Friday, 30 November 2012

Knowing Your Onions

So, onions it is then. Now, although I do dabble in a spot of gardening I am not 'up' on the names and varieties of red onions that out there. They are red, and they are onions what more is there to know? Only kidding of course, but I will need to have a good trawl through the Squirrel Library Archive to discover exactly what my onions are.
That aside, work has begun on the sketches and planning for the final piece, and I am actually quite looking forward to painting this one. Now I know what I am doing, the stress levels have subsided a little and I am getting myself, 'in  the zone' to get cracking with it. Pinks, reds and purples are amongst my favourite colour mixes, (as you all know) but the papery textures will be a challenge.
Although I have not yet finalised the composition, I am planning to include a cut half and some green shoots from a sprouting onion for some contrast. You know how onions tend to split into separate little 'onionlets'? Well I am hoping to find one of those too!

The first sketchbook page for the Diploma Portfolio.
Hmmm, perhaps a leek might go with those...

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Tears Before Bedtime?

I change my mind like the weather, although to be honest there hasn't been much change there for about a month! Anyway, last time I said I was going to tackle the botanical illustration first, well I'm not! Looking at the red onions I was peeling for yesterday's dinner, I had that eureka moment and decided that they would be perfect for the vegetable study. Red onions are just fabulous, with great colour, texture and endless possibilities for interesting angles, and just delicious roasted with some red peppers, tomatoes and courgettes. Not forgetting some crushed garlic and a touch of salt and pepper and a good glug of olive oil.

And here's one I made earlier!
Whilst working on the A8, the vegetable assignment,
I completed a couple of onions.
See, they can come in handy!
So, whilst defrosting in front of our toasty warm wood burning stove yesterday, I came up with a mass of sketches. I must try to get out of the habit of using envelopes, old receipts, backs of magazines, in fact any old scraps to do my sketches on. There has been more than one occasion where 'Husband' has gone to chuck something out, only for me to rush at him, and not in a romantic way to prevent some disaster.

Notebook, colour chart and scraps of paper.
There is even a recipe for some cheese scones on one piece!
So, red onions it is then, but I am not going to do that classic string of onions thing that have become so popular of late, I am not in France! Others can go down that road and jolly good luck to them, there is only four weeks to get this thing done and I am not the 'Speedy Gonzales' of the botanical art world. In the composition I plan to include a cut onion, that should be fun!!

Monday, 26 November 2012

The Final Furlong

Well, there it is, the final assignment piece has been dispatched and the end is in sight. All that stands between me and the end of the course are the three last pieces making the Diploma Portfolio. These will be quite possibly the most important pieces of artwork I will ever do and the last chance I will get to boost my final grade. Of course there will be important pieces to come, but these ones are a bit special.
The eventual outcome for me will be to gain associate membership of the SBA, hopefully leading to full membership. As with many of my DLDC colleagues, making botanical illustration the next career step would be the ideal, but there is a lot to do and plans to make in order to make that happen. Wheels are in motion already, so watch this space.
As for the next three, I am working on the illustration first, (or maybe the veg!). This will be the hardest one to tackle as I will need to dissect the subject and choose a layout that is pleasing. My last one of these came out a little less than perfect, no chance of that this time. One change will be to complete the dissections in graphite rather than watercolour as I think it looks better. So, thinking on a subject, Hellebores are a perennial favourite as are orchids, but I will complete some quick sketches on both before the final decision.

Helleborus niger
White on white? Hmmm
Always a tricky one to go with.
Although making a white flower look grey is even worse

The gorgeous leaves and reddish stems
would look pretty though. 

Friday, 23 November 2012

All Tangled Up!

Yes, it's variegated ivy time, and what a time I am having of it too! There are at least three shades of green going on with these leaves, plus the yellowy base colour. The shadows in particular are an interesting challenge too, making sure that one side of the leaf is slightly darker to the other adds to the task. To achieve this, I have left some of the colours a bit 'washed out' to give the appearance of light and used a greeny-grey wash over all of the darker side. It seems to work quite well.
Not too many of the leaves are showing in their entirety, with bits poking out from behind other flowers to give depth to the overal composition. As the brief stated a 'mixed' composition, I added the flowers and buds of the ivy, which are like a froth of dainty clusters of  pale green 'baubles', which will become berries later in the season. 
Anyway, with the exotic plethora of A12 or 'Hogarthy Happiness' as I am now calling it, done and dusted, it's onto the mighty epic that is, The Diploma Portfolio. Yes, the gargantuan three month painting marathon is here and there is no time to shy away from the task at hand.  Three big pieces in three months, a botanical challenge indeed. Put your seat belts on, it's going to be a bumpy ride!!

