Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Second Time Around

Crikey! it's been one hell of a week. After a couple of days planting up dahlia bulbs and sowing plenty of veggie seeds for the garden, it was time to settle back down to some painting. With everything starting to turn green outside it was nice to follow the lead, and mix some lovely fresh tones. or so I thought. This is not the post I had hoped to be posting this week.

Of course, painting is never that straightforward and after just an hour of starting the leaves, disaster struck! It happens to all of us, and an accident with a dropped brush loaded with green paint meant curtains for my painting. After many deep breaths, large amounts of cursing and swearing and an enormous cup of tea, (or two) I made the decision to start again. This is why it's good to have a master tracing immediately to hand. At least I didn't have to draw the whole thing out again.


The basic tracing saved me lots of times.
Of course, adding the serrations, fine details and adjustments took a but of time. 

Luckily some of my washes were ready to go too

As it is, I am only just now starting the leaves again, laying the initial washes and picking out the veins and highlights. Bramble leaves have lovely highlights with a colour contrast that crosses from bluish tones through to the freshest, brightest greens where they appear backlit and translucent. Hopefully I can reflect that quality. For the job, I am using Indanthrene Blue, Anthraquinoid Red and Lemon Yellow along with Ultramarine Light, Perylene Maroon and Sennelier Yellow Light.

Getting those tricky shadow tones all over again

Buds so tiny, it's best they are not to be rushed

Just catching up to where I was.

getting the initial washes on the leaves 

So, it's not always going to turn out well, and accidents do happen. The real trick, is to be prepared for that, not to lose your head over it, and have a couple of shortcuts at hand, ready to help you get back on track. Although, I really hope that second time around will be the last time around for this one.


        

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Tiptoe Through the Tulips

So, today I opened the studio, (well this time it was the conservatory) to the first students of the year. The freshly baked chocolate cake sat aloft on it's perch, awaiting break time, materials and paper sorted, and the subjects had been cooling in the fridge, ready for the day ahead. Rain was forecast for later in the day, but we weren't going to let that spoil our fun. All set then.

My very naughty chocolate cake looks a bit out of place in amongst my healthy fridge contents.
Still, as the saying goes, 'a little of what you fancy does you good'

This proverbial saying was first the title of a vaudeville song, made famous by the risqué Victorian music hall singer Marie Lloyd. 

'The tulips are too excitable, it is winter here' 

From, 'Tulips' by Sylvia Plath



With a few tweaks, the conservatory becomes a fair sized
art room.
With a chilly forecast, that extra heater will come in handy,
and a couple of chairs, along with  a little sofa, (just out of shot) make for a comfy spot
to take a break.


Tulip buds were the order of the day, and I had managed to get hold of some lovely pink and red ones, although they were slightly small. It seems everybody loves to have fresh flowers in their homes and soon as they become available, and there were only a few bunches left to choose from. Reminder to self. Grow your own!



The stars of the show take a break in their 'dressing room'
Nearly ready for your close up?

Tulip Mania

Tulip mania or tulipomania (Dutch names include: tulpenmanie, tulpomanie, tulpenwoede, tulpengekte and bollengekte) was a period in the Dutch Golden Age during which contract prices for bulbs of the recently introduced tulip reached extraordinarily high levels and then suddenly collapsed.

At the peak of tulip mania, in March 1637, some single tulip bulbs sold for more than 10 times the annual income of a skilled craftsman.


Rather than just the flower and stem I wanted the students to include the leaf and think through their composition, to really show off the shapes. Tulips from florists and supermarkets are very straight stemmed, upright little soldiers all standing to attention. I love a curve or two, so demonstrated how to manipulate a subject where you want it to make it more interesting whilst still maintaining accuracy. So first exercise of the day was to study the subject from all angles, and get to know it better.

One subject, different elements and angles.
For this set of honeysuckle studies, I wanted a variety of pieces, including colour notes

As with this page of onion studies.
Maintaining a sketchbook of composition ideas and colour notes, helps with future pieces. 

Working through a small composition in a sketchbook



A simple palette of blues, reds and yellows

Now to get the best of the bunch onto paper and to get cracking with the painting. Starting with wet-on-wet wash techniques, I demonstrated how to successfully add two colours together without them going all muddy. When doing this, it's important to allow the initial glaze of clean water to settle a little before dropping in the first colour, then allow this to settle, before adding the second. as tulips often have a greenish tinge to the base of the flower where it meets the stem, it's nice to show how this blends into the main colour of the flower. 

After a couple of wet-in-wet washes, and an initial wash to the stem and leaf, it was time to do some dry brush work to get the texture of the petals on the flowers. By splaying out the hairs on the brush a little, I find I can get some lovely, 'feathery' features on the petals. Tulips have this most obviously towards the tip of the petal, so a light touch is needed or else it will be too heavy.

I'm always so busy helping the students I rarely finish the pieces I start.
Well, that's not really the point. For me, it's all about their learning, not my painting.

I find it so much more rewarding to assist a student with their own piece,
 and find myself demonstrating the techniques for them on their own paintings.

Some of the colour splodges here are to demonstrate the difference between warm and cool colours,
to someone who wasn't sure. 

To see some beautiful completed pieces, here are four of my favourite artists who do great tulips. Check out their work.

