Saturday, 6 December 2014

Feeling Festive with Veggiebaubles

Ooh, I haven't posted here for a little while, but I can't resist a celebration. For the December and January sketchbooks it's all about celebration. Christmas and New Year is always a good time to let the creative hair down and really go to town on a composition. 

For December I actually started with the wrong sketchbook, and before I realised, I had finished it with a Christmas design of vegetables parading themselves as Christmas baubles. All they need is the tree. Well, I must do something equally stylish for New Year and hope that the two recipients don't mind that I completed their books the wrong way round. Oops.

For Christmas we get a red onion with a raffia tie hanging from the top of the page. Seriously OTT I know, but I just loved this idea and really wanted to go for it.

Progress on the onion with the colour charts

Followed by a lovely bright red tomato. Rudolph would be green with envy.

As always, I love playing with typography, and a festive greeting was just the ticket. A little Christmas card to be enjoyed at Easter time when we finish the exchange.

The finished piece for Debbie's sketchbook


Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Three for the price of one... and it's all ORANGE!

Having not had a sketch book to work on all summer, I was surprised to realise that I quite missed it. There was something, after the intitial horror in January when this project began, rather nice knowing that a book was in the corner waiting for my attention. But my summer was busy and I was glad of the break... Until the day the post man delivered me three books at once.
At first I thought, 'Why oh why did it not occur to me to keep working in anticipation of the next book arriving...?' (for having THREE books was really daunting)

But then I remembered the answer. The reason is because it feels different, for me, to do the work at the time I receive the book. It's what makes it not a scrap book. It's NOW. It's live.

For me, a sketch book is not the place for a miniature version of a larger, wonderful artwork. For me, it is a SAFE place, a place for fiddling and making a mess (not on purpose, but it's got to be ok to make a mess by mistake). I said that right from the beginning of course.. Looking through the (amazingly beautiful) books is a mixed emotional experience. No one is making a mess. I am sorry that the theme is nature, now. It would be exciting for botanical artists to NOT be allowed to include nature.. There's another idea..!

Then, I got the flu. Flu plus beautiful botanic sketchbooks is not a good combination. But I did some loose drawings of one of my most favourite things, gourds, and liked the immediacy of the sketch. The first drawing was done roughly, with long unbending lines building up colour lightly. On the second page I drew the sun-like pattern on the bottom of the gourds.   I love the bottom of gourds, they look so vibrant, like they're having FUN. they look like Spinning Tops or bursts of fireworks. I was happy until my son saw them, and he scoffed.. oh no...

Terri's sketchbook
Terri's sketchbook

So I turned the page and painted the gourds. I LOVE gourds. Then remembered how awful the paper is in these books. It is unresponsive and allows for no playing with colour. It's not until you work on the wrong surface that you appreciate just how wonerful the right surface actually is. ALWAYS blame your tools. Wrong brush? No use. Wrong paint? No point in starting. Wrong paper? Forget it...

Terri's sketchbook

It was a struggle, though I stuck with it for several hours. Then I put the book away, and resolved to do something else to stick over the gourds.

And I moved on to the next sketch book... I decided to paint the same subjects that my students were working on, and the following week it was slices of organge. I don't particularly like the colour orange, but I really liked painting these. The colour felt jolly and enthusiastic - and I have been attracted to many more orange things. Perhaps it's the season. And the flu was improving...

Oranges, Lorraine's sketchbook

Then, the next book. By now I have decided to go with the flow more and so stuck with using the same subject as my students. They were most surprised to walk in this morning and find a croissant at each place, along with a spoon so they could give themselves a dollop of jam, then paint it...!

Here's mine. (I know, it's still a bit orangey isn't it?!) Flu is gone, normal service resumes (whatever that may be...)

Dianne's sketchbook
There is something I need to say to all my fellow setchbookers on this project. Having decided earlier that the gourds were so awful that I'd cover them up, I have decided that that would not be true. My sketch books are lived-in affairs, full of notions, ideas and visual evidence of conversations. I cannot change that. They aren't meant to be perfect. Perfect = pressure. The very last thing I'm prepared to put into my book is pressure.

