Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Dr. Squirrel Prescribes

Well, my surgery is now open and for all my delightful patients Dr. Squirrel prescribes, happiness. Laughter, they say is the best medicine and over the next couple of weeks I hope to be taking plenty of that particular tincture. It would appear that my last post on confidence really hit a familiar nerve with many of my fellow artists and friends, and I have been quite overwhelmed by the support and positive feedback I have received on being so open. It is not in my nature to hold back on emotion (I still well up when the gunshot rings out in Bambi), and having been at the mercy of the health service for the past six years, I can definitely say that I have been sacrificed on the alter of dignity many times. You have to laugh.    

So, in the guise of the doctor of cheer and happiness, it is time to inject our day with a thumping good dose of fun. After cleaning out the loo this morning and having spent over an hour at the gym yesterday, I am feeling rather smug and virtuous. The splendour continues this week with a meeting about my workshops, a good catch up with a dear friend, and the arrival of my new desk. A lovely little vintage affair, but more on that when it arrives, (the desk that is, not the dear friend). Can't wait. Plus, there's ice cream in the freezer, so what's not to get happy about?

Well, I've been having fun in the studio too, with sketchy studies of a chicken, whimsical tunes and the old-school classic of leaf rubbing. Came out rather well too.

A leaf rubbing really does pick out the fine detail

Now onto the next sketchbook in the exchange. Just now, I am playing about with leaves and skeletons, (see above effort). As so much of the garden has almost overnight, turned green, I thought it might be nice to revisit the idea of a page of leaves. Although the April weather is certainly living up to expectations. Now that takes us back to Bambi and do you remember that little song about April showers.

The inclement weather of the season.
Rain clouds and a little ditty.

This one has been stuck in my head for weeks,
and is busting to come out.
So, here it is.

And, as I know the recipient keeps chicken,
a sketchy little hen.



Friday, 25 April 2014

Enjoy What You Do

It is really hard to describe oneself as ambitious, or even as talented. Like many others working in the arts, it is in my nature to be somewhat reserved and self-deprecating, and I find it very difficult to accept praise, especially regarding my work. Gaining a Distinction from the SBA Distance Learning Diploma was enough of a bolt from the blue, but getting all six of my paintings past the selection panel for this year's SBA exhibition was completely overwhelming.

Part of the submission to the SBA
in the end the Calla was left at home

Confidence, it seems is like a delicate flower, look after it and it will last for ages, but treat it badly, by not feeding it or maintaining it's care, and it will wither. Now I may be being a bit melodramatic here, but that's how I see it and for many years my confidence was completely shattered. Even as a young adult, I found myself having panic attacks and any kind of public event was like asking me to climb Mount Everest! In fact, that might have sounded like the better prospect in some ways.

Well, I digress a little there, but the point is that it takes a certain amount of confidence to put your work out there for criticism and judgement. Just a few years ago, I would never have done it and am still a little surprised that I am doing it now. With just a couple of weeks to go until the opening of the SBA Annual exhibition, I still pinch myself that when I go to see the works on display, mine will be amongst them.

The Chosen Ones

These are the four paintings out of the six that the SBA panel decided to hang in the exhibition.

A Hogarth Curve
© Jarnie Godwin 2014

Iris reticulata 'Purple gem'
© Jarnie Godwin 2014

The Green Belt
 © Jarnie Godwin 2014

Sammy & Lucy
© Jarnie Godwin 2014

Now of course, the sky really is the limit. With my first Five Challenges  giving me plenty to think about, it's time to take the bull very firmly by the horns, so to speak and get going while the happy momentum is still going. That'll be challenge 6 then...

6. Feeling Good. Keep the momentum going with plenty of things to do, even if it's just call up a mate to chew over the gossip and get an opinion on a new idea. It's good to get a different perspective and only a good friend will be the one to tell you, " don't be an idiot, you can't be thinking of doing that!". And we all need mates like that. Getting out and about more and doing the things you love keeps the happiness alive. So, more galleries, museums, walks in the country and pub lunches for me then. Well, you know what they say about all work and no play...

7. Fieldwork. I really enjoyed the experience of working in the field for one of my assignments and would really like to do more. Living in Hampshire has given me access to many more habitats such as chalk down and coastlines, so I would really like to explore these a lot more and record their flora. that said, I would also like to do some more fieldwork back home in Essex. Remembering to carry a small sketchbook with me on my travels must also become a habit, as I invariably forget one and then find a ripe subject that I can't note down.

Painting created from the original fieldwork studies

Well, before I brim over with all this confidence and forward thinking, the theory mustn't take over and the important thing is to just get on with it. Do what you enjoy, and enjoy what you do.     

