Extra time and added impetus from my sketchbook have allowed me to be fascinated by oyster shells.
Image and photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2014
Image and photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2014
Image and photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2014
You can imagine how wonderful it was to follow those quirky lines of the shells. They were fluid, but didn’t need to be really precise. I have been thinking about how to use line to build up shape. I was also playing around with a water-soluble pencil. I could draw the lines and then use water to move the graphite around the paper.
I have also been playing with simple watercolour washes to create the shells. More of them later.
I was really happy with these little studies, and have put them up for sale as a set of three in my Etsy store. I am quite okay with selling them individually too. (If you are interested in buying, follow the link to check out the details. But remember that you can always contact me here if you don’t want to go through Etsy.)
What’s finished? My Cullen painting! Cullen pallidum
Why is this momentous? For a few reasons.
1. I have have been working on it for quite a while. In fact, I first collected the specimen on my first trip up to Menindee in 2011. But let me backtrack to bring you up to speed. I belong to a group of botanic artists who are collecting and painting the specimens that Dr. Hermann Beckler collected on the Burke and Wills Expedition in 1860. We are called Beckler’s Botanical Beauts and have a blog which will give you more information. It is the most complex painting I have ever done, and has required the most amount of time.
2. I am happy to have it finished because we are going to exhibit our works. This painting is now finished and is ready for the exhibition, maybe 2015, 2016.
3. I am happy to have time to do other things as, even when I haven’t been working on the painting, the need to do it has been hanging over my head. You know that feeling! Working on other things does include two more paintings from the project, but they can wait until after October.
4. I am very pleased to have it finished, because I am very happy with the result! (I have to tell you that the photo I am showing is NOT the finished work. I trust all of you who read this, but I have to think about image piracy. Sad but true.) The featured image is a photo of Cullen pallidum growing beside the road in Kinchega National Park, Menindee, New South Wales.
So, now on to oyster shells, more consistent blogging, sketches, thinking about the next painting…..
I have to confess to a little quite a lot of grand standing here. Firstly the interview is on the blog for our project, Beckler’s Botanical Bounty. Secondly, I edit that blog. Thirdly, I interviewed myself! (small blush)
Now that I have declared that, I do want to say that you might find it interesting. My “interview” is about the plant, Cullen discolor, that I have been painting. It goes into more detail about the plant itself. As well there are posts of interviews* with other artists.
At last! I have finished my painting of Cullen discolor! It has taken me a while. In fact I wrote a post about starting the painting in December 2012. 😦 To be fair to me, I have painted lots of other works in that time.
C. discolor is a prostrate plant. My painting is of a spray arching across the page.
You can see from the photo that I painted the leaves first. Once I was in the groove of leaf painting it made sense to continue. I was familiar with the paint to use and the technique for painting.
Then I had to work on the flower spikes. They were quite tricky because although they are fluffy, each pod has a distinct shape. I tried for blurry and clear at the same time! The method I used was to paint in the dark areas between each pod. That helped to build up the shape.
Painting in the stems and the flower spikes unified the painting, and people were able to read it more easily.
This next photo gives more detail. It is at the growing end of the spray, where the new growth is very soft.
However, the painting as a whole wasn’t finished at this point. As a botanic artist I try to use my work to explain the plant that I am painting. While I hope I have shown the nature of the plant — the size, shape and texture of the leaves, how the leaf stems and flower spikes join the main stem, the arrangement of the leaves on the stem and so on — I know that C. discolor is an unfamiliar plant. I had to show more with my painting. As well, compositionally I needed to add to the work. The spray was just too spindly there on its own.
I decided to add a pencil drawing showing the profile of it growing in the ground. I had taken reference drawings in Menindee last year which I used to make a final drawing on tracing paper. I then used a light box to transfer the tracing to the good paper, under the painting.
Then there was the joy of gentle pencil drawing. So nice.
