Thursday, 31 May 2012

More Dreaded Dissections

This week, I tackled the dissections for my fieldwork piece. Lots of my fellow students have said how much they enjoyed doing this assignment and I must agree with them, it has been great fun. After the research, sketches, lots of colour charts and all the necessary prep, it has all been a really satisfying process.  

Then comes the hard part, the painting. Of course, I always start out with the best of intentions, starting to work at the top left and working my way across the page. However, this is not happening here, and I am all over the place with either brush or pencil. First came the Hypericum flowers, buds and stems, then the main stem. Then, rather than finishing the leaves, it was onto the graphite grasses and then...dissections!

The original idea of a cluster of berries.

With my initial sketches and prep, I had planned to complete two pages with lots of berries and buds including blackberries, rose hips and hypericum berries. But, after much to-ing-and-fro-ing I decided on one page with just a few dissections and the inclusion of a bug or two. Hopefully this layout will create more of a 'story' about what I found in my woodland margin hedge. 

Dissected rose hip and seeds
The two rose hips will be painted in colour.
Just hope I can make them look nice and shiny.

Just the one then!
The stem on a Tutsan has two 'fins' on either side, so I will
put in an enlarged dissection to clearly show this.
(Better safe than sorry, I don't want my tutor to think
I can't paint straight stems!)



Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Happy Snapping!

When it is so gorgeously hot and sunny outside it is very difficult to concentrate on painting. April and May have been dreadfully wet and cold so it was something of a shock to the system when all of a sudden the mercury shot up to 28 C. This, of course allows every single forecaster and newspaper headline to use that much over used phrase, "phew! What a scorcher!" Quelle surprise! (Oh, what a surprise!).   

Some of my favourite garden flowers are just coming into bud and promising a blaze of colour within the next few days. However, some of the wild flowers that seed themselves around the place, and always seem to add something of a supporting act to the showier roses and peonies, are already off!

What's this then? Perennial Cornflower
is so statuesque, and those flowers!

Ahhh, bless them. Aquilegias are so

Hello there little guy! I can't blame this little
chap from taking advantage of a spot of shade 

That Aquilegia again.
I love the shape of these flowers. 

Always thinking ahead, I  thought it might be a good idea to get a few photos out of the way and into an album for use later on. Little P has been extremely busy and is becoming something of a trusted friend. Always reliable and handy enough to keep somewhere on my person at all times, (well you never know what you might see, such as a Dalek!) I have been impressed by the performance of this camera. 

Enjoy the British Summer while you can folks, by the end of the week it will all be over. Well, maybe. Anyway these pics might come in handy for the next assignment, Working from Photographs... Happy snapping! Onwards with my bramble leaves. 

Friday, 25 May 2012

2B Or Not 2B

Sorry about the outrageous use of Shakespeare but I couldn't resist the title for this post. Working on my latest piece, I have decided to finish some of the elements in pencil. The assignment suggests the look of sketchbook pages and therefore a mixed media approach would seem appropriate as this is how I tend to work on sketches anyway.

After completing the dissected rose hip in pencil, I decided to continue the graphite theme onto the underlying grasses that would accompany the Meadow Cranesbill. A certain amount of habitat is needed in this one and as the cranesbill is a tall, hedge bank specimen, I thought this would look nice with some grasses.

The Meadow Cranesbill sketch with
Couch Grass in colour.

As I wanted to keep to a lighter touch with the pencil, I decided not to over use any grades darker than 2B, (hence the title). Using too much of the darker grades would overpower the delicate lilac/blue of the cranesbill, and this, after all will be the focus.  

A bit faint, but work in progress.
Adding the background grasses to a Meadow Cranesbil.
Perhaps I should have finished the painting first.

Quick meadow update! The seeds have germinated, hurrah. Bring on the colour.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Bees and Other Bugs

Moving on with the fieldwork studies, the flowers of the Tutsan and dissections of the rose hip are finished. Now I am now tackling the stem of the Tutsan and then it's onto the leaves. The stem has a reddish tinge to it along with a pale mid-green. Of course for this my favourite Perylene Maroon will come into use.

Along with the five plant species, there is also the opportunity to add any insects that can be found within the chosen habitat. Oh goody I thought, I would really like to have a go at painting the odd insect, and so I have chosen a Buff-Tailed Bumble Bee and a little bright red Ladybird. For lots of inspiration on how to get my bee looking lifelike I have been paying lots of visits to Valerie Littlewood at Pencil and Leaf. Here you will see every kind of bee beautifully painted with the flowers they feed from.

