Wednesday, 30 May 2012


A couple of years ago, whilst staying with friends in the north of France, I was lucky to be taken to a garden which holds one of the french national collections of Hydrangea. Not only was the afternoon memorable for the flowers, but also for the violent storm which came upon us, out in an open space, with lots of tall trees!
The garden was amazing, with lots of different bushes of these flamboyant shrubs. I grow quite a few in my garden as they do not seem to mind the clay soil, although they nearly all turn pink, even those bought as white!
I have never used any of the photos from that visit as a basis for a painting, but as I was going through my folder for something blue, I came across them and decided to have a go.

I am not a great one for masses of flowers in my paintings, so I simply used the photo to give me shape and colour.....not a great amount of the real blue I was originally planning on using!

I did not do a complete drawing for this painting, as I was not sure how it would turn out, and did not want do a careful drawing and then spoil it with the paint. I simply drew, originally, 5 circles on the paper where I wanted the flower heads to be, and put all the detail I needed on the central flower head, and started by painting the one bloom

When I was happy and thought that the painting showed potential, I repeated the process with each of the flower heads, adjusting the position of the original circles and finally reducing the 5 down to 4......bad composition really!

All went well until I started painting the background.As you can see from the painting above, I had included some background above the flowers in order to outline the white areas of the flower tops.
I had intended to paint the lower left with a fairly strong set of washes, dark backgrounds being a bit of a signature feature of my recent work, but the whole thing went totally pear-shaped and I hated it. It was too heavy for the rest of the painting, I didn't get the greens of the leaves right, and the colours looked dirty against the delicate shades of the flowers.
As a last resort, because of the work that had gone into painting the flowers, I did something I have never done before, but had seen a friend do quite frequently. I put the whole of the  bottom left corner under the cold water tap, and scrubbed away as much of the paint as possible. Thank goodness for good quality usual Fabriano Artistico Extra White 300g. It worked to a certain extent and I was able to re-paint and finish the picture. At this stage I did get a bit disheartened and did not give it the amount of time and enthusiasm that I usually give to the background, and the leaves got very little attention!

In order to try the save the painting, I gave everywhere a good splatter with white acrylic gouache, but I think even that was a bit overdone. I know it is naive to think every painting will succeed, and we should count ourselves lucky when 1 in 5 or so are satisfactory. Non-the-less it was disappointing after all the initial work. After leaving it propped up in the studio for a week or so, if I am still unhappy, I might cut out the flowers and use them in a collage!! .

Monday, 28 May 2012

Club Exercises

It seems a little weird writing a post that has nothing to do with flowers and Gouache and lost edges. But I do want to keep the site active and have not yet started another major floral work. It will happen soon, but until then, I hope you are not too disappointed with me sharing our club activities with you.
We meet once a week for a 2 hour session, and the subject , although often quite loose, is compulsory. It is great in that you do not have to spend hours thinking about what to paint, but you do have to think a bit about how to interpret the subject. When you have been a member as long as I have, the same subjects keep coming around with an alarming regularity. As one of the three members who devise the programme, it if often difficult to think up about 40 different topics that are manageable both from a time point of view and carrying resources to the venue. We tried always having an arrangement in the middle of the room, whenever possible, but as the group grew, the distance away that members had to sit, and an ageing membership with eye problems, this had to be abandoned. Now, everyone brings what they want, except a painting by someone else to copy, which is absolutely taboo, and they can bring objects or photos or use their imagination as they wish. If you are interested in the sorts of things we do, Peter Ward often posts a series of photos of members efforts.

Two or three weeks ago, the subject was 'Terracotta' and members were quite imaginative about the various pots that they produced. Peter painted the Terracotta Army, which was a very inspired idea, and you can see that on his blog on an earlier post. I chose to paint a small corner of a garden with some large plant pots.

Its ok, but I shall do nothing with it except, maybe, put it in a mount and put it in the browser at the exhibition.
Last week we had to do 'Hats and Bags' and I chose to do a row of school hats hanging on a row of pegs!

Again, it is just ok, but this time I will put it in a frame for the exhibition, because I do like to add a bit of variety to the subjects on show, and it does make a change from flowers!
What is also interesting about this painting is that Peter was kind enough to give me a small dot of 4 Daniel Smith Lunar colours which he had recently acquired. These colours are created to granulate readily when used. The colours are Lunar Black, Lunar Blue, Lunar Violet and Lunar Earth.
I used a mixture of all these colours to paint the wall behind the hats and I was really pleased with the results and surprised at how easily they do granulate to give an interesting texture to the painting. If you enlarge the image, you should be able to see the effect.

