“Hanna” – Acrylic on Panel, 65×81 cm

Last month, I finished a full-term mentorship with Rebecca Léveillé-Guay as part of her SmArtSchool online program. It was an amazing time, and I’m still processing what I learned, both from my own explorations under Rebecca’s guidance, and from watching as she worked with the other students (who are all amazing).

I did three paintings during the course, two of which are complete. This is the best result, one that I am quite pleased with (it’s also the largest painting yet for me!). Hanna is a re-enactor and craftsperson/merchant that I met two years ago at Medieval Week in Visby on the island of Gotland. I knew as soon as I met her that I wanted to paint her portrait, but early attempts didn’t work out so well. Last summer, she graciously took a few moments from her work with the festival to sit for a some reference photos.

Earlier attempts notwithstanding, this is the portrait I saw in my head when Hanna and I  first met, and I’m so grateful that both Rebecca and my excellent classmates could lend so much help and support in getting me here.

La Pucelle d’Orléans

Jehanne la Pucelle Graphite and watercolour sketch - 12x16cm

Jehanne la Pucelle
Graphite and digital colour sketch – 12x16cm

Quoting my own post from this date last year:

Five hundred and eighty-five years ago today, Jehanne d’Arc led the French army under John of Dunois in the taking of the Tourelles, the heavily fortified and turreted gatehouse at the southern end of the bridge that led over the Loire river and into the besieged city of Orléans. She was seventeen years old. It’s an amazing episode both in Jehanne’s own story and the Hundred Years War itself – her first major military victory and a turning point in the war. The six-month siege itself was lifted on the 8th, and to this day, Jehanne bears the name La Pucelle d’Orléans – “The Maid of Orléans”.

To honour the date this year, here’s a graphite and digital watercolour sketch I made of Jehanne last summer. I wasn’t concerned as I usually am about being historically correct in the details of her armour – I just wanted to be free to sketch out a mood, and I quite liked the result.

INSPIRED Art Book on the presses!

INSPIRED Cover Art by Kip Ayers

INSPIRED Cover Art by Kip Ayers

I just wanted to help spread the news that Jon Schindehette’s INSPIRED book project is about to hit the streets!
“INSPIRED is a juried collection of works from over 30 international artists. The publication includes selected works from the Inspired By ArtOrder challenge, short essays by the artists about their inspiration, and a mini-artists gallery. This book also attempts to create a new publishing model for artists that allows them to reap the rewards of their creative talent by splitting the profits with the artists.”
The jury for this project was a wonderful all-star line-up: Irene Gallo, Julie Bell, Lauren Panepinto, Rebecca Guay, Terese Nielsen and Terryl Whitlatch. 

The artist list is as follows: Alice Cao, Anthony Schmidt, Ashley Stewart, Boco, Brenda Lyons, Cole Marchetti, Cristina Bencina, Dave Lebow, David Brasgalla, Elizabeth Leggett, Filippo “onez” Vanzo, Gabriella Liv Eriksson, Herman Lau, Inaya Hodeib, Jason Cheeseman-Meyer, Jim Zaccaria, John Picacio, Julia Metzger, Julian Hayduk, Kelley McMorris, Kip Ayers, Kiri Østergaard Leonard, Kristina Carroll, Marc Scheff, Paul Pederson, Rebecca Yanovskaya, Rich Klink, Sam Guay, Sybiline, Tara Larsen Chang, Tav Kong, Terese Nielsen, Terryl Whitlatch, Wylie Beckert.

This is a 132-page paperback with a limited print run of 1000 copies, so don’t wait to order if you’d like one. If you take part in the pre-order before April 3rd, you get a free digital copy of the book in PDF form.

I’m very pleased and honoured to have been included in this project, and I want to do my part to help the project succeed. Please take a look at the Art Order store page and help support this new publishing model for artists!

And thanks, Jon, for all your hard work making this project happen – I know it’s not easy!


Post-Spectrum Updates: “Vildvittra”

Vildvittra Sepia Ink on Paper with Digital Colour, 21cm x 30cm

Sepia Ink on Paper with Digital Colour, 21cm x 30cm

This piece was created for issue 119 of ImagineFX magazine. A vildvittra is a swedish variant of a harpy, although much smaller. They feature in Astrid Lindgren’s classic 1981 childrens’ book, Ronja Rövardotter (Ronja Robbersdaughter). My version is slightly different, with the beak only implied by the facial colours. I realise now that I probably should have included some elements that gave the scale, but I still like how this turned out. Thanks to Elin Hökby for the original suggestion to depict this woodland creature!

