the granulating earthy blue you see in the paintings below. Thank you so much, Katie!
I got wild with these in my sketchbook and they’re such fun! The little tin is also great to take along and paint with a water brush.
“Sons of Nerdanel”, following a line of thought that evolved in a thread on my Patreon. I used many of the paints here; they harmonise wonderfully in their earthiness, with that brilliant Prussian Blue thrown in.
Next up, a little portrait of Fingolfin. More Prussian Blue, and Vivanite in the background. Plus a bit of white gel pen.
The Vivanite felt perfect for Elven grey eyes, and I decided to do my first ever watercolour eye painting.
A better, scanned version:
These watercolours are really, really fun, and very well made. Sure, they don’t look as polished/perfect as the ones you buy in a store, but that is their charm, and the translucency and handling is excellent! Something that confused me at first but that is quickly growing on me is that they are ever so slightly clove-scented, as they’re made with clove oil.
Katie has a huge array of colours in her shop, and the pearlescent ones look really cool as well – she included a little gold pan as an extra, and its opacity is excellent, close to the Mica paints that I usually use for gold bits.
“Thus ended Nirnaeth Arnoediad, as the sun went down beyond the sea. Night fell in Hithlum, and there came a great storm of wind out of the West.”
Maedhros realises that everything is lost – the realms of the Noldor, their armies, their hopes, and his best friend.
Watercolour on Bockingford cold-pressed paper, 18×29 cm.
You can get it as a print in my Etsy shop! The original is available too.
I’ve come across quite a few renditions of Maedhros with a dead Fingon in his arms after the Nirnaeth; and while I appreciate the drama, I feel sure Maedhros didn’t learn of his friend’s death until days after the battle, and that he was too far away from Fingon while he and his brothers made their escape after Uldor’s treachery.
Those always feel like coming home!
Watercolour on Legion Stonehenge cold-pressed paper, 29×39 cm.
“So Fëanor has sealed his betrayal with fire. He will not return and has abandoned us here, as we all secretly feared he would. And Maitimo – where do you stand now? Did you bow to his will, do you stand by him, as you did when he broke the peace, as you did when he swore that terrible oath? Have Morgoth’s lies stamped out the love that once bound us, or do you still remember our friendship? Or was it Fëanor that stamped it out? I never had any part in any quarrel. The estrangement of our fathers never concerned me. When we meet again, will you remember our friendship? Will I?”
“How blind have I been, to think my father would ever turn back to bring hither the ones he left behind! How did I ever believe he considered them more than needless baggage? How can we hope to prevail without aid in this strange land, and how will we ever forgive ourselves for all that has passed? To the blood of the Teleri on our hands we now add that of our brothers and cousins, for surely they will now perish either by the vengefulness of the Valar, or in their attempt to cross the ice. Findekáno… I will never even be able to beg your forgiveness for this betrayal. You will meet your death hating me, and I will always know I deserve it for my inaction.”
(Writing is mine.)
Prints available, as is the original! Drop me a line if you’re interested!
“And they disguised themselves, and came in the night to the camp of Eönwë, and crept into the place where the Silmarils were guarded; and they slew the guards, and laid hands on the jewels. Then all the camp was raised against them, and they prepared to die, defending themselves until the last.”
Watercolour (Payne’s Grey and Golden Barok Red) on Hahnemühle Expression paper, cold pressed. 18×25 cm.
Wardens of the North. Watercolour and coloured pencil on Canson Vidalon cold-pressed paper, 16×26 cm.
I’m currently on a two-week sick leave after my eye-related headaches got less and less manageable. I’m trying to rest loads, avoid any driving if I can, and training my left eye to take over without protesting too much. It’ll take a lot longer than two weeks to get there (my ophthalmologist is thinking in years), but I hope to give myself a bit of a head start under less stressful conditions. Switching between near and far is the worst. Surprisingly, working on tiny paintings for hours works really well. Which gives me the added recreational experience of doing something that really recharges my mental battery.
Gil-galad was an Elven-king.
Of him the harpers sadly sing;
the last whose realm was fair and free
between the Mountains and the Sea.
His sword was long, his lance was keen.
His shining helm afar was seen;
the countless stars of heaven’s field
were mirrored in his silver shield.
But long ago he rode away,
and where he dwelleth none can say;
for into darkness fell his star
in Mordor where the shadows are.
