Saturday, 28 November 2015

Hog Weed

I have been having a bit of a 'thing' about Hog Weed over the past few weeks. I suppose it is because there seems to have been a massive amount in the hedgerows and on the central reservations of the roads around here. It is also one of my favourite plants to paint because of its beautiful structure.
I use the words 'Hog Weed' in a fairly loose way as I am not sure of the botanical differences between the Hog Weed and plants such as Cow Parsley and Queen Anne's Lace. They are all so similar to me!

Anyway, this weeks topic at Avon Valley Artists was 'A Winter Scene' so it seemed an ideal opportunity to include some of these lovely seed heads.
I am not too confident with painting landscapes, so I decided to have a bit of a practice go before the session. My idea was to paint two paintings using the same subject to see how they could be varied. I have put the two beginnings side by side in the photographs so that you can see the difference.

I started by drawing and then masking out the Hog Weed in the two paintings, having one portrait format and the other landscape format.

I then added the background and foreground washes to the paintings, leaving the portrait format to dry as it was, but using cling film to define the foreground in the landscape format. I was using heavy paper, both by Hahnemuhle, 450gm Cornwall Matt for the portrait format and 500gm Andalucía for the Landscape format. I was a little anxious about the Andalucía, as the cling film needed to dry over night and this meant that the masking fluid was sitting on the paper for some time. The paper has quite a soft surface and I was worried that the masking fluid would lift some of the surface when it was removed. which in fact happened , despite my care. The portrait format was less of a worry as I removed the masking fluid the same day, as soon as the background washes were dry.

Once all the backgrounds were dry, I removed the masking fluid, and painted in the detail, adding colour to the Hog Weed, and incidentals like background trees, grasses etc. I wanted there to be a bit of an appearance of frostiness about the paintings, but this proved easier to capture in the landscape painting, due in part, I think , to the colours I used in the background washes

I am not quite sure how this painting came to look as if it is beside water. This was never my intention, but I think it may be due to the upward brush strokes whilst the wash was beginning to dry.
These were meant to be large reeds and small trees, but they dried giving the impression of reflections in water, so I left them like that.

This painting became a much more chilly painting and I was really pleased with the cling film landscape, and did very little to it once it was dry, except to add a dramatic tree and a few grasses.
The biggest problem was that the sky was not dark enough to make the frosted Hog Weed stand out.
I allowed the painting to dry and settle completely, mixed up a much darker wash, and using the gentlest of touches, over painted the sky. It needed a bit of courage to do this as I was afraid of spoiling the whole thing at this stage.
However, with real care, it seemed to work , but I did have to strengthen the Hog Weed and the tree and add more frostiness to the seed heads and grasses.
Isn't it amazing how different they turned out, from very similar starting points. Not sure at this stage if I have a favourite. I will prop them up in the studio and live with them for a bit, before I decide.
The portrait format was completed in the studio and the landscape painting was the result of my efforts at AVA.


Thursday, 19 November 2015

The Last of the Rose Hips

A complete week of very high winds and lots of rain means that the trees are bare at last. The garden can be put to sleep for the winter, including an initial prune of the roses. The last of the brightly coloured hips will disappear, so there was a last opportunity to paint them at AVA this week where the subject was 'Berries'.

Although this was my starting point, I had no intention of making my final image anything like this, but I did use it to remind me of shapes and shadows.

I used Fabriano Artistico 300g rough paper and created an initial wash, trying to give the impression of twigs and brambles and creepers into which the rose hips would sit. I used mostly Indigo and Quinachridone gold together with some Indian Ink. I dropped the colours onto wet paper- sprayed with a laundry bottle - which I had been careful to keep the central area dry. To obtain anything like fresh reds, I have found that they must be painted onto white paper. They become muddy far too easily, especially when added to a 'green' background.

I allowed the darks to dry completely and then dropped Pyrol Red, Transluscent Orange and Indian Yellow into the wetted centre of the paper. I again left it to dry completely.

I painted all the hips without any pencil work, adding them to the centre of the painting one at a time until I was happy with the composition. They were then finished by adding shadows, stems and the dried bits which are the remains of the flower part. (Not sure what they are called!)

