Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Rose Bay Willow Herb

I have been dog sitting this week and have spent more time than usual at home so have been able to do a bit of extra painting.
I have been tempted over the past few weeks by the bundles of random dyed silk strips hanging on the studio door. They got moved and so the colours were slightly different. Hanging out the bottom of the bundle were some strands of the most beautiful cyclamen colour and I felt the time was right to give it a go.
I am sure I have posted a photo of the silk strands but cannot instantly find it to say which post date it is in, so I am including it again here. Sorry to repeat myself!!

These are two bundles of habutai (?) silk strips which I bought at 'Patchings Art Festival' a couple of years ago without having any idea of what I might do with them

So, using a piece of 500g paper, I roughly pasted the surface with white gesso and applied the fine strands of the silk edgings to the gesso surface. To do this, I simply ran my fingers through the strands and pulled off any loose threads. There are lots, so it is easy to do..
I tried to arrange them roughly in flowers spike shapes. Be warned.... the whole of this process is very messy on the fingers.

  At this stage it does not matter what colour they are as the silk readily absorbs the colour of the wash which is applied once the gesso is completely dry. I used a combination of Ultramarine Pink and Alizarine Pink for the flowers and Pthalo Blue, Pthalo Green and Quinachridone Gold Deep for the base.

I allowed this to dry completely and then added more paint to create the flower shapes and a bit of the undergrowth. At this stage, I thought maybe the painting was finished as it was without the silk, so I did no more.

That still left me without a silk collage so.....I repeated the process from the beginning, but once the background wash was dry, I used only the silk, cut into tiny squares to create the flowers. This gives a much more abstract look to the painting. I used pva medium to attach the fabric and then I added a little acrylic white gouche to give me a few highlights.
I think they are both finished, but I will live with them for a week or so before giving each of them an antique white mount.

It is a good job that I do not have to decide which one I prefer!!

Monday, 3 April 2017

Agave and Wisteria

This week I painted the second of the 'Flowers and Foliage' at Avon Valley artists. I chose to have another go at the sunlight on leaves and selected a picture of an Agave plant as the subject. I was quite disappointed with the result as I felt it was too tight and too contrived and lacked any real centre of interest.

I do not always expect success, so was happy to have had a lovely morning with the group and the painting will join a pile of others destined, maybe, for the bargain browser at the summer exhibition.

A direct result of the Agave effort was a desire to paint something loose and wet in wet and to have a bit of fun with the paints.
I browsed my resource box and found a number of blue and pink wisteria photos......was not aware that wisteria could be pink!

The idea was no drawing, no pre-planning and just plenty of paint and water.
On a piece of Fabriano Artistico Extra White rough paper, I sprayed plenty of water in the central area, and dropped on plenty of cobalt blue pigment. I allowed the paint to run where it felt inclined and then added a few patches of white acrylic ink to create a few muted passages and left it to dry.

The next process was very hit and miss. I used the brush head to create the flower shapes, adding darks and lights as I went along and simply created the falling fronds of the wisteria across the page. It was as simple as that.
I added a few leaves and stems at the top and a few extra darks and lights ( using the acrylic white) and I made myself stop before it became over worked.
The flowers were all produced using Ultramarine blue, ultramarine violet and acrylic white.
There is very little detail in the bulk of the flowers, only in the ends of the stems and this is only very simple blobs of paint using a smaller brush.

A very satisfying couple of hours or so. Just a bit frustrating waiting for the layers to dry!

                                                              Wisteria     27x37 cms

Monday, 27 March 2017

New 'Old Dutch Masters' : Tulips

Over the past two weeks we have been asked at Avon Valley Art Group to use something 'Old/Vintage/ Retro as our starting point.
From time to time we have these two week sessions to enable us to paint more complex images, or to indulge in subjects we specifically like.

I am not sure how I came up with the idea, but I think it was from some images that I saw in a Gardening magazine, advertising some new strains of Tulips.
I decided to have a go at painting a pot of tulips in the style of the old Dutch Masters from around the time when tulip bulbs were very rare  and the flowers were often found in these old paintings.
I realised that what we see today when looking at these paintings, is not what was actually painted, as I am sure that they would have been brighter in colour, but I wanted to try to replicate the darkness of the oils, but using watercolours.

I am really pleased, just for once, with the outcome. It was quite difficult to decide on background colours but I kept the furniture dark and the lower background equally dark to swallow up the detail
and the upper background just dark enough to throw the flowers forward. I used lots of Daniel Smiths 'Bordeaux' and 'Indigo' with some 'Burnt Umber' and black ink at the base of the background.
It did take ages to paint all the flowers as they could not be done too loosely in this instance, and so it took the two full sessions and some time in the studio at home to finish the painting.
It is so unlike anything I have done before, that I am not sure that I want to put it up for sale in the exhibition in August, but I ma not sure where it would fit on my walls at home. Something to think about!

Sunday, 26 February 2017


This past two weeks, it is the first time at Avon Valley Artist's group that we have given over two weeks to the same subject. The thinking behind this was that members might like to tackle something more complex and work at it over the two sessions. The subject was 'Interiors'
I find this quite difficult as I need continuity with my painting. Once I am started I tend to work at least daily on the piece. That way I seem better able to keep in my mind the thinking behind what I am doing. That sounds a bit strange, but I work better that way. At AVA I am also used to doing the prep at home and more or less finishing the piece during the single session.
This was not a problem for the group, as we agreed that once a member had painted an interior, they could either chose to do a second one. or they could have a free choice of subject.
I chose to paint two separate images.

