Tuesday, 31 October 2017

40 Shades of Grey

Avon Valley Artists subject a few weeks ago was '40 Shades of Grey'
Interesting because the subject matter was totally free choice, but it had to be produced in grey tones, without mixing black and white and without using any pigment with grey in the title.

The idea of the exercise was to explore our paint palettes to find ways of creating beautiful subtle greys without the above mentioned colours.

My approach was to spend a couple of happy hours, mixing various colours together to see what I could achieve, I tried to keep the experiments to two colours only so that I did not produce grey mud!!

It was fun and really interesting and we all felt that we become entrenched in habits which do not always give us the best results. Our palettes are capable of producing really exciting outcomes.

I thought there were some lovely results from these swatches and was quite excited to have a go at the painting. So primarily grey with small amounts of colour to make the finished result read well.

                  Painted on Hahnemuhle 200lbs Anniversary Edition paper, 30 x 40 cm

Sunday, 17 September 2017

New Paper: Red Poppies

It seems ages since I posted anything on this page. So for the many people out there that have constantly followed this blog and been kind enough to share their thoughts with me, I do apologise.
The exhibition in Wells Cathedral took up an enormous amount of time and energy, but well worth it in the end as it proved to be a fantastic success. Thank you to everyone who supported me. I always have a bit of painters block after it, but I am back working again and enjoying the process.
I have, however, decided to change paper, and this has proved to be a bit stressful.
The Fabriano blocks that I have been using for years have been disappointing and the glue does not hold the paper firm. It still bulges in the middle with a lot of water and then the wash collects in the dips leaving uneven patches. The Hanhemuhle is fine, but does not take kinbdly to being scrubbed or having masking fluid on it....the surface is too soft. I will continue to use it, but I need something with a bit harder more forgiving surface, as my basic workhorse support
Almost all my painting friends and demonstrators that I approached use Saunders Waterford, so I decided to join them and ordered both Rough and Not 200g sheets.
There were problems with the order, but now all is resolved, it was time to give it a go.

My apologies for the state of the photo, but it was taken in the evening and I wanted to get some paint on pretty quickly, so could not repeat the shot in daylight, the following morning. But I think you can see where I was heading.
To try the new paper, it seemed wise to stay well within my comfort zone, so flowers it was.
The drawing was easy enough, but gosh, did the painting seem difficult at first!!

I had not realised how difficult it would be to adjust to new paper. The quantity of water required to create the washes I wanted was completely different, the way the paint flowed on the paper was strange, and the slightly harder surface made the brush work feel odd.
I text my closest painting friend to see what she thought.......was it me or was it just a case of getting used to the new surface. She assures me that it is the latter and all will be well with a bit of practice.

Anyway, at least the process did not have to change. As I wanted lovely fresh reds for the poppies, I painted the flowers first (red does not mix too happily in my experience, with a pre painted background) using a single pigment red, and then added the stems and the black hearts using Natural Tint. I then erased the pencil lines from the original drawing.

When the flowers and leaves were completely dry, I wet the background and dropped in a variety of greens, gold and some of the red used for the poppies. I always try to add some of the subject colour to the background as this seems to give the two elements some cohesion. I hope you think it works, and by the time I was happy with the result I was beginning to get to grips with the new surface.
As an aside, I have recently bought some new brushes and am now using a couple of Sable/Prolene mix brushes which I really like. Pure sable has not worked for me in the past as I preferred a slightly stiffer brush, but these seem to be a really good alternative. 

Saunders Waterford 200g Extra White Not Surface

30 x 40 cm

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Honeysuckle :' Mandarin'

With all the lovely sun and heat, the honeysuckle over one of my arches is in full flower. A beautiful plant that I am so glad I bought. It has grown quickly and over three years has produced masses of these vibrant orange/ yellow flowers. It seemed like time to have a go at capturing it on paper.

I had no idea that it was such a complex shape. I suppose that sometimes I take the flower shapes for granted in the garden, but this was a wake-up call to look more closely from time to time!!

