Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Boris and his Flowers

So another layer on the flowers while I wait for my magic eraser... I am not an avid fan of yellow flowers, especially ones that are this pale. Still, I mixed my own grey from the primary colours I used in the rest of the painting and it seems to have worked (Lemon Yellow, Mauve and Ultramarine). I am glad I waited this long to do it. I suddenly feel like my skills have launched off the helipad. When I look at some bits of my paintings now and I only wish I started them later when I had this new set of skills. Although, that's silly as I wouldn't have the skills if I hadn't done these painting in the first place. Still it's a good feeling to suddenly feel like you can do anything (or should I say a whole lots more) on the paper

Worked on Pol's yesterday and she is looking a lot better. Polly was actually originally done from my head/memory! I then got a herbarium specimen to check the flowers and put them in later so that the sizes were correct. I now have a plant, so I am able to sort out the shading on her leaves. This is not how how I wanted to paint her, but I had to get on with it and get a lot of the primary layers in place before I went to Bali. I am glad I was that organised now. I will post a picture of Polly tomorrow.

Song of the moment:

When I grow up, I want to be a forester
Run through the moss on high heels
That’s what I’ll do, throwing out boomerang
Waiting for it to come back to me

When I grow up, I want to live near the sea
Crab claws and bottles of rum
That’s what i’ll have staring at the seashell
Waiting for it to embrace me

I put my soul in what I do
Last night I drew a funny man
with dark eyes and a hanging tongue
It goes way bad, I never liked a sad look
From someone who wants to be loved by you

I’m very good with plants
When my friends are away
they let me keep the soil moist
On the seventh day I rest
for a minute or two
then back on my feet and cry for you oooh oh

You’ve got cucumbers on your eyes
Too much time spent on nothing
waiting for a moment to arise
The face in the ceiling and arms too long
I wait for him to catch me

Waiting for you to embrace me
The Maiden Hair Fern...

So here is a glimpse of the Maidenhair Fern around the Phalaenopsis. I am glad I put it in the painting, but it's still not remedied the problem. There is still a 'hole' in the overall composition, so I am going to have to put a third Milly in - as suggested by my wise friend Vicki. This is going to require a magic eraser. I haven't used one of these before so when it arrives in the post I will do some trial runs in my sketchbook before putting it anywhere near this painting. I really hope I can fix this before the deadline.

Other news is my back is really bad now. Can't move my left arm very well. I think I need to save up my pennies for a drawing board! As a result of this I have been with the acupuncturist this luncheon getting a good old prod. She is very good and knows what she is doing. The pain did go after a couple of sessions, but it's back with vengeance. I guess it's not surprising with all the work I am doing.

I thought I'd post this in. Here I resotrted to placing the real leaves on the painting in order to work out if this is what I wanted to do.

Next up - Boris's flowers...

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Spring has started at Kew!

On your marks, get set... go!

Only towards the end of the SBA course have I suddenly realised that none of my marks are published on this blog for each assignment, so I am going through them all and putting the marks in under the latest posts for each. I am also going to put them in here for you:

Assignment 1 (Tulip and a Coffee plant): 8.55/10
Assignment 2 (Magnolia): 8.73/10
Assignment 3 (Leaves in June): 8.62/10
Assignment 4 (Flowers in August): 7.67/10
Assignment 5 (Oriental Lily): 8.32/10
Assignment 6 (Essay): 2.5/5
Assignment 7 (2011 Grapes): 9.19/10
Assignment 8 (Sally the Savoy): 8.63/10
Assignment 9 (Romilly the Rose): 7.45/10
Assignment 10 (Maritime Plants): 9.20/10
Assignment 11 (Waterlilies at Kew): 8.52/10
Assignment 12 (Climbing Plants): 9.00/10
Portfolio Pieces 1, 2 and 3 ?????!!!!
Sketchbook ?????!!!!

Thursday, 23 February 2012

What a day

What a day, and I still have 5 hours to go... other than painting, I have had to emulate a rainforest climate in my room and have now got dripping wet towels everywhere and the heating cranked up. I have spent 30 minutes huffing on all three orchids. Got to keep them happy and I think they like the human contact. I am also exhausted from the painting.

So painting - it's crazy stuff. It's suddenly slowed down in progression. Not sure why - maybe it just got fiddly... Anyway, I am about to finish Cindy. I am not sure if I want to put the Maidenhair in or not now... Can I have suggestions please? I was going to put Marian in the bottom right and a few fronds on the left as well. I thought the leaves echoed the shape of Milly's petals rather well, but now I am not sure... I think I am bottling a bit!

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Dark Field Microscopy

When I was at Plymouth University I did some work using a dark-field microscope and these are the images I took by screwing a camera onto the apparatus. I really like these pictures. The microscope did all the work though. Who would have thought a Forget-me-not could be any more beautiful?!
Day off today. I wasn't planning on it -it just ended up that way. I think I need a day off from them to refresh. Will be back painting tomorrow though.



Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Milly's spots

I spent most of yesterday darkening Milly and then put some of her spots on. The spots are Madder Red, Winsor Green and Permanent Rose, after I got a tip that it's better to mix your own browns. Milly herself has been done by layering Red Madder, Permanent Rose and Mauve. It's taking ages to get something that dark, at the same time as trying to make it look velvety and three dimensional.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Progress on my last piece for the SBA

Well, it feels like the end of an era! I have only just realised that this is my last piece for the diploma. Sad really, but to be honest I am gagging to start this new project I have been developing in my mind. Everyday a new dimension is added to this project.

So, after searching the house with 6 floors I found a camera cable.

Here's Milly, Phil and Cindy:

And here's my pop-up studio:

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Inky Leaves on Tour

I am starting to get very good at painting on the move! Although at first I found packing and unpacking all my brushes and paints a nuisance, I believe it actually helps my creativity. I makes me feel more free and so I work faster with bolder strokes of the brush.

I am in Bristol until Tuesday. I am sure most of my readers will think me mad going away for a few days so close to my deadline, especially after the Bali trip. I think I am mad, but it seems to be going OK. Henry is cooking me meals and I am going for walks in the local park to keep my dicky shoulder and hip mobile. I also have much more space here. Much better than being cooped up in my teeny room at Kew.

So, news... well apart from the Inky Leaves studio popping up in the south west, I am discovered that Winsor and Newton Potter's Pink is an extremely irritating pigment to work with. It doesn't seem to dry onto the paper at all. Every time I add a new layer (after drying the first one) it comes off! It also is VERY grainy and generally a right pain. However, as Cindy is potter's pink I don't have much choice. I could never mix that colour in a million years and it says on the Winsor and Newston website that you can't, which is why I got in the first place. I got a lot of pinks when I bought my new paints this year, because I find they are a nightmare to mix. Especially the luminous ones which look almost as if they shouldn't really be on our colour spectrum but in the ultra violet one.

So, all in all, apart from *!?#** Potter's Pink, the painting is going well (although in my opinion it will never be as good as the real thing, because I believe an orchid flower is perfection. No one will ever mimic the beauty that is 'the orchid'). However, despite realising this fact half way through, I have begun Phil the Phalaenopsis.

I am going to have a root around this beautiful Georgian house to see if I can find a camera cable and then I'l be able to show you. If not, then I guess you'll see on Tuesday!

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Basil (Ocimum basilicum)

One blunt F pencil, one sharpened F pencil, one normal B pencil and a very sharp 4B pencil used in this study

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Milly's Progress

With the recent activity on a some botanical art blogs about white backgrounds, I am trying to teach myself how to change this horrible grey background on photoshop. However I am not getting very far. I will watch some of the video's available online tomorrow and see if they enlighten me. For now though, I'm posting Milly's grey background... unless someone can give me a step by step in the comments? If you do I would be VERY grateful as I am starting to pull my hair out!

So this is Milly after one day of painting - the first day! It's always good doing the first bit, as it's the most risky. Now I have done the scary bit feel I can keep going. Milly is a dark purple-red (the image I posted of her here is too red and doesn't show her true colour and the image above of her has come out more purple that the real thing - yep, I cam having trouble with my camera!).

I have had to use masking fluid to block out her markings. I don't like to use it and rarely do (am still convinced that it's a form of cheating), but with the wet washes I need to apply to her bottom petal the masking fluid has become an essential material. Milly so far as has a wash of Red Madder, a 6 alternating washes of mixed Winsor Violet and Red Madder and Permanent Rose (on it's own).

Grapes in pencil - F, B, HB, 4B and 8B used in this study

I am also cracking on with the sketchbook work still, which I am really enjoying now. It's very satisfying completing work as part of a collection.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Different ways of depicting a Miltoniopsis

So I have decided to call my Miltoniopsis Milly! She smells amazing this morning. I hadn't noticed the smell until today as a load of new buds have opened since I gave her a watering (snow melt - something VERY odd about giving an orchid snow melt!). She smells of honey and it is VERY strong.

Milly's ancestors are from central America, but she is from the Netherlands. She likes it warm and humid in the day and cool in the evening.

I am off work today, so I will be working on starting my mixed floral. I hope everyone else's assignments are going well. I haven't seen many examples of the botanical illustration piece online so I hope everyone is on target. It's a scary and demanding time!

Anyway, again here's a small selection of some other artists achievements:

'Pansy Orchids' by Mark Satchwill. There are some great Sarracenia's on this blog.

This Miltoniopsis is from a collection at Indianapolis Museum of Art
They have a whole loads of Orchids on their site.