Post-Spectrum Updates: “Éowyn and the Witch King” Redux

Éowyn and the Witch King

Éowyn and the Witch King
Graphite with Digital Colour, 21cm x 30cm


Back in 2011, I entered The Art Order’s “Éowyn and the Nazgúl” challenge, and was deeply honoured to place fourth in the judging. Since that time, it’s been easily the most popular image I’ve ever published on the web – I often see it popping up on different Pinterest boards and Flickr streams. I’m pleased by that, obviously, but it also means I get reminded of the shortcomings of the image.

For instance, even with an after-the-fact model reference check, there were still some issues with Éowyn that I had essentially handled by hiding them in shadow. I also felt that I didn’t really articulate the Fell Beast as much as I could have. I didn’t want it to attract much attention, so I probably overcompensated by not doing much with it at all. I was very happy with the Witch King, but he was a bit too large in proportion to Éowyn (since he was once a man, after all).

I decided I was interested to see what I would do with this picture four years on, so once again I dressed up a very patient artist friend in chainmail and equipped her with a sword and shield. My friend is tall and slim, with long, slender limbs, and she wore the costume with a lot of grace. She provided so many great variations on the original pose that I had trouble picking which one I liked best!

I worked on understanding Éowyn’s relationship to the rise of ground she’s on, and I made sure that the Fell Beast’s carcass was given due attention as well. I also worked to balance the composition better in the overall space, and did my best to preserve the colour scheme of the original. I kept the Witch King very much as he was. Finally, because I really enjoy doing this, I incorporated some of Tolkien’s text in the image.

The final painting has its own new identity, I think, and I’m interested to see if a new panel of judges for this year’s Spectrum annual were willing to vote for it again. I hope you enjoy the new version of this scene, and hopefully it gets as popular as the original painting!

Post-Spectrum Updates: “Isabelle”

Isabelle Acrylic on Panel, 53cm x 45.5cm

Acrylic on Panel, 53cm x 45.5cm


Wow, I haven’t posted for six months! I do have plenty of new work going on, though – just been head down in front of the easel.

I’m currently enjoying being on the downhill side of the Spectrum 22 submissions deadline. Isabelle is a piece I’ve been working on since late September, with an eye towards submitting it for consideration for volume 22. I finished it about 3 weeks before the deadline, but still had to get it photographed. My artist friend Sofie Arloff helped me by shooting a much better photo than what I could have done alone. It still isn’t fully accurate to the painting, but I’m slowly getting used to that being the case with photographing artwork, and I really appreciate the assistance!

Isabelle, the model, is the daughter of dear friend from those wild 80’s club/music scene days, and she kindly asked to be painted as an elf. The armour is based on some ornate Italian plate I’d seen.

The technique is basically many, many thin washes of acrylic over two coats of gesso on a masonite panel. I love how the result looks when one is right in front of the artwork, but it hasn’t been easy to capture with a camera. I used the limited palette that I enjoy so much: Mars Black, Titanium White, Yellow Ochre and (the always awesome) Venetian Red. I used a touch of Burnt Sienna and Alizarin Crimson in a few spots. I didn’t use any blue pigment. I learned a lot about how to manipulate colours by placing them next to other colours. It’s one thing to read about this principal, but very exciting to actually see it working for you.

The idea of painting text into the picture is nicked straight from the work of  William Mortensen. It felt like it fit the formal setup of the image.

Special thanks yet again to Howard Lyon, whose Muddy Colors articles have been of immense help and inspiration to me.

I’ll post more of the new works in the next few weeks.

Watercolour in Progress

Work in Progress, watercolour 30x42 cm Canson Montval, Cold Pressed/Fine Grain

Work in Progress, watercolour & graphite 30×42 cm
on Canson Montval, cold pressed/fine grain

Here’s a quick (read: low quality) snap of a piece I am currently working on for The Art Order’s latest challenge. Lots of swedish summertime themes coming through this one, and the tree and rocks from around where I live. I’m really happy with how it’s going – much better than my last large-scale watercolour attempt – but I’m now getting to the point where I’m increasingly wary of messing it up. I can feel that I’ve slowed down and become less adventurous. I still have about three weeks to finish it up, though, so there’s time to get wild and find out how far is “too far”!

New work in progress

"Jehanne with Apple Blossoms" Acrylic on panel, work in progress.

“Jehanne with Apple Blossoms”
Acrylic on panel, work in progress.

