Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Day 13 and 14 Sidetracked by Vellum

I was sidetracked on day 13 and didn't paint or draw anything for the challenge! Instead I attended to a job that has been perplexing me since I returned home from London....the slight warping in my larger works on vellum! Although Kelmscott vellum sits reasonably flat at smaller sizes, when it's larger it can easily buckle and any exposure to humidity over time can cause this warping in small works too. Natural and manuscript vellum are thinner than Kelmscott and even more prone to warping. So on day 13 instead of painting I spent time trying to mount some pieces of vellum. For day 14,  I painted on the vellum.
On day 13 I mounted the natural vellum and day 14 I started this painting of a magnolia leaf skeleton but didn't have time to finish it.
Recently I've being doing some research for a new website I'm building which is all about vellum painting. I discovered that years ago miniatures were glued to playing cards to keep them flat, so I decided that it might not be too difficult to do it myself! I purchased rabbit skin glue and a variety of archival artist panels. Some are thin, about  1/8th inch and others are deep and cradled. I'd seen a few works on vellum at the Park Walk gallery last week, Carol Woodin's work was beautifully mounted on a deep panel whereas Kate Nessler's was not mounted. Both looked amazing but it's nice to have the option of presenting work in different ways and I want to be able to give my students the right recipe for mounting their work successfully if they wish. At the moment it's experimental but so far the results seem pretty encouraging.....but lets see how these first trials hold up over time.
The rabbit skin glue can be purchased in granules or sheets. The granules need to be soaked in water for about two hours, stir regularly to prevent it from solidifying at the bottom of the jar. I used an old jam jar. I used 20grams of glue: 250ml of water. The ratio of glue to water can be adjusted according to the job.
 I was expecting the glue to smell pretty bad but actually it has very little odour but you should be careful not to inhale any dust and to work in a well ventilated room.

I used an off--cut of natural vellum which was cut to be slightly larger than the 6 x 8 inch panel, I chose a panel with a primed slightly porous surface  I wanted it to be light behind the vellum to keep the brightness and I  needed the surface to absorb the glue in order to make a good bond, I could have applied the gesso coating myself  but decided to try a ready primed one first. This one is suitable for mounting canvas and other materials so it should be fine for velum too.

The glue should be heated to around 60 degrees, it should not be boiled. If the temperature rises above 70 degrees the bonding capacity is broken down. I placed the jar in a heavy bottomed saucepan which was filled with of water ( that's a double boiler or bain marie). I places a piece of folded cloth underneath the jar to ensure even heating. I placed a thermometer in the jar and stirred continually. I took about 15 minuted to dissolve all of  the granules. Never use a wooden spoon to stir if it has previously been used with any salt, this destroys the glue. 
After the glue had cooled for a few minutes I painted the panel with it. It has to be used warm and solidifies quite quickly ( but can be reheated a couple of times ). Once glued I positioned the vellum on top of the panel and smoothed it out. Tracing paper was over the vellum and heavy books on top of the panel. I checked it after 10 minutes and changed the tracing paper because it had rippled. I replaced the books and left it for 24hrs. I then trimmed the edges off the vellum, if it had been a little larger I could have folded it around the edges, this could then be float mounted. I'll try that once 've mastered this method.

Finally, I treat the vellum in the normal way by rubbing over it with a mix of 240 mesh pumice and French chalk, this removes any grease or marks.

The panel turned out very well, it's beautifully smooth and feels better to paint on. For day 14 I painted part of a a delicate magnolia leaf skeleton on the mounted vellum but will have to try something with more depth of colour to check that it doesn't lift. It certainly seems well secured, and rabbit skin glue is very tough! It's alos reversible so the vellum can be taken of f the support in need be. This whole process didn't take very long, maybe an hour and cost in the region of £7. This is only small panel though and with larger pieces it's definitely trickier. I have some larger ones currently being pressed and have also completed my first bevelled edge.  
I'm planning on painting 3 much larger magnolia leaves on vellum for next years SBA show so I'd like to make sure that the vellum is well prepared.... I'm starting early!