Here are some sketchbook efforts:

What do they say about red and green? Should never be seen!
A really dodgy leaf but that's not the point!

A little fanciful perhaps, but a starting point nonetheless

The ultimate high-wire act

And just for the sheer indulgence of it...

Summer arrived today. After weeks of rain and this clematis
flower was bathed in sunshine and finally opened.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

A Stitch in Time...

Vintage textiles are something of a passion of mine. There is something about the quality of the details and design of clothing from the past that really cannot be copied now. In particular any embroidery or beading would once have been completed by hand, wheras now any details can be replicated by machine, and anything done by hand puts a hefty premium on the price.

For me, the era from 1930 to the early 1950's captured everything in Britain, from pre-war growth to wartime thrift and then onto the continued post war rationing and the so-called 'New Look'. Designs were influenced by the economic state of  the country so the lack of everything from buttons to fabric started 'the make do and mend' ideal of remaking your own clothes which became a valued skill. Of course vintage is now seen as a fun trend of wearing something unique and 'retro' is celebrated in exuberant style at Wayne Hemingway's Vintage Festival in July.   

Looking through some of my collection reminded me of how beautiful textiles can be at one end of the design spectrum and at the other so functional. So whether it is a women's wartime naval overcoat or an early 1930's handpainted silk dressing gown, all of these things have their place in history. Oh, and I still wear all of mine, so here are a few favourites:

Short green silk, hand-embroidered dressing gown
from the 1940s.
It looks like the embelishment was added by the owner
as a way to make it more special. 

Early 1950's cotton lace blouse.
This one has tiny seed buttons and bobbles all around the edge 

This is a more modern embroidered design but still worthy.


This one is my absolute favourite and extemely fragile.
I didn't even dare iron it before taking this photo.
This is an early 1930's handpainted silk kimono style
dressing gown.
The design of chrysanthemums is all around the hem with
smaller flowers all over the rest of the garment. 

Tuesday, 15 May 2012


After a couple of days of much feverish and nervous brushwork, the yellow flowers are nearly finished. Phew!! This is an enormous relief as, like with many of my counterparts on the SBA course, yellow flowers are something to be feared and avoided. However, Tutsan flowers are small and the yellow will balance the pinks and purples of the other wild flowers on the page.

This week has also seen me getting to grips with my Facebook profiles and joining the forums. After all of the lovely friend invites and comments, I can certainly see why people get addicted to networking. I am also extremely grateful for the patience of those folk who have been trying to get on my pages. Without me 'doing something' to it nothing will happen. Perhaps I should get a few pointers from the 10 year old next door? Of course this sort of thing must not allow me to neglect the job in hand, getting the DLDC finished and making sure I don't mess up the rest of my work.

Today should also see the arrival of my prints from my lovely new friends at the printers. I am very excited and will probably have my nose glued to the window all morning, keeping an eye out for postie! I just hope I can keep a steady hand to start on the leaves!

French Ultramarine, Light Red and Cadmium Yellow came in handy for the sepals and married well with the flowers. Again, the sepals are quite shiny, so lots of highlight was needed and right at the base, a touch of red.  

Just the bottom bud left and
perhaps a little more shading here and there, but quite happy!

Friday, 11 May 2012

Back to the Botanicals

After whiling away a couple of days, with other activities and sorting out those prints, it's time to get down to the business of, 'getting some paint on that blasted paper'! 'Husband' has such a way with words but hit the nail on the head there. Procrastinating is not something that should be indulged in when there is a deadline to work to and, much as I realise that I do have a lot of time to do it, I also have a short stay in hospital looming so time, as they say, is of the essence.   

Second time around, I am pleased with how this assignment is coming together. Tackling the yellow flowers first was daunting, but I had to get them out of the way early as they really are my nemesis. Tutsan flowers are quite small and as their stamens stick up, they tend to look a bit like a pincushion.

I'll pick out the highlights on the stamens with a scalpel and add their shadows against the petals last of all. For this I will use a purply-grey shade and a very fine brush. The green 'berry' forming in the centre has a lovely fresh colour and sheen, a bit like an egg. Remembering some of the early pencil exercises where I rendered a circle to look like a ball came in handy, as it's much the same.   

