Monday 5 August 2019

WIP Magnolia

Wandering around our garden today, I spotted we still had one or two magnolia flowers on our tree which actually has its main blooms in March!

Anyone who has followed my blog will know that it has been very quiet excuses, but suffice to say that seeing these lone flowers on the tree and a conversation about blogging I had with my son’s business partner over the weekend  prompted me to put some effort in and “get back to it!”

Magnolias are one of my favourite flowers and the tree I have in my garden was one I bought for my Mum many years ago. It flourished in her garden and when they moved house in 2003, she wanted to take the bush so we replanted it in my garden...and there it stayed...ooops!!

It is now a rather large tree and has had a glorious display this year so I was a very good conscientious artist, duly took my own photos and painted them. Bit chilly here in the North to paint en plein air in March! And I’m very soft....

The painting was progressing well and I decided to post it on FB as a WIP, while I was planning my next move!! Not something I normally do and wasn’t really expecting the huge amount of feedback I got telling me it was in fact finished! I hadn’t really posted it for feedback as to whether it was finished as I had intended to work on it further...anyway I left it.

It’s interesting how people see things and now when I visit groups, out of interest, I ask people if they think it is complete and most people feel that it is. The people who think it needs more work tend to be more detailed painters but just goes to show, no rights or wrongs in art, all a matter of opinion and in the eye of the beholder.

As I painted this the beginning of April I can’t remember the palette, but it was only 3 or 4 colours....those of you who do follow my blog will know I always use a limited palette and always, always choose my colours before I start to paint and this was no different.

To recap, limited palettes help colour choices throughout the process of the painting but more importantly help create colour harmony, one of the elements which we need to create strong design in our work.

Would be interested to hear if anyone has any thoughts about this or anything else for that matter.....

Saturday 24 November 2018

Brusho and Bleach

I have done 2 Brusho demonstrations in the last couple of weeks and the second one was certainly a challenge. They wanted a Winter scene which was fine as I had a few images I could choose from and settled on a photo my sister took in Central Park on one of her trips to New York. I have painted it in watercolour and once before in Brusho but a few years ago so decided to revisit it.

I used only 3 colours Crimson, ub and lemon and used my Confuscious Fude for the pen work adding wax here and there to reserve some of the snow with the plan that I would add some bleach towards the end of the painting to create a snowy effect.

That all worked quite well and here is the first effort

Quite pleased with it and obviously more time at home to step back and view from a distance etc etc.

I was then working on another piece I was preparing for an All Day Workshop I am running next week and realised my Bleach spray was broken (I use a 50:50 ratio bleach or Miltons to water) so I searched out another bottle and transferred it over.

And off I went to my demo....

I had drawn the image in pencil but wanted to show them the pen and how I use it and also the wax and then I started on the painting. All was going fairly well and although the colours were a bit intense I told them I had something up my sleeve to address it and all would be well lol!!

So I got my trusty bleach and gave it a good spray....the problem was it came out more like a stream and ended up bleaching a lot more than I bargained for which then meant a frantic rush at the end where I was having to paint into it a lot more than I would have liked. I did explain that the bleach had covered too much but when I held it up everyone seemed to actually like it and in fact some preferred it to the original.....

Anyway as I was doing some preparation for my workshop next week I decide to have a look at it with fresh eyes and I have worked on it some more today. I am quite pleased with it now as I think it has captured a very chilly feel to it, more than the first as the Ub bleaches to a more turquoise colour which is cooler and has worked to produce an icy feel.

So onto the pieces I have been working on today.

I am running an Autumn/Winter workshop and I have an image of some thistles I took a couple of weeks ago

I wanted to experiment more with the black as I don't use it a lot but really liked it when I used it with yellow for the nude I did here.

I have used it with turqouise, green, red but decide to try another colour I don't use that much...dark brown for this. I wasn't bothered about capturing the scene, I wanted more texture and part of the workshop is about using masking fluid with Brusho so more about adding a bg around the subjects.

I have also been working on another Winter scene for the same workshop which I haven't completed yet...more on that later.

So, again all was going well and I got to the stage where I decided to add some bleach, I realised that the spray gun was not switched to the right setting so hoping that would fix the problem...sprayed with gay abandon, and yes you guessed, took most of the painting away...again.... and the same with the winter scene I was working on. The problem is you don't know as you spray how much is enough as the bleach continues working for quite a few minutes after the initial contact...note to self, less is definitely more and I need to act with restraint!

