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Top Five Podcasts;

Top Five Podcasts

When I lived in Fukui Prefecture I used to drive a lot and got into the habit of listening to a number of podcasts. Now I have less driving but more housework so they help me to get through all of that instead. Here are a few of my favorites. Enjoy.

Emperors of Rome

Hosted by Dr. Rhiannon Evans and Matt Smith, this podcast on ancient Rome is, hands down, one of the best I have ever listened to. Dr. Evans is a font of knowledge and is always a pleasure to listen to. It’s also especially nice when they take little detours to other topics like Women Poets of Rome.

Done by the same people as the Emperors of Rome podcast, this is another excellent series that focuses on various places and architecture in Rome itself rather than the people.

Trojan War Podcast

Unfortunately, this podcast is now finished, but it has a good twenty episodes and it is one of the funniest retellings of the Trojan War I have ever heard in my life. Just go and listen to it.

History of Westeros (Game of Thrones)

While I’m not exactly a rabid fan of Game of Thrones, I have read the books and I do enjoy chatting with my friends about various plot arcs and conspiracy theories. This podcast separates episodes into non-spoiler and spoiler so you can choose just how much you want to learn.

Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe

Something of an outlier compared to the rest of the podcasts I listen to, I enjoy this one for keeping abreast of current science news and also keeping myself educated in various scientific fields. I also like astronomy… a lot. And quarks. All the quarks. Especially quantum quarks…



Sketchtember 2016;
Pencils, Sketches

Sketchtember 2016

For this year’s Sketchtember Challenge I decided to focus on working from screencaps of some of my favorite movies and TV shows. I’m such an ancient history geek.

Vorenus Praying from HBO Rome
Vorenus Praying from HBO Rome
Olympia and a young Alexander from Alexander
Vorenus and Niobe from HBO Rome
Caesar and Tiberius from Spartacus
Atia with her slaves from HBO Rome
Roman Isis – WIP;
Oils, Pencils, Uncategorized, Watercolour

Roman Isis – WIP

aka Adventures with New Techniques. 

Tam Lin by Wylie Beckert
Tam Lin by Wylie Beckert

It all began a few months ago when I stumbled across this painting of Tam Lin. I’ve always had something of a soft spot for that particular tale, and the painting was so striking that I just had to track down the artist who turned out to be Wylie Beckert. I have to admit that I became a little obsessed with her work and spent hours pouring over her YouTube videos, studying her updates on Facebook etc. On her website she has a number of pages that detail the way she works – generally a solid underdrawing, watercolour & acrylic ink underpainting and then oil glazes over the top.

I decided to give this a try on a smaller scale with a postcard. I sketched out a drawing of a Romanized Isis, based off a statue found in the Villa Adriana and now housed in the Capitoline Museum.

Roman Isis WIP Sketching by Bronwen MacDonald
Roman Isis WIP Sketching

Once I had the rendered sketch done, I sealed it with three thin layers of half matte medium and half water mixture. I used a simple spritz bottle for this. I was worried that it wouldn’t get completely coverage of the image but after three rounds everything was well sealed. After that I went ahead and used watercolour paints to work out my basic colours. Unfortunately I forgot to get a photo of that stage. Sorry! I’ll do my best to remember for next time. When the watercolours were dry, I worked in the highlights with a white pencil then sealed everything with another three layers of medium.

Then came the fun part! Oils are a medium that I have never really gotten along with. I have never liked impasto look and the last time I tried to thin my paints I used too much turpentine. This ended up with Van Dyke Brown drips across my entire painting one day when I pushed too hard. I very much wanted to put a knife through the canvas at that point and toss all my oils straight into the trash. Thankfully I didn’t. This time I remembered to use the oil to thin the paints and gosh, what a difference. Everything was so smooth and went onto the paper in beautifully transparent layers.

Roman Isis WIP First Oils by Bronwen MacDonald
Roman Isis WIP First Oils

I left it to dry and came back to it after a week to put in the last glazes. It’s not a great photo because I took it with my iPad, but as soon as the original dries properly I’ll put up a better scan of it.

