Monday, 26 May 2014

The song of a Cuckoo .....

You may wonder what this blog post has in store going by the title - all will be revealed in this visual and audible narrative.

Just after my last blog post I had a very exciting and inspiring time in London at the Society of Botanical Artists Exhibition.  This is turning into a wonderful time of year when many friends get the chance to meet, catch up on news and share our botanical art ideas.  What was even more special was that those special friends were there to see me receive an award at the exhibition.

Many thanks to Katherine Tyrrell for the image.

I was thrilled to have been awarded a Certificate of Botanical Merit (CBM) for my painting of Echinacea purpurea.  For me I felt honoured as it is judged by a botanist, this year by Doctor Brent Elliott who is Historian for the Royal Horticultural Society.  You can read more about the other CBMs on Making A Mark.

In addition I had the exciting news that my painting of Galls of Quercus Species sold at the exhibition too.

There was a moment of calm after the exhibition, with a few days to reflect on new artwork ideas, plan a summer of painting and new courses for the Autumn term at Peter Symonds AHED; before another exhibition got underway.

This reflective time entailed visits to two of my favourite places -  Meon Shore, overlooking the Solent and a visit to Swanwick Lakes Nature Reserve.

Tidal pools looking towards Hill Head

I needed to collect some seashore items for a demonstration and also for a painting that I will be using as a teaching piece for two workshops coming up this summer.  The only thing was, I had got the tide times wrong, so therefore I ended up having to go down to the shore at 6am in the morning.  What a treat I was in for.  The beach virtually to myself, tidal pools to splash about in with my wellies on, and the beautiful bird song coming from the adjacent Titchfield Haven Nature Reserve.

Sunrise over Titchfield Haven Nature Reserve

Listen here to the cacophony of bird song on this track and if you listen carefully, you may hear the sound of a cuckoo.

If you didn't hear the cuckoo on that track, you can hear it more on this one, but you may need to up your volume level.

The collection of bits and pieces are gradually being turned into a painting that will evolve over the next few weeks with other items from my collection at home.

I hadn't been to Swanwick Lakes Nature Reserve for what seemed like such a long time.  The day I went there the weather was so glorious and I found myself sitting on the dipping platform overlooking the main lake in front of the classroom (the wooden cabin on the right).  Whilst there I watched the Heron stalk the Coot chicks and then saw the flash of a Kingfisher circle around the lake.  I was actually sitting near where it normally perches !

A sunny perch for me !

This visit was prior to  a workshop that I was teaching there - Botany & Art.  I had 4 students, so plenty of time was spent with each, and along with the usual demonstrations we all got to grips with the botanical features of flowering plants and how to portray them on paper.

The other exhibition that is now in full swing is The Society of Floral Painters exhibition at the Oxmarket Centre of Arts in Chichester.  I have been a member of the SFP since 2000 and the Society was originally set up in the mid 1990's by a group of artists that wanted to exhibit artwork on a floral theme, but in a variety of mediums.  This has been done successfully since its creation and the society also brings many artists together at other social events, workshops and open days.

The current exhibition is on until the 8th June.

Why not come along and have a look or alternatively enjoy this exhibition video.

As for me, once the exhibition is finished, I will be 'diving' into more artwork and hopefully will be exploring some options for 'professional development', that's what they used to call it in my previous working life anyway !

Happy painting !

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

What's in your field-kit ???

There have been some fantastic blogposts lately about drawing and painting field-kits.  The two that most impressed me are by Shevaun Doherty and Polly O'Leary

I find that the contents and method of carrying the field-kit can vary dependant on where you are going to be working.  Shevaun's blogpost is about sketching whilst in a museum and Polly's about studying plants in an area of marsh in the summer heat.

© Shevaun Doherty.  Sketching in Dublin Museum of Natural History

Having worked as an Ecologist in the past I was always used to having a survey field-kit pre-packed according to the survey type.  The kit I used for the woodland, hedgerow and grassland surveys contains many of the same items that I use in my current field-kit for drawing and painting.  More about that later.

