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.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Indian Summer

It's been a while since I wrote a blog post so after my break, it's time to catch up.  I couldn't resist painting these plump blackberries just picked from the hedge in my local woods. The colours are changing from green to red,carmine,purple and then to black. The blacks are painted using neutral tint and indanthrene or permanent carmine with under washes of cobalt blue. Here's the progression so far after about 18 hours work.

I've been away to Cornwall visiting the Eden project and the Lost gardens of Heligan, both are a great day out and I thoroughly enjoyed going. I also visited Tintagel castle, a historic ruin steeped in myth and legend. I am a great fan of the Arthurian legend and this is the place where King Arthur was conceived according to Geoffery of Monmouth's (d.1154/5) account of the legend. 

Here's my sketch of part of the ruin using a pen and watercolour wash.

While out walking recently at home I went on a route I had not ventured before and stumbled on an amazing place; a gorge with raging white waters and lined with steep fern and moss covered rocks. I couldn't believe I'd never found this place before or even heard of it. I have now called it the 'lost valley'! The photos don't do it justice really. They are taken on the edge of a steep drop, quite precarious and high up overlooking the river valley. I used a tripod and slowed down the shutter speed. This blurs the waters slightly and lets more light into the aperture, it was quite dim down there as it was taken at 7.30 in the evening.

There is also a lot of fungi springing up after the recent rains, lots of Russulas, Boletes and large parasols. The woods are filled with all sorts of berries, hips and nuts ripening, aswell as beautiful heather flushed purple; so many subjects to paint. High pressure is dominating the UK now so a great time to go out on forays and walks, make the most of the warm summer days.

I have a workshop coming up this month at Denmark Farm Conservation Center, so all the fruits of the forest will be our subjects, my favourite time of year.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Elan Valley Exhibition

Time has come round so quickly and my exhibition at Elan Valley, Powys is here again. 
I have 42 paintings hanging in total now and I have sold one today so I'm pleased. No surprises that it was a gouache piece that was sold,they are always the most popular. The weather is lovely and quite humid, but I sat and drew foxgloves, wood sage and bell flowers as it was quiet. I've decided to paint my Year in the Welsh oak woods painting again as I really miss having this as a centerpiece since it was sold at the SBA show in London. I did not get it scanned or anything so I have no choice but to do it again!
Here's a few pictures of the exhibition.

Below is a view of my drive to the exhibition, over the mountain road with stunning scenery.

And below are some views of the amazing Victorian architecture of the dams at Elan.

If you find yourself in Wales anytime from now until the 1st of August, why not come and visit. 

Monday, 23 June 2014

The Meadow

 Now that summer is here and the weather is very nice in Wales (at the moment), it's time to seek orchids to paint. I ventured out to the Plantlife meadow 'Cae Blaen Dyffryn' near Lampeter, check it out here.
I drive for 1 hour, walk along a busy main road and endure bites from angry horse flies, to be in this little 9 acre piece of heaven which lies amidst a mono culture of bland farmland. Just to sit there, listening to the grasshoppers and skylarks or chase beautiful moths and butterflies is absolute bliss for me. But also to study the plants growing there; this year heralds a great year with many more heath spotted orchids than I remember, and also many butterfly orchids. I also saw more species of moth there, including Mother Shipton and Scarlet Tiger, both of which I've not seen there before.

Heath spotted Orchids
Scarlet Tiger
Lesser Butterfly Orchid
Below is a sketchbook page I've done from this meadow and also from Ynyslas dune slacks, with mainly orchids.

red marsh orchid,lesser butterfly,heath spotted,yellow rattle

Below are two sketchbook pages from Tregaron bog done recently.

Dragonfly, bogbean, horsetail,deer grass, red damselfly 

Ragged Robin,Marsh Cinquefoil, cross leaved heath
Below are my latest pages from the Nature Sketchbook Exchange.

How does the Meadow flower its bloom unfold? Because the lovely little flower is free down to its root, and in that freedom bold.
William Wordsworth

Friday, 16 May 2014

In the Bog

It's been a whirlwind of a week at the SBA exhibition in London, where I met up with some amazing friends and fellow artists and I got a huge surprise and honour for one of my paintings. The SBA put on an amazing show and so much hard work goes into it. I wish I could visit again and see the demos that artists are putting on.

