Monday, 27 February 2012

It's Red not Cream on Wisley

Just a quick update on the progress of Wisley Cream. With the main stem finished and two clusters of leaves almost done, the overall effect of the finished article is coming together. The colour of the stem is my favourite bit at the moment. The combination of the deep maroon with the bright green looks just as I hoped it would. 

Keeping the leaf mix pretty intense right from the first wash sets the richness and depth of these leaves. Moving the colour around quickly maintains the areas of light and shade, allowing the colour to 'pool' more naturally.

Using a fine brush, I 'draw' the veins lightly, ready to build up the colour and shape. I am also trying to introduce a more defined series of light, dark and midtones to create a greater sense of the three dimensional subject.  Better, but not perfect!

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Wisley Cream (but no cream tea)

After a hectic start to the week, (why did my freezer have to break down?), work has finally begun on, 'Wisley Cream'. As the flowers had already been and sadly gone, I decided to tackle the stem and leaves first and do the flowers last of all. A bit back to front as I like to do short-lived flowers such as on this clematis first, but I can always cut another stem for reference.

Oh all right then, maybe I'll do some of the buds too!
An early wash on the leaves, setting out the veins

Once I got going, this latest project has progressed quite well. The stem has this gorgeous reddy-brown colour, which I mixed using my favourite Perylene Maroon and Indanthrene Blue with some Cadmium Red here and there. Such gloriously rich colours which mix to form a fantastic range of shades just perfect for the job. Where the light hits the stem, the colour appears almost blue, a sort of washed out bluey-grey if you get me. It is a lovely effect which I hope to achieve. From the samples I have mixed, Cerulean Blue mixed with a little of the stem colour seemed to be a good match.

The composition with some of the leaves and buds

The flower stems are more acidic yellow than green. Cerulean and Lemon Yellow worked well for a base colour with further washes of the mix with some French Ultramarine pepped things up a bit. On some stems Olive Green with some of the lighter mix was used for the shadows. 

Next up,more of those frothy little leaves!


Tuesday, 21 February 2012

A Grey Area, (unless you use colour)!

Working in colour pencil is just not my thing. Once upon a time I completed a drawing of my cat in colour pencil and although I enjoyed doing it, I never really got into using pencils. However, the use of colour pencil in botanical art is going from strength to strength, with popular artists such as Ann Swan and Susan Christopher Coulson  demonstrating exceptional skill with the medium, producing breathtaking pieces.

The SBA course allows its students to specialise in a number of mediums including colour pencil and there are a number of fellow student bloggers who have really mastered the art, producing some gorgeous stuff. There is, of course a wealth of colour pencils of choice available but for now I think I'll stick with my watercolour.

'Paws' my cat
Started as part of my school portfolio when I was 13
using any colour pencils I could get my hands on

Now for the professionals! 

Colour Mutation - Rosa mutabilis © Susan Christopher-Coulson VPSBA
Colour Mutation Rosa mutabilis
by Susan Christopher Coulson 
Ann Swan - Ginger Flowers - Alpinus purpurata
Ginger Flowers by Ann Swan
Colour Pencil
That all said, there is one set of pencils that I wouldn't do without, my Faber Castell 9000 graphite pencils. Working in black and white allows me to see just the tonal qualities of a piece without the distraction of colour. Before I set out onto a bigger piece I do like to complete a few graphite studies to get the feel of the tones and shadows. Often I find myself working a lot darker than I thought I would, the subject needing a more distinctive range between light and dark. By doing this, I have found that my paintings have more depth and definition too.

Rhododendron 'cilpinense'
J.A. Godwin 2010
An early piece that could do with more depth and
darker tones.

Graphite can be exceptionally beautiful, this piece by fellow blogger Barbra Joan demonstrates the full spectrum of black and white tones. The addition of colour would have made this a very different piece. Normally, I wouldn't be drawn to a figurative piece or a portrait but something in the textures makes me like this one.    

'Sophisticate' by Barbra Joan


Thursday, 16 February 2012

What about Bees?

