Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Fallen Apples and Cream (or Paint)?

Ta-Dah! The bramble is finally finished, grey letter and all. Yesterday, the final touches and grey were applied to this epic Alphabet piece, and I was quite relieved when that brush was put down for the last time. As you know, this one has been a bit of an ordeal, not least because it was the first one I attempted to do after my op. Perhaps I shouldn't have pushed myself on it, but at least it's finished now and I am quite pleased with the result.

So, with the work off my desk, it was time for a bit of a clean up. It feels good to have a tidy desk, clean palette and clean piece of paper sitting in front of me. New beginnings are the most exciting times, as this is the most creative stage of putting a new piece together. Subject, composition, scale and colours all come together here and there is always frustration before that most satisfying 'lightbulb' moment, when it all feels right, and away we go again. Although, I don't think I will be using that grey again.

The storm on Sunday night brought many apples down from the tree.
This one is relatively unscathed and has a couple of leaves attached

This morning felt like the first real cold-snap of the Autumn. Out of the window, the leaves are really starting to turn and the last of the Bramley and Cox apples are hanging off the trees like jewelled baubles. Mmm, I love baked apples, all buttery gorgeousness and plumped up fruit. I wonder if we have any cream? Or perhaps I should paint one first.

A trial run getting some cards printed.
Perhaps a little OTT with the pink raffia,
but who cares, it looks pretty.
More on the way.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Thumbnail Thursday, (on Monday)

Over on Facebook last week, I started 'Thumbnail Thursday'. So many people comment on my little 'mini compositions on watercolour paper, that I thought I would make an album on my page as a way to share them all. These thumbnails tend to be just that, tiny little composition ideas that I work on scraps of Hot Press paper with watercolour to get the feel of the picture and how the colours will go together.

If I don't use the composition at the time, I know I will have a record of it, and all the sketches and colour notes that go with it to refer back to later. Going back through sketchbooks can uncover some forgotten gem of an idea that may spark the enthusiasm once again.  

A very quick idea of how a composition
for red onions might work out.

This one ended up on the back burner but may yet come to fruition.
Some on Facebook have said these onions look like they are dancing.
I like that idea.

Leek and Onion for one of my Diploma pieces
Again, loads of these little pictures came in handy
to get the look right.
This was the one I like best.

And the final piece.
Using the thumbnail as a guide took all the guess
work out of trying to get the composition right.
Tracing the drawings I made of the component veggies,
allowed me to move them around the paper, to get their
position just right.

Oh, and if this Big Storm, currently battering the South of England is heading your way, brace yourselves and stay safe today. Still checking all of Squirrel HQ, to make sure we have no injuries to report. 


Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Barnstorming Botanicals

As we head into the wild and woolly weather of Autumn, (half term looming too) I thought I would give you a bit of an exhibition update as there are still plenty of botanical art exhibitions to enjoy, and keep everyone out of the dreadful weather of late. As always, The Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art over at Kew is the place to be, especially over the next few months. Firstly, the Black and White in Colour exhibition is already going strong and after the heady glory days of the Rory McEwen show in the summer, this beautiful display, "exploring the subtleties of the great range of black and white in the plant world" will keep the joyous enthusiasm for botanical art going right up until January next year. 

Illustration of Arisarum by Sue Wickison
Arisarum (Arisarum sp.) by Sue Wickison
From the Black and White in Colour exhibition
Image c/o

Also on the go at Kew is the wonderful exhibition, Rory McEwen's Legacy: Artist's influenced by him in the Shirley Sherwood Gallery, including contemporary artists demonstrating how the work of Rory McEwen influenced their own style and interest in botanical art. This show opened in April to run alongside the barnstorming, Colours of Reality exhibition, which highlighted and showcased the work of Rory McEwen, featuring his work spanning the decades between the 1950's to the early 1980's.

Painting of Radcliffe Square by Rory McEwen
Radcliffe Square by Rory McEwen
Image c/o

Still to come with even more botanical splendour is the tour, book signing and up-coming exhibition of the collection of Alisa and Isaac. M. Sutton. Influenced to collect botanical art by his own appreciation of Dr. Sherwood's collection after seeing it at the National Arts Club in New York in 1997, Sutton began his own collection of botanical art which is now considered to be, "one of the finest private collections of contemporary botanical art in North America". Visitors to Botanicals: Environmental Expressions in Art, who have also booked to go on the exhibition tour with the collector will be in for rare treat as 54 pieces from the collection will be on display. You lucky people. I will be heading up to see it for a birthday treat in January.

