Monday, 6 April 2015

The Birch Tree

The birch is a stunning tree, one of my favourites and really good to paint or draw. The older trees are cracked and gnarled with bright green moss cascading from the bumps.The bracket mushroom that I made the paper from lives upon the birch tree too and while I was out hunting them I found a beautiful tree as a subject to paint. It made for some great photos looking up towards the sky

The first painting drawn with pen
I worked very quickly on the above painting using pen and watercolour. But I didn't like the shape of the trunk, it didn't have the sinuous-ness that I liked in the tree. So I decided to do it again, just in watercolours this time. I used masking fluid to mask out the edge of the trunk so I could work on a quick wet into wet background. I use the Masquepen type pictured below and quite like it. Also I used some of the Daniel Smith Primatek paints which I love for unstrict botanical work like this or landscapes.

You can see my horse chestnut buds emerging (still working on them too!)
Here are the 2 together
This second painting below took 5 days, much longer then the first one. I used a touch of gouache to get back the highlights on the moss which was especially difficult and I think this subject would be great for oils, maybe.
I think I'll be keeping a look out for more interesting trees and maybe invest in some oil paints as I've never used them. That would be a new challenge.

Here's a little woodland sculpture we made in the woods today! 
Happy holidays.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Four Years On

Happy 4th Birthday to this blog, time has flown by.
 I have added my gallery here now as I can no longer afford to run my old website. I think it is looking fine and I shouldn't miss the old one too much. It will be a shame to lose my guest book with it's lovely comments and the web shop but it was running at a loss so alas had to go. I will of course lose all my links to the website and that will take a bit of time to amend but never mind. Please have a look at the new pages at the top of the blog and let me know if you think it's all fine, or even better than a website maybe? It's nice to have everything all in one place and for free, well it's a no brainer!

I'm looking forward to exhibiting at the SBA in Westminster next month (I have 3 paintings there) and I'll also be doing a demonstration on Friday the 17th, so come along and say hello if you're nearby.

As I haven't posted for a while here's an few things I've been up to recently.

Here's the drawing I completed on the fungi paper. It took pen better than I thought it would but not paint so well as you see.
A Buzzard feather

I made a mossy box (It's for a craft fair that's coming up)

A fruit segments worksheet 

Painting a  lichen sprig
I have a workshop coming up in April at Denmark Farm, there should be plenty of subjects to occupy us, spring is coming at last!

Friday, 16 January 2015

Making Paper with a difference!

The new year has well and truly begun and with some new ideas and techniques.
I had for a long time wanted to make some paper at home and I have a mould and deckle kit, long unused. But I decided to make some paper with a difference, mushroom paper. I know that one of the best fungi for this is the birch polypore, Piptoporus betulinus. It's the perfect time of year for finding this mushroom on birch trees so I kept a look out and I found quite a few.

Growing on birch trees

An older specimen

A young ,fresh polypore

   I only needed one fairly young specimen so I carefully cut it from the tree. Then at home the mushroom was peeled and then cut up and blended in a blender into a gloopy pulp with some water. Then it was sloshed into a tray and ready for me to dip the deckle and mould into it.

Draining the water out from the deckle

This job was becoming messier (and smellier) by the minute and I think its best done outside or in a shed, not my kitchen! But I got my first layer draining and then tried to drop it out onto some jay-cloths and towels. This was the hardest bit as it wouldn't come away from the mesh easily. But after some fiddling and stressing it came out and was patted with a sponge to soak up the excess water. Next it was compressed with a slate, sponged a bit more and then left to dry flat. I managed to make 3 pieces of paper and on the last one I added some corn flour just as an experiment as to whether it can be drawn on. I don't hold out much hope of it taking inks or paints well but it was an interesting technique to try out. I very much like the texture of this paper and I will post again the results of any painting on it.

The 3 sheets dried
Close up of the texture and whiteness

In the summer when I can get outside and be messy, I will make my own recycled paper, with additions like wild flowers or saffron. 

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Nearly Christmas again.

Christmas is drawing ever closer again and I seriously feel like hibernating at this time of year, to wake up rejuvenated in spring,( and 5 years younger would be great!!). 
The SBA Palmengarten exhibition in Frankfurt ,Germany was a great success and is now finished so I have been on a road trip to Sussex to collect some unsold paintings. I sold my painting of the Dandelion Clock too, great news for me and my bank manager!
 So I've not been painting much lately, just experimenting with handmade papers. I really like the look of natural objects against a patterned background, like the effect with the coffee staining. Recently I have painted a Scarlet Tiger moth on natural handmade paper, I love this sort of vintage,old look.

I decided to make some cards too and out of interest they are for sale on my website now.

Thanks for looking in on this blog and have a great Christmas and new year.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Variety is good

 At the moment I'm enjoying a variety of media and styles;
Here's a selection; 
A small study of conkers in watercolour,

Some pen and ink; an alium seed-head study on coffee stained paper

Gouache; I've painted a trio of Sarracenia spp. twice life size.
These are amazing insectivorous bog plants with stunning veins and intricate patterns covered in tiny hairs, lovely to paint.

