I painted this image of the upper Lynher river in early spring, and then decided to add narcissus poeticus, or the pheasant’s eye narcissus, which has by far my favorite of all the many daffodil / narcissus flowers, and is also one of the more ancient varieties. I painted the flower, and then decided to add the reflected face of Narcissus, from the ancient story about the young man who fell in love with his own reflection and was transformed into a flower.
I love the way that you get bands of deep purple cloud and rain, and between them sudden strips of sunlight that lift the light on the horizon. This painting shows the view looking out from the West Devon Way across the lower slopes of Gibbet Hill above Mary Tavy, looking south and west to the hill where the gliding club flies, just south of Brent Tor. No gliding on that day, I think!
A3 acrylic painting of the Tavistock Canal, with the ghosts of a bargeman and horse lingering.
I walked this way in early spring a couple of years ago and tried to take a picture of the white wood-anemones and yellow celandine flowers along the banks, but they didn’t really show up at all in the photo, so I thought I’d try painting them. Then I added a pair of ghosts, because I thought it would be interesting to reflect the past more graphically.
The canal was built in the early 19th century, to carry goods, and particularly the products of the mines, down to the Tamar River and on to Plymouth. As so often with mining projects, it ran into difficulty at the point where the builders had to drill a tunnel through some unexpectedly hard rock, and by the time the tunnel was completed, the price of the copper that it was designed to carry was already falling. It was built to have an unusually high flow rate, the idea being that this could power water wheels used by industry along the canal, creating further products for the canal-boats to carry, and also power the inclined plane rail to transport goods from the canal down to the river 72 feet below it.
The canal is still not just decorative even now. It powers a hydro-electric power station, and has done with quiet efficiency since 1933.
The railway that runs over the viaduct above was completed in 1859, and quickly killed off the canal as a working waterway. Now the railway is gone too: the line that ran above this canal is closed now, although there are apparently now plans afoot to re-open it.
The Anglo-Saxon period of British history is really interesting, and I find one of the particularly interesting things about it is the few tantalising remnants of old beliefs that have now almost vanished.
I decided I’d like to practice a sort of portrait / still life type painting, and so* I painted an old lady preparing to practice the healing charm Wið færstice ‘against a sudden stabbing pain’. It’s a bit of a mish-mash of ideas : her clothes and beads and knife are from Anglo-saxon Wessex, I think, but the bottle, candle and the glass globe full of melted butter are clearly more or less modern. I think the cat could be from any period. There’s no dating cats. She also has feverfew, red deadnettle and some plantain plants, though you can’t see them very clearly through the steam.
*I’m aware this is a non sequitur but I’m hoping if I type it really fast you won’t notice
I started this as a quick portrait-painting exercise, but I ended up quite liking his expression, so I gave him a silk tunic and an elaborate background, and decided it was Maedhros, from the Silmarillion, in Valinor when he was young. This is an A3 painting in acrylics.
And here he is again, with his cousin Fingon, after being tormented, rescued at long last and now volunteering to defend some of the most dangerous part of the frontier.
One of the most beautiful things about sighthounds are their huge eyes, and my rescue lurcher Rosie is no exception. I was out walking her a couple of days ago, and wondered what she would think I should paint, if she understood the idea. The answer was obvious: Squirrels! Squirrels are very important! So I thought I’d try creating an image to show off both her eyes, and her love of squirrels.
Here’s another of my animals, Gothmog Kitten. She’s about six months old now, and very playful: she loves to steal packing peanuts. They are just the right size and texture to be bopped with a paw, or carried around the house.
Not the easiest thing to paint black fur, but an interesting challenge.
The ghosts of two Balmaidens (female mine workers) haunting the ruins of Gunnislake Clitters Mine, not far from my house! Balmaidens often started work as children.
This was inspired by a challenge to paint inspired by the words ‘zeitgeist’, ‘ephemeral’ or ‘subliminal’. I thought of approximately 999 very depressing things I could paint for those words, but I wanted to paint something more cheering, so in the end I went for ‘Ephemeral’ and painted one of our old copper & arsenic mines which were once both deadly and blighting, but now are overrun with plants and beautiful in their own way.
Then I decided to push my luck and added a pair of balmaidens for ‘zeitgeist’ – either literally as time-ghosts, or in the sense of ‘well, things may not be perfect now, but at least girls are not routinely expected to take jobs working in arsenic mines at the age of 7 or 8 years old’. I used some of the photos on http://balmaiden.co.uk/ for clothing/ tools reference.