Here is the painting after bleaching and a little work done to it

As you can see it still needs work to define the subjects a little more but I could now see where I was going and also added a touch of yellow to the mix.

This is the finished piece and it actually looks better in real life than on here which I have to say isn't always the case but this is a framer!!

Monday 6 August 2018

A Beautiful New Addition

We have some wonderful news!! Our son and daughter in law have just had the most beautiful baby boy, named Fletcher Hampson Farnworth. He was just over 3 weeks early and after a couple of little hiccups is now home and doing really well.

My son and his business partner have recently opened a business blending and selling speciality lattes and they are known as Blendsmiths and this is how they introduced the new addition to the Blendsmith's family

I had decided to do a little bit of artwork for the nursery and as my daughter in law comes originally from South Africa and her parents from Zimbabwe, I thought an African animal theme would be appropriate. I found 3 images on Paint my Photo which I felt would be suitable and in the end  as I loved them all and couldn't decide which to paint, I did all 3 and framed them vertically as a triptych.

As I wanted them to be a series and framed together I decided to use the same palette for all 3...this is a very useful tool to create unity within a body of work (we might normally think of unity being within a single painting but for different paintings to be perceived as being related it also works) and in this case the choice of subject matter also holds the series together.

Photo by Janina Suuronen

Photo by Edmund Williams

 Photo by Gary Jones

Although I had completed the paintings in plenty of time...the early arrival caught me out and there was a mad frantic rush to get them framed ready for the baby coming home!!

This was most truly a labour of love not only for my grandson but also for my son and daughter in law and I hope they like them as much as I loved doing them!!

Thursday 24 May 2018

Best Brusho!!

This is the final preparation piece I did for my workshop which I ran yesterday and I have to say I loved it!!

I decided to scrap the pen and go with a light pencil drawing (one of the problems with using pencil is that us you go in too heavy with the Brusho the pencil lines will not be very clear) and in this instance only use 2 colours.

I usually use 3 or 4 colours and though I love the black and how it separates into a myriad of other colours I have rarely used it in my paintings. As an aside I will be using it a lot more now!!

So I used black and yellow....sprinkled both colours very sparingly as I wanted to leave more white space on this so as I sprayed I quickly dabbed the wet areas so that the water didn't spread the colour too widely.

In the workshop we did one pen painting and one pencil so that I could explain the benefits of both styles but how the pencil allows for more emotion and atmosphere as lost edges can be used more easily. With the pen, there is a barrier and though you can still use contrast of light and dark, you don't have that loose feel you can get with lost edges.

Here is the painting, I would be really interested to hear which you prefer between this and the paintings I featured in my previous blog here.

Friday 18 May 2018

Brusho Preparation

I am in the throes of preparing for an All Day Brusho Workshop to be held next week on the 23rd May. I know some people may think preparing for these workshops is a doddle but if you want to produce new work and teach it satisfactorily there is a lot of preparation behind the scenes not to mention the time spent with the admin work involved in the organisation in the first place!!

On the flip side it is a privilege to be able to do this for a living and while it may be time consuming preparing for days like this, the time I spend is fun and enjoyable so not like work at all...

The workshop is Brusho figures and I remember attending a session about 6 year ago run by Joanne Boon Thomas...check her out here Joanne Boon Thomas and she taught me a lot of what I know about Brusho and has done a lot to promote Brusho around the world.

What I have learned about Brusho since that day is how important choice of colour is when deciding on a palette for any particular painting. I find the complementary colours don't mix well producing quite dirty colours and muddying much more so than watercolour so limited palettes are even more important with Brusho. I also prefer to retain the texture and stop the mixing process early doors by carefully dabbing the mixes while still wet and preserving the attractive separation of pigments.

These are the paintings I have done so far, just 3 colours in each

I haven't finished my practice pieces yet maybe another couple to do then maybe an odd one without the line effect, but would be very interested to see which of these you prefer so far....

Tuesday 10 April 2018

Commercial Commission!!

I can now share something I worked on for a good few weeks last year as the project is fully finished and everything is in situ!! Intriguing!!

After our visit to Malaysia and Singapore in February 2016,  I received a commission to paint the artwork for a hotel which was being renovated in Singapore!!

