Saturday, 31 December 2011

That Post Christmas Feeling

Well, after all the feasting I have now entered that period known as the 'post Christmas lull'. Having eaten nearly half my body weight in chocolate, cake and other food stuffs over the past few days and with the new Year bank Holiday to come, I am in dire need of a bracing dose of fresh air. Now would be a good time to borrow a grateful neighbour's dog and go for a very long walk.

Whilst out and about, (but, alas without a pooch in tow) I noticed how many plants and trees still had their leaves and how many plants that would normally flower in Spring are flowering now. Even stranger, some plants like the Viburnam and Clematis have buds, flowers and berries all at the same time. Even my neighbour's Snowdrops are out. In December! I ask you?   

Flowers, Buds and Berries!

It might be winter flowering but it's been going
strong since October!!

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Twas the night before Christmas...

Well almost. Finally all the painting is done and I can take a well earned break from the paintbrushes, until the new year at least. There is something happily satisfying about creating a piece of work, no matter how small for someone else. Over the past few days I have seen some great little examples of work being used by fellow artists for cards, labels, place cards and all sorts of other Christmas ephemera. Janene Walkky has painted a divine little sketch of a lemon for use on labels for her home-made lemon curd and Rebecca has finished her gorgeously festive holly and ivy illustration.

Joining in with this great tradition, I have used copies of my little rose hip and ivy composition on cards and painted a quick sketch of an ivy and holly leaf for gift labels.  Using some red ink in my Rotring Calligraphy Art Pen  will give a nice festive touch to the written messages, (when I get round to doing them). The added bonus with using a pen like this is that it makes your handwriting look gorgeously Dickensian. Hurrah!!

Holly and Ivy gift labels

Wishing you all a truly magical, Merry Christmas and all the very best for a cracking New Year.  


Monday, 19 December 2011

There is always room for cake!

It has been a truly busy week. So much so that I hadn't realised that I hadn't published a post since last Tuesday!! Luckily I am now on top of the present wrapping and the house tidying and the booze buying (ahem!!), now for the cake.

A Christmas cake is a wondrous thing to behold in Britain and is always treated with the greatest reverence. Even if you don't like cake, there is always room for a slice of the richest, fruitiest, booziest of them all, Christmas cake. No wonder we all go on diets in January!

Even so, I made mine in November and it has been maturing nicely awaiting the final flourish of marzipan and a simple icing, (you might as well be hung for a sheep than a lamb at this time of year and go the whole hog with it). Once the creation has been set high upon it's pedestal, (my old and trusted cake stand) there is the final touch of a decoration to stick on the top.

Always a good one for truffling out stuff for just about every occasion my Mum always comes up trumps. last year was no exception when she found this Holly and Ivy number. Botanical themed cake decorating, well done Mum.


Tuesday, 13 December 2011

To the V&A, (and other curiosities)!

This weekend we headed up the motorway towards that sprawling metropolis that is our beloved capital. London for us is 'home', the place we both hark from and therefore, as the old song goes '...maybe it's because I'm a Londoner, that I love London so...' Well, something like that anyway.    

So off we went. Mostly to catch up with family that we won't have a chance to see over the Christmas holiday but also, to head towards the galleries I love to visit. First up was the V & A, with it's fantastically over-the-top Victorian facade and equally quirky collections. Here we found the Beatrix Potter illustrations, and just in good time as the exhibition was due to close on the 11th. If you missed it, here's a link, Beatrix Potter, Botanical Illustrations at the V&A.

The Silver Gallery, The V&A, London
I just love the ceiling in here and, amazingly
it was completely empty!

Beatrix Potter, Posy of wild flowers, including buttercup, clover, cornflower, cow parsley, forget-me-not, honeysuckle and thistle, about 1885. © F.Warne & Co., 2010
A Posy of Wild Flowers. Beatrix Potter, 1885.
F.Warne and Co 2010
Potter's skill as an artist was beautifully demonstrated in the pieces on display. From Foxgloves to Blackberries, the illustrations are accurately drawn then delicately shaded in watercolour. Often in her work, Beatrix Potter would leave a clear, dark outline, perhaps the beginnings of the style she would use to great effect later, in her illustrations for her beautiful Peter Rabbit books

Taking photos in a museum is a dodgy business and although I did take a sneaky one or two, (confession time!) they didn't come out very well. So a word to the wise, don't bother trying as the display glass is so well polished the reflections are dreadful, and no amount of Photoshop will get that sod out!!  So here are a few of my favourites care of the V &A online album, (see above link).

