Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Assignment 11.Working from photographs, My Garden

The 'working from photographs' assignment required a floral painting suitable for a card design. I attempted a looser style of painting, which isn't really my thing and it felt a bit awkward and not very botanical. I found this to be a pretty awful assignment which wasn't anything to do with botanical art.
Above  detail from what turned out to be a more illustrative approach....this was a lot of work!
I decided to paint a corner of my garden working from a number of photographs taken this year - I would have liked to try something a bit more creative but the garden was handy and I was a bit short of time due to work, children and grandchildren.
The agapanthus was the obvious choice for a feature - there wasn't much left that looked half decent because high winds had flattened everything else! I made  lots of colour notes - the reproduction in the photographs is a little inaccurate so some care had to be taken. The painted lady butterfly was a regular visitor to both the agapanthus and the lavender and added a bit of interest. I  assembled the sketches and traced the whole image which was transferred to my watercolour paper (roughly A3 size). I took about 3 days from start to finish. Valerie Wright was my tutor for this assignment. I think this is the worst thing I've done so far....not my thing.

My Garden, not happy with that loose background but it'll have to do

Only one more assignment to go, then the Diploma Portfolio. It's just flown by in a fairly uneventful way so far, can't believe I'm nearly at the end of the assignments. Still no contact with tutors, just the sheets back, some give more feedback than others. I honestly don't think I've learned anything from this experience.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Working in the Field, Assignment 10, Coastal Flowers

Assignment 10. Working in the Field.
I chose to work at a coastal site, Gardenstown, which is just a few miles from my home on the north east coast of Scotland. I had studied the site for my biology dissertation a few years ago so was pretty familiar with the habitat. Five species were required for this assignment, one had to show surrounding vegetation/ habitat and one cross section/dissection. Simon Williams is the tutor.
I chose Parnassia palustris (grass of parnassus), Succisa pratensis ( Devil's bit scabious), Prunella vulgaris(self heal)  Trifolium pratense (red clover) and Rhinanthus minor (yellow rattle), which had gone to seed.   I think I could have made the Parnassia dissection larger....oh well too late now. Loved doing  this one! but not happy with the result. I don't know why on earth I decided on this layout, probably because of the size of the paper.... I can see how it should be laid out now! I had quite a lot of domestic problems at this time but plodded on - it looks a bit rushed and unfinished to me.

Detail from the Scabacious, unfinished, needs a wash over the leaves etc.

Simon liked the work he was complementary but agreed that it needed a bit more work and general finishing including the wash on the greens,,,,,not sure why I didn't do that it was an easy option but I was rushin, he was spot on in his observations on this one. The mark was good enough, but I could have done a much better job of this. I was a bit disappointed in myself for failing to find the time. My error and a kick up the backside for me:)

I havent contacted any of the tutors yet, not sure if I should or not. I'm just kind send off the stuff and read the feedback and get on with it. Not sure if that's how it's suposed to be or not.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Botanical Illustration Assignment 9

Assignment 9. The Botanical Illustration. Pulsatilla vulgaris. Playing a bit safe really because I've painted it a few times. Again this assignment is worth more in marks with 15 marks.

This one is all about accuracy, not that the others aren't but there's more to measure. All assignments are marked with the same criteria, including on botanical accuracy but also on technique, composition, line and form, tone and colour. labelling of course has to be accurate too. This one will be scrutinised no doubt!  My turor Reinhild Raistrick who I had met at the SBA seminar in London and discussed the plant choice, she told me that Pulsatilla grow wild in East Anglia, where she lives and that she has painted them in situ many times, so perhaps I set myself a hard task choosing a plant she is very familiar with!  I wanted to paint a native species, it makes labelling compared to all those difficult to identify cultivars, but that's not the real reason, I just prefer native plants I guess..... and they're pretty important!

Detail showing all the fine hais on the flower stem and leaves, to add hais use a pale botanical grey mix against the white of the paper and add titanium white for hairs against the plant
I included side view opening bud, front view, seedhead leaves and enlarged reproductive parts and individual enlarged seed. Reproductive parts are lined up along the bottom and labelled neatly with pecil using a 'x' rather than a scale bar.  I think I could have included a rear view and closed bud but it's not essential.
The complete illustration, showing different aspects
My tutor said that the hue on these flowers is difficult particularly with the hairs but felt I had an accurate match.
The drawing she said was accurate and showed off the nature and shape of the subject to perfection!
She thought the botanical accuracy was 'professional'
For technique the washes and hairs she said were excellent...I've got a red face and big head now!
Composition well balanced and clean with labelling kept to a minimum on the front, as it should be.

The only suggestion was a possible light wash on the leaves to reduce the business.

Wow I was pretty pleased with that feedback and a good mark!

To be fair this is mypreferred  type of work , and I  should be ok with  dissection, measuring and the likes with being trained in Biology.  When it comes to mixed florals and card designs I will be in a bit more trouble!

