Monday, 30 April 2012

Flowers on my Furniture

Yesterday I had a bit of a tidy up and move about of the furniture in my spare bedroom. With Mum and Dad coming for a visit at the end of the week there is always a bit of a rush to spruce the place up a bit. Not that they are particularly picky but you know what it's like.

This little bench is one of my favourite pieces of furniture. It is a one off piece bought from a shop called Batavia during a holiday in Dunkeld, Scotland and brought back home in the boot of the car, (along with everything else). We had no idea where to put it but the price was a bargain and I knew I had to have it. It is not very old at all and was made in Indonesia by a collective who make things out of a native hardwood and export to the UK. 

A frantic journey home, but here all in one piece.

Of course for me it was the tactile little details that really won me over. The simple hand carved floral motifs really are so pretty but not too over the top on this little piece. It sits at the bottom of the bed against the chimney wall and provides a nice change to the usual sort of thing. As an added bonus, the seat lifts up so is a great place for storing some of 'husbands' stuff.

It's those little details...

...that make all the difference


Thursday, 26 April 2012

My New Camera

At long, long last, I have bought a new camera. Not the big, technical Digital SLR I had first fallen head over heels for but a slick little number that fits nicely into my pocket. It pays to wait it would seem.

My Dad has always had really nifty camera gear and over the weekend, apart from going to the SBA seminar, I had a go with some of his stuff. Yes, there was the Canon looking all gorgeous and shiny screaming, buy me now!!! But then there was this tiny little thing, sleek, uncomplicated and with all the oomph of some of its bigger digital brothers. Hmmm, I thought, perhaps this would be the way to go after all.   

So let me introduce you to 'Little P'. He is a Panasonic SZ 1 with 10x Optical Zoom, Leica Lens and 16 megapixels, (plus, the price was incredible, always a bonus)!! Well goody, whatever that all means. Dad and 'Husband' reassuringly state that this technical jargon is a good thing and my pictures will be gorgeous. Don't know about that fellas, I'm no Mario Testino, have you seen my photos lately?

'Little P', all ready to go!! 

In order to improve my photo taking skills I have set up a daily, (or weekly, or monthly, or whenever I can) photo journal on Blipfoto. At least I will get lots of practice.  

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

The Network Juggernaut that is...Facebook!

Well, there it is, I have gone and joined Facebook! And about time too some of you might say. For ages I resisted the urge to put myself onto the ultimate networking tool for fear of past misdemeanours catching up with me, (truthfully, I just couldn't be bothered). However, for weeks many of my fellow bloggers have continued to ask, 'why aren't you on Facebook? Come and join us at the SBA forum', I felt such a neanderthal! This weekend at the SBA Seminar, I gave in.

So, after much techie assistance from my 'IT and Business Manager', (in other words 'Husband') Sketchbook Squirrel is now a small addition to the Facebook empire. And here it is as a rather handy shortcut addition to my blog. At least I can now keep up with all the goings on in the lives of my fellow bloggers and SBA chums, and share with you more of what I get up to. We are certainly a large and varied band at the SBA so joining the botanical art forums will be good fun and there will be plenty to talk about. So, I'm going in, wish me luck!

Next on the agenda, a spanking new Etsy shop for my prints and other floral works and then? Perhaps Twitter! Then again, that might be a tad too much. So watch this space... Oh yes and I now have a profile pic, a Bleeding Heart. I ask you, what was I thinking. Ah well, it will do for now.

My profile picture on blog and Facebook

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Seminar Day and Tired Feet!!

This weekend saw me heading up the motorway to London. Yes it was the SBA Annual Exhibition at Westminster Central Hall and, more importantly for me, the diploma course seminar. A chance to 'pick the brains' of the experts should never be missed and as I had the opportunity to go twice, the seminar was an absolute must.

Lots of the tutors were there and, although Course 8 is a large cohort, the hall was not too full. The morning started at 10.00 and from the word go it was tours and practical advice all the way. Luckily there is always a good lunch and enough tea to keep everyone smiling. It is a pretty long day though, especially if like me, you like to get as much out of it as possible.

The bit that really made the day was getting to the exhibition and meeting fellow Bloggers Vicki and Jess. Like Vicky, lots of the students are from overseas so you get to chat to people from as far afield as New Zealand or as near to you as just down the road. New acquaintances made with a whole new bunch of people, my email will be red hot.

A pair of aching feet after a long hard day

Happiness is a large cup of tea... 

...and a view of Mum and Dad's garden after the rain

There is so much to take in that the day flies by and with a notebook full of scribblings, there will be plenty of reflection over the coming days.  Thanks to all who made the day such a good one, I had such a laugh. Particular thanks go to Theresa S and Gail F. Keep in touch gals.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

A Botanical Blast from the Past

Yesterday, as I was rummaging about for a suitable plastic sleeve in order to protect my work as it wings its way to the printers, I found this...

