Monday, 23 May 2016

Island Paradise

For many years now I have been meaning to visit Skomer, one of the islands off of the beautiful Pembrokeshire coastline. It is a national nature reserve and one of the most important breeding sites of sea birds in Europe,with the largest breeding population of Manx Shearwaters in the world. You have to be on the island at night to see them though as they hide all day in their burrows safe underground. 
I attempted to get onto the island about 3 years ago but we got there too late to board the boat and so could only have a boat ride around the island. There is a limit to the number of people allowed onto the island each day, a good thing of course. This time we left home at 5am as its a 2 hour drive away and we got there eagerly early to get our tickets. 

We got onto Skomer at 10am and set out to explore the rugged island in the spring sunshine. On the northern side the bluebells were so impressive, just a hazy wash of warm blue in all directions. I've never seen so many before. Then further on, the burrows of the seabirds pitted the ground and the starry sea campion grew in such profusion all around the little holes. At The Wick was a large Puffin colony, there were a few there posing for us. They are such beautiful, entertaining characters and so small. It felt like a privilege to be able to be there to watch, photo and sketch them. 

On the cliffs Kittiwakes, Guillemots and Razorbills are busy building nests in the crevices of  these ancient rocks. If you are lucky you may see the rarer Choughs but not this time for me.

 This island also has an interesting history with archaeological evidence suggesting that there was an Iron Age farming community of up to 200 people here.
I highly recommend a visit to Skomer for all nature lovers. I had such a wonderful time that I am already planning a longer stay on the islands.

Thrift along the cliff tops

I've now added a couple of puffin doodles, the left one is painted with Derwent Inktense blocks which I used with a paintbrush. The right hand one is in watercolours.

Other news with me is that I have found a new love for painting in oils. I have just completed 2 bird oil paintings.

Merlin Falcon
Little Owl
I have also completed the Oak Woods 2 painting , a very large 71 cms x 49 cms. I counted 70 individual species on it! But some are depicted more than once through the seasons, in different growth stages.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Plants and Pollinators exhibition

The Plants and pollinators exhibition in Blossoms gallery, Aberystwyth is on now for 4 weeks. There are some really fascinating sculptures of enlarged pollen grains and deconstructed flowers which all makes for a different and interesting show.
 Here are a few photos from the exhibition.

Deconstructed bluebell and Dandelion

These amazing insects and sculptures are painted and made by Tereska Shepherd, the gallery owner.

The fascinating pollen grain sculptures

My moth painting is on an easel in the window.

Here are 2 more of my paintings, the foxgloves and bee and the bee orchid.

Upstairs in the Eco gallery is the exhibition 'Made with Love and Rubbish' with amazing work by Sue Clow and Ruby Roberts. All pieces are hand crafted from recycled rubbish, very thought provoking and colourful too.
If you'd like to check out Blossoms gallery, here's their website.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

The Arch - Y Bwa

Now the new year is in full swing and health wise I am feeling much better, it's time to catch up. It has been very hard lately trying to keep inspired, when feeling terrible. The weather has also been bad, constant rain, so not good to go out with a sketchbook. Such a shame we've had no snow, just rain. But I still have work from the October journal at Cymystwyth Arch so I will post some now. 

Cladonia Lichen Studies
Autumn Sketchbook studies from near Cwmystwyth Arch; Bilberry, Sycamore Leaf with tar spot, Amethyst Deceiver and some Polystichum moss.
A study of the Arch in Daniel Smiths watercolours- mainly Moonglow, Green apatite and serpentine; I really love the Primatek range for landscape studies
The Arch- Y Bwa was built by Thomas Johnes of the Hafod Estate in 1810. 
I love this place so much, it has an aura about it and a good place to sketch. But unfortunately on my last visit I was sad to see that a lot of trees had been felled and the place looked a bit like a bombsite. Two huge conifers that were growing near to the arch were felled; this upset me most of all as they hosted a great diversity of fungi in autumn. I understand that a lot of larches have to be felled as the Phytophthora ramorum disease takes hold in this area but these trees were not larches, (I think Spruces), but I'm sure (hope) there's good reason for it. Anyway, it will all grow back in time into native heath and woodland. 
Larch woodlands are beautiful and a favourite of mine. These delicate trees allow light to penetrate under the canopy and so other plants flourish beneath them, unlike some other conifers plantations, which create dense dark woods.They are deciduous, so in Autumn they scatter russet needles and leave a carpet of glowing colour. Very sad to see so many being felled due to the disease in this area.

I've made a few more mini concertina books and have them for sale on my Etsy shop, a link is in the right hand column.

I hope to start painting soon, it's been a few weeks with no painting so I think I've had enough of a break, well OK, artist block!

Keep inspired and happy painting.

Friday, 18 December 2015

Joys of Journaling

Going out in nature with a sketchbook or journal  is such a brilliant pastime. I cannot recommend it enough. The act of spending time, observing your subject rather than just taking a quick photograph and moving on, is extremely rewarding. Feeling the spirit of the place, the wind and sun (but not much of this lately here in Wales), hearing the birdsong; it all evokes emotions and hopefully you pass this on into your sketch. 

Bridge and waterfall at the Hafod Estate.

You can see my rucksack here which has everything I need (almost) from graphite sticks, watercolour pencils and pans with a water-brush, gouache and ink pens, aswell as various types of paper and books.

This scene was drawn using graphite, pencils, pen and white gouache on a slightly tinted paper to make the white water stand out more.