I was to paint the backdrops for the headboards (about 2.5 x2.4 metres) and there were 3 themes....Botanical, Waterscape and Dawn and I was sent a brief of what sort of thing they wanted with a colour scheme for each theme based on Windsor and Newton colours which really helped!!

The idea was, I painted the originals and they blew them up onto canvas and also used the artwork for other accessories so for example, they are using it for the key cards and in the Waterscape they have produced prints to dress a small alcove. They also used the Botanical painting to create some sheer curtains in a sepia colour, though they weren't used on this particular project.

I have to admit this was the most challenging thing I have ever done...trying to create someone else's vision ( I was sent photographs of the sort of thing they were looking for and of course I knew the colours) and get the effects they were looking for from a made up composition and in watercolour was tricky to say the least and I started with the botanical theme first thinking that would be the most difficult! How wrong was I!! They wanted a misty rain forest and happily, the second painting I did after a few smaller practices was the one I sent and ...result.....they loved it!! 

I then started on the Waterscape and that caused me a few problems... I didn't get the colours right with the first one... too grey and dismal and once I had the colour right, I had to alter the composition as I had detail which was covered by the bed... hadn't measured it out properly and on scaling up it was in the wrong position. Then the boat I added needed altering so backwards and forwards a few times!!

The final Dawn scene was more abstract and in fact the most difficult... I was working about 25"x 22" and did 3 versions. I found it quite hard getting the concept of this one so one wasn't quite right with the colour, one had too much texture and the final was a mix of all 3 but again before the final painting was agreed there was lots of back and forth while I was tweaking and doing my best to create the vision!! The creative designer knew exactly what she wanted and as we all know watercolour isn't always the easiest of mediums to alter!

Here are the paintings and these were bought to help furnish a large villa in Vietnam as the supplier of the soft furnishings and canvases for the hotel project liked them and wanted them for a personal project.

The hotel has 105 rooms and they are all furnished in one or other of these themes so my paintings are the backdrop in them all. If you check the links I have provided below they give you an idea of the concept...




The Dawn one isn't very clear but definitely more pink than the others and the Botanical doesn't look quite as green in the photos as it is in reality but looks like a very nice place!!

Hope I can get preferential rates if I ever go back to Singapore!!

The work was commissioned by HLA  designers to the hotel and resort industry based in Malaysia with offices in the far and middle East as well.

So my first commercial venture, it was a completely different experience to working for private clients but I was pleased with the outcome and more importantly so were they as they now have a unique concept in their hotel...they could have easily simply had photographs but the designers decided on watercolour and they had the technology to scale up to these large proportions without losing detail and definition. As you can imagine, a big phew from me when they were all accepted!

Saturday 31 March 2018

Butterfly Step by Step

First I painted the flower and then lost most of the edges into the background. However as you can see I keep some edges...if you lose all the edges all you would get is a yellow wash...losing some of the edges keep some of the form of the flower and also lets me see where I am going.

Next I have painted the butterfly..I haven’t drawn any of this (I draw with the brush) and I worked on the body first then moving on to the wings. When you are painting like this you aren’t looking for a photographic representation of the actual subject, you are looking for a feel of it and I don’t mind if you cannot tell what species of butterfly it is I am more concerned that you simply see it is a butterfly. I have painted the butterfly in exactly the same way as the flower though I haven’t lost any edges on the body. 
I have added a bit more detail to the flower and butterfly, added a touch more colour top left above the flower and done a bit of splattering around the bottom edge of the butterfly.... Colours used, W&N cad yellow, quin gold, burnt sienna and purple, DS transparent pyrrol orange, 15x11 Arches 140lb rough.
There will always be a debate as to whether or not it is finished and my view is that I don't want to work on this any more as too  much fiddling will result in loss of spontaneity.

Saturday 17 March 2018

Wet in Wet fun

So a little while since I updated my and stuff getting in the way but hoping to get back to it in the future.

I have been playing with wet in wet and decided that although it isn't a technique I often use, that doesn't mean I shouldn't share it with my group so this is the painting we did last week which I have finished today. 

I tend to create washes on the paper so although I don't usually go into wet paper I do end up using a lot of water. Wet in wet is an extension of that really in that the paper is wet to start with and the idea is you drop paint in letting it mix and mingle on the paper and I know many of you may use this technique for skies and backgrounds etc. However when doing skies, the paper isn't usually as wet as it was in the following painting and with others I have done using this technique.

