Monday, 31 December 2012

Mixed Nuts

Well, it will be mixed flowers actually, but this latest one is driving me nuts! That post Christmas lull of 'cabin fever' where you have been slopping about the house for so long that getting back into any sense of 'normal' just feels weird. Still, work I must, and this next mixed study will be a wintry cornucopia of twiggy and flowery loveliness. One hopes anyway.

Full of spring promise.
Camellia 'Anticipation'

Against a white background, the green of the mistletoe
really sings of festive glory. 
Mistletoe featured in our Christmas decoration around the house this year and I am in the middle of some sketches of this little curiosity. To compliment the pearlescent white of the mistletoe berries, I am hoping to include some of my camellias. Alas, 'Yuletide' didn't live up to its name. Perhaps the plant I have is a little small and will need to grow up a bit before it can bloom. Then, to round off the lot, some sprigs of viburnum tinus berries. Gorgeously purple and shiny like buttons, these berries will offer a bit of depth and as they are blueish in tone, should recede and cool things down a bit. The evergreen leaves should come in handy too.


Sunday, 23 December 2012

Mmmm, It's Christmas

Well now, the vegetable study is finished, hooray!! I know, I know, I said I wouldn't show you. But, hey there you go.

Moving onto the next two, I have been out and about on my annual foray into the shops on the hunt for foliage and flowers for the Christmas table and to make the house feel a little more festive. 
I can't be secretive, it's not in my nature.
I know I said I wouldn't but here it is.
Here's the almost finished veg, the roots were completed after this pic.
As I was sitting at the table scoffing another mince pie whilst admiring the large bundle of mistletoe, I was suddenly struck by how many things at Christmas time begin with M. Mince pies, mistletoe and mulled wine of course. Then we have mayhem, merriment and manic last minute buying. Music is important to make the day go with a swing so we will probably have Mum's favourite, Mahalia Jackson, and a bit of Boney M (the wrong way round but who's counting?) 
Mistletoe is a strange plant. Filled with folklore and mysticism, this parasitic plant grows on native trees such as Poplar and apple and is traditionally hung in houses at Christmas. The bit I like is that you get to have a kiss under it, so plenty will be hung about the place I can tell you.. More importantly, I am seriously considering using mistletoe in a festive arrangement with holly berries with either Camellia or Hellebore niger. Lots of gorgeous reds, greens and fresh whites from the mistletoe berries and hellebore. The other bonus is that we have an old Poplar tree in the garden so I will have a go at growing the stuff.
Last but not least, I would like to say a big thank you to all of you who have taken a peek at 'The Squirrel Archives' this year. Without your support and comments this Blog would fizzle out like a damp squib and more importantly, I have really enjoyed your company.
Wishing You All A Very Merry Christmas   

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Apocalypse, Now?

According to the Mayans, the end of the world is due on Friday, at midnight to be precise. Now this post is not going to go into the ins and outs of, 'End of Days' predictions and philosophies, (although Nostradamus had a lot to say on the subject and had something of a knack for these things, although not so much on Lottery numbers!), all I will say is that it will be dashed inconvenient and will rather put a dampner on my plans for Christmas. Although, thinking about it, 'Husband' is something of a Ray Mears survivalist and would rather relish the idea of testing his skills.

Friday will however see the start of, 'Husband's' seasonal break from work, and therefore, for us at least, the start of Christmas. This year is extra special as we will be celebrating with the whole family, the first time in a good few years. At this point I would like to pass on a warm Merry Christmas message to my fabulous uncle Michael, (who, rumour has it, does occasionally tune in) who will be escaping on his annual exodus to Paris. Good on you Michael, and have a good one! 
Of course for me, painting will have to take a major role, and although I will get to have a couple of drinkies and a mince pie here and there, that darn onion must be finished! Already, I am thinking on the next one, so the sketchbook will not be too far away. Now, should I tackle the dissections or the mixed study? Hmmm, perhaps I will ponder that one over a Sloe Gin and tonic and a mince pie.

Portfolio: Check
Sketchbook: Check
Paper: Check
Kit: Check
All present and correct and ready to go.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Stop Giving the Game Away!

'Husband' has put his manly foot down and told me to stop revealing too much of my portfolio pieces. This is a tough ask for me as I love to share what I am up to, (good or bad) and offer any little handy tip I pick up along the way. However, as 'Husband' pointed out, you never know who may be tuning in and that might very well include, Your Assessor! This issue was brought up recently by a couple of other students on Facebook. It's a good point. If you 'reveal' your finished piece online before posting to your tutor for marking, is this unfair, and might it cloud an opinion? Hmmm, it's a point to ponder.
Generally, I have been pretty good, only posting my work online after my tutor has received it or has at least seen some of it, (I do sometimes email an image of work in progress to a tutor just for a little insight). But, maybe one or two slip through the net, sheer excitement of completing a major challenge gets the better of me I'm afraid. So far so good though, I haven't been told off yet.  
Not wanting to tempt fate, you'll forgive me for not posting my finished veggies until 'The Three Piece Suite' is finished and has safely arrived at it's final destination. Here's a last tantalising glimpse. Look out for it again in Feb when all three are finished. I will keep you posted...

The finished leek leaves.

A final watery glaze of  cerulean mixed with Lemon Yellow and a touch of Perylene brightens the greyish leaves
where they meet the root.

A bluer shade where the leaves are getting older and tougher varies the temperature against the brighter, fresher tones. 