This week its 'Barns and Farms' which I am sure will be too poor to share with you, not at all my thing!! Still you never know!

Friday, 25 May 2012

More White Gouache

Having finished my stint of work, it is with great joy that I am able to get out into the garden again and also get out my paint brush and have some time in the studio. Eager to try some more of this acrylic gouache work, I selected a picture I took last year of some fairly straight forward white roses. They do not have too many petals and open to show lovely brown and gold stamens which are a lovely contrast to the white.
I made a fairly careful drawing of two of the blooms, on my usual Fabriano Extra White.

The next step was to cover the paper in a wash of a variety of colours that I wanted in the background. I kept it fairly light at this stage, as some of the background areas would need to be fairly light, and any dark areas could be added later. I knew that by covering the pencil lines with paint, I would not be able to readily erase them, but this did not overly concern me as the gouache would obliterate them as I painted each petal. When the background was completely dry, I started the exciting bit of painting the petals, and adding some strong oranges in the middle for the stamens.

During the paintingof each petal, I used lots of water, both on my brush and in an aerosol, to make the gouache travel along the paper, and to blend with the pale parts of the background, in the hope of getting some lost edges. I had to be ready for some odd things to happen, and each stage was a sharp learning curve. Having completed the first flower, I repeated the process with the second rose and added colour to the gouache to paint in shadows and darker petals where they were required. I was careful to only paint parts of some of the petals to give, I hope, interesting highlights.


Once both flowers were painted, I adjusted the shadows, darkened background areas where necessary to make the whites more punchy, and also added a few new colours. To loosen the whole thing up, I liberally splattered the whole painting with lots of white gouache, and a small amount of browns and pinks where I thought it helped the composition. Finally I added some tiny areas of bright red at the very centres of the flowers.

I am really pleased with the effect this type of approach gives to a painting, but although I will return to it now and again, I will still continue to use the traditional methods which I enjoy so much. But it is great fun experimenting!! It may be of interest to note that the painting used one hell of a lot of acrylic gouache!

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Tulip : Pink Inspiration

A few weeks ago, a fellow painter at Avon Valley Artists sent me an e mail with the most amazing painting attached that he had come across on Face Book. I was totally mind-blown by the painting, totally what I would aspire to achieve. The artists name is Cheng Zhenwen. I have called the flower Pink Inspiration, and I believe it looks like a peony.
I had a really good look and felt that there was lots of gouache or acrylic ink (for the whites) in the picture. I was determined to have a go! I needed some source material, and as luck would have it , the tulips in the garden were nearly over, so I took a few snaps, and thought this one might serve the purpose.

It seemed about the right shape, and sort of got over the plagarism issue by being a completely different flower and one I had grown myself.
The first stage was the drawing. I needed to put in most of the petals, as I was afraid of getting lost within the complexities of all those petals. I also wanted a vague second bloom on the left hand side. On the drawing you may be able to see that I put a cross in all the shapes of the second flower, to help me remember what I was painting at each stage. I needeed to remember to rub these out before painting over them, especially in the very pale areas.

I painted in the background first, keeping it very loose, and then started to build up the petal shapes, using neat white acrylic gouache on the petal edges, and dropping gouache onto a wet surface when I wanted edges to disappear. I used mostly Venetian Violet and Permanent Rose mixed with a variety of blues to get the range of pinks I needed.

When the central flower was complete, I used a lot more water, paint and gouache to suggest the second bloom, and allowed the gouache to  bleed into the pale areas of the background. It runs and granulates very well if there is plenty of water. I added the green leaves (maybe they are a tad small) and completed the background.
Finally I gave the painting a good splatter with both the gouache and the pink mixture to loosen the finished effect.

I am really pleasewd with the outcome, but yet again I have failed to paint as loosely as I would have wished. Maybe it just isn't in me to completely let go. It is also a whole lot more difficult . technique-wise than it looks, and Iwould love to find more of his work to have a look at and admire, I will certainly keep on using the gouache as I really like the effect. I do not think I need have any worries about copyright, as my effort in no way lives up to the beautiful painting which was my inspiration!!