Beatrix Potter, Foxglove, about 1903. © F.Warne & Co., 2010
Foxglove. Beatrix Potter, 1903.
F.Warne and Co 2010
Note the gorgeous little pencil sketch of a bird 
Sea Lavender. Beatrix Potter, 1899
F.Warne and Co 2010.

Oak with Acorns. Beatrix Potter, 1905
F.Warne and Co 2010

Autumn Berries, including Hawthorn. Beatrix Potter, 1905
F.Warne and Co 2010 

A pub lunch came and went over a few drinks and then back on the tube to Leicester Square to see the Swiss Clock. Why a clock? Well like so many things that come and go with progress, the original Swiss Clock was removed from the famous Swiss Centre when the area was developed. Now it's back!! Hurrah. There was an opening ceremony and when it chimes, it all goes on, (and the music changes)! Need I say more, just watch this BBC clip and enjoy this little curiosity, Landmark Swiss Clock returns to Leicester Square .

Our whistle stop tour continued to Tate Britain, which is a must if you love J.M.W.Turner and his amazing skies. There was some great British art on display here, and their hot chocolate isn't bad either. All in all a fabulous weekend was had by all!    

Friday, 9 December 2011

Seeing Green!

And the green goes on, and on, and on. The Dreaded Ivy continues apace and I am quite pleased with the overal effect. Holly would have been more traditional and I was a bit miffed that I couldn't find any with berries. However, all in all the rose hips do add that seasonal feel and as this piece will be a gift for Christmas, I couldn't wait any longer for the holly. As it is I think the paint will still be drying when I wrap it!!  

More layers of green have been layed on to create depth to the leaves Here I have deployed Indanthrene Blue in the mixes again, as it is so versatile and behaves itself really well. All to do now is to finish the main branch and define the veins a bit more, although I would like to keep the ivy a little less 'finished' than usual for a botanical piece. Hurrah! finished.

All done

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

The Dreaded Ivy

This week I started painting the ivy on my little composition. For days I had been avoiding it as I had not been too sure how to go about it and there are so many different types. Ivy is a nightmare. All those veins and greens going on, there is much that can go horribly wrong. Anyway, enough I said just get on with it!!

So, off we go. There are a few varieties of ivy growing in the garden, but the one I settled on has a deep blueish-green leaf, which I thought would set off the red of the rose hips quite well. Looking carefully, the blue-green had a sort of 'under-wash' of a more lemony-green as did the veins of each leaf are considerably more lemony so I needed to be careful there.

Sennelier Cadmium Yellow Light mixed with Ultramarine Light and a touch of Perylene Maroon was used as the first lemony wash over the entire leaf. I have got into the habit of glazing with water first, using quite strong mixes and keeping everything quite wet, 'a la Mindy Lighthipe'. Practising this method has helped a lot and although I am not quite there with perfecting it, this method has really improved my technique.  

The ivy stems are worked with a mix of Burnt Umber
 and some of the lemony green mix with touches of diluted Perylene Maroon
here and there.  
Well, better get on, there is much more to do here.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Feeling Festive?

Knitting is one of those hobbies that when you are sixteen you really don't want your friends to know about. It has that old-worldy fragrance about it which invites giggles and funny looks that tends to render the young, nervous knitter to silence when talk of spare time comes around. Thank goodness I am not sixteen anymore, (30 something in case you were wondering) and I can shout loud and proud that 'I am a Knitter', (getting there anyway).

Taking a break from the assignments and deadlines of the SBA course has allowed me to luxuriate in the extra time I now have and focus on other projects. Along with the 30/30 leaf challenge and my other painting projects that are under way, I have been knitting. Not just anything but Reindeer. Reindeer!!! Yes indeed, this little fellow rather caught my eye some time ago and I thought he would look really cute standing watch in the portch of our new house to welcome visitors and, of course, postie.

