“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.

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.