Before I start work for four weeks, full time, I have made the most of the week by finishing a rhododendron painting, that I had been promising myself I would tackle again after selling the first attempt at last year's exhibition. The bush grows in my garden in a large pot, and it was the flowering this spring that reminded me to get down to it. The photos are all quite complex as there are lots of trumpets in each flower head. It is a case of what to include and what to leave out. I think I have been a bit mean on the left side of the flower, but it is always easy to be wise in hindsight. My usual Fabriano Artistico extra white paper  and a combination of Maimeri, Daniel Smith and Graham paints and I was ready to go. I lightly drew in the flower shapes and the leaves and using Daniel Smith 's Quinachridone Magenta and W&N Permanent Rose. I began painting the flower parts on the r.h.side

I also added some colour to the lower leaves and put a pale wash on l.h.areas and behind the flowers on the right to make the white parts more evident..
I then continued to enjoy adding more colors to the flowers, getting lost within the structure from time to time, but thinking it didn't really matter!

I also started adding some of the dark background behind some of the petals on the left, to see if the composition was holding up.I did think that the bud was a bit of a funny shape, but was not sure at this stage how I was going to rectify that.
I finished the flowers, flooded the background with lots of lovely darks including Indigo, Quinachridone Rust, Golden Lake, Transparent Orange Iron. and some of the pinks used in the flowers. This produced a very wet painting, and I had to be careful to control the flow, to prevent it going onto the flowers. It also created pockets of paint where the paper buckled.

If the paper does not dry totally flat, I deal with the problem by letting the painting dry completely. Then I spray the back of the paper liberally with clean cold water, place the painting face down on a clean white paper, and place a board on top which I weight down with a pair of old flay irons. Then I let it dry completely, and the painting has always come out totally flat, ready to mount and frame.

All that was left to do to the painting was add some shadows to the underflowers and the l.h.side and it was finished.
As I said earlier, a bit mean with the trumpet shapes on the l.h.side, and the bud is still a bit of a funny shape!

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Technical Hitch

I prepared in advance 4 posts to publish during the weeks I have been working, to keep the blog active. I knew I would not have time to post work during this period, I published the first one which is the 'Tissue Paper' post, but it was not the first that I wrote and put into draft. No problem until I came today to publish the second post. As it is lower down in the list of posts, it has published itself BELOW the 'Tissue Paper' post, and not above it, so unless you scroll down, you might not know it is there. I suspect the same will happen with the other two posts. All I can do to help if you want to read all the posts, is to make you aware that there are 4 in all, entitled:

Tissue Paper
Cling Film
Pink Sensation

Untill you have seen all 4 on approximately a weekly basis, you will need to scroll down each time to find the new one. They will hopefully appear in this order. Once all 4 have been published, we should be back to normal! I tried to re arrange the order of the drafts, with no success. If anyone has any idea how to do this, I would be grateful for the info. Hope you enjoy looking each week!

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Retrospective : Tissue Paper

During the month of May, I always do a full 4 weeks of work at the local university. This is quite a tiring task having been fully retired for 10 years. By the time I reach home, and do all the usual daily tasks like washing and cooking ( very little cleaning!), there is very little time left for painting. In order to keep the blog going, I thought I would offer you a bit of a view of some of my much earliuer work, when I was interested in texture. I went through a phase of using either cling film or tissue paper extensively in my paintings, and as I try to keep a record of all my work, I am able to take a nostalgic look back at some of my earlier work from time to time.
In light of modern trends, maybe it is time to re-visit these techniques. See what you think. I will post the tissue paper paintings this time and save the cling film examples for the next post.

When painting with 'tissue paper' I used one of two methods, I either a) wet and painted the background with soft shades of whatever flowers I intended to paint and then covered this with crumpled and then slightly flattened white good quality tissue paper. I used PVA to stick it down, taking care not to disturb the colours when brushing on the glue. Then, when dry, I proceeded with the painting as normal, or b) Istuck the crumple tissue paper directly onto the white paper and then painted the subject. Mostly, I prefered the first method as this gave me beautifully muted colours for the background. Any whites required in the painting could be retrieved with acrylic gouache or white pastel.The surface of the paper aquired a lovely texture of slightly raise creases, and as I painted, any excess paint ran in delicious fine veins across the paper giving a really unusual effect. It is not totally controllable, so if you try it do not expect it to work every time!

'Field of Lavender'




I suspect that all the paintings were done with W&N paints, but I have no idea what paper I was using in those days!!