Tuesday, 26 June 2012

White Iris

The photo for this lovely iris came from a book called 'Iris' by Claire Austin, and the photos in the book are by a remarkable photographer, Clay Perry, who specialises in photographing flowers and gardens. His wife is a knowledgeable plantswoman who worked with him on Clays's own book called 'Fantastic Flowers'. Any garden book that I come across with photos by him, is a must for me as they provide endless inspiration in the winter when my own garden is dormant. I am not sure that the finished painting is botanically correct, but that is not my primary concern. I just loved the colours and hope the finished piece of work is exciting to look at.

In this case, I started with a full drawing of the flower as I wanted to make sure that I got the proportions correct, and I wanted to see that the angle of the position was pleasing.

I gradually built up the petals using combinations of Windsor and Pthalo Blue, Quinachridone Rust, Indian Yellow, Ultramarine Violet and the like. I was working on my favourite Fabriano paper, 35 x 45 cm rough. I concentrated on trying to get the  fold down the middle of the front 'standard, correct and to describe the the undulation and crimped edges of the 'falls' to illustrate their delicacy. All this without too much tight detail!!

I then added the 'beards' to the right and left 'falls' It was partly this lovely blue/purple beard that caught my eye in the first place. I also wanted to try to put some darks into the heart of the flower, as I did not want the finished image to be too wishy-washy. Not always easy when the flower is predominantly white.

I then proceeded to add the background to the painting. I filled each area with similar but stronger mixes of the original colours, wet into wet and then used pieces of clingfilm  pressed into the wet washes to give me a very free texture, hopefully in total contrast to the carefully painted flower. My intention was to use this freedom, to loosen the overall painting somewhat.I also used white gouache at this stage to put highlights into the petals, and to brush this out over the edges of the petals in places to give me lost and found edges. Finally a little splatter with the white gouache....but only a little and quite controlled , and the painting was finished


When I look at all these photos together, I do think that the painting has some merit without a background, just as a flower study, but I do like doing the backgrounds, so I hope you do not think the final stages were a step too far!! I think the photo of the finished work does make the iris look paler than the actual work.

If you are interested, the flower with which I started is a standard dwarf bearded iris called 'Sarah Taylor' . I am sure Sarah is or was a lovely lady, but it does seem a very prosaic name for such a beautiful bloom!

Thursday, 21 June 2012


I have to start this post with a bit of an apology! I was painting at Avon Valley Artists this morning, and intended to have another go with the d'oily and gouache. I completely forgot to take my camera with me, so I am afraid that there are no step by step photos of what I did.
The process, however was exactly the same as last week, with a bit of additional texture.
The background was painted wet into wet with Quinachridone Magenta, Opera Pink, Windsor Green, Pthalo Blue and Paynes Grey. I then added some sea salt to start off the texture,
I also added some creased tissue paper which I stuck to the background with white Gesso.

I allowed all this to dry - coffee break and chat  and judicious use of the hairdryer -  and then proceeded to tear up bits of my doily which I had previously painted several shades of pinks and blues.

I pooled some darker paint in places and blew these across the page with a straw to get some natural looking twigs, and painted around parts of the background to give me some leaf shapes.

I added colour and white gouache where I thought it was needed, added a few stamens to the so-called flowers and gave the whole thing a good splatter with white gouache.

It is all very abstract, and maybe I went too far this time, and I think a bit of imagination is needed to interpret the subject, but I do like the colours and the lovely shapes I get with the d'oily, so the morning was very satisfying!!!

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Cow Parsley

I hope nobody will take me to task because the finished painting is not exactly like Cow Parsley! It was only a starting point to produce something of that nature. I could have been Queen Anne's Lace or Hog Weed, or indeed any lacey flowers on long stems.
It was Avon Valley Artist's day again, and as I had promised myself, it was to be another morning of experimental work, to see what could be done with colour, media and textures.

I started by at least having an idea in my head as to what I would like the finished painting to look like. I wanted to keep it loose, keep it to a very limited palette, and using Cow Parsley as a starting point, produce some lacy flower heads and have lots of fun.....again!

I mixed up washes of Paynes Grey, Indigo, Cobalt Blue and Yellow Ochre and applied them to a wet piece of Fabriano Artistico Extra White Rough 300gm paper using a size 20 round synthetic brush.
Whilst the surface was still very wet, I sprinkled Sea Salt onto the paper in the vague shapes of the finished flowers.

The salt does take some time to dry, so I had a cup of coffee and a wander among the members, and took the opportunity to liberally splash the lower half of the paper (still very damp) with the remainder of the washes, and used the wrong end of my brush to pull the paint out into stem-like shapes. As the paper was still damp, the tended to spread slightly which was what I wanted.

If I had been at home, I would have allowed the salt and paint to dry naturally. There is a danger of trying to brush away the salt too soon and it smears badly. In this instance, however, I used the hairdryer to speed up the process, but I was really careful to make sure that the underside of the larger grains of salt were really dry.

