Monday, 30 November 2015

The Time for Home

“Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, 

for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: 

it is the time for home.” 

Edith Sitwell

The conker has gone. Having finished this little piece, it's now winging it's way to my printer for scanning. Just for my own collection to start with, and I'm not sure if I'm going to put it in for exhibition yet, but it's been fun to do, and one of those pieces I could have carried on playing around with for ages. All those lovely wrinkly bits and subtle colour changes, allowing the watercolour to go it's own way.

Here's the finished piece
'Gone Conkers' 18 x 18cm Jarnie Godwin 

Compared to one of my earlier 'masterpieces', I think I can say I have come on a bit, and improved my technique in places. It's always good to take a look back at some of these early pieces as it reminds us how far we've come and what we are capable of now.


"Failures, repeated failures, are finger posts on the road to achievement. 

One fails forward toward success."

And an earlier 'masterpiece'

In a way, it was very homely piece, or rather it reminded me of home. Not just the warmth and comforting gentleness of the browns and reds, but also that conkers remind me of home and the crisp autumn walks through the forest to collect them. Happy days.

And it's onto the next one. I'm thinking pink again, and have been revisiting some of the colour charts I made a while ago. Whenever I'm a bit stuck, I always go back through my old sketchbooks and colour charts, to see if the lightbulb switches on with the ghost of an idea. For some reason, I always find myself hovering over the purples and pinks. Of course, it should be a trawl through the supermarket or garden centre in search of something lovely, and I do that too, but I can't resist the colours.

A riot of pinks along with a collage of inspiration

Colour charts and playing around with the new colours really has to be one of my favourite things. Putting together new blends and seeing how they behave on the paper to create a gorgeous effect is so satisfying, and to help me on the way, I often put together picture collages to let me really see the colours I am trying to achieve.

"Everything has beauty,

but not everyone sees it"

Some of the colours of autumn as we head into winter

Oh, for those spring greens again

Elsewhere, and still on the theme of colours and collages, here's a sneak preview of some of the work going into the creation of the new Squirrel HQ website. With lots of delicious colours, and a warm, friendly feel, it's going to be a real home, from home, and the welcome mat will be well and truly out.


One of my favourites, as you know, and making a bold appearance in some of these ideas.

And is that a new logo I spy?


Well, I wonder where they got the inspiration for that scheme from?


Tuesday, 17 November 2015

A Conker to Call my Own

I love this description of autumn from, of all places The Spectator: 

Autumn: season of mists and mellow pumpkin soups. Of new leather boots and sausages with red onion chutney, of sheepskin slippers and mushrooms mushrooming through the mulch. 

For quite some time I have been delighting in the paintings of others, especially when there appeared to be something of a frenzy of conker paintings. Loads of deliciously shiny conkers, with or without strings attached ready for a game, or the spiky shells discarded by children or squirrel's eager for the over sized seeds inside. Beautiful depictions all, and I really wanted to add to the growing gallery myself, except for one omission, a conker.

Back home in Woodford there are some wonderfully statuesque Horse Chestnut trees that have been there since I was very small, and are still going strong. Every year during conker season, you had to watch where you walked, just in case a falling shell stabbed you in the head. Of course, we risked this occupational hazard in search of the finest, largest conkers to thwack, and be crowned that year's conker champ. Alas, where I am now there is a distinct lack of trees bearing these delights, and I have had to make do with other autumnal fare. Until now that is.

A couple of weeks ago, during one of my workshops I was presented with a bag of conkers and shells by one of my students. My delight could not have been more evident, and at last I knew I had a conker to call my own. Well several actually.

Choosing a nice looking half shell with plenty of texture, structure and a gloriously golden hue, I decided to work on a small study. Sizing up a bit to give it a bit more impact, and again to focus on the inside details, the drawing was quite simple, with a smooth outline and just a couple of spiky bits here and there. As the shell was getting on a bit, the green outer had mellowed to a deep reddish brown, while the once creamy inner, was now a burnished gold. Plenty of interest still to be had in there, with all the wrinkles and variations of tone.

The colour palette

A quick chart

As the shells had lost the colours of their vibrant green skin and creamy flesh, the palette took on a distinctly autumnal tone. Colours used.

Natural Sienna
Perylene Maroon
Indanthrene Blue
Quinacridone Gold
Pyrrol Orange
Lemon Yellow
Raw Umber

The early washes to establish light and tone

Building up the shade and starting some of the details of texture


Autumn is very much the season of conkers and new boots.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

The Botanical Year

A little while ago I introduced you to one of the projects I have planned for 2016. The Botanical Year is revisiting my love of sketchbooks and will give me the opportunity to get back into creating, and having fun without the commitment of something overly planned or finished. See Needful Things to get the idea of what I am up to.

"Never, ever underestimate the importance of having fun."

Randy Pausch

A Sketchbook Year, (well, almost)
Some of my favourite bits

During the SBA botanical painting course I had to keep a sketchbook as part of their curriculum, and I really enjoyed the freedom of playing around with techniques, colours, and new subjects. Since completing the course, I must admit to letting this part of my practise slide a bit, with my own sketchbook being somewhat neglected, as I have got busier with other commitments.

A couple of pages from the SBA course

For 2016 I really wanted to get back into keeping a sketchbook, but rather than just using it as a working documentation of progress and ideas, I really want to create something unique and beautiful, that reflects the passing months with all the bits and pieces that I love. 

As with all my sketchbook pages, there will be a certain amount of ephemera going on, with collected bits, random phrases, poetry, postcards, typography, and quite possibly the odd RHS ticket or map. I'm not good at those classic pages, where one subject is beautifully done, I have to be random, with lots of things going on. A bit like a nature table, but on paper, with little collections of random subjects and objects to make each page a unique and happy place. I'm really hoping that I will fall back in love with my sketchbook.

Of course I have my good friends on the Natural Sketchbook Exchange to thank for all this enthusiasm for sketchbooking. Their support and collaboration on our year long project has really fired my enthusiasm and enjoyment of the ideas and working out process again, and I have really wanted to do a good job by making my little piece of all of their books, a happy, fun and slightly eccentric place to settle for a while.    

"When you have confidence, you can have a lot of fun. 
And when you have fun, you can do amazing things."

Joe Namath

My latest page for the exchange

I had no idea how this was going to turn out or what was going to be on it.

All I wanted was an autumnal palette.

It grew as things presented themselves

Here on the blog, I will be creating a dedicated page for the project, so you can see how it all progresses. And, as life is always better with friends, if you would like to join me in the studio to create a unique and beautiful reflection of your own botanical year, I have a programme of study days that you can book on the tuition page of the website. It would be great to see you.

“No matter how much time passes, 

no matter what takes place in the interim, 

there are some things we can never assign to oblivion,

 memories we can never rub away.” 

Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore

See also:

Enjoy What You Do

Playing with snowberries and snails
My last workshop introduced the idea of adding extra bits to paintings
The collection box came in handy