A curiosity from my previous life as a Graphic Designer 

This typography piece was completed as one of a series of logos for a tourism advertising campaign for London Underground. Actually, it was a college assignment as part of my BTec way back in the day when I was training to become a Graphic Designer, ( ah, happy days). Each of the four logo segments had a different graphic to match the theme, (if I remember, there was Historical, Maritime, Financial and Botanical) and together they formed a circle. This one, for Botanical Living London represented the London Royal Parks such as Regent's and Hyde and of course, Kew Gardens.

Hand rendered with black ink on very smooth white board, and with the central design taking inspiration from the famous 'Daisy' logo from 60s fashion icon Mary Quant, this piece took an absolute age, but I had great fun doing it. Considering that this was completed some x number of years ago and I hadn't even remembered that I had kept it tucked away, I was amused at how funny things turn around and you occasionally end up back where you started. Well they say, 'that's life'!!   

Monday, 16 April 2012

Five Days and Counting

Well, here we go again. There are just five days to go before seminar day. For me, the SBA DLDC seminar day will be the start of Course 8 and the countdown to the completion of my Diploma. At last! I feel like I have been stuck on hold for about a year and missed out on something by not finishing with Course 7.   

The time of course has not been wasted and I have been busy working on some new pieces and sketchbook up to date. Margaret Stevens, the Director of the course has put significant emphasis on the keeping of a good sketchbook and likes to have a sneak preview of progress at the seminar. Luckily she had a good browse through mine last year so I don't think I will be lugging it along this time around.

Seminar day is an opportunity to meet tutors and get a really good insight into their experience and techniques. A lot of advice and sharing goes on and then there is the exhibition! Lots of great work on show by some of the leading botanical artists.

But the real bonus is meeting fellow students. This year I am hoping to meet up with some fellow bloggers. Although how we will all recognise each other will all be a bit odd. "Pardon madam, I am not staring at your chest, I am trying to read your name badge". Ahem!! Quite!

What I mustn't forget.
Programme for the day, Invite to preview and
a little something to cheer up any outfit.
Oh yes! And a Birthday Card for my Mum.
Happy Birthday Mum xx
Oops! Must not forget my own name badge! 

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Heavenly Paper, (and prints)

Paper. It isn't something that one should normally get over-excited about but this week I am. Over the past couple of weeks I have been sourcing out a good art printer to make some of my work into prints. It is an absolute minefield out there, I mean, what do you go for? There's German Etching, Photo Rag, Enhanced Velvet...the list goes on, (and in some cases, on and on). It is a quandary. Luckily the folk who print are a nice lot and send out lots of lovely samples and price lists to help you through your choice. Then there's the scanning process!   

Some of the gorgeous papers care of
The Dot Foundry and

People seem to like my work. Family and friends, and friends of friends, and friends of friends of friends and so on seem to like my work that is, and often ask for a print. OK then, I say and then the deed is done, a purchase. A real life buyer, whoopee!!! Now that really is something to get excited about. Here are three of the current favourites from the portfolio.

A selection of garden veg

Stylish in monochrome
Rhododendron cilpinense

My latest composition of Cirrhosa 'wisley cream'

And there is a growing waiting list for this one that I still need to finish. There is enough room for one more, and rather than the oak leaf that I had first intended for the space, I think I will replace it with one of the gorgeous silver leaves from Heuchera 'Cinnebar Silver'.

The October 30/30 Leaf challenge
Not quite 30 and does it matter that I am finishing
it all off in April?

Now comes the hard part, getting a print done, or a couple of prints, or maybe ten prints. Rather than use the good old trusty that languishes only to print out complaint letters or the odd something on line, a proper art print, on proper watercolour print paper is the order of the day. So here goes with Somerset Enhanced Velvet from St. Cuthberts Mill. Somerset paper is a lovely weighty, mould made, 100% cotton paper that has a fine velvety texture and handle that is perfect for detailed botanical work. Paper heaven. I just hope my work is up to the job.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Never Mind the Chocolate, Get a Heuchera, (or two)!!

Well, as it's just past the Easter weekend there is always the habit of over-indulging on chocolate for the rest of the week. This year, we went out of our way not to buy all the usual egg orientated chocolate. Instead, as I was visiting Mum and Dad this weekend and the weather was somewhat fabulous, we had a barbecue. Not the usual Easter fare I grant you, but we just couldn't miss the opportunity of a hearty feast al fresco.

Whilst whiling away the days, I took in a visit to one of the local plant nurseries near our home in Essex, and picked up a couple of stunners. I am always on the lookout for new subjects for my paintings and I wasn't disappointed. Heucheras are a fabulous plant with everything going for them, hardy, evergreen, flowers and a colour to die for. Heuchera Marmelade couldn't pass me by as I just could not resist the cerise undertones and orangey spectrum of the leaves. Heuchera Cinnebar Silver is a more subtle affair with silvery-grey leaves and red flowers. It found its way into my basket anyway.

