Gold leaf, copper, and a redhead

There were several things I saw this month that made me want to try out gold leaf (and ImagineFX magazine accounted for several of them).

It didn’t take me long to decide I loved the effect, and needed more metals. Obviously, copper was an early choice. Also obviously, Maedhros was happy to be my guinea pig once again. (That Elf has been my guinea pig for watercolours, coloured pencils, acrylics and even oils over time, but he’s asked me not to mention the last two ever again.)

I’ll be safe mentioning this one, though. :) Still learning how to apply it best, on what surfaces, and in what weather (34°C seems to be suboptimal), but I just love the effect!

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Prints here!

Brothers

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This started as a character prompt on Patreon, and ended up being painted purely for the fun of horses and Maedhros and Maglor. I just love these two and am not ashamed of it in the least.

21×30 cm. Watercolour and gouache on Canson Montval cold-pressed paper.

Original for sale! 

Speed now this feathered shaft

Maedhros therefore, being in anguish without hope, begged Fingon to shoot him with his bow; and Fingon strung an arrow, and bent his bow. And seeing no better hope he cried to Manwë, saying: ‘O King to whom all birds are dear, speed now this feathered shaft, and recall some pity for the Noldor in their need!’

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J. R: R: Tolkien, The Silmarillion: Of the return of the Noldor

Watercolour and Ecoline on Canson Vidalon cold-pressed paper, 23×33 cm

Steps:

Welcome to my life, Quinacridone!

A few people recommended Daniel Smith watercolours to me when I posted my last blog post. I got curious and found a place to order them online in Germany. I got myself Shadow Violet, Quinacridone Deep Gold and Indian Red (which I’d run out of anyway). The owner of the shop very kindly also included a couple of “dot cards”, watercolour paper with dried paint dots on it, which you can try out for yourself. And wow – am I hooked! Especially the Quinacridone hues are amazing – completely transparent, light-fast and wonderfully vibrant and alive.

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In the corner, I tried some Shadow Violet (with masking technique). The hues you see there are for real. Just wow.

I also got myself some Fabriano paper, as I was running out of Montval. Fabriano, for me, is a real discovery – as grainy and cottony as Arches, but without the latter’s setbacks (I could never get dark colours on Arches). Together with a new watercolour technique book by Roland Roycraft, I suddenly found myself wanting to try it all out at once – new technique with masking fluid, my new Daniel Smith colours, my new Fabriano paper, and leave out lineart and paint loosely, while we’re at it.

With all those novelties, it was clear who’d be my guinea pig.

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I still managed to totally warp the proportions (no lineart! Heeeelp!), so thanks for the miracles of Photoshop’ liquefy tool. :D

The colours are 100% original. Let’s just pretend the face looks like this too.

The Oath has been awakened…

Finished piece (here’s the process). The post was becoming so long that I decided not to hide the finished image at the bottom!

Click to enlarge!

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‘A Silmaril of Fëanor burns again in the woods of Doriath’; and the oath of the sons of Fëanor was waked again from sleep. For while Lúthien wore the Necklace of the Dwarves no Elf would dare to assail her; but now hearing of the renewal of Doriath and of Dior’s pride, the seven gathered again from wandering…

Detail shots (click to enlarge):

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The Oath has been awakened – painting

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In painting this one, I was facing the challenge to have a lot of reds, even in the sky, and horses – which sometimes leads to dangerously girly-calendary motifs.

So far, I seem to have succeeded in not falling over on that side of the fence. I know that because my daughter, a great fan of horses and pink, keeps looking at the picture on my desk and walking away without saying a word. That’s her way of saying, “Really, mum, such lovely horseys, and such ugly colours. I’d tell you so but I’m afraid of hurting your feelings.”

Yay!

Note: The colours on the photographs deviate really far from the actual ones at times. When I used the flash, they’re too yellow; when I didn’t, my daylight lamp resulted in too bluish tones. The entire pic is too large to be properly photographed with the means I have.

The lineart is, again, pencil, scanned, tinted and photocopied onto watercolour paper. See here if you have any questions.

My daughter would have loved the first stage. I overlaid the whole pic with a warm light red wash composed of Madder red and Ochre, dabbing some paint off the horses and figures, particularly the upper parts, allowing all those twenty-eight horse legs to blend into the rest.

