Thursday, 27 June 2013

Striving for Perfection

My goodness, I can't quite believe it's nearly July already. Where has the time gone? The end of June always sees lots of celebrations in our household, with my brother having a Birthday two days after my Mum and Dad's Anniversary. So, lots of visiting and catching up and generally having a good time will be had by all.

Celebrations are also in order now that the big parcel that has been loitering in the hallway is now on its way to Ireland. There is always that feeling of anxiety when something precious gets posted. Will it get there? More importantly, will it get there in one piece?  It will be a relief to know when it has arrived safely or otherwise. Fingers tightly crossed until I get the 'it's here' email. 

Now that I have got the layout and composition ready for the alphabet project, I have a bit of time to take a more relaxed approach. It is so lovely to be able to take time over a painting rather than rushing towards a deadline, but also take the time to reflect on the areas of my painting that I am still looking to improve. Work by other artists that always catches my eye are the pieces that have a lot of light in them. Using white paper as a high shine or very light areas in a painting always looks effective and when this is combined with deep shade or colour, the overall finish is stunning. Rosie Sanders always produces really beautiful flower compositions using eye-popping colour and vibrant compositions. My favourites are the iris paintings with luscious purples in deep, velvety tones. Iris 'Action Front' by Fiona Strickland is also one of my favourite pieces, and perfectly captures that balance between light and shade. There's always more to learn as we strive for perfection. 

Setting the bar high.
One of the Sunflowers by Fiona Strickland

And again.
This time it's sprouts by Paul Fennell.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Getting the Munchies

Yesterday was such a lovely day, and I got so carried away with making the most of it, that I forgot to put up a new post. Sorry about that. Sunshine and blue skies finally arrived and the time came for picking some of the strawberries in the garden and having a bit of a tidy up after the recent high winds. Beautifully ripe and juicy, the strawberries made a gorgeous pud with some homemade shortcakes and clotted cream. After a hard day, these were a little indulgent yes, but often, no.

Fresh from the garden.
Just halved and left to sit for a couple of hours
sprinkled with a teaspoon of vanilla sugar. 
This year has been so hard going on some of the veggies and fruits we are attempting to grow, with the cold, damp and murky days throughout May and June stopping lots of our plants from growing. And the slugs and snails have had a fine old time munching on my squash. And I really wanted to paint them this year. Oh well, at least we will have some homemade rhubarb jam and there are loads of raspberries and blackberries on the way. Oh and beans too. Not all bad then.
Work, of course, is never far away and the bramble study is coming along quite well. Of course this plant has been a lot easier to find as it grows rampantly throughout our wilderness of a garden. Lots of tiny buds and opening flowers will give plenty of variety, showing the plant at different stages of development, and the leaves are always interesting as they tend to have a lace doily effect of munch holes. Working in the sketchbook, I am using lots of fresh zingy greens and wet-in-wet washes for the leaves. Having got into the habit of mixing my own greens, I find Indanthrene Blue and French Ultramarine really useful, along with Transparent Yellow, Lemon Yellow and Aureolin. To knock the colour back a bit, I will often add Light Red or Perylene Maroon to a green mix, giving more tone and shadow mixes. Bramble leaves also have a reddish tinge here and there, especially on the serrations at the edge. Again, for this I have found mixes using Perylene Maroon, Alizarin Crimson and Brown Madder useful, mixing rusty shades with Transparent Yellow, Lemon Yellow and Aureolin to get a good range. Mixing a touch of the green into the red gives a darker mix for shadows and the tips of the serrations.

From the sketchbook.
A lacy doily of a leaf, with wet-in-wet washes
and some dry brush details.
getting a feel for how I need to work. 

This is the look I am aiming for.
Julia Trickey really is superb at leaves   

Phew! And after all that, the paintings are now back from the framers ready for their trip to Ireland and the Claregalway Botanical Art Expo. Lots of comfy packaging will be needed and then, off they go. Oh, and I have just got myself a couple of new Stillman and Birn sketchbooks.

Keeping it simple, what do you think?
Really happy to see my work in a frame at last. 

Now to say goodbye.
Well, maybe just for a little while.


Thursday, 20 June 2013

A Very Thorny Thursday

The excitement levels have gone up a notch or two over the past few days as things are really warming up, (no, not the weather!) A few more of my Kanzashi corsages have sold and the local arts and heritage centre I contacted is very interested in my one-day workshops. Also, my private student would like to come back. Yay! And even more fab was seeing these beautiful blooms on the hydrangea that grows on the old brick shelter. The first time it has flowered this well in three years.

Well done to you.
These look gorgeous amongst the honeysuckle
Work on the bramble for the ISBA project is underway and after a few tweaks here and there, I think it will be quite nice to do. The plant will definitely be the dominant feature here, but if you have brambles running rampant in your garden you will know all about that anyway. Still a bit nervous about the graded wash on the letter. There is a fear of a ruined piece if I don't get that bit right.

