Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Forbidden Root

A brewing company called Forbidden Fruit is soon to market a line of all-natural, botanic craft beer, brewed with roots, barks, flowers, spices, herbs, and other natural ingredients. They are looking to partner with botanical artists to incorporate their work into their packaging, as a means of spreading awareness of the botanical art community as well as plants. 

At the moment they are looking for pictures of 

Licorice Root 
Yerba Santa 
Key Lime 

Interested in getting involved? Email Emily...

Deadline - 1st November 2013

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Sewing the Seeds of Love....

Yep, you've got it - I have started another little sewing project. Well, not exactly 'little' as it's rather big actually, but you get the drift. Three of my friends are getting married this year, so I have my work cut out when it comes to making the wedding samplers. With this in mind I thought it would be good to get on with things.

'London Love' - wedding sampler close up

This one is on linen. It's actually an old napkin. The count is really, really teeny, so I am not being as regimental with it as I was with Yogi Lion. I have decided to go for a London theme using a 1950s style. Not really sure what I am doing to be honest, but let's see how it goes! 

'London Love' - wedding sampler close up

This is what I do on my tube rides on the way into (and back from) work. It makes the hour pass very quickly. In the mornings I am usually left to my own devices, but in the afternoons commuters often want to talk about my work. Children ALWAYS watch - they are the best punters. They don't distract, but instead fill me with a wonderful glowing energy that is fuelled with curiosity, fascination and spontaneity. Children always know how to enjoy the moment and remind me to do the same. I love sewing in front of children.

'London Love' - wedding sampler close up showing all the different stitches and patterns

This is what it looks like flat. I picked my colours for this bit whilst on the tube, only to notice that I had accidentally selected the colours of the different London Underground lines... (the border is going to be yellow... making the full set with the circle line). It's amazing how much our brains are influenced on an unconscious level. In fact, it's actually rather disturbing!

'London Love'
So we also have red for the Central line, orange for the Overground, dark blue for the Piccadilly line, light blue for the Victoria line, pink for the Hammersmith and City line, green for District line, black for Northern line and maroon for Metropolitan line. Maybe I need to squeeze in brown and grey for the Bakerloo and Jubilee lines?!! Oh and then there is also the DLR... forgot the DLR....

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Mind the Globule

'Black and White, in Colour' is now open at the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art in Kew Gardens. The great thing about this little exhibition is that it is a selling show, which makes it all the more interactive in my eyes. On top of this, there are two showcases demonstrating how Sue Wickison and Sue J. Williams have painted their subjects, building even further onto a level of interaction which I rather like. Black and white subjects are notoriously tricky to paint and the two artists help us to see how we can go about painting them by showing us their colour swatches and sketches. It's like being in their studio, or walking into a sketchbook.
 Showcase of Sue J Williams' work
Interestingly I bumped into Sue Williams by accident whilst attending one of the meetings at the Chelsea Florilegium Society last week. I popped along to show them my portfolio. I found the entire process rather scary it was to be said! I think it was the level of professionalism that I found rather intimidating and when I noticed that Andrew Brown was judging my work alongside Judi Stone and Dugald Graham-Campbell I did panic a bit. Anyway - the good news is that they liked my work and I am now in the process of waiting for the papers to become an official member. I am very excited about this as I have wanted to be part of this Society for years.

 Showcase of Sue Wickison's work
It was a very insightful afternoon all in all (it find it always is when I am at Cheslea!). Upon arrival we were served lots of tea and the most scrumptious, thick and laden biscuits you have ever laid your eyes on. If you put any more chocolate chips in the shortbread cookies they would be more 'chocolate bar' than 'cookie'. Then there was a lot of talking, munching and sipping (or slurping as it was hot). They had a raffle on where you could win a piece of Rory McEwen's vellum (which was kindly gifted by one of the members to raise funds for the Society) and lots of plant lists so you could choose which plant from the garden you wanted to paint. I liked this bit. Apparently, as of this month, they have decided to focus on the ethnobotanicals in the garden which is great news! I couldn't believe my luck! 