Porcelain work by Pat Axani Ellson 

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Waterlilies for the Sketchbook...

Some of my water lily studies in pencil

So during this cold snap I have been ultra-busy trying to get my sketchbook sorted out at the same time as my portfolio work. I am going away to Bristol for a short spell and hope that I will get most of my mixed flora completed then. If not, then I will be handing in with diploma course 8! Boris and Polly aren't completed either, so the race is on. I am trying to pace myself though. After drawing all day I feel like I can't do anything in the evenings, so I relax. It is remarkable how tiring drawing can be... it really uses the brain. It's like learning a new language and we all know how exhausting that can be!

A Snowy Kew Gardens:

 The Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art in the snow yesterday

Friday, 10 February 2012

Different ways of depicting a Phalaenopsis

So I have decided to call my Phalaenopsis Phil...! I am not convinced of naming my three new orchids names which begin with an 'O'. I usually stick to the genus names, and rarely use the common name. Sally and Polly are exceptions to the rule.

Anyway, here's a small selection of some other artists achievements. I always find it good to look at different techniques, and at the same time this is promoting a new set of blogs and websites which we may not have come across yet. 

Both by Rosie Sanders - who has a new website and it's stunning! 

A fantastic mural by 'Ying Fat' - I recommend seeing the link - multiple views

'Phalenopsis' by Libby Carreck

By Zoe Norman , a past SBA student

And the Philadelphia Society of Botanical Illustrators have a lot of orchids in general.

I am a bit behind with this Orchid painting. I haven't gone beyond completing the line drawing yet. I'm still filling up my sketchbook too. I hope there will be some of my own work to post soon. In the meantime I am listening a lot to Mika's song 'Relax' in the hope that it will rub off on me whilst working non-stop. The acupuncture really wiped me out too, but it's certainly doing the trick!

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Old drawings

Lime drawn in 1996 for a school project (aged 12)

It's always good to look at your old work. I think it gives you that sense of progress. Sometimes it is hard to see how much you have improved with all the practice. I am a right one for completing a bit of work and stuffing it into a file never to look at it again. Then a friend will eventually ask to see my latest work and I find myself being, for the first time, surprised at how good the recent paintings are, whilst trying to hide some of the older work that I am embarrassed by. It's only then when I realise how the hours of practice have paid off.

Chrysanthemum drawing completed in 1997 (aged 13)

I loved doing this Chrysanthemum. My mum helped me after I was having a bit of a tantrum. I have ever been good at drawing what I am told to draw, which was often the case with art homework (now this is the case with my SBA homework). She sat me down and handed me the pen and drew the first petals. Once I got into the dots I was in a trance. I loved every dot.

Sketchbook work for my orchid piece 2012

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

My new orchids

This is the biggest one. She is beautiful. I am in love with her.

Monday, 6 February 2012

More sketchbook pieces

Rosa sp.
Using 9B, 5B, B and F pencils - some blunt and sharp

Tulipa sp.
Using 5B, B and F pencils - all very sharp.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Last diploma piece

So I was a little disheartened yesterday as I left Kew Gardens. I was hoping that some of the Camelia's would be calling out to me to be painted, but instead they clung onto their branches with weak stems and faded, brown petals. Jack Frost had got to them. Not a patch of colour in sight. But then I decided to pop into the shop. The shop at Kew can be, in my view, a hit or miss affair, but look what I found:

Rows and rows of beautiful orchids! It is the tropical extravaganza here at Kew and I totally forgot that the shop stocks it's shelves to the brim at this time of year. So the plan now is to purchase several orchids and do a mixed arrangement using them. I am so pleased I have found my subject!

On another note, I want to discuss rainforests

I have always painted plants, for as long as I can remember, but I didn't take it seriously until I went to Malaysia to do some field work. I noticed that I kept drawing alongside my study work and surveys. For me, not only was the process of drawing easier to note things down but it was the best way to convey information to an audience. I am learning to become a good botanical illustrator because I eventually want to use this out in the field. Rather like Margaret Mee. I want to use my art for conservation. Sadly, I don't have the means to go out into the jungle at the moment. I have no support network (group of scientists) or the funding. This frustrates me as I feel I am being called. I felt it in Malaysia, I felt it in Belize, I felt it in Indonesia and I feel it now.

If I was really determined, I could force myself to go out there. But for me I have decided to go along a more personal route at first. My theory is with the rainforests seeming to be 'so far away' from the western world, if this distance is distancing us in our minds (along with a bit of denial). Is a geographical separation leading into a social one? So I have been digging around this idea for the last two years. I have been wondering what to do next. I will probably go back into science once this course is finished, but I am keen to use what I have learned. So I have decided to embark on a big project which will take me a long long time. I'm keeping it quiet at the moment though I am afraid, so I can't say any more than that.

