Thursday, 29 May 2014

Paints with Added Oomph

I love trying out new paints, and this week I have been trying out my new Daniel Smith colours. Of course, with new colours comes new mixes and with that, the colour chart comes back. As I am still a bit fragile and can't really settle down to painting, this seemed like the perfect way to satisfy my need for colour.

Starting with the Quinacridone Gold, I tested a number of my favourite green and red mixes to see how the rich shade would alter or enhance the mix. Indanthrene Blue in particular is such a 'big' colour with loads of oomph and richness. It's one of my favourite blues and one I turn to again and again in mixes. Other favourite blues for green mixes are Cerulean and Ultramarine, often with just a touch of either Light Red, Cadmium Red or Perylene Maroon. Ahh, Perylene Maroon, my favourite red, and another rich, warm colour that I was sure would mix beautifully with the warm gold.

Lots of promising mixes

Well, maybe not all successful.

The Cobalt Teal separates a bit
when mixed with other colours, especially Quinacridone Magenta.
Sometimes it really does pay to test colours and mixes first,
to see which ones work best.

Love the Quinacridone Gold greens and oranges though.
And the milky neutrals aren't bad.

With their higher price tag I was a bit reluctant to buy into this brand, but as Winsor and Newton have had mixed reviews over their recent changes, I was keen not to become too reliant and to try something new. So, along with the gold, I invested in some Cobalt Teal and Buff Titanium. Again, after some playing about with the mixes, I found I quite liked the flow, consistency and colour saturation of the formula, but found the Cobalt didn't like being mixed with other colours very much. The Buff Titanium is of course mixed with white, so is an opaque neutral colour. However, I did find that it mixed really well with some of the more neutral tones of Umber and Sienna, making a nice range of browns.

My favourite mixes had a lovely new lease of life and on their own, the Cobalt Teal, (CT) and Buff Titanium, (BT) have great uses on their own either glazing over dry washes (CT) or as a stand alone colour, (BT). The Quinacridone Gold could even rival my favourite Schmincke Transparent yellow as a final glaze over greens too.

Elsewhere, as I can't really paint too much, I have been making a few more bracelets. Colour therapy of a different sort, and great fun.



Tuesday, 27 May 2014

The Tradesman's Entrance

So, as the studio is progressing apace, it's time to start thinking of getting the furniture sorted. Having introduced myself to the delights of Ebay, I have bought myself a new desk, and elsewhere, the family have been ever generous with kitchen cupboards and drawers being trawled for 'spares' of everything and anything. It's a bit like moving into your first house. That furniture store from Sweden has suddenly found a new enthusiast too.

The Bank Holiday weekend once more saw Squirrel HQ being invaded by my parents, this time armed with rollers brushes and paint pots. Alas, I could not join in with any sense of enthusiasm (under doctor's orders) and sat on the sidelines offering insightful support. After undercoating the woodwork on the windows, the walls were suddenly attacked on all sides, and within moments were bright, clean and white. A coat of paint really does make a massive difference and made the area look beautifully spacious. Next came the back door. I still can't quite get over that my shed has a back door. Ha ha, perhaps this should become the 'Tradesman's Entrance'. Anyway, this door has never had a decent lock on it and was a bit draughty too. Hunting about for an old lock (with it's key) proved fruitful for once and with a but of jiggery-pokery here and there, the door finally closes properly (and locks). More coats of paint and voila! Another weekend of hard graft and effort satisfactorily complete.

The back door
Or rather, The Tradesman's Entrance' 

The first coat of white paint goes on.
Yes, underneath that dust sheet is my desk.

Now for a good clear out

The desk however, was quite another matter. We had hoped to be able to get it through the kitchen door and out through the double doors in the conservatory. Ah yes well, getting it through the kitchen door was enough of a task and in the end the door had to be taken off it's hinges and the top of the desk had to come off! Well, at least it got through and is now happily placed inside Squirrel HQ.

Of course, I can't resist just a little fresh air in the garden and the camera comes too! here are some of the little gems I found blooming and buzzing amongst the borders.

My new variety of elderflower is an explosion of pinky froth

Bumble Bee buzzing about after the rain

Alliums are great.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Rest and Revival

As you can imagine, this week has been a rather slow affair, with lots of rest, cups of tea and very little else. However, there comes a point when cabin fever sets in and it all becomes a bit too much. Indeed, I do feel that I am about to reach that horizon point, but just now there's not an awful lot I can do about it. I'm sending out for reinforcements.