So after gorging myself on tea and deluxe biscuits I joined the other members for a tutorial on how to paint on vellum by Sarah Gould. It was incredibly informative. She is a superb teacher and had brought everything with her in the form of props. I was very, very impressed. The best bit was a piece of board which had different types of vellum stuck onto it with teeny paintings on each one so you could compare the different effects that each type gives. She also had lots of different loose sheets of vellum so you could see the transparency and feel the thickness, and a very old document to show how it ages. Sarah demonstrated mounting techniques too and said if you see a shiny globule of paint at the tip of your brush when it hits the vellum it means it is too wet and you must stop immediately. Pretty sound advice... don't push that globule around guys... it ain't going to go anyway and has the potential to bring ruin. Ha! Who would have thought a globule could be so dangerous? All this danger is pretty exciting and it really makes me want to get cracking on with my little piece of vellum! I have decided what to paint on it, well I think so anyway... just need to do a spot of practicing on another piece. Any guesses what I am painting?

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Feeling a bit cross eyed

 A bit more has been done today, but not as much as I'd hoped. My shoulders have given up the ghost and I found my eye's were going a bit mental looking at all the bumps. Which brings me on to say that the colours found on each bump are extraordinary. In places it's like looking at metal, or at oil in a puddle. So many colours, and rather luminescent, like a pearl. Who would have thought so much could be present on the leaf of the humble lettuce?!

Rainbows and Gasoline by The Ghost an Saber Tooth Tiger  - I thought it appropriate... This is a little song describing the amazing patterns made by oil in puddles and something I listened to whilst getting over those bumps! Personally though - this one is my favourite track and video. I like the idea of all those great minds in one room.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

As Cosmic as a Cos

A few more layers have been applied and a bit more of the paper has been covered... It took me a while to get into things today.  I am not sure if it's because I have rearranged my studio, or if it was because I am tired. The weather was stunning this morning in London too... just so tempting to go out in it - the sunshine was literally shouting to be embraced. I find that this time of the year frequently beckons for long walks in Hampstead Heath with all those beautiful golden colours. It's a spectacular time of year and only three weeks to my birthday - Hooray! Anyway, in the end I decided that a potter in the garden was adequate (but really it wasn't!).

So with the studio rearranged (I am now deskless) and music on (Guns and Roses and Django Reinhardt for today) this is what I managed...

Nice one google

I do love the richness of these older paintings... I am always trying to capture this richness. Bryan Poole I think is still the master at getting pictures to look like this - maybe that's the best way? Printing inks... Or vellum? Anyway - thanks Google for giving me a good start to my day. Lovely to see all this colour first thing.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Be-Cos I am worth it

This week (excluding a mad dash to Copenhagen for a weekend of fun) I have been busy filling up my time in doing as much painting as possible and I can certainly say that I am starting to feel the rewards of getting up early. It's rather wonderful waking up before everyone else and having a good two hours of quiet time before other occupants in the house start to distract you from your work, or even worse - vibrate the floor boards at that critical time, when you've made a start in painting those very thin filaments. 

Little Gem Lettuce  - work in progress
It is indeed rather wonderful. Even the small sense of sneakiness is wonderful. I have always been sneaky. Some of my best memories as a child are when I felt I got away with something naughty. The funniest took place when I was at infants school during one of those 'colouring in sessions'. In the middle of each table we would have a selection of crayons, all of which I really hated (and continue to do so). However one day something remarkable happened - I needed to colour something in crimson. I dutifully found the appropriate colour in the crayon-pool and went for it, doing by best to stay in the lines. Then I remember this feeling of utter astonishment, for this was no ordinary crayon. It produced the deepest, richest colour known to man. It was thick and lush and gorgeous. Of course I didn't know at the time why this crayon was so spectacular, I had never used oil pastels before... Not knowing what this thing was and feeling rather smug with my find I decided that I'd be keeping this little beauty for myself. No sharing of the magic crayon. I put it in my pocket. It gave me a lot of pleasure... I used it repeatedly and I felt very sneaky. That was I felt great until my mother washed my dress one day and forgot to check the pockets... Yes, then I wasn't so smug. Although I distinctly remember still trying to maintain that feeling of triumph and saying that my mum really ought to have checked the pockets. Gosh - what a know it all. I must have been a real nightmare at times. Someone who had an answer for everything...