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Then, I added streaks of more red into the sky, and blotches of Chromoxide Green, Madder red mixed with Ultramarine, and Burnt Sienna into the ground, for the colours of heather.

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Next, some Ochre, Sepia, but my violet mix from above for the stones. Later, they’ll be lighter than the rest.

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Next, I proceed to paint more heather. I mix more Madder Red with Ultramarine, and paint the upper edges of patches of heather…

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While the paint is still wet, I rinse my brush in the orange-y dirty water in my water container, and drag the paint down with it. The jagged top edge remains unaffected, the rest…

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… is blurred and diluted.

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Patches of heather:

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I proceed to muddy the sky (and frustrate my daughter), and add a dirty wash of Burnt Sienna and Ochre to the top margin of the painting, drawing it down with more dirty water.

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The ground now gets a second wash of my violet mix with Burnt Sienna, darkening it and softening the edges of heather.

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I allow it to bleed into the horses’ legs, to merge them with the ground. A while ago, I used to cleanly separate every element of the image, and sometimes, that would result in cut-and-paste looking picture elements.

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This is a sort of middle stage, from which I can start to add layers. It’s also the sort of stage that’s already starting to look good, and which I can safely leave on my desk without cringing whenever I walk past it…

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After a good night’s sleep, I decide that the ground is too light, and add another darker layer, effectively killing my detailed heather. Which isn’t so bad. It’s still there in a blurry way, and will look very organic when I’m done.

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Now, for the sky. I rewet the upper portion of the picture, mix some dramatic dark violet (with Madder Red, Ultramarine, Indigo, Sepia, and Burnt Sienna) and paint streaks into the wet areas, allowing them to run.

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The ground is dry at this point, and I start to paint the orange shrubbery around the stones. For this, I use gouache – watercolour wouldn’t have been visible. I also redo my heather in the same way I did above.

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I then add some highlights, again with gouache, to the shrubs and stones, and paint a few stray patches of wild wheat.

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Then I go as daring as I get and use green to paint the sallow thorn and the far hills, adding a few berries into the branches.

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Now, finally, the figures. I start with some reds and ochres to see how it looks. Yup – looks good!

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I paint the figures and horses with a fair deal of island hopping, working on whatever spot begs my attention (and is dry), mostly sticking to one colour at a time, more or less.

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More detailing.

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Just to show you how small some of the bits and pieces here are… The entire piece is 65 x 32 cm. … That’s one cent, btw.

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Some final touches with white gouache to spearpoints, hair, fur.

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Finished piece and detail shots: https://goldseven.wordpress.com/2013/02/13/the-oath-has-been-awakened/

One little, two little, fifteen little Noldor

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I sat down yesterday for a reality check. Am I deluded? These all look different to me, even without their characteristic hair. So yes, they are all related (fathers and brothers and sons and daughters and cousins), so they are all immortal and ageless, and they are all beautiful in the same ethereal Elven way, and yes, there are some that are less characteristic than others. But to me, they look exactly as they should. Maybe I’ve become too much of a shepherd. Or, alternatively, it’s just that I don’t see Tolkien’s characters as wildly individual (bordering on cartoonish) as, for example, G. R. R. Martin’s.

‘What!’ cried Bilbo. ‘You can’t tell which parts were mine, and which were the Dúnadan’s?’
‘It is not easy for us to tell the difference between two mortals’ said the Elf.
‘Nonsense, Lindir,’ snorted Bilbo. ‘If you can’t distinguish between a Man and a Hobbit, your judgement is poorer than I imagined. They’re as different as peas and apples.’
‘Maybe. To sheep other sheep no doubt appear different,’ laughed Lindir. ‘Or to shepherds. But Mortals have not been our study. We have other business.'” — The Fellowship of the Ring, J. R. R. Tolkien

Or, in the words of the immortal Hiro Nakamura and Ando Masahashi: “They all look the same to me.” – “That’s racist!”

There will be BLOOD. (sketch)

Maedhros told me, in that very subtle and persuasive way of his, that he wanted a powerful painting. Not fluffy. No get well swords. No kick ass ivy. And by all means no barbed chains. He was okay with stump, though. demanded it, in fact.

