Wednesday, 27 June 2012

That Cranesbill!!

Well, back to the matter in hand, the fieldwork study, and the one that was always going to make me nervous, Cranesbill pratense. These delicate blue flowers with elegant stems and fern-like leaves are just beautiful when seen growing in drifts by the roadside or in amongst a hedge, as they do here.

Suffering for your art, just check out those nasty nettles lurking in the background

Pretty flowers though.

Unfortunately, (or fortunately!), depending on how it goes, they are my tutor's favourite wildflower, and I am sure she will have high expectations of anyone who chooses to paint them. In this case, me! The flowers are tricky as they have a tendency to change colour with age, (as many do, of course). Deep purple when they are opening to pale blue when they are fully open and all the time with some pinky shades going on too.

There has been much colour testing and trying out of different mixes. In the end there are about four different mixes in the finished flowers and although this sounds a lot, I couldn't put a lot on as the light bleaches the colours to almost nothing in places. Hence, a light touch. This actually seems to be the norm with the wildflowers I have chosen as they are all-short lived, fragile little numbers.

Step 1.
Winsor Violet, Indanthrene Blue, Ultramarine Light,
Permanent Rose and a range of Mid-Tones.
The centres have a greenish colour.
Olive Green and some of the purply
mid-tone helped here. 

To give the suggestion of habitat, (which is something we have to include on this one) I decided to use graphite for the grasses. As I have used graphite elsewhere in this piece, i thought this might be a nice reflection. We'll see.

The seed capsule, (the cranes bill)
and other little buds.
Now for the leaves.

Whilst visiting my site, I noticed how much it had changed since my first visit last year, and also noted that many of the trees were also starting to develop their fruit.

The Dog Rose has spread all over the hedge bank

From little acorns, great oaks grow!

The cutest conkers I have ever seen!

Oh, and just as an aside here, I will be off the grid for a short time as I have to go into hospital for, 'a little something'. Hopefully, normal service will be resumed next week. See you then! x   

Monday, 25 June 2012

Turning Japanese

There has been much to enjoy with my latest project. To begin with, I was dreading it. After all, five plants plus dissection, all from the same habitat is something of an ask. Plus, and this is something of a small confession, I had to start again due to an accidental splash on my work. A total right off of course, but there you are. Luckily it was quite early on and I hadn't got too far into the painting but it was a rush to get the next one underway I can tell you. It certainly held up my belief and trust in tracing my drawings and keeping them, (just in case).

Going down a completely different road, I have discovered these fabulous Japanese folded fabric flowers called Kanzashi. I first found out about these from my new friend Emily who makes wonderful brooches, fascinators and all number of lovelies. Kanzashi, like origami are made from multiple folds from one small piece of fabric to make a petal. You make however many you want, thread them all together and, voila! Apparently this is a traditional skill that was practised by trainee Geisha and worn as hair ornaments! Who would have thought!!    

So, excited to give it a go this weekend, I made one or two myself by following some instructions I found online. There is something theraputic about doing something fiddly, knitting, embroidery, patchwork, jewellery making, you name it and I'll have a go at it, and since I have got loads of gorgeous fabrics leftover from my patchwork project bag, these may multiply...

First attempt...

...and a back view

And once the confidence built, I tried some different folding styles. It all gets very addictive this, and already the orders from the the house are coming in!

All fingers and thumbs on this one.

Oh now steady on!

All together now...

...they just make you smile.
Just need to find some special buttons and bits and bobs
to finish them off at the centre.
Brooches or hairclips on the back? Hmmm. 


Wednesday, 20 June 2012

A Thorny Issue

I hate the sight of blood, especially my own. There has been plenty of it this week as I have been getting up close and personal with the thorns on the brambles. They really are nasty little blighters, sharp, long and always finding my fingers!!

Thin, long and very sharp

Ouch again!!
A different type of thorn but just as sharp.
Nice colour though.

Getting there!
To do the leaves, the thorns will get masked out.
The stuff I use doesn't lift the paint.
As close as I want to get
The stipules were tricky and still might
need a little touch up here and there.

Greens used were mixed using Lemon Yellow, Cerulean Blue and Ultramarine Light. Mixes were darkened using mid tone shades mixed with the yellows and blues used along with some Perylene Maroon. Thorns were applied with Raw Sienna, a brownish Mid Tone and more Perylene Maroon.

New discoveries are always fun, especially if it is craft related. This weekend, I will be turning my hand to something new that I am really keen to have a go at. Fabrics and folding will be involved and the results will be posted here next week.   

Those leaves are still waiting...

Monday, 18 June 2012

WIP into Shape

Well, the current work in progress is moving along. The bramble blossom has been finished and the Dog Rose flower is underway. There is still much to do and as some of my sketches are a bit patchy with the info, another field trip was necessary. So, bBetween the torrential downpours, I managed to stay dry and get a couple of photos and sketches done.

Had to start off with this Peony as it is the first year it has flowered!
Bowl of Beauty is well named

Felty buds of the bramble

Just opening. A new bud on the Dog Rose

Painting the bramble flowers was a real challenge. The flowers are almost white and look like rumpled sheets! Just a touch of Permanent Rose tinted into a mix of mid-tone seemed to work quite well for capturing the colour. Using the wet-on-wet approach for the first wash along with a very light touch of colour formed the pools and wrinkles that I worked up. 

My initial sketchbook piece for this looked far too pink and more like a rose. Remembering this and being less enthusiastic has given a better result. I just need to leave it alone! The green buds were a mix of Winsor Lemon and Cerulean to give the felty bloom. Ultramarine aded to the mix gave the darker shades.

