Thursday, 25 June 2015

In Defence of Pink

Think of pink, and immediately I get a smile on my face. Childhood memories of fun fair candy floss, my best friend at school who always wore pink, my dad's garden full of scented pink roses, strawberry ice cream, pink iced buns, warm and soft wriggly piglets. Pink is an evocative colour that many openly snub as 'girly' and sugary sweet, but secretly love for all the same reasons I do. A bit like saying, 'I'm an Essex girl and proud', I'm happy to say I like pink.

Painting pink is something of challenge though, with the myriad of shades and tones proving particularly tricky and can all too easily turn garish and false. I mean, where do you start? There's Cerise and Fuchsia, magenta, rose, bubblegum, salmon, baby, and a whole load more. With so many shades and tones to choose from, what's not to love? You've got to have a go.

Simple, but oh so pretty
Rosa 'Sweet Haze'
Loved by bees and me! 

Echinacea and Sedum

Painting a pink Dahlia

But there's more to it of course, so here's a bit of a history lesson.

In colour psychology and throughout history, the colour pink is representative of unconditional love and nurturing, showing tenderness and kindness. Hence it's popularity as a feminine colour and associated with baby girls. Or so you would think. For centuries though, it would seem that all European children were dressed in blue, because the colour was associated with the Virgin Mary and many European cultures valued this association. 

The use of pink and blue emerged quite late, at the turn of the 20th century, the rule being pink for boys, blue for girls. Since pink was a stronger colour it was best suited for boys; blue on the other hand was more delicate and dainty and best for girls. And in 1921, the Women's Institute for Domestic Science in Pennsylvania endorsed pink for boys, blue for girls. And who would dare argue with the WI?

Well, how about a compromise?

Let's just all like purple.
Not one for wearing pink too much, and not one for wearing blue too much, I go for purple.

Contemporary colour symbolism would also appear to confirm these associations. Blue is considered a calm, passive colour, hence feminine. Red (pink derived from red) is considered active and robust, hence masculine. Think how warm colours come forward and cooler colours recede in paintings. Red often represents anger and aggression, but also romance, whereas blue is cool and serene. Would the Red Room in Fifty Shades of Grey have quite the same impact if it had been a rather nice shade of blue? Hmm.   

One for the boys?

My favourite pinks from the garden, from projects and from days out and about.

The idea of associating blue with male babies may stem back to ancient times when having a boy was good luck. Blue, the colour of the sky where the gods and fates lived, held powers to ward off evil, so baby boys where dressed in blue. In Greece a blue eye is still thought to have powers to ward off evil, so you often see them on the bows of ships. The idea of pink for girls might come from the European legend that baby girls were born inside delicate pink roses.

Pink and blue, it's up to you.

A detail from, 'The Green Belt'

'The Green Belt'

This one featured a one of my favourite blue flowers.
Cranesbill flowers have a clear, bright almost Cobalt colour on the petals that fade as they age.

Adding the shadows of stamens on a Dog Rose

Petals painted with Permanent Rose with a touch of Lemon Yellow
Shadows mixed using the pink mix with a touch of blue to make a lilac.

Not too cool though, as the petals on the rose were quite warm. 

Picking out the stamens on a bramble blossom

Bramble blossoms painted using Permanent Rose, Lemon Yellow and a touch of Indanthrene Blue.

By using cool colours in varying quantities, the pales pink blooms didn't go too pink.

In English, the word "pink" could be derived from the Dutch flower Pinken, (see below) dating back to 1681. The flower's name could have originally been "pink eye" or "small eye." Another possibility is the verb "to pink" - to prick or cut around the edges, as with pinking shears. The jagged petals of the flower looked as though they had been cut, thus explaining why it became known as the "pink." (Jean Heifetz, 'When Blue Meant Yellow') The family of Dianthus flowers are also known as 'Pinks', and have the same jaggedy edge to their petals. Although, the word could have an even earlier use, the verb "to pink" actually dates from the 14th century and means "to decorate with a perforated or punched pattern" (possibly again from the German term pinken, "to peck") Well, now you know.