Saturday, 15 December 2012

The Three Piece Suite

This time of year always has the feel of a warm blanket. Nostalgia, and cosy memories of times past are all wrapped up in our preparations for the festive season. Making the Christmas cake, the kitchen filled with the scent of warm spices and brandy-soaked fruits, using the same recipe our family has used for years, wiped away all those years back to when I was about 7 and helping my Dad do the exact same thing.

Nostalgia will always have it's place but nowadays season's greetings are sent via Facebook, Twitter and email, shopping is all done online and many of us fly to warmer climes to escape the gloomy, winter chill of Britain. And I don't blame you, just now it is miserably cold and wet here, and any snow just means that the airports close, trains don't run and the roads get blocked!

Moving on, ahem! The veggie study is coming along quite nicely but the true enormity of the, 'Three Piece Suite' as I call it, is just beginning to take effect. Waking up at about 3.30am thinking about flowers for a mixed piece is no fun, and now every time I see flowers I am looking to see how I could carve it up to see how it operates! Desperate times indeed.

The almost finished leek.
Just the onion to go. 

If you were to ask me how many hours this has taken, I don't think I could honestly give you an answer. All I know is that it has taken a very long time and I am delighted to see the end of all this detail. Of course, I could go on, and on with it, but there has to be a time when time is against you, and enough really is enough.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Beware The Arctic Blast!

"Colder than the North Pole". As quoted last Friday by a presenter on Radio 4's Today programme. No kidding! It's blooming freezing here, luckily the wood burner is performing a supremely sterling service, chugging away keeping me toasty warm. As a housewarming (quite literally) gift from my ever generous parents, our wood burner takes some beating. After years in cold flats, it makes a gorgeous change and I love it. If ever we move, I'm taking it with me!

With the wrapping all finished, the cake made and lots of 'festive fare', (including a sneaky bottle of Sloe Gin) tucked away in the cupboard, 'Husband' and I are pretty sorted for the 'Christmas Lockdown'. Not that the holiday is a riotous affair. With just the two of us, Christmas is usually just an excuse to sit, do very little and eat quite a lot. However, this year we will be joining the rest of my little troupe in London, (and that includes the neighbour's cat, who appears to have taken up residence!).

With the veggie study in full swing and two more to go, work can never really be that far away, so the sketchbooks, paints and general botanical paraphernalia will also have to make the trip up the motorway. Hmmm, I wonder what's looking good in Dad's garden? Ah well, no rest for the wicked.

Starting to get down to the nitty-gritty of detail 

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Adventures with Alliums (and parcels!)

Paint is on the paper, hurrah!!, I have overcome that dreadful 'expanse of white paper' feeling whenever I start a new piece. It really is an affliction, hands shaking, I get a bit sweaty palms and make any excuse to have another cup of tea, do some ironing, bake some bread, anything but start that painting. Not this time, with a feeling of focus and purpose, the first washes for the leek leaves are on. Phew! It never looks particularly promising at this stage, with just some streaks of colour here and there to give the general idea, but it's early days.

The first, watery wash 

Making a start on that leek.
Mapping out the cool and warm shades

Postie has been delivering a lot to Squirrel HQ recently, with lots of festive treats now awaiting the final flourish of ribbons and wrapping. Amongst the purchases this year was something for the garden. Normally, I wouldn't normally buy plants over the net but I couldn't resist this yuletide favourite. Appropriately named, 'Yuletide',  my new camellia has deliciously red but simple flowers from November to January and is usually blooming in time for Christmas, so expect some sketches and photos of this one, (once it arrives that is!). 

Thursday, 6 December 2012

It's That Time of Year Again

At this time of year I am reminded of how quickly ordinary people turn into major tacticians, with lists, plans and even suitcases on wheels to do their gift shopping! Scary stuff on the high street I can tell you.

It gets worse too. Some years ago I was standing in the checkout queue at Marks and Spencer when my Mum became aware of two men acting strangely behind me. At any other time of the year this would seem sinister, so what were they doing? Well, one of them was buying a slinky nightdress as a gift for his wife and was using my back and height for measurements, apparently we were of a similar size. Ask her next time, silly!  
As with last year, the knitted reindeer are making a comeback. Yes, they're back! This time, 'Brother Dearest' would like one for his girlfriend to decorate their little flat, and I am happy to oblige. Mum and Dad already have theirs standing in the porch, welcoming visitors, and of course, postie. By this time next year, I should have a fair sized herd!

Can you guess what it is yet?
Rudolph takes refuge in the wood basket.
The rest of him is still in production!
A handmade Christmas always feels a little bit special, with care, thought and quite often blood, sweat and tears in every little offering. So, my family can expect homemade 'Squirrel' items of every description under the tree this year. However, I think I will give the hand stamped wrapping paper a miss. Good luck with any festive preparations you may be undertaking yourself.


Monday, 3 December 2012

Alternative Alliums

Erm, confession time again, I have changed my mind, again. After completing some initial sketches and idea thumbnails, the red onions were not really floating my boat, or working well as a group, (naughty onions!). So, after some thought, I have changed the composition and some elements.
Keeping with the allium theme, and still putting an onion into the composition, I am currently working with some leeks. The range of textures and colours are looking good together and the 'fan' of  leaves on the leek give weight to the scheme. These veggies seem to be working better together, and I have got the layout already sorted. Working back from the submission date, and taking a short Christmas break into consideration, I will have just over three weeks to get this one out of the way. Better get started then...

A really quick sketch of a white onion.
Some of the composition ideas

Those thumbnails came in handy again. When in doubt, get a cuppa, a notebook and a pencil and hammer out some ideas. Just anything that comes, go for it and the answer will present itself.