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

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…