I added a bit more dark behind the topmost hips and painted a few negative shapes to give me some vague leaves. I also used a black fine pen to add more bramble and twiggy bits before I decided that for the moment it was finished.

                                                               Last Of The Rose Hips

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Pots and Seascapes at AVA

Two very different subjects this past two weeks at Avon Valley Artists.
Two weeks ago the subject was World Wide Culture. A lovely wide subject with lots of scope for some interesting subjects.
I chose to draw and paint 3 lovely 'Persian' pots from a photograph that I had found at some time or other.
I fell in love with it for its beautiful colours which I wanted to try and capture.


Once the pots had been painted, using Cobalt Teal Blue, Transluscent Orange, Cadmium Yellow, Pyroll Red and Quinachridone  Gold, they looked quite startling on the stark white paper, but I wanted them to have a more Eastern mysterious flavour to them. Using the same range of colours without the red, I washed the colours onto wet paper, adding a little indigo where I wanted the darks, and tried to get the feel of 'hammered', patinated copper, which reminds me of that part of the world.I added a line to designate the change from flat surface to upright, and then added a little shadow under each pot to ensure it sat firmly on the flat surface. And it was finished! It did take longer than the mornings session so the background had to be finished once I got home.
This week we were asked to produce a Seascape. The scene had to be predominantly water as opposed to a beach scene.
I had a bit of difficulty searching out a source photo as I am not a great photographer, but once I has found my image I was set to go.
I started by masking out the edges of the large areas that I wanted to keep white, like the crest of the waves, and I added a few extra small white crests out at sea. I did this the night before so that the masking fluid was completely dry by the time I went to the group meeting. I used Hahnemuhle 'Cornwall' rough 450g paper, so I could be sure that the paper would stay flat with lots of washes and the masking fluid would not take the surface of the paper with when it was removed,  having been on for over 12 hours. This is not always the case with cheaper, thinner paper. A bit of testing is a good idea if it is not a paper with which  one is not familiar.
I really liked the idea of a strong dark sea, and used pure indigo to put in the top half wash. I then added the rocks using Burnt Umber,  Quinachridone Gold and Yellow Ochre.
I then mixed various blues and blue/greens to paint in the middle ground and finished off with generous amounts of White acrylic gouache. To get the spray, I first used a sharp point to drag some of the gouache into spikes on top of the dark sea, and then used a toothbrush to splatter over the top to give the fine spray.
The 'Cornwall' paper seems to lend itself to these rough landscapes as it has a very textured surface which I really like.


Thursday, 5 November 2015

White Roses

Inspired by an unusual amount of roses still in bloom in the garden and before the first frosts spoil them all, I was tempted to paint a simple picture of some white roses. That being said, I was all too soon reminded that roses are never simple!

I started the process with my usual wash of colours on the paper, trying to pick out only the colours that I thought I would be using for the flowers. I was careful to leave a substantial amount of white paper in the middle as the flowers were to be white (although very little of white flowers are actually white!)  I let this dry thoroughly before doing a light but comprehensive drawing of the intended painting. The photo is slightly odd  as so much of my work is done in the evening and therefore photos taken with flash at the end of some stages do seem less than accurate....but I think the idea is clear enough.

Using a very limited palette of Indigo, Moonglow, Pthalo Green and Opera Rose, I painted around the negative shapes between the flowers in the centre of the painting and then partly painted one of the flowers. The only other colours I used at this stage were a little Paynes Grey ( of all things ) and pale Quinachridone Gold for the centre of the rose. I also added a leaf and a couple of stems so that I could begin to judge if the composition was going to be ok.

Lots more of the same as I continued to finish the other flowers. My only concern was the dark are on the right of the painting into which I had drawn the middle rose. I tried to do a little blotting out, and when that was dry, did the best I could to create the rose as if mainly in shadow and merging with the background.
I added a couple more leaves, finished the bud, darkened one side of the stems and decided it was finished.
A very delicate painting, but I was quite pleased with the result, although I am sure that given time I will paint them lots more times in the hope of improving. .
                                                                      'White Roses'
                                      300 gm Fabriano Artistico Rough Extra White Paper

Friday, 30 October 2015

Experimental work at AVA Group

Something quite different this week at Art Group. No subject to prepare, just arriving to find that we all had to select pieces of torn up newspaper and magazines to inspire us to paint something. It could be figurative or abstract, the only constraint being that at least one piece of the provided paper had to be stuck down and used as an integral part of the painting.