Back at home the weather is beautiful and I've had many trips to the bog, Tregaron bog that is or Cors Caron. You can read up about it here.

It's a peaceful place humming with dragonflies and I spotted the green hair streak butterfly here for the first 
time. A beautiful iridescent flash of green flitting around the bilberries and bramble at the edge of the bog.

A large red damselfly landed on my arm, its thorax glowing copper and gold in the sunlight.

Delicate cotton grass sways in the breeze and the chattering of warblers is everywhere.

One of my favourite flowers here is the bogbean, Menyanthes trifoliata 
It has gorgeous frilly white flowers, tinged with pink.

The most common dragonfly I saw is the four spotted chaser.

I have abandoned my other nature reserve study for the moment as I seem to have been captivated by the bog. I will show some sketches from here in my next post but here is an old painting from a bog in Elan valley with a dam drawn in graphite in the background.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Horse Chestnut Mad!

Spring has begun here in Wales, the hedgerows and woodlands are bursting with fresh green leaves and delicate blossoms. As the days get warmer and the nights get shorter, I am still painting/drawing/obsessed with Horse Chestnuts! My family are fed up of me talking about them!!
My bud-burst painting is complete, such vivid colours in the bud when they flush crimson and release their sticky residues. 

Below is a full sketchbook study including the flowers, not out fully yet but it won't be long. The little white furry flowers have lemon yellow blotches inside which turns to crimson when they age or get pollinated.
You can see an old leaf scar drawn in which looks like a horse shoe complete with the nails; these were the vascular bundles of the stem that took water up towards the leaves. This could be another reason for their common name of horse chestnut.

Below another painting of the unfurling buds is being tackled; they are just so beautiful. Also they have such an array of interesting textures for the painter, from the furry, spider webby leaves to the stickiness of the leaf scales. Here I have used gum arabic mixed in with the paint, just a little. This retards the drying time of the paint and also gives a sticky, shiny look, hopefully anyway.

I have been out looking for local trees, below you can see the interesting, flaky textures of the bark.

 Below is a lovely tree in a local woodland; they are not so common to find in woodlands in Wales as they are more of a parkland species, so it is lovely to come across one. Their large leaves add a diversity to the canopy and their large flowers are almost exotic.

Well this post is my 100th post, I can't quite believe it. So thank you to all my followers and fellow artists, I'm not sure I'll make a 100 more!

Saturday, 29 March 2014

New Obsessions

Spring begins with a new obsession for horse chestnuts. I've gathered a few shoots from a local tree and each day as they've unfurled I've been sketching them eagerly. The sticky buds and leaf scales glisten as they capture the light and the fresh leaves are covered with a furry down, like a web. This is to prevent water loss and soon disappears as they open out more. They are fascinating to study and draw. The top leaf scales are a lovely carmine colour and further down they become golden, perfect for transparent quinacridones.

The horse chestnut Aesculus hippocastanum, is a native of the Greek/Albanian border region which was introduced into Western Europe in 1576 and to Britain in 1633. Its name comes from when Europeans found the Turks feeding conkers to sick horses in Constantinople in the 16th century. Today it is used in alternative and veterinary medicines.
Below is an interesting link about this tree:

The painter's obsession with his subject is all that he needs to drive him to work. - Lucian Freud

Grey willow, Salix cinerea is another wonder to draw, and quite difficult to capture that soft furriness; gouache paint can help here for this. This is for another habitat study, this time of a nature reserve very near my house called Grogwynion. It is a shingle heathland by the river Ystwyth which is an SAC - a special area of conservation. This is due to it being classed as a Calaminarian grassland as it has a high concentration of heavy metals from past mining activities. Because of this there are not many plant species so I should be able to fit every species I find on the one page! Hopefully anyway.

I've also been busy making some cards with Lunaria seedpods and handmade paper. 

I submitted four paintings to the SBA and am delighted that they will all be hung at Westminster Central Hall in May. It's going to be a great show and shouldn't be missed by any botanical art lover

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