And finally some loose landscapes in watercolour. 
Here I used my imagination to create a mountain scene, using big brushes, sponge and very wet paper to achieve the misty effects.

Below are the brushes I used and I also do a prep. sketch in this little cold press paper notebook. Ripped up sponges are good too for those trees.

I also found a tip from Jane Blundell's blog, a great read for anyone interested in colour.
 One of my favourite grey mixes is winsor newton's light red and french ultramarine and so I have squeezed the two together in an empty paint pan and thoroughly mixed with a toothpick and now I have an instant grey mix to hand, great for sketches. I use this in some botanical work but also landscapes,(the clouds in the mountain landscape above uses this grey). Fantastic.Variety is the spice.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Autumn Ramblings

Autumn has well and truly arrived in Wales, with the remains of  hurricane Gonzalo stripping the leaves from the trees.Hopefully some of the beautiful autumn colours will remain after the gales have gone, I'm not quite ready for winter yet! 
I've been busy lately working on a commission of a poppy, Papaver rhoeas which has taken me ages to paint. At last I have finished. I used Fabriano artistico hot pressed paper at 300lb weight for this painting as I used lots of watercolour washes and didn't want the paper to cockle. The 300lb (600 gms) paper is very thick and stiff and can take many, many washes without the need for stretching. It can take a fair bit of abuse this paper, very recommended; it is more expensive but very good quality. I usually use a 140lb weighted paper but only when not using large watercolour washes. The colours I used for the poppy were Indian yellow by Winsor newton, Translucent orange by Schminke and Vermillion (PR255) by Daler rowney, with a dash of winsor red for darker areas and Quinacridone red in some high lighted areas.

Below is a Poppy collage that I created in Picasa, interesting to play around with, I like the black background.

I had a go at making some inks too. I made blackberry ink, hawthorn and tea ink. The blackberry ink was a lovely carmine colour at first but changed to a colour similar to paynes grey over night. I did samples in 2 books. The old sketchbook with cheap non acid free paper kept the dark paynes grey colour but my book with more expensive, acid free paper in, the ink has now become a greener colour. The tea ink has remained a nice brown colour still. The hawthorn ink was a green colour and not so successful! It was fun experimenting and trying something new though.

 I've also had another workshop at Elan valley which went very well with lovely students. Unfortunately I forgot to take some photos of the day.
 I also went on a fungal foray there recently too, with botanist Ray Woods, who is extremely knowledgeable and enthusiastic about fungi and lichens, it was so great to meet him. I shall post a bit of my fungi journal too.

I had a trip to the National Botanic Gardens of Wales too on national fungi day, which was 12th October. They were having a fungi festival with forays and mushroom orientated stalls and events going on around the gardens. It was a great day with beautiful weather aswell. 
There are also some amazing tree sculptures; huge old trees with beautifully sculpted roots on show. Here are a few photos of them.

Lastly ,I have organised with Denmark farm near Lampeter to tutor some more workshops for next year. There will be 4 to run through the seasons, starting with one on January the 18th. We will look into depicting lichens, moss, bark and glossy evergreen leaves; winter subjects and we will use some different media.
Happy painting.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Workshops and Coffee Breaks

Had a great workshop at Denmark Farm Conservation Centre teaching painting realistic autumn produce. The students were lovely and enthusiastic and it made for a really enjoyable day.

 I have another workshop at Elan valley coming up next month;it still has a couple of spaces left on it.

Talking of autumn produce, I've finished my blackberries now.

I've been experimenting with aging paper for that old vintage and antique look . It looks great especially with pen drawings on top. Its not the first time I've tried this technique, I keep coming back to it and then leaving it again, a bit like I do with my pastels and landscapes. 
Here's an old picture I did a couple of years ago which I've dug out again!

I stained some old Saunders Waterford paper I had that I don't use for watercolours. First I brewed some teabags and then soaked a couple of sheets in the tea on a large tray, pouring off the excess liquid when well soaked. Then I sprinkled coffee grounds onto the damp paper. Its fascinating watching the sepia and umber colours running out and bleeding into the wash. I then let it dry naturally.The paper now has the lovely aroma of coffee which I love so it's all good! If you hate the smell of coffee then you can just use tea or use burnt and raw umber watercolour mixes to make a wash and paint the background in, splattering and flicking some stronger paint afterwards to bleed into the damp paper. The painting above was done this way using Fabriano paper and then pen drawn on top.

Here's a couple I've done today of Nigella seedpods in pen using coffee and salt crystals aswell as watercolours to create patterns. I was thinking of adding them to my friend's sketchbooks in the exchange that I'm on, maybe they would like them.
 It's fun to experiment with different techniques and have a break from the white backgrounds of botanicals.