Sunday, 23 June 2013

Purple Hedgerow

There are some lovely wild flowers around at the moment and the central reservations of dual carriageways, roadside hedges and wild flower traffic islands make me want to get out and collect a handful to paint. Of course there is never anywhere to park, so I make do with trying to retain the images and my trusty wild flower book. I nearly always end up with an image which is not exactly like any real wild flower, but I am not worried about that, as I often use these subjects for experimental work. 
I started with this premise on Thursday at club, where the formal programme has been suspended and we all do our own thing. We get lovely mixtures of subjects during these three months and the numbers are always smaller, so the group is a lot more intimate. 

I started by deciding on the colour emphasis for the painting, and did a simple slightly stripey wash with various blues and pinks and greens. I then sprinkled sea salt onto the paper in quite careful shapes to give me heads of flowers something like Cow Parsley, Queen Anne's Lace of Hog Weed.  I let the salt dry completely, and then drew in the distinctive stem shapes trying to naturally join in the bunches of salt marks.

I  painted in the suggestions of lots of tiny flowers, using dark purples and lilacs for the underbellies and paler colours above, finishing with white acrylic gouache on the peaks. I wanted something a bit more abstract and experimental, so got out the box of d'oylies and painted colour onto one of the sheets. When the sheet was dry, I pulled off tiny amounts of the resultant colours and stuck them over the paint.

If anyone has not seen me do this before, these d'oylies came from my mother-in-laws kitchen when we cleared it after her death. I am not sure how I first came to experiment with them, but I have produce several paintings where they feature. See 'Blossom' ( 21/6/12 ) and Summer Meadow ( 14/7/12 )
Below, you can see how it works. I have tried other more modern d'oylies, but find them a bit flimsy and often too flowery. I keep all the bits as I know that one day I will have used them all up and will need to use every scrap. 
When I paint a new sheet, I try to include all the colours that I might use onto the one sheet as this blends the colours nicely.I then pull away small pieces which I stick in appropriate places using a PVA glue. I am careful not to use too much glue as it is difficult to paint over it once it is dry.

When I was happy with the flowers, I used the greens and browns to create an undergrowth, using a mixture of paint, gouache and painted d'oyley.

At this point I thought it was finished, so cut I a mount and propped it up in the studio for a couple of days. I did decide that the stems seemed a little isolated from their surroundings and the painting would look better if the branches disappeared outside the frame to give the impression of an extended hedgerow, so I added a little more on the LH side and at the top. This also helped with the fact that I thought the top two flower heads were of a too similar height.

It might not be a masterpiece, but I really enjoy the playing with shapes and textures which is often part of what I do in the summer.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Opium Poppies

There have been some glorious red, orange and apricot coloured poppies in a couple of clumps not far from the conservatory windows. It was too cold to set up all my painting gear outside but I took my pad outside and drew in the shapes of a small group. The wind and rain had been at them relentlessly so they were by no means pristine but could be described as 'interesting'

I am sorry that the photo is poor, but I was well into wetting the background before I remembered the camera, so there is a mass of glare from the wet paper.

When I had completed the drawing, I wet the entire background being as careful as possible not to get water on the flowers. I then dropped pigments into the wet allowing it to bleed into each other. I then covered the whole sheet with crumpled clingfilm and left it to dry completely. It is very tempting to remove or even just lift the clingfilm for a peek at what it looks like, but I find I get  crisper lines if I resist.

When I thought it was completely dry I removed the film.

At this stage, I was a bit disappointed, as I had wanted a much stronger background, but I kept going as you never know what might come of a shaky start.

I went back down to the conservatory from where I could see the poppies and proceeded to paint them fairly loosely onto the coloured background. I added leaves and stems using shapes which had been created by the cling film.

 Despite my early reservations, I am quite pleased with the result. I placed it on the floor and put a temporary mount over the sheet ( Don't ask me why I put it on the floor, but for some reason I always do! ) I thought it might be worthy of a frame. However, by accident, I moved the mount and it cropped off the top LH corner and I was immediately struck by the way it changed the image.

Lots of thought and I am still nowhere nearer making a decision so I am posting the alternate version and maybe you would like to share your thoughts on the two versions to help me decide!!

Usual Fabriano paper and my usual paint selection. I am going to give the rough paper a bit of a rest for a while. I have been printing some of my images as greetings cards, and ones that have been painted on the rough surface often produce disappointing results as the bumps and hollows in the surface tend to be exaggerated and they acquire shadows which are unsightly. I am hoping that the Not surface will eliminate this and I will keep the Rough paper for the more experimental work.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Apricot Ramblers

These beautiful roses are the first to appear in my garden and I have painted them several times, but still cannot resist having another go. Unfortunately for us, they were planted on the south-east side of the plot, and most of the flowers are enjoyed by my neighbour as the plant turns its head to the sun. I am trying to encourage the rambler to scramble over an adjacent arch so we can see then full face in our garden too.