Luckily, respite from my current diet of daytime TV comes this weekend in the form of my parents coming for a visit. Not just to see how their little girl is doing but more to do with wanting to get more done on the studio. Do you know, I think they actually enjoy it, and can't wait to get cracking again. This time, I am going to get nice painted walls and woodwork, and it might be that the back door will need replacing. Of course, my desk will be unceremoniously shifted into position, eventually taking pride of place under a window, facing the garden. The shed revival was recently described as a 'long-running saga'. Well, you're not wrong there Katherine.

Currently taking up residence in the hall. My new desk
This one is made of oak and cost less than the ones you get
in that rather famous furniture store from Sweden.

This was delivered while I was in hospital, so was a lovely welcome home.

Two handy leaves at the side, one with the original Bakelite pen tray.
A little worn here and there, but aren't we all.

Just now, I have been taking a break from painting, but I am delighted that my workshops have been so successful that I have been asked to do some more at The Spring for the Autumn season. So, I have been coming up with lots of new ideas, covering a range of techniques and subjects for late summer and into the winter. Should be good fun and I am really looking forward to it. Elsewhere, the sketchbook exchange is going from strength to strength and I have just completed a short article about our Nature Trail for publication in the next Society of Floral Painters (of which I am an Associate member) newsletter. Apart from the blog, this will be the first written piece I have had published for many years, so I am a little daunted.        

Oh, and it's always reviving to have something new in the paintbox so this week I treated myself to some Daniel Smith watercolours. Just a couple to give them a go, but I have heard so many good things about them that it had to be done. Some of my friends have noted the lovely qualities of Buff Titanium and Quinacridone Gold, so these were a must. The Cerulean also looked good and as I am nearly out, I got that one too. Over the next weeks, we will see how they compare with my trusty collection.

New Daniel Smith paints making themselves at home
in the box of yellows.  

Friday, 16 May 2014

When Life Gives You Lemons...

...make lemonade.

The Optimist
"Life handed him a lemon,
As Life sometimes will do.

His friends looked on in pity,

Assuming he was through.

They came upon him later,
Reclining in the shade
In calm contentment, drinking
A glass of lemonade"
                                                               (The Rotarian, 1940)

So the saying goes. With this little post we really have gone from the sublime to the ridiculous. After a joyous week of fun and frolics with family and friends aplenty, we now go back to reality, with that ever present next appointment with the surgeon and anaesthetist, (today actually). Oh boo. I hate being laid up with anything, and just after shifting that cold too. Ah well, here's hoping it won't be too long before I am back at the drawing board getting those ideas out again. Believe it or not the ideas notebook is going with me today, there's so much waiting around time and there's bound to be something vital that pops into my head. The staff at the hospital are used to me and my constant mutterings and scribbles and find it hilarious that just as it's all happening, I think of something. Now hang on there a minute, I've got a great idea...ZZzzzzz.

Well anyway, as you know I don't dwell on such things and the imminent arrival of my desk this weekend is filling Squirrel HQ with a sense of progress and reality. Yes, with the delivery of a vintage (slightly beaten up) old desk bought relatively cheaply off Ebay, I really have started to think that this is going to happen. That old shed in the garden really is going to become a working studio, filled with friends, laughter, painting and learning. And with my work being exhibited in two places at once this week, (ISBA and SBA) things are looking up. Get the bunting out and the cream tea at the ready, the Lady Mayoress is about to declare the pavilion open for business.Three cheers...

So when life gives you lemons and you're a botanical artist,

Make a chart of lemony loveliness... 

...or sort through your lemons, there's always room for more...

...or just draw a lemon!

My art college drawing of a lemon segment, in colour pencils
and pastel.

It's not particularly good, but I keep this one just to remind me.

As the weekend weather here is set to be fine and sunny, 'Husband' will be firing up the barbecue and I'll just be sitting in the shade enjoying a glass of lemonade. Cheers everyone!      

Oh, and if you must, here's a recipe for lemonade:

Old-fashioned lemonade

Ingredients   Makes approx 1.2 litres

  • 4  lemons, sliced
  • 150 gram(s) caster sugar
  •  mint leaves, to serve

  1. Place the lemons and sugar in a medium-sized saucepan with 1.2 litres water, bring to the boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves, then leave to infuse for 15 minutes. Strain the lemonade into a bowl or jug and leave to cool. Pour over ice cubes and a few mint leaves in a jug to serve. 

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

My Happy Botanical Friends (and me)

Sorry for not keeping up with things, but oh wow, what an amazing week I have just had in London. The SBA exhibition was even better than I had hoped, with so many stunningly beautiful pieces on display, it really goes from strength to strength every year. Of course, this was my first year as an exhibitor, so it was doubly exciting to be amongst the throng of the preview day. Stewarding at the visitors table was rather fun too. Making sure that everyone who passed took part in the 'People's Choice' vote for their favourite of the whole show brought lots of smiles, and it was great to get an insight into how the exhibition was being received by the visitors.   

