Monday, 14 April 2014

Horse Chestnut Mad!

Spring has begun here in Wales, the hedgerows and woodlands are bursting with fresh green leaves and delicate blossoms. As the days get warmer and the nights get shorter, I am still painting/drawing/obsessed with Horse Chestnuts! My family are fed up of me talking about them!!
My bud-burst painting is complete, such vivid colours in the bud when they flush crimson and release their sticky residues. 

Below is a full sketchbook study including the flowers, not out fully yet but it won't be long. The little white furry flowers have lemon yellow blotches inside which turns to crimson when they age or get pollinated.
You can see an old leaf scar drawn in which looks like a horse shoe complete with the nails; these were the vascular bundles of the stem that took water up towards the leaves. This could be another reason for their common name of horse chestnut.

Below another painting of the unfurling buds is being tackled; they are just so beautiful. Also they have such an array of interesting textures for the painter, from the furry, spider webby leaves to the stickiness of the leaf scales. Here I have used gum arabic mixed in with the paint, just a little. This retards the drying time of the paint and also gives a sticky, shiny look, hopefully anyway.

I have been out looking for local trees, below you can see the interesting, flaky textures of the bark.

 Below is a lovely tree in a local woodland; they are not so common to find in woodlands in Wales as they are more of a parkland species, so it is lovely to come across one. Their large leaves add a diversity to the canopy and their large flowers are almost exotic.

Well this post is my 100th post, I can't quite believe it. So thank you to all my followers and fellow artists, I'm not sure I'll make a 100 more!

Saturday, 29 March 2014

New Obsessions

Spring begins with a new obsession for horse chestnuts. I've gathered a few shoots from a local tree and each day as they've unfurled I've been sketching them eagerly. The sticky buds and leaf scales glisten as they capture the light and the fresh leaves are covered with a furry down, like a web. This is to prevent water loss and soon disappears as they open out more. They are fascinating to study and draw. The top leaf scales are a lovely carmine colour and further down they become golden, perfect for transparent quinacridones.

The horse chestnut Aesculus hippocastanum, is a native of the Greek/Albanian border region which was introduced into Western Europe in 1576 and to Britain in 1633. Its name comes from when Europeans found the Turks feeding conkers to sick horses in Constantinople in the 16th century. Today it is used in alternative and veterinary medicines.
Below is an interesting link about this tree:

The painter's obsession with his subject is all that he needs to drive him to work. - Lucian Freud

Grey willow, Salix cinerea is another wonder to draw, and quite difficult to capture that soft furriness; gouache paint can help here for this. This is for another habitat study, this time of a nature reserve very near my house called Grogwynion. It is a shingle heathland by the river Ystwyth which is an SAC - a special area of conservation. This is due to it being classed as a Calaminarian grassland as it has a high concentration of heavy metals from past mining activities. Because of this there are not many plant species so I should be able to fit every species I find on the one page! Hopefully anyway.

I've also been busy making some cards with Lunaria seedpods and handmade paper. 

I submitted four paintings to the SBA and am delighted that they will all be hung at Westminster Central Hall in May. It's going to be a great show and shouldn't be missed by any botanical art lover

Monday, 10 March 2014

Three Years On

March brings a high pressure to the UK with much needed dry weather at last. The bees and butterflies are out in force, energised by sunshine. Spring flowers nod yellow and purple in the breeze and birds call to their mates. I have been busy too making a wildflower bed in my garden, ready for seeds of cornflower, poppy and foxglove plants.

It's also been three years since I started this blog, time flies and I really hope people still read it and like my work.

I have finished a painting of a skeletal holly leaf, twice life size to show up the detail of the intricate veins and patches of decay.

The colours used are cool cerulean in the highlights, 
transparent burnt sienna, quinacridone deep gold (Dan Smiths), raw umber for the warm colours,
Buff titanium (Dan Smiths), 
French ultramarine & light red for the grey shading,
French ultramarine & burnt umber for the darker sepia colour.
All paints are by Winsor Newton unless I have indicated otherwise.
I used wet into wet technique with some dry brush work on top for the detail. Also my magnifying glass was indispensable to get close up. Definitely a subject you can get carried away with and lose time.
I have plenty more skeleton leaves to paint, each time I go for a walk I find more to do!

I have also completed month two of the nature sketchbook exchange, 
a collection of seaside findings from Ynyslas and Tan y Bwlch beaches for Doreen.

It is turning out to be a very interesting and enjoyable challenge with some wonderful nature inspired artwork to be seen. There is a link in the side panel for the blog.

The SBA submission of paintings for the May exhibition in London is now less than a week away and I am still waiting for two frames. It's cutting it a bit fine to say the least.

This gouache parrot tulip will go to London along with a couple of other gouaches and the oak woods painting and hopefully they'll be accepted. Fingers crossed.