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Day 12 Unfinished Camellia Drawing, Plus some Graphite Tips

Last night I did a bit of late night tonal drawing for day 12 of the Challenge. I used a flower from the same Camellia cutting previously sketched on day 10.  It was a late start at 11pm, so I spent about 60 minutes drawing and I didn't finish it....but I quite like unfinished drawings, so that's fine.
I love tonal drawing, it's so easy to do, costs very little and requires little space....perfect!

'Red Camellia, Unfinished' graphite on Stillman & Birn Zeta Series Sketch paper, 7 x 7 inches. Completed using Faber Castell 9000 2H to 4B
And this is the flower, sorry terrible photo! It was dark and I worked in the dark with a lamp which is good  because it enhances the light and shade, 'Chiaroscuro' style. There's only tone to deal with so colour matching required light conditions are not necessary ....yes bad light is ok sometimes!

It was around 2008 when I first started tonal drawing and it's one of my favourite mediums now. It's an almost meditative process as the pencil floats over the paper surface with virtually no pressure, it's relatively easy to control really and can be learned easily. Funny really because I absolutely loathe coloured pencil!  I don't mean as a medium used by others, there are some amazing works using CP, I'm talking about using it, I find it the most tedious process ever!
When I teach graphite in my online courses and think it's extremely important to establish this as a foundation skill. I find that it's not so different from purist watercolour methods, especially for quite a dry painter like me....using the white of the paper for only the brightest highlights and layering different tones to build up a 3 dimensional form. It's also the best way of understanding tonal values before moving on to colour and is great for controlling detail. But you have to experiment to get the textures and desired effect too, just like watercolour dry brush work.
Building layers and texture. Working around the tonally light anthers and filaments being careful not to make any indentation or lines. small circular movements usually do the job but work with whatever the shape of the subject is...just go with the flow!

I don't invest in fancy tools, there is no need, they won't make your drawing any better. A set of Faber Castell 9000, are without doubt the best pencils and Staedtler are not bad too but a bit too soft for me. Some students find Faber Castell's a bit 'scratchy' at first but this is generally poor technique and too much pressure being applied. The weight should never be at the point of the tip of the pencil and pressing into the surface of the paper, but instead should be kept in the arm, so that the pencil glides over the surface without pressure or resistance. I have reverted to a hard rubber but also use a putty rubber but sometimes these can become sticky. A rubber should be used as little ar possible though. My best friends in the drawing tool kit are a good old Stanley knife and nail file for sharpening. Sharpening is really important and there are a number of variations in the way a pencil can be sharpened and used for different effects. Dark flecks generally only occur if you have rubber or other graphite debis on the surface of the paper, so dust off regularly with a big, clean dry brush and use tracing paper to protect your work from dirty marks. A magnifyer is a must for getting close in at the edges.
Some basic tools, the nail file/ emery board is a must have, and hand sharpened long leads are better than any sharpener on the market. I couldn't draw at all without a magnifyer.
 I sharpen long points and then fine tune with a fine nail file, this way the point tapers well and just requires fine tuning. Also important for a lazy person like me is the fact that the lead lasts a long time before further sharpening is needed. I don't really like continual sharpening!  I use HP watercolour paper Arches or Fabriano Artistico or Schoellershammer 4G for finished pieces but the Stillman and Birn sketch paper is good too. It all costs very little.  Sometimes I use a mechanical pencil, but you can buy cheap ones and put good lead in them!
Here's another unfinished - from a Skype tutorial with one of my students this week. I estimate to complete a life size tonal drawing of a tulip would take in the region of 5-6 hours. This one is in the early stages.

Here's a Camellia leaf, see how it's a good bit darker than the flower. This is achieved by layering with the softer grades. The underside of the leaf is much lighter though and these are the differences to look for. 
One of the most common errors in tonal work is the failure to add enough graphite. In the same way that every watercolour has a maximum saturation, every pencil grade has a maximum tonal value, so you can keep adding to smooth that tone ( using the continuous tone technique  ) it won't get any darker but it will get smoother as long as you are applying the correct amount of pressure. Thereafter, to go darker you need to move to a softer grade and so on with increasingly softer grades to get those darks. I do the majority of the work with 2H to 2B grades. The 2H is like the equivalent to a Tea wash, covering much of the surface apart from the main highlights. Quite often though students do not apply nearly enough tone and far too much white of the paper is left showing through. Neither is there enough variation in tone between light and dark parts, for example a Camellia leaf is significantly darker in tone than say a pink Camellia flower, yet often in drawings the difference isn't apparent. So to check tones, hold the subject against a white card and see how little white there actually is and also see which are the lighter parts and which are the darker parts. The other common error is reliance on outlines. In a tonal drawing the outline should not be visible. I make a very light outline drawing first and remove as much as possible with a putty rubber before starting to add tone. The tonal work should cover the line by working up to it. I often go back a grade to smooth out with a harder pencil too.....Like all artwork it's about trial and error and working out problems. You can tell people how to do it but you have to discover it yourself in order to fully understand.    

