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.