The painting has been put away. I will need to do some final tweaking on it in a few months, like a final edit on a manuscript. But for now I am happy, and ready to begin the next one in the series, Cullen pallidum.
It is an interview with Evelyn, one of the artists involved. Her work is wonderfully detailed ~ detail achieved by her microscopic work. So if you have ever wondered about the role of microscopes in botanic art, head over to read her interview.
Last days of a class that you have enjoyed is often tinged of regret. This last day of the workshop was no different, and I was determined to make the most of my time.
Just to recap, on Day 1 Helen Burrows worked us through tone, grey scale and mixing neutral tints, while Day 2 was about colour bias and other colour theory. There was a rose painting thrown in.
Day 3 was the time to tie it all together.
I chose a Just Joey rose. It was open and flouncy, with lots of beautiful curves and folds. There were strong highlights and delicious glowing depths. Just what a rose should be. By the way, whenever possible botanic artists work from the real thing, not photos. Therefore it helps to have a good supply, or paint things that don’t change much, like feathers and knobs of garlic! It also means that, before we start, we try to get as much information about our specimen as possible. Line drawings, tonal maps, colour swatches all help.
First step was the line drawing. This was much easier than the bud I attempted on Day 2. I am not sure why. More understanding of the shape? My eye was “in”? A fluke? Probably the last!
While I was drawing I was taking mental notes about the colours and the hues (which I think are tones with colour). I was also looking for the little details that make the drawing real ~ which line goes under, which go over, what happens at the end the curl of the petal and so on.
Then to the colour mixing and creating hue scales. A hue scale is like a colour swatch from the paint store. It helps to understand the range of that colour (hue), from the darkest of pure pigment to the lightest of washes.
I have admitted before that colour doesn’t always come easily to me. Part of my problem is that I am lazy, believing that close enough will be good enough. So while I did some hue scales, I could have done more. Consequently the colour I ended up using with was not accurate. So my painting of the beautiful Just Joey rose is also not accurate. To defend myself a little, I was conscious of time passing…..and the exercise was to see highlights and shadows.
Hmmm. Could do better. The pencil letters are the paints that I mixed in order to get the colours ~ Quinacrodome Red, Quinacrodome Gold and Windsor Yellow Deep, If I don’t record them, I easily forget.
On to the painting? Not quite yet. Next step is to create a tonal map/drawing of the rose. It is easy to skip this step, but I like it. Not only because I love seeing tone, but because it gives me vital information about the plant I am drawing. Then, when it goes to the compost, I have can still paint with reasonable accuracy. However, I have always done these as separate drawings. Helen’s suggestion was to do it on tracing paper, over the top of the line drawing. This is a great idea. The tonal work matches the line drawing
Now on to the painting. Following those beautiful curves. Making the depths of the rose glow. Finding the nuances of tone. Understanding that on the rose there are 2 different sorts of shadows. There are the cast shadows, those made by another petal blocking the light. On my rose they were soft blue grey. Then there is the darker tone created by the light shining through the petals. These were the areas that glowed. And remembering not to get caught up in the detail of each area too soon. This was to be a first wash.
I only had time that day to get it to the stage shown above. Time was up, for both the workshop and the specimen! I was confident that I had enough information to be able to finish it at home. Not altogether the case, however. I wasn’t sure what was happening with the petals at the top left. I knew that the light was strongest on them, so I hoped that I would only need to suggest shape and hue. If the painting reads well (ie convinces us that this really is a rose) then our brains fill in the rest.
The next photo shows the tonal drawing, done on tracing paper, over the top of the work in progress. You can see how the tonal drawing helps to determine where the darks should be.
And finally, the finished painting!
I am very please with the painting, especially as an early attempt at a rose. (It is available for sale in my Etsy shop. Either follow this link, or click on the photo.) Maybe now I am enough of a Grown Up Painter to do more roses!
Thank you to all those fabulous people who took the time to make a comment on my blog. The winner was Karen Ellis. Congratulations!