Next I will paint something spring like, Crocus vernus will do nicely.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Dreams of Spring

The question on everyone's lips in the UK is when will the rain cease? That incessant dripping on the windows and the wind howling down the chimney. The misery of flooding and dreary, grey days of pervading damp is enough to bring on SAD syndrome in anyone. The culprit is the jet stream which seems to be locked high above us and continually dragging in these big storms. I just hope it moves back to its usual place soon and maybe we will have a decent summer this year, (or at least we can all dry out a bit). My heart goes out to all the people affected by these monster floods, lets hope it stops soon.

And so with dreams of spring, I have begun a gouache piece of white Prunus blossom. I have painted some of this before so am relying on my old work and photos. The key here is to capture other colours within the shadows of the white petals; blue, pink, purple and yellow pastel greys.

I may add a sky at the end or maybe a bee? Not sure yet.
I experimented with my sycamore painting in gouache as I absolutely hated the blue background with the colours. I took my underused Pan Pastels and laid on a sky to detract from the blue and I do prefer it now.

I'm also working on a series of  'mosaic' style paintings, with fragmented nature subjects. It adds an element of abstraction to the piece and makes it more interesting, or just something a bit different.

And finally, a poem,


From the sad eaves the drip-drop of the rain!
The water washing at the lachel door;
A slow step plashing by upon the moor!
A single bleat far from the famished fold.
The clicking of an embered hearth and cold;
The rainy Robin tic-tac at the pane.

A sadness ever sings
Of unforgotten things,
And the bird of love is patting at the pane;
But the wintry water deepens at the door
And a step is plashing by upon the moor
Into the dark upon the darkening moor,
And alas, alas, the drip-drop of the rain!

Sydney Dobell

Monday, 27 January 2014

Bug Beauty

    I seem to be painting a lot of bugs lately and each have their own special beauty; some glisten with shiny iridescence like jewels while others are shiny or hairy. These characteristics make bugs fun and interesting to paint. I have a small collection of insects including some butterflies, moths, bees and beetles.
Below is a dor beetle, a type of dung beetle. They are very common; I have two in my collection. They are a bright shiny blue underneath and they do shine with hints of cobalt and violet in the light.

 I have been working on a commission of a tiny sweat bee, a Halictus rubicundus female, she has lovely ginger hairy back legs or tibias and a furry little body with white stripes on the abdomen.
I was given a specimen to work from and have enlarged it six times, my field hand lens was invaluable here. I also took two macro photographs to help get the detail. The bee is painted on a lesser knapweed , Centaurea nigra flower, a member of the Asteraceae, - the daisy family; these bees seem to favor flowers from this family.

Its hard not to get lost in these flowers, they are painted with cobalt and winsor violet from studies I made in a  previous summer.

I have also started another painting, I will let you figure out what it is.

Roll on spring!

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Happy Holidays

Broad leaved Dock - Rumex obtusifolius
I love these holey leaves, like lace.

I really have to take my hat off to Rosemary's brushes. 
I put an order in last night for 
5 sable brushes and they have arrived today,
 with chocolates!! I am in shock!
Thank you Rosemary xx

Wishing everyone a Happy Holiday wherever you are
 and a bright New Year to come.
Love and light from Wales x

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Fungal Foray

It's getting late in the season now for mushroom forays but there are still a few species to find out there. The weather has been a bit milder here recently and so great for some late mushroom hunts. 
 Every year I visit a local woodland in the hope of seeing the fungal fantasia that I found in October 2010. Everywhere I looked were the velvet caps of Boletus calopus with their beautiful red netted stipes and primrose yellow pores. But it was not to be this year again, maybe next year will be good for them, fungi are sometimes so elusive.

 I've found lots of all the usual suspects like Fly Agarics, Russulas and Wood Blewitts but one of the most plentiful mushrooms for me this year has been the Chanterelle. Their apricot to egg yolk colour stands out from the moss and leaves and they grow with most trees. They are very tasty to eat obviously that great french delicacy; it's lovely to see them in such abundance but then it's been a great year for most flowers and fruits. I've found a few false chanterelles too so you have to be very careful if picking mushrooms to eat. The false ones have a more orange colour and slightly different shape. 

I also found some poisonous 'yellow-stainers' the other day; these are the edible field mushroom look a likes,so similar but they stain yellow when cut while field mushrooms do not. They have a nasty smell of ink too. 
I love that some mushrooms have these strong odours,it's a great characteristic. Some smell pleasant like stewed apples, marzipan or honey while others pong like rotting fish, raw potatoes or TCP! The  smell of 'stinkhorns' is so pungent that it can be smelt upon the air without ever seeing the actual mushroom itself. They are one species that I wouldn't cut and take home to draw!!
Fungi really are fantastic.

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