The Last Alliance. Watercolour on Clairefontaine Etival cold-pressed paper, just under A3 size.
Ever since painting my last “Gil-galad”, I felt I’d given him short shrift. standing there all alone in a blue field and not doing anything but looking mournful. I’ve been wanting to do exactly this piece for two years, with the low angle looking up, but I was afraid to tackle it. I’m so glad I finally had the nerve!
If you’re puzzled, or sad, or furious about his hair colour, please read this. http://tolkiengateway.net/wiki/Gil-galad
I’m a little tired of hair colour debates.
“May it be a light to you in dark places, when all other lights go out.”
Watercolour on Stonehenge Legion cold-pressed paper, 22×36 cm.
It has taken me a while, but I finally begin to feel that I’ve got the ground back under my feet. Just knowing that, in another day or so, this year will be over is surprisingly liberating. There is a lot that 2018 left me and that I will continue to deal with, but it feels immensely gratifying to say, sod off, 2018, you’re history. I’ll deal with stuff, but those horrible months are never, ever coming back.
I finally feel up to saying how grateful I am for my friends, online and offline, who have helped me through these dark months, and whose faith in me has wavered far, far less than my own. I finally feel that maybe it may have been appropriate. All of you who have continued to support me in 2018, in word and deed, THANK YOU! Have a wonderful 2019. We’ve all earned it.
Éowyn and Faramir. Watercolour on Legion Stonehenge cold pressed paper, 21×31 cm.
By coincidence, I found that I owned an American cent, and realised that it was way larger than the Euro cents I’m used to – here they are side by side.
Doing any sort of small detail is still incredibly hard for me, and I pay for it with headaches and having to paint in little half-hour instalments over several days and weeks.
Now that my art time has become even more limited than before, I’m doubly (and triply) grateful for the support of my wonderful patrons! If you’ve been thinking about supporting me, glean first glimpses at new art and take part in giveaways, now’s a great time!
“And their eyes met”
Tuor and Idril in Gondolin.
Watercolour on Legion Stonehenge cold-pressed paper, 31×19 cm.
So, I have discovered what this is. It’s me proving to myself that after all the crap this year has throw my way, most of which will heal but never truly mend, I can still be myself. It’s not about any technique, or theme, or even about doing this every day. It’s about doing it at all.
In the sea the fish have learnt to fly
on a moonlit night
on wings of silver
as the enchanted stars sail serenely by
Do they know
Where do unicorns go
Where winged horses fly
narwhals lost at sea
and never seen again
Go, go and ask the magpie
where do unicorns go
Watercolour and white gouache on Canson Aquarelle cold-pressed paper, 20×20 cm
Prints are available in my Etsy shop.
All things pass. Summer must end, and the swallows will leave this hither shore…
Celebrían of Rivendell.
Watercolour and white gouache on Canson Héritage cold-pressed paper, 30×23 cm
Naples Yellow, Raw Umber, Lavender (Mijello)
Ultramarine Blue (Sennelier)
Dragon’s Blood (Maimeri)
One of the more personal pieces I’ve done in my life, with a thin coating of Tolkien. It’s been the most uprooting year of my life, with the death of my brother, an eye condition that will probably forever leave me unable to read properly, plus a lot of of other things that, on their own, would have been enough to make me say they were bad, but in the end, only added to a heap of hardships and downright misery since spring.
In February, I was diagnosed with AMNR (acute macular neuroretinopathy), a non-progressive eye condition that results in a blind little spot on the retina. Only 100+ cases are documented, so there is no treatment, cure, therapy, or research. It means that letters are missing from everything I’m trying to read, and I can no longer focus on tiny details, even with a x3 magnifying glass, because they just swim out of focus or are hidden by the blind spot. My left eye can’t compensate, because of another eye condition I’ve had since childhood which never bothered me until now.
(On this note, while I appreciate people’s eagerness to help, please do not give me tips, unless you know someone with *very central* AMNR who has found something that helped them. I’m seeing an excellent doctor who has people coming to him from all over Europe and Asia, so I’m in good hands. And tips born of unqualified knowledge, which, of necessity, is all that anyone could have, just hurt. A lot.)
Last autumn, I felt that I had reached the place where I wanted to be in my life; now life is telling me that I have to fight to keep it. Thanks a lot for not letting me become complacent, life.