Friday, 30 November 2012

Water Lilies

One of the great things about Avon Valley Artists is that the set programme pushes you out of your comfort zone and can result in surprising paintings. This week was no exception and the painting I produced is so what I didn't expect and so unlike my usual style. It was not intentional, just the way it went!

The subject was 'Water', and being me, I chose a photo of a couple of water lilies which I took last summer, where I had the joy of painting the flowers, but there was plenty of water to satisfy the subject.

I didn't stop to think think through the process, and I was so anxious to be seen to be painting water during the session (as one of the organisers, I stick rigidly to the rules ) that I didn't think about how to integrate the flowers into the water once it was painted! I also struggled a bit as I did not have much detail in the water to help me produce it and it is not something I paint on a regular basis so I had to make it up a bit as I went along!

When I had finished the water - I used mixtures of  Ultramarine and Anthraquinachridone Blues with Teal Blue and some white Acrylic Gouache added into the wet washes - and started painting the leaves, I realised that all the hard water edges were dry and probably too dark to soften successfully.

 It needed a change of plan. I made the decision to continue with the 'illustrative' style of painting and added the flowers with no bleed at the edges of the petals and shadows very cleanly defined. I did add plenty of splatter at the end to soften the overall effect, but still the painting is startlingly dissimilar to my usual aspirations.

What I did enjoy, was having a go at painting dew drops on the front petals of the LH Lily. I saw this process illustrated ages ago in a book by Jan Kunz 'Painting Watercolour Florals That Glow' but had not given it a try until now. I did a bit of practice first (the trials can be partly seen at the side of the initial drawing) as they do need a light touch, but I think they work well, but I was careful not to put in too many and overdo the effect!

Monet can sleep peacefully in his resting place! No threat there!

Wednesday, 28 November 2012


Whilst carrying out a construction job in the garden, I noticed that the cyclamen were just starting to put up tiny buds, and it reminded me that I had taken some photos last year that might do as a starting point for a painting. I have, also to admit that I love the paintings of Yoko Nagayama ( an artist whose web site was sent to me by Peter Ward ....thank you Peter ) and she has painted a wonderful very freely painted study of Cyclamen.

I started by doing a fairly accurate drawing of a group of the flowers, vaguely following the photograph, but trying to keep the flowers in a tight cluster.

This proved to be a bit of a mistake, as I wanted to have lots of lost edges and to achieve this, I needed to wash in the background. The result of this was that later in the process, the pencil lines became almost impossible to remove! The wash should have come first, and the drawing second.

However, by doing it this way around, I was able to lightly blot out patches of leaves and petals that I thought would need to be lighter.

I started with the leaves so that I could use water to blend a dark base upwards into the pale pink, and I also wanted to paint the stems in before tackling the flowers. So it was just a case of painting leaves and flowers and adding darks between the stems until all that was left to do' was to loosely paint the flowers.

I started with the very strong 'Opera Rose' at the base of each flower, added lots of water and tried not to have too many identifiable petals across the top of the painting. It was at this stage that I discovered that I could not remove the pencil lines, so I had to resort to a bit of Gouache to cover them. It seemed to work well as I was able to add more water to the edges of the petals and get them to bleed into the background.

I added a bit of dark in places to ensure that some petals were pushed a bit forwards, and others were pushed back, and then a final good splattering of white acrylic gouache and the painting was complete.


By my standards, this is only a smallish painting, 32cm x 22cm and is painted on Fabriano Artistico Extra White, 300g Not paper.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Globe Thistles

The appalling weather has made it easy to spend plenty of time in the studio, and it was nice to look for something floral to paint after spending time on a couple of other things. These Globe Thistles are illustrated in one of my favourite books and as I do not often paint blue floral studies I thought I would give them a go.

In order to get the prickly heads with my usual dark background, I decided to paint the background first and then use Acrylic Gouache to paint parts of the flowers.

In order to identify the flower shapes, I painted a strong wash over the whole paper, using a mixture of Anthraquinachridone, and Ultramarine blues with some Pthalo Blue and Green. I also added some Indigo into the bottom dark corners. I realised that I would not be able to change the background once I had started painting the flowers, so it was important to get the strength right, remembering that it would dry paler in colour!

