Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Freesia Fantastic

The colour on these freesia flowers is really hard to describe, it's a sort of bluish-lilac which gets stronger as they open and then fades as each flower ages. Getting the colour right for each stage of growth is going to be a real pain. The buds were quite straightforward, yellowy green with a purple streak here and there, to give a suggestion of what the flower colour will be when they open. Shadows on open flowers, especially pale ones are the hardest, but most vital part to get right if I don't want flat looking flowers.
A closer look at hose buds.

Just a little more depth needed to the shadow side

Flat flowers aside, I have to get the freezer fixed, again. Honestly you would think that by buying something, 'top of the range' the blasted thing would last more than two years. Alas not, so again my day will be interrupted by waiting, explaining for the zillionth time what the problem is and then waiting for some outrageously convoluted reason why it cannot be fixed today. Oh just give me a new bloomin' freezer.
Right, I feel better now. So it's on with those freesia petals. A very pale mix of Ultramarine Violet and Permanent Rose should give me a good base to build on. Adding French Ultramarine Light to the wash adds the bluer tones and a deeper mix of Ultramarine Light and Ultramarine Violet should do the job for the darker veining in the petals. There is also a sort of neutral, yellowy colour on the palest areas of the petals and in the folds of the neck of the flower. To get this I will use a light mix of raw Sienna and Lemon Yellow, but only very sparingly.
Sketchbook trials.
Lots of lilac mixes, and a few shadow tones

For shadow mixes, I like to use mixes made from the colours already used, so here I will use a combination of my yellowy green mix from the buds and my light lilac mix. It really does work and makes the whole thing look more harmonious than if I use a generic 'botanical grey' mix. 
Well, that's all the theory anyway. So now I had better get on with it, oh yes and listen out for that doorbell too!    

Monday, 29 October 2012

Painting by Numbers

Well now, finally I am back online after a weekend long, 'Broadband Blackout'. Oh how is it possible that I have become so reliant on email, Facebook, being able to get on the Web to find general niff-naff and of course, Blogger, that when it goes down for a whole three days it feels like it's about 1850 (plucked from the air). Back again, Hoorah!!

When I updated the blog the other day, it struck me that my black-outlined picture looks very much like those pictures you used to get in, 'painting by numbers' books. When I was very little, Mum would keep me occupied for hours with a load of colouring pencils and a big book filled with picture outlines ready to colour in. As was the trend back then, Disney characters, nursery rhymes and baby animals were the popular choice, and I would carefully fill in each bit, taking care not to go over the edge, of course. The memories!!
Pardon the reminiscences, but there you have it. Oh, if only it were that simple with this one, but at least one approach has never changed. Don't go over that edge!!

The Freesia buds in varying stages of development. The largest bud is showing just a hint of the lilac colour of the flowers. I'm loving this freesia, and so pleased I ditched the orchid in favour of it.

Taking care on the Freesia
Work begins on A12


Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Celebrate Your Curves

So, here it is, the finished master tracing of my mixed composition, ready for use with my lightbox. Trying to keep things relatively simple, I have used just three of the lily flowers with one stem of freesia, and a sprig of ivy with its clusters of flower buds. Looking at it again, I did make some minor changes with the ivy stem and put in another cluster of buds just peeking out from behind the lily on the right hand side.
Not one for the classic botanical compositions, I have gone for something that really caught my eye, and is generally practiced in floristry. The shape is called a 'Hogarth Curve', Lazy 'S' or Line of Beauty, and is meant to resemble the signature used by the artist on his pieces. All the maths and divisions of my page early on gave me the vertical line that the composition is built around, and the width of the overal piece that had to contain the main blooms. Here's hoping I can pull it off.
The characteristics of the Hogarth Curve are
a vertical line joining the top and bottom,
a contained central composition,
and lots of space around it. 
The tracing paper I use is actually a very smooth grey film that is used for architectural drawings. Back in my other life, (when I was about 16) this is what I did for a living, and have still got an enormous roll of this stuff tucked away. Just goes to show that what is in the loft, 'may come in handy', one day. 

Monday, 22 October 2012

It's Monday!!

First things first. It seems I can't resist orchids, and now have three dotted about the house. This is the latest, currently snuggled in on the corner of the bath. As it's white, and one of the trickiest colours to get right in a painting, I think I will give this one a miss, for now.