Hmm....30 day challenge = much faster Blogging skills too! albeit with the odd typo

Friday, 24 April 2015

Day 10 and 11, Camellia and Magnolia Sketches, Exhibitions and more

It's been a very hectic week with no time for very much else at all! Everything seems to happen at this time of start to bloom in abundance but also the exhibitions calender is pretty full. So I only had time this week for a couple 15 minute sketches.... I had intended to sketch more while away but it just didn't happen! this is the sum total of the pretty poor effort. As you will see these drawings are rough....almost scribbles but this is usually how I work out my drawings.
It's not pretty or tidy! 15 minute drawing of a Camellia. the flower was 'taken' from a friends garden on the way home. This is how I start most drawings. Pencil first to work out the angles and basic shapes. I draw almost as though all parts are it's a sort of skeleton drawing. There are usually so many lines that it's necessary to draw over it with a fine liner, If I was drawing to create a new composition for a painting or tonal drawing,  I would probably produce 4 or 5 similar drawings in order to find the best arrangement of leaves and flowers etc. then decide what to keep and what not to keep. This work is in the Stillman & Birn Sketchbook. 

Day 11. Under 15 mins, Magnolia Bud drawn with a very blunt 5B pencil. Collected from Chatsworth house, an incredible garden and house....must go back soon!

 So what else has been happening? ......
The answer is LOTS! Last week brought a few nice surprises. I attended the SBA annual exhibition opening on Thursday 16th, where I currently have two paintings on show. I arrived late for the opening (as usual), to find out that I'd been highly commended for the new Strathmore paper award for composition, and will be receiving a book of their paper as a prize, which is great! Slightly ironic really because the work was on vellum but never having tried their paper I'm looking forward to giving it a go.... oh I also got a gift of book of paper from Saunders Waterford for trialling their paper too! ...more about that another time. I stayed over in London with my daughter and we visited the Saatchi, Tate Britain and Tate Modern, to view the Dumas exhibition.....oh and a Cocktail bar!

Society of Botanical Artists annual Exhibition at Westminster Central Halls, London
 Between exhibitions I took my daughter home to Lancaster and then took a trip to Chatsworth House. I even went down a cave on route! Chatsworth is amazing and I need to go back asap! Might write another post about it at some point.
Chatsworth....a very grand house and garden!.....
....But I managed to find a shed full of gorgeous onions!

I was very tempted to 'borrow' these ...but even my bag isn't big enough for this lot!

And some amazing and big leaf skeletons from under the Magnolia tree....definitely a subject for vellum.
Arriving home on Monday I made a brief trip to the printers, 'The Artists Print Room', in Bridgenorth to sort out the final proofs. Vellum is not so easy to replicate in print but I was really happy with these. I decided to have them printed on Bamboo archival paper, that's a new one to me! so though I'd try it. Here they are:
Decided to keep the background marks on the vellum as part of the print.... I figured they were part of the work, not sure if it was the right thing to do! This is my painting on Rory McEwen's vellum so I won't be parting with the original.

