It has been a while since I have contributed anything here.  But happily for you lot out there in cyber-space, there are many other assorted worthies and notables amongst this gathering of creatives to keep you entranced, distracted from your work – or at least having something to look at while you top up your caffeine levels.

Most of what I’m up to I still can’t post – you know the form by now – threats of nocturnal visits from chittering, strangely appendaged demons. I’m just not good at coping with that kind of night-time attention, so I just do as I am bidden.

Happily, though – this one, done for Riotminds has been given a seal of approval to be shown. I know there is a dwarf and two goblins, but this is not Trudvang. This is Ereb Altor, “Ruin Masters.” Apparently a roll-play dungeon crawler, coming soon to a Kickstarter near you. It’s a lovely and original setting, a rather, to my mind, melancholic and romantic medieval setting. A hint of a faded golden age. Very seductive and inspiring to try my hand at. I don’t have to paint forests, mountains and mossy tundra all the time, and this is not so far removed. Maybe the same places just a few hundred years on. Goblins appear to have learnt that metal is better than leather for stopping life threatening projectiles and dwarves seemed to have latched on to the idea that they don’t have to shuffle round with beards the size of rhododendron bushes in order to be dwarves.. Indeed, a bit of personal grooming and hair maintenance can give a whole new perspective on things. Not quite edging over into gunpowder fuelled hostilities – crossbows are still the professionals weapon of choice  – no changes there except that they are now powerful enough to make light of goblin armour. Especially if the dwarf specialises in head-shots – as this one seems to. So, to the beginning. The usual scribbles trying to catch the fleeting ideas scampering around in my imagination.


This is just one page from my long suffering layout pad. Making visual sense only to me – I won’t burden your imagination or tax your intellect with showing you any of the other pages that didn’t really go anywhere constructive. Suffice to say – I think these scribbles were the last outpourings where I think I established what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go.

Horses in dire straits, or dead, seem to be a motif that occasionally surfaces in my paintings. Not sure why, though I suspect it has something to do with emotional manipulation. After all, isn’t that what a painting is supposed to illicit in the viewer. Sympathy for something or someone is universal and demands an emotional response, coupled with a feeling of helplessness because we can’t intervene. I can’t get away with liberally sprinkling my paintings with puppies and kittens – so the noble horse will have to do. Buggers to draw though.

The noble knight. It was wonderful to try and come up with a slightly off-kilter medieval feel to him. With a huge part of fantasy art stuck in some kind of – dare I say it – cliched “dark ages” most of the time – it can be, both too easy to swathe the protagonists in spikes, fur, face-paint and leather (hmmm….sounds like a Cramps song), and difficult to find new variations on the same old theme. So this was quite refreshing for me. I had some concepts of the brilliant Alvaro Tapia to help kickstart ideas, but otherwise, a free hand. I knew that it was important for this painting to convey a different feel from all my Trudvang ones, and brighter colours seemed like a good place to start. Rummaging somewhat curiously in the bottom of my paint box, there they were. Like some lost treasure, or a T.Rex skull nosing itself out of the sand, a dusty little gathering of long forgotten and neglected tubes lay, huddled together in a corner. Bearing names, strange and unfamiliar to me -New Gamboge, Windsor Orange, May Green and Opera Rose. My plastic Ikea tea-trays tend to live a stoic, resigned existence under a layer of Prussian Blue, Vandyke Brown and Paynes Grey. I think they must have thought it was their birthday or the first day of spring when they were gifted with opulent and glistening swirls of fresh Cadminium Orange, Chrome Yellow and Rose Dore. I was as surprised myself.

A dwarf is a dwarf, at least mine are, so I’m afraid not much variation there. If he grew his hair and let his beard go thoroughly amok, I feel he could quite happily be ambushing goblins in the forests of Trudvang. I could maybe have made him a bit more different, but I wanted all the focus on the knight and ogre. I could also, quite happily have left him out altogether – along with the goblins – but a cover is a cover and I have to earn my pennies. It’s probably not good to try and talk Theo out of changing his mind on too many of his personal ideas. So a dwarf doing what dwarves are good at was agreed upon, and goblins doing what goblins do also met with mutual consent. The dwarf had to be culling goblins, and looking reasonably content whilst doing so, and the goblins had to be seen being culled by the dwarf (and also being in no fit state to entertain any opinions about it). Along with horses in various stages of distress this seems to be another theme running through my work.

Technical stuff going on here. Nothing intimidating, but some of you might want to look away. Tiny bit of perspective and vanishing points. Or maybe there was just one. I’m not really sure myself. I can’t avoid it sometimes and always, later, wished I’d spent more time on it – but most of the time I just hurry past it, thinking that if I don’t stop – it won’t bother me. Bit like street performers. It’s terrible of me really, and it happens every time. Any hint of straight lines, architecture or perspective and I think I can just paint it in organically later.