However, while I am trying to save the planet from my desk, a dear friend of mine Stephanie Ayres is doing what I wish I could do. She has managed to get a place to go to Borneo with The Heart of Borneo team. I am so excited for her. She is a brilliant illustrator of plants, animals and insects. However, she needs some help with funding. I am defiantly going to try and support her and the team. Looking at their website they do some fantastic things. I particularly like the canopy work (scroll down).

Rainforests are among the most threatened ecosystems on the planet. Although the precise area is debated, each day at least 80,000 acres (32,300 ha) of forest disappear from Earth. At least another 80,000 acres (32,300 ha) of forest are degraded. Along with them, the planet loses as many as several hundred species to extinction, the majority of which have never been documented by science. As these forests fall, more carbon is added to the atmosphere, climactic conditions are further altered, and more topsoil is lost to erosion.

Extent of deforestation in Borneo from 1950-2020
Despite increased awareness of the importance of these forests, deforestation rates have not slowed. Analysis of figures from the FAO shows that tropical deforestation rates increased 8.5% from 2000-2005 when compared with the 1990s, while loss of primary forests may have expanded by 25% over the same period. Nigeria and Vietnam's rate of primary forest loss has doubled since the 1990s, while Peru's rate has tripled. Overall, FAO estimates that 10.4 million hectares of tropical forest were permanently destroyed each year in the period from 2000 to 2005, an increase since the 1990-2000 period, when around 10.16 million hectares of forest were lost.
There is some super work on the Kew site from the GIS team here. They tweet from the rainforest everyday and have a blog.
Deforestation in the Riau Province, Sumatra, to make place for a pal oil plantation (2007). Palm oil is used in soaps, washing powers, crisps, sweets, cakes, petfood, candles, cosmetics, shampoo's and in biofuels. When used in food it is usually listed as 'vegetable oil' on the ingredients list - rarely as palm oil itself.
If you want to support Stephanie I suggest that you drop her an email:

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Dr. Sherwood's new exhibition webpage is now live

Amanita muscaria by Alexander Viazmensky

Runner beans and a postcard

So I have done a bit more sketchbook work. Tried to find some flowers to paint for the next assignment, but everything is pretty much dead, even the poor Daffodils that came out too early. So it looks like I may have to resort to the supermarket after all. Pity, as I prefer to paint things that I find. I did find some beautiful cherries in the frost all plump, semi-transparent, a burgundy red and juicy. They were surrounded by a thicket of cripsy, curled brown birch leaves. The contrasting sight was quite extraordinary and I really wanted to paint them. However, I worry I'd loose marks with there not being any flowers, so maybe that's for another day...

My mum came to visit me on Thursday which was lovely. She arrived with this postcard which she bought on ebay. It's a fabulous painting of a Narcissus poeticus. Both she and I like the grey-blue background. Oddly enough, she hadn't looked at the other side until arriving in London and on the reverse was an address to Bognor Regis. This was my home town (and her's one time). Don't you just love it when odd things like that occur? I do like a coincidence and a bit of serendipity.

Narcissus poeticus

Friday, 3 February 2012

Another Magnolia

Work in progress

I'm doing lots of Magnolias to catch up on sketchbook work that should have been done for Assignment 2. Next: leaves. This is like time travel playing catch up.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Sketchbooks, Borris and a thank you

Magnolia sketch 30.01.2012 (work in progress)

So, I have been busy trying to get some work done, but as usual it's slow going! Sadly I have really hurt my left hip and left shoulder trying to get the work done and this is slowing me down. I am planning on seeing an acupuncturist this week to begin sorting it out. I think both are probably a mixture of some emotional blockage as well as a physical problem. Not sure if a drawing board would help. I was fine in Bali, all screwed up with a pad on my lap, then I return en Angleterre and bam! :(

My two notebooks - these make up the bulk of my sketchbooks. More writing than watercolour work! I found this much more useful than practice painting, but if I had the time I'd have done both. Here I am analysing other artists work, saying what I like, what I don't like and trying to learn from their mistakes. I think this is a vital part in all art work and feel that the SBA course needs more of this in its syllabus. In book one I am analysing a painting by Lilian Snelling before doing assignment five. In book two I am looking at a waterlily ready for assignment 11.

I also wanted to thank you all, as not only was January 2012 a bumper month for me (I had the most visitors I have ever had in a month), but I have also passed 16,000 visitors since I began this blog in 2009! I can't begin to describe what a boost your visits and comments give me - so thank you. I hope you find Inky Leaves a fun and inspirational place to visit.

Boris - I was going to post a picture of him after my work on Sunday, but alas my camera has just ran out of battery and I am not at home, so I will have to do this later. I am starting to work on the pale yellow flowers and am finding this a difficult task. If anyone has any tips for me, I would be grateful. I am using a greenish-grey for the shadows and am hoping that this will work.