Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Iris: Jazz Festival 2

As promised, I have had another go at the Iris called Jazz Festival, to try to paint it a little looser. The process was exactly the same, but I made a conscious effort to avoid too much detail and to create a few more lost edges.

I painted wet-in-wet washes over the original drawing, using pale versions of the pigments I intended to use for the flowers. When this was dry, I began with the centres of the flowers and added as much detail as I thought necessary.

I am really pleased with the result,( although I will have to go back and put more detail in the beards, which I notice are only painted with their underwash colour!) and am glad I gave it a go. If I am honest, I felt the process was a bit contrived and did not flow like my painting usually does. Maybe this will improve with practice.The previous attempt seemed to happen without too much thought, just what felt like a natural process taking place. So perhaps the first attempt reflects the real me, although I like the composition of the second painting better. I have put both paintings together side by side so that you can compare the results.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Tropical Fruit

Another opportunity for me to paint a still life group. This week the subject was Tropical Fruit. The supermarkets have lots of choice and the purchases are very edible, so I was surprised that most of the members chose to paint from photos again.
I was happy to buy a selection so that, for a change, I could paint from life. I ended up with a pineapple, figs, lemons, and pomegranates in my basket, but I have to confess to adding a photo of a bunch of grapes to the pile.

Armed with my favourite copper pan and some white linen, I made a pre-session careful drawing of the group. I like to do the drawing at home, as there is more space to push the still life away from me, to give a better angle. I am also quite slow at drawing, so needs must if I want to actually paint during the session.

I worked across the composition from left to right, painting the fruit first ( This was, after all, the subject of the session) enjoying using rich colours, mixed on the paper where possible, and trying to keep everything as fresh as possible.I used lots of the quinachridone colours with Translucent Orange and even some Teal blue in the fig. I used Paynes grey with a little Quinachridone Magenta for the shadows on the cloth and Moonglow for fruit shadows.
The dark foreground colour is Anthracite Blue and the background colour is a mixture of Burnt Umber, Anthracite Blue and Translucent Orange. It was lovely once again, to paint a piece with such strong vibrant colours.It was also nice to complete the painting in the two hour session.

                                                        Still Life With Tropical Fruit
                                      Fabriano Artistico Extra White 300g Cold Pressed Paper
                                                                  30 x 45 cms

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Interiors: Avon Valley Artists Group

Last week at AVA we were all asked to paint something which represented an interior. There were lots of different ideas including a portrait of someone sat in a corner, and lots of cushions on sofas as well as various still lifes. As usual, a selection can be seen on Peter's blog site.
I chosed to paint a still life on a table with a lace cloth.
I really enjoyed it, but it was Jan who suggested a very dark background in the upper part of the painting. There was some question asked about whether it was too dark, but I think it works for me. The near black is a great foil for the jug and lemon and cloth.

                                                                    Interior Still Life : 
                                           Fabriano Artistico Extra White 140lbs cold pressed

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Iris: Jazz Festival

With all these awful grey days around, the next painting called for something bright, bold and colourful. I think Irises are quite difficult flowers to paint, but I was prepared to have a go. There are none around in the florists at the moment so it had to be taken from my book of Irises with photos by Clay Perry. The Iris is called 'Jazz Festival'
I started by making a very accurate drawing of the flowers. I knew I would need to be careful to do them justice so it was important to get it right,

I would have loved to tackle them in a really loose way, but it seems that the more complicated the drawing, the more I tighten up.
 I used mainly Translucent Orange, Quinachridone Rust and  Indian Yellow for the 'standards' and Quinachridone Magents and French Ultramarine Blue for the 'falls'. Whilst the paint was still quite damp, I used the wrong end of a fine paint brush to inscribe the markings on the petals.

It was then, just a case of working slowly on each of the flowers, trying to very the colour density slightly so that each flower has its own characture.

I added the greens as I went along, as this helps me to ensure that the way the flowers sit on their stems, reads correctly. I used various mixtures to create the greens, predominantly Apatite Green Genuine, Cobalt Teal Blue and Hansa Yellow,

When all the flowers were painted, I left the picture propped up in the studio whilst deciding how to approach the background. I really liked the strong bold colours of the Irises against the stark white background, but did not want it to become an attempt at botanical painting. I wanted the stem to be set into its natural context, but wanted to keep some of the freshness. In the end I decided on a very pale background, made up of the colours I had used in the flowers, gradually getting darker in the bottom RH corner.
I think it works ok.

When the painting was dry, I used a bristle haired brush and clean water to lift off some of the colour on the RH side of the purple 'falls', to give them a bit more body, and I used a similar process, but a very fine watercolour brush and clear water to lighten the central lines of the 'falls'.
I also lifted some colour from the edges of the 'standards' to give a few semi-lost edges.