Finally, going as far back to the realm of ancient Egypt, the flamingo was the hieroglyph for the colour red. That's simple.

Lily bud and mixes.

Alongside, is a pale lilac freesia that recedes against the warmer pink of the lily.

Open lily flower and mixes.

Permanent Rose, Quinacridone Magenta, Perylene Maroon and even some Opera Rose came into play here

Another pjnk chart with some photo references

Pinks from around the garden used as a collage to assist with colour mixing

A Cosmos petal, flower and bud

My very first attempt at a pink flower

Busy Lizzie 

Roman poets also described the colour pink in their work. Roseus is the Latin word meaning 'rosy' or 'pink'. Lucretius used the word to describe the dawn in his epic poem. 'On the nature of Things' (de rerum natura).

"Then, when the child of morning, rosy-fingered dawn appeared..."

from 'The Odyssey' by Homer 800BCE

Pink was not a common colour in the fashion of the Middle Ages. Nobles usually preferred brighter reds, such as crimson, possible to enforce a sense of strength and power. However, it did appear in women's fashion, and in religious art. In the 13th and 14th century, in works by Cimabue and Duccio, the Christ child was sometimes portrayed dressed in pink, the colour associated with the body of Christ.
In the high Renaissance painting the Madonna of the Pinks by Raphael, the Christ child is presenting a pink flower to the Virgin Mary. The pink was a symbol of marriage, showing a spiritual marriage between the mother and child

'Madonna of the Pinks'
by Raphael

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

The party for the defence rest their case.  

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Buds, Buns and Berry, (that's Mary Berry)

Oh my goodness, how time does fly. Still, never fear, I am still around and beginning to get back into the swing of some sort of routine in the studio. Slowly to begin with, but work needs to be getting under way again, before I forget how to draw, and look at my palette in a curious, 'I know you, don't I?' sort of a way.

Summer also seems to have decided to go on a little holiday this year, as the last week has been somewhat dull, breezy and just a little chilly. In June! Well, pushing on regardless here at Squirrel HQ we had a couple of workshops anyway. The focus this time around was on adding your own Sammy Snail to a painting and the summer flower garden, and as my 'Albertine' rose decided now was the time to put on her best frock, we painted some of the buds.

This little snail shell was found in the garden, (without snail)
Popped him on a clematis leaf to demonstrate how to add  extra bits and bobs to a painting

The workshop on painting snail shells and feathers was so much fun. This was the first time I had added this to my workshop schedule, but we all enjoyed it so much, I might just do that again. here's my effort on the day. Is that a cream bun or a snail parked on that leaf?

Rosa 'Albertine'
Sprawling all over the hedge and amongst the clematis.

The buds are to die for

“But he who dares not grasp the thorn Should never crave the rose.” ― Anne Brontë

For the occasion I also baked my favourite Lemon Drizzle Cake recipe, (thank you Mary Berry). The simplest of all in one methods, I was able to do this one myself without incurring the wrath of 'Husband' who scowls at me whenever he thinks I am doing a little too much. I feel like a well cared for museum exhibit.

So, back to those buds. The colour of Albertine buds is really hard to describe. The tightly closed bud appears as quite a deep peachy-pink, almost red colour. And yet, as it opens, the colour of the petals change almost entirely to a pale pink. Being quite a rampant specimen with ferocious thorns and arching stems, I have this one well reigned in by the fence, near some apple trees, but as she likes where she is very much, really goes for it and puts on a really good display. If you go anywhere near the vicinity, you get a great waft of spicy, rose fragrance. delicious.

A good comparison with the tightly closed bud to the left,
 this semi-open bud is paler

My life is part humor, part roses, part thorns.
Bret Michaels

As always, before the workshop, I worked on a sketch and some colour notes, to get a better grasp of the subject. Generally, I like to be quite spontaneous at my workshops, as this gives a personal feel and of course, if something in the garden is screaming, 'PICK ME', you can change the programme.