This is an A3 painting in acrylic on artboard.
This was painted as an illustration for a scene from a fanfic by Narya_Flame: The Ways of Paradox. It’s set in modern St Andrews, Scotland. It’s a gentle and delightful story where Maglor from the Silmarillion meets some really engaging original characters, beautifully written with a real feel for both the Scottish setting and also daily university student life.
This painting is of a scene where Maglor & Claire talk at dusk at the end of the pier while the wind blows wildly. I actually painted the figures twice: the first attempt was this one, but I felt the figures were a bit awkwardly located, so I moved them left a bit. This did mean I had to re-paint Claire’s face, and of course it didn’t quite come out the same. But I think the final version, above, is better in terms of composition…
The next one is an entirely fantasy scene, set on a beach beyond the world, where the sea shines blue beneath the stars.
Angrod, Aegnor and a mermaid friend on the beach near Alqualondë. They were building sandcastles with Finrod and Turgon, but it all got a bit intense and competitive so Angrod and little Aegnor decided to go off and talk to a mermaid in the phosphorescent sea instead.
This is another one in my ‘Grandchildren of Finwe’ series illustrating characters from The Silmarillion, and the number of figures got a little out of hand!
I’m quite pleased with Huan the giant dog, but on an A3 painting, the tiny background faces ended up so tiny that they were hard to get right. Still, I like the lighting.
I’d been using the Tumblr social media platform for a while. It had always been a system which didn’t have restrictions on the kind of images you were allowed to show there, until they suddenly decided to ban all ‘Adult’ images. Obviously, since I’m naturally contrary, this made me want to paint nudes.
So, this is Yavanna, Tolkien’s nature goddess character, showing some of her creations to her friend Varda, the goddess of the stars.
This next one is a scene from my story The Eldar That Were Faithful. Finrod, on the right, has returned from death somewhat traumatised, and without clothes, and encounters his aunt Nerdanel.
And finally ‘The Taming of the Steward’
I was chatting about possible titles for a story about Eowyn and Faramir, and someone suggested a steamy romance novel. So I made a cover for it. above, the painting, and below, the Novel Cover. If I ever paint an actual novel cover, I must remember that you need more space around the main image than you think you will.
All these paintings are A3 size in acrylic on board.
This is an A3 size acrylic painting. The cobbles were a little bit of a challenge to begin with, but I think I like the effect I achieved in the end.
I have been enjoying hanging out on Tumblr, but this week we got the unwelcome news that Tumblr has decided to ban all ‘adult’ images from the seventeenth of December – and they seem to be really very overzealous about it too, since their automatic detection software is flagging up all sorts of things as forbidden, including archaeology, art, pictures showing elbows, ankles etc. I am rather uncomfortable with this kind of censorship, and I think human bodies are natural and rather beautiful. So I decided to paint some topless ladies. The one above is called ‘The Sleep of Yavanna’
“Excuse me, Madam,” Bilbo said very politely, trying not to stare, for the clothing of the Vanyar of Valimar was not quite what he was used to. “I seem to have lost my way. Could you direct me to the house of Lord Ingwion?”
“Of course,” the Vanyar lady said, turning to address him with swift attention. “You are heading the wrong way, I fear. If you make your way back towards the Bell of the Unicorn, and turn just where that very tall person with dark hair down to her ankles is going, you will find the House of Ingwion straight ahead of you.”
“Ah!” Bilbo exclaimed. “So that’s where I went wrong. I was admiring the gilding on the unicorn, you see, and I must have walked straight past. Thank you!”
He hesitated for a moment.
“Was there something else?” the Vanya enquired in her voice that was like the sound of bronze bells, as the scent of strange spices wafted down the long shining street under roofs of gold.
Bilbo coughed, “I was just wondering why you were carrying a spear,” he said. “Hasn’t it been thousands of years since the Vanyar went to war?”
“It has!” she told him, and shook the spear fiercely, her golden hair tossing. “Yet the Enemy is only banished. One day he will return, and we will be ready!”
“Oh,” Bilbo said. “Jolly good. And thank you kindly for the directions.”
As he wandered back towards the turning he had missed, he could not help but wonder if the Vanyar could not have employed their spears usefully against the spiders of Mirkwood, or the goblins of the Misty Mountains. But as he admired the lilac flowers that hung in elegant sheets from the archway in front of him, he thought that you could see why people who had ended up in a place as delightful as this would want to stay here.