I think we all had to sit and think for a while after the initial scramble to get the bits of paper we thought would be helpful, but everyone set about the task with enthusiasm. As organisers of the group, Jan and I are always amazed that so many members attend this session, because we know that these sorts of subject is not easy for most of them. What is really lovely about this group of painters is that they are ready to try anything.

Lots of paper, glue and paint later, we put up our results for general inspection, and the results were so rewarding. Interesting, and most unusual, was the fact that non of us could ascribe an artist to a particular painting except for those that had been neighbours during the session. We had all painted something totally away from our usual style, and everyone had been delightfully inventive.
Mine was certainly a world away from my usual style.

I deliberately chose bits of paper with bold lettering, stuck them down onto my sheet of paper, not always the right side up,and used the letters to form parts of the labelling for various pots and bottles.
The only bit that I am really not too happy about is the lettering on the mustard pot.

It was great fun to do, everyone enjoyed the challenge and I am sure we will continue to include our experimental mornings in next years calendar.

ps.....Peter Ward, who is also a member of the group, was taking photos at the end of the session. Keep an eye on his blog where he might post our results, if you want to see what some of the other members produced.

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

'AUTUMN' at Avon Valley Artists Group

What a lovely subject this week, Almost every member produced a vibrant and interesting result. It was lovely to look at them all.

I was inspired by a visit to one of our local stores, where I came across a selection of lovely Halloween wreaths made of twigs, leaves and berries. I am not sure how much of the wreaths were artificial but they were certainly beautiful and really sparkling in the sunshine.
I took a few photos on my camera and downloaded them onto my tablet to take with me.

I began by putting some wash onto a lightly sprayed piece of 300gm paper, extra white, being careful to leave dry patches down the centre. I was going to put some delicate greens into the background and I know that green does not readily mix with reds and oranges, so I wanted to keep areas to enable me to paint fresh oranges onto the white paper to keep them as clean as possible.

I allowed the background to dry thoroughly before starting to paint in random berry shapes. I had Transluscent Orange, Azio Orange, Cadmium Yellow and Pyroll Redon the plate, all of which I used to give differences in colour to the berries. I also used a litte Alizarin Crimson to give the plum coloured ones.
When I thought there were enough berries, I darkened very slightly parts of the background, painting negative shapes to produce the leaves and then using Quinachridone Gold, I added a few random twiggy bits .
At this stage I had a good look at the composition and added a few more berries to try to get the composition right, and it was finished. Its all about knowing when to stop with this sort of painting!



                                                                      12ins x 18 ins
                                            Fabriano Artistico Extra White 300gm Rough

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Playing with greens

I have had a bit of a thing about 'greens' and leaves.(Not the sort of greens that got stewed to death and served for Sunday lunch!)
It started with my visit to Kew Gardens when the Rhododendrons were out, and the quality of the leaves was incredible. I loved their sheen, and the variety of colours within each tree.
I painted the following picture as a direct result of the photos we took that day and I was really pleased with the result.

                                                        Rhododendron at Kew Gardens

Then three weeks ago at Avon Valley Artists Group, We had to select seed heads as the topic and I chose to have a go at some grass seed heads. It is called Ethiopian Fountain Grass and was not easy to paint, but I really liked the effect of using a limited palette to produce the image.. I similarly enjoyed painting the Euphorbia for a similar reason. I liked that one enough to hang it in the new studio, where I can look at it every day.

                                                           Ethiopian Fountain Grass


I have just done a painting of some Cerinthe, because the colours within the leaf-like bracts is so beautiful. Not quite greens only but still a limited palette. I am not sure if this one is finished yet. It may need some darks in the centre with a hint of background leaves, but I will look at it for a couple of days before I decide what to do.

                                                                  Cerinthe Major

In my box of paints I have Sap, Hookers, Apatite, Serpentine, and Pthalo Greens, and Pthalo, Anthracite,Cobalt, Ultramarine and Indigo Blues.
I also have quite a few earth browns which make a wide range of delicious greens when mixed with the Indigo or Anthracite blue. Well worth having a play to see what you can get from the paints in your box.!

