Saturday, 27 February 2016

Snowdrop Step by Step

We will be trying this at my group next time, I took the painting not quite finished to show them at the last session so although some of the chaps aren't too keen on flowers there is a lot to learn from this one and it may well take us 2 sessions to complete. I used a composition similar to my previous Brusho snowdrop but to be painted in watercolour.

As this was painted as a workshop piece I did a simple drawing first....not all the group would be confident in painting without drawing and I have to cater for all abilities.  I have used a reference photo but only to give me some flower head shapes, not to provide the composition. I used the new Maimeriblu colours and as usual a limited palette,  Turqouise, purple and cad yellow to start with but thought that was a bit too much so changed to lemon yellow.

The first image show the washes. I have tried to keep things light around the flower heads as I know I want them to be fairly white. By guiding the water around the petals (paint will only flow where there is water) the paint will also flow around and leave areas of white. I start at the top with whichever colour takes my fancy then add paint straight from my palette, (sprayed with water before I start to make them moist and workable) alternating the colours in an irregular way diluting and spraying as I go along so instead of creating a wash in my palette I create the wash on the paper. As yellow and purple are complimentary colours (and could make a grey duller colour) I try not to add them next to one another.

This needs to dry completely and as I was in my studio  and my hair dryer was ready to go, once the shine had gone off (if you dry before, the water moves the paint around too much and if you have any particular effects you see happening they will be lost) I dried off ready for the next layers.

2nd image.....Here I have started to add a bit of detail working around the painting so that I am not working where it is wet, adding the stems and calyx's (think that's the right word?) and a few leaves at the bottom. Everything is still fairly light at this stage and I haven't added any more to the background.

3rd image below......I decided the light was coming from the right so started to darken the bg to that side to emphasize the counter change with the white petals. i worked around the main flower and as I add the intense colour I wash away behind it so that it can blend into the washes I already have.   

4th image below......Here I have started to work around the other flowers and added a touch more detail to the foliage at the bottom. I thought the bg was a bit too harsh behind the top flower so washed the intensity away. 

At this stage the whole piece wasn't "popping" as I would like so I left for a couple of days and then worked on it a bit more.

5th Image below......just a few subtle changes here adding a few more darks around the petals and in the foliage at the bottom. As you add the paint, as mentioned earlier, you need to wash the colour away with clean water into the bg... that way you don't add more wash into the colours you already have and you don't get hard edges where you have added the extra colour. I have also added a teeny touch of white guoache to the stems... not too much as it starts to look too contrived and I wouldn't have added any had I managed to keep more of the white paper.

Please feel free to ask any questions and I will do my best to answer.....

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Experience of a Lifetime in Malaysia

I am really lucky to have a cousin who has lived in the far East for most of his adult life and in Kuala Lumpur a good few years and especially lucky that they invited us to stay with them on a trip to Malaysia.

We have been treated to a cultural and culinary experience second to none.... obviously they know where to go and which places to eat (very important consideration in the Farnworth household) and we have been blown away by the lovely country and food. Apparently as we Brits are obsessed by the weather, the Malays are equally obsessed with food and there is a huge variety of food of Malaysian origin and also influenced by China, India, Burma, Indonesia, Japan to name but a few and we have been fortunate to sample a fantastic selection of all these cuisines.

The weather has been quite good as KL can be very overcast and humid but fortunately we had some very good days. We started our trip in KL and after a day to get over the jet lag, flew to Penang an island about a 4 hour drive (and 30 minute flight) away. We stayed at the Shangri La Rasa Sayang, a lovey hotel with beautiful gardens and had a fabulous sea view and lovely tropical beach

We were in Penang for the Chinese New Year and enjoyed a "Nonya" meal on New Years eve. Nonya is the name for the cuisine derived blending Chinese ingredients with Malay spices and cooking methods and many areas have their own very specific regional variations of dishes using aromatic herbs and spices native to the regions.

Everywhere is decorated in red and gold for the Chinese New Year, restaurants, hotel entrances, shopping malls, streets all very colourful and symbolic.