He trotted into the house to see if Elrond had got back from visiting whichever relative it was this time, to ask if he might fancy a spot of lunch.
This was a challenging painting! I painted it for a friend who is writing a story about Goldberry, from Lord of the Rings. She had a vision of a character who was brown-skinned, with a slightly hooked nose, and long blonde hair that was naturally wavy but relatively coarse in texture. And eyes that were hazel in colour. So I had to take inspiration from a number of references to combine these various ideas!
Also, Goldberry is the River-daughter, so I gave her a kingfisher feather to wear in her hair, and a water-lily to hold in her hand.
My first ever sighthounds : Az, on the left, a whippet x greyhound lurcher, and Mollydog on the right, a retired racing greyhound. They say that greyhounds are lazy sleepy dogs, but I don’t think anyone had ever told Molly that, she was always up for a game and loved long walks!
This is a fairly small acrylic painting on canvas, and because I experimented with a gloss glaze over the dogs (but not the background) it’s photographed rather oddly. I should probably rephotograph, sorry about that!
Well, I fell out of Inktober about Day 21 : I felt I was rushing, and the quality of the things I was painting was going down, so I decided to give myself permission to stop drawing every single day for a bit. Here are some of the things I made:
Above, a portrait of Luthien Tinuviel, inspired by a photo of Tolkien’s wife Edith who inspired the character of Luthien. This was drawn in biro with the golden flowers ink-painted.
An inkpainting for the prompt : ‘bottle’ which reminded me of this song from Lord of the Rings:
Ho! Ho! Ho! to the bottle I go
To heal my heart and drown my woe.
Rain may fall and wind may blow,
And many miles be still to go,
But under a tall tree I will lie,
And let the clouds go sailing by.
Inktober 18 : “swollen”
“ As Sam stood there… he felt himself enlarged, as if he were robed in a huge distorted shadow of himself, a vast and ominous threat halted upon the walls of Mordor…
The one small garden of a free gardener was all his need and due, not a garden swollen to a realm; his own hands to use, not the hands of others to command.”
Sam is tempted by the Ring.
Inktober prompt 14 : Clock.
Andreth as an old woman spinning by a sundial, with bonus cat.
“Frodo and Sam halted and sat silent in the soft shadows, until they saw a shimmer as the travellers came towards them.
There was Gildor and many fair Elven folk; and there to Sam’s wonder rode Elrond and Galadriel. Elrond wore a mantle of grey and had a star upon his forehead, and a silver harp was in his hand, and upon his finger was a ring of gold with a great blue stone, Vilya, mightiest of the Three. But Galadriel sat upon a white palfrey and was robed all in glimmering white, like clouds about the Moon; for she herself seemed to shine with a soft light. On her finger was Nenya, the ring wrought of mithril, that bore a single white stone flickering like a frosty star. Riding slowly behind on a small grey pony, and seeming to nod in his sleep, was Bilbo himself.”
Return of the King : The Grey Havens
This is an A3 sized painting in acrylics on artboard. It was actually painted in September but I’ve only just realised I didn’t upload it here!
This picture is based on modern Glastonbury Tor and Burrow Mump (the foreground hill with the attached church) but I’ve changed things around a little. I thought I had added the water in the foreground for a more ancient and Arthurian feeling, but later I discovered that there actually is a water on the land under Burrow Mump after all, though I’m not sure you can see it all together like this from any one viewpoint now. Perhaps before the land was drained and the more recent church (now ruined) built on Burrow Mump?
This is an A3 sized painting in acrylics on artboard.
Since I’ve been doing some ink-painting and drawings in ink recently, I decided to attempt the Inktober challenge, and do a drawing a day. Because of the need to make something very fast, some of these have been slightly tweaked in software once photographed.
Here’s the official prompt list!
Day 1: a slight cheat, since I made this earlier. The prompt was ‘Poisonous’.
Three Trolls eating MuttonDay 4: Spell
Day 5: Chicken
Day 6 : Drooling
Day 7 : Exhausted
Day 8: Star
Here’s an acrylic painting inspired by a visit to the Royal Horticultural Society gardens at Rosemoor near Torrington, and a desire to practice painting clouds. This is an A3 painting in acrylics.
I have to admit I’m not the greatest fan of the way Elrond was characterised in the Lord of the Rings movies. Poor Elrond ‘kind as summer’ who welcomes everyone to Rivendell and never once gets angry in the books, should not be so grumpy!