No.3 and counting!

Today is the day! Yes, I must get this painting underway before the day closes, otherwise I will have missed my first target. Trying to get time management sorted has been one of the hardest parts of this course. Working with the light is tricky enough in Britain, but in autumn and winter it's even worse! Short days, low levels of sunlight and the clocks changing in October have an erratic effect on when I can get some work done using natural daylight. All that on top of everything else that has to be done during the working day.
Remembering back to a post I wrote last year about natural and artificial light sources, I came to the conclusion that the most sensible way to go is to use a good mix of both. Natural daylight produces the best environment for colour mixing, and casts the most natural shadows. Artificial lighting can create harsh shadows and can be too bright to get colours accurate. A mix of both gives good light whilst maintaining natural shadows and colours.

So, with daylight lamps in full effect and the composition all finished, it's onto the lightbox and then on with the painting. Plus, you're getting a sneak peek at the composition too.

A dull day again, but at least the lamps are nice and bright.
The almost finished composition.
Just a little more foliage to soften the look and give shape.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

The Calm Before the Storm

Well, after all that I have finally got the composition sorted. What an ordeal that was! The last couple of weeks has seen much toing and froing to various establishments in an attempt to get something lovely in bloom. It has been a challenge, but that is the whole point of these later assignments so thought and care is all important. A recent SBA gradutate recalled how this particular assignment was an absolute stinker and even now feels the finished painting is not one of her favourites.  
As some of you will remember, I did plan to use a lemon yellow orchid, which even now is still blooming and looking stunning. Alas though, the leaves on a Phalaenopisis orchid are not easy to get in a mix of flowers but, I fancy would look lovely on their own with just one flower stalk. Hmmm, something for the future. The lilac tones and delicate leaves of freesia 'Blue Moon' are much friendlier to the composition and sit more comfortably with the brighter pinks of the oriental lilies. As my fellow SBA student friend Janene and myself discussed, two divas on one page might cause a fight.    
Just the final flourish to sort out now. foliage always looks lovely and finishes a piece off really nicely. Not wanting to overcrowd the big shapes of the lilies, I am thinking of going for something pretty simple like an ivy. The idea is to mirror the arching stem of the freesia, and offset the blowsy 'pinkness' of the lilies.
Perhaps a Snowberry?...

...or good old Ivy?...

...or something different, like viburnam tinus
with their blackurrant-blue berries?

Now onto the hard part, the painting.

Oh, and just in case you were wondering what I intend to do with that darn orchid. Well, here is my little page of possibilities, Including an accurate drawing of the orchid and its bits and pieces, a painted leaf with colour matches, a quick thumbnail of a composition and a tracing of the flower I will use, eventually.


Monday, 15 October 2012

A Heady Mix

With my little studio filled with the scent of oriental lilies, October is feeling rather exotic, despite all the rain. This week has seen a flurry of sketchy activity, with leaves, petals, stamens and all sorts of plant parts being scrutinised, measured, drawn and painted. With this assignment I am taking absolutely no chances, and each component is being treated with care.

Sketchbook pages of a Lily

Colour charts to get the pink right.
Freesia 'Blue Moon', more lilac than blue.
With one major change already having to be made, I certainly don't want to get caught out again. Hence all the prep. It seems to be paying off though, with everything starting to come together. However, I do seem to be filling more pages in my sketchbook as the course progresses. Already 14 pages with this one, I dread to think how many I will notch up for the three major Diploma Portfolio pieces.

Working to a deadline with no real option of asking for extra time, I have decided that painting will have to begin on October 22nd. Why so precise? Well, I can get all of the sketches and compositions decided this week and starting the painting next Monday will give me four whole weeks of painting time, plus a few extra 'emergency' days, just in case. Thinking about this spurred me on to get the piece underway, so I have already got most of the composition traced out onto tracing film, with just a few more bits to go before the light box comes into action.

A bit of a dull day means the lights are on full throttle.
On the board?
Tracing film and the beginnings of the composition.  

I can't get enough of these beauties.
So here they are again.


Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Languid Leaves

Well then. Already, this next mixed piece is proving somewhat problematic. From the start, I had a fairly clear idea as to what I wanted to do, flower-wise anyway, and then had a flash of inspiration for the composition. Alas, these do not seem to want to work together. It's those orchid leaves that are just not behaving themselves.