Your books are so beautiful that I feel as though I am defacing them with my splurges. But they are, still, MY splurges. If you don't want me to ruin your books, please just say and I will pull out. In the meantime, I urge you all to be free and take a risk by trying something different. And there is nowhere safer to do that than in a sketchbook. Have fun...and carry on!

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Summer's End

As the end of summer became near, the familiar trumpet vine appeared at the tops of the trees in our local woods.  Every year I enjoy this splash of color.  A very loud reminder that it won't be long before the summer will be over.  And although I'm not a huge fan of orange flowers, I do enjoy these trailing trumpets and their orangey, reddish color.  Even more, I enjoyed painting them.  This particular orange was a challenge for me.  As the petals at the bottom of the trumpet have a pinkish tint to them.  I could not seem to capture that color until someone from our online botanical group suggested a wash of Quin. Magenta over the orange.  And it worked perfectly I thought.

When I saw the first sign of this vine, I immediately decided that I would paint this one for Jarnie.  Because the vines were in the woods tangled in the trees, it was somewhat difficult to get to.  My husband cheerfully volunteered to gather some for me.  I'm a bit of slow painter, so several trips were required.

Now that summer is gone, the treasures of autumn are everywhere.  I just can't seem to keep up with all the subjects that inspire me.  I actually felt sad when my husband raked up leaves the over the weekend, because they were so beautiful and colorful and I was sure there was a leaf in that pile that I meant to bring in to paint.

I look forward to finishing up the next few sketchbook pages with the colors of autumn.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014


because you can get and eat the fruits two times every year, you can dry its fruits, you can make jam with them, you can enjoy its shadow, you can draw it and you can wear its leaves as lingerie how is the mode this year :
In my garden in Apulia they start to ripe at the beginn of August and every time I work on drying them under the strong sun of August ...
 ... for getting backed figs later

this year I drew figs ... so many ... for the sketchbook of  Golden Lady Doreen too

and showed how many interesting varieties and differences in shape and colour they could have !

In Septemember these figs will be involved in a bloody, long and terrible war against the conkers ; the source of this we don't know well (maybe because a challenge, maybe because the incomprehensions of philosophy between fruits of the South and of the North) ...

 ... this is history ! No wars anymore now, only peace and love ... but figs are the best !

The fruits of July

Here in Italy July is a so horribly warm month, but rich of fruit ; every year I get a big amounth of peaches, nectarines, apricots and plumes because a relative of mine produces this fruit for the big market. A part eating, what other doing with it ?  

Obvious the answer

Apricots "Orange red"

Peaches "Spring bell"

It was easy to me don't get undecideed about what drawing in the sketchbook of Golden Sarah Lady

Peach tree and Plum tree
Red plum "Angeleno", Nectarine "May crest", Yellow plum "prugna d'Italia"

Enjoy the fruit !

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Aislinn Adams

Catching up also!

It has been an amazingly busy year and although I am thoroughly enjoying the sketchbook exchange I have been rather slow to follow up with the companion blog. It's time I made an effort to get up to date I think. Here is the first of several I plan to post in the coming days.

To say that being part of this exchange has opened up a whole new world to me would be an understatement. After many months of doing this I realize that I have become part of an international group of kind, funny and encouraging people dedicated to recording nature every month in different media- paint, pencil, ink or what ever takes our fancy and though we may be at different levels of experience and skill we are all equally passionate about what we do.

Inspiration and motivation.

When I started the exchange I decided that I was going to paint and draw native plants however, after seeing the variety of work created by my fellow "Nature Trailers", I can't help deviating now and then from that original plan. This has been one of the many benefits I've discovered from participating in this group sharing. Some other benefits are the way this project sustains my energy and increases my motivation to continue. When I see the creativity and diversity of work produced I also understand that there are no rules, really, when it comes to recording nature in these sketchbooks.

March entry -
Giovanni’s sketchbook.

