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 AndalucĂ­a for the Landscape format. I was a little anxious about the AndalucĂ­a, 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