Now that we have a garden of our own, 'husband' and I have been keen to introduce as much wildlife friendly 'stuff' as we can. Hence over the last year or two, bird nest boxes, feeders and nectar rich plants have all made their way into our patch. The nest box has been particularly successful with Bluetits moving in each Spring. This week, I have been getting out into the garden to get on with those jobs that I always put off but eventually get around to. As the sun was out and the day felt warm, many birds and insects were out and about too. Noticing a bee on an early flowering clematis, it got me thinking about how I could do more to intice pollinating insects into the garden. 

Reading more, I was astonished to discover that here in Britain we have 25 species of bumblebee, with some becoming near to endangered. I have also been watching Sarah Raven's excellent 3 part series Bees, Butterflies and Blooms in which she tackles the need to plant more pollinator friendly plants and flowers in our gardens, parks, towns and cities. The RHS have supported the initiave, and have introduced a new logo for use on plants sold in nurseries and garden centres that are particularly good for bees and other pollinators such as hoverflies.

The RHS Perfect for Poilinators logo
Printed onto seed packets of plants that attract wildlife

This week, fellow blogger Valerie Littlewood at Pencil and Leaf posted a fab introduction on Hoverflies, after she had been to the Natural History Museum on one of their day courses. Her passion and enthusiam for bees is infectious and I adore her bee-themed art. I have been suitably galvanised to get on with it and plans are forming.

So, this year I will be out in the garden a lot more planting and sowing seeds to help our little garden friends. Apparantly pollinating insects like open, single blooms where the pollen is easy to get at. Lillies, single Dahlias, Cosmos, Lavender, Pot Marigolds and Foxgloves are all excellent. To really put the point into perspective is the fact that the amount of sugars available to a bee in a flower can actually be higher in content than that of jam. Gosh, really!!

Lots to do but to begin with, this little lot should keep them all happy. Fingers crossed, I will get lots more tomatoes and apples too.

Spanish Bluebells, but the bees don't mind

Single Clematis, Montana 'Tetrarose'

Bees love Rosa 'Golden Wings'
Hoverflies prefer yellow flowers for some reason

Short lived but loads of pollen, Day Lillies spring
up all round our garden

No idea what this is but the bees love it!

My lovely Bramley's

 Mind you with all this gardening, I might forget to get some painting done. 


Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Time for a Little Romance?

The Language of Flowers or, Floriography was a big thing during the Victorian era. The idea of sending secret, coded messages in a bunch of flowers seems quite tame and rather whimsy to us now but back then, wowsers!! You could give a boyfriend the elbow, send a sinister message of hate to an enemy or of course, a passionate message to a new love, all in the choice of flowers you used in your Tussie-Mussie or Nosegay. Blimey! I will never look at my garden in quite the same way again after looking up what some of my humble favourites mean. (These photos are all of my parents garden back in Essex, care of Dad.) 

Azalea for passion

Red roses for passion and romantic love

If you get pink ones this could be a message of
lesser affection

Primula or Primroses are for eternal love

Peony is for bashfulness or perhaps shame

I adore Irises and sending or receiving them
could mean good news as the Iris was named for
the messenger of the gods in Greek mythology

Yellow roses are for undying love. Think Yellow Rose of Texas
and tying yellow ribbons round old Oak trees.

Lavender, like so many flowers in Floriography has two
possible meanings, devotion but also distrust.

The adorable little cat here is called Daisy, and a cutey she is too.
Representing the flower of the same name, Daisy
apparantly means purity. Has anyone told the cat? 

Whatever you may receive today, enjoy it for the true gift of love that it is and take all this with an enormous pinch of salt.  Just be thankful we are not living in the Victorian times.

Happy Valentine's Day

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Go for it Greens!

At last, with the weather looking a little better, (for now) and everything outside looking somewhat perkier I can pick out some new subjects. Perhaps those hellebores? In my recent post on these cheery little blighters I had mentioned that although I had completed a couple of monochrome studies of Helleborus Foetidus I had not yet tackled a watercolour piece. It was tempting, but I wanted to have a go at something different.

Completed for Assignment 2, this Hellebore
perhaps has a chance to shine in full technicolour 

Instead of the hellebore, I decided to pick out a small branch of Cirrhosa 'Wisley Cream', a winter flowering clematis. A couple of weeks ago, I praised this rugged little flower for it's longevity and prolific capacity for flowers. Still going strong, I decided to put one on paper before the season finally ends.