Bramble leaves have three to five 'leafllets'

New leaves have a fresher, brighter colour than older leaves
which develop a tinge of red as they age.

Early sketchbook notes and ideas

For my 'master' tracing, I draw straight onto drafting film

Also thinking on plans for my next piece. Foxgloves are looking good just now as is my Clematis 'Arabella' and the honeysuckle is just starting to get going. The warm, humid days of late have led to some pretty hefty thunderstorms, hence a sudden spurt of growth in the garden. Still, if it means I have things to paint at least something good will come from our dreadful summer.

Speaking of honeysuckle, here it is.

The white foxgloves grown from seed are everywhere.

The bright blue/purple of Clematis 'Arabella'
gives a nice contrast to the deep pinks and reds of the honeysuckle.

Monday, 17 June 2013

Callas and Claregalway

Another Monday, and another disappointingly gloomy start to a June day. Still, best foot forward and make the most of it. The Calla Lily is almost there now, perhaps just a few touches here and there on the leaf, but all in all, I am quite happy with my first piece since the SBA course.

Calla Lilies

And the full picture
So, it's onto the alphabet project. Starting with those brambles, I have some Fabriano Artistico to work on with the letter already drawn in place. As usual, I have completed the initial prep by tracing the letter onto film, ready to play around with the composition of the bramble. At this time of year, the flowers are just getting going, and I will include some of the velvety green buds along with open blooms. As I will have a full growing season to complete this piece, I may leave some space to include some berries for a bit of punch, but we will see how we go on that.
Elsewhere, I am looking forward to picking up my newly framed artworks. Nothing overly fancy here, no float mounting or deckle edges, just a nice neutral frame and a very pale mount. Although I will not be sending any of the prints to the Claregalway Expo this year, I will have the new ones available on Open House Art.


Friday, 14 June 2013

D is for Drastic Measures

With the Calla Lily study very nearly finished, now is the time to start work on the much anticipated ISBA Irish Botanical Alphabet project. An auspicious start with a change of plant right at the time when most plants are just getting into their stride,  was a bit of a disappointment, but that rather goes with the territory. If a plant won't grow, it just won't grow.
Well, with drastic measures taken and the plant problems finally behind me, it's time to tackle those thorny, uncooperative brambles again. To be honest, I quite like painting these prickly little bu***rs, and have been consulting my SBA sketchbooks to see how I painted them the last time. I used brambles for a study of hedgerow plants way back last summer and was quite pleased with how they turned out, so fingers crossed for this one.

From the sketchbook

From the final piece for
'Working in the Field'
To ladybird or not to ladybird?
That was the question.

So, with a couple of thumbnails and sketches under-way, it looks like the bramble will turn out quite nicely, following the curving shape of the Irish letter 'D', with pale pink blossoms and rich green leaves offsetting the grey of the letter. Not sure if I will add any other habitat plants as this might make for a busy affair, but I do like an insect or two, so you never know, Lucy Ladybird may make another appearance.

Can I add one of these please?

Well, you get the idea


Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Off and Running

It feels really good to be painting again. After a bit of a break, that at times felt like it had gone on too long, I finally settled on a subject that wouldn't be affected by the weather, and off we went. Falling into the same pattern of work that has become so familiar to me, with sketchbook studies, colour notes and try outs for the composition, the Calla Lily study is taking shape.

Nearly there with the blooms.
It's bramble time again
My second option for the Irish Botanical Alphabet project. 

The first piece since completing the course is an exciting but daunting prospect, but I feel that I am on the edge of something truly wonderful. There is so much that I want to do with so many new ideas and opportunities coming my way, I am quite overwhelmed, and busy. The key is to enjoy what you do, and just now, that is exactly what I am doing. Off and running. Now to get those six pieces ready for the SBA exhibition 2014.
Elsewhere, my two pieces for the Claregalway Botanical Art Expo are currently being framed, so I will have to wait about a week before I can see how they are getting along. Prints are also being made of 'Alternative Alliums', before heading out to new homes.  

'A Hogarth Curve'
Nearly ready for a public debut.

Monday, 10 June 2013

Orchid Spotting, or is it Spotty Orchids?