Coral fossil from the Burren,  Co. Clare, Ireland.
I knew I wanted to paint some “rocks” for Giovanni’s sketchbook before it arrived. I was inspired by his beautiful paintings of semi-precious stones and fossils. I brought back a coral fossil from my Irish visit last summer when I spent a week in the Burren area - a must every time I get back to Ireland. (Confession: I still feel a bit guilty about taking it.) Later back in Oregon a friend gave me some coral and, even though it probably has no connection to the kind of coral found in Burren fossils, I included it. It’s always a fun challenge to paint white on white and I like the way the bleached white of the coral compliments the blue-grey of the fossil.

View of Mullaghmore with turloughs in the middle ground.

I had been in the Mullaghmore area of the Burren National Park to study the shrubby cinquefoil, Potentilla fruticosa; my plant for the Irish Botanical Alphabet Exhibition, Aibítir. I found the shrub along the shore of a large turlough on the southern side of the dramatic limestone “coil” of Mullaghmore. I had intended to include this landscape scene in the background of my Aibítir painting but had chickened out in the end due to a combination of time pressure and loosing my nerve- something I have regretted ever since. You live and learn.  However, I felt braver about including it in Giovanni’s sketchbook which I'm sure is due in no small part to the encouraging support I have experienced from the "Nature Trailers". And for that I feel very grateful.

Fossil, coral and Mullaghmore in background.

Monday, 1 September 2014

September- It feels like being back to school... (Ida Mitrani)

Time flies and I realised that I haven't posted anything on the Blog since May. It feels like I have multiple drawers in my brain that just keep opening and closing!

So since May I have been working on Giovanni's and Sigrid's sketchbooks. I'm really enjoying being able to explore with various mediums and techniques.  The Sketchbook project has definitely given me more confidence when creating while having fun. There are times when things have gone terribly wrong and thanks to 'glue', I have been able to cover my mistakes.

Everyone in the group has been so supportive and even though we don't get to see each other it feels like we know each other through our creations.
I hope we will get together one day and celebrate all the beautiful things we've created!
Maybe rent a house in Tuscany over the summer...

To get back to the drawings: The Chaffinch was done in gouache and the currants and leaf in watercolour. I have to admit, I much more enjoy working with gouache. Going from dark to light. It also allows you to make mistakes as opposed to watercolour which is unforgiven.
I'm always so amazed when I see the work of the other members of the group when using watercolour and how beautiful it looks.

The drawings for Giovanni's sketchbook were inspired by some Turkish floral designs and the golden Ottoman writing actually means 'Nature'.

Coming from a multicultural background and born in Istanbul, I've been incorporating those designs in my own Fine Art work. You will see below, in the portrait with my mum, various colours used and symbolising her cultural diversity (Jewish, Russian Christian orthodox, Turkish, French..)
Nazar Deymesin


Monday, 25 August 2014

Catching up!

I have really been enjoying this sketchbook exchange- the thrill of a new sketchbook arriving, the challenge of finding a suitable subject to paint, and above all, the friendships that have formed. It’s been such a rewarding experience, and it’s fantastic to see our project inspiring others to set up their own similar sketchbook exchanges.

However I have been very very bad at keeping up with this blog. I’ve no excuse really, it’s just been right at the bottom of my “to do” list and I’ve been feeling very guilty about allowing the blogposts to pile up like this.

Hence this “catch up” post. I have blogged about each one on my own blog, so will also include a link.

First of all is Aislinn’s sketchbook which I painted in May. 
My garden was rich with the scent of the beautiful laburnum tree which was in full bloom, and the bees came out to enjoy the nectar. A small study of senna pods completed the page. 
You can read more about this here

Laburnum and the Bee 

Debbie’s sketchbook was a summery sweet feast of fruit and berries. I enjoyed painting this… an edible subject is always a bonus! You can read more about this painting here

Finally there is Giovanni’s sketchbook,which I painted whilst in Egypt. Giovanni is such a charming character- the only man in our little group, and he regularly entertains us with his fantastic sketches and funny stories. I decided to paint him a Flamboyant tree, or Royal Poinciana tree, which I felt was just right for his colourful personality. There is more about this tree and painting here

Right, I’m almost up to date! I’ll be back soon with Sigrid’s sketchbook.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Time Flies

The time flies past so quickly and summer is passing into autumn already. It is my favourite time of the year though with plenty of things to draw and paint. I have 2 books now to catch up on here, Ida's and Julie's. They are both filling up with beautiful studies, each page different and unique; they are all going to be treasured.
For Ida's book I did a few Tregaron bog sketches as I went there rather a lot in early summer. I also painted a dandelion clock in white gouache on black paper.