I think I will have a go at a much looser painting of the same flowers. I will be tempted to use the back of an old painting for the first go, and see how I get on. It will be interesting to compare the two, if I manage to get past the initial wash!!

Sunday, 9 February 2014


Over the past few weeks since Christmas there have been health issues which stopped me painting anything but club exercises. These now seem to be well on the way to being resolved, and strolling through the picture area of a large department store, I suddenly had the urge to be creative.
I wanted to paint something light and airy which reflected my optimism.

Another attempt at Agapanthus seemed to be on the cards, and I wanted to try to show them growing freely as I believe they do in various parts of the world,
In order to keep the leaves and stems really fresh, I used masking fluid to protect them from the background wash. I did not need to mask out the flowers as I intended to use plenty of blue in the wash and so they could just be over painted.

I also masked out some background stems of flowers to add a bit of variety to the finished painting. The background was washed with mixtures of blues and pinks towards the top and pale greens at the base.I tried to judge the drying process so that the greens and pinks did not bleed into each other to produce dirty colours
When the paint was completely dry, I removed the masking fluid as I did not want it sitting on the paper too long as this can give problems when trying to remove it.
As a point of interest, a member of AVA used some quite old masking fluid and it had deteriorated to such a point that it could not be removed when the painting was finished. Better to keep replacing the bottle, even if its not all used up. It obviously does not last for ever!!

I then drew in the stems and buds of the Agapanthus, selecting an odd number and trying to give them some depth. I carefully painted them all using various strengths of mainly Cobalt blue. The trick here is to try to get them all to be slightly different so there is not a sense of having 'coloured them in'.
When adding the stems and flowers I also tried to paint some behind the leaf shapes and some in front.

I then completed the painting by adding the leaves, stalks and other flowers to the picture, once again trying to vary the greens and browns and painting some forwards of the flowers and some behind.

I am so used to painting much stronger images of flowers and still life, that I do wonder if it is a bit too pale. But it is hanging on the wall at home and is a lovely reminder that maybe I am ready to get started again.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Animals at AVA

This weeks topic at Avon Valley Artists Group was 'Animals'. There were some lovely paintings which I am sure you will be able top see on Peter Wards blog ( and Peters own painting is really worth having a look at.

I was a bit stuck for source material, but eventually painted ca pair of my favourite animals. I am quite pleased with the result.

                                 They were painted on Saunders Waterford Not paper, 140lbs.

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Cakes and Sweets

This weeks club subject was Cakes and Sweets. There was a bit of confusion about whether we should have included both in the painting, but as I had already prepared my drawing, there was little I could do about it. Hence I had only used the 'Cakes' bit!

I set up a still life in the studio using a couple of pieces of earthenware that I particularly like together with some of Mr kipling's French Fancies. I like these cakes because of their very clean colours and they go with the browns of the crockery quite well.
I used a couple of pieces of dark brown card for the background as I wanted the white of the pot interiors and the cakes to be a real contrast to the rest of the painting.  I am not sure if this works but I am always ready to try something new!

I used Fabriano 140lb cold pressed paper and did a reasonable comprehensive drawing. Where there are lots of ellipses, I try to get them reasonably correct in the drawing as I do not have a very accurate eye for this sort of thing and could never do them freehand with the paint brush.

I painted the pots first, trying to be really bold with the dark colours so that they could be merged into the background on the LH side, and then I worked on the cakes. I always try to do the subject part of the painting during club time, as this seems to be in the spirit of things! If the painting does not get finished in club time, it is important to me that I have stuck to the brief!

When the objects had all been painted, I pondered the background. As a flower painter, I do not have too many dark earth colours in my palette, but consultation with those around me who paint lots of landscapes, I mixed up a pool of Burnt Umber (which I had to borrow) and Ultramarine Blue.
I used this for the whole of the background getting paler as I moved across the paper by adding more water to the mix.
I then added some Black Indian Ink to the bottom LH corner to make it really dark and to lose the side and handle of the cup.

When all this was dry, there was some justified comment that the RH side had become very 'paynes grey' in colour (this was not a compliment!!) so when I got home I gave it some thought, and I re-washed the background with more Burnt umber into which I dropped Translucent Orange. I strengthened the shadows with more Indian Ink and now hope that the' paynes grey' is a thing of the past!

Stupidly, whilst putting on the initial background was, I got a hair trapped in the paint. I tried to remove it whilst the paint and paper were still wet, and now I have an ugly set of marks just above the cakes where the paint has pooled into the grooves made by my nail. How can I have been so stupid? Still, live and learn!