As you an see from the next piccy – there is not really any background being catered for at all. I just have a vague idea of what it should look like. Really, I should have used a bit more time on integrating the background into the overall design, but as it was, I just cobbled it together around the main figures as I went along. Of course, I completely forgot to take progress shots – but rest assured – the background changed all the time and caused quite a few uncharacteristic verbal outbursts that luckily only Baldur was privvy to. My own fault – BUT – one has to be careful. If everything if painstakingly planned out because you want a beautiful painting, there is a risk being run that you end up with a beautiful and technically impressive painting – but one curiously devoid of life, energy and atmosphere. I want a beautiful painting, but I also want to paint something that is real to me.If you want beauty and technique, you run the risk of getting just that. A contrived image where every aspect planned to visually fit together – whereas – life just isn’t like that. Usually it’s chaos. Most of real nature, whilst being beautiful is actually a sort of controlled chaos. It’s difficult to paint the mess of a forest, but perseverance can result in a more compelling image than painting what one thinks a forest should look like. It’s about catching that snapshot moment of reality in all it’s glorious chaos, as opposed to some kind of aesthetic composure that just looks pretty. I’m not saying that all my work is nature; captured, red in tooth and claw, but there is something tantalizingly elusive in chasing after an image that suggests life itself. Hmmm….rambling thoughts that I can’t quite elucidate on as yet. Still formulating them but can’t quite pin them down. Something “organic” maybe…….I’ll let you know.

This was the final drawing before it was soaked under the tap and stretched.

So – some close ups. In my defence, the detail is necessary.. It’s the nature of what I have always been given to paint. People and things going off to have adventures and confrontations with other people and things for any respectable length of time, need to have stuff with them. In some cases – a lot of stuff. It is fun to do, but can drive me crazy for a couple of well founded and proven reasons. One is that once I have achieved some kind of artistic satisfaction with a base drawing (after having struggled with anatomy, positioning etc) I then have to spoil it all by either covering the elegant, sweeping lines with clunky armour, backpacks, belts, assorted weaponry and all manner of dangly bits. The other tends to raise it’s ugly head much later when I am so nearly finished with the whole painting, beginning to get sick of looking at it and my mind wanders on ahead to the next one. Except that there was just those buckles I hadn’t done yet, and all those little bits of decorative metalwork that, though blocked in – were definitely not finished. Oh – and the hands and fingers needed the final touches.. Always procrastinated upon to no avail.There they are at the end – waiting in a line with their proverbial arms folded, impatiently demanding to be finished. Whilst on the subject of hands, did you notice how I cleverly avoided having to paint any hands at all on the knight. A stance I will definitely be returning to in future outings.

So -all my paintings tend towards a point where in my head I have already washed my brushes and washed my palettes…..yet, always there they are – an annoying throng of little details insisting persuasively that I am far from done.

Details – and horse anatomy. I’m sure if I really studied them;filled sketchbooks with them, or even drew them from life – they would get easier to portray, but at the moment horses will just have to retain that ability to confuse, frustrate and amaze me.

More details………..and horse anatomy, and bling.

Ogre anatomy. Much easier than bloody horses. I think that the conscious effort to make everything more colourful helped give a more vibrant portrayal of life than I am maybe used to. I’m not saying that these, for me, almost day-glo colours are something my trusty palette is going to have to get used to, but there was definitely something going on that made things seem more immediate and vital. I’m almost afraid to say it – but the whole thing seemed to coast along relatively painlessly. Apart from those aforementioned couple of things…..and all those niggly details that insist on ambushing me just when I feel I’m done. I’m sure that not having to paint a whole forest, a mountain range or a horde of psychotic goblins was a contributing factor but there is a persistent, nagging feeling that it was something to do with the whole new setting being new and different. I’ll ponder upon it and let you know.

Secure in the knowledge of his skills, our dwarf waits for the next goblin to stick it’s – futilely armoured head – up. I wanted him to look like he had some egg sandwiches and a bottle of ale tucked away just out of sight, and was quite content to sit there all day taking potshots at any goblin reckless enough to show his head – armoured or not.

Initially, as you can see from the sketch, I had him facing the other way. Can’t remember why now ; he must have been way over on the left side – but I have learnt that to avoid that static beauty that following a plan can result in I mustn’t be afraid to make sudden, impulsive changes. Whatever works to tell the story and make the participants relate to one another. It’s what wins wars, don’t y’know.

My kind of architecture – a bit wobbly, wiggly and old. Not a straight line in sight.

Almost left ’till last – a hand – as usual. Actually, as I mentioned before about how I artfully managed to relieve myself of painting the knights hands, I equally artfully managed to get away with only painting one hand on the ogre. Quite proud of that actually. Next time I have to attempt a horse I will have to lavish some medieval barding on it. Not just has a fashion statement – but also a way to avoid painting it’s legs. I think I can manage four hooves sticking out the bottom.

I think messing around with this carving was the last bit I did. Having tried much earlier; changing the lighting and then changing the colour ( I even painted a rather clever and intricate shadow from the chain on it, only to realise that doing so dragged the stone into an impossible position in the foreground) – I just kind of edged away from it and moved on. I guess a part of me, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary – hoped it would just sort itself out whilst I was asleep.

See – there is always just one more thing. A fitting place to draw to a close. The bolt in the goblins head. Pretty much the final thing I painted. About as final as it could get for him – as well.

So, until next time, thanks for reading my ramblings and I hope that while sifting  through them and find something useful –  you never know!