This might actually be the first picture of me on my blog.
Fitting that it should be with my paintings at my first
SBA exhibition.

Thanks to Katherine Tyrrell at Making a Mark
for taking the picture

A new look for the SBA catalogue

It was lovely to spend the day with some of my fellow artists and friends too. We don't get to see each other that often as many of us live too far apart for regular catch ups. Our annual get-together is a highlight of the exhibition diary. it's also a wonderful time to be able to share in the celebrations and congratulate friends who have been so deservedly recognised for their efforts.

'Good books, like good friends are few
and chosen; the more select, the more

Louisa May Alcott

Here's my good friend and fellow artist Claire Ward
of Drawn to Paint Nature
Happily this year, Claire was recommended for an award
for one of her stunning pieces. 

And here's another of my very good friends, the lovely Sarah Morrish
of The Natural Year
Sarah received a Certificate of Botanical Merit
for one of her lovely pieces.

Spending time hanging around with artists generally leads to a bit of a swap-fest. Along with new paint products and pens, there were some real little treasures being passed around the dining table at our annual get together or, 'after party' as it is now being called.

Picking up a few surprises.
A gift of a small piece of precious vellum
and a beautiful magnolia leaf skeleton.
Thank you Sarah and Shevaun.

Of course. this trip wasn't all about exhibitions and I was able to spend some lovely quality time with my dear mum and dad. The weather wasn't particularly kind, so walks in our local stretch of Epping Forest was a bit out of the question, but I did paint some conifer seeds from a cone I found.

As they age, the seeds go quite brown.
When freshly out of the cone, I noted more of a bluish, translucent tinge

Turned from a small piece of scrap wood, I 'helped' dad to make this pen tray
for my new desk.
I haven't used dad's scary mill, so it was a daunting experience.
Using some of the felt I made from an old wool cardigan, I have lined
the pen tray.

And good old Ebay.
I found this rather sweet little piece.
Full of nostalgia, I remember using something like this at school.
This one is rather fancy, with brass bits inlaid into the top.
It only cost £5 with the postage too, so a bargain. 

Coming home is always nice too, but I don't much like the tidying up. Now that all my paints are out of the travel bag, they need putting back in their boxes.

Monday, 5 May 2014

A London Adventure

Well, here I am in London, with 'Husband' back holding the fort, I am enjoying the pleasures and comforts of being back at home with Mum and Dad. For this week anyway. Apart from just enjoying the company of my parents, I am here for the SBA exhibition later in the week, but before then, and despite the London Tube strike that is due to affect my visit all week, I plan to do lots of botanical sketches from the garden, investigate the woodland flora of Epping Forest, and visit a good few galleries and museums. And of course, Kew.

Early morning sunbathing.
A little hover fly warms up on a raspberry leaf

A bunch of Bleeding Hearts!
One of my favourites  

I sustain myself with the love of family"
Maya Angelou

Already, just taking a walk on the first day here, I collected a couple of pine cones from the churchyard trees that I remember from childhood. These little treasures might make a nice addition to the next exchange sketchbook in the Nature Trail. Watching their seeds 'helicopter' their way to the ground still fills me with delight. From the garden, fuchsias, azaleas and geraniums are all looking resplendent with their gorgeous, blowsy blooms.

You can just see the papery seed husks nestled and waiting to 'fly'

The seeds are perfectly formed to 'helicopter' gently to the ground.
The little seed protected by it's papery outer husk.

"Mighty oaks from little acorns grow"
                                                          (well pine trees in this case)

Later this week, I am really looking forward to stewarding at the SBA exhibition, so if you're coming along, come and say hello. After a long, but rewarding day there will be a lovely gathering of friends, along with a few well earned drinks.

"Happiness is only real when shared"
Jon Krakauer - Into the Wild    

Speaking of friends, just before left for London, this arrived. The catalogue for The Irish Alphabet in Botanical Art exhibition landed on my doormat an was a complete delight from cover to cover. It has been wonderful to see so many beautiful depictions of wild flowers by so many familiar names, and to see my own effort in print for the first time. One to be treasured amongst the Squirrel Archives.  

The exhibition catalogue for the first ISBA project

My contribution

All set for a week of happy painting:

The travelling kit bag
trusty Winsor and Newton Travel Bag,
sketchbooks, water bottle and extra 'stuff'

The old cavernous pilot's bag from my teaching days has a new life.

I have had this Winsor and Newton 'Cotman' travel bag
for years. Most of the original kit has been used,
but the bag is so useful

In the bag: ceramic palettes; watercolours; loupe; magnifying glass

The wallet
The wallet attaches to the bag with Velcro and carries all the
brushes and pencils.
The original water bottle and pan box (with all my new pans)
are still used