Friday, 22 April 2011

Bluebell Woods

Here in Wales, we are having a spell of beautiful, hot weather. So yesterday I seeked out the cool woodlands of the Rheidol valley;they are sessile oak woodlands that clothe the sides of the valley, ending in the stunning Devils bridge waterfalls.There are many woods but I found the woodland reserve of Pant da, which begins with a beech copse covered with nodding bluebells. A path winds up through sessile oaks inter dispersed with birch,rowan,wild cherry and Larch.

A Pied flycatcher flits from branch to branch-a flash of black and white and cherry blossom falls like snow here and there.Dappled sunlight speckles the undergrowth of bramble ,ivy and moss and little brown butterflies sail in the warm air.

The sessile oak- Quercus petraea grows in the west of the UK and the main difference in identifying it is that the acorns have no stalk(they are sessile!) but the leaves have a long stalk. The pedunculate oak ,Quercus robur has the opposite.The sessile oak can tolerate the poor,rocky usually acidic soils found on these steep valley sides;hence their sometimes gnarled, stunted and twisted look.

At the top of the path is a seat with a nice view across the valley. A red kite flies overhead surveying the hilltops.

I'm currently working on several pictures at the moment but I'm hoping to do a bluebell and fern painting so here are some sketches.

I thought I'd post another bluebell study that I did a few years ago.

Happy Easter everyone xxx

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Spring sketches

After a very busy day yesterday doing a wedding function at work,including the photos(I only took 500!); I relaxed today with some spring sketches.

Spring is well under way with bluebells out 2 weeks early due to dry weather. I drew some primroses and an orange tip butterfly-one of my favourites. I was chasing them the previous weekend and managed to get some photos of them. I will try to draw some ladies smock- Cardamine pratensis, to go with it.This is one of the flowers that they lay their eggs on along with garlic mustard - Alliaria petiolata, and some other members of the mustard family(crucifers).

I will also post another spring painting that I did a couple of years ago.

Here we have a glistening inkcap mushroom,2 fern crosiers,a violet,

a lesser celandine and some dandelion seeds.

Happy spring xx

Wednesday, 13 April 2011


Today I received my SBA (Society of botanical artists) membership certificate,slightly late as I couldn't get to London to collect it;I was proud to become a full member last February.Unfortunately I wasn't able to go to the exhibition this year,(which is on at the moment in Westminster), due to work pressures.

Its an amazing show and worth visiting,with around 700 paintings to peruse;a great source of inspiration.I will definately try and exhibit next year so I'd better get painting some more.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Pieran Falls reworked

A place that I love to visit and sketch is the Hafod estate in west Wales.Its a place of wild walks,waterfalls and vistas and is steeped in history.It is now managed by the forestry commission but was once a private family estate made famous by Thomas Johnes in the 18th century.He set out to create a lush paradise in the Ystwyth valley of gardens and walks and a grand mansion was built.He also planted hundreds of trees.

Over the years the estate ran into disrepair and the mansion had to be demolished in 1958.It now lies as a pile of rubble but the Hafod trust are restoring some of the walks and historic features.

A waterfall there;Pieran Falls is a subject I painted years ago in pastels.I never liked the composition as it looked unbalanced but I decided to rework it today;and the new picture is shown above left.

I brushed off some of the pastel outdoors with a stiff brush and then worked over the top.The trouble with pastel I've found is the lack of contrast; sometimes its hard to get the darks dark enough.One answer is to work on dark tinted paper but here I just put in deep paynes grey to darken the edges,and blue in the sky.I also wiped out some of the foliage detail and took out the left hand rock at the bottom,which made it unbalanced.

I love sketching trees too and need to practise this more.This little sketch of a conifer plantation at the Hafod,was done in pen and inktense pencils .