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

AVA 'Along The Track' and 'Wild Life'

The studio is at last nearing completion and I am looking forward to painting at leisure in it when all the 'stuff' gets unpacked.
In the interim, I share with you the last two weeks at Avon Valley artists Group. They are not spectacular paintings but there are bits of bath that I am quite pleased with, and lots of room for improvement for me to work at.
Firstly, the subject was 'Along the Track' and I selected a photo taken along the local disused railway line which id now a lovely walk between trees.

This last week it was time for some 'Wild Life' and I chose to paint a sedge warbler, mainly because I was attracted to the lovely sprays of sedge in the picture which I found in an old copy of a wildlife magazine.

Both paintings were done on Fabriano's Artistico Extra White 300gm paper with my usual palette of colours

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Playing with Texture

Every now and then, I have this urge to break away from the norm and try something new. I use the Avon Valley Artists group as a time to try out these new things, not least because I respect their comments, both positive and negative (in the nicest possible way!)

The studio is completely upside down, undergoing a major restructure, so it was a case of whatever I could lay my hands on, and as the subject was 'Flowers', too much resource material was not required.

I used a piece of heavy paper as I felt there was going to be lots of water involved, and I collected scrim, gesso, gauze, and cling film to provide the textural imput.

I pasted the scrim, gauze and gesso onto the paper, especially on the LH side of the sheet, and when they had dried, I washed over the paper in three distinct bands of colour, and covered it with cling film, pulled into vaguely stem shapes.
 I left the whole thing to dry over night.

I lightly sketched  a stem of foxgloves in the central gap, but became aware that if I continued in this way, I was in danger of producing a 'copy' of a well known artists piece of work
I'm not sure how this came about; maybe I had seen the piece recently and subconsciously been influenced by it.
Anyway, I changed the flowers to simple daisy shapes and painted these the paper in a freehand way.

I kept adding the flowers until I felt the balance was right, and added the centres and a good deal of splatter, and it was time to finish. Not my finest hour, but an interesting exercise, and as usual, lots of fun to do.

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Hollyhocks and AVA starts again!

Hi everybody!

I am so sorry that the blog has been quiet for so long, but I think I must be getting back to normal, as I have been thinking about painting again.

The garden is beginning to lose  a lot of colour, although I notice that the roses may be about to give me a second showing. Poking above it all, I can see the top heads of the Hollyhocks, opening their last few flowers, and they seemed a simple and pleasing  subject to get me back into the habit of painting.
There is nothing complicated about what I did to achieve this painting, just a simple series of washes, letting them dry thoroughly where I did not want colours to bleed, and in this instance painting the background after completing the basic shapes of the flowers. ( The question of when I paint my backgrounds was the  most asked question at my recent exhibition in the Cathedral at Wells)

The leaves were darker than the painting, but I kept them deliberately light as I wanted the whole painting to be very delicate. Maybe that, in hindsight, was a mistake, but I could darken them even now if I decide to do so at a later date.

Paints and paper were as usual, Fabriano Artistico Extra White, 300 gm.


By complete contrast, Avon Valley Artists met formally for the first time since the summer recess ( they continued throughout the summer months to meet, but without any programme of subjects0
and of all things, the subject was Transport/machinery.
Having not painted for a couple of months, there could have been nothing further outside my comfort zone than that. So my instant reaction is to tighten up and paint far to 'realistically' for my taste, but I post the result so that anyone who has the same problem can see that it happens to lots of us!

'Approaching Train'
The train was like painting by numbers and is as tight as I could make it, but I did have fun with the steam, the major reason why I selected this photo!!

Friday, 17 July 2015

Catch Up - Poppies, Roses and Dandelions

Sorry that the blog has been a bit quiet recently, but things are quite difficult at the moment., I will write my usual style of post when things are calmer.
In the meantime, in order to keep the blog active, I will try to post my paintings, and hope you enjoy looking at them.....some better than others, but all taken from my own garden.

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Using the landscape

Inspired by the most magnificent display of cow parsley on the central reservation of a duel carriageway, I was tempted into trying to paint some flowers in the landscape rather than as specimen blooms.

