Another skimpy post this week…………………. I am at a loss to where my days go, and so quickly too.
Bit of a quickie this week…………
Started the week having a go at some pumpkins, they are satisfying to sketch with their lovely round forms.
Then my eye was caught by a Callicarpa growing in the garden, it catches my eye and my attention every year because of the glorious colour of the berries, its common name is ‘beauty berry’ and I understand why.
I decided to make this the subject of my next coloured pencil drawing….. a great excuse to use the purples that have been lurking around unused since I tried a Cerinthe back in the spring. Lush!
A close up of how it is progressing.
It’s not that I have not been drawing but I have not been drawing very much, my intentions of drawing every day just flew out the window. The only artistic tool I have had in my hand for the last month has been a paintbrush – a house painting brush.
So, what have I done? Well on two occasions I was overambitious and started drawings of large specimens which I was unable to continue with or to finish. I did not think forward about how my days were going to pan out and then when I got back to the drawing the specimen had shrivelled, withered and I did not have back up photographs. Another good lesson to learn; think hard before starting something ambitious. Pictures attached are very poor as the graphite is too faint for my photography skills and I have over adjusted the contrast. I have just put them in for the record.
I also had a go at drawing outside again, sitting in the sunshine with the breeze waving the plants around. Good practice at looking and remembering and not being too precious. I love poppy seed heads, they are so much fun to draw, seem like little crowds of people.
I also had a go at Crocosmia, which actually flowered in the garden this year, it seems to have been a good growing year for many things. This also was a venturing into colour for the first time for a long time – and it was orange again – I have a weird attraction to orange I realise that now……. Again I was disheartened by my efforts, my petals end up heavy and lumpy.
The final drawings I have managed are of a fantastic Dahlia flower that is so luscious in colour changing from apricot (orange!!), peach (pale orange!!) to yellow with lots of yummy shades in-between. A massive challenge to draw with so many petals twisting and turning this way and that, but that bit went quite well. I then traced off my drawing to give me the base for a colour drawing. Taking advice from others that have been kind enough to support me I used an underpainting of yellow watercolour to cover the paper before starting with the coloured pencils.
The colours are not quite right in the photo so this detail shows them better.
But my petals are still lumpy and thick. However, excitingly, I am starting a coloured drawing course later this afternoon with Ann Swan who is a brilliant coloured pencil botanical artist and I am hoping to learn loads; whole week of drawing and learning, how lucky am I!
I hit a low spot last week; took on too much so I felt overburdened and put upon. But action has been taken – I have dropped one commitment and reviewed my attitude to my own efforts (I would hate to work for me, I am a hard taskmaster indeed). But enough of this already and onto what has made it onto paper this week.
In the hope that eventually I would draw something that I would like to own as mine own, I fiddled around with my signature. My initials are S & H which together can look like a dollar sign ($). Here are my efforts, I wanted to include the date in some way but decided that month and year were enough:
The one I think I will go with is below, but looking at it again I might change my mind (any comments or suggestions would be appreciated).
Plant of the week was the wonderful Foxglove; they spread themselves elegantly about the garden in shades of cream, white and maroon, with beautiful markings; just beautiful and enticing to draw. Despite the lush colour I stayed with pencil.
I am going to post the four scrubby drawing I managed this week. I put them up as the intention of this blog is to share my progress as I struggle to revive my art practice. The best thing that I can say about them is that they have been done. I have managed to hack out a couple of hours and to sit myself in front of a drawing board and start, which is no mean achievement this week. I had another go at the Easter Cactus.
But the plant that caught my eye in the garden was another weed – this time the wild carrot (Daucus carota) a small specimen but bushy and growing well. I read that it is a plant of high summer so that shows how forward the season is this year after the mild winter. The attraction was the festoon of bracts beneath the flower umbel so I had a good scribbly go at them.
And finally this afternoon I attempted a more detailed sketch.
When the flowers are finished and they turn to seed, the flower heads contract and become concave like birds’-nests. I like this plant, it grows well in the garden and the hover flies love it
I went by myself to a Botanical Art exhibition, ‘how sad’ you say, but no it was great, it was just what was needed. I had no one to talk to, no distractions, no worrying about if someone else was bored, tired or hungry, needed the loo or just wanted to go home. I just had myself to please and somehow that does not happen very often.
I was able to go around the show which ran to nearly 700 pieces and look at each one individually. I treated my visit as a learning experience and decided to analyse the pictures I liked and to decide what it was in that image that ‘spoke’ to me, and then I took notes (nerdy or what?) Still I was there by myself so I could please myself!
At the end of three and a half hours, these are my findings about the things that I liked:
- images that were larger than life size
- compositions that overflowed their own boundaries
- images that were ‘arrangements’ of separate items
- gouache compared to straight water colour
- images that were a single item (e.g. leaf)
- interesting cropping that filled the picture plane
- the combo of graphite and colour
I also noticed that some subjects are just ‘done to death’ and however beautiful and clever the work there is really nothing much new to say about strawberries, peppers, conkers, aubergines, tulips, daffodils, onions, garlic, carrots, cherries, orchids, iris, violas………….. I could go on. That said, I’m sure I’m going to have a go at all of these over the coming months.
Artists I liked:
- Lynne Buckler
- Susan Christopher-Coulson
- Wendy Cranston
- Jane Goodson
- Lesley Hall
- Carmen Lyons
- Rachel Munn
- Angela Stanbridge
- Ann Swan
Some amazing work in the exhibition and so many talented artists.