I have been caring for my very elderly mother who fell and broke her right arm, so painting in the studio has been abandoned for the time being, and I have painted in our conservatory where I can  keep her company. Therefore, no mess, no splattering and I am afraid there are no photos of the process this time. It is however, a very traditional painting.....a careful drawing, painting the flowers and then adding the background.

There is no added white acrylic this time, just watercolour and white paper. The major colours are Translucent Orange with some Quinachridone Coral for the flowers and mostly Apatite Green Genuine and Indigo Blue for the foliage.
I debated at length about the amount of white left at the bottom of the painting, but, in the end, having tested it in a frame I decided to leave well alone. 

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Pink Clematis

It is the time of year to be really excited by the things that are growing in the garden and the beautiful verges and hedgerows we see around us. I am always eager to paint and there seems almost too much choice. The buttercups were my first effort. (See previous post) and this week a new Clematis has flowered very close to the house, so it is impossible to ignore it.

I have painted flowers of this colour and shape endlessly in the past but I am still drawn to doing even more. I just love those beautiful colours!!

Starting as usual with the wash on Fabriano Artistico Rough paper, using Opera Pink, Quinachridone Magenta, Quinachridone Purple and Ultramarine Violet, (And maybe a couple of others) I laid down the basic background shapes.

I then carefully drew out the shapes of the flowers. Not careful about being an accurate copy of what I had in front of me, but careful in their placement on the paper so that the finished painting would 'read' properly. ie petals joining the centre of the flower as they should and providing for background gaps between the petals etc.

I hope you can see the pencil lines, but as usual I have keep them as light as possible so that they can either be mostly erased or covered.
I then set about painting the flowers, buds and background using the same combination of colours with Apatite Green Genuine and some yellows. I also added white acrylic gouache to the highlights to hopefully give then a bit of umph. The final piece was adding the flower centres and giving the whole thing a good pink and white splatter to try to loosen the overall effect.

I used a bit of Moonglow mixed with Quinachridone Magenta for the shadows, but they still seem a bit heavy for the delicacy of the flowers. I must do some colour swatch exercises to find the best way of dealing with shadow areas. Hope you enjoy looking

Monday, 3 June 2013


It is a lovely feeling to settle back down and do some floral painting. For some time I have wanted to have another go at painting a bunch of buttercups, and around my home they are at their very best at the moment. The only trouble is that each time I see a really large beautiful spread, there is nowhere to park. The best displays are on busy roundabouts, dual carriageway hedgerows etc.
Making a real effort, I wandered all the back lanes around our house and was pleased to find lots of them scattered in reasonably large clumps, to enable me to pick some without spoiling the hedgerows for others to enjoy. I took them home pretty speedily to get them into water, as they do not last long once picked.
I popped them into a pint mug so that they produced a tight mass, and I took lots of photos for reference in case they fell before I could finish the painting

I wanted the finished group of flowers to fill the page from side to side, so I turned my paper to portrait format and decided to do a fairly detailed drawing before putting on the initial wash. My main reason for doing this was to enable me to see where the yellow and green pigments should go to keep the colours as fresh as possible with only minor overlapping.

I felt the subject needed to have a bit more in the painting, so I added a pot and a couple of lemon pieces. I did not add anything too distracting and kept top objects with quite muted colours, as my intention was to create a very fresh, light, springtime painting.
So, after the drawing, I washed the surface using Indian Yellow, Cadmium Yellow and Apatite Green Genuine to give me my background colours. I was aware that by putting a wash over the pencil drawing, I would be stuck with quite a lot of the pencil lines on the finished painting.

Once the wash was dry, it was just a case of building up the painting, both flowers and background so that I could keep an eye on how it was developing.  I found it really difficult to re-create the lovely glow one gets with buttercups, but I did my best, and tried to keep the whole thing gentle and muted.

I really loved the painting at this stage and would have liked to stop, but there were too many flowers pencilled in for it to look properly finished, so I felt I had to continue. I tried to be really light-handed with the pigment and the brush strokes and I splattered the final painting a little to loosen up the finished image.I spent ages trying to decide on the colour of the thin stripes in the cloth. I knew that I needed some colour, but did not want it to distract from the flowers. Isn't it strange how sometimes the small details can give us such a hard time. In the end I used a very pale transluscent orange.As a final act before the splatter, I tried to remove as much of the pencil drawing as possible by lightly going over the surface with a soft clean eraser.
 I think it is quite liked I hoped it would be!

Fabriano Artistico Extra White Rough
35cm x 50cm