Friday, 24 February 2017

Times they are a changin...


"Change is the end result of all true learning." 


Leo Buscaglia


...and so there are changes afoot. As spring arrives, and the garden renews itself, there is a revitalising sense of optimism that seems to inject a certain zest and a need for progress and industry. Perhaps that's why we call it spring cleaning.

Sketchbook Squirrel has been with me since 2011, way back when I started the blog to keep me occupied during my entangled efforts to complete the SBA Distance Learning Diploma. Six years seems like an awful long time ago, and my how things have moved on. Additional arms of Squirrel HQ quickly followed, with the Facebook Page, Twitter, Instagram, and many other social media pages all coming into the fold.

With the launch of the You Tube channel and tutorials website, things really took off. From just a few subscribers on the channel, and very few videos, the number of people tuning in to view the little technique videos released to accompany the tutorials has rocketed. In just one year, I now have over 500 subscribers. The website too has been active on a daily basis, with requests for the freebie videos, and subscribers coming on board to try out my botanical painting techniques. It's got awfully big.

See the Ruby Rosehip Technique video on YouTube



This year, I have already made some big changes, with new kit for the videos coming online in March, making everything clearer and sharper, and some nice projects that will take me right through to 2018. With all this, I was given a nudge that maybe it was time to let Sketchbook Squirrel take a well earned rest, and for me to take on more of the work. 

Now, I'm not one to think about things too hard when it comes to a good idea. First, if you think too hard, you will never do it. Second, you can miss an opportunity. Second, you have to see good advice for what it is, good advice. The old analogy of 'you can take a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink' comes to mind. You can be given the opportunity, but it's up to you to take it.

Well, take it I have. Sketchbook Squirrel will be making an elegant and dignified retreat this year, heading into retirement, and handing over the reigns to Jarnie Godwin Art, and the tutorials website Botanical so Beautiful. Some of you may have already spotted the metamorphosis taking place here on the blog, on Twitter, the Facebook Page, and You Tube. The website will follow later this year, so Squirrel is still very much in charge there for now. (Well, putting her out to grass all in one go would have been something of wrench).  



"Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds

 cannot change anything." 


George Bernard Shaw
      





Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Springing for Springtime

It's a gorgeous spring day here at Squirrel HQ. The birds are singing, the sun is shining and many of the lovely spring blooms are brightening every corner of the garden. February is a funny old month. Often the coldest month of the year here in Britain, there can also be days of glorious sunshine when the snow, wind and icy mornings feel like another time. But, we can also be caught out, and the frost, snow and ice come back again.

It must be because of their dogged determination to bloom whatever the world throws at them, that I really admire early spring flowers. No matter how cold that wind, or how much they are buried by snow, they still come up. Good for them I say.

With this in mind I decided to give the little viola a centre stage for my next project. With flowers that are just an inch or so across, violas blooming en masse with their little faces all turning towards the sun, are a joy, but one on it's own might just be a little underwhelming. Why not make it BIG?


Starting softly

Delicate, almost see through petals in pastel shades needed gentle washes and glazes

Building up

Stronger hues for the yellow staining and darker blue petals added to the form and dimension 

The fine details

I loved adding the characteristic veining to the lower petals.

I called this process 'tattooing' the petals 

Putting the face on

Bright Blue Viola

With the complicated centre complete,
the Viola had put it's game face on and was nearly ready to take on the world
This was a great little project for February, and only took a few days to complete. With a limited palette of just a couple of blues and yellows, with some red thrown in for the shadow tones I really enjoyed taking a simple approach, and using a delicate touch to get that fluttery and fragile appearance. Having enjoyed this one so much myself, I've decided to make Bright Blue Viola the first of my new 2017 tutorials on the website. 




Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Happy New Year

Well, here it is, 2017, and we might as well start as we mean to go. Here at Squirrel HQ there has been no time to sit and wonder about how things might go, they're going already. Now, I'm not one for resolutions, but I am one to set myself goals. Something to challenge and make me take up opportunities that might otherwise go elsewhere. 

'Nature does not hurry,

yet everything is accomplished'

Lao Tzu


These will do to get things going:





As I said in the last post, the Botanical so Beautiful website is taking a break during January to give me some time to introduce some technical upgrades that will really make the tutorials sparkling clear and ready for anything. It has been such a wonderful experience, and made so much better by the generous members who have joined me. 