Everyone's Favourite, Rudolph! by Alan Dart

Not that I am going to make a habit of making knitted toys, my usual favourites are rather more sleek, vintage affairs for myself, but there is no stopping it now as others have now asked for me to make them one of these . Funny how things come around and all of a sudden knitting is cool!!

Thursday, 1 December 2011

The Rosehips and The Ivy.

Shouldn't that be holly? Well, you know how the song goes. Many of you are probably in full prep mode, what with Thanksgiving last week, (best wishes to my American friends if you are tuning in) and Christmas just round the corner. Here at Squirrel HQ there has been much activity orientated around the kitchen, cakes, puddings, stuffing, you name it i've baked or cooked it, (keep an eye on my next post for something completely different but festive!!). Oh yes and don't even get me started on present buying. Let's all applaud the blessed Internet!

Project-wise, I took a leaf, (ahem, pardon the pun) out of Rebecca's, (Flora Symbolica) book and decided to tackle a Holly and Ivy study. Rebecca produced a gorgeous colour pencil study earlier this month, and even added the lyrics to get us in festive mood. It was inspiration enough to get me rummaging about in the garden again. I really do think that this is the only time of year that ivy is a welcome sight. Normally I am trying to untangle it from my apple trees. 

You may notice the lack of holly in this one. Well, the berries have not appeared on my holly so I have had to improvise, hence the change of title. Yes, it's those rosehips again! Last one, I promise.     

Initial drawing, shown with a darker, HB outline 
Red Rosehips, showing light source from the left. Colours used:
Cadmium Red, Perylene Maroon, Light Red, a touch of
Ultramarine Light.
(Much of the pencil outline has been removed to aid painting)

Getting the stems started. Cadmium Yellow Light, French Ultramarine
with just a touch of the red mix made a very good green.

Alizarin Crimson with some of the darker neutral mix was used on
the thorns and nodes.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

...and a couple more rosehips

After my foray into the berries and ripe rosehips, I found a couple of under-ripe rosehips which had a lovely tinge of yellowy/green and a gorgeous round shape. using just a few colours to achieve the colour on the fruit prevented overworking, a muddy finish and, hopefully kept things fresh.


Firstly, I applied a pretty strong mix, (be brave!) of Indanthrene Blue, Cadmium Yellow Light with a touch of Perylene Maroon over a glaze of water. As this dried I dropped in a lighter mix of Winsor Lemon with just a dot of the green mix to create the lighter side of the hip where the light fell. Using a damp brush I pulled out some of the colour from the centre to create the shine. Getting the timing of this bit right has been trial and error and control is the key., I have taken a few tips from the short clip by Billy Showell, which helped a lot.

Building up the strong green by adding more blue and a touch of Neutral Tint, leaving a slight 'halo' to the edge and keeping away from the highlights and the yellow enphasized the roundness. A couple of washes of Umber with other 'neutral / brown ' mixes finished the sketches off.

Monday, 21 November 2011

...and more berries

Painting the snowberries proved to be a bit more of a challenge than I had expected. The whiteness of the berries against the white paper meant I needed to concentrate on the colours within the reflected light and shadows. Blue, pink and a tinge of ochre appeared and although I tried to use a light touch, I did get a bit carried away and now the berries look a bit grey on close inspection. I kept the leaves underworked to keep a lighter feel but again, my favourite Indanthrene Blue with a touch of Alizarin Crimson and Cadmium Yellow Light proved to be perfect for the job.  

A Winter Mixture (may be nice on Christmas cards for the family)

Rosehips from a wild dog rose proved a better choice and I had great fun mixing the gorgeous orangey-reds. Recently, I have been experimenting with Sennelier colours and their Cadmium Red and Cadmium Yellow Light proved excellent for the basis of the mixes for these rosehips and hawthorn berries. Winsor & Newton Brown Madder is a really rich, covering colour that worked well in the mixes, and was useful for adding depth to the rosehips, while Alizarin Crimson added a pinky hue to the hawthorn. Keeping lots of white paper for the shine on the little cluster of hawthorn berries looked quite nice as the colour spread around and actually behaved itself for once.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Bountiful Berries

November here has been unseasonably warm and many trees still have all of their leaves, whilst others in the garden are completely bare. What's going on? It was warmer than Naples and Venice at the weekend, that's just not right. There should have been frost by now. No wonder people think us Brits are obsessed with the weather.  

