Friday, 27 September 2013


I am trying to make the most of all this lovely fruit that I am being given, so I had a go at a bunch of apples. I can't really say that I enjoyed the repetitive nature of the foliage, but I supposed it was necessary, and I did enjoy trying to paint the apples!

Again....maybe they needed more darks in the shadows, but as I do not intend to do anything with the painting, it probably will not get altered.
And just to prove that I occasionally try my hand at something different, the subject this week at AVA was 'Tigers.'
Totally outside my comfort zone, but as there was no choice, it had to be done!

I am sure a selection of the paintings from the rest of the group will appear on Peter Ward's blog if you are interested in looking  (

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Fruits and Vegetables

This weeks subject at AVA was 'Fruits and Vegetables'. It's a lovely time of year for this sort of subject as the hedgerows are still full of blackberries and elderberries and there are lots of plums and damsons and apples to be found.

I picked up a punnet of figs and a punnet of plums at the local supermarket (I should have saved a few from the bagful given to me by a kind neighbour, but they all went into making jam!) To these I added a sprig of blackberries from the hedge outside the hall where we paint and a reddish apple and thought this might make  a good still life arrangement with a lovely copper jug and a bunch of small sunflowers.

I did the drawing first and then painted the individual items and finally added the background. As usual, the final addition of the shadows had me worried and I still do not think they are right, but I am always so afraid to spoil the painting at this stage, and I never really know what colours to choose. One day I will read somewhere an artists simple tip on how to make the shadows really work and I will wonder why I found it so difficult!!

                                                 'September Fruits'   46 cms x 32 cms
                                       Fabriano Artistico 300gms Rough Extra White paper.

Friday, 13 September 2013

Masses of Tiny Flowers : Asters

I regularly have delivered a gardening magazine, Gardens Illustrated, which provides me with lots of inspiration for the paintings I produce. I came across this wonderful picture of a pot of Asters, which got me thinking of a) wanting to paint it and b) how on earth does one reproduce such a mass of flowers together in one pot !

I spent some time thinking about how to set about the task, and I remembered reading about how Nita Engle described a method of painting massed conifer trees in her book 'How To Make A Watercolour Paint Itself'
She used a piece of mount board to create a 'stamp' which she used repeatedly in the area she needed the trees and it was incredibly successful ! (Yes, I know they all make it look so easy in their books !)

I thought it would be worth a try, so I cut up a piece of scrap mount board and made myself a very simple daisy stamp.

First of all, I cut out the daisy shape, in quite a random design, as I thought the less formal the shape, the more natural it would seem, especially when rotated through varying degrees. I then stuck this down onto another square of card, and when it was dry, I attached a paper handle to the underside to make the printing easier.

I painted a piece of 300g watercolour paper with a suitable coloured background, keeping it quite pale. I added a little salt around the edges to produce a bit of texture, and I used the edge of a piece of mount board dipped in strong watercolour paint in various colours to produce the multitude of stems coming out of the pot.

I then used the daisy stamp to print the flowers. I started with a mid tone blue/lilac and simply painted the stamp and pressed it onto the paper. As each colour dried, I either lightend or darkened the colours until I had what I thought was a realistic bunch.

I did use lots of acrylic gouache in order to paint light over dark, and the final layer was painted totally with the white gouache on the stamp to produce some highlights.When the flowers were dry, I added their bright orange and yellow centres, being careful not to make the circles too uniform.

I finally needed to darken the centre of the painting which was a bit of a chore, but I felt it was necessary, so I mixed a few dark greens and carefully painted around some of the central flowers and between the stems.

As this was only an experimental piece, I did not pay too much attention to the pot, which I now regret as I think the painting works better than I had hoped.

                                                                  'Asters'  32 x 42 cms

                                   Watercolour and Acrylic Gouache on Fabriano Artistico
                                                          Extra White 300 gm Rough

The end result is perhaps not as accomplished as it could be, but I am pleased enough with the outcome, to think that there is considerable mileage in the process and I will be surely having another go to see if it can be refined. Added to which, of course, it was great fun to do !

