Friday, 14 August 2015

The Yellow Loosestrife is almost complete

It's time for a break. I have been hard at it this fortnight trying to catch up on the two weeks I had to take off with the flu whilst also trying to clear the deck ready for more work to come in. I have been sitting down at the drawing board at 9am and leaving it alone at 9pm, although last night I got a second wind thanks to taking a longer break with my neighbour Terri, which meant I was able to carry on until midnight before the mosquitoes kicked me out. It's not a twelve hour day as I take breaks, but it sometimes feels like it when I go to sleep and all I can see is green... 

Yellow Loosestrife - Inky Leaves
Yellow Loosestrife (Lysimachia vulgaris) 2015
So here is Lucy... she's certainly come on a bit. It has been slow going this piece. I put it down to the heat (which is remarkably hot and humid still - Granada managed to knock through another record high yesterday) and my lack of confidence. I knew right from the start that this piece would challenge me and took it on for that reason. Feeling so hesitant with my brushes has meant that I have not only used a completely different painting technique (using teeny brushes and wet washes), but also has made it so that I've very slow in getting the colour onto the paper. There are lots and lots of very thin washes in this piece. I am not slapping on the paint like a mad woman. It is a delicate hairy plant that needs a delicate touch. It also a bold plant though, and quite a showy thing in any boarder. I knew I needed to capture both characteristics and have tried to portray the bright and bold side of this species by using dramatic shadows, intense colours and by arranging them to make an 'exploding' composition.

Yellow Loosestrife (Lysimachia vulgaris)
Yellow Loosestrife (Lysimachia vulgaris) 2015

Lucy still isn't finished and I will probably go back to her after I publish this post for a few hours. I will then tweak it when I am in England. I need a longer break for tweaks so I can see all the mistakes afresh.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Lucy the Yellow Loosestrife

This is definitely the hardest thing I have ever painted and it's all in tiny brush, which is why its taking longer to do. What's difficult are the colours foremost, and then the shading as I have a lot in shadow for this piece. Then there's the texture of the leaves, which is still proving to be difficult to capture, but I am enjoying the challenge - really I am. If I wasn't, I wouldn't be in the studio first thing (that's usually a sign).  

Yellow Loosestrife (Lysimachia vulgaris) - work in progress
I have five days to complete Lucy before I take her to England, can I do it? Hopefully!

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

What a fortnight

Posting appears to have slowed down again... There's been a lot going on behind the scenes. First of all I went on 'shut down' as I tried to locate a theme for the RHS show and then it got hot (42 degrees again) here, which rendered me useless. My computer Sandy also hates the heat, so I have been trying to avoid switching her on and typing. Then a load of work came in, and well, I have basically been busy in the studio trying to juggle too many balls. I have been working on commissions and the RHS at the same time, which to be honest, is really stupid, so I have put the RHS, my leaves and everything else to one side as I give the other work priority. Hence the recent plant hunt for a gooseberry, which many of you helped me with - thank you.

Yellow Loosestrife (Lysimachia vulgaris) - work in progress
First up has been the Yellow Loosestrife, which needless to say, is causing me some 'strife'. It's yellow for starters... not sure if any of you have noticed that I tend to stay away from that part of the spectrum..? Plus it has very difficult leaves - they aren't glossy and are also rather hairy which is very difficult to do as the leaves have a habit of looking rather 'flat'. Needless to say I am enjoying the challenge.

Yellow Loosestrife (Lysimachia vulgaris) - work in progress
Other news is that I will be in the UK for an extended trip while I paint a gooseberry and another two species.  I will also be amassing a large collection of sketches to take back to Spain for other projects, so I will be super, super busy. With all this work piling up I have just done my annual online watercolour and brush order which was eye wateringly 'spenny', but had to be done. So, posts might be weekly or fortnightly for the next couple of months while I work in top gear. Have a great summer everyone and if you are in the big smoke and want to meet up, just email Inky Leaves, I am always up for a cuppa and some cake (or a beer).

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Just watch where you put your brushes

Just a short post, which many of you might feel is a little odd, misplaced and not really that important, but I feel it is. I believe that I have to blog about this in case there are any artists out there who are doing the same without realising, especially those who are new to botanical art. Once again I appear to have ingested too much paint. You'll be pleased to know that I have managed to re-train my brain to stop sucking my brushes, but I am still known for gripping the handles of my brushes with my teeth (like a dog with a bone). When I paint I often have four brushes on the go, sometimes more. One wet with nothing on it, a harsh 'mixing brush' and then two with paint, often different shades of green. So I put one behind each ear and one in my teeth while I paint with the other. Painting on a drawing board means I don't put them 'down' and to be honest, I realise now that these problems all started when I got Derek Drew the drawing board back in 2013.

James Sowerby's illustrations of gems and minerals (18th Century)
What I am probably suffering from is a build up of metals from years of working in potteries, garages and museums whilst also painting. My work in museums probably really didn't help as I was working in the geology section and frequently worked with minerals such as cinnabar, arsenic, erythrite and galena. I also worked on herbarium specimens which are often covered in mercury and release mercury vapour and entomology collections that are poisoned with naphthalene. I also worked in a lab for a summer as a cytologist using naphthalene, which is a really nasty substance known to stop cell division. My poor body!

Anyway, needless to say, despite not sucking my brushes or working in a museum I still seem to be ingesting metal through the water along the shaft of my brush handles. As I am dry brush worker, I rarely dip my brush dip all the way into the water, but the other day I did and the consequences were diabolically bad. I felt very confused, off balance and delirious. It was, and still is, pretty frightening. I often wonder if this is what happened to Van Gogh and if it wasn't just the wormwood. Anyway, feeling pretty angry at myself for being so utterly stupid and I am now re-training the way I use my brushes AGAIN and this is tricky - one gets so absorbed into the painting that one looses their awareness. Of course, added to this, I use all the toxic colours... Aureolin, Cobalt Blue, Cerulean Blue, Hookers Green, Olive Green, Sap Green and New Gamboge. I especially love my Daler Cobalt Blue and think it's that that's doing it as the 'crazy' feeling is always worse when I am painting bluer plants, like Hostas and Brassicas and I always have the feeling when painting something green.

Anyway, needless to say I am going to invest in some of this

Looks pretty cool. I am thinking of putting it on the drawing board and sticking mini magnets (which they also sell) inside the rubber so I can 'hook' the brushes onto it. In the meantime I will be eating as much coriander as I can find and lowering my alcohol consumption considerably!