Painting with Darkness – Part XV

As I publish more and more books, I find myself wanting to create my own cover art.

It’s risky business, I know. If I paint something that looks too homemade or ‘arts and crafty,’ I could repel audiences with subpar art.

I’ll probably still keep reaching out to my favorite artist, Amanda Makepeace, for all of my major novels.

But for other, stranger, darker releases, I might keep trying my own brand of shadowy art.

And so…

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On Christmas Eve 2016 I found myself sketching a scary hand. It grasped for a magical (and of course, evil) orb of power. This little concept was born days earlier when I dreamed up my next series of novellas, currently titled Ashes of Everything. The pencil I used is the same pencil I used in high school more than 20 years ago. No kidding. The hand….is based on mine.

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Painting fire is fun! I mixed up soft watercolor reds and added depth as I reached the canvas’s edge. The pencil-sketched hand is still under there, just barely visible enough for me to fill it in with blacks after the flames were complete.

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Ah, the claws, the grasping fingers! Those who’ve read my Tyrants of the Dead series might remember whose hand that is. Those who haven’t, well…what are you waiting for? But seriously, texturing hands (especially demonic ones) is no easy thing. I spent countless hours shading, darkening, and highlighting each finger.

ashes-of-everything

The more I toiled, the darker the painting became. The flames deepened. Black prison bars appeared in the background, representing the demon creature’s imprisoned state. This is the final pre-varnish image. I was very pleased with how it turned out. It’ll most likely make the cut as a book cover in the next few months.

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If you liked this Painting with Darkness entry, check out the other fourteen: I, II, III, IV, V, VIVIII, IX, X, XI, XII. XIII, XIV.

To dive into the series that inspired this piece, click this.

Until next time…

J Edward Neill

 

Painting with Darkness – Part XII

I like to paint trees.

A lot

Sometimes, even when I start a new canvas with every intention of painting a castle, a spooky city, or some other dark imagery, my brain misfires and takes control of my brush. Before I know it, I’ve painted yet another tree. I can’t help it. I’m a slave to impulse.

Knowing this, I decided to do a series of paintings to get all the trees out of my system.

And along came four little paintings, one for each season:

deep

‘Deep’ – for spring

midnight-2

‘Midnight’ – for summer

umber-300x145

‘Umber’ – for autumn

dusklight

‘Dusklight’ – for winter

 

I thoroughly enjoyed painting this series. These simple, yet fun paintings have a way of calming me. After working on them, I sleep better, I’m relaxed, and life feels easy.

You should try it sometime…

For previous Painting with Darkness entries: Part I, II, III, IV, V, VIVIII, IX, X, XI.

J Edward Neill

Painting with Darkness – Part XI

It’s been a little while.

I’ve been focused less on art and more on invading the universe with my latest novella.

So anyway…

I recently decided to go over the top with another shadowy dark city painting. I love using the black & white color scheme…and I love eerie, otherworldly images.

Thus was born ‘Dead and Dreaming,’ the latest of my acrylic paintings:

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1

It all started with a blank 16″ x 24″ canvas. I blended water, black, white, and a splash of glow-in-the-dark paint. While I’ve yet to expose the painting to enough light to activate the glow paint, I noticed this particular blend made the swirled pattern go on super smooth. Those white dagger-like things…well they’re the first of many towers to come.

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The most daunting parts of this painting? 1. Using a bookmark as a straightedge to get most of the towers with nice, flat sides. 2. Doing the math to make sure a large percentage of the towers were directed at the right angle to ‘surround the swirly abyss.’

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So…after I added all the white towers, I moved in with my preferred color: black. I wanted the dark towers to be taller and more swordlike, almost as if they wanted to reach all the way into the swirly abyss. The effect was a trippy, alien cityscape. I was pleased.

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You might have to enlarge the image to see it, but this is where I started to add shadows and ghostly windows to every…single…tower. I’ve done paintings like this before, particularly with The Emperor’s Vision, but the added challenge here was rotating the painting to make sure I didn’t miss a tower.

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The finished painting. Hundreds of towers. Thousands of tiny windows. About 12 hours of painting time. I’m ecstatic pleased with the result. After a few matte coats of varnish, this one is going up on my wall until it sells.

The original canvas for Dead and Dreaming is now available for sale right here.

Prints and other materials are available for sale on my Society6 page.

For previous Painting with Darkness entries: Part I, II, III, IV, V, VIVIII, IX, X.

J Edward Neill

Painting with Darkness – Part X

After a short layoff, I’m back to doing terrible things with my paintbrush.

Dark cities, twisted terrains, and this time around, an eerie, abstract tree.

