Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Sketchbooks are for having fun!

As this project progresses, I’ve noticed that each sketchbook is developing it’s own little character. Although we all started out with the same black Stillman & Birn sketchbook, each one somehow carries some of it’s owner’s personality with it.

Julie Douglas's sketchbook is no exception- it’s creative, it’s fun and imaginative! Her sketchbook is already looking full, with bits of paper peeking out, and playful sketches by Julie and Ida in different mediums.
It dares you to be bold and step out of your comfort zone.

I decided to start with some daffodils (Narcissus). They’re such happy little flowers, and it’s been a while since I have painted flowers. Besides, yellow is always such a challenge, as there’s a very fine line between subtle shading and making a horrible muddy mess. 

I dug out an old sketchbook study of some daffodils which had my colour notes and began to paint.
You can read more about the process here.
The joy of working in a sketchbook is that you relax a little. You can make up the composition as you go along. You can be a bit more spontaneous, there’s no planning or tracing… just the pleasure of watching the flowers take shape on the page. The leaves were fun too. They’re nice simple shapes that pull the whole thing together.

However I wasn’t completely satisfied. It was still a bit tame and safe. 

Inspiration came to me in the form of a bottle of Winsor & Newton iridescent medium

Iridescent medium is something that I would rarely get a chance to use in botanical art. I had some shells from Galicia, and some nice blue paper. It was time to play!
 I drew the shells out in white pencil first, and then painted them with gouache paints combined with watercolour paints. Gouache is very forgiving and I found it quite meditative building up the layers and creating form. 

I tried using the iridescent medium with the paint on one of the shinier shells, but to be honest, it looked more like cheap glitter glue. It was time to go wild. I covered each shell in carefully cut out tracing paper, laid the page on some newspaper, got my husband’s toothbrush (I can get him a new one), and began to splatter. 

A few pieces of carrageen seaweed (Chondrus crispus) that have been sitting in my cupboard since God knows when, finished off the composition.

Oh what fun!! The best part was splattering the iridescent medium. It doesn’t really show up in the photos but it’s sparkly! Just perfect for Julie!

 I was happy. I had my creative buzz and I’m ready for the next sketchbook now.


  1. That shell painting takes my breath away, l feel as if I could pick one off the page! Love your blog and thank you for the inspiration too.

    1. What a lovely thing to write, Valerie! Thank you :)

  2. I agree with Valerie and I just loved this blog. It is a scant 44 here in NE Ohio and the sun is shining. The ice has been off Lake Erie for a little while now so we were thinking to take a jaunt there and see how everything looks now that "winter" is over. This blog further motivates to walk the beach and see if any paintable debris is left at the shore. Not being salt water there won't be any beautiful big shells like yours but perhaps there is some dune grass or driftwood to sketch. We will see.

    Question: I love your in-depth dissections of flowers. Do you actually cut a flower in half to do the drawings or what is your secret? I promise I won't tell! Thanks. Your work is stunning.

  3. Great work on the daffodils, but my heart is taken from the shells !