Thursday, 31 July 2014

Seeds of Change?

As summer rages on and the temperatures soar, many of the garden plants have got a bit confused and peaked way too early. Blackberries are already plentiful and the clematis have finished flowering about three weeks earlier than last year. Just a couple of weeks ago, it was reported on the radio that in some parts of the country, signs of autumn are already being displayed.

My summer clematis has seedheads and buds on it
at the same time.

Going by the idea that lots of berries on plants indicates a severe winter, the Honeysuckle was certainly suggesting that I should be getting my padded jacket and snow boots out of storage. The ruby red and rather abundant berries give beautiful colour at this time of year and glow against the backdrop of lush green leaves.

A harsh winter cometh?
There is some folklore that suggests an abundance of berries
indicates a harsh winter to come. 

The blackberries certainly agree, there are loads. 

The collection of seeds has already started too. Just up the road from us where a new development of houses is being built, there are some beautiful wildflowers springing up. Now, I think this might actually be part of the development, as the house-builders are trying to be as environmentally sustainable as they can. This was actually one of my specialisms at university, where I researched many ways for builders to include biodiversity and wildlife habitats. It's taken it's time coming.

Drainage ponds and flood meadows are being included on site, and yellow Irises have been planted en-masse, along with a swathe of other wildflower meadow species and native deciduous trees. Just yesterday I spotted scabious, teasel, ox-eye daisies, one or two poppy seedheads, birds-foot trefoil and loads of other little gems naturalising themselves in the margins and boundaries.

Naughty I know, but I can't resist just picking a couple of seedheads, but always leaving the majority to drift and broadcast themselves near and far. Bees, butterfiles and dragonflies were buzzing around just yards from a busy road, oblivious to the throng of modern life. At least it's a start I thought, if only other developers built in this way.

New homes and a new approach.
The house builders have included drainage ponds, planted with rushes, reeds and Iris.

Here you can just see one of the ponds with new trees.
It makes a lovely addition of wildlife habitat for families to enjoy too

Another drainage area to take flood water away from the road.
Again, the margins of this ditch is planted with wildflowers
and trees

Some of the wildflower species that are naturalising themselves.

This is another flood management method.
This large ditch has drains leading to it.
Fully planted with yellow Iris, teasel and rushes,
this becomes a swathe of colour in spring.  

The enormous seedheads of yellow Iris

And in full flower

Monday, 28 July 2014

Positive Flat-Pack

It's a phrase that can be enough to fill even the stoutest heart with dread. Yes, its the prospect of 'The Flat-Pack'. Well, if the studio is going to be kitted out, we cannot avoid it any longer, and I need a table. So, with spanners, and screwdrivers at the ready, it was time to tackle the latest purchase. 

The new extending table will be big enough to seat six quite comfortably, and doesn't take up much room in the shed either, which is always a bonus for when it's not in use. handy too for when I need some extra space for layouts and framing. Of course, 'Husband' was keen to get stuck in, and as always was extremely methodical in the preparation.

Hmm, I'm sure there's another one of these somewhere.

Let's get organised.
Dividing all those fiddly little screws and washers into separate
containers really helps.

Nearly there.

Ah, now where do those two go?
There's always something left 

And finally, a well earned cuppa

As they say, every little bit helps, and with the table and chairs looking right at home with all the other bits and pieces, things are coming together nicely. And with the long-running saga appearing to be nearing it's end, enormous sighs of relief can be heard. certainly from me anyway.

'Cornucopia Corner'?
Starting to get those homely touches and essential storage.

The Portmeirion Botanic Hummingbird jug was a gift from my parents.
And the ever-essential radio, as I can's live without Radio 4.

And the small wooden box was a gift from my good friend Sarah Morrish
over at The Natural Year

Monday, 21 July 2014

Painting the Clematis, and a Tribute

Well, having beaten the block and finally got something finished, here's a kind of step-by-step to how I finally got this little clematis study finished.