Back at my own drawing board, things are not so amazing………. This week I followed instructions from a book called ‘ Creating Radiant Flowers in Colored Pencil’, this had instructions about using solvents to dissolve and blend coloured pencil.
First petal is just blended/burnished pencil and second one has had solvent applied to blend the colours, not only is it bigger (not caused by solvent but by operator error) but it is brighter, so I guess that is one way of getting really intense colour.
Then I went onto my plant of the week, which this week is my flowering ‘Easter’ cactus, this flowers for me every year and survives on neglect. Have not put much time into it but I did try to have a go at the flower, pale pink almost white in places, how do you draw white petals on white paper? Another skill to learn – to be added to the list.
I obviously don’t get out much! But this has been an exciting and encouraging week, in which I have seen some quality botanical art, met a great teacher and met some new people. I am a member of the FaceBook page Botanical Art for Beginners, and I found out that a fellow member would also be at the RHS Botanical Art Exhibition in London. We arranged to meet and amazingly we found each other, in that great crowded hall. She introduced me to Ann Swan a pencil art teacher and author, who was coming to Dedham Hall (just down the road from me) to teach for a week, she was kind enough to let me gatecrash one of her classes so I did. Some wonderful work was going on, and Ann is a supportive and knowledgable teacher, everyone was really friendly and I have made contact now with a local group which meets monthly. The quality of the artwork at the RHS show was amazing, very inspiring and very varied, something to aspire to one day (in my next lifetime!)
Even with all the excitement of London and Dedham I did get some drawing done, and this week what interested me was our Clematis Montana coming out, it seems to be best ever this year, maybe all the rain last year helped. Petals again, oh dear, but practice makes perfect so I had another go.
So it is all very well being able to draw a plant fairly accurately, but what I realised at the exhibition this week is that accuracy does not an ‘artwork’ make. Well, that’s obvious, obviously but it had not really sunk in; but visiting this class I could see that although the plant material was there the students were using it as inspiration rather than a guide. So having done my preparatory drawings and photos of the clematis I thought I would have a go at ‘composition’. I therefore spent a happy few hours with tracing paper, IPad, drawings, scissors and eraser laying out my first composition.
What I had noticed when I photographed the plant was that all the buds looked like little faces searching for the sunshine, so I tried to get the feeling in my picture of the buds and opening blossoms straining towards the warmth. Not sure if it has worked but I am going to go with it, it is only small (a finished size of 6 inches square).
Botanic art is not an easy discipline. Last week I was very disappointed with my efforts with a Chaenomeles blossom which was only slightly alleviated by the excitement of reorganising my workroom. I will share only one of my drawings as it illustrates how difficult it was for me to draw petals (and I am too ashamed of the other drawings). A petal is delicate, light and ephemeral and flutters lightly in the breeze.
Not under my heavy handed pencil work; my efforts do not do it justice in any shape or form.
So thoroughly discouraged I have put petals to one side for the moment, when I am more skilful I will revisit the lovely Chaenomeles and try again.
Thinking I need something a bit more solid to get my teeth into, my eye landed on Photinia Red Robin growing in the garden. Ah ha! tough, bold, good angles, shape and colour and not a petal in site – my next subject.
The outline drawing was accomplished fairly painlessly, and by the end of the day I had the outline ready on good paper ready to start the colour work. I think I am going to start drawing stones and rocks, why! Because plants move! They shift, they sag, they droop, they twist, bits fall off, they just change – moment by moment they are not the same. So the next morning all was different, so that is another skill that I need to acquire; the ability to be flexible and the ability to adapt.
I am still working on this image, the colours are fun to work with, each leaf is different and I am enjoying the process. I have been listening an unabridged version audio book of Les Miserables, in all the time the musical has been running I have never seen it, and I still have not seen the film – well at least I know the story now.
Who knew there even was a word called ‘cauliflory’ – ah ha! something to do with cauliflowers I guessed. Wrong………my new book defines it as “The production of flowers on the trunk and branches of trees rather than at the ends of twigs” so now you know. I wonder if the Brazil Nut tree is cauliflorus?
The book is called ‘The Cambridge Illustrated Glossary of Botanical Terms’ by Michael Hickey and Clive King. What a brilliant book and some amazing words. I wonder what the word really is to describe a cauliflower…………………..
Today’s lesson I want to share with you is so basic that I am ashamed I made the mistake……..try and choose the right size paper for your subject matter.
My subject for the day was a branch of variegated ivy from the garden and although I am not a great fan of the plant, the leaves had wonderful twisty shapes and it was in full flower and I thought it looked a challenge.
So here I am merrily drawing my quick sketches, (I start off an art day doing ten minute sketches to get me warmed up and to get me over my inhibitions and I use a kitchen timer to keep me on track), when I realised that the timer had not gone off and some considerable time had passed. It is wonderful how engrossing and absorbing art can be when you get in the zone. Well in the time that had passed, my drawing had grown; I had started with one of the flowers and now I almost had the whole branch, but I was running out of space on the paper.
‘It’s only a sketch, so no need to be precious’, I told myself so I stuck a strip of paper to the bottom and kept on drawing.
By now I was getting quite attached to the ivy so I decided to work it up into a finished piece. Using the tracing paper method, I transferred the image to good paper and completed it using coloured pencils. This picture will always remind me of ‘The Voyage of the Dawn Treader’ which I was listening to on an audio book.