You're off mate!

Oh, those leaves!
And they could do with a bit of a buff.
The orchid was looking so beautiful, with it's gorgeous, arching flower spikes, stunning lemony yellow flowers, splotched with pink and those shapely buds, tinged with green. The composition was really coming on a treat, with a lovely combination of shapes, colours and textures. Then I had to get those great big tongue-like leaves into it all somehow. And that's when I hit a wall. No matter how much I tried the composition with the leaves, it looked heavy and cumbersome, while all the time those lovely flowers and buds were looking magnificent. Oh, how I didn't want to think the unthinkable, and ditch my little beauty altogether!

That pink might be a bit much with yellow.

'Tis a wonderous thing.
Oriental lilies have a heady scent, that fills my little studio with
a touch of the exotic.

Alas, that naughty orchid, has been put out of the way in favour of...freesias! Not as exotic, and certainly not as glamorous but they are pretty and elegant, and curve in just the right way I want them to. Oh how I would have liked Calla Lilies, Nerines or Iris, but it's October and pickings are relatively thin in the garden. So, I have to take what I can get from the supermarket, florist or plant nursery. The arching habit of the freesia will give me the same shape as the orchid flower spike, but the leaves are a little more forgiving in a composition. Here we go again then...

The usurper.
Pretty, dainty and delicate Freesia,
(with my lovely orchid, still trying to take the stage).
The cool, lilac will tone down that hot pink.

...but that orchid will be back!

Friday, 5 October 2012

Calculator Conundrum

The problem with doing a design that requires a certain level of preciseness, is the maths. Oh yes, maths. The easy bit is the 3 - 4cm border round the edge of the paper, left for a mount (mat), but then there is finding the vertical centre to find half of the working area. Then there is finding the centre horizontally, thus dividing the whole page into four. Keeping up with me so far?
You might be thinking, enough! Oh no, there is indeed more. The design I am planning requires the width of the overal piece to be carefully considered too. With a certain calculation to be made here, there comes a point where you start thinking, why??? Believe me, when it's done it will all make sense, and it really isn't as complicated as I think I am making it sound. So, be patient with me, (and my ever present calculator).  
All of this is on top of the 'rules' to follow for botanical mixed compositions. Well, we have already been there in the last post so... perhaps we will leave it there for today. Class dismissed!

It's all in the preparation


Tuesday, 2 October 2012

That Eureka Moment!

Well, it finally hit me this weekend. Of all the places where inspiration strikes, it always seems to be when I am looking casually through my Dad's 'Oxfam Library' of gardening gems. Dad, like me, loves a rummage through the old books in charity shops, and always seems to find the, 'diamonds in the rough'. And so it was that on a visit this weekend whilst flipping through a Constance Spry book of flower arranging, Bang! There it was, the perfect design for my next mixed assignment composition.

Never under estimate a charity shop, there are some real bargains to be found. And these beauties have now been gifted to the 'Squirrel Archives'.

Two classic books from the 1980s
Good old Marks and Spencer and the ever reliable Hamlyn
published these handy guides.

To flesh the whole thing out, I will need loads of photos, sketches and hopefully, some live subjects this time. I fancy pink again methinks.  

An inspiration board of bright pinks.
Really hoped to use Opera Rose for this one.
Going with a simple selection of Lily, Orchid and Ivy, I wanted a really elegant style to show off the long stems and buds of the orchid, the trailing habit of ivy and the exotic colour and shape of the lily. The predominant colour here will be the exotic colouring of the orchid, with the lily being towards the lilac end of the pink spectrum. The ivy will hold everything together with a mix of deep green and variagated leaves. There may still be some room for zingy Euphorbia, and of course the leaves will have to go in too, to fill the gaps, but we will see. This will be an unusual composition, but I love the idea and really hope I can pull it off with panache.

And now for something completely different.
Canary yellow Orchid
Going for yellow, (again) may seem like some kind of
cruel and unusual punishment, but it is delicious.
Being a little anxious about how it will come together, I am keeping this one under wraps until I have got it underway. Sorry for the secrecy, but you know how it is, you talk about something with great enthusiasm and follow it right through the planning stage, only for it to all come to nought.