Monday, 30 July 2012

No. 11

Time to get back to business. After the excitement and spectacle of the Olympic Opening Ceremony came the disappointment of the Men's Cycling Road Race. No gold medal for Sprint World Champ, Mark Cavendish, (again!) Never mind Mark, there's always next time!

So, time to get on to Assignment 11. This time it's design a greetings card time and although this may seem like an absolute gift, it's a tricky one. Do you go for a natural apporoach with a scenic background and plants and flowers around the edge? Or maybe have a gorgeous tied bunch with a colourful ribbon? The choice is endless. I have an idea of the sort of flowers I would like to use but still have the decision to make about how to present them.

Just now, I am taking loads of photos and getting colour matches and sketches into my sketchbook for reference. We shouldn't really use live subjects to work from on this one, as this would get away from the true object of the challenge to work from photos. So, no cheating!  Here are a few snaps I took whilst out for a short walk with 'Husband'. 

Greater Knapweed
A gorgeous purple and elegant shape
make this one a serious contender.

Not bad from above either.

A new one for me, Teasel.
The flower heads are huge, so perhaps
a little impractical.

More Teasel by the roadside

Up close the flower heads are really quite pretty.
More purple, can you see a pattern here?

Oh yes, before I forget, I finally got the Etsy shop up and running. More prints will be available soon, as will some of my Kanzashi flower corsages, which have poved to be something of a hit.


Wednesday, 25 July 2012

The End of an Epic, (And the Olympic Games).

Well, what happened there then? It really does feel like someone switched a big light on and turned the heating up at the same time. Oh yes, and remembered to turn the tap off! Yes at last, the rain has stopped, the sun has come out and now we have temperatures of 28C. Summer has come to Britain, all but two months late.

Just in time for all this glorious weather, my epic piece, Working in the Field is finished and off to the tutor. Hooray! It has been quite a time, and I have really found out quite a bit more about a piece of land I thought I knew really well. On that subject, how can I forget the Olympics, starting here on Friday. Growing up just on the outskirts of East London, and going back often to visit Mum and Dad, I get to see the park area in Stratford quite often. It really is something to see close up. 

Dog rose, with rose hip

My little ladybird.
I would have liked to have preserved more shine and gone for a brighter red, but there you go.

As if we needed reminding, the 2012 Olympic Games are nearly upon us here in Britain. These have been labelled the 'Sustainable Games', with everything being geared towards enviromental friendliness, legacy and sustainability. The Velodrome is a beautiful building and is clad on the outside with wood. So, expect 'organic', 'green' and 'local produce' to be the buzz words for the next four weeks. Not being a massive sport fan, or being too impressed by the nightmare of the road closures and lane restrictions, I am finding all the flurry and professional 'Brit' cheeriness being demonstrated by some of our politicians and 'celebrities' a bit wearing. Roll on the cycling, ladies beach volleyball for 'husband' and Danny Boyle and his, 'Chocolate Box Blighty Spectacular'. Should be fun!


The bit I like is what they have done to the location. The 250 acre ex-industrial site at Stratford has been transformed with some major architecture, (I love the velodrome) but it is the flora that really got me interested. Over ten acres of wild flower meadows, a new woodland and the new RHS Great British Garden have already been established. The River Lea is a major tributary of the Thames and runs through the site. Here, the UK's largest urban river and wetland planting scheme has been established, with over 30 native species. Along with cycle routes, picnic gardens and two hectares of allotments, I think I will save my visit for next summer.

Taking growing your own a bit far.
Found this growing in amongst my
wildflower meadow.
Apparently wheat will be included in
bouquets of flowers at the Olympics. 

Monday, 23 July 2012

The Home Straight

Aha, I hear you cry. Yes indeedy, I am so nearly there I can see the finishing line ahead. I am really trying not to rush the very last bit though, so much can go horribly wrong. Forgetting the sketchbook pages, or even worse, not listing the subjects on the back of the work can ruin all that hard effort! As it is I very nearly forgot to put that little ladybird in, so he was the last bit to be done. Bless!

Luckily I had a pretty free weekend, (apart from tuning in to watch Bradley Wiggins become the first Brit ever to win the Tour de France in it's 99 year history), so I was able to get some more of the painting done. The deadline is for the end of this week so at least the paint will be dry when it goes in the post!

The little collection of bits and pieces for the rose are all done now. For the rose hips I used Cadmium Red Deep to get a really pigment rich finish. A little yellow in the mix here and there added to the tonal values by showing an orangey colour as the hips ripen. The tumbling seeds were tricky to do, but I'm glad I added them. Just a bit of fun.