I tried the cow parsley first, and although I had no source material for the background, I was quite pleased with the result for a first time effort. The sky got a bit muddy, so I put that part of the painting under the cold tap and managed to wash away a bit of the top paint, but it still remained a bit dark.

I then had a second go using foxgloves, trying to keep it a bit lighter and fresher, but the same scene more or less, but adding a tree on the RH side for a bit of balance.

Both paintings are done on 'Andalucia' paper from Hahnemuhle, ( something new I bought from a recent art fair ) 500gm weight, rough on one side and smooth on the other, both side suitable for painting. I used the rough side, but I did find the surface a bit soft for using with masking fluid. It needed to be removed as soon as possible.


I now need to get out and take some photos of fields, hedgerows, pathways etc so that I have a few more background ideas to use!

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Rhododendrons and Things

After a totally disastrous few weeks at Avon Valley Artists, trying to paint the compulsory subjects well outside of my comfort zone, I was determined to find a little time to paint something I really enjoyed doing. First, though, in a spirit of 'Wart and All' as Peter Ward would say, there was the 'Cityscape', followed by 'The Sky' and finishing for the summer with 'Interiors' They say it is good to be pushed beyond that which we all know, so hopefully I did learn something in the process!!

                                                   'Cityscape' Pastel on Black paper
Would help if the buildings were upright and the RH green building was a lot more subtle. It looks much better on the pc with the light shining through, than it does in the flesh!

'Storm Clouds At Sunset'  Watercolour
Again a painting that looks better here than it does in reality. Turner never seemed to
have a problem with keeping his colours fresh. Mine are VERY sludgy in the middle.

                                  Interior.........'Sunny Corner'  Watercolour on Cornwall Rough
Far too tight and unimaginative. I wish I could paint this sort of subject really loosely, but just do not seem to know how!

Back then to the painting that gives me such pleasure...........
This week, I have been finishing a painting of Rhododendrons from the garden. They have been splendid this year, I just wish I could do them justice, but I have really enjoyed it. Sorry there are no progress photos, but I have been working in late evening and my cheap camera does not render the colours very well except in good light. Must get a better one!

                                  'Rhododendrons' Watercolour on Leonardo 600gm rough paper

Saturday, 9 May 2015

White and PinkTulips

Whilst doing my weekly shop at the local supermarket, I could not resist adding this lovely bunch of  tulips to the trolley.
What really attracted me to them - apart from the fact that I love painting tulips - was the very delicate colours which had a sort of sugar icing feel to them, which I thought I might attempt to capture. The darker flowers had the same sort of bloom to them that can appear on plums and grapes etc, so I knew it was going to be a challenge.


There is not a lot to say about the process, my palette and paper were the same as always, and I started with colours dropped onto wet paper which I allowed to merge into themselves, being especially careful with the greens to avoid losing the freshness, which can happen when they run into other colours.

When the wash was dry, I drew in the shapes of the flowers lightly in pencil, placing the shapes where the background suggested they should go, looking for areas on the perimeter where I could lose some of the edges, to keep it loose.

Then it was just a question of painting in the shapes, using a selection of pinks and blues, blotting out areas which I wanted to keep white, and making sure the stems looked natural as they passed behind other flowers.
I painted both flowers and leaves together as this helped me to see how the composition was developing, and as usual, I painted up to but not over the lines, so that when the paint was dry, they could be erased.

I tried to keep the leaves as delicate as the flowers, but I am aware that they would normally be a stronger green than this.
I finished by adding some white acrylic gouache to some of the tulips to hopefully give that 'bloom' mentioned earlier, and then my normal light splatter of the same gouache to hopefully loosen up the image a bit.

                                                              'Pink and White Tulips'
                                          Watercolour on Fabriano Artistico Extra White
                                                                 300g rough paper

Monday, 13 April 2015

Paintings at Art Group: Catch-up

Time seems to be whizzing away, and with all the family issues that have needed dealing with over the past couple of months, painting, except on a Thursday morning, has had to go on the back burner. It means that I have only produced art fulfilling the group programme and there are no accompanying process photos, but I thought I would post the paintings to keep the blog active before I write another post in my usual style.
So this is what we have been getting up to over the last few weeks at Avon Valley Artists Group.....





RURAL BUILDINGS (after John Blockley)

I hope you enjoy looking!