Monday, 31 March 2014

Something a little different ........... and now to wood !

In my last post I mentioned about having a break from my normal creative streak.  Sometimes this can be an enforced break due to health reasons, but it can also be because we have just been so busy with painting commitments and we need time to refresh our creative juices.  Either way, it can be a struggle to find ourselves creatively again. Shevaun Doherty has just written a brilliant blog post about this, and the pointers given in it will certainly help many an artist.

During one of my enforced breaks, I had the opportunity to play around with some wood.  I have always loved the look of wooden boxes filled with pans of paint.  I know many of them are very old and artists have had them for some time.  The more modern versions come with a full set of paints (which I certainly don't need !) and can be rather expensive.

So my thinking cap became very active and I tracked down a company that sold plywood boxes for under £5.  I eventually found one the right size and after a few days I started to adapt it.

The dimensions of the box are: 
EXTERNAL - 27 X 16 X 4 CM
INTERNAL - 26 x 14.5 x 2.4 CM (lower part of the box) Lid inside is 1.7cm deep
Prior to varnishing I cut down some lengths of wooden beading to fit inside the box and glued these in with wood glue.
To work out the right measurement between divisions, I used several of the half-pans.
Once these were dry I set to and varnished the box, inside and out with an oak coloured varnish.
Because the pans sat too low in the box, I used some strips of foam board to make them higher and also glued these in.  The pans are held in place by a small piece of double-sided tape on the base of each.  The space at the top is to hold brushes.
Because of the depth of the lid, there is also room to store a small plastic foldaway palette.
I've still got my six key colours in this palette, but it has also given me room to add a line of handy opaque watercolours and some of my favourite Daniel Smith paints.
Another box adapted.  This one also came with the wooden divisions.  Once varnished, I lined it with some material and it is perfect for storing my tubes in.
Another box (the same size as the palette box), useful for those bits and pieces !
Half way through my painting break I received some exciting news.  Five of my paintings have been accepted by the Society of Botanical Artists, and four of them will be hung at their forthcoming London exhibition in May entitled the Botanical Garden.  The exhibition is taking place at Central Hall in Westminster, opposite Westminster Abbey.  If you get the chance to go there will be many botanical art paintings to see, along with a lovely shop to purchase cards, books etc.
Botanical Garden by Angeline de Meester (c) 2014 

Monday, 24 March 2014

Something a little different ..... using fabric

I always love reading Milly's blog Drawings from Nature and I also enjoy how she combines her artwork and her marvellous sewing skills. 

Her latest blog post describes how she makes a very pretty bag and adds one of her Hare prints to the fabric.

This reminded me of a form of bag that I made a couple of months ago.  I too have a love of needlework, but always feel the guilt that I am neglecting my drawing and painting, and also of course there just doesn't seem to be the time now I am teaching.

Whilst visiting a popular Swedish home store, I always love rummaging through the fabrics with their wonderful array of colours and prints.  I came across the fabric seen in the image below and just had to get some.  At that stage I didn't know what I was going to use it for !

It seemed so apt for my interest in the natural world, and having a navy background with white prints of natural objects, meant that the latter were nice and clear to see.
But what to make ?????
I decided to make a bag / pouch for my much treasured Stillman and Birn A4 Zeta sketchbook.  It will help to protect it on its travels too.
To add a bit of colour I used green thread in my sewing machine and I also found a button in my collection as well as some green tape, which I used for the button loop and it also added a nice contrast.
I think every now and again, I'll have a break from my normal creative streak and diversify into other crafts - it can be a refreshing break.  What next may you ask, well the next project involves a wooden box, some wood glue and varnish.  So all I can say is 'watch this space !'
Happy creating in whatever your interest may be !

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Back to my roots (ii) .....

A few weeks ago I had a day out that meant I was truly going back to my roots.  A trip to a beautiful part of west Dorset near a village with a wonderful name - Toller Porcorum.  The place I visited was the Kingcombe Centre, set in the middle of the Kingcombe Meadows Nature Reserve owned and managed by the Dorset Wildlife Trust.