The finished dissections for the Dog Rose
Cadmium Red Deep, Cadmium Yellow
and Lemon Yellow made most of the
washes for the rose hips.   

So, just a few more washes to go, the details here and there and not forgetting, that little ladybird, and I'm done. Hooray! As if, there's still plenty to do on this bittersweet, but at least the washes are on and the detail is getting there.

The Bittersweet flowers used a mix of
Winsor Violet, Cobalt and some Ultramarine.
Not finished yet, the leaves used Lemon Yellow and
Cerulean Blue for a bright green base.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

And the Next One

Well, today is a milestone day at Squirrel HQ as this is the 100th blog post. Has it really been that many? Ah well, onto the business in hand.  This is such a BIG assignment, I am really hoping the end will come soon! Looking at the amount of shrubby specimens I picked, I really am beginning to wish I had chosen a riverside or meadow where the flowers that grow tend to be slightly more sparing, wispy type efforts. All stems and small flowers perhaps? Ah well, maybe next time. The work goes on and now I am on four and five, Bittersweet and Dog Rose, the end is surely in sight.

The finished Tutsan leaves.

Some early washes and detail going on the Dog Rose.

It seems a tad premature but I am already contemplating the next one to come. This will be a design for a greetings card with the option of a landscape background. Cripes! That sounds bigger than this one. It goes that the more you progress, the more challenging the assignment, with lots more to do. As it is, I only have another two to go, the card design and a mixed study before I get to work on the final Portfolio of three pieces. Now then, a wealth of possibilities available there! 

The meadow flowers in the garden are really coming into their own just now. The idea was to encourage more wildlife such as bees and butterflies into our patch and secondly, to fill a dull, scrubby area that had been doing very little. The seeds were sown some months ago, but due to the miserable weather we have been having, nothing happened for ages, then, boom! Cosmos, poppies, cornflowers and a plethora of other species have really cheered up the area of scrubland we had in our garden. Thinking of using some of these for the next assignment.

Very patriotic, Red, White and Blue.
Not intentional I hasten to add, this was a premixed packet.

Cosmos are such cheery flowers
and these are in my favourite purple.

At last, the bees are here!

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Three Down...

and two to go. The Tutsan leaves were, as predicted a great challenge. Lots of colour, lots of veining and lots of light and shade. Still, I enjoyed doing these and loved sloshing lots of paint about, managing to use a big brush to get the washes on. So much of the work I do is with tiny brushes and magnifying glasses, it makes a change to work on a bigger scale.

The leaves are quite yellow in places and have some brownish-red markings as a characteristic. making sure I didn't forget to put these on, I mixed the colour early so I would remember to use it! Trying not to overdo the veining, in order to maintain some of the lovely shine wasn't easy, it is so tempting to keep going.

At the beginning of the day, there is lots to do.
At least the early washes are on.
One side of each leaf appeared more yellow than
the other. 

Building up the detail.
Indanthrene Blue, Cadmium Yellow,
Lemon Yellow along with some red made
the main mixes here. 

At the end of a long day,
just a bit more to go.
As this is published, I will be painting.

Friday, 13 July 2012


...and those leaves just keep on coming. Much like the rain of late! When will it all end? With a superb finished result hopefully! Working on that Cranesbill has been a bit of an ordeal, with much eyestraining and small brush strokes needed to get the very fine leaves right.

There is an interesting vein structure but not a lot of shine to the Cranesbill leaves, so I kept detail to a minimum on the small leaves and in the areas of dark shade. I also liked the yellow tones to the tips of older leaves, and tried to capture this on one or two. Indanthrene Blue and Lemon Yellow always creates a beautifully rich green and can easily be adapted with different reds to suit.

Just one or two left to do and then...onwards!

With just two weeks to go before posting day looms, I had better get something of an urgent wiggle on. There is still so much to do and I really want to do a good job on this one. With the SBA Course everything, and I mean EVERYTHING comes down to the marks you get. Your final result is worked out as an average over all of the assignments, so every little gain, or loss for that matter can be the difference between, Pass, Credit or Distinction! Feels like A-Levels again!! 

My foray into fabric fancies continues with more of those little flowers being made than you can shake a stick at. I may be going a bit too far here, but it's fun and who knew they would be so popular? 

Now then, that's bright!
And a little 60's even if I do say so myself

A little more subtle


Tuesday, 10 July 2012

One Down...

...five to go, and there is still soooo much to do. Now that the bramble leaves are done it's onto the rest. Cranesbill leaves are very delicate and will be a real pain in the behind to get right. Thankfully I have been a bit sparing with the foliage, only a little is needed for identification so why give myself unnecessary amounts?