At least there are plenty of berries abound in the garden. The feathered friends are having a fine old time of it, munching away on a wide variety of luscious little fruits that are coming into their own just now and the colours are also a welcome sight. They bring much needed cheerful brightness to the garden on the short, dull, sunless days of winter.

'Blueberries', sketchbook detail

Of course, as many of us are now into the full swing of preparing for Christmas and other winter festivals, Holly, Ivy and Mistletoe are the popular choices for decoration around the home and on cards. Rosehips, Snowberry, cotoneaster, firethorn, hawthorn and honeysuckle also produce gorgeous fruits and berries that provide great subjects for painting. As I hadn't tackled too many berries since my initial foray into blueberries, I started a few more.

Hypericum (Tutsan) berries. In winter these
berries turn to a deep purply-black

'Snowberry'. Sketchbook work in progress November 2011
White berries, like this Snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus) are difficult to capture as much of the colour is produced by reflected light and shade and white-on-white is always tricky, (trust me there is a blue/green hue to these berries). There are a few varieties that have pink berries with Symphoricarpos 'Mother of Pearl' bearing gorgeous flushed berries. I would love to have one of these in the garden but alas, the alba will have to do. 

Symphoricarpos 'Mother of Pearl'
image courtesy of williams nursery

Blackberries, October 2011
(A little too much of a white 'halo' around the druplets)


Friday, 11 November 2011

The Art of Poppies

It is a pity that poppies are no longer found in great abundance in fields across Britain. A once common sight en-route to childhood holidays, carpets of bright red poppies made a cheering diversion. However, their large, papery blooms lasting for just one day make them a challenging subject for painters. 

As we approach Remembrance Sunday, (today is the unique date of 11/11/2011 with weddings galore in Gretna Green!!),  I wondered how other artists have tackled the tricky little blighters and depicted poppies in art. Here are a few of my favourites. 
Oriental Poppies,
Dame Elizabeth Blackadder

I love Dame Elizabeth's work, but this painting by Jan Harbon is a particular favourite. I love the way some of the petals are faded to almost nothing, a technique I would love to try on some of my own work.
'Poppies II' by Jan Harbon

Poppies © Gillian Daynes SBAPaintings of poppies were everywhere at the SBA show this year, with this gorgeous example from Gillian Daynes SBA being one of a stunning array. Other artists exhibiting luscious poppies included Linda Patterson SBA and Hilary Price FSBA among others.

'Poppy Seed Head' 1999
Brigid Edwards
Shirley Sherwood Collection

This image of a seed head by Brigid Edwards is just gorgeous. The colour and detail is really well observed, particularly with the subtle bloom on the pod. Whenever I see a painting I admire, I always look really closely at the techniques to see if I can improve my own. 

Wild Poppies

'Wild Poppies', Claude Monet 1873     

  Ah, Monet's 'Wild Poppies', enough said!

Friday, 4 November 2011

Not Enough Days in the Month

Well, there it is, I didn't quite manage to complete the 30/30 challenge. Boo. I did give it my best shot and got 22 finished during October and do intend to finish the page over the next few days. It was a lot harder than I had expected, some of the leaves took a good few hours to do and others less than an hour. Busy days also got in the way and I didn't always get the chance to paint, which was frustrating.

Overall though, I am pleased with my progress and I did manage to meet most of my goals. Trying to include as many different shapes and colours was actually quite difficult, and I think some of my neighbours must have thought I had 'lost it' completely when I was spotted rummaging through hedgerows looking for foliage. The mix of leaves look quite nice together and I have tried to tie them all together by using multiples of grasses and clover and a balance of greens and coloured leaves.  When it is finished, I am hoping to make a print of the whole thing.  

Leaves are life size on A3 Fabriano HP 

Capturing, autumn colour without everything turning muddy was also a bit tricky and I had to practice loads of techniques before starting a new leaf just to gain confidence. The colours I used were, Perylene Maroon and Alizarin Crimson for the reds, and Indanthrene Blue with Winsor Lemon or Cadmium Yellow for many of the greens. Paynes Grey, Sap Green, Burnt and Raw Sienna and Umber were also used in mixes and alone for details and washes.Taking on board lots of advice to keep everything fresh by applying colour carefully in layers using lots of water to help the spread of the mixes helped and I cannot thank Mindy Lighthipe enough for all her tips and advice on her blog. Mindy has produced some absolute stunners this year and has used a variety of mediums and techniques. Great stuff and great inspiration, I will definitely have another go next year.   