Illustration of the Sutton Dogwood
©Katie Lee
A sneaky peak at one of the pieces
 forming the exhibition
Image c/o

Monday, 21 October 2013

Home is Where the Heart is

With the new beating heart of the house now in place, home is a happy place. In other words, the boiler is fabulous, and doing sterling work. Hurrah! Just in time too, as this weekend was an absolute wash out, with a thunderstorm on Sunday morning that caused a tornado just a couple of miles away. We thanked our lucky stars that no-one was out on the scaffolding that is currently enveloping our house. At this very moment, the guys are clunking away and dismantling it all now. No pics, health and safety you know.

So, with a lovely warm house, work is a much more comfortable prospect. Time for the new project and that great white expanse of paper that seems to fill artists with fear and dread. Writers block only with paintbrushes. Luckily I haven't experienced this yet, but I am certain that it is only a matter of time. As always, my problem is tying myself down to an actual decision. With so many new ideas buzzing around in my head, it's hard to make the, 'that's it' final choice of subject. Last time round it was pineapples!

When it comes to stuff around the house, or even buying a house, I am pretty decisive, but not with work. I had thought of putting the subject choice to the vote on Facebook. They are a sensible lot there and I am sure would come up with the right solution. If I don't come up with something before the end of the week, that's what I will do. There you see, I can make a work related decision.

Elsewhere, I have finally been reunited with the pictures I sent to Ireland for an exhibition in the summer.

Yes, it's these two again.
Just a bit of glass cleaning and we're all ready to go

And there's a new book on the shelf too. This charming publication is full of watercolour illustrations, drawings and a season by season guide to what to see in the countryside. A whole cornucopia of wildlife loving, outdoorsy loveliness.  

Published by Bloomsbury,
do keep an eye out for this lovely book.


Thursday, 17 October 2013

Is it Tax or Just Taxing?

This week feels like it has been a bit of an admin week. There is always paperwork to catch up with when you work for yourself, including orders, invoices, emails to catch up on, and the dreaded Tax Return!! Normally the mention of such a thing would have people scurrying for cover, in need of a large gin and tonic or turning a very funny colour and needing a quiet lie down in a dark room. Pah! I say to the tax return. Having studied a rather archaic form of housing and property tax law at Uni, believe me, this holds no fear. Er, hopefully.

Along with keeping up with the accounts this week, I have been making lots of new connections on the professional networking site LinkedIn. It's great meeting like minded folk who work in various areas of artistic industries, and it certainly makes the term, 'it's a small world' seem very apt as you can often find old friends and work colleagues. A bit like Facebook really. 

New projects are also sitting on the drawing board, ready to pounce into action at any moment and over the next few weeks, I have a couple of exciting meetings planned that will herald my work moving in some new directions. Firstly though, it's time to start something new. Recently I have spotted some really gorgeous paintings of pineapples. Fellow botanical artists Gaynor Dickeson, Dianne Sutherland and Elisabeth Sherras Clark have all produced beautiful studies of the fruit and I am always drawn to their gloriously spiky, majestic form in the supermarket or at our local fruit and veg market stall. So, the next one might be fruit. Although the enormous bouquet of lilies that 'husband' bought me rather inspired a composition too. The sketchbook is going to get a lot of attention over the next few weeks. 

Well, before all of that, there is the last, teeny bit of the brambles to do. Now, I know I said I wasn't going to post any more of it, but as it's not quite there, and you can't quite see the whole thing, I thought I would share just a couple more pics. Oh and a new gas boiler is going in this weekend. Hooray! Hot baths all round then.    

Just a little bit more to do.
The snail was painted using a mixture of browns shades using
Perylene Maroon, Alizarin Crimson, Indanthrene Blue,
French Ultramarine, Aureolin and Lemon Yellow.
In my colour palette, I like to use a mix of cool and warm primary colours.

The main stem of the blackberry was painted using the fresh green mix
of Indanthrene Blue and Lemon Yellow used for the leaves.
Re-wetting the area and dropping in a reddish brown mix
gave the characteristic 'woody' appearance.   

Monday, 14 October 2013

Get Well Soon

Well, I'm not going to give you yet another update on those brambles. Firstly, I am sure you have seen enough and secondly, the finial piece is heading for an exhibition so best not to spoil the surprise for the organisers of the project. It's only fair they get first peek.

However, I do have some further news on the new Squirrel HQ. When you are feeling under the weather, the usual 'get well soon' gifts of choice from loved ones tend to go along the lines of flowers, cards, grapes and, if you're lucky, chocolates. Not so with my family. Mum and Dad came down for the weekend to see how I was faring after my run in with the surgeon, and of course, they came bearing gifts. But, for me it was wall insulation and the laying of my new studio floor. All day Friday and Saturday they toiled away at finishing noggins, levelling the floor beams, fitting the floor and insulating the main wall. Every ounce of time was used to get as much done as possible. As you can imagine, I was quite overwhelmed and delighted with my gift. So much so, I am feeling better already.