The butterflies are x1.5 in size which gives the work more impact and shows off the colours and detail.
Not sure why I chose this one....just because I like leaf skeletons and lichens I guess

 I was back in London again on Wednesday, stewarding for the SBA exhibition and happened to open the Society leaflet whilst taking a coffee break and discovered that they had chosen my Primula for inside the leaflet, so again that was another surprise.
Primula painting on vellum, from 2010. found while taking a tea break at the SBA exhibition
  The SBA exhibition is excellent this year and the standard just keeps going up! I spoke with RHS judge and artist Gillian Barlow, who dropped in late in the day and was very complementary about this years show and also commented on the improved hanging of work this year too.
The student diploma work is frighteningly good and is obviously having an impact on the level of new work being produced! I also noticed that there seems to be a lot of artists painting in large format, which has no doubt has been influenced by artists such as Rosie Sanders. So it's all good and Botanical painting is definitely continuing to appeal to people.
A fantastic exhibition!....hopefully you can see the names of those exhibiting here.
After a day stewarding I attended the private view of Shirley Sherwood exhibition at the Johnathon Cooper, Park Walk Gallery. The exhibition is of new works and a celebration marking 25 years of Dr Sherwood's collection.  I was very fortunate to meet some wonderful artists both exhibiting and viewing. It was particularly lovely to meet Coral Guest and Beverly Allen, having corresponded with both of them for some time. Beverly had invited me to take part in the Sydney Florilegium  Project a couple of years ago, this will take place next year. Her painting of a Gymea lily is stunning. Coral was invited by Dr Sherwood to speak about her Peony painting, which she undertook over a period of 9 years! The large painting titled ' The Phenology Cabinet of the Incandescent Petal' features flowers from her personal collection of Magenta coloured French heritage peonies. She explained how in the years when the weather had damaged the plants she had painted the petals becuae the they had blown away. It was great to hear about her interest in the this flower and also of and of her recollections of visits to Kew since she was a small child aged just 6 years old! I also met Rosie Sanders, her paintings are absolutely stunning and so full of life and colour just like Rosie! She is currently undertaking a Painting a Day Challenge, which she started on Jan 1st and will last the whole year...... It's a remarkable and honest journey, which is well worth following.

After seeing so much amazing work I have to admit feeling a tad overwhelmed but also inspired to work. So it's back to my little flat, pencils and paints at the ready. This huge tube arrived from William Cowleys on Thursday, so that rounded off a pretty full and exciting week....should keep me busy for a while....but not allowed to open it until all other work is up to date!

A new skin from Cowleys awaits!

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Day 9, An Iris Seed Pod and some other exciting things!

It's actually day 10 but I'm a day behind after being away in London for the SBA annual exhibition. Haven't exhibited  for a few years, so it was really nice to be back on track and involved again.
I arrived home late last night full of enthusiasm and got up early to catch up with the challenge! Something small seemed a good idea so I chose to paint a small Iris seed-head, which was given to me last year by fellow artist and friend, Jarnie Godwin, aka Sketchbook Squirrel 
It's painted on Kelmscott vellum, funny enough it's a small off cut from one of the works for this years SBA show..

A quick vellum painting of an Iris seedpod for day 9
 I started on paper but decided that vellum would be better for this subject. it's always great for these dried subjects. I wasn't sure that I could do it quickly but it seemed to work. It could do with a bit more work but with only a short amount of time it was OK. Might add the seeds later on.
I'll maybe add the seeds and the other side of the pod later on. Apologies for the lack of information and photos, short on time today!
SBA Exhibition and new Work
 My two entries for the SBA show this year were Fritillaries, the F. imperialis is the largest painting that I've completed on vellum. The second painting was a small painting on vellum of F. meleagris. I was delighted to hear that I got an honourable mention for the F. meleagris, which goes to show that small paintings get noticed too! The F. imperialis was hard work ( see my previous post ) ......but not deterred by the scale of the task I've already ordered another whole skin and can't wait to get started. I was totally in awe at some of the work a this years show so definitely need to practice for next year now. I already have some ideas for what is a very exciting title subject. I'm going to focus on the theme of pattern for next year, which is an area Ive always had an interest in.
One of this years SBA entries, Fritillarie imperialis Rubra painted on a whole skin of Kelmscott vellum
I wasn't at the opening for very long but even in that short time it was lovely to meet so many other artists. Seems like the standard just keeps getting higher and it's a much more connected community of artists compared to the first time I exhibited withh the SBA back in 2002, I think that's all thanks to the internet, and supportes such as Katherine Tyrell with her Making a Mark blog, and of course to social media too. The ever increasing standard is probably due to the SBA diploma course which continues to bring more amazing new artists together every year. So it's all good and very exciting times ahead for botanical art.