Friday, 6 September 2013

Summer Meadow 2

At AVA we are back to the formal part of the programme and this weeks compulsory subject was 'Landscapes'

Still in experimental mode from the summer sessions I opted to have another go at a painting/collage of my interpretation of 'A Summer Meadow' My previous effort can be seen on one of my previous posts published on 14th July 2012.

I approached it in exactly the same way. I painted a background of vaguely landscape colours across a piece of paper and let it dry completely.

I then took a slightly larger sheet of tissue paper, wrinkled it up slightly and then pasted it shiny side down onto the painted background. I rollered it well with a horizontal bottle to press creases firmly into the paper and to make sure it was well stuck to the background.This produced a lovely background texture.

I then painted various colours onto the tissue paper, strengthening the sky with Cobalt Blue, and adding greens and browns to the foreground.
When these were dry, I used my favourite doilies to create a wild flower meadow. ( For more info on the doiley business see my post of 23rd June of this year) . I finally finished the piece by attaching small circles of bright painted paper, cut into circles using a hole punch. A good splattering of white acrylic gouache and the job seemed done.

Will live with it for a few days, but do not think much will get added.


                                             Fabriano Artistico Extra White Rough 300g paper

                                                        35cm x 25cm  Mixed Media

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Sunflowers and Agapanthus

I should maybe have entitled this post....'Never Again'.... Having enjoyed painting the Sunflower head in the previous post, I was attracted to a bunch of flowers in my local supermarket that consisted of 3 Sunflowers and 3 Agapanthus sprays. They looked simply stunning and I had never considered putting these two flowers together. I paid no real attention to the fact that the Sunflowers were not, in fact, the usual large shaggy daisy like flowers with giant brown centres, but were Chrysanthimum type heads, with masses of petals quite closely packed. A bit of research has suggested that they are Helianthus Annuus, 'Teddybear' but I cannot be really sure.

Anyway, on getting them home, I put them in a vase, and packed them around with bubble wrap and masking tape in an attempt to get them to stay in some sort of useful arrangement.


Even at this stage I did wonder if it was an exercise too far.  I have painted Agapanthus lots of times, so felt ok with them, but I had no idea how to paint the Sunflowers without it becoming a stiff and somewhat false rendition.
Determined to try, having paid for the flowers, I did a quite detailed drawing (for me) of the arrangement, altering the position of the Agapanthus slightly.

I truly did not know how to tackle the Sunflowers, but I remember, when I first started painting flowers seriously, I bought a book by Jan Kunz in which I remember her describing how to paint a multi-petaled flower. I thought it might be a good idea to have a look at her way of tackling the subject

                                           From 'Painting Watercolour Florals That Glow
                                                 By Jan Kunz  ( ISBN 0-289-80110-9)

I hope Jan does not mind me reproducing this painting to share it with you. In the book she described , in another chapter how to separate the petals. It is a bit too controlled and tight for me, but it did give me some ideas about trying to get the right effect, so thank you Jan.

With no more excuses not to get started, I began by painting a pale yellow wash in the centre of the page over the pencil lines of the Sunflowers, and then added the  Agapanthus flowers on the left of the picture.

I gradually built up washes over the sunflower, making each wash slightly darker or stronger as I tried to identify some of the individual petals to give the dense effect I was after. I also added stems of Sunflowers at this stage, but they had to be washed out later as I had got them completely wrong.

I masked out the stems of the Agapanthus buds using masking fluid ( I prefer the Pebeo Drawing Gum as It is slightly blue in colour so is visible on the paper), and as I did not want the gum to stay on the paper too long, which can make it difficult to remove, I dealt with the top left hand background as soon as the gum was dry. I then really enjoyed painting the underside and petals of the lower flower head. At this stage, however, I began to get a bit anxious that the arrangement of the three Sunflowers could have been a bit better. The two lower ones were going to end up on the same horizontal plane, something I had not noticed in the initial drawing.

Too late to alter this, I finished the painting, creating Sunflower petals by dropping colour into the flowers,both whilst the under layers were still wet, and sometimes only semi wet. I included white acylic gouache to reclaim the highlights, and then I finished the background, altering the stems to  make them match the flower positions. I could only do this because I was able to add quite dark washes into the background.

In the photo on screen the stems seem a bit bright, but in the painting they seem ok, but I will live with it in the studio for a while and see if they need a bit of toning down.