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.

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