This photo was one from a very talented wildlife photographer...Gary Jones

I decided swans lent themselves very well to this technique as the subject matter to me seems to call for smooth lines and transitions which again isn't my usual style as I love texture but wet in wet does create lovely smooth washes which is what I was looking for here.

The idea is to wet the paper thoroughly, letting the water soak in for 5 minutes or want the paper wet but not dripping when you work like this and any areas where you want to reserve the white of the paper can be done either by not wetting that area (bearing in mind this will give you a hard edge) or by lifting the paint with a thirsty brush,, which is what I did with this painting.

As the paper starts to dry you can then begin to add can only add hard edges when the paper is completely dry but working when it is still damp will allow you to get some soft edges where paint will bleed slightly into the surrounding areas.

Good painting is a mix of soft lost and found edges so this way of working does allow you to get a good mix of edges.

In this painting you can see soft edges to the right behind the neck...both lost and soft edges around the feathers and hard edges around the neck and head where I want the focus to be.

This was a very limited palette,Daniel Smith Ultramarine Turquoise, Winsor Lemon and Winsor Violet. I am adding some DS colours to my palette and this is a gorgeous colour, a bit greener than W&N Pthalo Turquoise and though I don't prefer it, it adds a different colour to anything else I already have so I will have fun trying to find combinations of colours I like using this new one.
Limited palettes work well for wet in wet... as the colour is mixing on the paper, there is a rainbow of colour you can achieve with all sorts of variations and I would urge anyone reading this to give it a go. 

The group seemed to really enjoy working like this so we may well do more in future, it can be tricky as understanding when to go in with what concentration of paint, is key and as always too much working with the brush can cause a muddy a challenge but we did get some very nice results. 

Tuesday 5 December 2017

My first video!!

I have been toying with the idea of making videos for years now but never felt confident enough to take the plunge plus I have never know how to set the equipment up. Anyway with the purchase of an ipad, a small stand to fit said ipad I made a commitment on a fb group I belong to so that I could no longer keep procrastinating and had to "do" something.

I asked for some feedback as to subjects for me to video and I decided to concentrate to start with on materials....I get asked a lot about paper, paint and the brushes I use as I visit groups around the country and anyone who regularly reads my blog will know I am particularly passionate about people using paper which is fit for purpose so that was my first subject, the sound is a bit low, and Chester wasn't supposed to make a guest appearance no matter how cute he's the link

Would love to hear what you think!

Tuesday 10 October 2017

Workshops with Beverley Wells...experiences to remember

Not sure where to start really.....

At the beginning is best I expect so it is true to say that I have wanted to do a Bev Wells workshop for a good few years now...probably as long as I have known of her existence but as the journey is close to 31/2 hours from "up North"  to those posh sunnier climes of Spalding in Lincolnshire I have never taken the plunge and booked one.

Those who read my blog regularly will know that Bev has been mentoring me for a few months now and the desire to attend a session has been growing stronger until I could no longer resist and I booked to go this last weekend. Bev kindly invited me to attend her Friday class with the "Friday Girls" and I decided to set off at an unearthly hour on the Friday morning to make sure I arrived in time... I wasn't going to miss a single second of the wisdom I knew Bev had to share.

The icing on the cake then unexpectedly came my way when Bev posted on fb that she had a couple of places come available and I had a brainwave... why not ask the lovely Polly Birchall... she of Annie Arkwright fame!! Her response was favourable and after staying overnight with us and bellies full of spag bol ( from dinner the night before) we set off at 6.00am for our adventure to Lincolnshire.

Now, we had a list of materials and instructions which was a completely different experience for us both, we needed Arches Cold pressed paper (I don't use it), home made tracedown (what!! with instructions of how to do it), stretched paper (with staples) and my trusty unstretched rough paper was relegated to the boot for the duration of the workshops!!

We also had slight concerns as to the speed of things, as we are both very fast painters so we both went armed with other images in case we needed other things to paint. How wrong we were... about everything!!

I think I had Bev rather worried before we painter, never stretches, uses rough paper, and a firm graduate of the "slap it on and see" School of Painting. However she asked me to allow her to entertain me and learn from she pointed out, I know how to paint my way and of course I do bow to her knowledge and wisdom anyway, so I would have been a fool not to do as she said.