After the first washes of Winsor Violet, Permanent Rose and Indanthrene Blue had gone on, I built up a number of wash layers, to increase the tone and depth of colour. leaving a few paler areas to reflect light and give a greater number of tonal values, I worked on the darker areas to give body and depth to the creases and folds of the petals. Working quite dry with a mix of Indanthrene and Rose, I added plenty of colour to the darkest areas, ensuring the brighter rose tones underneath shone through. after all, with all the base work going on, I didn't want to lose them.

Adding a  light glaze of water over the lines, wrinkles and detail brought
everything together nicely and softened the appearance. 

Lots of fine lines for the details on the petals in a darker purple mix gave the character of the clematis and added to the roundness of the fold. using a size 0 brush with a lovely fine point, and quite a dryish mix ensured each line could be carefully applied. I quite like adding these little details and finer points, as it feels at this point that this piece really comes together and brings out the, 'personality' of the subject that I am looking for. More layers of lemon and a greyish-lilac mix washed over the underside of the petals kept the lighter feel, and added the reflective tones and distinctive silvery colour.        

The underside of the petals have a greyish-purply tone.
A mix of the purple colour with a little Light Red knocked back the brightness
and gave a nice, complimentary shadow mix.  

Working a little more lemon into the lighter areas, gave the suggestion of
reflective light from the stamens.

A light, final glaze of Permanent Rose brightened the finished petal.  

The top two thirds of the stem was very dark, as the shadow from the left hand petal fell right across it. Mixing the colours of a very deep olive green with a slight purple tone to it, and a brighter, fresher green for the rest of the stem, I kept the darker colour just to the top two thirds and kept lots of lighter colour to the rest of the stem, allowing the darker colour to stretch down the back edge, giving the shadow against the light.

The darkest areas of the stem appeared almost purple-black.

The edges of the leaves are kept quite light
as they are facing into the light source. 
Some of the mixes deployed, including the greens.

Looking at this finished little study, I must admit to using a number of new approaches that I am really excited about using. More dry washes and layers, rather than wet-on-wet has given greater control and clarity to the colours that I am really please with. And increasing my tonal values by including much darker tones, has really lifted the piece and added to the three dimensional look that we all strive for. Of course the Ox-gall liquid has really improved the flow value of paint and washes, and I have found, does a lot of the work for me.  

Lots of new techniques have given my
painting style a new zest and lift.

In fact, thinking about this little piece, I would like to dedicate it to one of my greatest friends and mentors who sadly lost her battle with cancer a couple of years ago, (she would tell me off for being sentimental, but here goes anyway). Mo Baren was a great teacher and a very dear friend, who helped me during my early teaching years. Although I moved on, we always stayed in touch. Every year I would get the low-down on her latest adventures and exploits. Her zest for life was a true inspiration, (she bought a superbike when she became ill, and why not!!). We used to laugh about how as retired teachers, we would be very badly behaved and she always maintained that when she got old, this would be her, growing old disgracefully. Sadly she never got the chance, but here's to you Mo, you know how I love a good purple.  


When I am an old woman I shall wear purple

With a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we've no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I'm tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people's gardens
And learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

Jenny Joseph


Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Beating the Block - Part 2

Having identified that I did indeed have painter's block last week, I decided that something really had to be done about it. It had been six weeks since I completed anything of any substance, and things were getting serious.

In my last post, Beating the Block I looked at ways to help break the rut of not painting and get me back to my regular routine of working and, more importantly, painting. So, this week, I finally took the bull by the old horns and sat down at my desk to tackle something. Lots of deep breaths and tea helped fortify the process, and the garden has helped immensely by providing some nice little subjects. 

Growing with Rose 'New Dawn',
this purple clematis is quite irresistible. 

Keeping it simple, I chose a lovely deep purple clematis, which I had thought was named 'The President', but now I am not so sure, it could be Etoile Violette. Anyway, name aside, it's a lovely shape and colour and perfect to get back into the swing. Once set up, I began working through the steps laid out in 'The Plan'. I started with some quick sketches and colour notes and using some of the newer colours in my palette, I enjoyed mixing the luscious shades of violet and purple, and was pleased to see it all start to come together.