Friday, 23 April 2010

SBA Silver Jubilee Show

Society of Botanical Artists Silver Jubilee Show 2010 and Diploma Seminar

I managed to make it to Westminster Central Hall for the Silver Jubilee show and to the student seminar on the 17th April 2010. It was a most enjoyable day and a pleasure to meet the tutors and fellow students.
I participated in a number of the short tours delivered by tutors and came away with lots of 'food for thought'. I particularly enjoyed hearing what Margaret Stevens had to say. She has a wealth of experience and was my tutor for four assignments. She used computer images to analyse some of the works on show in detail - this was extremely enlightening and revealing!
I also managed to submit 5 works for this years exhibition and had all accepted (although one was not shown). I am extremely grateful for the service that Jackie Gethin provides and she has submitted work on my behalf a number of times. There is no doubt that I would not be able to participate in the show without her assistance simply because I live so far away. To my surprise I was awarded a Certificate of Botanical Merit for my Scots thistle seedhead (detail from the study pictured above) , and, was highly commended for the Joyce Cumming Award for the same drawing - something that I hadn't even considered! Again thanks to Jackie for collecting the award on my behalf at the opening ceremony. Better start work now for next years show!

Botanical Illustration, SBA Assignment 9

Study pages for the Botanical Illustration, Fritillaria meleagris....then I changed my mind

Botanical Illustration Assignment 9

It's now over half way through the course and this is the assignment that I've most been looking forward to. Have been working on a couple of subjects, both native species, which is where my heart is, can't decide which one to use but think I'll go with Fritillaria meleagris - it's not too complicated and is one of my favourite flowers. The other option is the pasque flower, another favourite.
Lots of sketch book work and measurements are required for a true botanical illustration, showing all parts and a dissection. I use a magnifying glass for the reproductive parts. Here is a page from my sketch book with some of the preliminary work. My sketch book seems a bit messy and my handwriting and colour notes always look a bit rough - but I guess that's just the way I work. I recently purchased Mary Ann Scott's Botanical Sketchbook, which shows her work throughout the SBA diploma course - it's fabulous and puts mine to shame! Her book is reviewed on the 'Making a Mark' blog

Here's the update....I changed my mind and went with the Pulsatilla vulgaris below

Guess what?....I've painted it before. I think the older version was better, it's on vellum.

This assignment id worth more than the others,  15 marks, so it's an important one.

Vegetable Study, SBA Assignment 8, Savoy Cabbage

An unfinished savoy
Assignment 8 Vegetable or Fungi Study
The Savoy cabbage. This time I really regretted starting such a large and complex subject - it completely filled the paper! I find this paper size so restrictive! I like to have lots of white space so working so small means that if you want white space then you could only work on small subjects. I'd spent so much time on this and I felt I had to continue....I passed the point of no return. I didn't manage to finish it but that was OK as long as two leaves were finished and all the preliminary washes were in place. Perhaps I'll go back to it one day.....but not just yet. I couldn't find any vegetables that hadn't been decapitated ( no leaves) for this study so the choices were a bit limited, so I decided to grow some of my own veg for future studies.
Fungi is no longer allowed in future courses as DNA evidence has finally confirmed that fungi has no place in the plant world. And a lot of what is sold as vegetable is actually fruit, so it's a bit limited.

I was cheating again here because I've painted a Savoy Cabbage before! Yes playing safe again. Actually I think all subjects should be painted more than once, it's the only way to really get to grips with them.

My tutor was Billy Showell, she congratulated me on taking on such a large task! She must think I'm crazy! The criticism was on the tone and colour section. She felt some of the highlights could be toned down in the shaded areas to give more emphasis to the lighter parts. Totally agree with that looking at it now. I got so wrapped up painting all those little 'bubbles' that I lost track of the overall light and shade. It was a very dark variety, with a lot of blue in the green. I was happy with the leaf ribs and veins. it was a good mark so happy enough. Billy said she'd like to see it finished....hmmm maybe one day!  

The Essay, SBA Assignment 7, Arthur Harry Church

The Essay Assignment 7
I wrote my essay on Arthur Harry Church, simply because he completed some beautiful work on the reproductive mechanisms of flowers with such skillful dissection too - something that interests me. I studied Floral Morphology in relation to reproductive success at the University of Aberdeen, so this suited my interests. It's an easy assignment compared to painting!  Here's my thesis and also the Church's ok I don't expect you to read the thesis but I figure it's ok to post the essay now its dine and dusted. margaret Steven's is my tutor again for this one.

 I illustrated my thesis work  after Church with large dissections of my study palnts.

If you want to find out more about Church see David Mabberley's book The Anatomy of Flowers. I think the book is fairly hard to get hold of now but there is more and more information about Church's work coming to light and he has finally received the recognition he deserves through this publication.