In the painting of a previous picture of cakes on a table top, I had used a d'oily as a stencil. It is easier to show you the painting rather than describe what I did.

As you can see, I used the paper d'oily to create the paper beneath the cakes without having to spend hours doing it by brush. When it was still damp, I lightly misted it to blur some of the edges to give it a more painterly look. The used paper d'oily was still around and I was sure there was still some mileage in it. So back to the Cow Parsley painting..............

I removed the solid circle in the middle, and then cut out small sections of the patterned part and stuck them onto the flower heads, to give them added interest through the texture. To soften the edges I used white acrylic gouache and plenty of sprayed water.

All this now had to dry thoroughly, and all that remained then, was to add the stems and once again a liberal amount of splatter with the white gouache, Paynes Grey and Yellow Ochre. I also added plenty of Paynes Grey across the bottom of the picture to provide a solid base out of which the plants were growing.

I think it works quite well and am eager to get it mounted and into a white frame which I think will really add to the overall effect. Hope you have enjoyed sharing this with me.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Japanese Blood Grass

Something a little different this time! We are into the summer recess for the Avon Valley Artists, and the idea is to have a break so that those who enjoy painting plein aire can go off and do their 'thing' However the weather has been so appalling over the past couple of years, that we have decided to keep the hall open throughout the summer, so that we can still meet if it is wet, and to give a space to those who prefer to paint indoors throughout the year. There is no programme, so you just 'do your own thing'. I have decided that from time to time I will attempt subjects that involve playing with colour and paint!!

I came across this lovely photo in a wonderful book about grasses, published by the Royal Horticultural Society. Lots of the photos are superb and I look forwards to using some of them in the future.

The colours are really glorious and I thought it would make a good semi-abstract picture. I am also always on the look-out for images that I can paint which make suitable cards for my male relatives and friends. Quite a number of them are not flowery people, and I never want to go out and buy cards as they seem so expensive these days, and I do like sending my own.

The process was quite simple. I sprayed the paper and spread stripes of paint into the wet background. I dried it thoroughly and then kept adding layers, and drying and more layers until I had built up an image which pleased me. I then added some darks between the 'leaves' and used a pen to add a few strong foreground grasses. A good splattering of all the colours I had used throughout the painting, and the addition of a little acrylic ink in red yellow and orange for a bit of zing, and it was done! Hope you enjoy looking.


Lots of times, I am never sure what makes me chose a certain flower as my next subject. I have been doing a lot of gardening recently, and a lot of metaphorical weeping as well, when the lashing rain has been particularly cruel! But still the flowers pick themselves up and bloom again, well....mostly. I had a small garden party for the Jubilee Celebrations, and I was asked by a number of people what is my favourite flower. It is impossible to give just one, but I do adore roses and clematis because they thrive so well in my soil, and I feel I get back what I put in. I do however really love Anemone Japonica, because they are star performers at the back end of the season and again do really well. Hence, out gardening I came across their sturdy shoots and pretty foliage coming up once again, and I know I am in for a real treat again in August and September. Maybe that is what made me decide!

As usual, I only used the photo to give me form and colour. I am sorry there is no photo of the drawing, but I started the work in the mid evening and experience has shown that the light is very poor for pencil drawings. When taking photos I try to consistently use early morning light as this gives the best results for colour rendering etc

I painted the flowers in exactly the same way as before, using a mixture of watercolours and white gouache, and painting the background as necessary to give shape to the white petals.

I continued with the painting until all three flowers were complete, and then added the stems, leaves and buds. I propped the painting up in the studio so that I could live with it for a while. Something was not right, and I needed to find out what it was.

I decided that there were two things bothering me. Firstly, the right hand upper flower had been drawn from the lower flower in the original photo.It had a large gap between two leaves, which seemed fine in the drawing, but seemed unnatural in the painting. This was easy to rectify by simply painting in another petal to fill the gap.

Much more seriously, I did not like the way the stems, leaves and bubs came across the front of the leaves, and I certainly was not happy with the way I had painted them. It was difficult to know how to rectify this. I tried at first to lighten them to make them less obtrusive, but they still jarred. I realised that the only way was to over-paint them with the gouache, but I was quite loathe to do this as I was afraid that this would make the central part of the painting muddy, and I was not sure if the colours below would seep through! As it seemed the only solution, it was in for a penny, in for a pound, and that is what I did!!

The painting pleases me much more now, and I am glad I had the courage to try the alteration. The photo is a little different in colour as it was mid afternoon when I took the photo, and I apologise for the evidence of slight undulations on the surface, but the painting was still wet when I used the camera. I could have waited until morning, but I wanted to get this blog finished. It is the third time I have written it, and the save button has sent it through the ether, totally disappeared, but that's another story!