Thursday, 19 February 2015

The Pleasure of Sharing

Whether it be a really good recipe, a favourite lunch spot or that last slice of cake, there is nothing quite so special as sharing the good things in life, (okay maybe not the last slice of cake, I would fight you for that). It has been my experience over recent years that artists are not the kind of people to hold back on a tip or a trade secret.(Oh, and I couldn't choose between some of my favourite quotes today, so I added 'em all)

"Share your knowledge.It's a way to achieve immortality."

Dalai Lama

(Ah, so not to come across a tall, pale stranger who doesn't go out in the sun then, damn! (I've been reading Dracula again recently, you can tell). Great quote though.)

You would think that we artists would be a secretive bunch, holding back the best bits for ourselves, whilst letting other poor souls find out the hard way. It's the only way to learn and all that! But no indeed, it is quite the opposite, and there is nothing we like more than shouting a really good tip from the rooftops. 'Look everyone, I found the Holy Grail of green mixes, everyone should try it. Here's the colours I used'.

"It is good to rub and polish our brain against another."

Michel Eyquem de Montaigne(1533 - 1592 

French Renaissance philosopher and writer 

So, let's rub away for today's post! I thought I would share with you some of the finest pearls of wisdom that I have been given by my really good friends and fellow artists. Of course, modesty prevents me from putting down for posterity the ones I shared with them, but as you can imagine, this is most definitely a two way street.

The bramble leaf, chilli and grass species with lots of variety of green mixes, (including red)
Looking carefully at natural greens helps too.

My original green chart that just mixed blues and yellows.
Looking back on it now this seems rather limited, and flat.

Tip 1

Always mix a little red in your green mixes rather than using just blue and yellow.

This one came to me via a couple of friends and artists, Sharon Tingey and Sarah Morrish. By adding red, you get a much richer green that seems to have a multi layered luminosity to it that is absolutely delicious. It is so true and I have never looked back. So here are some of the pieces where I have used these tips. 

Favourite colours I use for mixing greens. Depending on the subject, a cool or warm green may be needed, or a combination of shades. The colours I choose to use are in both the warm and cool spectrum.
Yellows - Quinacridone Gold, Lemon Yellow, Sennelier Yellow Light. 
Blues - Indanthrene Blue, Ultramarine Light.
Reds - Light Red, Perylene Maroon, Anthraquinoid Red

Completing a tracing of a bramble sprig,
 before deciding where on the composition it will look best.

Tip 2

Thank you to Dianne Sutherland and Kay Rees-Davies for this one. When composing a piece that has a complex design, trace the different elements onto tracing paper, and move them around the paper to see which is the best composition.

Once happy with the composition, you can trace over the whole lot on a fresh piece of trace in ink before using on a lightbox. That way, if at any time during painting, you make a dramatic mistake, you have a 'master' tracing to turn to. This saves a lot of time if you have to start again.

Yep, here it is again, (but just a section this time)

This one couldn't have been done in the time allowed if I had drawn every single leaf and flower from scratch.

Many elements of this piece are actually the same, just used in a different way.

Tip 3

Also from Kay Rees-Davies, (and I have passed this one on to just about everyone). If you are making a complex composition of the same variety, again use tracing paper to draw several elements and use these in different directions. Backwards and reverse shapes will make for a totally new composition. Look carefully at the leaves on the above painting. Some of them look vaguely similar.

Not exactly technical or complex, but this seedpod just wouldn't behave.

I really wanted this seedpod to stay like this, but it kept rolling about.
A piece of tape held it beautifully

Tip 4

From Shevaun Doherty. If you need to keep a leaf or flower in exactly the same place, (say for a dissected flower, or my rolling seedpod!) for a while, use double sided tape to hold it in place. A classic, Keep it simple stupid!

Perfect form and function
a small reservoir and a little hole in the top keeps everything contained

Such a useful gadget.

My clamp stand holds the tubes at any angle I like.

And the tube stops the water dripping everywhere.   

You can improvise too.

This tube is glass and once contained vanilla pods.
Always a good idea to have a root through the drawers to see what you can use.

Tip 5

Another one from my good friend Sarah, but I know others who have these in their kit. Pop along to your local friendly florist shop and ask for some flower holders. They are the sort of test-tube thing used for orchids and corsages. So incredibly handy.

Oh, and they can be used really well with one of those school science room holder thingys, as suggested by Dianne Sutherland. I just wrap a bit of tissue around the tube and then use the gripper in the stand to hold the subject in any direction I choose.