It’s summer and hard to concentrate on finishing projects, but I have several paintings on the go. The one above is a larger acrylic version of a watercolour I played around with last summer. I’m having a lot of fun with this one, and since it’s been “in progress” for two years, I’m happy that it’s nearly completed!

I thought I was going to do an acrylic underpainting and then work in oils, but I became interested in how the acrylics were handling on the panel, and I liked how they built up in thin washes. It’s a bit of a rubbish photo and doesn’t really do the actual colours justice, but I’ll take a proper photo when it’s done.

Here’s another WIP that’s been kicking around since one of last winter’s Stockholm Sketchjams – a certain red-maned warrior woman:

"Hyrkanian" Watercolour and Digital, work in progress.

Watercolour and Digital, work in progress.

This began as a large-format watercolour, but it sort of got away from me – I’m still just starting out in watercolours and felt like I maybe bit off too much! I photographed what I had and took it into Procreate on my iPad. There was a lot of Sergio Toppi emulation going on when I first sketched this (obvious, it seems to me), and Swedish artist Karl Mårtens was also an inspiration, but stumbling across some work by Enric Torres-Prat for a pulp western really helped me get motivated to keep going on this piece.

May 7th, 1429

May 7th, Dawn - 21x27cm, Digital, 2011

May 7th, Dawn – 21×27 cm, Digital

Five hundred and eighty-five years ago today, Jehanne d’Arc led the French army under John of Dunois in the taking of the Tourelles, the heavily fortified and turreted gatehouse at the southern end of the bridge that led over the Loire river and into the besieged city of Orléans. She was seventeen years old. It’s an amazing episode both in Jehanne’s own story and the Hundred Years War itself – her first major military victory and a turning point in the war. The six-month siege itself was lifted on the 8th, and to this day, Jehanne bears the name La Pucelle d’Orléans – “The Maid of Orléans”.

Remembering this date reminded me of a painting I started in 2011 on my iPad, but never finished. I was inspired by N. C. Wyeth at the time, and had wanted to do something with a reduced palette. I’d also wanted to catch that feeling of very early morning in the springtime, that fresh but chilly feel to the morning air. Pulling the picture back up out of my files, I decided to finish up the last remaining details I’d intended and post it here to honor Jehanne and the day.

It was interesting to revisit a painting from nearly three years ago – I was mystified by some of the things I’d done, and sometimes had no remembrance of actually doing them! I’d almost certainly create this picture differently today, but I still like it and still feel good about it. I think there’s some nice passages, even if there are also some slight inaccuracies. I’m toying with the idea of doing a version of this on a big canvas with acrylics or oils…

At any rate, spare a thought today for Jehanne la Pucelle.

Old Year, New Year

So far, there’s been a lot going on for me in 2014 in all respects, but I’ve managed to keep it all together for the most part. The first priority of the year was to look at my work from 2013 and pick the pieces I feel are worthy to send to the Spectrum annual. This past year I seem to have stumbled into a kind of style without quite meaning to – pencil/ink illustrations with digital colour. I realised that most of what I’d want to submit this year came from this one direction I explored, and they seemed to hang together well.

My 2013 Spectrum Annual submissions.

My 2013 Spectrum Annual submissions.

Second priority of the new year was to finish two pieces from 2013 that just needed that final push of effort to complete. I wanted to get them sorted so I could move on to new things. One of them is a larger-scale acrylic painting called Winter VI that I’ve been working on since last march, and it was great to finally wrap it up and include it in the Spectrum submissions. Howard Lyon’s amazing and enlightening post Feeling Gray Today at the Muddy Colors blog gave me the final key towards finishing  – I repainted the face for the third time and finally achieved what I was after thanks to Howard’s insights (not the best photo, sorry!):

Winter VI - 60x50cm, acrylic on canvas.

Winter VI – 60x50cm, acrylic on canvas.

I also created two acrylic portraits to give as Christmas gifts, and was quite pleased with the results – again, it was right after reading that remarkable post, and in contrast to the nearly 11 months I spent circling Winter VI, I created this portrait of the eminent John Wheeldon in just one of the five hours I had available in which to paint it:

John Wheeldon - acrylic on canvas.

John Wheeldon – acrylic on canvas.

Lots more on the go and some fun new things to show already, but I’ll make other posts for them. I’ve also started the second term of my oil painting course under Barbro Runefelt- Taltavull, so I know some good things will come from that…

Happy 2014! (and thanks again, Howard!)