Roman Isis by Bronwen MacDonald
Roman Isis

All in all, I am incredibly pleased with how this little piece turned out. This technique is definitely something that I am going to keep working with in the future so hopefully we can look forward to bigger and better oil paintings. If you have any questions feel free to ask away.

Eternal Regret (WIP Inks) by Bronwen MacDonald 2015
Inking, Work In Progress

Eternal Regret – Inking

Eternal Regret (WIP Inks) by Bronwen MacDonald 2015
Eternal Regret (WIP Inks) by Bronwen MacDonald 2015


Last week I finished reworking the composition of my vampire piece. Thanks to the feedback from my mentor, Angela Sasser, I was able to fix several problems. The first of which was how boxy the top and bottom laurel wreath panels made it feel. By changing them for the scroll and upper garlands, I was able to move up the patterned medallion and give the entire composition room to breathe. I added the phrase aeternum paenitentia, which is Latin for ‘eternal penance’ or in our case, ‘eternal regret’.

After trying to do colour roughs with colour pencil I eventually bit the bullet and bought a replacement for my Wacom tablet stylus. It’s been a little while since I played with digital and I don’t want to come to rely on it, but it is definitely handy for situations like this where I want to compare multiple versions in colour.

Once I have the colour roughs down, it will be time to finally start on the original with watercolours. Hopefully it should be done in the next week or two!

Pencils, Work In Progress

Eternal Regret – Sketch and Process

Eternal Regret by Bronwen MacDonald
Eternal Regret

I grew up with role-playing games. Many of my high school and university years were whiled away at a friend’s house rolling dice, eating Cheetos and, most importantly, telling stories. I don’t regret it one bit. When I move to Japan I spent some time playing computer RPGs but it never quite fills in the gap that interacting with others leaves behind. After a bit of searching I discovered MUs. These are text-based games that you write, in real-time, with other players. Thing of it like the proto-types of Second Life and World of Warcraft without the graphics. It was on one of these games that I met my best friend, and this painting is for her birthday.

It’s of a pair of our characters, Octavia (mine) and Corina (hers). Octavia the  young wife of an exiled Roman senator and Corina is her personal slave. They are both the same age and Corina was bought for Octavia on her thirteenth birthday. Breaking down under the stress and shame of her husband being caught with the Emperor Augustus’ daughter and then exiled, Octavia eventually attempts to slit her wrists. Corina attempts to save her and runs to the Temple of Vesta for help. A Vestal Virgin arrives just as Octavia’s beginning to slip away. She can’t save her, but instead she turns Octavia into a vampire.

This image is what happens after Octavia awakens after her transformation. She realizes what she has become and in a wave of hunger and longing she decides to do the same to her slave. After all, that way they can be together for all eternity. Corina, however, is less impressed with having to serve her Mistress forever. The story then revolves around the next two thousand years as the pair try to come to terms with what they are and who they are to each other.


I knew that I wanted the image to be framed, much like my inked Diana drawing that I did earlier last year. I wanted to evoke the feeling of containment in the Second Style Roman wall paintings.

Fresco from the Villa of the Farnesina, Rome.
Fresco from the Villa of the Farnesina, Rome.

I found a stock image from DeviantArt that was just perfect and then also scanned some design elements like the column tops and the rose pattern from an old book that I picked up in a used book store in Tokyo this past April. Working in Photoshop I patched all the bits together into a composition that I liked, checking out the overall balance with a golden mean template.

composition with golden mean
Working out the composition

Once I had that all worked out, I started on the sketch itself. This isn’t the final piece, just the basic drawing to work out the line-art, shadows and composition etc for the watercolour painting that this will become. Once I had the sketch done I sent to over to fantasy artist, Angela Sasser, for a red-line critique. She did a private video of her critique for me, drawing over my digital image and showing me how to improve on the composition, anatomy and over-all finesse of the piece. The stuff that she came up with completely blew me away. So, now it’s back to the drawing (well, Photoshop) board again to rework the composition. Hopefully you’ll like how it turns out the second time around.

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