My painting of the brambles

The garden has provided some much needed colour and fragrance over the last few days and some beautiful flowers have found their feet and come up trumps!  

Rosa 'New Dawn' is a beautiful rambling rose.
The flowers have a gorgeous fragrance and
it will keep on going throughout the summer. 

One of my favourite clematis is just coming in to
bud. Arabella has blue/purple open flowers.
I grow it with a climbing orange rose. 

Rosa 'Albertine', considered to be one of the best
rambling roses. An old variety that flowers with only one
flush of blooms. Oh, the fragrance!   

Pass! No idea on this one but it is rather lovely.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

What, No Summer?

Flaming June! What was I thinking when I was optomistic back in May. It would seem that here in Britain we are not going to get anything of a Summer just yet. Apart form a nice week back in April, followed by a hosepipe ban to save water, the rain hasn't stopped for 2 months!!  

For anyone trying to get outside to do some fieldwork sketches, this is bad. It has been so cold that many flowers are not in bloom when they should be, and some are not going to flower at all! It is very difficult to come up with something interesting and stylish when the wind has broken the stems and half the petals have been blown to the four winds!! Ah well, the joys of being a botanical artist!

Painting the Dog Rose next. Permanent Rose and a light touch I think.

Here's one from the Squirrel archive. painted when I was
studying for my A Levels.
Dark clouds and blowing a gale!
Rather summing up our recent weather.


Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Be Brave!

Before starting on the leaves for my next project I found myself going back over some of the colour charts and leaves I have already painted throughout the SBA Diploma course. Knowing how much my techniques have changed during the SBA course, it is strange to think how much I struggled with this particular area of botanical painting.

At the start of the course and particularly with Assignment 3, I dreaded painting leaves, let alone a whole page of them and was terrified at the prospect of tackling large expanses of green. My experience with botanical art was practically nil, so perhaps I was expecting a bit too much, and should have practised more, before embarking on such a challenging and arduous change of direction.   

Nandina domestica

Having a go.
Some of the leaves for the October leaf challenge 

Luckily, for some of us more hapless mortals there is Rosie Sanders. Oh how I so wish her new DVD, Painting a Leaf was out last year. There is so much valuable advice, as ever given in Rosie's clear, informative style, with loads of practical tips. Just to get us started here is a short clip of Rosie painting a Camellia leaf at lightning speed. She makes it look like a walk in the park. Enjoy!


Brambles for the fieldwork study
Looking at Rosie's work has convinced me that I need
more depth of shade and tone.
The more tonal values you can include, the greater the impact.

Same here, it's all a bit 'safe'.

Friday, 8 June 2012

Business as Usual

Well now that all the celebrations are over it's back to business as usual and back to work. Thankfully, with all the dissections finally finished, I can concentrate on flowers and leaves. The pinks and purples with a touch of rich yellow should look fresh and light amongst all the lovely greens so I am looking forward to seeing the finished result.

A small pink rose bud against some graphite detail makes for an interesting, sketchy style which I like. Permanent Rose with a touch of Ultramarine worked nicely.

Working the rose bud of the Dog Rose.
I love the mass of green frothiness. 

As always, I really like to work out a colour chart first and before I use a mix for the first time. Generally, as I work through a piece, I am always testing, mixing and checking to make sure i have the right colours. I don't leave things to chance.

A colour chart for Winsor Violet.
The flowers of the Cranesbill and Bittersweet will
use some of these mixes.

Thumbnails are a great way to test your theory for a composition. I do loads of these little sketches and add the colours to check for balance. Mixing the colours of the plants around, a bit like in a garden, helps to keep the eye moving around the piece.

Working small roughs of possible compositions
 lets me see how the colours and shapes work together.
A habit formed in my Graphic Design days.

The constant cold, rain and wind of late has done serious damage to the plants in the garden, I am glad to be working from prepared sketches and colour swatches. Working in the field it may be, not working in a great morass of soggy mud! Just a few extra visits to the hedgerow should do the trick to give me enough info to get things done. 

Hoping to get into London before the end of this month to catch Rosie Sanders' new, 'Against the Light' exhibition at Park Walk Gallery. Oh and of course the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

The Queen, A Union Jack Dog and Venus?

A four day Bank Holiday! Four days, I mean, my goodness that's nearly a week for heaven's sake! Husband has been a clever sausage and used some of his leave to have the rest of this week off, so no early starts and hopefully, a barbecue or two. Bliss. Of course, this being the start of the British Summer and the Queen's Diamond Jubilee weekend the rain came, and the Thames Pageant in London with 1000 boats taking part on Sunday was a complete wash out. Typical!

Warm and dry 'Patriotic Pooch', my contribution to
Her Majesty's Diamond Jubilee
A doggy doorstop resplendent in Union Jack livery,
does it get any better?

Here in Hampshire we are getting very excited about something else that is also going on this week, the transit of Venus. On the 5th of June, the planet Venus will pass in front of the Sun, similar to a solar eclipse. Taking about six hours to complete its transit, Venus will appear as a black dot tracking across the face of the Sun.  This is a rare phenomena and will not happen again until 2117. Those fabulous folk at NASA and the BBC are heading up a live feed and streaming video for those of us in less than perfect viewing conditions but I will try a Solar filter on my trusty telescope should the skies be clear enough.

Ready when you are! This telescope
is nearly as old as me but still manages
a fair performance.
A clear sky is less likely. 

Oh and before I forget, two of my paintings are now available as prints. The graphite piece, 'Rhododendron cilpinense' and my vegetable composition, now renamed 'Garden Fresh' are both for sale as limited edition prints via my new Portfolio page at Artists and Illustrators. With a couple of sales to really boost my confidence, I am now working on getting my Etsy page up and running.