Saturday, 26 September 2015

Thinking About Leaves, more on Vellum

This week I've been continuing with the 30 day challenge and came back to the old problem with painting leaves....nothing lets a botanical painting down more than poorly painted foliage and the worst case scenario is badly painted leaf on vellum! Don't think no one will notice if your leaves aren't up to scratch....they will! It's always worth brushing up on leaves so this week I've been preparing new tasks for some of my students and leaves are always firmly on the agenda for me too. ...they need constant practice.

Here's a video of a leaf I painted on vellum this morning, sped up x16 so that gives you an idea of the actual time frame.

Almost finished, the autumn leaf on vellum
I love to paint leaves and autumn is the most exciting time with a variety of rich colours. Tidy edges are vital, as are clean highlights which should not lifted, overworking is an absolute no-no! it's always obvious if you do any of these, so there is no hiding place with leaves. Best advice is to keep it clean.... if it's not.... well forget it and start over until its right!

Rough measurements of a leaf in perspective

I believe that it really is all about observation of the the light and shade, so often I see leaves painted in a 'stylised' fashion, with 'tramline veins' that don't mirror the actual venation of the leaf. My recommendation is always to 'really look' at leaf and forget what you think know and just 'see' what's really there. Yes always take basic measurements of height, width and widest point etc. get the facts first but then look at how the light hits the subject. Start with a leaf portrait first and then move on to leaves perspective. Here are some of my leaf portraits from over the years.
Cherry leaf on vellum from around 2007. The thing I really love about vellum is the way its possible to 'polish' the surface and creates a shine. Work on vellum should never have thickened paint at the edges and should take full advantage of the translucency that can be achieved on this surface but you can also create that lovely texture using the different dry brush techniques

Decaying lime leaf on vellum, again vellum is great for detail and translucency, A sharp pointed brush is required, such as W & N series 7 miniature, size 4 and 1

Hydrangea on Fabriano artistico..... the technique is much the same as for vellum, lots of dry brush work over the wash.

Herb Robert on Fabriano artistico, love the rich autumn colours. Transparent colours are a must. I like Transparent Yellow and Nickel Azo Yellow in leaf mixes is a favourite. Steer clear of opaque yellows and try to have no more than 3 single pigment colours if you want to keep it fresh looking.

One of my early leaves on vellum. Horse Chestnut on Kelmscott, maybe 2008

Cherry with a leaf minor cast, 2010

Lime leaf on vellum, 2010

Mahonia on vellum, with some lovely dacay!

Red Maple on vellum

Red Maple on paper

Shiny dark greens with the Camellia on paper. Cerulean or Manganese blue makes a good 'shine' colour on those dark green leaves

Building up the layers on vellum.....doesn't always look so neat in the early stages. I use a 5 stage process which I've developed and I believe it works. can get a great shine in the end!
This one on natural vellum is perfect for decaying leaves but a little less suitable for flowers

My process is pretty much the same on paper but less washes are possible on vellum, this is  a rhododendron leaf on paper.Stippling dry brush over a wash similar to vellum

Leaf portraits are fun to do and you can learn much from them! They always sell well too, so why not start a leaf library.

Saturday, 12 September 2015

30 Paintings on Vellum in 30 Days

Haven't written a blog post for over almost a month and it's really bothering me! There's one in the offing about photographing artwork but it requires some use of the grey matter to finish it off, so here's s something about the new 30 Day Challenge in the meantime. It was initiated on the Botanical Artist's Facebook Group, and requires 30 small works to be completed during September. Over the past few years I've tried a few of these Challenges, here's a link to one that I actually completed in 2013, and wrote a daily blog for.
This time I wanted to try something different so have decided to do all 30 on is do-able if I keep it simple!

Day 5-10 Violas on Kelmscott Vellum, size approx 8 x 6. I bought these little pots of flowers from the local DIY store and painted the whole sheet in one day because I was so behind. The palette included: Holbein Manganese Blue PB33 ( not the hue) with W & N Cobalt Violet and Quin Magenta. I love the way PB33 separates, it's really useful for high light value pale violet flowers, with both pink and blue  present. Also Violet Dioxazine. Lemon Yellow NT and Cadmium Yellow for the flower centres. The greens included Cobalt Violet, Lemon Yellow and permanent rose. 

 The Challenge started while I was away in Italy, where I visited the Venice Biennale, it's good to view a diverse range of art and the Biennale was certainly that! diversity definitely feeds the brain and upon my return I was was left playing 'catch-up' with the Challenge but definitely inspired to work.

I try to tie in this sort of challenge with other work, and these little studies are prefect for video examples for my new online Vellum Course which is underway with 5 great new students. Currently I'm also working on a large vellum painting of Roses on vellum so no doubt a few roses will probably feature here and there. Here's a little bud of Olivia Rose Austin, which was my 4th painting.

pink rose bud on vellum
No 4. Olivia Rose Austin Bud. 5 x 3 inches on Kelmscott. Colours: Permanent Rose and Lemon Yellow n.t. for the pink with Cobalt Violet for the cool pink shades. A small amount of Permanent Carmine was also used to deepen the colour . The green mix is Cobalt Blue, Transparent Yellow and Permanent Rose. The stem Perm rose, Trans Yellow and Brown Madder
 The Blackberry studies are good as preparatory works for another painting, which is for a  competition, the final piece will be on a piece of mounted natural vellum though. This is more challenging than the Kelmscott but this piece is all good practice with the subject.

Blackberries watercolour painted on kelmscot vellum
Day 1. Blackberry Study on Kelmscott, approx 7 x 5.5 inches. Love painting blackberries and working with dark colours. The black mix is Indanthrene Blue, Permanent Carmine and a very small amount of Trans Yellow. The bias of the mix is on the violet side. Where the fruit is more of a dark red colour, the quantity of Permanent  Carmine is increased. The red is Perm Carmine and Scarlet lake for the warmer red. Stems and all other parts are mixed from the same 4 colours. There is really mo need for lots of colours when a few will do and the use of the same colours created better harmony in a painting.

Blackberry leaf and fruit painted on vellum with black paint
No. 3 This is a simple study of a single fruit and leaf but painted with Ivory Black. This is a very thick piece of vellum 6 x 2 inches. I quite like this effect and have been playing with it recently. It's all about getting the tone right before working with colour. It's also an approach that I teach as good practice in preparatory work.
Also completed on the first day was a simple single maple seed, not particularly well painted but very quickly completed.  I used the earth colours for this, it was a pretty lazy effort. In the 2013 Challenge a maple seed was the first subject and it seemed a good idea to repeat on vellum.

Maple seed painted in watercolour on vellum
Maple seed on Kelmscott, 3 x 2.7  inches. I used some Manganese Blue on the shine. Thereafter Raw Umber wash, followed by building texture with Brown Madder and Van Dyke Brown, a small amount of Ultramarine Violet was added for the shadows. Lots of sweeping and drawing dry brush work here.
I've almost caught up! Maybe I'll even manage all 30. Ive plenty of vellum off - cuts so no excuses.

The Photographing artwork post will hopefully follow shortly.