This is a view of the snaking river Ystwyth on the Ladies walk at the Hafod Estate,
 just roughly drawn in colour pencils.

 This I did back in October, of Devils Bridge - Pontarfynach. The left one was painted in watercolour and pen in situ but I later redid this one at home as I felt I'd overdone the pen!! But maybe the second one is too pale. I think I need more practise on my watercolour stonework!

Here's the completed journal page.

As well as making a journal, I've made two little concertina books and added prints of my paintings,
 a leaf one and a fungi one.

Other news is that I have 5 paintings hanging in Oriel Flodau - Blossoms Gallery,  in Aberystwyth. I am very pleased with how they look. The new gallery is a great place, run by lovely people with lots of amazingly talented artists and diverse crafts for sale. If you're in the area have a look in.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Autumn Updates

Just a quick update on the blog for a catch up.
At the National Botanic garden of Wales there will be another fungi event day on Sunday the 11th of October. I will be there this year with a stand showing paintings and doing a watercolour demonstration. The day is full of fungi events like forays, food, lots of different types of art and woodcarving to name a few things. I visited the event last year and thoroughly enjoyed it. The weather was fantastic so I hope it will be this year too for the forays. 

I've been working on all sorts of fungi (and lichen) art, like these mushroom mosaics, which are quite abstract. They are in watercolours but I have also done a couple on canvas using gouache and acrylic.
 I've been out foraying and filling my mushroom journal to show at the festival aswell.

I also have a workshop at Denmark Farm on the 18th of October which will be inspired by fungi and autumn.
Happy foraying!

Wednesday, 8 July 2015


The foxgloves have me painting them again.
  Digitalis purpurea, It must be the plant I have illustrated the most and one of my favourites. My garden is full of them and all different shades of magenta, to pink and cream then also to white.

A new painting, but not yet finished
 Some interesting facts and folklore;
The generic name is from the Latin for finger, digitus, probably due to the flower shapes resembling thimbles. Foxgloves are often associated with fairies, hence the old country name of folksglove;
 folks refering to faerie folk.
Fairies, in legends, were supposed to have given the flowers to foxes to wear while hunting, to keep them magically quiet and so become efficient hunters. 
    Other common names include fairy caps, fairy bells, fairy thimbles, witches glove, goblins glove, dead men's bells, butchers fingers and throatwort. Welsh names include Ffion and Maneg Ellyllyn which means the good people's glove.
 A Gaelic name is Lus Mor, the great herb or most magical of herbs.

A different perspective

     An old Shropshire woman is said to have used foxglove (along with other plants) in a healing herbal tea, which was found to cure people of heart problems and dropsy by an 18th century physician. He discovered the cardiac glycoside Digoxin and a synthetic form is still used today as a heart stimulant, for kidney problems, edema and aconite poisoning. In too high a dosage it is a toxin, causing dreadful symptoms, hallucinations and often, death. So using it was always a balance between poisoning and healing, maybe this is one reason why it has such a mystical past.

Especially loved by bees, I may add a bee to the painting
    Wikipedia tells me that Vincent Van Goch apparently had digitalis therapy which may have caused visual disturbances like blurred vision, light halos and colour imbalances and could have influenced some of his work, especially 'Starry night' and work from his 'yellow period'. 

 The colours I have used are winsor yellow, winsor lemon and perylene violet by Winsor Newton, quinacridone violet by M Graham, and ultramarine finest and purple magenta by Schminke. Quinacridone magenta by Winsor Newton is just as nice, it's the same pigment of PR122. Schminke Ultramarine finest is very slightly less granulating than other makes.

I hope you'll agree it's a most fascinating plant and still to be respected and wary of - don't let the leaves or flowers fall in your tea, like me!

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Meadow Life

The meadows are now bursting into life as summer progresses and it's time to go out sketching.

Sketching at Ynyslas sand dunes yesterday, out of the cold wind.
 One of the most interesting and essential plants within most wildflower meadows is a plant called
 'Yellow Rattle',  Rhinanthus minor. Its generic name comes from the greek words for nose and flower, as the corolla is supposed to resemble. 
The seed capsules rattle when they are dry hence the name yellow rattle. So walk through the meadow in late July and you will hear the rattling of the tiny seeds as they disperse.
These meadows flourish with this little annual because it is semi parasitic on grasses, so reduces their growth and keeps them in check, allowing more wild flowers to grow. So if you want to grow a wildflower meadow,sow some yellow rattle and with a little help, it will deal with the grass and let your flowers be the stars.

An interesting plant to study and draw, I've sketched yellow rattle plenty of times. The pictures above show from sketch to finished painting. The sepals and stems have beautiful coloured markings and textures, painted with perylene violet.

This sketch shows the dried capsule on the right.
Herbalists uses to recommend yellow rattle boiled with beans and honey for coughs and poor eyesight. So the liquid was either drunk or dropped into the eye.
It has a few other common names too, hay-rattle, penny-grass ( from Elizabethan times), shackle-caps
and also yellow cockscombe.

Some vibrant marsh orchids against a profusion of yellow rattle

Cae Blaen Dyffryn meadow
 If only there were more of these meadows.

Green Hairstreak in the meadow
Summer plays scented notes of nostalgia,
 like golden hay meadows humming with tiny wing-beats.

I've added a flowering oak branch here

At the moment I'm working on another large Welsh oak woods painting as I sold the first one with no prints or copies. This time I've changed and moved a few elements.

Happy painting.