I call this one, ‘The Last Autumn.’  The original is for sale here, if you’re interested.

Now let’s talk about how The Last Autumn came to be:

Last Autumn 1

It all started with a 24″x 24″ super-thick white canvas. I used a straightedge, a level, and a twenty-year old pencil (yes, really) to divide the canvas into perfect halves. With my little wooden palette, I paired up acrylic golds, blacks, reds, yellows, and whites. I mixed them at random, and when I was done with the first coat, I poked golden dots all over the right side of the canvas. Voila. What you see above.

Last Autumn 2

For the left side, life got a little easier. I mixed gold, black, and umber, and went nuts with fast, broad strokes. Before it dried, I poked little white ‘leaves’ into the background. The difference between the two halves was stark. I loved what I was seeing.

Last Autumn 3

About 0.0003 seconds before starting with the right-side tree, I had a revelation. A. I wanted to flip the painting over so the darker half would be on the right and the red/gold half on the left. I have no idea why. It just felt right. B. I pulled out a sand-based gel with which to paint the tree. For those not familiar, the gel adds a texture you can see and feel when you’re up close to the painting. It’s so ridiculously fun to paint with; I suggest everyone try it.

Last Autumn 4

For the left side of the painting, I mixed pure black with more sand gel. I used four different brushes, starting big and working down to the tiniest branches using pretty much the smallest acrylic brush you can buy. It was tedious, but I loved it. Each flick of my wrist gave life to a new branch. The picture here is pre-varnishing; the sand gel takes forever to dry. The plan for this painting is to use a heavy gloss, which will make the colors pop and allow The Last Autumn to be a centerpiece for any room.

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Thanks for reading!!

For previous Painting with Darkness entries: Part I, II, III, IV, V, VIVIII, IX.

To buy The Last Autumn, go here.

J Edward Neill

Author of Matrix-like A Door Never Dreamed Of.

And creator of the Coffee Table Philosophy series.

 

Painting with Darkness – Part IX

Maybe more than all my previous Painting with Darkness articles, this one has special meaning.

It’s the only piece I’ve done in the last three years that I didn’t work on in my epic painting studio.

And it’s the first I finished in my little shoebox apartment.

No matter…

Presenting my walkthrough of ‘Ghostscape.’

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Ghostscape 1

I hope you’ve got your reading glasses on. This is the soft pencil work I put on the canvas before a single drop of paint ever touched it. I’m not gonna lie; the geometry was challenging. See that circle in the center? It’s dead-on in the middle down to the millimeter. What’s special about it? To trace the circle I used the 60-year old mixer bowl my grandmother many times used to make my pancakes.

Ghostscape 2

Begin the darkness: First I swirled watercolor blacks and sepia tones in the background. Then I used a hard straight-edge to paint in the black ‘towers’ jutting out of the sphere. And then…I added even more sepia and filled in the center sphere to give it depth.

Ghostscape 3

More towers were needed. I realized I hadn’t added enough. Also, I darkened the center sphere. Also also also…I used pale watercolor blacks to slice in distant towers behind the hard, sharp foreground towers.

Ghostscape 4

What can I say? I wanted even MORE towers. In this shot, although it’s hard to see, I used whites to give the towers a reflective quality. Like they’re made out of polished obsidian or some hard, dark otherworldly metal.

Ghostscape 5

Now began the hard part. And by hard I mean TEDIOUS. Using a tiny brush and some titanium white paint, I started adding windows and doors to the towers. I imagined a ghost behind each window…and NOT a friendly one. At the time this picture was taken, I’d spent two hours just dotting in windows and adding texture to the towers.

Ghostscape 6

Ghostscape – the final image. I like how the ring of lower tower lights frames the center of the sphere. It’s kind of a never ending city swirling around a tiny, terrifying planet. So…anyone up for a vacation?

Now…the only question is:

Which way to hang it?

In other words, which towers should point up, and which should point down?

Hmmmmm…

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The original canvas of Ghostscape – Approx 24″ x 24″ – is available for sale for $300.00.  Reach out to me at JEdwardNeill@DownTheDarkPath.com if you’re an interested buyer.

Love,

J Edward Neill

Author of novels A Door Never Dreamed Of and The Hecatomb

Pencils, Paint, and Pain – Tyrants of the Dead Art

It was long and difficult journey to publish my first three fantasy books.

I spent ten years writing them…then another two years in rewrites.

Along the way, I created and commissioned a ton of art for the series. Some of it was inspirational. Other pieces were meant as cover art, and still others for marketing.

Today I’ve brought a ton of it together. Think of this as a unified sketchbook. It includes pieces by the elegant Amanda Makepeace, the gifted Eileen Herron, and the super savvy Damonza.

