Reinterpreting Mythology

Harbinger (left) and Raven Queen Rising (right) were painted only months apart in early 2017. I'd like to say this was planned in advance, but sometimes my subconscious gets the better of me and I paint on auto-pilot. It was only after the Raven Queen was finished that I realized what I'd done. Many of the colors seen in the raven's wings are echoed in the Raven Queen, especially in the background. She herself, is pale like the skull the raven wears around its throat. The two paintings depict the same being in different moments of time.

Though traditionally Morrigan is associated with crows, I decided to stay with the raven. I couldn't get the idea out of my head--the idea of this goddess going into battle only to say, "No more war." I saw her rising up into the sky to shed her corvid form, to break free from her own mythology.

I like to think the goddess might be appalled by the wars of the modern world or maybe she's just grown tired of humankind's lust for blood.

She persisted-- 
Amidst the flames and stars she rose
To shed her wings instead of blood. 
No More War. 

© Amanda Makepeace

Taking a Second Look

Toward the end of 2017 I decided to take a look at this drawing again. I don’t often return to pieces I’ve finished, but this one was calling to me. I’m glad I listened! I used a combination of Tombow Mono pencils and a 2B mechanical pencil to help smooth and fill in some of the amazing texture on this paper, bringing more depth to the shadows and intensity to the drawing.

Raven Sight, Graphite, 11x14 inches

I realized after comparing these two images that I'd been lazy, or most likely busy so I rushed her the first time around. Now she is finished and you can tell. This is a good example of why it's important to set a panting or drawing aside for a short time. It's important to distance yourself, even if only for a day or two, to regain perspective. When you've been staring at a piece day after day for a week or more the chances of missing exponentially increase! 

I've been asked a couple times and it's true, I used my own witchy face as the inspiration for this portrait. I wanted something between the recent photo of me on the left and the younger me on the right. 

ravensightref.jpg

The next seer portrait, Owl Sight, will feature my daughter. I'm calling these the Blood Mountain Seers, named after my favorite mountain in North Georgia.

Feathers and Omens

Last month, the Bird Whisperer Project had the pleasure of working from a truly stunning photograph of a raven by photographer Christopher Martin. You can see the complete album of artworks on our Facebook page here: January 2017 - Common Raven. At the time, I was afraid I might not finish my raven in time for the group post. Why? Because I kind went nuts with the level of detail...

More than a few people mentioned they thought it was the photograph, but seeing them side by side, I think you can see the differences. If I hadn't been in such a rush, I would have taken more detailed process shots as I went. Hopefully, what I do have will give you a peek inside my process.

Brushes

I don't use many.  I have about 10 favorites, but more often than not I'll only use 5 for any painting. Here are the brushes I used for Winter Raven (Harbinger).

The first brush is one of the basic soft brushes that come with Photoshop. I also use the hard one, usually for sketching out my subject. The fourth brush is often the brush I use for blocking in the basic colors. All of the feathers were painted with the second and the fifth brush. Just like traditional brushes, any of these can be large or small in diameter.

Painting

Having my reference materials nearby is always handy, but when I'm working in a realistic manner I do like to have it extra close. I'll pop it out of the window and keep it on top in Photoshop. With that said, I don't need all of those feathers to be precise for the end result to "look" real. You can see some of my sketch above--those wing feathers are pretty off! 

When I'm painting I don't use the undo option much, unless I'm experimenting and completely screw something up. If what I'm painting doesn't look right, I keep painting. With iridescent raven feathers, there is no one color reflecting off the surface. I continue to lay down color till I have what I want. Sometimes it feels more like I'm sculpting a painting. Below is a handful of the colors that went into painting the wings

The screenshot below shows different stages of the raven's head. Once I blocked in the base color, I used the same brush for all of the feathers--only changing the size of the brush and pigment as I went along. In some areas, like the cheek, the brush was very, very small! The pressure I applied also varied. For the neck feathers I need stronger brush strokes compared to the softer parts of the head.

The Skull

Sometimes, one small element can transform a painting's narrative. In the case of this raven, it was a squirrel skull pendant. Ravens don't wear pendants, meaning we've entered the world of fantasy and most likely magic. I wanted viewers to create their own story for this harbinger.

The reference for the skull came out of my personal bone collection.

Yes. I have a bone collection. 

I decided to photograph the skull at the angle I needed to limit the chances of damage. 

Above you can see the different stages of the the skull--from rough sketch to basic blocking in and refining of shape, and the last being a more rendered version.

Prints for Winter Raven and Harbinger are available in my shop!

http://www.amandamakepeace.com/store/