Andrea ChristenArtist

Companions at the Forge

This artwork was one of my assignments during the mentorship with Donato Giancola at the Smart School Spring Semester 2016. The lessons have been interesting and inspiring and I learned a lot. Thanks to the feedback of my mentor Donato and my fellow students I was able to go beyond my boundaries. It was fun to learn online together with students from all over the world. I’ll miss our weekly online meetings. Thank you to Donato and the Smart School Team for this instructive semester.

This is my progress of the painting during the thirteen weeks of the mentorship.

My initial idea: A dwarf forging an object with the help of a dragon.


Followed by thumbnails to play with the idea and get a view from different angles


The thumbnail in the lower right corner was my favourite. The next step was this rough drawing


In my sketchbook I continued playing with the idea and I came up with this rough drawing which I liked because it showed the companions working even closer.


Donato recommended to turn the viewer’s angle to make the composition more interesting. It was fascinating to see how much better this angle worked.


Then I introduced color…


…which was a little bit too early although I enjoyed to play with color ideas. The advice from my mentor at this point was to work on the anatomy first and shoot reference material. Most of the time I am the only model available and I had to work around the dragon with one of my softtoys. It worked well for me to get an idea of the lighting.



During this workshop I developed a new awareness of what fascinating objects hands are. To get rid of the practice of drawing linked sausages like in the drawing above I practised with Anatomy Lessons of the Great Masters to refine my hand drawing skills. Even in quick studies I try to avoid to draw the hands in the abstract form of cylinders and be aware of the overlapping forms which are most interesting.

I did some more detailed shots of the hand with the gestures I needed for this painting. These are the next steps: The linedrawing with acrylic and the subsequent first layer of acrylic color.



Ready to start with the oil painting.



The final artwork with a more advanced lighting and fire effect. It was an amazing journey to develop this painting.


Thanks for reading! If you have any comments or questions, please use the comment section below.


  • Hi Andrea,

    Really loved the progression of your piece here. I’m considering taking the mentorship with Donato, but was wondering if you could perhaps give me some more details on how the course ran. Did you do any other assignments? How was the workload? Who was the guest artist?

    Thanks very much for your time

  • Hi Eric,
    thank you very much for your feedback. The course with Donato was excellent and I learned a lot. Donato is a great mentor. There were several assignments during the course. You can have as many as you like and there is no pressure. I think Donato will not run out of ideas for assignments. I worked on two assignments. Donato is a very experienced teacher and he guides you to develop your skills further. The chats include feedback and a lesson for example on composition or the art business. In our course in spring 2016 he was also available for midweek feedback via phone or mail. Our guest was Julie Baroh at the last chat of the mentorship.
    I can recommend the course without hesitation and I would book it again in the future.
    Kind regards,

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