I imagine that this is after he has just been notified of Morgoth’s assault in what is to become the Dagor Aglareb. And he feels the reckoning has finally come.

Talking of the Dagor Aglareb, and Maglor’s Gap being overrun – again – in the process, does anyone else feel Maglor is something like the weak link in a game of Red, Red Rover? In Germany, we used to play this (as “Der Kaiser schickt Soldaten aus”), and they’d always try to break through where I was standing, because I was small and thin and wore glasses. Morgoth must have picked Maglor as the same sort of kid.

I did better at the game than Maglor though; everybody was always surprised at how firm my grip was.

New Silmarillion picture ideas

I can’t seem to stop. O_o

Maglor and Maedhros after the latter’s rescue.

And one that I’ve been wanting to (re)do for years – the Prophecy of the North.

“Tears unnumbered ye shall shed; and the Valar will fence Valinor against you, and shut you out, so that not even the echo of your lamentation shall pass over the mountains. On the House of Fëanor the wrath of the Valar lieth from the West unto the uttermost East, and upon all that will follow them it shall be laid also. Their Oath shall drive them, and yet betray them, and ever snatch away the very treasures that they have sworn to pursue. To evil end shall all things turn that they begin well; and by treason of kin unto kin, and the fear of treason, shall this come to pass. The Dispossessed shall they be for ever.”

Spark – a Silmarillion fanfic

 

I’ve done it. Written my first Silmarillion fanfic in seventeen years. O_o

Maedhros upon Thangorodrim. Warning: Disturbing themes. Injury, torture, madness.

This probably won’t be easy to understand unless you’ve read the Silmarillion.

Disclaimer: I don’t own the character, though I promise to return him in good condition. As far as text-faithfulness is concerned. Maedhros was already in bad condition when I got him, so that’s not my fault.

Language is more reminiscent of DeLillo than Tolkien, but that was on purpose. Very suited to disturbing descents into despair.

Read the whole story here.

Maedhros in Angband – finished

Sorry, no progress shots for this one. I painted it in a sort of delirium. I used to do this all the time when I was younger – sitting down with a bottle of coke and my paints, and emerging four to eight hours later with a finished painting that I couldn’t remember even thinking about.

Yesterday; I sat down with a bottle of coke and my paints and just painted… got myself a new bottle around midnight – came back to my desk with it and actually flinched at what I found there somehow, and couldn’t quite explain how it had got there.

I should do this more often.

The light-through-bars lighting got lost in the process. I debated putting it in, and tried around with what it would look like digitally, but there were two reasons to get rid of it: Firstly, it somehow looked like a ray of hope – which I did not want there, and secondly, the paper wouldn’t have taken another layer of paint across the entire pic. It would have destroyed much of the detail work. So, one interesting lighting situation lost to painting delirium.

Maedhros in Angband – lineart

Poor love. Yes, I feel bad already.

I went back and forth with the chain fettering him to the wall; in the end, I left it there – I don’t think they’d trust him to stay put without it, and the chain makes it clear he still has hands (and arms) back there somewhere. O_o Wouldn’t want anyone to assume he was quite that maimed yet.

Going to colour it today.

Ossiriand – painting

I finally found the time to paint “Ossiriand”.

The result surprised me, quite frankly. I chose Dr Martin’s Liquid Watercolours and Canson paper to work on, as I wanted this pic bright – turns out that the result was almost too bright. Hence, I turned down the saturation a little in the final painting (as well as adding a slight yellow overall tint); that’s why the in-progress shots don’t fit colour-wise. (It’s also because my camera was completely overtaxed with so many colours; especially towards the end, I haven’t been able to fix them in the wip shots completely. The original is not as far away from the above version as most of the photos below.)

I can’t believe I’ve been struggling with brighter colours for years. The combination of the good ol’ Dockers with Canson is certainly an assault on the rod cells!

The first stage was to put a yellow wash over the entire pic, to achieve a golden sunlight glow in the end. I made it less pronounced where the sky would later go, so as not to end up with a green sky.

After this layer had dried, I put down the blue for sky and rivers…

… and mixed some rather pale green for the greenery in the back.

You see my putting down quite a lot of wet-into-wet paint there, for vegetation look that’s not too detailed.