The foil covered insulation board
gets fitted in between the joists

Spaghetti junction.
The wires, (not live I might add) for the sockets

Whoopee I have a floor.
Under the boards, those noggins are performing sterling work. 

Next up? Finishing the insulation, fitting up the wall lining board, (plasterboard), and replacing those windows and the door. There's a long way to go yet. 

On a final note, one of the Google Doodles caught my eye last week. Celebrating the work of Natural History artist William John Swainson, the Doodle featured some of his exquisite work from his exploration of South America. In 1820 he became the first artist to use the process of lithography in his book, 'Zoological Illustrations', although, his later work in Botany didn't hit the spot with everyone, with Sir William Jackson Hooker making a few choice comments about this area of Swainson's work. Ah well, you can't please everyone!

Google Doodle Celebrates William John Swainson

Monday, 7 October 2013


Well, it's one week on since the new website launch, and I have been so delighted to see how many people have visited and clicked happily away. Thank you to everyone has made Squirrel's first few days such a success, I know a good few of you have been by, so a pat on the back and many thanks all round.

Work continues at pace, as I am really keen to get this one finished and get started with something else. The last lot of leaves are nearly there and then just the stems and letter to go. My grumbles and doubts over the grey are still there but this is always going to be the issue when you yourself are not in control of the requirements. It's something to consider when taking on commissions or specific group projects where specific colours or subjects that you yourself would not choose to do, or even like. This one has been enjoyable as so many of the artists taking part I also call friends, and we all want to see how each other get on and be supportive of our efforts. It's lovely to have such camaraderie.

The last of the leaves.
The over-wash of Transparent Yellow and Indanthrene Blue
gives zing to those greens.

Elsewhere, I have been making progress in my latest venture to get some more applications for my designs. There is still a lot to finish off, so I am sure you will forgive me for not revealing too much. It's not tactics, just nerves I guess, I hate tempting fate, (although I am not superstitious at all, silly isn't it). Ah well, all in good time. Also, some more of my little Kanzashi accessories are ready to go to the Rum's Eg Gallery as they have been selling really well over the last few months, and I also have some interest from other outlets.   

A bountiful bouquet.
Some of these have the addition of little trinket.
Found objects such as odd earrings and broken necklaces
are great sources for recyclable whatnots.
Find the latest blooms via the website

And to finish? A luggage label.
Also available for sale at
Open House Art


Thursday, 3 October 2013

Grumbling About Grey

Well, we mustn't let fame and fortune go to our heads, and the day job beckons. I have been very happy with the number of early visitors to the website, so thank you to all those who have given it a glance. Already, I have made a few adjustments and added a few things here and there and all the latest news will be over there too. So keep posted for new developments and sneaky peaks coming soon.

Anyway, with all the excitement of launching the website this week, it's easy to forget that there is work to be done. Of course, the latest painting is for the ISBA alphabet project and I am at last nearing the end. There are brambles galore, spreading across the page and although there are just a few tweaks on some of the leaves to do, the letter itself is still the daunting prospect.

The ladybird was painted using a mix of
Cadmium Red Deep and Perylene Maroon
with a touch of Indanthrene Blue.

The deepest shading on the leaves used the rich green mix of
Indanthrene Blue, Aureolin and Perylene Maroon but with a
greater degree of blue in the mix. 

The grey that we have been asked to use for the letter is a little on the sticky side for my liking, (no I am not going to embarrass the maker by naming and shaming). Using the colour in some of my practice runs has been a little hit and miss, with streaky tidemarks appearing as the wash dries. Also, I am not really into using pre-mixed greys and gave up on them during the SBA course, in favour of mixing my own neutrals and greys from my palette colours. However, as ISBA would like the project to be complimentary across the whole alphabet, all participating artists are being asked to use the same shade.

Pre-mixed, 'in the tube' greys
against my own mixes.
I always find the pre mixes a bit harsh and
'colourless'. Greys, neutrals and shadows always reflect
 the colours around them and these are a bit, well
My usual method of laying a wash is to wet the area first with clean water, allow it to dry a little, then drop in the colour and manipulate it about until the desired saturation is achieved.  Let's just say at this point, that this particular shade of grey is from a company that I quite like, and I have a good number of their yellows that I swear by in my green mixes. This one, however, is going to take some practice methinks.