Anyway, I feel great because not only have I got some work done, but I also feel like I have succeeded in some dreadful deed... the sneaking out of bed with no one watching. It's very satisfying. It's not for everyone that's for sure. It can get a bit lonely and people think you've lost the plot. Still... I think it's totally worth getting up at 6.30am. Bring it on.

Little Gem Lettuce  - work in progress close up
So yes - the Cos. Well it is by far the trickiest thing I have attempted because it's big and bumpy. At least Sally was small and bumpy and she also stuck to the same colour variation. Still, I am enjoying the experience and feel I am getting faster, which can only be a good thing.

I am currently using a lot of dry brush with Cos. I am doing this because I am gearing up to try vellum next, plus this Saunders can take a real battering and lets you push the paint around. I also am trying to avoid any cockling. Problem with the dry brush is that I am having to use minute brushes so it takes a very long time, but I believe... (slightly hijacking the words of L'oreal), Cos is worth it.

Yogi Lion Framed

Reap What You Sow

This morning my tube was delayed. I had until recently been having quite a good run on the old tubes... managing to dodge engineering works and signal failures but it seems this morning was my turn to experience a delay. Luckily I had packed my sewing and had a seat, so not all was lost. As a consequence of the delay I ended up walking into work a bit later which meant I bumped into all the little school children on their way in. It was a wonderful sight for today was Harvest Festival day. An array of baskets, Jute bags and boxes (notably decorated with sprigs of fresh thyme) all made their way into the school gates this morning via a pair a spindly legs with navy woolen tights and still rather squeaky new patent leather shoes. How delightful!

This was to mark the start of a rather magical day, for later on I managed to harvest something myself. Two wonderful lasses called Sam and Christabel gifted something very, very special, to me - a piece of their father's vellum. Dumbfounded I did not know what to say - I really did not. My heart swelled and I burst into tears. This was a tad embarressing as all my work colleagues were there, including Kew's constabularly and a few visitors, but this could not be helped.

So now, as I write this, I have a small piece of A5 vellum sitting on my desk staring at me and screaming for attention. I have never painted on vellum before, but I am sure as hell going to learn how to now! So the plan is to get another piece to practice on once I have finished Cos. I can't wait. I hope that the medium will suit my style as I do like to use a dry brush more than a wet one. I had been experimenting with a wet on wet technique, but it really doesn't suit me at all, so I have been slowly reverting back to the original technique since completing Monstera problema.

Knowing full well that vellum is an absolute pain to hang and store because of it's sensitivity to humidity I am going to invest in some Artsorb. Here in the gallery, when framing vellum ourselves, we tend to put a piece of this in to help limit the amount of movement and to reduce the chances of cockling. Artsorb is very clever - it absorbs moisture when it's damp and releases it when it's too dry. Dianne Sutherland has referred to the storing of vellum in her blog and highlights rather well why it can be a bit of a nightmare:

"A word of warning about storage
Despite the fact that vellum is one of the most robust surfaces to preserve it does have it’s limits and requires a relatively stable environment. Care should be taken when storing it, it should be kept in fairly constant temperature 20° C (± 1.5° C) and 30% (± 5%) relative humidity. An environment with less than 11% relative humidity can cause vellum to become fragile and brittle. Conditions where relative humidity is greater than 40%, may cause vellum to become susceptible to mould and fungal growth." Nicely said - I couldn't have put it better myself (hence quote).