Thursday, 14 May 2015

P is for Painting, Palettes and Panic

So, the past week has been one of excitement and anticipation, (but with a bit of a jolt along the way). First was the return of 'Husband' from his travels. Then came a relaxed few days at home, then came the jolt. Just when I thought I could now get on and finish the bramble painting, my summons from the surgeon arrived. Oh yes, that means I shall have to take a break from the painting. 

"TAKE A BREAK!" you have got to be kidding, we're on a meter with this one and the clock is ticking. Crikey! So, needless to say, the relaxed week I had planned for Husband hit the buffers and he has now been dispatched to look after himself while I remain chained to the desk to get this monster finished. Or as finished as I can get it.

These things happen, and it is a timely reminder that the unexpected can always happen at any time, (usually the most inconvenient). In the past, this sort of thing would have sent me into a spiral of panic and confusion, but now I am pretty used to it, and just get on. It's a good idea to have a contingency plan in place, just in case the worst should happen and a deadline is at risk.

Really wanted to get this last little cluster of leaves finished, but these will have to wait.

A big old puddle of greens and browns

With any project, I always try to start as early as possible, especially if there is a deadline that is fixed. Working backwards from the due date and dividing the project up into chunks helps to give me a better idea of the time I have to complete each bit. Sketchbook studies, composition, drawing, tracing and colour matching get it all under way, then it's onto the piece itself. Looking at the bramble, I started with the flowers and buds and gave myself a set time to get this finished by, then onto the leaves (the largest and most complex portion), then berries, stems and thorns. I also like to give myself a few days for finishing touches and tightening up.

Nearly there

Of course, if the worst should happen and you have to start again, the decision as to whether or not you have enough time to finish comes up. This is why I make sure I have a few shortcuts to fall back on like the sketchbook studies, photos and master tracings. Always handy should disaster strike.


Monday, 4 May 2015

Six Degrees of Separation

Well, it's an exciting week this week as 'Husband' returns from his travels. Yes, he's been working away for a good few months (six in all, not counting the panic hiatus in January when he had to come home for a few weeks), so I have been holding the fort, and enjoying a little peace and quiet into the bargain.

Of course, it's always hard when you have a partner who works away a lot, missing birthdays and Christmas and more often than not, our Wedding Anniversary! Still, you just have to go with it, as once he's back, it's like having Tigger in the house. So, come Wednesday normal service of mayhem will resume.

Here's what it's like with 'Husband' about. As someone more inclined to Eeyore, I do my best to keep up.

Of course work has continued, and I'm now onto the next section of leaves on what I am currently calling the 'Bramble Paradise'. As the light is more evident on these leaves, I am making sure lots of soft highlights are kept and I am also using more blue toned colours. Blue tends to recede, so will give depth of field to the piece. Also, bramble leaves appear more blue when light hits them, so it's always good to include as much tonal variation to demonstrate the characteristics of a plant.

Blue-greens with touches of fresher, brighter hues gives a good range of colours
Keeping plenty of light on the upper leaf will hopefully extend the focal range too.

I'm not going to work too much more on this upper leaf, as I want to keep as much light as I can.
I might darken up a few areas though.

The leaf underneath has just two wet-in-wet washes on it, so needs plenty more doing to it

The folded leaf is going to be a bot tricky, so I have left it for now

The other leaves in this group are finished, (I think) 

How things are shaping up.

It's a long, slow process, but I can see the shape evolving, and I quite like it.


Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Out in the Country (again)

As you may know, I was off on my jolly travels again on Friday to teach a workshop at the lovely Roots, Shoots and Leaves in Durley. Francoise and her husband are so welcoming, and although I arrived early to set up, I was invited into their kitchen for tea and a chat, (and a sneaky peek at what we would be having for lunch).

We were a smallish class this time, but no less enthusiastic. And, after a lovely garden tour with Francoise, we all headed for the warm, light, and airy workshop to get going. The subject for the day was a beautiful white tulip, flashed with bright green. White flowers can be tricky as an introduction to botanical painting, but with the green playing a dominant part along with the rich, creamy colour of the petals, I thought this would be a nice challenge. 

After completing a light but accurate drawing, it was time to test the colours.
Mixing the neutrals for the tulip

The creamy white was mixed with Sennelier Yellow Light and a touch of Perylene Maroon
The warm grey for the neutral was mixed using the creamy yellow with a touch of Ultramarine Light

Keep at it, you're doing a fabulous job.

Laying on the green and learning new dry-brush techniques

The bright, fresh green was mixed using the Ultramarine Light and Sennelier Yellow Light
along with a touch of Perylene Maroon. 

Hmm, this is a great still life

Broad beans and garlic where made into a delicious topping for our Bruschetta starter
Cor, these look fabulous.
Orange cupcakes, with an unexpected ingredient, Kale!
Surprising, but totally delicious

Recipe from Veggie Deserts 

For a first ever attempt at botanical watercolour, this is not at all bad.

The tricky technique for the stem was given a test drive first, to get a feel for it. 

Luckily, I've been invited back in June, so I must have done something right. And there's currently a discount on the workshop, so if you fancy joining us, Click Here  

All photos reproduced with kind permission of F Murat.