Faced with a couple of stems with flowers and leaves, I thought this might be a bit beyond me.
I decided, therefore to only draw one flower at a time and to paint it before attacking the next flower. I know that compositionally, this was a bad decision, but I knew that the full drawing would take ages, and when painting started, I could ruin it in the first five minutes and the prep work would all be wasted

I worked on Fabriano Artistico Extra White paper and carefully but faintly drew one flower and leaf and then painted them with mostly Indian Yellow, Transluscent Orange and Serpentine Green.
I used Green Gold, Serpentine Green and Apatite Green Genuine for the leaves.I then moved onto the next flower and did the same.

I masked out the stamens with Pebeo drawing gum. I like this make, as it is blue in colour so you can see what you are doing  and seems to remove easily if left on for a couple of days on this type of paper.

By the time I began painting the third flower, I was already beginning to fret anxiously about the background. Although it seems easy, it is often very difficult to know how to approach it, and what colours to use. Sometimes it needs to be dark to throw the flowers forward and sometimes very pale to match the delicacy of the blooms.

I added the last of the stamens and another leaf in the lower area of the painting, and spent time thinking about the next stage. Because I paint flowers so often, it should be easy to know what to do next, but I find it incredibly difficult as it is so easy at this stage to get it wrong.

I had added water to a couple of areas of background and dropped in a very light amount of the orange pigment. By keeping it light, more can be added later, but it can be difficult to remove if it is too dark.
So far so good.

In the end, I used a laundry spray to add water to the left hand and lower edges, protecting the flowers and leaves where possible, and simply dropped in areas of paint, pushing them very lightly over the left hand flower, being careful not to disturb the paint underneath..

I stopped at this point, afraid to go any further, although now that it has dried, I could have made the bottom left corner darker, I will leave well alone, although it will remain propped up in the studio for a couple of weeks just to see if I need to do any more.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Trees at Art Group

This weeks topic was trees at Avon Valley art group'

I prepped the painting the evening prior to the meeting by brushing the background of s piece of 500g paper with gesso, leaving it thicker in places to give some texture.
I then used some fine threads taken from the bundles shown in the previous post to form the undergrowth and the textured tree trunk. I left this to dry completely overnight.

At the meeting, I used Indian yellow to give the middle highlight and when this was dry, wet the paper with a laundry spray, and dropped in a variety of browns and golds to produce the painting. The paint collects along the fine threads and produces thin darker lines of tangled bracken etc.
I used brown and black acrylic ink for the darkest areas, and added a few extra seed heads in the fore ground.

This did not take as long as I had expected, so to fill the time, I borrowed some paper from a fellow painter and using wet-in-wet
, I painted, without drawing a study of trees and bluebells. Not my finest hour, but very good fun to do.

I rarely do my best work at the group, but I try to use the time to experiment with various paints and associated media, and the sessions are always great fun and often educational. Members have lots of lovely ideas. It is always a treat to see their work.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Rose Bay Willow Herb

I have been dog sitting this week and have spent more time than usual at home so have been able to do a bit of extra painting.
I have been tempted over the past few weeks by the bundles of random dyed silk strips hanging on the studio door. They got moved and so the colours were slightly different. Hanging out the bottom of the bundle were some strands of the most beautiful cyclamen colour and I felt the time was right to give it a go.
I am sure I have posted a photo of the silk strands but cannot instantly find it to say which post date it is in, so I am including it again here. Sorry to repeat myself!!

These are two bundles of habutai (?) silk strips which I bought at 'Patchings Art Festival' a couple of years ago without having any idea of what I might do with them

So, using a piece of 500g paper, I roughly pasted the surface with white gesso and applied the fine strands of the silk edgings to the gesso surface. To do this, I simply ran my fingers through the strands and pulled off any loose threads. There are lots, so it is easy to do..
I tried to arrange them roughly in flowers spike shapes. Be warned.... the whole of this process is very messy on the fingers.

