Friday, 21 February 2014

From green to purple red

Citruses show a wide range of colours from the yellow-green to the purple red. I thought that it would have been easy to me to paint some segments, but in fact I found it difficult, even if in the citruses the colour doesn't change with the time and these fruits keep long their freshness. The most difficult colour I've found has been the orange and the way for showing its transparence through the segments.

 Similar how in the citruses is the effect in minerals that show the same colours :

yellow fluorite (my collection)

stellerite (my collection)
stilbite (my collection)
aragonite (my collection)
crocoite (my collection)
vanadinite (my collection)


I've tried to replace the colour of the vanadinite with this sketch :

and I've noticed that in it is needing more transparence and less reflections on the faces of the crystals, how in the segment of the orange fruit.


Really fun, a part the attention needed for composing the figures in balancement in the page, has been the work of sketching a mandarin on ink pen and light washes of orange, green and sepia. 

Thursday, 20 February 2014


Sketchbooks have never really been a big part of my work, largely because the paper in the ones I've tried before never seemed quite right, so up until now I've always used them for technical notes and rough thumbnail drawings etc. My colour work has instead always been on bits of watercolour paper offcuts, which I string together. But I have to say this Stillman & Birn sketchbook paper really is beautiful to work on and such a great size to transport around!

At the start of January lots of ideas entered my head for this project but in the end I decided to keep it open in terms of 'what to paint' and I need to be realistic about what is achievable for me. Basically I just want to enjoy it!
  I had some bulbs left over and felt inspired to paint them, they signify beginnings and seem like a fitting start to the project. Later on, when they bloom, I can paint the flowers in the other sketchbooks as the project progresses. I also like the idea of a full page of studies,with Ernst Haeckel inspired layouts, so decided to completely fill the first two pages with the bulbs.

I must admit to feeling slightly daunted when I saw the other sketchbooks ......all with such beautifully decorated covers and title pages! I didn't have time to decorate my cover and decided to 'freestyle' with a bit of compulsive pencil drawing on the inside. I wanted to include some of my favourite subjects....patterns in nature, decomposing leaves, lichens, twigs and my most loved flower Fritillaria was a general indulgence which I attempted to pull together in a slightly chaotic manner wit no particular plan.....seemed like a idea, I just wasn't sure if it was a good one.

Detail from the inside title cover
Two page spread showing the cut away revealing the bulb pages.
From the bulb page
For the inside cover I started at the top left corner and worked  across the page. I wanted it to be's definitely that! I decided it looked a bit dull and thought the inclusion of just one small ladybird in colour might add a nice spot of colour but instead decided to do a cut away to allow the first colour pages to show through. I always liked that idea in the Wizard of Oz, where the opening scene is black and white followed by vivid colour in the land of Oz.
The drawing kept growing and took longer than I had anticipated so the book moved around with me, I even took it to Prague but most of the time it sat by the bed and I added a little every night. As part of the composition I've included details from lots of my other works, so it was pretty much all from memory. It was great to have that freedom! no reference, no lighting, setting up or measuring and it was great to be working in pencil again....I couldn't put it down!.

Almost finished
My sketchbook has now started it's long journey, currently on it's way to Sigrid Frensen in the Netherlands, it's going to be a while before I see it again but I can't wait to see all of the sketchbooks along the way before mine returns home full of surprises! It will be nerve wracking to paint in a book that doesn't belong to me but at the same time I'm really looking forward to receiving the first book from Lorraine Adams - can't wait to see her beautiful work.

The Sketchbook Exchange is a great project which has already pushed me to do something new....  that's always a good thing! I'm feeling very fortunate to have been invited to take part.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

I've never written a blog before but there's a first time for everything, right?

I've been learning botanical illustration for about three or more years now.  It's been a dream of mine since I learned to love nature as a child living with my father in the city.  Dad taught me all about nature and every Saturday we would take the bus to the park in the very early morning and go for walks.  He would make a list of birds and I would make a list of flowers and plants.  I learned to be very quiet on these walks.  By not disturbing the natural world around us, we were given quite a show on those Saturday mornings.

So about three years ago (after my children left home and life calmed down a bit), I decided it was time to live my dream.  I already had many, many books.  I love to learn of the explorers and the master botanical artists.  So I dove in with absolutely no knowledge of how to properly draw a plant or how to use watercolors.  Quite a struggle with no formal art training. It's been frustrating but more so, it's been a wonderful journey and I've taken so much joy in seeing myself improve little by little.  And the internet is a wonderful thing.  I've met so many artists.  Some with a talent that just takes my breath away.  Most of them, although in their own league of exceptional artwork,  accepted me with open arms.  All of them sharing their knowledge, their beautiful work and most important to me, their friendship. 

This year, I was asked to be a part of this wonderful sketchbook project.  I was overwhelmed by that gesture.  I felt so honored to be asked to be part of this group of amazing and talented people.  But also, I was so concerned that my work might not be able to stand along side the others.  And to think that I might ruin someone's book!  Very intimindating for sure.  But also, how wonderful would it be to "hang out" with these guys for over a year working on our sketchbooks?  And, in the end, I will have a priceless collection of works  all in one little book, from people who I truly admire and call my friends.

So my sketchbook pages are completed and on their way to the next artist.  Since it is winter here and I've been dreaming of flowers, I decided to put those in my sketchbook.  I had some complex, complicated ideas, but I decided to keep it simple.  This worked well for me as I am a slow painter and it allowed me to just relax and enjoy the process.

Tulip and Crocus with watercolor

"To see the world in a grain of sand, and heaven in a wildflower" William Blake

The title page

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Frances Sketchbook

After a lovely time with Shevaun yesterday discussing paint and painting I have managed to finish my first page in the sketchbook.