A detain from the small F. meleagris painting, also at this years show
New Prints
One other exciting bit of news for me,  is that I spent an afternoon at the printers last Tuesday and picked up the first proofs for my new limited edition prints of the butterflies. I'm getting the proofs for two more works, the Fritillaria meleagris on Rory McEwen vellum and the Leaf Skeleton and Lichen Branch...all three are on vellum. It's not easy to get good prints of work on vellum but so far I'm pleased with the results and found a great photographer / printer who seems to understand the subtleties of watercolours..... probably helps that his wife is a watercolour artist too. Here's a snapshot I took of the first proofs, doesn't do them justice but the colour match and image quality is excellent. I'm trying to decide whether to print the butterflies life size or larger......never was very good at decision making!  Will post better photos shortly

Not a great photo but here are the first proofs for the butterfly prints... hot off the press!

My other painting currently at the printers
That all for now, time to take my daughter back to University after the Easter break, so back to the challenge again tomorrow. 

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Day 7 and 8. Tulip Tree, Seed - Head in Watercolour and Graphite

Day 7 and 8, a mix of watercolour and graphite was used for these Tulip Tree seed- head studies. This was cheating a bit because I found an unfinished drawing in my old sketchbook and though it would be good to add a couple more. I'd found the seeds last year on my way through Germany and had forgotten about them....I found them in a box on top of the bookcase the other day! Think I'll post every other day now so as not to irritate you with my daily posts., Sorry  I forgot to take photos of the process, so just the finished pieces today. 

Day 7.  Dried Tulip Tree seed-head, Liriodendron tulipifera.  Graphite drawing on Stillman and Birn A4 smooth Zeta series sketchbook, such lovely sketchbook paper. The usual Faber Castell 9000 series pencils. I still believe these are the best pencils for the job. Grades H right up to 8B here for the darkest shadows. I could have made this darker all over but I'm out of time today. I must make an effort to take better photos! these are taken on an iphone!  

The complete page in the sketchbook, with the original drawing bottom left
 I have to confess that I'm struggling with time now. Really had intended to get out to paint some spring flowers but Ive got so much on this week! with a new composition course starting, a trip to the printer today,  because  I'm betting my butterflies and fritillarias made into prints:) and tomorrow it's off to London for the SBA show tomorrow...... Excuses excuses! oh and there's those fruit commissions (eek!)  But I always keep in mind one of  my favourite quotes from Francis Bacon: 
' Inspiration comes from regular work

Not sure if that's absolutely accurate as a quote because I read it on the toilet wall at the Hugh Lane Gallery, where is studio is now located in Dublin.  I'm not really very good with remembering quotes but it's good enough for me and regular work I will continue do!
Day 8 A colour version, maybe I'll add a flowering version at the top of the page later this year. I've had this in a box for a while yet remarkably the little leaf is still green. The colours: Transparent Yellow and Perylene Maroon, in various combinations for the rich golden colour. To warm it more I added Scarlet Lake.  Some Cerulean on the woody parts first for the shine followed by a warm brown mix same as the seed plus some Van Dyke Brown ( yes too lazy here today to mix ), which I also used on the seed head  and added in some Paynes Grey to darken and cool it off.. The seed head completely fell apart just as I finished it!  

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Day 6, Tulip in Graphite

Not much time today so it's a short post tonight.  Today graphite was the medium of choice. Working again in the small square Sillman & Birn sketchbook, I chose a pale tulip from a bunch of flowers in the house....and added a slightly odd looking bulb too.
Tulip in graphite for day 6 of the challenge. A tonal drawing  on 7 x 7cm Stillman & Birn sketchbook paper, 270 gsm, smooth. Using Faber Castell 9000 series grades 2H - 4B. Sorry for the dark images, the light had gone by the time I got around to photographing this one.
  The paper gives quite a soft finish which I like, but for really sharp drawings I find the Schollershammer 4G is good. Bristol board is an alternative but personally I don't like it's rather cold appearance.
Laying the foundations with a 2H and H pencils
 After sketching the outline very lightly I usually start any tonal drawing by establishing the basic form using continuous tone technique with a fairly hard pencil, being careful not to apply too much pressurem, the weight and motion should come from the arm to get an even tone. I cover pretty much all all but the brightest highlights. The harder grade pencil creates a smooth foundation to build the darker tones on top. Here I worked from light to dark, using progressively softer pencil grades. For this tulip I used 2H, H, HB, B, 2B, 3B and 4B. I sometimes go over grainy looking soft grades with a harder pencil at the end. This smooths it out.