Tip 6

Another one from Sharon. When painting tiny hairs on flowers such as Sunflowers and Poppies, don't just use white Gouache on it's own. Add a little colour to it to vary the tone and knock the edge off it. By using the colours you have used for the lighter areas on the painting, the hairs will blend in and give a more natural appearance.  

(Haven't tried this one yet as I have yet to paint a very hairy plant)

The far side of the leaf has glaze of Transparent Yellow on the high spots,
while the near side, has more Cerulean used as a glaze here and there

The leaves on the fruit spring have a final light glaze of Transparent Yellow,
while the leaf with the snail resting on it was glazed with Cerulean.

varying the temperature here and there increases the variety of tone you can introduce to piece.  

Tip 7

I'm not the only one who likes to glaze a finished piece with a light colour. Schmincke Transparent Yellow is my favourite over greens and cerulean is useful too, to cool the temperature of a yellow/green. But, I have also heard of Daniel Smith Cerulean Teal and some of the more granulating colours also being used in this way. This idea comes from several artists including Claire Ward, Rosie Sanders and Fiona Strickland.

Not just a pretty picture.

Photos that are good to work from, may not be the most interesting ones to look at.
Leaf joints, shape and size of petals and stems
are all important elements to take photos of when you want to work from them. 

Tip 8

This one came from fellow SBA Diploma graduate Denise Ramsay whilst at the RHS exhibition in London last year where she won a Gold medal for her series, 'A Brilliant Life'. When you are working with one subject for a long time when the flowers are likely to go over, make sure you take lots of photos, especially close-up macro shots of the fine details. Ensure you take lots of every aspect of the plant to refer to, as you may not have the actual plant to work from for very long.

Another one on this tip is to place either a small ruler or familiar object, such as a coin into the photo. This way you will have a point of reference for sizing. Also, try to take your pictures on a bright but overcast day to avoid harsh shadows, and to keep the camera at the same distance from your subject, (unless you want to take macro photos, to get into the details).

These are just a few, there are so many more I could share now, but these are my favourites that I have encompassed into my daily painting routine.

"Scientia potentia est: Knowledge is Power"

commonly attributed to Sir Francis Bacon
                                                                                        (my personal favourite)

It's good to share, so here are some posts from the Squirrel Archives with more of my favourite tips:-

Tip Top and Top Tips

Paint it Black, (or as dark as you dare)

Tasty Tips on Tackling Leaves

Black, Revisited

The Six Ps

The Big Move

And don't forget, pass it on

"If you have knowledge, let others light their candles in it"

Margaret Fuller


shevaun said...


Jarnie Godwin said...

Aww, you make me blush, you really do :) x

Claire said...

Great post Jarnie and you put my name with greats like Rosie and Fiona, I'm honoured but feel quite unworthy! �� xx

Jarnie Godwin said...

Oh don't talk such tosh Claire! Of course you are worthy. It's a tip you advocate, so therefore you get the honours too.

Unknown said...

Wonderful post! I'm passing it on to studio friends.

Jarnie Godwin said...

Thank you Eva-Maria. I am so pleased you have found some of the ideas useful.

KJ Bateman said...

So many tips in one post! And they are applicable to artists working in other genres.

Your work is lovely. I am adding your blog to my Nature list to check regularly.

Janene said...

I agree and I have learned lots from the above list too...and thank you for sharing so much yourself, Jarnie!

Jarnie Godwin said...

Hi KJ, I'm so pleased you found the post informative and useful for your own work.Thank you for adding me to your list.

That's okay Janene. I'm here to serve :) x Hope all well with you.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for all those tips - you could write a book!

Jarnie Godwin said...

Ha ha ha, now there's a thought. Thanks Chris. x

E.M. Corsa said...

I am not a botanical artist but these tips will definitely help me in my work. Thanks so much for sharing.

Your work is luscious!

Jarnie Godwin said...

Oh yes, I think a lot of these ideas are transferable across art styles, so I am glad you have found them handy. Thanks for your lovely comment E.M Corsa

Unknown said...

One thing I love about the Internet (aside from meeting you lovely folks!) is sharing information.
One thing I stumbled across this autumn was actually taking a video of the plant. I'm reluctant to working from photos but have to take them as the plant withers...
It was a windy day and the best way to get a sharp image on my camera is to snap the shutter while the video is running. While in the middle of this I realized I could pick up the sample and turn it this way and that, flip it over, look at the details I just couldn't see in a photo... if I took an in-depth video.
So, while it's not as good as having a real live specimen in front of me I can go get answers to questions when I am "reduced" to working from a photo.

Jarnie Godwin said...

Great idea to taking a video of your subject Laura and finding out how you could 'play' with the images to understand the details. xx