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Summer's Last Hurrah

As if on cue, the sun came out, (all too briefly) over the weekend, so off I went to capture some of the last that Summer had to offer, (the clocks going back an hour in Britain means an end to the season). Rosa 'Sweet Haze' really is well named. This is a lovely little rose that the bees absolutely adore and so do I. This one was bought at a great plant nursery near my family home in Essex and endured the two hour trip home to Hampshire. It's a robust little thing that has been flowering it's heart out for months and the smell, well simply divine. Sitting in it's pot near the path in the garden, 'Sweet Haze' is always within nose reach for a quick sniff en-route to the veg patch. The last bud is nearly ready and then they will be gone for another year.

No idea what this one is as it was already in the garden when we came. The blooms are looking a bit tired now but I can't blame them, it's getting cold, they have been out for ages and it's time for the last one to finish. Although not quite as picture perfect as 'Sweet Haze', this rose has a gorgeous scent, enormous blooms and, well the stripy colour makes it individual. This year I had considered grubbing it out but now I quite like it. Reprieved!!

Hydrangeas are amongst my favourite flowers. Whether it is just the sheer blowsiness of the flowers, the fact that they last for ages, look great in a vase or are amongst the last of the Summer colour I have no idea, I just love them. This one was a fantastic pink not so long ago and as the flowers fade they take on an interesting skeletal form that will last all winter if left on the plant.

Although I haven't yet tackled a Hydrangea as a subject to paint, (I did paint one of the leaves in my 30/30 challenge)  I have a few around the garden and will enjoy the challenge of giving it a go. To use an old, (and somewhat corny) quote, ..."maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon...". 

Friday, 28 October 2011

Lights, Camera, Action!

Well, 2 out of 3 isn't bad. The camera is sorted, there is plenty of action, (that didn't sound too good did it?), now it's lighting. Good lighting is a thorny issue for a painter, especially when there is painstaking detail to be done. Do you opt for full on school art-room lumination of strip lights that are so hot they can double up as heating and use enough electricity to run a Scottish island, be green and go for energy saving bulbs or strive to keep to natural light. Then there is the direction for right or left handers. Hmm, there is so much to consider and so many solutions to choose from, the mind boggles.

As October ends and the lights start to go on at about half past five in the afternoon, the loss of natural light in the studio must be addressed. At present I am using a small daylight lamp that has a bendy head and a large magnifying glass. It does the job, but only just. The arm is not very long so trying to illuminate a large piece is tricky and the quality of light from some energy saving bulbs can be a bit weird. What I really miss are those great Anglepoise lights with huge conical shades and an arm so long that it could poke someone in the eye about 3 metres away.

That reminds me of the first Pixar animated short from years ago about a little anglepoise lamp and a ball. Nostalgic moment alert!!

Wise and sagely advice states that the direction and consistency of a light source is vital. It should have a constant level of brightness and remain in the same direction throughout the day. All well and good but impossible with natural daylight and therefore there must be some form of artificial light to supplement what light there is. Staying natural, a north facing room is perfect as this direction never gets full, direct sunlight, creating a uniform quality of light that barely moves. I don't have a north facing spare room and I am not moving! Cloudy, overcast days, (such as today) cause all sorts of issues and then there is the issue of colour.

Sketchbook exercise demonstrating
different directions of light

Colour can be dramatically altered by light, especially greens as I was once told, so the job of mixing correct shades is made all the harder. That said, some artists are now opting to work in darkened studios, James Gillick creates his beautiful still life works in a barely lit studio. His recent summer exhibition of still lifes at Park Walk Gallery gave an extraordinary insight into his work. 

'Red Tulips' still life by James Gillick

  • Katherine Tyrrell of Making a Mark has given a full, and really helpful guide to choosing the right light and other points to consider in her post Night and Day - lighting your subject. Katherine really does understand the job of an artist and goes to great lengths to research her topics so her blog is always worth a visit. Finding the right approach to artificial and natural light is made a hell of a lot easier after reading the post and now I know what I need to change in my studio. Thanks Katherine!  