  At this stage it does not matter what colour they are as the silk readily absorbs the colour of the wash which is applied once the gesso is completely dry. I used a combination of Ultramarine Pink and Alizarine Pink for the flowers and Pthalo Blue, Pthalo Green and Quinachridone Gold Deep for the base.

I allowed this to dry completely and then added more paint to create the flower shapes and a bit of the undergrowth. At this stage, I thought maybe the painting was finished as it was without the silk, so I did no more.

That still left me without a silk collage so.....I repeated the process from the beginning, but once the background wash was dry, I used only the silk, cut into tiny squares to create the flowers. This gives a much more abstract look to the painting. I used pva medium to attach the fabric and then I added a little acrylic white gouche to give me a few highlights.
I think they are both finished, but I will live with them for a week or so before giving each of them an antique white mount.

It is a good job that I do not have to decide which one I prefer!!

Monday, 3 April 2017

Agave and Wisteria

This week I painted the second of the 'Flowers and Foliage' at Avon Valley artists. I chose to have another go at the sunlight on leaves and selected a picture of an Agave plant as the subject. I was quite disappointed with the result as I felt it was too tight and too contrived and lacked any real centre of interest.

I do not always expect success, so was happy to have had a lovely morning with the group and the painting will join a pile of others destined, maybe, for the bargain browser at the summer exhibition.

A direct result of the Agave effort was a desire to paint something loose and wet in wet and to have a bit of fun with the paints.
I browsed my resource box and found a number of blue and pink wisteria photos......was not aware that wisteria could be pink!

The idea was no drawing, no pre-planning and just plenty of paint and water.
On a piece of Fabriano Artistico Extra White rough paper, I sprayed plenty of water in the central area, and dropped on plenty of cobalt blue pigment. I allowed the paint to run where it felt inclined and then added a few patches of white acrylic ink to create a few muted passages and left it to dry.

The next process was very hit and miss. I used the brush head to create the flower shapes, adding darks and lights as I went along and simply created the falling fronds of the wisteria across the page. It was as simple as that.
I added a few leaves and stems at the top and a few extra darks and lights ( using the acrylic white) and I made myself stop before it became over worked.
The flowers were all produced using Ultramarine blue, ultramarine violet and acrylic white.
There is very little detail in the bulk of the flowers, only in the ends of the stems and this is only very simple blobs of paint using a smaller brush.

A very satisfying couple of hours or so. Just a bit frustrating waiting for the layers to dry!

                                                              Wisteria     27x37 cms

Monday, 27 March 2017

New 'Old Dutch Masters' : Tulips

Over the past two weeks we have been asked at Avon Valley Art Group to use something 'Old/Vintage/ Retro as our starting point.
From time to time we have these two week sessions to enable us to paint more complex images, or to indulge in subjects we specifically like.

I am not sure how I came up with the idea, but I think it was from some images that I saw in a Gardening magazine, advertising some new strains of Tulips.
I decided to have a go at painting a pot of tulips in the style of the old Dutch Masters from around the time when tulip bulbs were very rare  and the flowers were often found in these old paintings.
I realised that what we see today when looking at these paintings, is not what was actually painted, as I am sure that they would have been brighter in colour, but I wanted to try to replicate the darkness of the oils, but using watercolours.

I am really pleased, just for once, with the outcome. It was quite difficult to decide on background colours but I kept the furniture dark and the lower background equally dark to swallow up the detail
and the upper background just dark enough to throw the flowers forward. I used lots of Daniel Smiths 'Bordeaux' and 'Indigo' with some 'Burnt Umber' and black ink at the base of the background.
It did take ages to paint all the flowers as they could not be done too loosely in this instance, and so it took the two full sessions and some time in the studio at home to finish the painting.
It is so unlike anything I have done before, that I am not sure that I want to put it up for sale in the exhibition in August, but I ma not sure where it would fit on my walls at home. Something to think about!