Bev runs a regular class on Fridays where she hates being described as a teacher. However when I looked up one definition of the word teacher...the description (which fits Bev to a tee) is

"teaching is imparting knowledge or skill"

which describes what Bev does in her workshops in bucket loads. They are sessions full of discussion, debate and banter which Polly and I absolutely loved.

The other thing which made a huge impression on me is the professionalism and extent of Bev's preparation. Her workshop piece was framed ready for us all to view and she had drawings, tonal plans a laminated step by step card and her own very precious book of value plans where she has tried out different options and then on the opposite page a full tonal painting in beautiful black watercolour. 

Both the Friday class and the workshop followed a similar format (though there are some who paint alternative subjects in the classes where Bev will advise and help where needed)... in essence everyone discusses the plan for the painting, the planning part for Bev is by far the most important and she has spent the days and weeks before planning her subject, planning the composition and then creating her value plans, her sketch and finally her painting. 

Once the theory behind the plan and then the colour choices have been thoroughly dissected and analysed, Bev starts the painting and the group follow as a step by step. The Friday class was slightly different to the workshop as they could if they wanted create their own value plan (which I did before I went to the class as Bev has e-mailed through the image) whereas in the workshop we all followed Bev's plan.

Bev is very specific about her own colour choices and is exceedingly knowledgeable about colour mixing and understanding the properties of paint. My own method is much less informed (mixing my colour planets) but I do think my colour choices are a strength and so that is one area of my work I am happy to stick with, though my journey with colour continues and I am constantly learning more about which combinations work or don't work.

Though I love painting flowers which was the workshop topic, I was delighted at the subject choice for the Friday class and using my new ipad and pencil set about my own value plan. I have finally learned how to create different tones using the tools and I was really pleased with this digital painting..

 Bev had produced a line drawing for the class to use and again this is very specific as it has been drawn to proportions which create the composition within the specific size of paper. Those who read my blog may remember I did make mention of this in terms of creating my value plan on the ipad and then having to approximate in the scaling up process. I'm sure I will be able to solve this technical problem but I do see the point of creating your drawing the actual size, then doing an accurate transfer onto the paper.

My colour choices were slightly different to Bevs as I do like to inject a bit of self. Bev had liked my value plan which I used as well so although I did adopt Bev's way of painting... very wet in wet which I love anyway, I felt more that the painting was mine, not just a copy of Bev's.

Here is the painting.... not exactly as the tonal as the drawing is slightly different, but the idea is there of following the pattern of darks and lights as I had already prepared in my plan.

The workshop was actually about mark making but initially the painting process was similar to the previous day and Bev has a lovely wet in wet technique which I really must start to use a lot more for my own work. I tend to paint wet on dry for a variety of reasons but each day all who attended had wonderful results although all very different.

Once we were nearing the end of the painting the time had come to do some mark making both with watercolour paper and the end of a computer stylus, very effective and the whole process of working like that reminded me of how good it is to play and experiment....something I should do a lot more of!

I haven't shared the value plan for this as that belongs to Bev and so not appropriate for me to share. I probably won't share many of my plans in the future either.....

In this I have to say that the drawing, composition, colour choices, value plans are all Bev's and while I don't normally do this when I attend workshops there were good reason for all those things as I mentioned earlier and not much point attending to simply do your own thing. The main difference in this and other step by steps is that we were given so much information to use and take away to incorporate into our own work.....this doesn't always happen when you do a step by step but in this workshop we were given many tips and tools to apply to our own work.

As an aside, I would have thought that this workshop was definitely not for beginners and for the best part I would have said that everyone was a pretty experienced painter... with one exception, Jan with whom I have corresponded on fb. When she saw that Bev had places available she also booked to come and as a beginner with not much extra help at all, she did a fabulous painting......more testimony to the exceptional "teaching" and guidance Bev gave us throughout the day.

Bev's mantra is "Fail to Prepare, Prepare to Fail" and this is not only evident in her planning for her own work but also for these classes and workshops. I have never ever attended a workshop with so much attention to detail, these workshops are meticulously planned and the results of her efforts are there to see in her own paintings and the paintings we all achieved.

In conclusion I cannot recommend this workshop highly enough....Bev is honest, forthright and very generous with her praise where due, but more importantly very generous in her sharing of her wealth of knowledge and that is definitely not always the case!!!