Monday, 21 April 2014

Water, Water Everywhere

Bank holiday weekends are usually laid back affairs spent in the garden, or out with friends and family doing what friends and family do. Well, this weekend was spent, once again at Squirrel HQ, this time sorting the plumbing. At first, I though running water to be something of a luxury in a shed, but as this will now be a studio, water would be an essential attribute. Not least for the all important tea making.

First up, get the sink in. The frame for the cupboard was already made with a top on it, so now the hole had to be cut for the sink to drop into. That cut out bit is already being eyed up for a small workbench.

Carefully cutting round the template of the sink

Well, that's the easy part.
Although that power point will have to be shifted now.
Electrics and water don't mix.

Once our old kitchen sink, sporting a brand new tap was in place, the hard part of getting water to it began. Using the outside garden tap as a starting point, a double connector allows water to be run to the studio without disturbing the outside tap for the garden hose. Next, a trench had to be dug out across to the studio for the long run of piping that would carry the water. Luckily here we could use a border in the garden to bury the pipe so only a little of the drive had to broken.

Going underground.
From the house...

...and under the gate...

There was an awful lot of jigger-pokery to be done here, as the connectors kept getting loose, spraying a great jet of water into the air. Erm, perhaps not. Once all was secure, concrete was laid over the pipework, and no one would ever know we had been there!    

Then the good bit.

...to here.
Running water

 But where does it go?

Filtered in here

Ends up here. A cut in half water butt.
With a tap on the water butt, the water goes on the plants.
A wooden lid will be made to cover the butt. 

Now for the cupboard doors.

These boards are actually flooring boards
but make the perfect material to make cupboards

Under construction

Just some hinges.
And that shelf is a handy feature too.

Dad made these cute handles from some off-cuts of Teak
he had in his garage

Just a coat of paint will finish these off

After three days of toil.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Five Challenges

With New Year resolutions a long and distant memory for many people, I am only just now making a few of my own. Inspired by friend and fellow blogger Dianne in one of her earlier posts this year, I feel now is the time to get organised and motivated. So, concentrating on what I would like, (want isn't really the right word and my Mum has always said that 'I want' doesn't 'get') to achieve and focus on for the rest of this year, I have followed Dianne's efficient strategy of a top ten checklist. Well sort of, here's the first five.

1: The Blog:  Starting with the blog, a few changes have already come into effect, as I really want to focus on posts with more work in progress, step-by-step projects and trials. There was a really good response to my step-by-step chilli post and I know you all like to see what's on the drawing board. Also, I will try to get back in the habit of posting a couple of times a week, to keep things fresh and up to date.

2: Tuition: Leading on from the blog is the tuition. I have really enjoyed getting back into teaching and although workshops are very different from a formal school classroom setting, I feel very much that this is an area of my work that I would really like to develop. My first workshops this year have been extremely successful, with a waiting list for places. The venue have been very pleased with the response, with lots of lovely comments from the students. Here's hoping for some more dates, later in the year, and perhaps some more venues.

Lily Bud Workshop
The chilli pepper workshop

3: Challenge: I feel that I really need to introduce some challenge to my work, something to really stretch the skill base. Keeping within my comfort zone has become a little too comfortable, and before I get stuck in a rut and become a bit of a one trick pony, I am going to paint lots of different and more difficult and unusual subjects.

Looking at pieces by artists I really like, I can see where I can improve my own work. it's important I think to be critical and honest about your painting and to identify areas of strength and those that can be improved. This 2004 piece by Regine Hagedorn recently caught my eye. Her rose paintings are just exquisite, gentle but with a real depth of focus and detail.

A beautiful study of rose Bouquet d'or
by Regine Hagedorn
Published in 'The Golden Age of Botanical Art
by Martyn Rix 
4: Daily Painting: A couple of years ago, I took part in a 30 day painting challenge which involved leaves, and last year there was a lovely daily project to paint found things. Much as I would have loved to participate in this one, life got in the way. This year, I am taking part in the Nature Trail sketchbook exchange, which is already giving loads of scope for daily additions.  

The next page ready and waiting
A green theme methinks for April.

5: Exhibitions and Submissions: This one is terrifying but necessary. As you know, I have been gearing up for the SBA annual exhibition in May. Of course, this is not the only exhibiting opportunity for botanical artists and I hope to offer my work for consideration in a few more exhibitions this year. This part is mostly down to confidence, (funds) and a level of conviction in your ability as an artist, something I find quite difficult as I am surrounded by so many highly talented individuals.

My first exhibition.

Next on the radar:

The Studio; New Equipment and Kit; Fieldwork; Research; Feeling Good.