I added this rather odd looking bulb which had some shrivelled old growth and a split skin, which was about to fall off!
I was going to add a few different parts, such as petals and reproductive parts but ran out of time for today. I don't much like the bulb so thought it would look better with more parts added.
It was a good to work with graphite again, it's one of my favourite mediums. Hopefully more in graphite will follow as the challenge progresses.

Friday, 10 April 2015

Day 5, Cymbidium Orchid Flower

Finally a change of subject! and a change of brand for the materials. For day five I decided to do a quick sketchbook study of a Cymbidium orchid,  a single flower from a plant which is now nearing the end of flowering period, seemed a shame to miss painting at least a little part of it. This time working in Stillman & Birn Zeta series sketchbook and with a limited range of Schminke Horadam artist watercolours.

Cymbidium flower study, size 7 x 7 inches on the best of all sketchbook paper, Stillman & Birn.
I only ever painted an orchid once before, I think it was a Paphio, not so much into panting them but they are fascinating! They really are the glamorous 'cheats' in the world of pollination! Tricking unsuspecting insects and other animals into thinking they offer some attractive reward but actually over 1/3 of all orchids have nothing at all to give to insects, unlike most other flowers they don't do mutualism and waste none of their energy on giving nectar or pollen away to insects..... Clever eh!

I was never more interested in any subject in my life than this of Orchids 
Charles Darwin 1861
Detail showing the column with pollinium
These Cymbidiums and some other orchids have their pollen in a pollinia, these are sacs of pollen  housed at the tip of the column and covered by an anther cap. If you have an orchid such as a Phalenopsis or Cymbidium try touching the anther cap with a cotton bud or cocktail stick, the pollinia will easily be revealed and pulled away intact. But a word of warning, unfortunately the flowers job primary job is done once the pollinia is removed and it fades and dies very quickly once the pollinium is removed. When the curious insect enters the flower the whole pollinarium comes away sticks to the insect ( it's attachment is very sticky!).  It' is then carried to the next flower and facilitates cross pollination, as the curious animal persists in it's search for a reward! I tried to photograph the pollinarium ( below) but didn't make a great job, sorry. But hopefully you  get the idea.
 Pollinarium, showing the pollen sacs and sticky attachment which allows it to be carried by insects to the next flower. actual size is only around 2mm at the widest point.
Interesting as this story of pollination is - this post isn't really about orchid reproduction but I forgot to take photos of the painting process, so thought I'd add a bit of extra stuff!

Here's a brief summary of the painting process.

Centre page is a face-on view of the flower. The fairly straight forward symmetrical view is easily achieved by drawing a box using the height and width measurements of the flower, then by dividing it up into four quarters (draw a horizontal and vertical line through the centre). Finally plot the position of the petals by judging the angles of the petal positions....kind of like a clock face. All that's left is to add the outline by  measuring of the parts for accuracy.

Simple face-on view of flower, get the basic symmetry right and then make adjustments as necessary
  Thereafter the shade colour was added, which is my usual approach when painting light flowers. I'm not at all familiar with Schminke watercolours but have some pans so thought I'd give them a go. I used manganese violet and ultramarine finest for the shadow colour. For the 'yellow' areas on the petals I used titanium gold ochre. I wanted to reach for the W & N on a few occasions because I could think of easier options but stuck with it. They're fine to use although I've yet to learn about the particular properties and only have a limited colour range.

Adding the spots to a dampened surface gives soft edges.

I then added the basic hue for the petals,  which is almost 'fleshy' pink in colour.Vanadium yellow and vermilion plus a little of the ultramarine finest. For the cooler pinks I used ruby red in the mix.  The edges of the petals were faded and brown, brown madder an ultramarine was used here. For the dark spots on the labellum I used ruby red and brown madder with a tiny amount of ultramarine for the darker areas. To apply, I wet the area first and allowed it to part dry and dropped the colour on, this give the soft edge to the spots, but care has to be taken to have just the right amount of dampness or the spots will spread too much. Darker areas were added on top, the spots are actually slightly raised so the light catches the edge of them and a darker area can be added to the shaded side.
 A simple dissection in graphite and a few other parts were added (stigma, ovary, labellum and profile view).  Hopefully this gives a good overview of the morphology on this small study page.