Looking back through some images from the last few years I came across a few that show previous field-kits.

2011  A trip to New Hampshire and Maine.  Travelling from England meant that room was limited in my luggage.  Contents: A small A6 sketchbook, palette, Faber Castell fine liners, Pentell brush pen, propelling pencil, cotton rag, waterbrush (that I didn't use), travel sable brush and small folio with individual sheets of watercolour paper within.

2012 A trip to Wales and the Isle of Skomer.  I love this foldaway zip up pouch.  I can fit so much in there, but it folds and zips up completely.  As we were travelling around Wales by car, I could be a bit more extravagant and take a few more materials !

Now to the present .......
Recently, I have been sketching woodland plants.  Even though I have visited woods relatively close to home I still wanted to have a compact field-kit with the added addition of a firm surface to work on.
My present field-kit: An A3 'Weather Writer' (see below), paint palette, H & F pencils, water pot, small rule, scissors, specimen bags, hand lens (several of different magnifications), travel paintbrush, waterbrush (still trying to get used to using these), heavy-weight cartridge paper, ID charts (this one for ferns), Wild Flower Key by Francis Rose (my original one is in pieces, so this is a shiny new one) and finally, a zip up wallet which will contain all of my drawing and painting bits.

Now to the Weather Writer.  An ingenious invention, that I used non-stop during fieldwork as an ecologist.  It has a flap that closes with studs, which means everything can be contained in the dry.  This can then pop open and if the weather is a bit dodgy, you have a covered area to work under.  In addition on the reverse are two clips to make it into a clip board.  There is also a hole either side (on the A4 model), so that you can string a cord through it and hang it around your neck, which then leaves your hands free.
I now have a busy few days ahead, so no fieldwork for me.  I am off to London to see the Society of Botanical Artists Exhibition at Westminster Central Hall.  It is a fabulous opportunity to meet up with friends from all over the world.  Four of my paintings are being exhibited too.
© Sarah Morrish 2014.  A View Inside - Echinacea purpurea

© Sarah Morrish 2014.  A View Inside - Rosa rugosa hips

© Sarah Morrish 2014.  Quercus robur - New life

© Sarah Morrish 2014.  Galls of Quercus species

Friday, 2 May 2014

Print-making at Rum's Eg Gallery

Last year I was invited to teach a print-making workshop at Rum's Eg Gallery in Romsey.

I certainly do not consider myself a print-maker, but it is another form of art that I enjoy taking part in.  What was just something a little different from my usual work, every now and again raises some interest.

The workshop took place on Wednesday and I had a group of six very enthusiastic students.

My aim when teaching about producing lino-cuts, is to introduce students to an inspiring form of print-making, that can be done at home, in a small space if need be and at a reasonable cost.

The carving tools we use for carving are produced by Abig.  I have tried several tool options and these come up as being a good all round tool set for those new to print-making and/or returning to it.  The main thing to consider is that you have a tool handle that is comfortable in your hand.

There is the option of carving into lino.  This is hessian backed and can come in a variety of thicknesses, the most common being 3mm.  During the workshop I introduced the students to another material for carving.  It is called Soft-cut - I think the name says it all.  When using lino you have to make sure that the lino is kept warm.  This is for two reasons: To make it easier to carve and this also means that there is less likelihood of your tools slipping. The Soft-cut is a great option, particularly for workshops and we found that you were still able to achieve clean cuts in the lino and the prints produced from it came out very well.

Carving a design into a piece of soft-cut.

Design ideas

Once the design is carved, the printing can begin !

Rolling sepia water-based printing inks onto the Soft-cut

Printing using my small press.

Last, but not least, the beautiful results from the day.

My next print-making workshop is taking place at Swanwick Lakes Nature Reserve, near Southampton, on Saturday 18th October.

Follow this link for more information.