Whilst the wash was still very wet, I used Sea Salt to identify the flowers, sprinkling generous amounts in circles, where I wanted the flower heads to be. At this stage the salt looks very dark as it absorbs the pigment beneath it.  I left the painting overnight, as it is vital that the salt is absolutely dry before it is removed.
The following morning I used a small plastic glue spatula to remove the salt from the paper.

I lightly sketched in the leaves and stems, and then proceeded to fill in the flower heads. It was a bit like dots and dashes to give the texture to the globes, using various blues and some Quinachridone Magenta and Pthalo Blue to give variety.

I lightened each flower on the top and to the  right and finished of with Acrylic Gouache to give the highlights


I added the leaves and the stems, and finally added a dark wash of Ultramarine Blue and Moonglow to the darker side of each globe for the shadows. Whilst this was still wet I scratched a little paint out from the wash to give some dark spikes to the undersides. I used the ferrule of an old paint brush which had lost all its hairs!

I am pleased with the outcome and really like the pale passage in the background in the middle of the lower half of the painting, but I wish I had had the courage to make the dark background passages even darker.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Shiny Metal

This week's subject at AVA was shiny metal objects. I chose to include a lovely copper skillet that I had recently bought on a day out, and an accompanying copper jug which I had bought from the internet. I added a handful of mixed fruit and that was all I needed to get started.

I did the drawing at home as I wanted to get well on with the painting before the end of the weekly session. I used Fabriano Artistico Extra White Rough 300g paper and my usual palette.

I started the painting by putting on a reasonably strong wash down the left hand side, using mainly Translucent Orange with some Pthalo Green, French Ultramarine Blue and Cobalt Teal Blue. I made sure the wash included the left hand edge of the copper pan to give some lost edges on that side.
As the subject was shiny metal objects, I painted the pan and jug first and worked the reflections as best I could. It was amazingly difficult as the light was changing and things in the room were moving, so altering the highlights.
I then painted the fruits, working across the sheet from left to right, getting lighter as I went. The fig was the last thing to be painted, as this was the only fruit that I had to paint from memory!
I also washed in paler and paler colours across the background to give me a very light top R H corner.

When all was dry, I gave the oranges a quick rub with sandpaper to texture their skin, and I think it is done.

Having had a look at the painting with eyes half closed, I am not sure that the top pear could realistically be in that position, but it is too late to try to remove it. Maybe nobody else will notice! I will live with it propped up in the studio for a few days before cutting a mount and framing it just to make sure nothing else wants tweaking!

                                                            'Fruit In A Copper Pan'

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Koi Carp

This week has been a bit odd in that I have had a visitor and so my studio has had to become a bedroom, with only very limited access. Therefore there has been no painting since my last visit to AVA on Thursday, and I have not had time either to get onto the pc to post the painting from that session.

All is back to normal again, so I will share the Thursday result with you. The topic was 'Mystery Creature' and we were given a wide range of tropical fish pictures from which to produce a painting. There was no previous prep, so it was all accomplished within the two hour slot.

I chose to paint a pond of Koi Carp[ and another unknown fish ( I liked its colour ).

I wanted some movement in the water, so started the painting by swirling a white wax candle around the paper. This resists the paint when it is applied and retains the white of the paper. The only problem is that you cannot see where you have been with the candle, so lightness of touch is required, so that it is not over-done.

I then drew and painted the fish in the usual way and applied a nice deep blue background, and it is at this point that the candle wax really shows to advantage. At this point you know if you have got it right or not!

When the painting was finished as best it could be in the time available, I made sure that it was totally dry and then lightly sandpapered the bodies of the fish to hopefully produce a fish scales effect. Again, lightness of touch is needed!

The paper is Fabriano, which is of a good enough quality to allow you to abuse it a bit with things like wax and sandpaper.

On reviewing the results, I wish that I had made a bit more of the hint of more fish in the background, and some of the carp are a bit of a funny shape (they appear to have flippers rather than fins!) but apart from that it was great fun and I really enjoyed it!