Still having to take things a bit easy for the next few weeks is a bit badly timed, as the deadline for this is the 27th July. Yikes!!! Hoping to get a little bit done each day, fingers crossed the work will fly by and I can go for the 'big reveal' and show you the results in good time before posting.   

Luckily, the bramble with its rather complex leaves is all finished, with just the little ladybird to add. These are my first brambles and I really enjoyed getting into the complex nature of the leaves with all their nibble holes and serrations. For the different colourations, I added some Perylene maroon to some of my green mixes, to create a range of browns and dark greens. Just a touch to the edges immediately gave more character and tone. Lovely.

The delicate flowers needed little fuss, with just a very light wash of palest pink. Most of the work here was with a greyish tone to add shadow and the fluttery nature of the petals.     

Almost there! Just the ladybird to do in
the white space on the top right leaf. 

The large, fleshy leaves of Tutsan have a lot of shine and an obvious vein structure. Fresh, bright green early in the season, Tutsan leaves go a gorgeous red come the Autumn as the fruits turn almost black. 

This leaf in the sketchbook could have been a bit darker to really bring it out, so I will have to take care on the actual painting. Lots of green will have to made here as I do not want to run out of mix halfway through a leaf!. This has happened before, and it is really hard to get the exact same colour mix.

My favourite Indanthrene Blue, Lemon Yellow and Perylene Maroon
mix will come into play here as the fresh, zesty green will make a good
base for the darker mixes.
Ultramarine light, Cadmium Yellow and Cerulean mixes
 will probably make up the rest.

In between painting time, I have finally added the finishing touches to the Kanzashi flowers I have been making. Actually, I am quite pleased with these little numbers and have already got a couple attached to some of my satchel bags that I use to lug my stuff about! 

Blooming marvelous!
The little tags are actually business cards made with
some of my garden photos.

A new kind of flowering
Raiding my vintage button box proved fruitful

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Resting? No Chance!

For a good few days now, I have been unable to get stuck into my painting. Doctor's orders alas due to my recent hospital visit, boo! However, there has been plenty of time for me to catch up with sketchbook work and making up the list of species that has to go with my fieldwork study.

It is quite amazing how much you can find in such a small space. The hedgerow is not exactly huge and behind it is a forest so there is a bit of a mixture of woodland and hedgerow going on. Also, a busy road with cars constantly flying past is just beside it all, so there is a certain amount of 'drift' allowing garden specimens to take hold and add a bit of a twist.

So far I have managed to identify nearly forty different species growing in my little patch. Along with all the 'big stuff' such as Oak, Holly, Elder and so on, there are a multitude of smaller shrubs and flowers, including Bittersweet and Spindle. The real trouble starts when you start to include the grasses and smaller wildfowers. Good job I have got myself an ever-growing library of helpful books, and of course, the Internet. Now to type the whole lot out. Phew!!    

Goat's Beard seeds, ready to go!

I love the structure of these 'clocks'.
So perfect for catching the slightest breeze.

The flowers of Goat's Beard open really
early in the morning and close early.
 Hence the mouthful of a name, Jack-go-to-bed-early

A couple of bugs bask in the morning sunshine on a Dog Rose

Another dog Rose but with almost white flowers

Common Mallow with their gorgeous stripes

Tree barks offer their own interest

Ferns unfolding


Monday, 2 July 2012

The Thick of It!

As I get further into this piece and more of the white paper disappears, I am becoming increasingly protective of it. With an important assignment there is always the nervous tension of making a mistake and having to start again. I have already been there once for this one and I don't want to have to go there again, even 'husband' is not allowed in the same room with it. Poor thing, but he is not the most graceful or careful of people, if there was just him and a Ming vase in a padded cell, I would give the vase about 5 minutes before it was in pieces!

The bramble leaves I have got to paint are quite young and small. However, they have a lovely rounded shape and gorgeous fresh green colour. Tints of red are just beginning to appear and a couple of bug-holes give character here and there. 

Julia Trickey has a great technique with leaves. This article from Artists and Illustrators magazine from a couple of months ago gave many of her tips on how to get better results on botanical painting of leaves. Her points of focus included observation, accuracy of drawing, careful layering of washes and of course, correct colour mixing. These may all sound a bit obvious, but there is no getting away from common sense and the voice of experience. 

Ooops! A bit of shine there, but you get the idea.
A stunning example of Julia's work.

Not being allowed to paint for at least a week is driving me nuts, but at least I can post my latest efforts. Should be back to work later this week but I have to take things nice and easy. Not easy for someone who cannot sit still for five minutes, but I'll try!  

More being added to my example.
The big 'hole' on the top right leaf will be a ladybird.