Friday, 30 May 2014

Before, during and after the block

There has been a hold up in the stream of sketchbooks. It was all my fault. At this point I have here 4 sketchbooks. But, no worries, they are all finished now and will be posted a.s.a.p.. The reason why I was so slow is because I was *hit* by a painter's block. It was not only the sketchbooks that suffered but the rest of my projects too. To start with I got Dianne's sketchbook. A bit late but that was fine. I got started on it and the painting went really well and relaxed.

The subjects were mostly special Fritillarias. I knew Dianne really loves Fritillaria so the period I got her sketchbook was perfectly timed. I had to paint some Fritillaria for an other project. The other plant I painted was a twig of a Spiketail shrub I have in my garden. Stachyurus praecox is the Latin name. 

So when that was done the next one had already arrived. It was Lorraine's. At the same time I had bought a Helleborus ericsmithii. Really nice and perfect for the sketchbook. I thought it would be wiser to finish it and then post the two books together since the costs are pretty high. So I started with the first flowers and all went well. But after a few days (I did about one flower a day) I got sick. Spring started and so did the flu season. When I got better I started a new flower and it went terrible. I really couldn't paint what I wanted and I felt so miserable.  Not only because it didn't go well but mostly because it felt like messing up a nice page in someone else's sketchbook. Next day I tried again and again I failed to paint something good. Like my paints and brushes had totally different ideas for this sketchbook. I guess that I also wasn't recovered totally from that flu and I felt so, so bad. So I put it aside and in the next weeks I had a big mental struggle to start painting again. I tried a couple of times on scrap pieces and in my own sketchbooks but it felt so wrong and unpleasant.

Finally one day I felt a bit better and made the decision to stop for now with the watercolours and do only graphite sketches. I first did a test on separate piece of Bristol board and it went well. So I took the next sketchbook that had arrived (Terri's). I still couldn't look again at Lorraine's screwed up pages. I picked several flowers from my garden and started to draw. 

Wow... it really went well!!! And finally after so many weeks I felt better about the project. It's one thing to suffer on your own from such a bad period but if it effects a project with 15 people it really is a high mountain to climb. It's all mental, I know, but once you get in that deep well it is a big struggle to get out of again. Anyway, Terri's got really pretty and I managed to paint in some bugs too to add some colour.

Dianne had asked me if she should keep Jarnie's sketchbook a little while longer but since it now felt better I thought I should hurry up now and get that one done as well. So, here's Jarnie's:

The Horntail was a nice surprise in the laundry room. My son Bertus picked a Cornflower to draw, so that's in it too. I just get so happy from the festive cornflower shapes.

So, that was that and almost ready to post FOUR sketchbook... Can you believe it???? FOUR!... Oh dear, dear... All that was left was the pages in Lorraine's book.... grrrrrrrrr.... but, I was determined to finish it well and not just send it off like it was. So today I picked a leaf of the Helleborus and made a graphite sketch of it. 

There, done! Hope all four ladies will like my entries. In the end I enjoyed all four of them... apart from that huge hiccup (forgive me for that)  ;)

Tuesday, 27 May 2014


The wild flowers of May

The Mugello is a small region near Florence. It is known as a green, rich of water and mountainous place. The Florentines say of it "humid" and avoid to go there during the winter. They start to wander there only on May.

Here the small village of "Campomigliaio", that means "field of millet", where, between the parking and the steam "Carza" I've found one of the many nice meadows full of wild flowers.         

On the top right the bridge of the small railway

Here what I've found in a few minutes. There are other flowers left, of course. Only these I could draw just in a page of the Terri's sketchbook. And ... I spent more time for identifying than for drawing them !


Saturday, 17 May 2014

Painting the blues - natures exclamation marks!

I really love irises. I love their fresh confidence - really they aren't the best or prettiest SHAPE for a flower, in the way that perhaps a rhododenron flower or a lilly may be. Compared to those, they're like exclamation marks when they're in bud, or sticky-up rabit ears when they start to open..

But my favourite thing about them is their strength of colour. Many people say they find yellows are difficult to paint, but for me, there are so many colours in flowers that getting the right blues and pinks is nigh on impossible. In every petal there are thousands of colours! 
Claude Monet said ' Colour persues me like a constant worry. They even worry me in my sleep.

Well, one of the joys of sketch booking is letting go of any worry. So it is a treat to allow the flower to win the beauty contest, and allow myself the thrill of playing with and re-emphasising and exaggerating and negotiating with the colours I see. Trying a Cerulean base on one petal, and a Winsor Blue on another, just to see the difference. 
Even though the result is loose and fluid, and the freesia-accompaniments daubed on straight-to-paint, this still takes a while to produce. It is cetainly daubing, but daubing deliberately. 
I stuck 140 lb water colour paper into the book before painting (and realised once I'd started that there was no going back, as it was glued in!!) as I don't like the paper in the sketch book. For me, I like a sketch book to be unpressured (or a different type of 'pressure') creating place, where accidents are welcome. The dryness of the sketchbook paper inhibits this,  and makes the work slower (and therefore more like'work') although I know some others in the group don't mind it. 

