Monday, 20 August 2012

Fun with Vegetables and my Palette

Since coming home from Edinburgh I have felt really inspired and refreshed in my approach to watercolours.  I have been reviewing my palette even more (I started a few months ago) and as well as continuing to look at the transparency levels of the paints I use, I have also returned to using a restricted palette.

There were colours in the palette from the RBGE course that I liked, but there were a couple I wasn't so sure of.  Indigo (Winsor and Newton) I found particularly opaque and also very staining (Old Holland Indigo is transparent), whilst Permanent Alizarin Crimson is ok, but I really wanted to add a 'warm' red to the palette.  New Gamboge was a colour that I have liked from the course and it is a fantastic alternative to the cadmium yellows, as it is not opaque.  It is classed as a 'warm' yellow, but wasn't quite warm enough for me, so I have chosen one of my favourites, Quinacridone Gold.

So the colours that I have ended up with are all Winsor and Newton:

Permanent Rose - Cool
Perylene Maroon - Warm
Quinacridone Gold - Warm
Winsor Lemon - Cool
Indanthrene blue - Cool
French Ultramarine - Warm

I expect some of my Old Holland colours will creep in now and again, but for the moment I am really enjoying using these colours and feel that I am creating much 'fresher' washes with my new found awareness of transparency and colour temperature qualities.  Also, I will be using the colours once I start teaching again in September.  Below are the two colour wheels I created using these. 

My painting has been a bit restricted since I returned as I seem to have an ongoing neck problem, so can't sit in the same position painting for very long.  This has unfortunately meant that I have had to step away from the Seashore Life Illustration project that I was working on for the Wildlife Trust.  I really do hope that I can return to it in the future, but any comfortable painting time needs to be devoted to botanical art, as that is the main subject I will be teaching from September.

I have enjoyed working on a couple of small studies of vegetables.  I am down in Devon again on my friend's farm giving her some tuition time and have been exploring her polytunnel for little treasures to paint ! 

I painted the chilli first and tried desperately to maintain the highlights.  I persevered with it and didn't seem to lose them too much.  When I first put on the washes the white spaces for the highlights seem so severe and stark, it takes time to develop the painting and stepping away from it is always a good idea - bad neck or not !

The Borlotti beans were great fun to do.  I had always wanted to paint these beans after seeing them in Billy Showell's book (Fruit and Vegetable Portraits).  These specimens were not yet fully grown, but they still had the familiar variegated pattern over the green.  I used a lovely blue that I find creates some great realistic greens - Indanthrene blue and Winsor lemon for the green and used Permanent Rose for the patterning.

Base washes to add tone and form

The finished painting

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Home from Edinburgh and garden bat-watching !

The RBGE Cert in Botanical Illustration finished last Friday and I got back to good old Southampton on Saturday.

I would be lying if I said that I did not miss Edinburgh, or rather studying at the Botanics.  I gained so much from being with other artists (whatever level of experience) and just to be somewhere with so much history and opportunity for inspiration and reference was really valuable.
A florilegium from 1630
One of the highlights for me at the end of the first week was to see two Florilegiums.  One dating from the early 1600's and the other one from the present day - The Highgrove Florilegium.  The latter consisted of two volumes that included illustrations of the plants and flowers found growing in the garden of Prince Charles' home in Gloucestershire.  I had previously heard so much about this and had been longing to see some of the work in one form or another, and I certainly was not disappointed.  The reproduction and print quality  of the artwork was excellent. 

Viewing a volume of the Highgrove Florilegium
Back to the course.  At the end of our first week we were given our plant to look after during the weekend and if we wanted to, to start making some preparatory measured drawings.  We had 1 week to work on the final assessment piece, with the main composition being decided on the Monday. 

I must admit when I heard that the plant species we were all going to have was Cyclamen Persicum, my heart sank - it is not one of my favourite plants!  After the initial negative feelings I realised that we needed a plant that had plenty of subject matter, was not going to die on us during the week and also a plant that artists of any level of experience could illustrate.

We used all of the skills that we had practised and gained during the first week to complete this picture and we had a criteria to adhere to.  We had to illustrate a flower and the front and back of leaves.  Anything in addition was up to us.  The part of the planning process that I really did enjoy was making individual drawings, tracing them and then using the tracings on the lightbox to come up with an effective and viable composition.
I have not been a fan of tracing in the past as I feel you can sometimes lose the 'crispness' of the drawing.   I am an artist that likes to live dangerously and nine times out of ten I do draw my subject directly on to the watercolour paper !

I am including a few photos below, I'm afriad that there are too many to show them all, but I hope this will give you some idea of how the painting progressed.

Making a start
Stems completed - now onto the leaves
The leaves finished

Cross-section and fruit
Close-up of bud

The finished painting - Cyclamen Persicum
As I speak the portfolio and painting are being marked in Edinburgh, so hopefully by next week I should know how I did.

And now for bat news !

I had noticed that when I returned home we had some bat droppings on patio in a small area.  I wondered whether there were any bats roosting between the guttering and fascia board.  There was only one thing to do - get the bat detector out !

The droppings looked like Pipistrelle droppings, so we sat out just after sunset last night with the bat detector set at around the right frequency for Common Pipistrelles.  We had a few quiet passes of this species following the tree line behind our house, and then we had a really strong sound of Common Pipistrelle that must have emerged from near the place that I had originally thought they or it may have been roosting. 

This morning there were not any fresh bat droppings, but as the males can be quite transient in the summer months, we may only be providing a temporary roost.

There is something quite comforting about sitting out in your own back garden under a blanket and eating chocolate whilst listening for bats - a bit different from the bat surveys I used to do !