Thursday, 30 August 2012

Iris Field

It is always hard to get started painting again after the exhibition, but this year I was forced to knuckle down to it, as I received an order for one of the paintings in the exhibition that had sold. Painting a second version can be difficult as it never looks exactly the same. The client, however, is delighted with the result, and I feel that I am up and running again. I have painted one fairly traditional study of Agapanthus (which I will save for a later post) and today at Avon Valley Artists I had another go at the doily method. This is the last opportunity to paint 'free choice' as next week we start the formal programme again.It was therefore an ideal time to be a little more free, although I do intend to attempt as many subjects as possible in a more loose manner. We will see what happens!

I found this photo in a Gardens magazine that I take monthly and really liked the swathe of flowers across the green background

As my mother is at present resident in my studio, packing up my things for today's painting was a bit hit and miss, and I am sorry to say that I forgot my camera, so cannot show you each stage of the painting. It is, however, exactly the same process as before.........put a wash on the paper ( I have used a quarter sheet of the 600gm board that I bought recently) and let it dry thoroughly; Speckle the sheet with fairly strong dark colours to represent the flowers ; add the painted doilies and then add finishing touches such as white highlights, spots of yellow for the 'beards' and plenty of stems and leaves at the base. For anyone who is new to my blog, this is all explained in the two previous posts......'Cow Parsley' (14.6.12) and 'Summer Meadow'. (14.7,12) Another example is also shown in the post entitled 'Blossom (21.6.12)

I kept the flowers more separated than in the photo, as I did not want the finished piece to be a band of colour so much as a bed of somewhat individual flower heads. Although it is quite abstract in design I hope that the finished painting does say 'Irises' to you.

Just a word about the paper. It is certainly heavy enough to stay flat when using lots of water which is good, but I had some difficulty with the initial wash. I thought I had wet the paper really well and expected to be able to move the paint around as I can with the Fabriano Artistico. This paper, however is very quickly  absorbent, and I found it almost impossible to alter the paint once it was on the paper. It was like blotting paper, and on the right hand side of the painting I put a pool of quite dark paint intending it to spread and diffuse across the painting, but it stayed exactly where it was and was very difficult to wash out. In the end, I had to crop off this part of the painting. I will use up the sheets I bought, but will not be replacing them.

Sunday, 26 August 2012


As promised, a quick look at the painting of Sunflowers that I completed during the quiet times at the exhibition. The 'Poppies' painting is at the end of my previous post, and that is now framed and ready for the next exhibition.
The Sunflowers came about when a member of the painting group brought a bunch in to paint on the Thursday 2 weeks before the exhibition. She was going on holiday the following weekend and said I could take them home as they would fade during her absence. Anyway, it appears that she had a whole swathe of them in her garden and had never managed to grow so many in one season. Of course we are all eager to know the  specific name of the variety she grew, so that we can all have a go next year. I started the painting the following week and took the pad to the exhibition, where the public, especially the children seem to enjoy seeing someone paint, and I needed to keep busy, or people think you are watching them ready to pounce!

As this is a fairly figurative painting, with nothing very much of an experimental nature to it, there is not a lot to say. I started with the centres as this helped me see the composition better than just the pencil drawing, and added a bit of the background as well..

The flowers were painted with a variety of yellows including Cadmium, Hansa and Indian, with Venetian Red for the darker areas. I left plenty of the petal edges white or nearly white to give some contrast and painted the background with my two favourite background colours.....Indigo and quinachridone rust.Leaves were painted with Apatite Green mixed with various yellows.

Finally I darkened the centres of the flowers as they seemed a bit lacking in punch.

As usual the paper is Fabriano Artistico Extra White 300gms, 30cm x 45cm.

An added bonus is that a visitor wanted the painting, so I removed  one that had not seemed to attract too much comment from its frame and put the Sunflowers in its place, and the customer went away very happy, and I was quite pleased too!

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

The Exhibition

Wow! What a week and a half it has been. I am both exhausted and exhilarated at the same time. The whole exhibition was a huge success and when I get back down to earth it will be the inspiration I need to get painting again.

The Chapter House is the most beautiful room to use for an art exhibition, it is so easy just to prop the paintings on the Cannons seats around the room, and although the morning light is a little dark until the sun is above the window levels, the paintings do look great. Although I say it myself I was enormously proud of how it all looked.

I am really pleased by the amount of work that was sold and delighted that I was able to contribute to the Cathedrals coffers (They take 15% of sales which is very good) Hopefully I will continue to be asked back each year and already have next years date.

During the course of the 10 days there were some quiet moments so I enjoyed myself by painting a couple of images. The visitors, especially the children enjoyed watching me. I painted some poppies (which was finished too late to mount and frame) and some sunflowers ( which sold instantly!). I will keep the sunflowers for a later post, but have included the poppies below. Hope you like it!