While the upgrade is taking place, there will be no interruption of service on the website, and all tutorials, sketchbook exercises and Technique Tool Box videos will continue to run. The Bitesize mini tip sheets will also resume shortly. These have been really popular, and although they started as a trial towards the end of last year, I have decided to carry these on. If you would like a fortnightly copy of Bitesize, sign up for the free tutorial on the website, where you can get your hands on some lovely freebies. Yes Please 

Some of the projects available on the Botanical so Beautiful website






Technical advice is an important part of everything I offer, both here on the blog, and on the website. Here are just some of the images from the Technique Tool Box videos and Sketchbook in Practice... exercises that are available to help everyone get the results they are looking for in their painting.

Elsewhere, I am delighted to announce that I have been invited to join the team of tutors at the London Art College. Their Diploma Botanical Painting distance learning course is a great foundation for anyone looking to further their experience and knowledge of botanical art, and some of the alumni of this course have gone on to complete the SBA DLDC in Botanical Painting. It's definitely worth considering if you fancy an introduction, as it covers drawing, graphite work and compositions. I'm really looking forward to welcoming lots of new students, and helping them to achieve their own painting goals.  

'If you want to achieve greatness,

stop asking for permission'

Anonymous



Lots of other ideas and plans are in the pipeline for 2017, but for now, here's the latest painting getting started.

 



Lastly, Ruby Rosehip became the December tutorial but was also a lovely subject to paint. Lots of rich and cheery oranges and reds mixed with a new Daniel Smith colour made a real impact against the deep greens and browns. The painting also gave me the chance to introduce a bit of troubleshooting. When a painting goes a bit wrong, it's not always the end of the world. By making the highlight too dark, I was able to go through the process of lifting unwanted colour.

This process has suddenly become a bit of a buzz on several You Tube channels, with other artists also demonstrating a take on the idea. Some I have seen are a little extreme, rubbing the paper and really damaging the surface. I would always suggest a cautious approach when lifting dry paint.

See the Ruby Rosehip You Tube Technique video



 
  
And the finished painting 






Saturday, 24 December 2016

Season's Greetings

Well, I've been away from the blog for a little while, but fear not, I have been very busy at Squirrel HQ with lots of new projects, and will be back in the new year with lots more news to share with you. 

The tutorials on the website are also having a bit of a technical upgrade, and will be bigger and better, and back on the website in February. The archives are really growing, with seven full length tutorials, 3 sketchbook exercises, lots of Technique Tool Box videos, and plenty of extras arriving in inboxes to keep everyone busy over the festive season.

In the meantime, I would like to wish you all a Very Happy Christmas, and here's to a fabulous 2017. See you soon. x





Friday, 14 October 2016

The Treasures of Autumn

Seasonality is generally something that affects what goes into my fridge. The short season of asparagus, Jersey Royal spuds, strawberries, and many other delicious delights means we love them all the more for their limited availability. Well, so it is with subjects for botanical painting.

This week I finally finished a study of a shiny conker in its prickly shell, and immediately felt a sense of achievement. You see, I have waited two years to finally have the time, and a specimen to paint. Of course, I could have worked from a photo, but there is a fine and worthy tradition of painting from a live subject, and I love to have the real thing in front of me, sharing its finest features. A bit like a silent teacher, helping me to understand its form, colour, and character. It's not just any conker, it's this conker.

"A good teacher can inspire hope, ignite the imagination,
 and instill a love of learning."

Brad Henry


Starting with an accurate colour chart, and an accurate outline drawing on tracing paper, I decided to work the composition at three times actual size. Making an impact with a small subject gives it a certain sense of gravitas I find, and makes the most of the interesting textures and architectural form of the conker. After all, they do look pretty unusual.









Working a series of initial wet-in-wet washes is a good way to create some early texture, and changes in tonal contrast, achieving a good base for the depth and detail. There is also a certain amount of spontaneity which allows the paint to find its own way, adding to the textures.









Once several layers are worked, the finer details are applied using a fairly dry brush and darker mixes. Careful, and slow progress is made here, as it's so easy to get impatient. Lots of breaks and a critical eye help at this point.










Highlights are maintained for as long as possible, before subtle colour is introduced to break them up and take away the false brightness. Only a very small portion of the brightest highlight is left, with the rest being softened into the form of the conker.   





Finished. Just as it is easy to get impatient, it's also easy to get overly carried away with the detail, by overworking the painting. When I think I am done, I will often leave a painting for a few days, and come back to it. If I'm still pretty happy, I'll leave it, and if it needs a little more, I'll work on it for a bit.

"Have patience with all things, But, first of all with yourself." 


Saint Francis de Sales    

The full step-by-step tutorial for 'Conkertastic' will be available on my website later this month. For further info please visit Sketchbook Squirrel, where you can sign up for a FREE video tutorial package, or join my full membership subscriptions for the full tutorials library.