After twenty years in the Tamar Valley in Cornwall, we decided that the middle of a global pandemic was just the time to move house.
Well, it wasn’t quite like that. I have two day jobs. One is running a small website development business, Clare Associates. This had a lot of travel / tourism customers, and so did not thrive in an environment where nobody could travel anywhere. The other is helping out with the Shop on the Borderlands, an online shop that sells new and second-hand tabletop role-playing games and accessories worldwide.
The Shop has been really taking off recently, and we’d got to the point where we just couldn’t fit any more stuff in our house, meaning no more room for the shop to grow. That, combined with a touch of lockdown fever, was enough to make us decide it was time to relocate, and in Pembrokeshire, just outside Pembroke Dock, we found somewhere with more room for the vital stock shelves, and as a bonus, this fabulous view of the Milford Haven waterway which I am sure will inspire many paintings in future.
This is an acrylic painting of Lirael and Sameth from the Old Kingdom novels by Garth Nix, with Mogget, and the Disreputable Dog. They are camping on their way down the Ratterlin at the start of their journey to try to rescue Nick. Sameth’s clockwork frog is catching bugs: an asset to any riverside campsite!
This painting was created for the Fandom for Oz charity auction, thanks to my lovely recipient for being patient about the development in this very odd period of life.
Here are a couple of sketches that I made when I was developing ideas for the painting:
I made these six small paintings in inktense watercolour pencil, which I love for the brilliant translucent colours, with some brusho powder watercolour. The strip above shows my saluki x lurcher, Rosie, and the strip below is my Greek Harehound, Theo.
I made this A3 size painting as a prize for a competition held by the Shop on the Borderlands. It illustrates a key event for the group, where one of the party has been killed and they are waiting to see if he can be revived. To make sure I had the right idea for each character, I sketched them out in pencil before assembling the finished painting: you can see the various head-sketches below.
Upon the cape west of Eglarest Finrod raised the tower of Barad Nimras to watch the western sea, though needlessly, as it proved; for at no time ever did Morgoth essay to build ships or to make war by sea.
The Silmarillion, Quenta Silmarillion, Ch 14, Of Beleriand and Its Realms
Completed version of this commissioned painting of a D&D party: first the quick A4 sketch:
And then the final painted version: I’m told the adventurers are pleased with it. The Innkeeper on the right is based on the GM (Game Master), who commissioned the painting and was lovely to work with.As you may have guessed, the lighting and composition was inspired by Caravaggio’s wonderful painting, The Calling of St Matthew: I thought I might as well aim high. But this little painting is just A3 in size, whereas Caravaggio’s original is about three meters square!
With commissioned paintings, I would usually discuss ideas with you, then email you a photo of a rough sketch, then later, email a small first-draft incomplete painted version for discussion, and then finally a completed high resolution image.
I am open to making paintings that are only supplied digitally, if you want art to print out yourself and don’t want a physical copy. However, in this case, the person who commissioned the painting did want the original as well as the photo, so it was sent out to them by post.
Upcycled Demilich! This round board came to The Shop on the Borderlands as the base for a rather tired bunch of very old miniature figures.
The figures were removed & stripped of their old paint, and I have made this painting on the base. I kept the bumpy texture, which has interacted interestingly with my palette knife, and I’ve used a semitransparent gold paint to pick out details and add the ghosts of adventurers trapped by dark enchantments. The ghosts change in visibility as the light moves. Quite pleased with the flame-ruby eyes.
And here’s another famous D&D monster: a Beholder, with dagger-teeth and many eyes. I painted this because I wanted to practice painting flamelit flesh tones, and was tired of painting human figures. I’m particularly pleased with the ring on the adventurer’s finger.
These tiny canvases are just 15cm square, and were inspired by the thought of spring approaching, and by the Tolkien quotation: “Light from the shadows shall spring” which always seems particularly appropriate at this time of year when I walk along in the shadow of the woods, turn a corner and see daffodils, a blackthorn in flower, or a little stream bubbling along in a sudden sun-beam.
I need to put a featured image on this post, and I think this is the best of the three, BUT please bear in mind that it’s absolutely tiny: small-postcard size, so it may look a bit iffy if you are seeing it emblazoned across a screen much wider than the original 4 x 6 inches. But of course they all look the same size once they are photographed!
This one is an A4 painting, so a bit larger, and drawn from life: Theo harehound having an evening nap. Finally! Here is another tiny postcard, this time a picture of our white cat, Nenya.
I’m doing some portrait practice at the moment and since I much enjoyed The Witcher TV show on Netflix, I thought I’d paint a couple of the characters. These two are both A4 portraits in acrylic on cotton watercolour paper (which seems to work OK for acrylic too!)
I think this is another Silmarillion character: one of Mahtan’s sisters, Nerdanel’s aunts. She has a number of names, but most people call her Sarezelle, for her love of green stones. She is one of the elves who sometime takes the things made by the friends of Aule to market in Tirion, but she’s more of a thinker than a maker herself.
My poet friend Pete Clark sent me his tragic fantasy poem The Well, wondering if I might feel inspired to make some art for it. Did I ever! It’s got some fabulous vivid imagery and so I dived into making these three watercolours with enthusiasm. I think the one above is probably my favorite, but all three were a lot of fun to make.
We had some discussion about what the setting should be like. I felt that the setting seemed Eastern Mediterranean, but the contrast of shining blue streams in a valley with red rock mountains reminded me of photos I’d seen of the Little Colorado River. This was what I ended up with:
And then this painting of the two protagonists of the poem is of course inspired partially by the ancient Roman statue known as the Dying Gaul (a copy of a lost Greek original).
Do go to Pete’s site to read the entire poem to see the context. The Well.
I wanted to practice some portraits, so here is an A4 portrait of Crowley, played by David Tennant, in Good Omens. I’ve loved the book of Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman for many years, and it was a delight to see it brought so faithfully to life on the screen. Below, Michael Sheen as Aziraphale. These two are both acrylic paintings.
Another much-beloved book – well, series of books, really, is Megan Whalen Turner’s Queen’s Thief series (I’m eagerly looking forward to the last book!) So here we have Helen, Queen of Eddis, with her short curly hair, dark skin and broken nose, set against the mountains of Eddis. Irene, Queen of Attolia, with her pale sad beauty, and her land rich with grapes and grain, and in the middle, the Queen’s Thief himself, Gen (Eugenides) who will marry Irene and become Attolis, the King of Attolia.
These are inktense pencil watercolours, apart from Helen’s face, which I made a horrible mess of on the first attempt and had to re-paint over the top using acrylic paint.