Finished.At last!

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Perfect Preparation

The weather of late has been somewhat wet. To be honest that really is an understatement, it has been really, really wet. In fact, here in Blighty it feels like it hasn't stopped raining since April. Flooding has been a major part of day to day life for many people this year, and although (touch wood!) we haven't had such a disaster there is always the need to start thinking about being prepared for the worst, especially as many are suggesting that this winter will be one of the worst.Crikey! 
With this in mind, (and having lived through a few winters without heating), we have got a couple of sandbags stashed away, a snow shovel, grit, wood for the woodburner, a good bottle of Scotch, (for medicinal purposes, of course), flood covers for the airbricks, and enough blankets to reach the Moon and back! One thing we don't have, which I think really should go on my Christmas list is an Ark! Shopping for such an item is proving troublesome, but I think I may have found something.
Knit your own Ark!
Alas I have no small people to make this for,
but any excuse!
Alan Dart comes up trumps again  
Just a bit of fun to raise a smile to anyone else finding this weather rather tiring and not at all amusing. Here's hoping it stops soon, but then again there is still the snow to come. Hmmm perhaps we may need to top up on the tomato soup!  

Saturday, 17 November 2012

On the Road Again!

Yes, you guessed it, Sammy and Lucy are up to their tricks again and are off once more on a spiffing adventure. This time, they are off to see a nice man in London, who is going to treat them like royalty, take their picture, buff then up a bit to make them look their best before sending them home.
Oh yes, it's printing time again, getting ready in time for Valentine's Day. There have been so many wonderful compliments and requests for this piece, that I have decided to make it into a card and Limted Edition print, available soon through Etsy. Of course 'Husband' will get one, whether he likes it or not! And then they will be let loose, spreading romance and happiness.  
At this point I think I can also come clean about a little surprise I have been bottling up for ages, but is just busting to come out. Although I had many reservations about how well my card design would do, my tutor Margaret, who is also the Director of the SBA Diploma Course, liked it so much she has asked for it to be put into the annual SBA exhibition in London next year. At the time I kept it to myself, only telling a few friends as I didn't really want to appear to be boasting. The course is so difficult and many of us have had real difficulties and tears over our work, the last thing you need is some hot shot going on about how much success they have had. Of course you are happy for them, but inside you are tearing your heart out with your own disappointement. That's art for you!
Off to London
The adventure starts here!

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Pink Panic Thursday

Nearly through the final full week of painting and I am now officially having a bit of a panic, not massive but just a little frisson of discomfort. The lilies are taking so much longer than I had expected, with the layers of colour and small details all painstakingly slow to dry. And there is still the ivy to go. These 'bigger' assignments have been really traumatic as there is so much more going on in them, and there is the expectation that you will 'up the challenge' on your skills each time. You would think that nearly two months would be more than enough time, but trust me, it goes like the wind!

Anyway, ploughing on through, and I must say, panic aside, it's not looking too bad. Perhaps not quite my best work ever, but this piece has certainly got the sort of look I was intending, which is a bonus. Going for a different composition is always a bit of a gamble, and there were times when I thought I had really overdone it this time. Now, I am quite pleased to have taken the gamble. Certainly one to keep in mind for future works.

Just some more of the foliage to go and I'm there! Should be in the post by Tuesday with any luck.

Progress thus far.
A weekend amongst the brushes ahead


Tuesday, 13 November 2012

A Weekend Away, (and the nursery cat!)