The Kingcombe Centre was the place where I fell in love with portraying the natural world in a detailed and accurate way, under the tutelage of Gretel Dalby-Quenet in the late 1990's.  That was where I went on holiday, to spend my time immersed in art, ecology and wildlife with other like minded people.

Time has gone full-circle now, and now it is my turn to teach at the centre !  I feel very privileged, nervous and also very excited.  In October I will be teaching a residential course - Painting Autumnal Fruits, Berries and Seedheads.  Inspirational subject matter will be abundant in the hedgerows and hedgebanks bordering the lanes around the centre.

More images can be found on the tab above, and information about the course.

The lane leading down to the centre
Back to roots of the growing kind now, and let's see how roots can be portrayed in botanical art.

This is the root, or rather rhizome of Solomon's Seal Polygonatum mulitflorum.  It grows horizontally below the ground and also has adventitious roots growing off of the main rhizome..
This is quite a solid root to portray and once washed the colours were clearly visible and ranged from ochre, sienna to dark brown.  As well as the solid areas of the rhizome there were also some membranous parts, particularly the piece in the foreground.
Bulbs are also considered to be roots.  They have a disc-like stem and fleshy scale leaves and one or more buds, which are generally enclosed within protective scales.
When drawing the smaller roots that originate from the base of the bulb, it is always important to gauge the width of them correctly and I try as much as possible to draw two lines to represent each of the fine roots.  It is also important to show that these smaller roots are not just growing at the front of the subject as we see them on the paper so remember to show some behind, this will help to give more depth to the finished painting.
Hyacinth by Sharon Tingey.
© Sharon Tingey
I really like the way that Sharon has chosen to portray the roots to this Hyacinth.  What she has done is paint the negative spaces between the small roots themselves, thereby showing the soil that the plant is growing in.  When this approach is taken it is important to still apply some neutral tonal washes to the roots.  If they were just left white (as in the surface of the paper showing), they would look rather flat.  In the majority of cases small roots such as these are cylindrical.
Paphiopedelum orchid by Sharon Tingey
© Sharon Tingey
See some fascinating images below of how Sharon has illustrated the roots
These roots are quite hairy in appearance and Sharon has built up this detail gradually, first applying a pale wash of colour and then emphasising the variable colour and texture with deeper washes of several colours.
Paphiopedelum orchids are often terrestrial growing on the forest floor but some are also epiphytic, growing non-parasitically upon another plant.  Their roots enable them to get water and nutrients directly from the air.  Further still, some even grow in or on rocks and these are known as lithophytes.
I drew and painted these roots a while ago now and am not sure of what plant they originate from.
There were a wide range of colours being used and some of the roots were rather woody in appearance.  Note how I have still been careful to show how each of the roots are cylindrical in form, even though several colours are at play !
I used a size 2 brush that had a really good point (Isabey Kolinksy sable).  I make a great effort to look after my brushes and will often have several brushes of one size on the go.  One that has seen some use and the point is not as good as it was, one that is in between and another that is the newest and has the best point. 
These fine radish roots were painted using a size 1 brush, again with a good point.
The colour I used was a neutral wash, or as we botanical artists call them 'a botanical grey'.  The mix consisted of permanent rose, indanthrene blue and winsor lemon.  The three main cool colours in my palette.  Using the permanent rose in the neutral mix helps to bring some cohesiveness across the painting, as that colour was also used in the mix for radish colour.
These three illustrations above come from my latest painting, Quercus robur - new life.  It was interesting observing the root formation.  The example on the far right originated from a field sketch completed in 2008, from a specimen that had been grown at a tree nursery.  The other two had been recorded in my sketchbook at each stage of growth, as it was growing in a jam jar.
As the root first emerges from an acorn it looks as though it would grow in any direction, but it always grows downwards from the acorn and then takes on a variable growth pattern.  When it is growing naturally in a woodland, the main root would have to make its way around small obstructions in the soil, so whilst still growing downwards it would have to take on twists and turns.
I hope you have enjoyed this overview of roots.  It is often a subject I get asked about in my classes.
I would also like to thank Sharon Tingey who kindly let me use her Hyacinth and Orchid illustrations.  To see more of her wonderful work go to her website or see her latest artwork on her Facebook page - Sharon Tingey Natural Illustration