Thursday, 30 August 2012

Further Pondering

Bank Holidays always put me off for the rest of the week. Don't get me wrong here, I love a short week with a three day holiday but now I think Tuesday is Monday, Wednesday is Tuesday and so on. It all gets very odd.
Needless to say, not a lot of work got done this weekend, but I did do a lot of thinking about work and pondering what to do. With this assignment, ther has been an awful lot of that! However, all this faffing about really must come to an end and I MUST knuckle down and, 'just get on with it', as 'Husband' keeps telling me.

So, here we go then. Lots and lots of photos in hand, (probably too many) and loads of ideas whittled down to one, then trying to get it to work on paper. So far so good. The photos have given me all of the information I need to get angles, leaf joints, nodes, buds, berries and blooms right and I have been working to get a good selection accurate drawings. These will be used as tracings, then manipulated into my finished composition. Valerie Wright, (my tutor for this one) uses this method and even uses the same tracings in multiple guises on one design. Think turning the tracing over for a whole new flower!

Lets get organised.
Drawing underway, via 45 photos!!

Over the weekend, I did manage to pick up crochet. Mum tried to teach me this when I was young but I never managed to get the hang of using one tiny little hook. This time I cracked it! Starting simple by using up all of my knitting leftovers for a throw for our spare bed.

Happy Hooking!
Getting the hang of Crochet

Monday, 27 August 2012

More on No. 11

This assignment really is the hardest one yet. The project is so open, the number of possibilities really does seem to be endless. What flowers to include, landscape or no landscape, colour matching, it really is all here.
My first idea, to fill the page with crocosmia leaves and flowers with clematis arabella peeking out here and there sounded gorgeous in the early stages, but was too much. Working from photos means you need some really good, detailed and informative pictures to give you the information you need. This has proved really hard!

Clematis 'arabella'

Next, I moved on to a couple of lovely hardy Fuschia I picked up during my break in London. A gorgeous summer plant, the dainty little leaves, reddish stems and beautiful 'ballerina' flowers in shades of pink, purple and red certainly make Fuschia's photogenic. Will they work in a composition? There are certainly a good number of ideas bouncing around my brain, perhaps with more of a Graphic Design influence than classic botanical illustration. Working around the idea of the language and meaning of flowers in a romantic composition for a wedding, engagement or valentine's card. Oops have I just let that little cat out of the bag?


Thursday, 23 August 2012

It's My Birthday!

Happy Birthday to Sketchbook Squirrel, One today! Yes, it really has been one year since I started blogging and I cannot quite believe how my little spot has taken off. Started as a bit of fun to get me over the boredom of recovering from an operation, Squirrel has become part of everyday life.

To begin with, I thought that sharing the trials and tribulations of my progress throught the SBA Botanical Painting Diploma would be of little interest to the wider world, I was a bit wrong there. At this point, just over 9000 of you have tuned in to see what I have been getting up to.

Of course, as well as the painting side of things, absolutely everything has had a mention here. Patchwork, architecture, gardening, knitting, books I read, photos, the antics of 'husband' just about anything has been included. It has been a busy year, and now that we have had the first one, roll on the next!

Many thanks to all of you who have been by for a fleeting glimpse, a daily coffee break peek and those of you who have stumbled upon me whilst looking for ironing boards! Special thanks must of course go to those of you who have been with me since the very beginning, Renata with the first comment, Jess who became my first follower, Vicki who always has a kind word, Claire and many more of you out there, thank you for your continued support.   

I promised cake, here is my Mum's, 'Most Excellent Chocolate Cake' with Dad's homemade Blackberry jam and cream, yummy! As you can see, the celebrations got going a little earlier, but I couldn't wait!     

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Live from London

They say a change is a good as rest. How true as I have just had a gloriously relaxing time visiting family back 'home' in Woodford. My little hometown, which was once a village just outside London has really grown and is now one of the most popular places to live in East London.

The garden is always one of my first stops, as Dad is always changing things, adding stuff and taking loads of cuttings. A trip to our favourite plant nursery proved fruitful, with bargain strawberries, a couple of Hydrangeas, (of course) and a much wanted Smoke Bush to add to my ever growing collection. The car would definitely be full on the way home!

Smoke Bush
Chalky, purply-red leaves are the main feature. 

And another one. This time a white Hydrangea.
To go with the Smoke Bush perhaps?

As the Olympics were in their third week, the centre of London wasn't too busy so plans were made for some days out. Good thing we brought the Oyster cards for cheaper travel on the Tube.

Getting in on the patriotic theme,
 John Lewis on Oxford Street.

These 'for hire' bikes are named 'Boris Bikes',
after the London Mayor Boris Johnson

First stop was The Wallace Collection, (in a grand house just behind Selfridges). Here there is a collection of the most eclectic mix of opulent and over-the-top furniture, armoury and of course, paintings. no trip here would be complete without a quick look at this guy...

Handsome chap,
and famously with a good sense of humour

This painting of The Laughing Cavalier remind me of when I saw the Mona Lisa in Paris, 'what's so funny'? Both of these paintings are somewhat smaller than you think, but it came as a nice surprise to see it. Walking from the museum, we all took a diversion through Chinatown where, again we picked up a few choice ingredients for our storecupboard.

All decked out for the Jubilee

Chinatown is an unmistakable and unmissable
part of London life

Had to include a picture of this quite remarkable man. Chen Guanming cycled more than 37000 on a rikshaw from China to be in London for the Olympic Games. A truly inspiring story, which really topped our day. 