We also had Yee Sang a dish which symbolises abundance and prosperity and which is only eaten at New Year. The dish consists of shredded vegetables and fish (often salmon) and then an array of spices all different colours and along with the vegetables all symbolising different things. The idea is for the whole party to toss the Yee Sang while offering wishes of good fortune and prosperity. This is the year of the monkey... there are 12 animals and I am the year of the monkey too. This doesn't necessarily mean good luck in the Chinese Year but we tossed the Yee Sang (the higher they toss, the messier it is and the more wishes of good fortune the better) for all it was worth and then ate it!! Really good and I have brought some packs of the spices home with me to do a version of it.

We returned to KL for a couple of days then off again on our travels to Singapore.... what a fabulous city!! A police state with cameras everywhere but so clean and smart with the most stunning architecture. Rather more expensive than KL but we had to do afternoon tea at Raffles didn't we?

This is such a beautiful place and the afternoon tea was delicious... only problem was we had eaten Fish Head Curry with all the trimmings for lunch and were out again for dinner so didn't quite do it justice!!

After dinner we visited a bar 83 floors high and open to the elements, what an experience!! Views of the whole of Singapore at night, spectacular!!

We loved Singapore, a very green city. lots of flowers... planted strategically so that the trade winds waft the scents into the centre of the city, so Eastern!!

We returned to KL and visited the Petronus Twin Towers. Interestingly from ground level, they don't appear so high but once you are 86 floors up believe me they are high!!

As we approached the end of our stay we took a trip to a place called Ipoh where the water is much sweeter than other areas of Malaysia and the food produced there takes on a different flavour. Another foodie heaven!! Ipoh is North of KL and in contrast to the scenery on route to Singapore which was flanked by palm trees but fairly flat, the terrain further North is quite mountainous and more interesting.

We had a couple of delicious meals on the last two days one at a place called Modern Chinois (as the name suggests it is a modern take on Chinese food) and another at a Sushi bar which is known to have the best Sushi outside Japan. Our final meal was a very modern quirky restaurant where they served Eastern style burgers amongst other things.

During our time there we have eaten deep fried squid, jelly fish, fish head (though not the eye!!) razor clams,  crab (Australian Mud crab), intestines, truffles, Wagyu beef and vegetables and fruits I've never heard of, We've had curry and rice and noodle soup for breakfast, eaten most things with chop sticks and I think overall have thoroughly embraced everything on offer to us, It has been such a help having my cousins to choose the food as we wouldn't have had a clue about what to pick and would most certainly have played safe and probably chosen what we know.

KL is a very modern city and the roads throughout Malaysia are fantastic though most of them are toll roads and quite expensive (petrol on the other hand is around 30p per litre!!)  Food in the main is much cheaper than the Uk and as a result a lot of the inhabitants eat out and the restaurant scene is huge with whole shopping mall floors dedicated to food. We had delicious Dim Sum and barbecued pork in one of the Malls and the food was really excellent which is not so typical in the Uk. Other goods were just as expensive as in the UK and of course the designer stores are there in abundance with price tags to match.

Though we have been to the far East before I think this trip showed me really how different the culture is and how in the East so many things including food have meanings. As we were there for Chinese New Year this was even more apparent, the whole event is steeped in strong tradition and the people return to family homes for their celebrations which can last about 3 weeks.

I would like to say a huge thank you to Barbara and Jeremy for their wonderful hospitality... nothing was too much trouble and they took precious time from work to help give us a taste of their fabulous country and lives, it was a treat to spend time with them... we owe them one!! They plan to come to us in September so need to get the pork pies, black puddings and cream scones ready!!  

On a final note my cousins have both a Thai maid and a driver... this isn't unusual in Malaysia as wages are low and staff are very affordable. The Thai maid looked after us wonderfully and her cooking was absolutely fantastic!! She prepared the best curry I have ever eaten as well as some other beautiful dishes, she took care of our washing and ironing and we came home with only a couple of days washing (sheer bliss!!). She has worked for them for over 12 years is extremely happy with my cousins and has declared she would work for nothing as they are her family. Similarly their driver has worked for them for 12 years and is very happy in their employ and ferried us here there and everywhere, so a big thank you to them for helping to make our stay even more comfortable.

Now back to reality and the weather.... didn't take long to get into that preoccupation again!! But a visit to the beach today was a real delight... cold but lovely and sunny and lunch in a cafe overlooking the sea with a final snap of little puppy having the best of times!!