Please enjoy the art of my Tyrants of the Dead series, which includes the novels Down the Dark Path, Dark Moon Daughter, and Nether Kingdom:

Ur Orig Sketch

Let’s start with a dirty little sketch I did. I sent it to Amanda Makepeace to aid her creation of Nether Kingdom’s cover art. You’ll see in the next pic how she took my humble idea and made it grand.

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Makepeace_DevourerofStars-500x358

Lady Makepeace’s full cover art for Nether Kingdom. This demonic dude is one of the Ur, the primary villains in the series. His skin is shadow, and his insides glow with starlight.

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Sarco

Here’s another bad, bad creature. This full-color piece was Eileen Herron’s vision of a Sarcophage (undead knight) who plagues the pages of book two in the series, Dark Moon Daughter. It’s one of my favorites.

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Dark Moon Daughter Createspace Kindle Front Cover LARGE

What’s this? Why, it’s the original Eileen Herron cover art for Dark Moon Daughter. I commissioned a full-scale painting, which still hangs in my bedroom to this day. Ultimately we went with something edgier and darker for the final cover, but I still love this piece.

 

DMD Warlock Image

This guy (in the lower right of the full painting above) is the only existing image of the malevolent Warlock. Ironically he was modeled after Eileen’s husband, who’s pretty much the opposite of evil.

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The Underhollows

Here’s a painting I did in 2015. I named it the Underhollows. It doesn’t appear in the books, but is meant to show what the world would look like if the villains won.

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Dark Moon Nether Kingdom Concept Dark Moon Daughter Interior Cover Art Cropped

Two Eileen Herron sketches of Andelusia, the series’ heroine.

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 IllyocHere’s a huge canvas painting I did called ‘Illyoc.’ It’s a bit abstract, I admit. It’s a view of the dark stronghold Malog, as seen from a balcony.

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NetherKingdomSKetchFUllCover

A conceptual piece Amanda Makepeace did. You can see how it’s the beginning of the Nether Kingdom cover. Pretty ghostly, yeah?

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Ur-Shadow-Sketch-390x500

Kinda looks like the killer from the Scream movies, yeah? It’s actually the first ever sketch of the Ur. Another Eileen Herron piece. Nice and creepy.

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Ande Cover 2 (GIMP)  Ande Full Body

These are shots of Eileen Herron’s original cover art for Down the Dark Path. Once again, she painted a large canvas for me which still hangs on my wall. The redhead is pre-darkness Andelusia. The guy with the flaming sword is Garrett Croft. The big red spiky ball was the concept for the evil Soul Orb. I love this painting. But as it turns out, it didn’t photograph well for the final cover. Check out the lone black lock of Ande’s hair. Hint…hint…

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Dark-Andelusia-Landing

Another Eileen Herron sketch of Andelusia. This is our heroine gliding out of the shadows. It’s a simple little drawing, but I’ve always been in love with it.

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Ande J Sketch Ande sketch DMD Ande11 Ande33

Early sketches of Andelusia by me (top left) Amanda Makepeace (top right) and Eileen Herron (bottom.)

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DepthsofUndergrave1md

A promo digital painting of Andelusia by Amanda Makepeace.

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BizCardBack

Here’s what the Soul Orb ended up becoming. This is just a sliver of Lady Makepeace’s cover work for Book I. And yes…those are bones!

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1 2 3 4

You’ve probably seen these before. I post them all the time. Book I is Amanda’s full cover art. The other three are paintings I did in 2015. The original canvas for Book II (Ghost Tree) ended up being a Christmas gift for a family member. The other two still hang on my wall at home. The painting for Book IV (Ocean of Knives) is epic-level huge, measuring in at 36″ x 48″. It took a month to paint!

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Dark_Moon_Daughter-InitialCover

 

This one was done by online professional, Damonza. He custom-did the entire thing based on a photograph of a woman I was dating at the time. That’s post-darkness Andelusia, and the eyes in the background belong to the Ur. This one is a fan favorite, probably because it’s so damn sexy.

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*furyonhoriz

Eileen Herron’s art for Down the Dark Path…the bookmark. That’s a Furyon knight, fully armored and standing in a storm. It’s a badass piece. I wish I could’ve found a way to make it work for a book cover. Maybe someday…

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 DarkMoonDaughterBackCoverFinalCreatespace

 This was the original back cover for Dark Moon Daughter, which I nixed after Damonza finished his sexy cover. This was my first ever attempt at making a back cover by myself. It’s not horrible (but not good, either.)