Thursday, 23 April 2015

See the Light, Go Dark

Crikey! I can't believe it has been over a week since my last post. After a whimsical weekend last week and a few more days enjoying the unseasonably warm weather in my garden here in Hampshire, it's been a little too relaxed here at Squirrel HQ. Time to brace up and get back to those leaves. So, what progress have I made?  

Well, I have made a start on another group of leaves. Here I have got at least the first wash on three and have worked up two with further washes and some detail. To achieve the cool areas I used a mix of Indanthrene Blue and Lemon Yellow with a touch of Anthraquinone Red. For the warmer, fresher greens I used Ultramarine Blue Light with Sennelier Yellow Light and Perylene Maroon. Leaving lots of highlighted areas gives the suggestion of the sheen on the leaves. 

Showing different stages of wash. 
The bumpy appearance is achieved by allowing colour to settle more heavily towards the middle
of a leaf section.
Pulling the paint off the paper to create highlights in places adds further characteristic 'bumpiness' and
dropping in either a fresh or cool green gives further tonal variation. 

With very pale flowers, such as those on brambles, I like to make sure that one or two have a darker backdrop of leaves. With just the white of the paper, pale flowers tend to get a bit lost and it is very easy to get too heavy handed with the shading trying to bring them forward. But, give them a lovely dark ground to work against, and 'pop', there they are. They really throw themselves forward and actually look paler. It's a clever trick of the eye that artists can use to their advantage. And I'm all for that. 

The darkest greens have been mixed using the strong green mixes
 with a touch more blue and yellow.

I always remember the advice of using the colours from my existing palette
and using the same proportions of Blue, Yellow and red to get Black.

The colour can be adjusted with more of the yellow, red or blue to create cool, warm or fresher neutrals and blacks.
See the links below for more on this     

Of course, with any painting, what we are all trying to achieve is the best range of tonal values that we possibly can. In the past, I have always been a bit tentative with the depth of the darkest tones, holding back just a bit too much and not quite achieving the look I hoped for. However, since I had something of an epiphany, I knew I needed to up the ante. After some practise, trial and error and some scary moments, the darkness now holds no fear for me. Mixing almost black colours and just getting them in there really can transform a painting. But, I always do this last, to ensure the balance doesn't go 'over the edge'. See the light, go dark.

I think this area might just be finished now.

Ooh, maybe just a little more.
Remembering advice. Detail, detail, detail. Oh, and just a bit more detail.

I'll wait until the end and then go back to see where I can adjust.
This weeks has seen a few workshops too, and tomorrow I am off for another drive in the country. Yes, it's back to Roots, Shoots and Leaves for the first of the spring workshops, There will be plenty of gorgeous subjects to choose from in the garden, and a group of eager students will be ready and waiting to pick up their brushes. Really looking forward to the day there as it's a stunning location and the welcome is always warm.  

And lastly, welcome to the new followers here on the blog. Thank you for being a wonderful bunch of troopers by signing up to follow along. Always much appreciated, and I hope you enjoy your visits.

Further 'Dark' Reading

Monday, 13 April 2015

Dig for Victory

Well, after four days of digging and hacking at the 'Bramble Paradise' that is my back garden, it certainly feels like something of a victory, (although I broke the handle of my favourite fork). Working on just little areas at a time is easier to handle, and gives me a feeling of great satisfaction when I can finally get the plants I want back in. So, instead of ground elder, brambles and ivy in this little corner, I now have a lovely spot for my big camellia, a couple of  David Austin roses, peonies and euphorbias alongside marguerites and knapweed. Should make for a pretty display. Now onto the next bit.

Planting time.
Lots of things for bees and butterflies.
I have been collecting the dead wood from the trees to make a wood pile.
Just behind the camellia for this feature methinks.

Not just a workshop space and place for me to sit with my morning tea.
The conservatory also becomes a greenhouse for me to get my seeds, cuttings and dahlias going

Plastic carrier bags are a great alternative if you have no room left in your propagator.
Just fit snugly over the pot and tie the handles together.
Check regularly for watering and take off once the seedlings have got going.

For cuttings, I make sure the bag doesn't touch the leaves by using three sticks stuck into the pot

Of course, taking time away from painting, (and blogging) is a nice diversion, especially when the weather is as gorgeous as it has been, but it's time to get going again, and fill you in on what's been happening at Squirrel HQ. So, back to the three leaves I started with. Working a bit more on the detail of leaves is always great fun as there are plenty of highlights, shadows, veins and imperfections that make each one unique and every part a piece of the whole. perhaps that's why i find myself painting brambles as often as I have been.

Using the blues, yellows and reds of the palette, I mixed up a good range of rusty reds and murky browns, ready to give the crispy bits and nibble holes their characteristic edges. By using just six main colours and a couple for glazing, the whole piece has a good uniformity, even though I am mixing more as I go. 

Using a dryish brush and strong mixes is the best way to work up plenty of detail.You can see that the right side of the leaf on the far right is not as worked as the others.
What a difference.

These ones will get darker and more tonal, but I'm happy so far. 

First watery washes going onto the next set of leaves.
Even at this early stage I remove some of the colour to give a good, strong highlight.
With the paleness of the first washes, you can see how much more colour goes on in stages.