Fruit Study, SBA Assignment 6

It's a Pineapple for assignment 6

Fruit Study Composition 2

Again I didn't really do a composition here, just a straight forward pineapple! I think I forgot what I was suposed to be doing and got carried away with the detail. I was also very short of time on this one. Anyway it was an enjoyable assignment all the same.

Having said that I don't think things need to be complicated just for the sake of it....I think a floating subject makse a good composition and the space is as important as the subject ( my justification) but seriously I dont want to add stuff for the sake of it.
I've painted a few pineapples and they always sell, so felt a bit like taking the easy option here by doing something that I was already familiar with but if time is short that seems like a sensible idea to me.

Many people say that  pinapples follow a Fibonacci sequence but I challenge anybody to go prove that. It's a very broad generalisation of  the growth pattern that results two spirals, one clockwise and one counterclockwise. The pinapple rarely adds up to fit the Fibonacchi sequence, it's a myth. However sunflowers and pinecones genarally do. This type of pattern is basically the most energy efficient growth pattern, it's a matter of energy economics or conservation. That's why these types of patterns occur's  not magic nor mystery. People try to make things fit the sequence but they seldom actually test the theory by counting!

Tutor comments
 For this one lovely Billy Showell was the tutor : she was very kind with the comments and gave me an excellent mark. She suggested a wash on the leaves to deepen a little, she liked the level of  detail and colour.

I painted this one a few years ago and sold it at the SBA exhibition I think in 2004. I think it's better becaus eits more colourful, The one for the assignment was past it's best and very dark

Flower Composition. Assignment 5. Paphio

Paphio flower from Assignment 4
Following on from the  previous assignment, I decided to paint the whole plant of the paphio. Not much time at the moment because of other work. Not sure I read the brief properly here....that means I know I didn't.

Paphio Composition. Too much foliage! Hate this and it's heading for oblivion!
 Orchids are such obliging flowers and stay in bloom for long periods so are perfect for slower painters or those that have a limited amount of time each day. I think I fit into both of these categories.   Unfortunately I made the fatal error of not reading the brief properly for this assignment! so I carried on with the work oblivious to the fact that I was supposed to include various aspects of the flower! As a result I had only painted the central flower, then decided to read the assignment as I was about to pop it in the envelope. There was a clue in the word 'composition' and to my horror that I hadn't met the brief!  I tried not to panic and proceeded to add two further flowers ( showing front and back views)  I suppose I  was lucky in that the Paphio has more than one flower. So my lesson here was to read and re-read all assignment texts! It's pretty shocking considering that I'd worked as a freelance illustrator for over 15 years but for some reason these courses turn the brain to mush ! I wouldn't make this mistake again....would I?

Tutor comments:Anyway the surprise was that I got an exceptionally high mark for this from Margaret Stevens! yes she seems to be my tutor for a lot of the assignments! I had raised my own concern about the symmetry in the arrangement of the flower heads but she said she liked it, it reminded her of the Mikado 'Three Little Maids' and that in this case it worked, she didn't have any adverse!  

SBA Assignment 4, Flower Studies and SBA Exhibition surprise award!

flower library
Assignment 4, Flower studies...must take a better photo!

This assignment involved painting a library of  seven flowers, which must include a yellow or white flower.  Again lots to choose from so went for different coloured flowers and different flower shapes, trumpet, umbel etc.  I chose yellow rather than white because for me it's more challenging. Flowers are: Alcea rosa, Crocosmia 'Lucifer', Digitalis purpurea, Hydranga macrophylla, Gentiana septemfida, Trapoleum majus. Sorry I've chopped the image will post a better one later. Not too challenging. I think I'd like to do more of the same.

paphio flower
Detail of the Paphio
I spaced the flower head evenly to cover the page in a balanced way, placing the Hydrangea at the centre. It worked out ok. My tutor for this assignment is Course President Margaret Stevens.

A good mark for this, best one yet, a very slightly dodgy alignment on the hollyhock reproductive parts was the only criticism. I missed that.She particularly liked the paphio and the hydrangea. She said she would like to include this and the previous leaf assignment in the DLDC exhibit at the Westminster but I need to remind her, and send it back to her in plenty of time.

A certificate in Botanical Merit form the SBA 
This month I also exhibited with the SBA, having gone a bit mad with the extra Graphite in January, working on getting the depth of tone right.  I completed a number of studies of things I'd grown from seed the previous year and submitted them with a few other for the annual SBA show. I was lucky enough to have all 5 accepted in Feb! I visited the exhibition and was delighted to find out that I'd been awarded a Certificate in Botanical Merit for my Scots Thistle Seed head. I was also highly commended for the Joyce Cumming Award!  There's and entry about it on the excellent Making a Mark blog 

Scots Thistle seed head which was awarded a Certificate of Botanical Merit at the SBA Annual Exhibition and also highly commended for the Joyce Cumming Award. Bit of a pale photo so some details below.
Dried Artichoke drawing also exhibited at the SBA
Detail from the Scots thistle

Detail from the Scots thistle