Wednesday, 8 August 2012


Just a quick post this time, as the exhibition is approaching with enormous rapidity. There has been so much to do. It is quite a daunting task to check over 90 paintings for labels, fingermarks on glass, decent bubble-wrap bags etc. I try to do as much as possible ongoing during the year, but it is still quite hard work. All is now more or less ready, so I am posting this whilst I have a few minutes, as nothing will get done, neither painting nor posting over the next 8 - 10 days. If I paint anything half decent at club tomorrow, I may prepare a post in draft form to post later, just to keep the blog active, but if I do not manage it, the blog may well remain silent for a couple of weeks, but I will be back!

I found some honesty at the end of a track I use to fetch the morning paper each day, and with the sun on it it really asked to be painted.
I wanted to be as loose as possible, but I still did a good drawing so that I had some idea of where I was going. I was back to using Fabriano Artistico on the block for this painting, as I had quite a lot to carry, and it seemed easiest.

Then, just an attempt to put wash on wash to try to capture the delicacy of the seed pods as well as their slightly distressed appearance from the continual traffic along the lane.

I did use a drawing pen to mask out the outer rims of some of the seed pods with masking fluid as I wanted them to be sharply white against the background. I also tried to remember to take the background colour into some of the pods where they were torn by the weather. I also tried to remember to leave a small highlight on some of the seeds to help make them more 3 dimensional. I think, on looking at the pictures, that maybe they are a tad strong in colour. A bit more muted would be better, but its too late now as its packed ready for the exhibition.
I tried not to fiddle too much, to leave areas without detail, and plenty of lost edges.
Finally, I tried to strengthen the background in the middle of the painting to push the Honesty forward and give it more umph, by creating a greater contrast between the two.

My apologies as I forgot to take a photo of the finished work before framing it, so the next two photos may not be that brilliant.

The finished painting is about 26cm x 36 cm with a 7cm mount in a 40cm x 50cm frame

Thursday, 2 August 2012

New Paper

I have been having some small problems with the paper I use on a regular basis. I am lazy by nature and produce a fair old number of paintings during the year, Hence, I really do not want to have to stretch each piece in the time and tested way. Not only does it require planning, but carrying the board to and from the art group is heavy and cumbersome. I have been pleased with the advent of the gummed block as this is supposed to make cockling a thing of the past. Sadly, with the amount of water that I use in my work, even good quality paper like the Fabriano Artistico 300gm paper still created bumps  in my paintings. This is not a problem in so far as when dry, it does become relatively flat again, and any extra flattening is not difficult to achieve. However, I have been finding that the washes accumulate in the hollows and can put unsightly stripes in the painting.
Peter, a member of the Art group, is very good about doing mass orders for us to save postage, so I thought I would test out a heavier duty surface. I ordered some sheets of Fabriano 300lb extra white, and some sheets of  Hahnemuhle 'Cornwall' 450gm paper ( I do wish they would decide which weight measure we should use across the board!) I quite liked the look of the texture of the 'Cornwall' and though it might fit with the work I have been doing lately. I will let you know how I get on with the heavier Fabriano in a later post, but decided to start with the 'Cornwall'

For those of you who are not familiar with the paper, I think you can clearly see the surface and the effect of adding paint.

Remember the point of the exercise was not to stretch the paper, but to paint with plenty of water and see if I could keep it flat.
As this was an experiment with paper, I decided to stick with what I know best, and do a straight painting with a washed background. The subject is pink hellebores, as I came across a rogue plant in the process of flowering at the moment. I am sure it has never flowered at this time of year before!
I did the drawing in the usual way, and painted the individual flowers before tackling the background.

So far so good, but then the Fabriano was always fine at this stage. I wet the background fairly thoroughly, and started to drop the colours into place, and as it dried I realised that the paper was not going to stay flat. No cockling appeared in the middle of the paper, but there was considerable curling of the edges which made working on the painting difficult and uncomfortable.

I had to turn the painting over onto a clean board covered in white paper, (I am always afraid that the wood colour will seep out of the board and stain the painting) and to liberally spray the back of the painting, dampening it throughout, and then placing more paper and another heavy board on the top. Leaving it to dry thoroughly, it did in fact become flat again and I was able to finish the painting.

I have decided that this paper will get used in future for my more abstract collage work, as the texture made very little difference to the finished painting, and I will continue to paint my usual florals on my still favourite Fabriano Artistico Extra White.

In fairness to the 'Cornwall' paper, it was extremely hot in the studio, and maybe the paper just dried out too quickly to keep its shape, and there certainly was no cockling in the centre of the paper, although I did not have it very wet at that point.