Unfortunately, not everyone could win. 😦 Fortunately you have a chance to buy them at my Etsy shop. 🙂
But I think I am the biggest winner out of this giveaway. The feedback I received not only gave me warm fuzzies but also gave me a sense of what people were responding to. Most of you preferred the simplicity of the leaf and shadow, with no background. I take your point that the background could make them too cluttered.
But Carol thought the dappled background added a softness and movement behind the leaves, and connected to the colours in the leaves.
So while I may play around with some more backgrounds, I will concentrate on the leaf and shadow combo.
The other plus for me was meeting up with some new bloggers. It is always a delight reading others’ blogs. I hope that we can meet up for a virtual cup of tea and a chat another time!
(Karen, can you send me your posting details? Either reply to the email I sent yesterday, or send me a fresh one at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
“From the Forest to the Foreshore” exhibition is beginning on Saturday. (Check here for more information.) I thought you might like to see what I have painted for it. I created 2 paintings, both of scallop shell fragments. The first 2 photos are of the actual shells.
The next couple of photos show the finished paintings. (Sorry about the strange cropping of the works, but I am becoming much more aware of copyright issues. 😦 I am wondering whether showing only some of my painting may make it less desirable to copy.)
And then making the decisions about frames. What do I like? What might a potential buyer like? What suits the paintings? The black card and the mount board helps to understand what it will look like by removing other visual distractions.
I was very happy with the framed paintings.
If you get to the exhibition, tell me what you think. I would love to know.
I am involved in an ongoing botanic art project, connected to the Burke and Wills Expedition into Central Australia in 1860. Today there was an article in ‘The Age’, Melbourne’s newspaper, about the project, and an interview with Mali Moir, our driving force. It is very exciting!
As I mentioned last time I am studying how to paint shells and other beachy things for an upcoming exhibition.
I wanted to have another go at shells, to experiment with masking fluid. Masking fluid is a rubber latex solution, used to retain highlights and other light areas. Watercolour painting works from light to dark, so it is easy to cover up lighter areas and highlights. They are crucial because the highlights, reflected light and shadows give life to a painting. And they are easy to lose. Masking fluid can help out.
Shells have very definite rings (that I suspect are growth rings — am I right?). On my shells they are subtle but obvious, if that makes sense. I wanted to try to use the masking fluid to develop those rings by allowing their different colours to come through. I had to think through what parts of the shell I wanted to mask; that is, what parts I wanted to be lighter than the next layer of paint. I planned to layer the masking fluid as I layered on the washes.
The photo below shows my set up. Obviously the top three shells are the real ones! You can see small dabs of paint around them. This was to help me decide on the colour mixes. I had recently bought a new paint — Perylene Maroon — and it seems to be perfect for these shells. Mixed with Windsor Lemon it makes a very potent orange and Naples Yellow makes it opaque. The shadows were Perylene Maroon and Blue Black.
The next photo shows a close up of my work in progress, with a couple of layers of masking fluid already on. The right hand shell is the underside. You can see my drawing with some masking fluid on it. This shell had much less definition, so I wanted to see if I could create it by using washes of paint. The other two were built up by small brush strokes.
Of course, the masking fluid masks what is underneath and it can be difficult to remember what is there. So when I was removing it, and it peels off easily, I had a little heart flutter in case I had done a major stuff up. Fortunately I hadn’t. However, it leaves quite definite, obvious edges, so there is further work to refine and soften them.
This is the finished work.
I love how the right hand shell has turned out. There are times when creations almost create themselves — and this was one of those times!
As for the masking fluid….I don’t know that I will use it in the final piece. I need to paint some other shells, so I may make a study of them with masking fluid. The masking fluid lines would need to be much finer than I have managed here. Also, I think it is too time consuming.
I have actually made prints of this study to sell in my Etsy shop. I usually sell the originals of my works, but I want to have the original to use as a reference. Have a look here if you are interested.