Permanent Rose and Lemon Yellow
Mix of Permanent Rose and Lemon Yellow with a touch of Perylene Maroon

Permanent Rose with Sennelier Yellow Light.

Ultramarine Light and Sennelier Yellow Light with a touch of Perylene Maroon

Borrowing an idea from artist and fellow blogger Billy Showell

Billy uses a mat with the names of the colours on it to show which ones are which.

I probably won't use all these colours.

With these palettes, all I do is wipe out the washes from the middle, leaving the paint blobs at the edges.

Ready for next time!

Having a play with the mixes
The sketch of the bud and stem, with a few leaves thrown in is already drawn out.

And a couple of practise washes with different shades

Tracing of drawing.
Just in case I fancy making something more of it.

Now here's a final thought. What do you do with a painting that has gone wrong? Well, in my case, you cut it about a bit, finish it off and make it beautiful again, and stick it in a friend's sketchbook.

Working a mistake.

I really liked these flowers, so have cut them out, added some colour notes,
and now it's ready for the next sketchbook 

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Conquering Paradise

Ta dah! 'Tis finished at last. It feels like I have been working on this thing for half a century, but at last, after one final paint-fest I got there.

“Life was so simple when apples and blackberries were fruit, a tweet was the sound of nature, and facebooks were photo albums”

― Carl Henegan, Darkness Left Undone 

Love that one, so had to share again. 

The berries were cause for concern, as they do have to be nice and shiny and deepest shades of blue-purply-black. Working from photos this time, I used a reddish under wash to give each berry a bit more richness and to suggest the ripening process. I find that if you go too black straight away, the colour can look somewhat flat and a bit too blue or dull brownish-grey. Allowing the red to show through a bit, there is more depth and colour. Lots of deep, rich mixes and a dryish brush helped here.

Ultramarine Light, Sennelier Yellow Light and Perylene Maroon

Indanthrene Blue, Lemon Yellow and Anthraquinone Red.   

In varying quantities, the pigments give a whole host of shades and tones, giving plenty of scope for interest and variation.    

A green and reddish wash to give depth to the later layers.

Leaving lots of white paper for highlights

Nearly there.

Building up the darker layers and highlights.
Breaking into the pale areas to leave spots and dashes of light

During the SBA course, I was told to take care not to give berries a 'halo'.
You know, that white rim you often see.

Apparently, as I was told, and I quote,

"this does not happen in nature, so don't do it!"

Oops, I spy a couple of halos, so had better go back and touch those out a bit. 

   Time for a literary interlude methinks

Blackberry Picking

Late August, given heavy rain and sunfor a full week, the blackberries would ripen.At first, just one, a glossy purple clotamong others, red, green, hard as a knot.You ate that first one and its flesh was sweetlike thickened wine: summer's blood was in itleaving stains upon the tongue and lust forpicking. Then red ones inked up and that hungersent us out with milk-cans, pea-tins, jam-potswhere briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots.Round hayfields, cornfields and potato-drillswe trekked and picked until the cans were full,until the tinkling bottom had been coveredwith green ones, and on top big dark blobs burnedlike a plate of eyes. Our hands were pepperedwith thorn pricks, our palms sticky as Bluebeard's.We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre.But when the bath was filled we found a fur,A rat-grey fungus, glutting on our cache.The juice was stinking too. Once off the bushthe fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour.I always felt like crying. It wasn't fairthat all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot.Each year I hoped they'd keep, knew they would not
 by Seamus Heaney

So, with the berries finished, there's time to do the touching up and careful checking. There's always something forgotten, so it's important to take time to carefully look over a painting, just to make sure that all the little details have been added. A gaping hole, error, or missed bit at this point would spell disaster. Ah, that reminds me, those halos.
So, here it is at last. Now onto something else. Although, looking at the way the weather has battered the garden, the search could be a long one.

And here it is.

Bramble Paradise in all it's prickly glory.

Now, off to the printers with you