And so, here again is Monday, and after a stunningly beautiful weekend where, yet again, 'Husband' and I were gallivanting around the Hampshire countryside, enjoying another hike in the great outdoors. Picnic lunches are something that people just don't seem to do anymore unless it is some sort of organised charity or festival day. Either that, or it will be a few warm,  curly sandwiches in the car park before driving home. We used to do them all the time, and I remember as a child, long woodland walks, pond dipping and picnics where we cooled bottles of homemade lemonade in a nearby stream while we tucked into Mum's delicious quiche. Well, this weekend, I decided to get the tradition going again in our household, and when I do a picnic, it's a full on affair. Green salad, Caesar pasta salad and fresh mozzarella with sun-dried tomatoes and basil made for a Mediterranean feel while good old fashioned sausage rolls and scotch eggs kept 'Husband' happy. And to finish, a fresh fruit salad washed down with delicious elderflower presse, yummy. 
And of course, we came across lots of interesting floral finds.
Now here is something I didn't expect to find on chalk downland,
a Heath Spotted Orchid, or as a friend suggests,
a Common Spotted Orchid.
More usually found on moors, heaths and bogs,
these native orchids have found a happy home on chalk.
On the Downs, there are a few orchids to spot,
but this was our only sighting.

Preferring a sunny but damp position, these bright yellow iris
grow in great swathes and self seed.

And closer to home.
Not entirely sure what this is, I think it may have seeded
itself from a nearby garden.

On the work front, I have had to admit defeat on the search for the Yellow Wort. I know it's out there somewhere but do you think I can find it, oh no. Let's be honest though, the wildflowers have had a bit of a hard time with our dreadful spring so I can't blame them for being a bit behind. Of course, I to let the alphabet project organisers from ISBA know of my miserable failure. Thankfully, Mary Dillon is a real trouper and rallied to the cause extremely successfully with a couple of alternatives. Thankfully, one of the options is so abundant, I am almost having to use a machete to clear the garden of it. Oh yes, it's bramble time again. Well, I quite like painting brambles so there should be fun times ahead. Oh, and the Calla Lily study is off the starting blocks.

Early days of the Calla Lily.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

More Splendour

This week has been so exciting, and it's only Wednesday. First up, is the news that two of my pieces have been accepted for a truly splendid exhibition in Ireland. This will be my first one since my graphic designer days, so I am currently sporting my finest impression of 'The Cheshire Cat'. And why not, if that's not a good enough reason to be outrageously cheery, I don't know what is. Well, getting some of my handmade lovelies into a gallery could manage it. Yes, it's those Kanzashi flower things again! A consignment of my summery, bohemian, vintage inspired little accessories are currently for sale at Rum's Eg gallery in Romsey, near Southampton. The portfolio went down well too.

Remember these?
Off to a new home.Time to get folding 
Off to 'The Emerald Isle'
Hogarth Curve and Sammy and Lucy
will enjoy a summer in Ireland

Alternative Alliums
Not quite ready for a public debut,
but a popular choice at Rum's Eg
Next, and adding to the splendour is the fact that I have actually put paint to paper and finally got a new piece under-way. It is embarrassing to confess that although I started a Clematis montana study, with every intention of making this my next masterpiece, it didn't work out that way. Oh, lordy, you know what it's like, you get so busy and things go on the back burner, and then disaster strikes. In this case, the British weather decided to intervene and scupper my plans. You name it, we had it, rain, gale force winds and even hail. I ask you, it is enough to trial the patience of a saint. Anyway, all the delicate blooms on my gorgeous Clematis have probably ended up in Hull as there are so few left. Back to the drawing board.
Calla Lilies are always a good subject and I love the architectural elegance of the flowers, with their delicate, folded trumpets held aloft on the slimmest of stems. Even the leaves are pretty splendid, so having got my hands on a growing pot of these little lovelies, it's off we go again. Three blooms, a couple of leaves here and there and voila! 

Colour, simplicity and elegance.
What's not to love about the Calla Lily?


Monday, 3 June 2013

Further Ramblings

As it was such a gorgeous day on Sunday, 'Husband' and I decided to once again, head into the hills. This weekend really felt like someone decided to 'switch on summer' and it is always best to make the most of it while it lasts. British summers are famous for the, three fine days and a thunderstorm scenario, so time was truly of the essence.
The South Downs once again, played host to our ramblings and the view from one of the highest points really is gorgeous on a clear day. You can even see the sea! And of course, no day in the countryside is complete without sheep, tea and cake, and being almost knocked over by an over-excited pooch.

The South Downs

How about this for the latest lawn mowing technology?
Of course, there was a semi-serious point to the expedition and that was, the hunt for the yellow wort. Yet again, no sight of this, evidently scarce botanical curio was to be seen, although there were plenty of other things to catch the eye. After two hours of wandering and fruitless hunting, it was time to abandon ship and head to the cool sanctuary of the cafe and their sumptuous offerings. Time for 'Plan B' methinks.
Spring hasn't been kind, but some hardy survivors
have arrived 

P.S. I must just give a hearty well done to a lovely friend, Tracy Hall who has just had a piece shortlisted for the David Shepherd Wildlife Artist of the Year. Tracy is a brilliant artist who works mainly on miniature pieces with a truly extraordinary level of detail. Check out her Watercolour Artist Diary blog to see her shortlisted piece.