Wednesday, 27 February 2013

So, what now?

Ha, ha, I'm free! It is somewhat liberating to wake up in the full knowledge that I do not have a deadline to work to or an assignment to start. But then, on the other hand it is also a little scary, no challenge, no direction! Idle hands and all that. Well, not here at Squirrel HQ, plans are always afoot for the next game plan and as tea is the fuel that turns the wheels of industry in this house, the teapot has rarely been allowed to go cold over the past few days. Onwards!

Just before we carry on, I was going through some of my sketchbooks and I just had to share this little chap with you.

Baby Rabbit
watercolour on NOT paper
Back to those wheels. Luckily, I had a brand new sketchbook loitering about the house that has now been brought into active duty to jot down loads of new ideas. Nothing really solid but with a bit of tweaking here and there, things are coming into shape. A year in the garden might follow a month-by-month series of 12 paintings of things I plant in the garden. Another idea I quite like is to paint the wildflowers that grow within one square metre of South Downs chalk meadow. This is a really rare habitat with some very endangered species of plants and wildlife, such as native orchids and butterflies so it might be quite a topical theme.

Happiness is... a brand new sketchbook, a nice sharp HB pencil,
and a cup of tea, of course!

Anyway, these are all just notions fluttering about just now, and I am sure that many other ideas both sensible and a bit, well 'left field' will burst forth. The sketchbook will make an interesting future read methinks. In the meantime, here are some other musings from my sketchbook.

Windows can be such wonderful subjects.
The shutters really were like that.
A window of opporutnity perhaps?

Anyone for mackerel?

Really quick and really fun!

Monday, 25 February 2013

Exit, (pursued by a bear?)

Oh my goodness me! Sorry for the exclamation but with my cold finally abating, the last brushstroke has been swept and that's it, exit my SBA Diploma Portfolio! Now that the end is really here, it doesn't seem quite right, surely there is something else that needs to be done? But no, as they say, it's now in the lap of the gods to decide how well my work is received and what mark I will end up with. Like for so many others, for me the agonising wait begins.

They're on their way!
It's all up to you now, go get 'em.

It's in the bag!
Well, the sketchbooks are anyway.
Being optimistic about it all leads me to begin thoughts of my next project. Of course, there is plenty to do in the garden. A new plan for a rose bed, mixed border and vegetable patch are all on the drawing board, along with the 'big' project of renovating our grand pavilion of a shed. At the moment it is all a bit sluggish in the midsection as the roof needs 'hoisting' up and straightening out. It really needs completely rebuilding, but we will try to use as much of the original as we can as it dates back to the 1930's and feels like part of the house.
Keeping busy is the best way for me not to dwell on the marks I will get for my portfolio, and I will be happy to get a Credit for my efforts. So, I will take a moment to sit with a fresh new sketchbook, a nice sharp pencil, a cup of tea at the ready and let the ideas flow. The future holds lots of exciting expectation, bring it on!

Now for a bit of tidying up

What's next for you, old friend?
P.S. Just in case you were wondering, the title of the post comes from one of the best known Shakespearean theatre directions from The Winter's Tale. Alas it all ends rather badly with the offstage death of Antigonus by said bear. Never mind, I love a bit of drama!

Friday, 22 February 2013

Bad Timing

With just days to go before the end of the dreaded deadline, I have a cold. Oh yes, just at the worst time, I go down with a rotten cold that stops me in my tracks. After so nearly completing all three pieces, I had hoped to use the last few days checking over every inch to maker sure all edges, details and labelling was present and correct. However, with a raging headache, streaming nose and eyes, constant sneezing  and shivering, aching limbs there's no chance I am going anywhere near my pristine paper and risking a last minute disaster. 
At least there isn't much left to do now. Just some work on the roots and a little more contrast on the dissections for this one. The vegetable study could do with a little re-touching on the roots but I think the mixed study is good to go. With that one, I think the assessor will either love it or hate it, you never know who you're going to get or how your work will be received. It's just the way it goes.  
So nearly there!

Just those roots to do.
Never neglect your roots!

All packed and ready to go, the rest of the portfolio

Monday, 18 February 2013


Winter still has a firm grasp on poor old Blighty, with many places still covered in snow. Out in the garden, the daffodils are sprouting and little signs of spring are appearing daily. Hopefully it will stop raining here and start brightening up so we can start work on our new 'Big Project', (more news on that later). Over the weekend, we actually saw some sunshine! Blimey, it feels like ages.
The iris is nearly there, with a cornucopia of greens and purples giving a certain 'zest' to the overall look. The greens were quite tricky with acidy, pale mixes having to sit happily next to darker, richer shades. Lots of Cerulean and Lemon Yellow was needed but on their own looked too fake, a bit of Raw Sienna knocks back the brightness and with a very light mix gives just the right amount. Building up the layers slowly prevents too much going on in one go and I like to judge the depth of colour once everything is dry. Colours always look different when dry. When mixing shades, I do a little 'test patch' which is allowed to dry when I can tell if it is right for the job.
What's in the palette?
Purples and greens.
Lots of cerulean, indanthrene blue and lemon yellow here.