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The Emperors Vision

 Here’s The Emperor’s Vision, a painting I did in 2015. You can probably see the similarity to Book IV’s cover art. This is meant to be the dark city of Morellellus, in which the very first passages of Down the Dark Path open. It’s still one of my favorites. It was among the very first things I painted for the series.

Ocean 6

Finally, I did a piece called Ocean of Knives. It’s an expansion of The Emperor’s Vision. Same city, same concept, but four times the canvas space.  This painting would quickly become the cover art for Down the Dark Path – Book IV in the mini-series.

Also, here’s a bunch of sketches I did wayyyyy back in the day.

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I hope you enjoyed this glimpse behind the scenes.

Love,

J Edward Neill

Painting with Darkness, Part VIII

In recent weeks, I’ve been working with my paintbrush more than I’ve been writing.

Turns out slashing with paint gets the darkness out of my system much faster than hammering on a keyboard.

And so I thought I’d share:

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Let-There-Be-Fire-300x298

‘Fire Lens’ – 36″ x 36″

Fire Lens is 3 lbs of canvas. It’s huge! The photo here is somewhat muted, but the live version is lustrous and dark, a shining white eye wreathed in deep crimson and black. It’s a room dominator, to be sure.

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Dripping

‘Dripping’ – 36″ x 22″

Dripping was a tortuous painting. It started as a watercolor experiment and became much more. I saturated my paints with as much water as they could hold (while still maintaining a bit of grey/black) and went to work. The acrylics drained down the canvas. The white lines you see are drip marks, which is exactly what I wanted. The muddled blacks and gruesome greys are where I let the watered paint form into little puddles. This is one sad, cold painting.

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G Sunshine

‘Sunshine’ – 16″ x 12″

My kid, the G Man, won’t let me paint without him. He’s done almost as much canvas work as I have! Here’s a quick multicolor work he named Sunshine. It’s a stark contrast to my darkness, which I love about his method. He says this is what the sun looks like up close. Pretty close, right?

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The Hecatomb Master

‘The Hecatomb’ – 30″ x 20″

Most of my work is without purpose. I just paint what I want and let the brush fall where it may. Not so with The Hecatomb. This large canvas was created with a book’s front and back covers in mind. The book by the same name will be out soon. It’s a sequel to this and this.

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If you liked these, here’s a few Painting with Darkness posts from history. Like this. And this. And this.

And the darkest of all my art appears on these.

Until next time.

J Edward Neill

Painting with Darkness – Part VI

A few months ago, I got it in my head that I wanted to paint something huge. Something to be the centerpiece of an entire wall. Something that if people walked by, they’d have to stop and look.

And of course, it had to be dark. Because…well…you know.

And so I present: Ocean of Knives

Ocean 1-

After securing a 36″ x 48″ white canvas, it sat in my closet for a solid two weeks while I stewed on what to paint. Would I use colors? Blacks & whites? What would be the subject matter? And once I finally stacked the canvas up on my easel, life got precarious. Each brush stroke threatened to topple the easel and ruin everything. I had to be like Muhammad Ali: “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.”

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Ocean 2

Surfaces started to take shape. Pale rivers flowed from the hills into a deathly ocean. Things were looking stark already. I loved it. And yet, while making wild ovals and grey hills was fun, it was by far the easiest part. Life was about to get harder.

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Ocean 3

Ocean of Knives was meant to be a companion piece to my novel, Down the Dark Path. I began adding watercolor towers (knives) in the distance. Like snowflakes, each ‘knife’ had to be different. Some were forked, others straight as sin. Looks kinda barren in this pic. It wouldn’t stay that way for long.

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Ocean 4

Now it came time to add the big towers. To make them straight, I carved out varying lengths of posterboard and used the pieces as straight-edges. For the wavy and irregular towers, I freehanded. Raise your hand if you’d like to live in one of these things. Am I the only one? Well ok then…

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Ocean 5

The quality of this pic sucks because I used my iPad. But I couldn’t leave it out. It shows the towers almost fully added. I still needed more watercolors for the faraway ones. And I needed street-level buildings to fill the city out. But progress was made. By this point, I’d spent about 12 hours on the painting. Whew.

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Ocean 6

The finished painting – 18 hours in. See those little pale dots? They’re windows. I tried to count while adding them, but lost track at 2,000. Yes really. I figure there are about 3,000 little white windows in all. Tedious as hell, but utterly worth it. Also notice the deepened shadows the towers cast across the water.

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Ocean 7

Just to show scale, here’s my 4yo, G Man, standing beside the painting. He’s a bit tall for his age, but even so. The canvas is about 4 times his size.

