Saturday, 22 November 2014

Variety is good

 At the moment I'm enjoying a variety of media and styles;
Here's a small study of conkers in watercolour,


Some pen and ink; an alium seed-head study on coffee stained paper


Gouache; I've painted a trio of Sarracenia spp. twice life size.
These are amazing insectivorous bog plants with stunning veins and intricate patterns covered in tiny hairs, lovely to paint.


And finally some loose landscapes in watercolour. 
Here I used my imagination to create a mountain scene, using big brushes, sponge and very wet paper to achieve the misty effects.


Below are the brushes I used and I also do a prep. sketch in this little cold press paper notebook. Ripped up sponges are good too for those trees.


I also found a tip from Jane Blundell's blog, a great read for anyone interested in colour.
 One of my favourite grey mixes is winsor newton's light red and french ultramarine and so I have squeezed the two together in an empty paint pan and thoroughly mixed, and now I have an instant grey mix to hand. I use this in some botanical work but also landscapes,(the clouds in the mountain landscape above uses this grey). Fantastic.Variety is the spice.



Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Autumn Ramblings

Autumn has well and truly arrived in Wales, with the remains of  hurricane Gonzalo stripping the leaves from the trees.Hopefully some of the beautiful autumn colours will remain after the gales have gone, I'm not quite ready for winter yet! 
I've been busy lately working on a commission of a poppy, Papaver rhoeas which has taken me ages to paint. At last I have finished. I used Fabriano artistico hot pressed paper at 300lb weight for this painting as I used lots of watercolour washes and didn't want the paper to cockle. The 300lb (600 gms) paper is very thick and stiff and can take many, many washes without the need for stretching. It can take a fair bit of abuse this paper, very recommended; it is more expensive but very good quality. I usually use a 140lb weighted paper but only when not using large watercolour washes. The colours I used for the poppy were Indian yellow by Winsor newton, Translucent orange by Schminke and Vermillion (PR255) by Daler rowney, with a dash of winsor red for darker areas and Quinacridone red in some high lighted areas.


Below is a Poppy collage that I created in Picasa, interesting to play around with, I like the black background.



I had a go at making some inks too. I made blackberry ink, hawthorn and tea ink. The blackberry ink was a lovely carmine colour at first but changed to a colour similar to paynes grey over night. I did samples in 2 books. The old sketchbook with cheap non acid free paper kept the dark paynes grey colour but my book with more expensive, acid free paper in, the ink has now become a greener colour. The tea ink has remained a nice brown colour still. The hawthorn ink was a green colour and not so successful! It was fun experimenting and trying something new though.


 I've also had another workshop at Elan valley which went very well with lovely students. Unfortunately I forgot to take some photos of the day.
 I also went on a fungal foray there recently too, with botanist Ray Woods, who is extremely knowledgeable and enthusiastic about fungi and lichens, it was so great to meet him. I shall post a bit of my fungi journal too.





I had a trip to the National Botanic Gardens of Wales too on national fungi day, which was 12th October. They were having a fungi festival with forays and mushroom orientated stalls and events going on around the gardens. It was a great day with beautiful weather aswell. 
There are also some amazing tree sculptures; huge old trees with beautifully sculpted roots on show. Here are a few photos of them.




Lastly ,I have organised with Denmark farm near Lampeter to tutor some more workshops for next year. There will be 4 to run through the seasons, starting with one on January the 18th. We will look into depicting lichens, moss, bark and glossy evergreen leaves; winter subjects and we will use some different media.
Happy painting.

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.


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