Background greens added:

Now for the leaves in the foreground, I used a somewhat more detailed approach. I’ve often tried, over the years, to achieve mind-blowingly detailed greenery by wishy-washy-wet-over-wet stuff. Needless to say, I never found the magic formula. The only way to do detailed greenery is with small brushes and painted details. I already laid some of that down in the lineart.

Now I start painting the foreground leaves – detailing a few select leaves by highlighting the veins (painting around them), using a rather yellow green tone so they’d really catch the sunlight later.

Then I painted the rest of the leaves in the same green tone.

Then I go in with a second, more bluish green tone, painting over some of the blocked in light green leaves, again leaving out the veins. Some others I completely paint dark, others I leave light green.

So with these two tones, I paint four kinds of leaves: the light ones with “white” veins you saw above, dark green with light green veins, light green without veins, dark green without veins. This makes for a lot of very lively variation with pretty little effort.

For some more realistic lighting, I paint in some darks with a touch of red – now the leaves really pop.

I then begin to fear that the reddish foreground will completely upset the colour unity, and lay down a stronger yellow foundation.

The first layer of horse coat (and Maedhros’ hair). I should add that what Doc Martin calls Burnt Sienna isn’t Burnt Sienna at all. I had to do quite a lot of mixing before I got the tone right.

For the second layer of horse coat, I added some more reddish-brown hues, but rather close to the first.

At which point my camera just quits and picks up all sorts of hues.Note how, in the pic above, the horse looks rather out of place. This will be remedied in the shadows.

For the shadows, I mix in lots of blue, to reflect the colour of the grass in the shadowy areas. This ties the horse to the surroundings.

Then I go and paint Maedhros’ clothes and all the little details – not much to say here that I haven’t said several times before when outlining how I shade. :)

Except this one – his boots. I relay liked the details here.

As always, hope it was helpful – enjoy the final result! ^___^

Maedhros in Angband – sketch

Not sure if I’ll actually try that sort of lighting, or if I’m brave enough to stick with that sick colour scheme, but I suppose I should.

*coughs* I’m really sorry, Maedhros. You should have known this was coming after wheedling that “happy pic” out of me…

Drawn with reference involving the self-timer on my camera, my bed and some resulting photos that will not be shared.

 

Decided to go for a complete colour overhaul. More realistic, less sick, but more vulnerable due to the flesh tones.

Lineart cleanup

I figured I might just as well detail my process of cleaning lineart, since people keep asking how I do it.

As you know, I often sketch digitally, especially for more complicated scenes, and then print out my sketch in a very light, very saturated colour onto Bristol board. Then I use those messy coloured lines as guidelines and draw my clean lineart in pencil (H mechanical pencil, 0.5 size) on top of them, sometimes deviating more, sometimes less. Here, I changed the entire pose to something less stiff.

The lineart is then scanned (in three parts, as I was working in A3), reassembled, and looks like this. The rest of the cleanup job will be conducted by my trusty old friend, Photoshop 6.0. What were you saying? Outdated how? Speak up, sonny!

To get rid of the orange lines, I then open the colour adjustment window using Ctrl+U. I select “red” and then “yellow” in the top rolldown menu, and slide the bar that adjusts the brightness all the way to the right for both.

See – all the orange is gone.

I’ve tried using other colours for the underlaying sketch – cyan for a time, or yellow, but usually, you have two tones you need to filter out. But that’s just a mouseclick. I like orange because it’s great to filter out (better than magenta/pink which usually leaves a greyish rest), and great to work with while I’m drawing on it. Yellow is also great to filter out, but hard to see while doing the lineart!

Then I adjust the contrast using Ctrl+L, and use the burn tool to get rid of smudgy areas I want white in the final lineart.

Sometimes, I also tweak the lines to correct mistakes or just try around in areas that don’t fully satisfy me. Here, I changed Maedhros’ face a bit.

Lastly, I tint the lineart (again using the Ctrl-u function), usually to something in the red to blue range. When I print it out later to be watercoloured, I leave the tint in place, as a slightly coloured lineart results in a more dynamic colouring.