Phew!! Nearly done.
Those yellow flowers really are tricky little customers.
Just the rest of it to do now!

Don't take any chances.
Lots of trying out to get the colour right.
And a lilac toned shadow mix 


Thursday, 10 May 2012


Today the proof copies of the two paintings I sent to the printers have arrived. Rhododendron cilpinense is my early graphite assignment and 'Go for it Greens', as it is now being called is a mixed garden vegetable study. Mum really liked them both when I painted them, and as it was her birthday a few weeks ago, the first prints will be a present for her.  

Although smaller than the eventual A3, the detail on these samples is really sharp and I am amazed that so much of the subtle colour changes have not been lost. After looking at loads of paper samples, I was torn between two, Hahnemule Photo Rag and Somerset Enhanced Velvet. Photo Rag is slightly thicker and smoother than the velvet but I loved the texture of the latter, so that's what I have gone for. The real bonus of printing is that if I change my mind, I can always get another one done.

Of course, these prints are the first of hopefully many that will go on sale. 

After approval is print time! 


Tuesday, 8 May 2012


Anything that has great colour and texture always catches my attention. it could be an interesting brickwork style or an embossed leather book jacket or, in this case knitting. Over the past year I have been teaching myself to knit. Mum of course is a great knitter and has been giving me lots of pointers during my struggles but, never making things easy for myself, I am drawn to interesting shapes and textures, particularly in 'vintage' styles. My collection of books is an ever-growing library and although I will never knit half of the designs, I love the history and technical difficulty of some of the pieces.

My favourite and most difficult design so far, a lacy cardigan

As the rain has shown no sign of stopping, I have been using the time indoors to finish some of my other knitting and patchwork projects. A little old-fashioned I guess but that's the type of girl I am. There is nothing better than a cup of tea in one hand and a vintage knitwear book in the other, unless there are knitting needles in both of course!

Another favourite, simple but really nice on.

Susan Crawford's vintage anthology of knitwear design
from 1930 - 1959
Plus a quick update on what's on the drawing board. Well, the 'working in the field' project is all drawn up and ready to go, again. Decided to go for a single page of all five wildflower species rather than two pages. After some advice from Jane Leycester-Page, it does look like a better composition, although it took me ages to redraw everything.


Friday, 4 May 2012

Rain Stops Play, (boo)

The garden has definitely had a good watering this past few weeks. Now, anyone living in Britain will know that to be something of an understatement, even though, we are still considered to be in a drought! No wonder we are obsessed with the weather.

As it is May we are meant to be in the full swing of Spring and beginning to enjoy early Summer flowers, (providing us botanical artists with lots of new season subjects to paint), along with the usual round of picnics, walks in the country, and the occasional game of cricket. Even as I write this it has just been said that the British Asparagus Festival  and the Badminton Horse Trials, both British institutions have been cancelled this year. Rain has definitely stopped play!

Even worse, many of my poor plants look very bedraggled and the wet, cold weather has done nothing to help them grow. Still being optimistic, I took 'Little P' into the garden for its first outing to see what we could find...

Hooray for the Bramley's...

and Clematis montana always delivers...

and this year the Bluebells and Forget-me-nots
are everywhere. Must add some Snake's-Head Fritillaries.

There is always 'Flaming June'?

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

A Touch of Magic

Well now, have you got yours yet? Yes I mean 'the magic eraser', that little block of nothing that seems to do so much. Recently, at the SBA seminar there was much buzz about this little miracle product and everyone I spoke to had various stories about how they had been introduced to it, ( I came across it some years ago, from a blog of all places, although Billy Showell also mentions it in one of her books, Vegetable Portraits I think). So, just in case you have no idea what this thing is and have not yet been introduced to its rather interesting artistic qualities, here for your delectation is a new one of mine...

There are, of course other brands of magic eraser out there,
but just look at that wonderfully kitsch packaging.
Who could resist? 

Do exactly what it says on the box to 'erase' marks off walls, tiles, trainers (really!), baths, sinks...oh yes and watercolour paper! Who would have thought that something that resembles a big white lump of sponge could get those really annoying mistakes and drops of paint off your work without seriously damaging the surface, (although I find it is best used in places where you don't want to paint later as it does 'raise' slightly). Just like magic?