Wednesday, 14 November 2012


I can never go too long without having another go at these lovely flowers. I took the image from my book on Iris by Claire Austin ( daughter of the famous rose grower, I believe ) and the photos are by Clay Perry, a phenomenal flower photographer, whose name I always look out for. If I see a Gardening or flower book with photos by him, I always buy it as I know it will be inspirational.
At a recent demonstration, Paul Weaver talked about the way in which any pencil with 'H' in its description often scratches the paper causing permanent damage. In light of this, I did my drawing in 2B pencil, trying to hold the end of a fairly long pencil just by the tip and keeping the fleshy part of my hand off the paper to try to avoid getting the paper dirty.
I found it really difficult and the resultant drawing still smudged and the lines were much more pronounced than I wanted them to be. This meant that I would need to be extra careful with the initial washes, not to go over the lines, so that I could rub them out before proceeding any further!

I started the painting by lightly identifying each flower, trying not to put in too much detail at this stage, although I did get a bit carried away with the RH semi-bud. I also added a 'fall' to the RH bud to give it a bit more interest and to complete the arch of the composition.
At this stage I was able to remove most of the drawing lines and give the rest of the surface of the paper a good clean, as despite my efforts, the 2B had smudged quite badly.

Once all the flower shapes were identified, I proceeded in the usual way, going over each petal and adding background where I thought it helped me to get the strength of colour right.
It seemed a bit 'fiddley' at the time and I was a bit afraid that the finished painting would be a bit tight, but there was little I could do about it at this stage.

 I used lots of blues in the background  hopefully to compliment the oranges of the iris ( achieved mainly by using glorious Translucent Orange and Quinachridone Rust with some Indian Yellow. I tried to leave some light passages in the background to make the finished painting more interesting, and I gave it a good splatter using the Translucent Orange and white acrylic gouache to loosen the finished painting.

I used Fabriano Artistico Extra white paper, 300g Rough 30 x 45 cm, and my palette for the flowers was an initial wash with mainly Indian Yellow, followed by detail using the same yellow, Translucent Orange and Quinachridone Rust and the background is mainly Ultramarine Blue, Apatite Green with some Translucent Orange and Anthraquinone Blue

Wednesday, 7 November 2012


During a recent trip to my family, my sister bought me a lovely book of butterflies. I thought they might make a nice change from flowers and hoped that they would suit my style of working. This is my first attempt, so I hope that with a bit of practice I will be able to refine the results.
I used Fabriano paper, and my usual palette, deliberately choosing to paint a butterfly with lots of orange and green so that I could make further use of the tube of Translucent Orange from Schminke. The green, I mixed from Teal Blue from Daniel Smith and Indian Yellow from Daler Rowney.
I did a simple drawing, and then painted in the background in the same way that I do with the flower studies, and whilst it was still wet, I sprayed the edges around the butterfly with granulating fluid, so that the colours of the background seeped into the butterfly shape, to give some soft edges.

I then painted the butterfly itself using the two colours mentioned and adding others where necessary. I think there is Quinachridone rust and Transparent Orange Iron amongst others.

I used Indian ink on the reverse end of a thin paint brush to put in the black lines and immediately sprayed with granulating fluid to soften them and to create some texture.

I finally gave the whole painting a good splatter, using all the colours used in the painting but predominantly black and white, being careful to allow each colour to completely dry before adding the next.

I think it has worked sufficiently well to encourage me to have another go. There might even be a series in the making!

Sunday, 4 November 2012


Not my cup of tea, but it was AVA subject of the week so I had to get down to it. I am a great admirer of John Lidzey's work, so I had a quick look at his technique and had a go at a corner of my dining room. He paints lots of dark interiors with light coming through a well placed window. I did not have a window, but I tried to make the objects stand out against dark corners. It may not be the most successful painting, but although it took me a couple of hours to do the drawing, I did enjoy painting it!

Sorry, I have no information about the paper as it was a piece I found in the cupboard which needed using up!