I enjoyed doing these pages as the little daffodils made me feel that maybe spring is round the corner and we will get some warmer drier weather soon.
, now to start thinking about what I'm putting on Shevauns pages in her sketchbook which is a bit daunting when I see the beauty of her work in the flesh as it were......

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Toe in the water...

sketch  (skÄ•ch)
1. A hasty or undetailed drawing or painting often made as a preliminary study.
2. A brief general account or presentation; an outline.
a. A brief, light, or informal literary composition, such as an essay or a short story.
b. Music A brief composition, especially for the piano.
c. A short, often satirical scene or play in a revue or variety show; a skit.
4. Informal An amusing person.
v. sketchedsketch·ingsketch·es
To make a sketch of; outline.
To make a sketch.

I was so traumatised** at starting this project that I decided to check the dictionary to see how Sketch is defined. I was quite pleased, as I felt there was enough scope there for me to at least qualify as an Amusing Person...

 I am a regular sketch booker, which perhaps makes this project even more daunting than if I were just beginning. I use my books for scribbling, for trying things out (trying on, trying out, trial run), for experimenting and for demonstrating things to students. A bit like a conversation with lines and blobs and arrows.. And the odd shopping list thrown in.

Being included with a group of botanical artist, whose work is simply delicious, exchanging sketch books, is an honour. I am not a botanical painter, but I do paint nature all the time. Maybe I'm a Nature-al painter.

But I warn you about my sketch books.. They're a free flowing jumble of lines and a place to declutter my thoughts, to unscramble the chaos and create order on my desk. They're not neat. So, dear ladies, when you receive it in the post over the months to come, I would be delighted if you welcomed it like a wayward child, home for some warm dinners before going off into the world again.

Front end papers (a photocopy of an oil painting I'm working on currently) - in colour on the back
So, I'm about Trees.  I just love trees and in particular, the shapes of in-between areas, the sky encased by branches and the patterns they make. I think we all have an affinity with Green, and walking outside (particularly in the woods) is one of the most uplifting things we can do for our creativity and for our Selves. I meet my self, while walking in the woods.

First page
Just after doing the tree above, I noticed lovely, tiny little bits of moss growing on the bathroom windowsill (on the OUTSIDE!) so stood in the bath to get a better view and included them on the side of the page.  Isolated like this, they look a bit like sweet chestnuts. Or pin cushions, or sea anenomes, or even a planet surrounded by stars.  They were only about 3mm in width.

Second page. Drawn on a google map, the trees from the location!
 A few days later I was at a meeting, and sat in the car afterwards drawing the trees in the car park, which were interesting for their patterns. I had forgotten my book (see what I mean about Chaos?)  (one rarely has all the right equipment for true spontaneity.. somehow, being prepared means we may never really feel like doing anything), so I drew on the google map itself, using the only pencil I could find lurking at the bottom of my handbag - a 5B, which was better than using lipstick anyway.

The back of the map, larger colour pencil of mossy windowsill, going onto dark grey card on the right. 

end papers at the back

** Traumatised: fiddling about in a book for ones own personal reference is one thing, but posting it off to another person for them to add to before sending to the next person in the list, is quite another. It's not only personal but public. Yikes. Even worse, I will receive theirs, and add my double spread of messy de-clutter to their personal patch. Mixing it up is scary. I think we're all VERY BRAVE.

I loved doing this, it feels different. There's a question here - what will I do that will provide something for me as well as contribute to the  others who will share it?

We'll see!

Saturday, 1 February 2014

First steps.....

These can often be really hard. I started going to an adult learning Botanical Illustration class as a means to help me through the repercussions of a breakdown and severe depression. I didn't know what to expect but wasn't prepared for the amount of pleasure and involvement that the subject would bring to me. After 20 minutes of looking into a flower to draw the detail I was hooked...I still go to the classes seven years later and love the people who have given me a security I hadn't felt for years.

Through doing the SBA distance learning diploma course I came to find some of the members of this sketchbook project group through Facebook and so appreciated their encouragement and generosity of  sharing the beautiful work they were creating. So, to be invited to take part in this exciting venture with them...well, I couldn't say no.

Using this lovely Stillman & Birn sketchbook is a delight. I coloured the end papers using coloured pencil, my preferred medium for the past 18 months but swapped to paint for the title pages and loved the way the paint glided over the smoothness. For the first double page spread I went for the paint again, and a spot of graphite to test the paper. Suddenly the double page that at first felt daunting (knowing that other, more gifted artists are to follow) seemed too small and I wanted to just keep on going! After all, this is a sketchbook, if my page is messy it's about who I am. If it turns out OK it's a bonus. I tend not to work to make 'finished artworks' anyway so my sketchbooks reflect the objects and subjects that have caught my fancy on that particular day or week. All of the subjects depicted on my pages were picked up in my local park after the hellish rains and gales of the past few weeks, even the crunchy acer and Persian ironwood leaves which were tucked in a little hollow by the wall and drew me in with their jewel-like colour.

The double page spread

I'm very fortunate to live behind what used to be quite a grand house, with grounds that were planted up with trees from around the world. There are several magnificent Cedar of Lebanons, acers , sweet gums, as well as hornbeam, whitebeam, various oaks, chestnuts sweet and Horse. It's been a treasure trove over the years. The park is not big but I'm there every day with Dyson, my dog, and it's my patch - I have come to know it very well and watched as the seasons change it's face.

I have reservations about drawing in other people's sketchbooks (I don't want to make a mess), but then I guess they feel exactly the same way too! The first handover seems like it will be the scariest as we make tentative marks on that next pristine double page spread. But this is an adventure. If it's not risky there seems little purpose in having a go, we might as well all keep our own sketchbooks and not end up with a treasury of other artists work and time and energy, and love for what they do. That would be such a shame.