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While painting this bad boy, I listened to soundtracks. A lot of Hans Zimmer, David Julyan, and Clint Mansell. Nice, brooding stuff, all of it.

Hope you like ‘Ocean of Knives,‘ companion piece for Down the Dark Path.

For other dark art I’ve done lately, look here and here.

J Edward Neill

Painting with Darkness – Part V

As summer’s warmth fades and the days die earlier than before, I find myself in the studio for long stretches of time.

Some might say locking myself indoors with brooding soundtracks playing in the background and a crispy cold glass of scotch on the table is a swift road to being utterly alone.

My point exactly…

My latest painting: All Hallows

Hallows 1

I started at the bottom with water-diluted oranges and worked my way up. With every inch gained toward the top, I added drops of red and black. Watercolors became solids. Lights became darks. The striking colors satisfied me. And the hard blacks on the bottom were fun to paint (and easy!)

Hallows 2

Now came the time-consuming part. At first, I worked on the trees with a 1/4″ wedge brush. Then, as the branches thinned, I used the sharpest-point brush in my arsenal. The tops of the trees began to look like claws. It was exactly the eerie look I wanted.

 

Hallows 3

Completing the trees was a full-day task. I used my daggerlike brush to add sharpness and realism to every branch. As is always my theme, I made the trees curl toward the center of the painting…as if reaching for something unseen. I considering adding more to make this a full-blown Halloween-ish work, but decided to keep it simple. Blacks on color. Nothing cheesy. Stick to the plan of painting with darkness.

All in all, this canvas was fun and simple. In other words, my favorite kind.

The same night I finished All Hallows, I began work prep work on a huge 36″ x 48″ canvas, my hugest ever:

Ocean of Knives

This’ll be called ‘Ocean of Knives’. The canvas is 3′ x 4′. It’ll take weeks to finish, for sure. Gonna need a lot of wine…

Recently, I used one of my grimmest works for the cover of Let the Bodies, my latest short story:

LettheBodies_BlogLg

Painting your own cover art…fun!

 And previously in the ‘Painting with Darkness’ series:

The Emperor’s Vision

The Underhollows

Brothers

The Last Tower, Pale Swamp, Four Swords, Grave Rain

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See you next time. Painting with Darkness, Part VI will feature the finished version of ‘Ocean of Knives.’

J Edward Neill

Tyrant of the Dead

Painting with Darkness – Part II

Anymore, I’m a slave to the canvas. 

After a satisfying week during which I published my first non-fiction novel, I need a mental vacation (if not a real one…at the beach…with a pitcher of margaritas.) So this week I’d like to veer away from books to showcase six of my newest paintings. Thematically, all save one of these share similar elements. And yet all were painted with different moods in mind:

The Last Tower

The Last Tower – An Ur stronghold floating in an abstract nether void. I was thrilled to finally get some colors going on. The floating islands I painted with a mixing knife. The white doors lead to the world’s end.

Pale Swamp

Pale Swamp – The clouds were fun, fun, fun to paint. The thicket of twisted tree limbs, maybe not so much. Again we see the Ur tower, wandering its way through yet another dimension. See the eye in the upper left?

Four Swords

Four Swords – I wanted to go almost full-on abstract here. I blended my fragile geometric skills with some unusual color choices. Probably my most contemporary piece. Very satisfying to finish.

Dead Rain

Grave Rain – Far and away my favorite painting. It started as an angelic spirit overlooking a forest. But then my mood changed, and it become something else entirely. Headstones line the sodden earth at the bottom. The center tree is home to something treacherous. For me, the only thing that comes close to watching rain…is painting it.

Black Moon Graveyard

Dark Moon Cemetery – Almost certainly my simplest piece, but also my heaviest. The canvas weighs a solid 3.5 lbs. The power of the black moon bends all to its whim, including the trees.

Ashes

Ashes – When I saw Amanda Makepeace’s Heart of the Forest, some dark part of me wanted to counter it with something wicked. The shadow to her light, perhaps. The evil to her good. My crappy camera failed to pick up many of the subtle details, but the actual Ashes canvas is strikingly stark. To the first one who guesses (no Google cheating) the meaning of the symbol, I’ll send a free copy of 101 Questions for Humanity.

Check here to see Amanda’s sickeningly lovely beautiful Heart of the Forest. 🙂

In other good news, I’ve just been gifted with two massive 48″ x 28″ pro canvasses.  Meaning my next two paintings will be huge…and terrifying.

Buyers please look me up via Down the Dark Path’s contact link.

Stay cool.

J Edward Neill

Author of Down the Dark Path

Author of the coffee table philosophy book, 101 Questions for Humanity