Ice and Fire


Watercolour and gouache on Canson Héritage torchon paper, 38×26 cm.
Prints here!

Original available – note me if interested!

A few words of explanation on the style/character choices:
I discovered A Song of Ice and Fire in 2003 and devoured the first three books (which was all there was back then) in one go. I totally fell in love with Jon Snow, and I remember loving how realistically written the teenage characters were. I had fun trying to picture them in my school classes I was teaching at the time. It was easy for all of them, except Dany. All the others I could place in any odd Year Seven, Year Eight, Year Nine, easily, but Dany totally eluded me. I didn’t like her, and she didn’t have a face while I read.

The show rectified that, and admirably, which I’m sure has to do with the choice of aging everyone up five years, but my Jon will always remain my Jon.

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)


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).


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.


Painting of: Daenerys Targaryen

Now this one was fun to paint! I opted for much the same colours as in “Jon Snow”, and ended up again with Indigo, Madder Red, some Sepia, some Ultramarine, and again Burnt Sienna and Alizarin Crimson for the skin.
I made Dany resemble Emilia Clarke, who plays her in the series, quite a bit, a lot more than I usually rely on actors. With Daenerys, she never had a face for me, and Emilia gave her one. A very pretty one, I might add.
The main part of this tutorial will be about getting a subtle pattern in the background. I wanted some ornamental dragons behind her, but they weren’t supposed to distract from the foreground. They were done in three layers in the end. Here’s how:

Background: First layer

I started, as usual, with the background, painted with Indigo, Madder, and a touch of Sepia. This, of course, means that my water was about as purple as it gets. That came in handy for the hair later on – I painted most of that with my dirty water.

Skin: First layer

I needed the background to be completely dry in order to start with the dragons. So I painted the basic skin tone while I waited. I actually got one spot where the skin ran into the background – down where her right arm is – but that didn’t really matter. Better skin into background than background into skin. :P
Now, for those dragons!

Background: Pencilling

 When the background paint had dried, I used a hard pencil to lightly draw in some swirling dragon shapes all over the background space. They’re not erased afterwards; the next watercolour layer renders the pencil lines pretty much invisible.
Erasing on just-dried watercolour paint is not a good idea, by the way – the paint will bleach. It’s still a better idea than erasing on not-yet-dried watercolour paint, though – the paper will come off.

Background: Second layer

With a size 6 brush for the wider spaces, and switching to a size 3 synthetic brush for the finer details, I painted the second background glaze, carefully painting around the dragon-lines. I used a slightly darker and slightly redder shade than the base, for some variation in hue.
The light lines you see on the right there are my first, dried wash. The darker areas have just been painted.
A background pattern *can* work just like that. In the case of this picture, however, I felt they stood out too much, adding too much distraction to the very delicate figure in the foreground. So I decided to add another wash later – when this one ha dried. I painted the second skin layer in the meantime.

Skin: Second layer

I wanted Dany’s skin to look almost translucent in this one, so I didn’t add many shadows. Mainly, I used Sienna with lots of Alizarin Crimson for the blush I suppose a very hair-haired girl will acquire when she spends most of her time riding under a southern sun. Some shading was done to her cheek, but not much.

When I was done with this, it was time  for the last background wash.

Background: Third layer

Using a rather large brush (size 12, only switching to a 6 when I came close to the figure) I quickly painted over the entire background, leaving some spots light here and there. I used the same tone I had mixed for the second glaze, only thinned down with more water, or it would have become too muddy. Even so, the new layer did obscure the dragons a bit too much in places; in those cases, I went in with a clean, moist (not wet!) brush and took some of the paint off the lines.
I checked it from a distance every now and then (never spend you afternoon with your nose to the paper and get our first good glance at your pic after four hours – you’ll completely lose touch with your picture. Arm’s length every half hour is usually a good idea) until I was satisfied with the result – definitely dragons, but subtle.
I didn’t take photos of doing the hair – it’s all the same as in “Jon Snow”.
The finished image! 