Time marches on and with this course there always seems to be so little of it. With one week to go before the deadline for this piece, any minor interruption, (such as a freezer breakdown) can feel like a major incident. But who cares, I do not allow such things to get in the way of weekends away, so off I went on one of my many trips to London.
Not one for resting on the laurels, I used the time with Mum and Dad to take a trip to the plant nursery near our home. I love this place and love the familiarity of the greenhouses, trees, and even their cat! Ah yes, the cat. The cat is an important part of any trip and we always try to look out for him. Last time we went, he had found a particularly comfy spot on top of the compost bags in one of the greenhouses. Woe betide any poor individual who decided to buy a bag, as prizing this little creature from his prime position would have proved a painful experience. This time, puss decided to follow us just about everywhere, charging about, getting underfoot, and wanting lots of attention. Bless!! 
Looking out for new specimens to paint is always good and I was on the hunt for a number of winter winners for the garden, including witch hazel, euonymous and more hellebores. Pickings were unusually slim and I had to satisfy my shopping requirements with some Helleborus niger. Not quite the bootful I had planned on but still, a good find.

To the victor, the spoils.
After a good hunt round, I found these little beauties.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Avoiding Disasters, (and buff envelopes)

Don't know what it is about this piece, but whenever I settle down to do some work on it, I smile. Maybe it has got something to do with the outrageously lurid pink that is going onto the paper in such copious amounts, or perhaps it's because I haven't had any major disasters, yet! Whatever it is, I hope it lasts as the deadline looms and panic sets in.
Permanent Rose is one of those colours that I haven't had much chance to use until now. Lots of pink is needed but there are also some magenta and purple tones too. Quinacridone Magenta is a lovely colour, so rich and immediately staining, (care here!), Permanent Rose and even my favourite Pereylene Maroon are all in the mixes, making a really bright and jolly palette. There's also a sort of orangey/sepia, 'buff-envelope' sort of colour going on too, which I have made using my rosy pink mix and some yellow.

Coming along and looking exotic.
Lots of glazing and layers of colour help to get that pink just right.
As the petals of the flowers are so big, there has been a certain amount of sloshing about with the early washes. Getting the colour on quickly and in quite strong washes has been an alarming practice I recently intoduced to the armoury, and am actually getting the hang of. It seems to work best here using clean water glazes before laying on the strong colour, and as the colour seeps and settles, it creates lots of texture and light and dark pools. Using a 'just damp' brush to help things along does a lot of the work for you. Hurrah! I am all for that!

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Just the Two of Us!

Onto the lilies now, and I am having all sorts of fun and games trying to get the blend of colours right. Each petal has a sort of a stripe up the mid-rib that goes from green-to-yellow-to pink-to a sort of purply colour. Getting these colours to go on without getting muddy has required careful technique, so lots of practice had to be done first to avoid an angry scene. 
That aside, the colour of this flower is stunning, a really clear bright pink with a few spots but certainly not as mad as the Stargazer lilies that I had first considered. No idea what these ones actually are, all I know is that after a mad dash, I got them from Waitrose. A bit pricey yes, but Waitrose is always reliable for their flowers, and as we are in a bit of a shopping twilight zone, one of the few places I can go for a good selection.

The buds of this lily are a more delicate affair. The one I am painting just now has a paler look to it, with purply pinks and greens catching the light to give a fresher feel. Put together, this colour combination looks quite nice against the cool lilac of the freesia. The open and profile flowers will, of course have lots more zing, with that punchy, brighter pink coming into its own. Can't wait!

Just the two of us?
Not for long.  

Monday, 5 November 2012

It's Freezing!! But Not Outside!

Ah yes, that freezer issue. Well, we are now going to be on freezer number four, after an attempted repair and subsequent conversation with 'head office', the decision was made to just give us a new one. Oh for a freezer that works. Dad has given us a trusty old appliance that is nearly as old as me and might as well run on gas and valves! It still keeps going though, bless it.
So, while we await the arrival of our new monolith, I am a little behind with proceedings on the painting. Telephone negotiations do tend to rubbish up a day somewhat, and the blasted thing always has a tendency to ring just when I am at that most crucial moment with a stem edge! Ah well, it's all part of life's rich tapestry and must be overcome with grace and poise. This is a skill I am still trying to master as I have about as much grace and poise as a sack of spuds!
Speaking of grace and poise, the lilac freesia is nearly finished, (hurrah) and I am moving swiftly on to the lilies. As  I have a beautiful bunch that I am desparately trying to keep in bud for as long as possible, work must indeed be swift. So, bud first, then profile, then full bloom I think. Ivy is in abundance in the garden so that shouldn't be too difficult to get hold of. Off we go again then, on phase two.

Getting there with the lilac flowers

The leaf on the left adds to the curvy look of this one.
The buds came out well though.