Simple dissection
Orchids are really simple to dissect, because they are so fleshy and resistant to wilting, so if you've never dissected a flower before this is a good place to start but don't be surprised when it looks nothing like the standard 'plant parts' illustration often used in botanical painting classes!  


Thursday, 9 April 2015

Day 4, Yes, it's Another Bulb!

OK this is looking a bit like the 30 day bulb challenge but I promise to paint something else eventually! This evenings effort was a tulip from Amsterdam...other than that I've no idea what type it is but the spouting tip had a nice bit of red on it which made it more interesting....the reddening is probably caused by stress because it should really be in the ground rather than rolling around on my desk!
Todays sprouting tulip bulb painted on a scrap of Kelmscott vellum size 11 x 15cm. All paints were W & N  pans which I prefer for vellum. You can see I like to use the tape and cardboard support to test colour and dry off the brush. David Jackson's brushes ( The Brushman) are the best when it comes to fine lines on vellum!

Starts off looking frightenly scruffy! For the initial wash I used some cerulean blue for the highlight, a bit of cobalt violet for the reflected light and a mix of transparent yellow and perylene maroon for the basic hue

Thereafter I build up the colour and use the modelling dry brush technique using a few different brushes, including the the Rosemary & Co short flat and spotter size 1 and 2. Thin thin transparent layers of colour are layered to create the form shadow. I also added some scarlet lake to the mix on the shade side where it's warmer, on the right side the mix is more yellow. The fine veins are picked out with a pointed brush and the basic hue mix.
Finishing off the bulb I added some purple to the mix, I don't know what it is other than it's Japanese and the most amazing deep violet colour which was asking to be used for something!  No idea about the permanence of this paint but I'm just playing around here so don't really care too much .... it's such a great colour though that I'll check it out properly. Finally I added the pale green shoot using a mix of lemon yellow and cobalt blue with perylene maroon for the red/brown colouration. Ultraviolet was used for the shadows and some van dyke brown and perylene maroon for the darkest fine details.
Tomorrow, maybe I'll break free from the bulbs or I might just stick with them for the week now...

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Day 3 Chasmanthe

No spare time today because I've been painting strawberries! but finally sat down at about 9pm to paint another of the bulbs from Amsterdam, well actually it's a corm. This time a South African, Chasmanthe. Not sure which one exactly but I think  it's known as the 'African Flag'. A member of the iris family, it's a large corm, about 10cm at the widest point, looks like Crocosmia to me but larger and flatter. It's definitely not the easiest subject when you're in a rush with much painting of negative space required in between the strands but I like the colour  and the look of it . It's good to paint really complicated things against the clock...right!?

Chasmanthe corm, size 14 x 17 0n Langton extra smooth HP. A tricky one to paint but at least the colours were pretty straight forward. Only 90 mins on this, so it's a bit rough around the edges! I do think it's good training to work quickly it speeds up thinking and prevents procrastination!
Lots of bulbs, corms and tubers at the Amsterdam flower market. I came home with a bag full and glad I photographed the labels otherwise I'd have had no idea what most of them were.

I like this corm, but in hindsight it could have done with a bit more time ( isn't that always the case though?). Again I made a rough sketch of the basic shape and got stuck in with a mix of raw sienna and burnt sienna with van dyke brown for the darker browns. I used cerulean blue on the shine on the right hand side ( light source side), and added some pyroll red to warm it up on the shade side and ultraviolet to cool it down in places and also for the shadows. I finished of with wash of gold ochre in places  I started by putting int he basic form but painting between some of the fibrous strands. I added the cerulean afterwards establishing this first stage, normally I'd do this first but was ahead of myself and distracted by the television!

Establishing the form first but by painting between some of the strands to get the basic shape in first.

This little painting exercise provided some light relief from the very complicated strawberry painting I'm working on at present.... I really don't like painting strawberries!  So it's back to them in the morning and  find doing little works like this stops me from getting too bogged down ( or stuck) with more complicated work.
No idea what day 4 will bring but it's likely to be night shift work!