Katherine's advice to achieve the perfect balance is to use as much natural daylight as possible but to supplement this with the consistency of an artificial light source, always with a daylight bulb. Hooray! I can get my lovely Anglepoise with plenty of reach. Lighting Nirvana! 

Friday, 21 October 2011

The First Frost, (and Butterflies)

Red Admiral - Photograph by Jim Asher
Red Admiral Butterfly photo by Jim Asher, courtesy
of Butterfly Conservation

This week saw the arrival of the first frost. Just a light dusting but blimey it was cold. The heating had to go on and many of the plants in the garden looked a bit frost bitten. Ah well at least it looked pretty, especially when the sun finally made it's appearance. To think, it was only last Saturday when I caught a glimpse of a Red Admiral butterfly, (I had been keeping a record of the butterflies we see for Butterfly Conservation's 'Big Butterfly Count' in August), and the garden was full of birdsong. That reminds me, I must refill all the bird feeders so the poor little blighters have something to eat.

A few more faves
Nandina domestica, Lily, Cirrhosa
It has been a pretty busy week this week and I am sorry to say that I have got a bit behind with my daily leaves. Oops! Well, it is my first go at it and I am not experienced enough to work quickly. It is one of those times when you want to get something done, think you have bitten off more than you can chew and fear that it will all go horribly wrong. So far it has gone ok and I am not going to rush at it just to keep up and spoil the whole thing. Perhaps I shouldn't have tried a composition. Something to think about for next year.  

Friday, 14 October 2011

The (Leaf) Story So Far

Progress on the leaf challenge continues, and as the weather is still fine it has been no hardship to collect a range of suitable and interesting subjects to paint. Evergreen plants have proved extremely useful and I have included camellia, cotoneaster and grasses alongside the deciduous mix of nandina domestica and oak leaves (pencil outlines just out of shot).

'Autumn Leaves', work in progress. J. Godwin 2011

Work in progress shows the composition as it builds each day. My next few choices (already drawn in pencil) will have some strong reds and yellows to balance the leucothoe leaf on the far right and truly reflect Autumn. The clematis leaf in the middle with all it's burgundy shades was bright green only a week ago so I was lucky to catch this one at just the right time.

Cotoneaster. Detail from 'Autumn Leaves'
J. Godwin 2011

For this branch of cotoneaster leaves I used a mix of green that is one of my new favourites. Indanthrene Blue with just a touch of Perylene Maroon with either Cadmium Yellow Light or Winsor Yellow, (New Gamboge creates a more olive shade). The different shades of yellow change the mix from a fresh, bright green to a rich forest green. Although I have always mixed my own greens with a touch of red, I came across this particular mix after reading an interview with Scotland based artist Sharon Tingey on the Botanical Artists blog. It is such a versatile mix that  I can see me using it for nearly everything from now on 


Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Identifying Apples

As October marches on, this weekend saw me picking apples from the garden. When we first moved here one of the things that really made me happy was the sight of three established apple trees. As a child, back home in Essex, I had been lucky enough to be sent off to school every Autumn term with a home grown apple. Yum! Nostalgic thoughts indeed.
The Happy Haul
And so, over the past few years we have been munching our way through our apples not really knowing what type they were. Handy that The Apple Book by Rosie Sanders along with a good few ancient tomes from the family library were at hand to help with identification. And so we think we have got: Worcester Permain,a beautifully sweet fruit with rosy skin and creamy white, crunchy flesh; Cox's Orange Pippin (lucky me!!),the ultimate 'English' apple, and another one we're still working on. Since moving in we have also planted a Bramley Seedling (just for the hell of it).

Of course, at the time I was really trying to concentrate on finding more leaves to paint for the current project but these just looked so nice on the tree it had to be done. So for a couple of hours, eating (or at least the thought of it) took over from painting. 

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Colour Charts! And more Colour Charts!!

My first colour chart
Mixing so many leafy greens got me thinking about how I use colour to get the right mixes I need to make my foliage look luminous and real. The SBA leaf assignment last year needed so many different greens, it was advised to start with a colour chart of mixes.

