I had a week’s holiday recently beside the Fal River, a little further west in Cornwall than my usual haunts. It was lovely to wake and see the tide from the window. This first image I painted from life, first thing in the morning, before the early clouds cleared, when everything was silvery-blue with just a hint of pink.
This is an early morning scene too, but it was SO early that I took a quick photo of the wonderful sky and the leaves outlined dark against it, and then painted it later. The result was more polished, but I’m not sure I don’t prefer the first and more subtle image above. (My husband likes the bright colours better though!)
Here are two characters from Dungeons & Dragons (5th edition.) I am not sure if the lady knight and her adversary the red horned tiefling are fighting in earnest or if they are sparring – either way, the shadow shows that someone is approaching, and seems likely to interrupt.
A friend of mine sent me a quick selfie a while ago of herself wearing a dress that she had made. I thought the pose and expression was interesting (as well as the dress being lovely) and so I made a painting of it – though, I had to change a lot of things. The original photo was taken with a phone camera into a mirror, indoors in artificial light. This is the painting I made from it.
My friend is a great lover of books, so I turned the phone in her hand into a book, and added her pet budgie and tortoise to the picture to keep her company, along with an enormous rose-bush and a random pillar.
This picture is only 14 by 10 inches, so I’m quite pleased I achieved a likeness in such a small space.
I went through several iterations of this painting, and photographed each one as I went along, so I thought it might be interesting to post each one.
Version 1. Her face looks washed out, the shadows look odd and the pillar is wiggly. Also there’s something odd about her pose.
Version 2: better lighting, her face is more ‘there’ and her legs are in a more natural position.
Version 3 : I realised that although the figure and the tortoise had shadows, I had forgotten to give the pillar one! The shadows still don’t look quite right here, but at least there IS a shadow on the pillar where it should be. Now scroll up to see the final version where I fixed the shadows and made a few final tweaks to the lighting!
You can see the lighting is slightly different again,and that changes the colours. I know that some people feel that paintings should be scanned rather than photographed, because the lighting is consistent then, but… well.
The thing is that a real painting hanging in a real room does change with the light. This is not a digital image: it’s made up of layers of variably translucent paint, and it responds to the light; its colour, its warmth, its direction. Putting it in a scanner where it will be lit by a single flash of artificial light is no more ‘accurate’ than photographing it in warm south afternoon light, or colder north-facing morning light. I now take photos of my paintings in various locations, then choose one, adjust colours in software to pick the one where the light pleases me and the image on my laptop matches most closely with the image I have set in front of me. But none of the photographs are wrong.
I had intended this hulking monster to be an orc, but Pp, who is versed in these matters, thinks he is an ogre. With a kitten friend. (My husband says: “You said you were going to paint a monster, but you have painted the world’s SOFTEST ogre!” Which is, I suppose, true.)
This painting was inspired partly by the work of Joaquín Sorolla, ‘Spanish Master of Light’ whose work is being shown in a major exhibition in London this year, and partly by a photo that I took while I was canoeing on the Helford estuary in Cornwall. The Helford river is rather lovely because the water is very clear and green, unlike my local river, the Tamar, which tends to be a bit brown in her upper reaches. I added a seal and a swimmer : the seal is a grey seal, but I’m not sure what their story is!
This is a larger painting than usual: A2 size, and it’s on a box canvas so I finished it by wrapping the paint around the edges.
I mostly paint in acrylics, but I decided to experiment with mixed media for these paintings.
Wood-elf This intense-looking elven lady is almost a sculpture as well as a painting: I made her face in acrylic sculpting paste, and then coloured her with brusho pigment and watercolor pencils.
This next peacock used brusho pigment and watercolor pencils too, though he’s flat on the paper, no sculpting paste this time! Here are two images where I used ink and brusho. The first painting is of one of my cats: I painted the cat first, then added brusho and some sprayed ink.
This one, I applied brusho to the paper, then added some cheerful dancing ink figures.
This was a bit of an experimental piece, using brusho dry pigment and acrylic pouring medium for the background, and titanium white acrylic for the overpainted face and figure. It’s quite highly textured and more glossy than a lot of my work: I love the random mix of blues and greens that I achieved here.
The inspiration was this poem:
Snow-white! Snow-white! O Lady clear! O Queen beyond the Western Seas! O Light to us that wander here Amid the world of woven trees!
Gilthoniel! O Elbereth! Clear are thy eyes and bright thy breath! Snow-white! Snow-white! We sing to thee In a far land beyond the Sea.
Specifically, Gothmog kitten, who insists on stealing my brushes and pencils, and has on a couple of occasions walked across my palette and got her feet all over paint! Still, with this face you have to forgive her.
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 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.
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.