       

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

A Drive in the Country

This morning, I packed my trusty mapbook and compass, (ha, only kidding on that part), got Jimi Hendrix playing and headed out into the Hampshire countryside. Yes, it was time to introduce myself to the lovely Francoise at Roots, Shoots and Leaves, the new venue for my workshops.  

The sun was glorious and the scenery just as lovely, but as I turned off the main roads, and after a little unscheduled detour somewhere around a place called Botley, (with a small requirement to pull up on someone's drive to check the map), I sensed there may be trouble ahead, (my dad has always cautioned me to 'beware the large trunker (huge lorry) round the corner'. Heading down ever narrower and windy country lanes, I felt Jimi should quieten down a bit, and I should keep an eye out for oncoming 'Crosstown Traffic', (groan) and the little turning I needed. 

Great to see the hedgerows and different tree species


As it happens, the only 'traffic' I came across were a couple of fine horses with their riders. After giving plenty of room and a friendly nod, I enquired if I was heading in the right direction. A polite passing of the time of day seems the norm when the pace of life is slower, and after saying our cheery goodbyes I continued, carefully on my way.


A slower pace of life,
and the kindness to help out a slightly lost artist 


Imposing gates and a large house beyond was what greeted me next, and for a moment I thought I had gone horribly wrong. But no, the gates dutifully opened and in I went. Met by the delightful Francoise, we spent the next hour or so wandering round the garden and spending time in her glorious kitchen discussing subjects, chatting about our work and inspirations, laughing about just about everything and drinking tea. Days like this are why I really love my job and feel I have a great life.


The spring flowers looked so pretty in the sunshine


If you fancy joining us, there are still some places left on my April and June dates. And with nearly everything you need for the day, (including a delicious lunch prepared by Francoise) included in the price, it's really good value. Visit the website to book


Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Meet the Family

"Family is not an important thing. It's everything."
Michael J. Fox

Hooray! The builders have finished, (well, almost). So, now not only do I have peace and quiet again, I have a lovely new glass roof on the conservatory that lets in tonnes of light. Just now I am debating whether or not to have my first workshops of the year in there. Can't wait to welcome the students.

So, with all that done with it's time to make the most of a home to myself, and get on with this bramble. The leaves are up next and as usual, I have added lots of characteristic nibble holes and raggedy edges. Debate still rages on the question of adding the culprit for the holes, Sammy Snail but we shall proceed regardless for the time being.


Dark, cool greens, warm yellowy highlights and lots of tones in between make these a tougher challenge than on first appearance.

The young leaves look especially fresh and 'spring green'. 


This is an important piece for me and I really want to make sure I get the greens and shadow colours right. Recently this aspect was explained to me, and referred to as the, 'family of greens', (base colours, highlights and shadow tones within the subject). This made perfect sense as too easily we can fall into the trap of using our favourite green mixes for a subject rather than the right colours that are unique to the subject. Although this sounds obvious, it is easily done, and I must admit that in the early days of my botanical painting I have fallen too easily for this one, and regretted it.

"The family is one of nature's masterpieces."

George Santayana


The result, of course is never really convincing, so now whenever I tackle a predominantly green subject, I make a chart of colour swatches. There will likely be other colours involved, such as cool and warm blues, yellows and, on decaying or damaged leaves, reds and browns. So I feel a colour chart coming on.

The Family of Greens

The greens for my bramble leaves have been mixed using transparent colours, having moved away from opaque and semi-transparent colours such as the cadmiums a while ago. As stated, a palette of cool and warm blues, yellows and reds will give the full spectrum of tones and highlights, making for complex, multi-layered leaves. Well, that's the theory.

For the cool greens I'm using Anthraquinone Blue, Leon (or Azo) Yellow and Anthraquinoid Red
For the warm greens I'm using Trans Yellow and Quinacridone Gold with Ultramarine Blue and Perylene Maroon

The cool highlights use Cerulean with Lemon whilst the warm are Trans Yellow and Ultramarine
A wash of Cobalt here and there cools a highlight whilst a wash of Trans Yellow warms them up
The colour chart begins
of course a lot of these mixes will have to be used at strength, but I am quite pleased with the range 


Further reading

Tasty Tips on Tackling Leaves




Friday, 13 March 2015

"Get an I Phone!"

Just a quick missive today on progress thus far, (with a house full of builders, it's a trying time). For some reason, whenever I paint a bramble I start with the flowers. perhaps it's due to the daunting prospect the leaves can pose, but also it's nice to start with something that looks pretty. Or, maybe this quote has it right.


"Life without love is like a tree without blossoms or fruit."


-Khalil Gibran



A larger composition, but those flowers are still pretty small 

Picking out the fine details with a very small brush has kept things neat.

The use of a magnifying glass has been essential.
And once again, I went wt those stamens with a scalpel


Do you know, I said to someone the other day that I was having trouble with my Blackberry again. Her reply was, "get an I Phone!" Sigh


“Life was so simple when apples and blackberries were fruit, a tweet was the sound of nature, and facebooks were photo albums”


-Carl Henegan, Darkness left Undone



Nearly there

For the buds, a base mix of Cerulean and Lemon kept things fresh.
Perylene Maroon, cool Anthraquinoid Blue and more Lemon also beefed up the shading