Monday, 14 April 2014

At the RHS (By an Exhibition Newbie)

This weekend has been so full of inspiration, my mind is buzzing with excitement and new ideas. Saturday saw myself and my good friend Sarah Morrish of The Natural Year having a fabulous day at the RHS London Orchid and Botanical Art Show. It was lovely to meet up with new friends and to put faces to familiar names. All of the artists were so knowledgeable, and happily shared their experiences of preparing for a large show and what the judges had critiqued them for. Quite overwhelming, the generosity of others.

All set for a day of fun.

Of course, I didn't take enough photos and I must remember to take a proper notebook and more business cards to these sort of things. Just handing out an email is difficult as you can never seem to put your hand on a pen when you need one. Comfortable shoes and lots of water are also a must as I felt like I had walked miles and talked forever. Luckily my good old plimsolls held up their end.

Surprisingly this was actually my first visit to the RHS Lindley Halls for this show and the visual treat of seeing so many styles of botanical painting was stunning. It was interesting to see the amount of graphite artworks on display, colour pencil was beautifully represented by Gaynor Dickeson's stunning Malus paintings and Dianne Sutherland showed her skill of working on vellum with her stunning Snakes-Head Fritillaries. Having seen these pieces take shape over a number of weeks, you tend to feel quite maternal towards the work of friends, and I of course would have awarded Golds to both Gaynor and Dianne. Who knows what goes through the mind of a judge?   

Wild flower and plant habitats were also on show with, Wild Orchids of Britain by Valerie Dugan and Plants from the Woods and Forests of Chile by Isik Guner who won the award for Best Botanical Painting. Sunflowers, anemones, grapes and winter branches all added to the unusual mix, although the large trees 'inhabiting' the hall's display areas did distract somewhat and cast unsightly shadows over some of the pieces making it difficult to fully enjoy the viewing experience.

More Silver and Silver-Gilt medals were given out this year, with fewer Gold medals than 2013 being awarded. The quality of work was amazing, so it must be a very difficult task to decide who gets what. As a mere observer, I cannot really tell the difference between a Silver-Gilt piece and a Gold. It really must be the minutest things that the judging panel spots and it's quite a daunting prospect to think that I would like to put my own hat in the ring.

To make a superb day even better, Sarah gave me the most gorgeous gift. This little box with stunning pyrography details, complete with acorns and beautifully finished with lining paper will take pride of place in my new studio, and will only contain beautiful things. Thank you Sarah for a most special and memorable day.

Complete with acorns

Lots of space for little treasures.

Useful Link:

Making a Mark: RHS Botanical Art Show 2014 - Medal Winners 

Monday, 7 April 2014

April Showers and Mad March Hares

Drip drip drop little April shower
Beating a tune
as you fall all around

If you're as sentimental as I am, you will probably recognise this opening from the song from the favourite film, Bambi, but I hope April showers will stay away, at least for the next couple of weeks. Mum has a birthday, the RHS have their London show, and I am hoping to enjoy lots of days out with 'Husband' now that he has his Easter break.

The latest March entry in the sketchbook exchange is also nearly complete. Humphrey the Easter Bunny made an appearance and I have festooned the pages with studies of Periwinkle and a tent! Yes, a tent. Well, as a child we went camping in the summer, and my Mum and Dad used to tell us stories of camping trips to Scotland at Easter and getting snowed in.

'Humphrey' The Easter Bunny

Camping in the snow, at Easter!

This tale got me thinking about how we mark the changing seasons. There is much folklore and 'old wives tales' (I have never actually met an old wife) that follow with the months and seasonal symbols of change. Although March has passed, there are some choice subjects to study. Starting with red skies.

Red sky at night, shepherd's delight. Red sky at morning, shepherd's take warning.

This one is taken from an ancient way to tell the prevailing weather. The red in the sky is the glow of morning or evening light reflecting on haze or cloud, often associated with storms. The evening red sky often indicates the glow is in the east, hence moving away.

In Europe, the song of the first Cuckoo is often recognised as the earliest sign of spring, as the breeding season kicks off. The composer Frederick Delius even wrote a piece of music named 'On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring'. And very lovely it is too. If you are a very early riser, you can hear the 'Dawn Chorus' throughout Spring. There is even an International Dawn Chorus Day on the first Sunday in May, encouraging us to get up nice and early to fully appreciate their efforts. Starting as early as 4am with the Blackbird and ending some time later with the Goldfinch, (they like a bit of a late start), with a plethora of other species getting involved along the way. 

March is also a month with a few lion and lamb connotations, reflecting the seasonal wind and rain that often comes in the early Spring. Oh, and here's one of those pub quiz questions that would impress. Did you know that March begins on the same day of the week as November every year? And if History was your bag at school, then we could all recall that March is the month named after Mars, the Roman god of war, who was also regarded as the guardian of agriculture.