Friday, 16 May 2014

Celtic Letter A for Aislinn

This is the piece for Aislinn which is a mixture of celtic art and botanical. It is done in coloured pencil as I enjoy using them. I find it a challenge to follow Shevaun as her work is so beautiful, however I hope that Aislinn likes the mixture and that the colours I have used blend together to produce a pleasing end result.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Catching Up

Time is flying by so quickly lately that two months has gone by and I haven't updated the blog. I shall do two months in one go.
The month of March was for Francis' sketchbook,coming from Ireland via Anglesey and I knew that Francis liked Celtic designs. I have a book by Courtney Davis full of lovely patterns so I got drawing some of these. My garden was blooming with many crocus, so very springlike.

Then on to April and Shevaun's sketchbook. I was already painting scaly male ferns and I am always taken with the architectural shapes and fresh smells of the fern crosiers; like newly mown lawns. My studio brimmed with them, all different species, shapes and sizes.
I liked how Ida had used black paper to make her painting of daffodils sing, so vibrant. So I got out the gouache and painted a shield fern on the black paper. These soft ferns are just like furry caterpillars, curled up and snug, then unfurling in the warmth of spring.

A few more sketched ferns and some writing, in welsh and english completed April.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Apulians live surrounded by shells

Apulia, a southern region of Italy that has long coasts, the most rocky. 

Rocks on the jonian sea and "Salicornia europaea", a common plant on the coasts

Under the apulian soil lies a wide plateu of sedimentary rock. With these rocks Apulians made in the past every building :

Dry-stone walls for bordering agricultural properties

Walls and waults for poor class houses

Walls and waults for rich architecture

If you pick some pieces of this rock and you look at how they are made up, you'll notice that they are only fossils shells, parts of shells and sand togeter cemented long time ago by calcium carbonate. Some of these shells can be found today on the beaches, some are forever extinct.

Two pieces of rock, picked up near the sea

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

The shells of the Jonian sea


The shells of the Jonian sea


I've been walking on this beach, bathing and swimming in this sea thousand of times and I've never noticed how many kinds of shells I could have found here, when I decided to draw in March some sea subject on the sketchbook of Dianne


I got the occasion to go to Apulia and when I was there, I went to the nearest beach to my house. In few minutes I collected just 16 different sorts of them :
(Difficult was not to draw them but to find their names, because there are thousands of species with many of them showing similar look)

Saturday, 3 May 2014

A Page for the Dead and Decaying!

When I returned from London last week I found Jarnie's lovely sketchbook waiting for me. I thought it best to just get on with something rather than sitting thinking about it. The great thing about this project is the opportunity to paint plants that might otherwise have been forgotten for the year, and, it really doesn't require any planning....I just paint whatever takes my fancy and add along the way! If it all goes a bit wrong then so be it.  I made a snap decision and chose to paint a poor neglected decaying anemone, which I'd intended to paint when it was first dragged home from the garden centre several weeks ago. It's in a pretty sorry state now with one remaining faded flower ( the last petal dropped today) but I liked the distorted stems and seed-heads. There was even the bonus find of a lovely green shield bug thrown in.

For Jarnie
 Alas the shield bug, which wasn't too happy about being confined in a plastic container escaped my clutches when I wasn't looking, so it lost out on immortality in Jarnie's book. But as luck would have it ( for me ) my daughter found a dead queen bee, Bombus lapidarius, in the porch! So I added it today. It's a bit of a sprawling composition but I don't mind that too much....the bee and anemone are gone but not forgotten
What's next....I've no idea! but can't wait for Sarah's sketchbook to arrive.

The 'Grapes', March

In March I worked in Terri's sketchbook. A quick decision was made to paint Fritillaria uva-vulpis also known as Fox's grapes - it only seemed right to add  the Grape Hyacinth (two coloured Muscari).  I've never painted either of these plants before so it was good to get the chance to try them.  I grew the Frit's from bulbs which I planted very late after painting the bulbs in my own sketchbook at the start of the project, so felt I had to paint them in flower as part of the project. The Muscari was purchased from the garden centre, just a coincidence but I thought the name theme seemed appropriate and the colours sat together quite well....just a bit of opportunisitic fun and great for loosening up the painting style....makes a nice change from the usual planning with botanical stuff!

'Grapes' for Terri


Thursday, 1 May 2014

The sketchbook effect

It’s three months into our sketchbook exchange now and I’m feeling more relaxed about my contributions. As an Art teacher used to say to me, “There’s no need to get so anxious about a painting, nobody’s going to die!” Yes, she had a way with words...

East Auquhadlie Pines, Winsor and Newton inks

I painted East Auquhadlie Pines as a contrast to my last painting of snowdrops. I limited the colours to two Winsor and Newton inks, Black and Peat, so I didn’t have to concern myself with colour mixing and could concentrate on tonal values. I also wanted to try a different medium from watercolours.

I was surprised to see how many different hues the inks separated into as they reacted to the paper and when diluted with different amounts of water. This wasn’t my intention, but one of those unexpected accidents that I was happy to go along with.

Snowdrops, the end of darkness...

I find the long, dark winters where I live a struggle, but when I see the first snowdrops peeping above the black soil my heart lifts. To me the first snowdrops mean spring is on its way and the days will be getting longer.

Snowdrops, Galanthus nivalis, graphite and watercolour

“According to legend, the snowdrop became a symbol of hope when Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden. When Eve was about to give up hope that the cold winter would never end, an angel appeared, transformed some of the snowflakes into snowdrop flowers, proving that winter eventually gives way to spring.”

Perhaps because the snowdrop is so important to me, I felt I couldn’t do justice to its beauty and so was disappointed with my painting. White flowers are notoriously difficult to paint, though!