The first of these is the corner of my guest bedroom. I love the chest of drawers and wanted to see if I could render the wood interestingly. The still life objects on top were bits I collected around the house.
The second week I painted the still life with enough background.....the tablecloth and painting on the wall behind.....to fulfil the 'Interiors' bit .
I am much more pleased with the second one. The weak areas of the Bedroom painting are numerous and I am not sure that compositionally, the painting is very interesting.
The still life pleases me more. The doiley works well, and was done by simply stencilling a doiley onto the background. The only problem was getting the shape correct where it went over the top of the table. Where the paint seeped under the paper doiley, I left it as it seemed to make it looser and less contrived.
Painting the flowers and fruit was much more within my comfort zone and I enjoyed the process.

The thing that really puzzles me, and sometimes frustrates me, is the way in which these sorts of subject lead me to paint in a much more realistic and less fluid way. I cannot work out why I cannot paint these subjects in the same loose way that I paint my flower paintings.

A recent example is these lovely foxgloves that I did in the studio recently.

Despite all these frustrations with certain subjects on the group calendar, I would not change the system, as the compulsory topics push us all to attempt subjects well outside all our comfort zones and the results are often unexpected and sometimes stunning. It is a real pleasure to paint with a group of enthusiastic and talented painters!

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Wildflower Meadow

This week at Avon Valley Artists Group, the subject was 'Wild Aspects'
There were lots of wild animals depicted by members and a few attempts at wild weather.
From the title of this post, you can see that, true to my leanings, I chose to attempt to paint a wildflower meadow. It is not something that I have attempted often in the past but as I do try to be a bit experimental at AVA I thought I would give it a go.
It took quite a bit of preparation, which meant work on the evening before the group met, and I was sure it would not be finished by the end of the session.
This meant that when I got home with the half finished painting, I remembered to take a photo, so am able to share a bit of the process with you.

I started the painting by opting for a high skyline, above which I lightly pencilled in a few trees.
Using masking fluid and a drawing pen, and a rubber marker, I covered the whole of the lower area with lots of stem, grass and flower shapes. I did this the night before to give the fluid chance to dry properly. By using the drawing pen I could get lots of variety in the thickness of the lines and I used the rubber marker for the more rounded fatter shapes of the flowers.
The following morning, I started by putting a pale blue wash over the tree area and well into the meadow, and a wash of variegated greens in the lower half of the painting. When it was dry, I painted in the trees. When this was dry, I carefully removed the masking fluid
It was then just a case of gradually working across the picture from left to right, I was able to work continuously as I did little bits from top, middle and bottom, allowing small sections to dry as I worked elsewhere.

When all the flowers and stems and grasses where finished, I over-painted some darker stems etc especially in the base of the painting. I added a few daisies into these dark grasses

I tried to make the meadow recede by painting the flowers in a bit more detail and obviously bigger at the front with only a series od dots right at the back with a few tall straggly stems growing into the sky area.
It was quite a repetitive process, and did take some time to complete, but I had lots of fun, and am glad I gave it a go!

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

AVA Catch up: Fungus, Winter, Experimental work

The days get busier and busier, and although I am still painting regularly, I do not seem to find that extra time to keep the blog active. Sadly, I think it will get worse as Christmas approaches!
Anyway, just a very brief catch-up on what has been happening at Avon Valley Artists Group.
Three recent weeks subjects for you to look at.............not all successful, but hopefully interesting.

This is my response to the subject of 'Fungus' I found this interesting purple specimen in a book on the subject and really enjoyed playing with the texture of both the pods and the undergrowth. I especially enjoyed the latter, sticking all sorts of paper, threads and gesso to the paper before starting to paint.

This painting is my response to the subject  'Limited Palette'. We were allowed two tubes, pans or sticks of colour and I used Indigo and Quinachridone gold. There was a lot of masking fluid to start with, as I knew I would not be able to add hightlights with white.
 I did add more white when I got home and a bit of splatter to give a more wintery feel to the painting.

This is my take on our experimental week. We had to include newspaper in the work and there was some confusion about whether we had to cover all the ground with newspaper first, or just parts of it.
I went for a complete sheet which was possibly a mistake, and we could only use black and white and one other colour. I selected Brown Madder, but when starting the painting, I wished I had chosen a more yellow gold pigment. However, the Brown Madder does seem to take it into the surreal which is perhaps no bad thing for experimental work.
I am also disappointed that I covered nearly all the news print. I would have liked to have seen more of it in the finished piece, not just the texture that it created.

Hope you enjoy looking.

Saturday, 8 October 2016


Back to some old favourites this week for my solution to my art group subject of  'Harvest'

The work is done on Hahnamuehle 'Cornwall' matt 450gm paper. I like this density as it avoids buckling whilst painting, especially if I am going to start with a fairly wet wash.

I started by wetting the top corner of the painting, and dropping in some Indigo and Bordeaux and allowing them to mix freely together. Whilst still very wet, I blew the paint with a straw to send 'twiggy' shapes diagonally across the paper.

When the background was dry, I did a light drawing of the composition, very vague just so that I knew where I might want the fruit. I could alter it as I went along if required. I did the drawing on top of the wash to enable me to erase it as I worked the painting.

The dark berries were painted with Indigo and Bordeaux, the green ones with a mixture of Serpentine Green and Yellow Ochre, with a hint of Quinachridone Coral in places, and the red ones with a mixture of Quinachridone Coral and Pyrrol Red.

The leaves were painted with Serpentine Green, Cadmium Yellow and Yellow Ochre.

The initial background wash gave me vague shapes in the background which I slightly enhanced and the twiggy bits were made into stems using various browns.

When the painting was displayed at the end of the session, I was encouraged to leave it totally alone as it seemed to have reached the point of completion. However, propping it up in the studio for a few hours made me realise that all the lower fruits were art the same level so I added 3 more blackberries and a leaf to the spray second from the left to take it slightly lower. I think this works better.

Hope you enjoy looking.