The set-up
Using a tiny plastic test-tube thingummy,
I can keep the specimen well watered
Thanks to my good friend Sarah over at The Natural Year for the pressie.

Getting the mixes right

And trying them out as a tonal wash

Taking a few regular breaks, just to get away from the desk, so I wasn't putting myself under too much pressure to get something done was great, and it was a lovely day outside, with all the birdsong filling the garden. A bit of tidying and weeding here and there did get me a little side tracked, but that didn't matter, I was feeling better.        

using a scrap of Hot Press paper, the drawing is carefully made.

A couple of colours that may be useful
I love the vivid shade of purple mixed using my favourite Indanthrene Blue
and Permanent Rose. 

So, back to it. Drawing carefully made and colours tested, it was time to start painting. Using some of my new best friend, 'Ox Gall' in the water and some of the lovely Daniel Smith paint squidges I was given as a little pressie, I got going. The underside of the petals came first, as they have a slight silvery-blue effect, with deeper shadows where the mid-ribs fall. Luckily as this is quite a small area, I was able to keep the application nice and controlled, slow and careful. Just the start I needed.

A watery mix of Indanthrene Blue and Permanent Rose
is dropped into a wet glaze for the petals.

A stronger mix of this colour will be used throughout the shading
of the petals 

A light lemon, reflecting the colour of the stamens through the petal
is seen at the base.

This will stay very light as the light captures the shiny, almost metallic quality
of the underside of the petals

Lemon Yellow with a touch of the violet mix is used for the stamens.
Mixing a mid-tone with the same colours.
A darker bronze will be used for the darkest areas here later.

The final first wash
Mapping out the tonal values

Phew! Made it, and now I feel like I can begin to make progress again, and get this little study finished.

On a very exciting, extra note, my next series of workshops are now available to book at The Spring Arts & Heritage Centre. I have been planning lots of new themes and am really looking forward to returning to this vibrant, and artistic community. Visit my Learn page for more details and to book a place.


Thursday, 10 July 2014

Beating the Block

My name is Jarnie, and I have Painter's Block. There, I have said it, and it's out in the open. I feel so much better for sharing that, but how to get over it? Well, let's face it, it's not an impossible task and it's certainly not like trying to find the best way for mankind to get to Mars. So, let's get things in proportion here and get over it.

My first attempts at trying to break the block, didn't really work this time. Normally, if I go back to an older piece and give it some oomph, with extra depth and tone, and a little touching up here and there, I feel so much better and move on. But not this time.

Suitable for framing?

Adding some more depth to this chilli didn't really break the block.
Although, it's a much better piece now.
So much so, I think I might take it out of the sketchbook,
and frame it 

I liked adding more to this one, and it actually looks quite good now.
But this didn't break the block either.

Just recently, I read a great little piece by my good friend and fellow artist and blogger, Sigrid Frensen on exactly this topic, and immediately thought, 'she knows exactly how I feel right now, and how to do something about it', great. Here's my summarisation.

Like all first steps, the first thing to do is, make a cup of tea. Well, that's always a good starter for me, and Sigrid is evidently a woman after my own heart. Tea solves all ills. Next, (and this is the trickier part) get a plan together. Small, simple sketches of simple shapes such as leaves and berries are a good way to get the feel for the drawing process again, and if things go a bit awry, it doesn't matter. Using a sketchbook rather than watercolour paper feels less intimidating and keeps everything just between you and your book. Before you know it, you will have something down, and start to feel as if you have achieved something. It's all about getting back to basics, and remembering to really 'look' at plants. 

Well, I got this far.
Studies of honeysuckle for the Sketchbook Exchange.
But then the courage left me. 