Painting of "Jon Snow"

So here’s the first work-in-progress documentation on the blog. Doing progress descriptions is so much easier in this editor than pasting it all together in Photoshop. Join me for a gigantic multi media show – video to come later, too!
For this image, I used (surprise!) a limited palette of Sepia Brown, Indigo, and Madder Red. The only exceptions were some Burnt Sienna and Cadmium Orange for the skin, toned done with a mix of the other three.

First, I wet the paper with a sponge, laying down a faint indigo tone so the skin will remain pale later on.
Next, after everything is completely dry so the paint doesn’t bleed into the figure, I lay down a generous background wash of my main three colours. I allow the paint to mix on the paper as opposed to putting down a smooth layer of one colour. Those little swirls you see are done using nail polish remover.
Next (again after waiting for the background wash to dry) I lay down my first skin layer, using Burnt Sienna tones down with my dirty water. I use much water on his right cheek, the side of his nose and other highlighted areas. My light source is upper left.

After the first wash has dried, I apply some Sienna with Madder Red for the areas where the skin is thinner – around the eyes, nose, mouth, and the ears. Then I let this dry too.
The problem with working from light to dark often is that such hues appear much stronger when hair, eyes, and clothes are still white. So I put down some more red than I usually would have, but I still had to add some after the hair and eyes were done.
Next, a novelty as of this year – I finally accepted that the fighting men I like to draw would not be able to be clean-shaven at every moment in their lives (thank you, Peter Petrelli!) So, next up, a video tutorial: Painting a five-o’-clock shadow! XD

You see me carefully applying a mix of Indigo and Madder (toned down with dirty water) whilst trying to keep the camera on the picture or on my brush, and finally dabbing off the paint again where I want no hard edges.
I might train my son to do the shooting for me next time… Having no hand free to keep the paper still wasn’t the coolest of ideas.

This is what the finished shadow looks like.I also darkened the shadowy areas under the nose, the eye sockets, under the lower lip, in the ear, on the forehead (from the hair) and under his chin.

Then I proceeded to paint the hair. I started with a gradient wash, dark on the right and getting lighter on the upper left, to allow for my light source.The hair is mostly Sepia, but again with quite a lot of Madder and Indigo mixed in. I have all three of those in pretty much every area of the image.
For the next step, I waited for everything to be completely dry again. I love doing hair in a sort of cell-shading, and that means no wet-into-wet bleeding.

I did the eyes while waiting for the hair to dry; starting with a more purplish tone, I just left a lighter speck at the bottom of the eyeball.
 After drying, I apply a second layer, darker this time, mostly in the upper portion of the eyeball – the lid casts a shadow.
Finally, a last, very dark layer in the pupil and along the upper rim again. A white speck will be done later in white pigment marker – after everything is dry.
You’ll notice I’ve already drawn the next hair layer at this point.

This is what I meant by cell-shading – one of the few anime influences I allow myself. I just love to paint hair like that. I kept very few highlights on the right half of the image, and left loads in the left.
(The eyes aren’t yet shaded completely.)

While working on the hair, I put down the first fur layer, allowing the paint to dry in places and painting over others while it’s still wet, to allow a certain amount of blending. I use a very thin size 2 marten brush for a long fur effect.
When this layer is again completely dry, I’ll add some darker shades, again with the same brush.

The finished painting!

Sketch – Jon Snow

This pic started out as a sketch in my Moleskine watercolour book while I watched over two subsequent classes sitting an exam. 2011 seems to be the year of rediscovered fandoms – first excessive Silmarillion, and now the first “A Song of Ice and Fire” artwork since 2003.
I really love the HBO series, it’s extremely well done – the term “epic” really fits here. But Kit Harington is totally not my Jon Snow, so I needed to remind myself of what mine looked like.
Funny that he turned out to look like — Peter Petrelli. It had never occurred to me, but Jon always looked like Milo Ventimiglia in my head even before I’d ever seen Milo Ventimiglia. So I allowed Jon to stay that way.
If you’ve only seen the series: he gets that scar later on in the books. Book three, I think.
Stay tuned for the watercolour…