Printing my lineart on watercolour paper is something I’ve done for a long time now. It can be a failsafe against botched watercolour attempts or dirty-water accidents (though that probably doesn’t happen more than once a year). Mainly, I do it as it allows me to develop a very detailed lineart on smooth drawing paper, something that watercolour paper just doesn’t allow to this degree.

Ossiriand – sketch

Maedhros sat me down today and had a little chat with me.

M: So, Jenny, you’ve what? drawn me killing myself, begging forgiveness on my knees, writhing in pain, and committing the act of greatest folly of my life?

J: I… suppose that about sums it up.

M: So, whatever next?

J: Actually… I was going to do one of you hanging from Th…

M:  No.

J: No?

M: No.

J: Uh… I then also… had this idea of you hunting in Ossiriand.

M *looks suspicious*

J: Sort of… happily.

M: There’s a catch.

J: No, seriously! I’ll even use green. It’ll set off your hair nicely.

M: Long hair?

Yup. ;)

Probably still about to change a bit, but hey, everything to keep my muse in good spirits. :D

Update March 21:

I need to program my brain to yell at me “ZOOM OUT!” whenever I start a picture.

I zoomed out, and… yay.

Many, many thanks to lintie for those ref pictures of leading a horse in an affectionate way without reins. ^^

*Now* it ends in flame.

When before, let’s face it, it ended in coffee.

So, since painting “It ends in flame”, I’ve been wanting to do a more fiery version that your average coffee allows. Thanks to liquid watercolours, this now works much better.

Forgiveness

After “All the others, gone” sparked heaps of discussions on the rebirth, re-embodiment and return of Elves who died…

… this absolutely needed to be done.

Entering the realm of wild speculation here rather than “missing scenes.”

No doubt Maedhros spent a long time in the Halls of Mandos, while his mother remained alone in Valinor – her husband and her seven sons, gone. Eventually, Maedhros might have been the first of all her family to leave Mandos again.

Their first meeting… so many things left unsaid, too painful to put into words.

I’m liking this more and more.

… and even more after completely redoing Maedhros. I’m glad I did. The last pose could have been anything. Now it’s a son begging for forgiveness.

For the colours, I went for a minimalist approach. Some coffee in subtle shades, with some of it taken off with a moist brush (by re-wetting it)  in order to get a streaming sunlight effect; coffee mixed with some watercolour paint for both their hair as the only non-coffee coloured item in the piece, and white gouache for the falling petals.

Stand up to the blow that fate has struck upon you
Make the most of all you still have coming to you
Lay down on the ground and let the tears run from you
Crying to the grass and trees and heaven finally on your knees

Let me live again, let life come find me wanting
Spring must strike again against the shield of winter
Let me feel once more the arms of love surround me
Telling me the danger’s past, I need not fear the icy blast again

(Genesis, Undertow)

Detail shots of Maedhros and Nerdanel:

I’ve also changed the title from “Thy son has returned” to “Forgiveness” – also because I realised that Tolkien Elves do not use the familiar “thou” for their elders…

It ends in flame – progress

That other picture I had lying is taking shape: The final moment of Maedhros.

First, as this seems to have become the thing to do, I’ll share the 1995 version. Yes, I was prolific in 1995.

Note Maedhros’ clothes. I can only surmise that this is what I understood by “they disguised themselves” – he took off his mint-green tights!

So, the 2012 version was to become… slightly more dramatic.

I started with a digital scribble (and another self-photoshoot which I won’t share this time because *I* was wearing rather unflattering tights – not mint green, but still):

Initially, I had it vertical, but was quickly convinced that horizontal showed all the scope of tragedy. I also decided I didn’t want to show his face but convey all the impact by the fiery surroundings and his pose.

I then hunted for inspiration for the linework, and found it in the works of Arthur Rackham.

I’m going to attempt a rather light colouring for this one – possibly with coffee. I saw that used today again in katarina-san‘s gallery and the way it stains looks so incredibly cool. (If you don’t know her stuff, you absolutely have to go see it!)

Painting with coffee was a BLAST. It shouldn’t be allowed to have so much fun with such a terrible scene.  I didn’t manage to document all stages for this one – too busy experimenting and tweaking. But I’ve got more up – a full coffee tutorial over the next few days. ^^

The finished image. Click to enlarge!