After a heck of a journey, I bet he has some tales to tell.
Chen Guanming and his customized rickshaw.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

The Vignette Variety Show

Whenever I am working on a new piece, I always seem to come up with a mini-me composition. Using tiny pieces of spare watercolour paper, I quickly plan out my ideas of colour and layout. Doing this rather than just a pencil sketch gives me a good idea of how colours, leaves, flower shape and textures will work together. I also tend to draw a small sunshine along with an arrow in the corner where the direction of light is coming from.

Sketching and planning a good composition is one of the hardest parts of the course for me. It is one thing to be able to accurately portray a subject, but creating a pleasing work of art is quite another. Every tutor will, of course have their own ideas about what makes a good piece, and some of my more 'interesting' compositions have perhaps not gone down so well with the more traditional amongst them. Sticking to your guns when a good mark is at stake is certainly brave.

A Crocosmia and Clematis combo
Purple and orange always looks good together.
For my latest assignment? 

Clematis again but this time with dissections
These would have looked better in a line
along the bottom 

A quick sketch of a window, possibly for
a window box idea.

Some ideas for a vegetable compostion

My 'interesting' vegetable compostion

For Working in the Field, a number of little sketches
were made. With five to get in it was a tight squeeze.

This was the final layout,
 with the pinks and purples in opposite corners.
Again, my tutor called this one, 'interesting'.
I am beginning to hate that word!


Tuesday, 7 August 2012

A Photo Finish

There is always that slight nervousness whenever I go to collect photos from the shop. Usually I would use my trusty printer and print my phots at home, but for this assignment I decided to get them done for me. Lots of practice with 'Little P' has certainly given my camera skills a boost and I am quite confident that the pictures I have taken will be useful for this next assignment.

Working from photos is really difficult as you cannot use the life subject for reference. size, colour and detail must all be taken from the pictures you use, so they had better be good. And your own, however bad, no plagarism here thank you very much!   

In my course binder, there is lots of advice on how to take good pictures, not that they are going to be all arty and composed. Photos to work from need to be practical and useful. Valerie Wright, my SBA tutor suggests trying to get a ruler or familiar object into the shot, to get the size. For colour, she suggests using a scarf or other familiar coloured object in the picture so that you get a colour reference. Lots of photos of the same subject, trying to keep the light on the same side will give all of the details such as flower, stem, leaf etc. 

The sketchbook has really come into its own here, as I have been making sure that my colour notes and sketches are spot on. Each page will have the photo, colour swatches, sketches and accurate drawings to trace from. Tracing is always a thorny issue, but Valerie supports there use as tracings can be used again and again and are extremely useful when trying to get a good composition. Well done Valerie!     

On the Kanzashi front, progress has been made and the little, 'folded fabric fancies' will be available on Etsy this Friday.

Friday, 3 August 2012

Cycling One, Painting Nil

Everything stopped on Wednesday afternoon. The cycling time trial was on and I couldn't miss it as Bradley Wiggins, British Cycling's new hero was in it. Many commentators from other nations say that Britain only really does well in posh sports where you sit down, (sailing, cycling and rowing). Well, that might be true, but the effort of winning is no less a painful ordeal.

Time trialling really is a specialist sport and is often called, 'The Race of Truth', especially in France, where they are really serious about the sport. It's just you, the road and a stopwatch. As the riders headed off one at a time, I was on for a real treat. It didn't disappoint. Chris Froome, (born in Kenya but cycling for Britain and Sky Procycling) was on for the Bronze, but had an anxious wait as the other riders tried to beat his time. Wiggins wouldn't believe he had won the Gold until the last rider had crossed the line. This last medal has made Wiggins, (who had humble beginnings on a South London housing estate, training on the outdoor velodrome at Herne Hill), Britain's most decorated Olympian. His life will never be the same again.

A rare scene, the artist not at work.
Empty water jars, no brushes, no paper.
it must be Time Trial time.

For me, the biggest and most applauded effort came from the last rider, Swiss cyclist and time trial legend, Fabian Cancellara, (nicknamed Spartacus). After a serious crash in the first race last week, he looked badly injured but carried on. He was way off the time, collapsed at the end, needed a lot of medical attention, but actually got back on his bike, much to the admiration of the enormous crowd. He really would have given 'Wiggo' a run for the gold as he was the defending Olympic Champion. It just goes to show that anything really can happen. he looked dreadful, but I can only hope he will be back on the bike soon.  

As you can tell, I like cycling. But I love painting. Now that I can actually breath again, painting can resume.

Ah, that's more like it.
Business as usual.
Crocosmia, but no idea which one

Nice colour, but should I go for orange?

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Painting the Cosmos!

Don't worry, I haven't gone all Sci-Fi. The subject in question is of course, a bright pink Cosmos named Tetra Rose. These flowers have sprung up all over the place since I planted them in the garden earlier this year. Whenever I do something in the garden, I generally forget where I have planted things and they come as a complete suprise when they grow. Anyway, I have got some gorgeous flowers coming up and couldn't resist sketching a few with the idea of incorporating them into my next piece.

This approach will not last long and I will soon knuckle down to the important business of sorting a good subject, getting the background finalised and composing something I am happy with. To be honest, this assignment was the one I was dreading the most and now it's here, I haven't changed my mind. It's a big piece, and challenging too, I just hope I balance it right.   

A beautiful clear pink flower. I love the deeper colour near
to the centre.

The buds are more maroon in colour and are gloroiously glossy.

For this sketchbook page, I included some initial ideas for a background and layout. Painting a sky or blurred background might offset the flowers quite well. Here, I allowed the very wet wash to run down the paper by tilting it. A second wash was added and allowed to run up. A small amount of sea salt was sprinkled onto the drying paint to give the appearance of other flora. This will be behind the more detailed painting. I have also included a couple of more detailed thumbnails but I have yet to decide what to do. Still, it's early days.   

My first sketchbook page
 for assignment 11.