And on the leaves

Graphite is being used for the dissections so a whole range of grades will be needed. A good sharp point and gentle circular movement prevents the 'colour' going too fuzzy. Using pencil is quite therapeutic, but like the brushwork I need to take care not to go OTT.   

Graphite longitudinal dissection


Wednesday, 13 February 2013

A First Class Stamp and a Forklift Please!

So much to do and so little time. A saying that is most apt just now as I work speedily towards the deadline. Of course, there is also paperwork to be done and checklists to consult and packages to be sealed up before the trudge to my long suffering postie. The staff at our local post office are used to my large brown envelopes being sent backwards and forwards, but this time, blimey! With two rather full sketchbooks heading towards their destination in Dorset, I think a fork lift truck may well come in handy. 
Lots of my SBA friends are feeling the pressure too as they get ready to submit their first pieces to the exhibition, it will be exciting to see who got what in. Having to submit five or six pieces to one exhibition is a huge undertaking, but with a possible Associate Membership to the society up for grabs, there is all to play for and it is certainly worth a punt. It goes without saying that I really do wish all of you submitting to the SBA this year the very best of luck with your endeavours.
Onto the work in hand. Well, it's nearly there, although I will be working right up to the wire with this one as I had to start again. Oh yes, even at this late stage, an 'error' occurred, (catastrophe more like!) so another tracing had to made. There it is! Apart from that, the flowers, bulbs, roots and dissections are all nearly there and with a week and a bit to go. I think it will be alright.   
Iris reticulata 'Purple Gem'
Not the regular blue, this one has tones of red and lilac
Roots need some touching up and the other bulb will have pencil
root details. 

An opening flower and a closed bud make three.
Always work in odds, it looks better. 

Friday, 8 February 2013

Brushes Please! (But it's not what you think!)

So, now that 2013 is well and truly underway, the time has come to take the plunge and start to get myself properly organised. With so much work being done in the spare room, the place has become a bit of a disaster zone with bits of this and that and dead flowers hanging about, and all those books. It seems that whenever I find something to paint, shove it in some water and it begins to sprout, I think, "hang on, if I just take a cutting and put it in some soil, it might grow". Poor long suffering 'Husband' is beginning to despair at my ever-growing collection of little pots. Anyway, my little room is looking a bit tired, and with the last piece in the epic portfolio jigsaw nearly finished, it is time for a change. So, out goes the art equipment and in comes rollers, paint  and ladders. It's decorating time!
Flower overload
Even the calender has got them!

It's just all getting a bit busy in here.

The new plans progress with the inclusion of my new page on Botanical Artists, a couple of sales, (whoopee!!)  and thoughts turning to getting back into tutoring. As a teacher, it will be nice to use the old skills, get back into harness, (so to speak) and share my experience with others while helping them to meet their potential and enjoy the world of botanical art as much as I do.
In some ways, the end of the course will be a bittersweet experience. On one hand, there will be no more deadlines, demands and the ever painful wait for assessment results, but also the feeling of, "what on earth do I do now?". The experience of past students tells me to just keep going and aim for the next challenge. What's that then? Well, once I get my studio back after it's much needed attention, we will have to wait and see.


Monday, 4 February 2013

Spring Promises

With February here at last and the days getting longer, thoughts are turning to my spring garden. The hellebores have been going strong since just before Christmas, and even during the recent snow they managed to pop their cheery little heads up. Now, the early flowering iris are here. These are such gentle, simple, elegant and beautiful flowers, with their starry blooms surviving even the most blustery winds. Gorgeous as a botanical subject. 
There will be so much to do in our garden, it's a wilderness that hadn't been touched for years and even now, we are still finding treasures. Last summer, a beautifully scented mock orange made itself known from the back of a border and another sheet of corrugated metal had been discovered buried in the vegetable patch! Don't ask, I have no idea? So, with lots of digging and clearing we may create a new space for the camellias I bought for 'Nemesis', ahem, the mixed study I mean.

These beautiful Iris flowers came for my birthday.
A summer flower that need a very hot, sunny spot in the garden
to look their best. 

Iris reticulata
A very early flowering iris, perfect for the illustration.
These have been brought in from the garden,
 but will go back where they belong.

the buds are a real treat on this plant and a must for the painting.

The colours on the back are just eye-poppingly delicious!