March roars in like a lion in the sky
and makes us shiver
as he passes by

When winds are soft
and the days are warm and clear
just like a gentle lamb
Then Spring is here


And finally we have 'Mad as a March Hare'. This one comes from the observed antics said to occur only in the March breeding season of the Hare. Similar phrases are attested in the sixteeth century, in the works of John Skelton (Replycacion, 1528). "Aiii, I saye, thou madde Marche Hare"; and in the 1529 Magnyfycence the hare was described, "As mery as a Marche Hare". More recently, the popular illustration of the March Hare is at The Hatter's tea party in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carrol

The March Hare with Alice, the Dormouse
and The Hatter from
Lewis Carroll's 1865 book
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
Image care of Wikimedia

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Lily Bud Workshop

With the next workshop next week, now is the time to get the prep under way. The last few days have been glorious here, and there is always the temptation to spend the days outside rather than painting in the studio. The garden has had some attention, but now I really must get on with some work.

The lily bud for this next workshop will be painted using a photograph as guidance. First, the photo has been enlarged so that the lily bud is life sized, making it easier to draw or trace. All of the focus can then turn to the mixes and washes and the techniques. Some of the students last time found it difficult to draw the subject, and as the day is more about the painting techniques, I felt a photo would be more helpful here and I quite like working from photos myself.

The finished study 

Step one
Getting the drawing and composition

The colours

As before, I will create a series of colour charts, with all the mixes used in the study. In the palette I have got from left to right, Transparent Yellow, Permanent Rose, Perylene Maroon, Quinacridone Magenta, Ultramarine, Indanthrene Blue and Lemon Yellow. By completing the the study myself first, I get a better idea of how to change things or add other colours before the workshop.

The Steps

As always on hot press paper, I work with wet-on-wet washes to get the initial colour base of the flower bud in place.  Dry brush techniques are used in the later stages to establish details and fine areas of tone. Using too many wet washes in the later stages can lift the carefully painted washes underneath.

Working with light washes in the early stages, establishes the colour and variation
Pink mix uses Permanent Rose and Lemon Yellow 

Dropping in a mix of Indanthrene and Lemon at the tips

Pale but interesting
A light wash of Permanent Rose and Lemon Yellow to the petals.
Indanthrene Blue and Lemon Yellow is used as a mix for the stem and mid ribs.

A light shadow wash of the pink with a little Perylene Maroon
and Ultramarine was added to the right  petal

Once the main washes were laid it was time to get down to the detail. Here I have used the same pink but made to a stronger mix. By continuing to lay wet-in-wet washes, I was able to gain lovely movement as the paint settled.

More of the strong pink but with a little Quinacridone Magenta
The fine detail begins to take shape.

A lilac toned 'grey' made from the pink mix with a little Indanthrene,
is used on the paler petals, and the shadows start to take their form.

The mid-ribs are accentuated with a stronger green mix of
 Indanthrene, Lemon and Perylene Maroon.
And the stem gets a couple of washes.
Ultramarine and Lemon with Perylene on the stem.

The first on the leaf is added

As the lily bud was quite pale, with many neutral toned shadows on the lighter petals, greys and neutral mixes had to be mixed. For these mixes, I always find the best ones are made from the existing colours in your palette. Here I have used the pink mix again but added more blue and yellow to get a lilac toned mix for the shadows nearer the top of the petals. For shadows nearer the base, a buff coloured shadow mix made of the pink mix but with a heavier yellow tone and some maroon was used. The finished painting will be photocopied, so I have made the colours a bit stronger.

The 'buff' tone of this shadow mix is perfect for the base of the petals 

Dropping in a stronger green mixed with Indanthrene Blue,
Lemon Yellow and a touch of Perylene Maroon.

While the area is still wet the paint can be pulled around
or removed with a 'just damp' brush.
Too wet a brush at this stage will unsettle the paint.

Starting the leaf with the lighter green wash
of Indanthrene and Lemon

Establish the veins using a wet-in-wet wash of the stronger mix.
Allow the paint to settle.
Again, using a damp brush to move the paint around will help achieve
the surface texture of the leaf

More strength to the shadows and the mid-rib.
here a stronger lilac shade was mixed again using the pink
 but with some Quinacridone Magenta and a little Indanthrene 

It's important to check your source material
regularly whilst painting.
Here I can see I need to add further shadow to the right side of the bud,
but I don't want to go too dark here.
Ultramarine added to the lilac wash makes a good blue tone
to the shadow of the whiter petals.

Remember that photos are affected by the light conditions and surrounding influences.
Here, the desk is grey but shows up as blue and the photo was taken on an overcast day.

This one might need a bit more of a tweak here and there, but for now.
A very light final yellowish wash of the buff shadow mix with a little
Transparent Yellow was added to the base of the right hand petals.