The next step is to get together some quick sketches and thumbnails organised into little compositions. Something that looks like it might become a painting later on, but nothing definite yet. This process is very comfortable for me as it fits in with my usual thought process for getting ideas down. Sometimes I will come up with 10 - 15 of these little vignettes, just for one painting. Once you get this far, it's time to leave things be for a bit. Sitting in the garden with a cuppa or doing a spot of pottering is a nice way to let the mind relax and wander. Later on, go back and take another look at your efforts. Pick the one that works best.

How my brain works

Working out compositions for a red onion study
Just above is a bit of the colour chart I made

Now you have something that can be worked up into a little study, but again, nothing too complete or perfect. At this point the colour can be introduced, and once more, swatches of textures, colour charts, tests and mixes can be played around with. The important thing is not to rush yourself, and don't beat yourself up about it. leave it be for a while and come back to it later. Look at your work from a short distance, see if it's coming together. Do this a few times, to get the feel for the direction of the piece. Now is the time to correct, and you're almost back in business. Just take deep breaths and take your time, (oh, and plenty of tea). A chat with a painterly friend also helps, and no-one will think any the worse of you. Being honest yourself can often be a reflection of how others are feeling too.

I really like the perspective on this one.
A little Rhododendron cilpinense
© Jarnie Godwin 

The photo helped with this one.
©Jarnie Godwin

Time with a friend helps too.
A relaxed afternoon led to us getting the paints out.
Chocolate Cosmos
Not the easiest of subjects, but mixing all the delicious colours
was so much fun.

As I have said before, (and Sigrid agrees here too), you have to Enjoy What You Do. After all, nature is our work place and she does all she can to help us. 

Monday, 7 July 2014

This is a Courgette

I love courgettes, and in the garden, especially at this time of year, they are both colourful and plentiful. The large, bright orange flowers open widely in the sunshine, with the plump fruits forming just behind them. Of course, the flowers aren't just something to look at, you can eat them too, lightly battered and fried, they are quite sublime.

The courgette was actually discovered by Columbus on his voyages to the Americas. Courgettes are native to central and South America, where it has been eaten for thousands of years. It was brought to the Mediterranean by Columbus around 500 years ago, with the modern variety that we all know and love being developed in Italy, where it is known as 'Zucchino' meaning a small squash. This led to the term, zucchini, as used in the US. Courgette is the French word for vegetable, even though it's actually a fruit. 

Fully open flower of the courgette.
The male flowers, which grow on the long stems are slightly smaller 

The courgette forming just behind the flower bud.
This would make a lovely subject to paint,
but the flowers open quickly, and fade fast. 
The leaves and stems are actually quite prickly.
But they look like a fun and challenging subject to paint.

So easy to grow, courgettes were one of our first attempts at garden produce. Like many fruits, courgettes require adequate pollination for a successful harvest and whilst we have had bees in the garden, some hand-pollination has been needed to help out a bit. Going around with a dry paintbrush, picking up the pollen and transferring it around is quite telling on the bee population, but also quite therapeutic, in it's way.

Sometimes they need a little help.
A paintbrush can collect the pollen from the centre of the flowers

I had hoped to plant out some of the striped variety of courgette, as these would have made a much more interesting subject for a painting, but alas this year, I could only get regular variety seed, so no stripes. Still, all is not lost, as the flowers have been quite spectacular. In fact, before I had even thought to take up botanical painting, I had a go at capturing our first successful flower. Wrong paper as usual, and certainly not very accomplished, but like I always say to those with a passion, go for it a go anyway. If I can bear to sacrifice one, I'll have another go.

My first attempt.
A bit dull and on the wrong paper,
but a fair attempt, even if I do say so myself

Elsewhere, some of the furniture is heading across the garden into their new home. Of course, we still need to do some clearing, there is still painting to do and it would be nice to have some proper flooring. But I couldn't resist just having a look to see how things will fit in.

Half a plan chest.

This one is a neat A1 size, unusually with legs.
Raising the drawers up to a more user-friendly height.

And all of the desk,
complete with Scottish pebble paperweight.

Oh, and 'Patriotic Pooch' has got a new post.