Thursday, 16 July 2015

Past it Peony

The last week has been something of an 'admin week'. You know the sort of thing, catching up with online messages and emails, getting to grips with the tax return and receipts, planning and booking the next load of workshops. Busy, busy, busy. Oh yes, and getting the next shiny edition of, The Squirrel Archives' out to my lovely subscribers. If you haven't got it yet, you can subscribe right here on the blog.

However, I have also got down to the old brass tacks, and actually started to get the next painting on the board. This time I fancied a complete change of pace, and have decided to pay more attention to flowers when they are past their best. Looking at flowers when they are 'past it' really should be a right of passage for floral artists, as this is the point where the flower really has done it's job successfully and the seeds are forming. Some seed heads are really spectacular, with as much, if not more interesting detail than the flowers. So, with some of my favourites now over, it was time to take a closer look.

Dear old Archie when he had done his stuff.

The bright sunshine on the artichoke is a bit too contrasty to paint from, so here's where I wish I had taken a few more considered photos.
Photos to work from are not the same as a photo for the blog or website
but I quite like this pic, so it might become a painting yet. 

The iris pod and seeds from last year

The painting in progress

Technically, fruits are seed heads too, protecting the seeds as they ripen.

Using some of the seeds from inside shop bought chillis and tomatoes,
I have grown new plants the following year with great success.

This year in the garden I planted some lovely new peony varieties. Peonies are beautiful, big, blowsy affairs with ruffles and candyfloss blooms that really are stunning, and the few we had were fabulous. As it's a good idea to leave the first flowers on the young plants to allow them to build up stamina to grow even better next year, I decided to hold the horses back and wait for the seed head to form.

Big on detail.

The forming seed head of a peony
The very fine hairs are more prominent once you enlarge the image.

Detail, detail, detail, and a bit more...detail.

Peony seed heads have some great textures, with fuzzy bits going on and all sorts of interesting details. As always, I started off by taking lots of photos, for both the close up and composition. Next, I made sure to do a study page of sketches, measurements and colour swatches, to get a feel for the subject.

A really comprehensive colour chart for each aspect of the subject will help me get an accurate representation.

Keeping to a limited palette gives overall coherence for the painting.

A few additions to provide a 'pop' of focus should give it some zing.

Making sure there is enough information to begin with prevents disappointment and error later on. It's really important to take photos in good, but not overly bright light, and it's better to use a white background to reflect true colours. From the photos, I can use a tablet to enlarge the details I want to see more closely, and if the subject has died, I can still continue to work from the images, measurements, sketches and swatches.

Plenty of textures and interesting detail to keep me occupied 
Next up is the accurate drawing. This time I drew the image straight onto the paper, as I wanted to enlarge the subject. Double size looks good on the size of paper, and should give me plenty of scope for the detail, colours and tones. Now onto the tough stuff. Painting it.

Using a really sharp H grade pencil and my proportional dividers, I enlarged the subject.

No safety net this time of a master tracing,
but I think it will be okay.

If not, then I will have to trace from the original image and have another go.

Lots of photos, so I'm not going to rush it.  


Laura Dicus said...

Another lovely post Jarnie. I love watching the entire life of the plant and having the dried iris from last year really helped out when I was painting the buds and blooms this year.
I don't know if you've ever had this experience as well but when the iris blossoms were fading they released a lot of fluid that retained the color of the flower. Letting one sit upside down in a glass dish let me capture the true color of the blossoms and it's sitting in a nice dark drawer, maintaining it's color, both hue and saturation. A nice, and useful, surprise.
So far I haven't had another flower do the same but will keep looking for the phenomenon.

Sketchbook Squirrel said...

That sounds really interesting Laura, I will have to look out for that the next time the iris are in bloom. Will have to keep an eye out.