Even with a relatively small palette of blues and yellows, with a few browns and Cadmium Red, I found a vast number of greens could be made. Acid, fresh greens with Winsor Lemon are my favourites but all are beautifully rich and complex. A great exercise that really got me thinking about colour and how we see it.

Having created a plethora of greens, I have made charts for all number of colours that I have found tricky to get right. Shadow tones are so difficult to judge, and I have found myself so often using the universal, 'botanical grey' mix of French Ultramarine, Cadmium Yellow and Cadmium Red. A really great tip I picked up form Jenny Jowett FSBA when trying to get the shadow mix right is to only use the colours you have used in your painting, (mix the flower colours for the flower shadows, leafy colours for leaf shadows. You get the idea). A careful mix of these colour will produce the colours of the reflected light and shadow tones in the subject, creating a more realistic blend of tone.    

My favourite Perylene Maroon, with some of the gorgeous mixes. I love using these colours as much as possible and they have been particularly useful in the latest leaf challenge. Mellow fruitfullness, I should say so!  

Keeping a record of all the mixes I make, especially when I buy a new colour or a new brand helps save time when finding the right mixes for a project. Practical help can also be found in books. The one which I find most useful and the book that many artist's recommend is Ian Sidaway's, 'Colour Mixing Bible'. Find out more about this book in the Recommended Reading page.  

Perhaps I did get a bit carried away on this one


Wednesday, 5 October 2011

The Challenge Continues

The busy work place
After four days of furious painting, the first few leaves of the botanical challenge are done. It has been an unusual experience to just be painting a single leaf at a time. Normally I would be trying to paint an entire plant and continue working for a much longer period of time.

However, the challenge has provided me with just the practise I need to improve my technique and find new ways of painting. Using Mindy Lighthipe's technique of very wet-in-wet, stonger mix washes was terrifying at first but worked really well, particularly on the Basil and Leucothoe leaves.      

Using a more limited pallette and having more time to play around with ideas has been great fun. I have also got a lot quicker at getting something on paper which, as a botanical art student with limited deadlines is a bonus. I do have a tendency to dither a bit over composition and subject. Here there is no problem, just pick a leaf and away you go!

Before starting the challenge I gave myself a couple of goals to achieve:

  • Firstly, to include as many different colour leaves as I could find. 
  • To get a bit quicker at getting a painting done.
  • To have the confidence to not practice every detail in my sketchbook first.
  • To include as many different shapes of leaf as possible.
  • To get better at painting leaves.

So far I have kept these ideas in mind and, of course if you are trying to get better at something, practise, practise, practise is the way forward. Taking the time to draw every day, (life and work allowing) is the best advice I have ever been given, (thanks to Margaret Stevens of the SBA).     

Not every one is a winner, but I am getting there

Basil, smelt great whilst painting it

Those challenging Autumn colours
Leucothoe 'Scarletta'

Saturday, 1 October 2011

One Down, 30 To Go!

Ah, that's better. When the first wash goes on and behaves itself, I feel better. Deciding to play it safe and start with a shiny Skimmia leaf was a bit of a cowardly start to the challenge but I thought if this one went well, it would give me enough of a boost to keep on going.

A first, light wash of Cerulean and Cobalt was chosen for the highlights as these did not appear as bright white. As this wash dried, I added a second colour, this time using Indanthrene Blue and Winsor Lemon, allowing the mix to spread and mix with the paler wash, forming the highlights. Using a clean damp brush, I pulled out some of the colour to emphasise the highlights.

The First Wash

Working on one side of the leaf at a time and glazing with clean water before laying on each colour wash keeps the highlights clear and creates a more natural spread of colour. Like many SBA students this is a technique I picked up after reading Billy Showell's book of, 'Watercolour Flower Portraits'. It really works and keeps things nicely controlled. Continuing in this way, I built up a couple more layers of colour, being careful to pay attention to the areas of light and shade. The last job was to add touches of Perylene Maroon to the stalk and tip of the leaf.

Nealy there

What to do next?
Looking back at my Skimmia leaf through the day, I could see there were a couple of touching up jobs to do here and there. So I must go back and do that but overal though, I am quite pleased with it. Oh, in case you are wondering, no I am not going to blog about all 31, that would be silly.