Then for Julie's book I painted cow parsley in white gouache again on black paper. I also added a few items that I'd found on walks and in gardens over July and August. 
And to fill the gap I stuck in a skeletal Magnolia leaf.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Summer's Distractions, Escapes Through the Sketchbook Exchange, and a Little Surprise Revealed

The summer is nearly over and I've had three sketchbooks in the works for quite awhile.  Finally they will be in the mail tomorrow to Aislinn with my sincere apologies for the holdup.  I am grateful for your patience.

The past year has been a bit of a rollercoaster of stressful events.  Some very serious issues with my husband's health, a very demanding day job, etc. have had me looking everywhere possible for desperately needed distractions.  And I found them.  Spending time quality time with my husband, the joys of my garden, and some happy family events have kept me feeling grateful for the good things in life.

But the escape for me has been being a part of this Sketchbook Exchange.  With many doctors, hospitals and mounds of medical paperwork, and my full time job, I've had very little time to focus on my art.  I must add that the medical forms were the worst, really.  I have severe "form phobia" and panic and procrastinate everytime there is a form to fill out.  Being a part of this exchange and being committed to deadlines (that have long passed) has forced me to "escape" and paint.  I've been using this painting time to do the best work possible as it's the only painting time I really have.  And I've been seeing improvement in my work.  So I am grateful for that.  It's allowed me to continue to hold on to my dream that sometimes seems so far away amidst life's ups and downs.

I so much enjoy planning for the next sketchbook.  I sit in my garden in early mornings and take in with complete joy, every flower, plant, butterfly and all of nature's gifts and think of what I will paint and for who.

Some Inspiration from my garden:

Dianne's Sketchbook
Terri's Sketchbook
Lorraine's Sketchbook
Since I've not contributed to the blog for awhile,  I'll also add the sketchbooks that have been mailed earlier in the year:

Giovanni's Sketchbook

Sigrid's Sketchbook
At the beginning of this exchange, I asked Shevaun if I could add a little something with each of my sketchbooks.  Before I began my journey into botanical art, I spent alot of time sewing.  I have a great love of beautiful fabrics and have built up quite a collection over the years.  I thought I would like to sew a sketchbook case as my gift to each member.  I've had the best time selecting fabrics for each sketchbooker - trying to choose which fabric would be the most fitting.  So I hope you will enjoy my little gift when you all get your book at the end.

A few examples of the sketchbook cases that have been mailed.
So for now, I am up to date and already beginning a painting for when the next book arrives.  Hopefully, I will be able to stay caught up and have my much needed escape spending time painting for all of my lovely friends.

Monday, 11 August 2014


Well, the heat was certainly on with the next sketchbook. There were some truly gorgeous pages and I had a theme running around in my head that wouldn't go away. After Summertime there came A Midsummer Night's Dream, and I was quite literally, away with the fairies. Shakespeare's play gave me plenty of inspiration, and along with a quote and some honeysuckle sprigs, the pages started to come together. 

Fresh greens, summery pink and sunshine yellow

After the quotation, title and other calligraphy was in place and the sketches of the flower, buds and berries, it was time to decide on presentation. I love to use a mix of elements in sketchbooks, with bits stuck in, pen and pencil here and there, some unfinished bits and of course, painted things.

Purple bud with greens 

Mixing it up a bit 

And keeping it classic
 So how did it go? Well, I was pleased with the result. let's just hope the recipient is.

Nearly there.
  And what's the quote?

I know where the wild thyme blows,
where the oxlip and the nodding violet grows,
quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine
With sweet musk roses and with eglantine.
There sleeps sweet Titania sometime of the night,
lull'd in these flowers with dances and delight.
William Shakespeare 

There is a link here. Eglantine is an old word for honeysuckle, (also used for briar rose which is confusing).