All ready to go. 

Pretty, but not in a loud, blowsy manner, the flowers of Cirrhosa, 'Wisley Cream' are very pale yellow, almost green single blooms. The leaves are shiny, rounded and a lush green, forming a frothy little cluster around the flowers. A dainty and delicate specimen that is offset by the reddish bark of the branches.

Deciding on a sinuous, curving composition to accentuate the growth habit, I hope to show the flowers and buds off at their best, and get most of the leaves to behave themselves by facing forward. There will be lots of fine details to challenge me and I am glad that my new brushes arrived today, as my old ones have become a bit worn with  my slightly vigorous handling.

From left: Da Vinci 'Cosmotop' mix B size 6
Useful for mixing and big washes; Da Vinci 'Maestro'
Sizes 1 and 2, extra fine points for detailed work and
finally, a Rowney 'Diana' size 3, heard they were good
so just for a try out, got one.  

Some of the greens mixed from blues and
yellows. Now I tend to add a touch of red
to add a little more depth

All the shades of green on this study should prove challenging as I tend not to use pre-mixed greens too often. There will be lots of consultation and analysis of my greens chart to help me get the colours right. The leaves themselves look interesting too, with lots of veining and delicate, round, curving shapes going on. I have tackled these before with two examples being added to my 30/30 leaf challenge page. Although my earlier examples came out quite well, they had more of a yellow, autumnal tinge, whereas these ones are full-on spring green.

Adding a lighter touch, the delicate Cirrhosa, Wisley Cream',
with ivy leaf , grasses and primrose.  

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Back to the Sketchbook

Yesterday was a wet and blisteringly cold day here in Hampshire. The plan was to collect some new subjects from the garden for a new composition but the weather had done it's work and the damage was done. Limp and lacklustre hellebores, sad snowdrops and as for my lovely winter flowering clematis, which was going to be the star of the show and had been going great guns for weeks, well that was looking bedraggled and weather beaten. 

Not feeling brave enough for the rather long walk to the shops, I decided to work on some sketchbook exercises that needed catching up with. Always a good fall-back when the weather and self-motivation are a bit low. Of course, this also gives a great opportunity to revisit old friends amongst the pages and see them in a new light. Something that perhaps didn't work well way back on Assignment 6, might look really good for something in the Portfolio. So, back to the sketchbook to see what I could find.

I really enjoyed painting this little Fuchsia for Assignment 4
last Summer and would like to do more.

Sketch and colour notes for Rosa Canina or, Dog Rose
for Working in the Field.
Now with the addition of a couple of hips and a dissection.
The tiny little seed is just seen in the corner.    

The leaves got a bit overdone on this Bramble
but I like the overall look of it.

Working on some rose hips, sketches and dissections for my, 'working in the field' piece and starting to put ideas together for the 'mixed flower' assignment I felt the plans and compositions had really begun to take shape. The roses looked lovely last summer, but I had to wait for the hips to form, and although I had left it a bit late, there were some lovely bright red hips still on the plant. So not a bad day after all.    

One from the archives. This is the little book that I find
invaluable for indentifying wild flowers 

A typical page including description and example of habitat.

My Cranesbill and Bramble sketchbook study.
Purple flowers really are some of my favourites.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Sore Point Snowdrops!

Well, the snowdrops are as finished as they are going to be. Not quite the mini-masterpiece I was aiming for but good enough to go in the sketchbook for future reference.

The problem was the leaves. Always a tricky one when there are loads of them and they are crossing this way and that through the composition. The drawing looked good to start with but, as I worked through the stems and leaves I could tell that I wouldn't really like the finished result. So I completed a few, just to get the feel of the colours and textures and left it at that. Fickle, I know but sometimes when something isn't coming together there is no point, (here's a turn of phrase for you!) 'flogging a dead horse'. Difficult to picture my poor old snowdrops in quite the same manner but I am sure you get the point. Easy come, easy go and somethimes you have to know when something isn't worth continuing, regardless of what you do.  Better luck next time.

All in a tangle. There was something not right about
those leaves at the back.