Heuchera Cinnebar Silver
Beautiful plum/grey leaves with a silvery flock finish
Offset by tiny sprays of red-brown flowers 

A real showstopper, Heuchera Marmelade
Orange, yellow and red leaves have a bright cerise pink underside
Flowers are a pinky red. 

One of my favourite paintings of a Heuchera is by Angeline de Meester. Her portrait of Heuchera 'Hollywood' was on display at last year's SBA annual exhibition, although she has also painted a series including Heuchera 'Silver Scrolls' and Heuchera 'Creme Brulee' both of which are equally beautiful. Once the flowers are in full flow, I hope to paint one or both of my lovely purchases.

Heuchera "Hollywood"
Angeline de Meester's stunning Heuchera 'Hollywood'
One of a series of paintings

This past week has also seen the final grades for the SBA DLDC Course 7 students. As I started on course 7, it was interesting to hear how everybody got on. All seems to have gone well and there are a good many high passes and credits amongst the results. Some of the lucky ones managed a distinction, which is something of an achievement, but all I am sure are well pleased with their progress. If you were one of those celebrating finishing the course this weekend, many congratulations and a jolly well done on getting so far.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Dazzling Dissections?

The art of an accurate dissection for botanical illustrations is something of a unique challenge. Since I tackled the dissection of a Clematis Montana back in May last year for an SBA assignment, I haven't tried one since, (perhaps because it didn't come out too well). My latest piece needs to demonstrate a dissection so it's here we go again!

A seed head section from Clematis Montana tetrarose 

My slightly irregular dissections.
Put some petals on the one on the left will you!!
Must try harder methinks!

Wildflowers are notoriously fragile and short-lived, painting them was a real challenge. But then came the dissections! Waiting for the seed heads, berries and hips to arrive is a painstakingly long affair but late last summer I was rewarded with some real delights to use as dissections for Working in the Field. 

So here are some of the outline drawings ready to be painted, a little faint yes, but I cannot wait to get going with the colour. 

Stand well back!
Meadow Cranesbill seed heads have a high
velocity method of spreading their seeds.

Dog Rose hips contain hairy little seeds

And with some colour

A little while ago Jess at Inky Leaves recommended this book, or should I say tome, (it's got a fair bit in it) that covers every inch of a plant's bits and pieces in great detail and helps the reader to understand what they are actually looking at, of course there is also a great deal of 'stuff' which went right over my head, but I love a challenge.

Plant Systematics by Michael G Simpson is one of those hefty scientific, University textbook type affairs that booksellers love to file under the, 'rare' or 'science' label therefore putting a hefty price tag on, (over £50 on Amazon and £70 at WH Smith, ouch). Libraries also tend to cling on to such publications like the Crown Jewels as people are fond of pinching them. So much so that some won't let you take it out of the building, spoil sports! Ah well, back to the magnifying glass.

One for the connoisseurs amongst you
but a worthy find that has loads of diagrams

Like this one! Getting to the nitty-gritty
of floral diagrams

Sarah Simblet in her book, Botany for the Artist also gives some great sketches and drawings of plant dissections.

And in detail.
Getting down to the business of cutting up your prize blooms
 to find out what's going on in there



Monday, 2 April 2012

A Feast for the Eyes

The cover of the May issue of  Artists and Illustrators Magazine really caught my eye. Magazines are not really something that I buy on a monthly basis, or get truly excited about, but if there is something that I like the look of, I get it.

This month there is an interview with Australian artist Anne Middleton. Her approach to painting is truly extraordinary and stunningly beautiful, I was immediately hooked. Trained in mural painting in Italy, Anne works in oils on Belgian linen and at an epic scale. Panels are worked separately to create exquisitely detailed murals, the latest being her Gates of Paradise series. Exceptionally detailed, encapsulating botanical and natural history themes in their execution, Anne's subjects include both the flora and fauna of the rainforests in Australia with colour and vibrancy to match their scale. Botanical artists working to a larger scale include both Rosie Sanders and Anna Knights among others, but nothing compares to this!

As I am halfway through reading the article, there is no doubt more to discover about this talented artist, but I just had to share these terrific pictures with you. So, feast your eyes and see if you are not captivated by her style. Something delicious to motivate and inspire us all.

Has a plum ever looked so plumptious?

Scabiosa Blossom, Red Tulip and Baroque Cherries III

Detail from two of Anne Middleton's
Gates of Paradise mural

The artist at work and Dragonfly Frond

If this preview has whetted your appetite, Anne Middleton has an exhibition coming up in 2013 at the Rebecca Hossack Gallery in London