Nearly there with the Benton Iris ‘Farewell’

Hopefully, through this series of paintings with the Benton Iris ‘Farewell’ you will have understood how important it is to plan and prepare a painting from the initial composition , through tonal sketches, practicing techniques to finally the painting.

Because i believe that good preparation is the basis for getting a result in botanical art that I am happy with, I planned this year’s workshops to help others with this process. The next one is 23 -24 March and is all about developing the careful line drawing and using it as a basis for the rough tonal drawing. There are still places, so do get in touch.

But back to the Benton Iris. Actually as the painting has developed I have felt some sadness that there isn’t too much left. Obviously I also learn from doing it and this painting has been rather different to ones I have done before. It has been quite a large painting, it is on 640 gsm which doesn’t feel quite as smooth as 300 gsm paper. I used quite a bit of graphite so that the picture would not be heavy and doing this on the 640 gsm was not so easy. It was important to show all the intricacies of the plant, to get them absolutely right and to make it an attractive picture as well.

Some of the things that I had to include in the flower were:

  • The view showing the Stigmatic lip. This is the view into the flower showing the sexual organs. look very closely inside the back of the flower and you will see a slight transverse ridge; that is the Stigmatic lip. The Stamen – male organ, is vertical, deep inside the flower and just below the transverse ridge. The pollinator climbs over the beard to try and reach the nectar deep inside the throat of the flower, gets pollen on its back and rubs it off on the stigmatic lip, fertilising the plant. You will see this view in more detail in the last blog.
  • The view with the emphasis on the Standard and Fall petals (this blog),
  • Buds developing
  • The height of the flower spike.
  • The height of the leaves particularly related to the spike.
  • The top part of the rhizome.
  • The growth habit (the fan of leaves)

This time my pictures show the development of one of the falls.

 

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This is the final stage of the top flower. I will show you the complete painting in the next blog, so that you can judge whether or not the painting is successful. It is the viewer that determines this. 

 

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A little more of my Benton Iris ‘Farewell’

Trying to paint more with the Benton Iris – work that I love doing, has been complicated by all the adjustments in relation to the botanical art exhibition ‘ In Ruskin’s Footsteps’. But you can now see the updated website in relation to the new improved venue (still at Lancaster University) and adjustment to the dates. I will give you the link at the end of this blog.

In my last blog I showed you my progression in relation to the large fan-like leaves of this majestic plant. I chose to include only colour for those on the right hand side of the artwork and graphite on the remaining leaves. This was so that the picture would not be overwhelmingly heavy with green leaves. 

I finished off last time with the bud spike on the left hand side of the artwork. Now I will show you the start of the main flower spike, which needed to be divided in two because of the height of it.

 

 

 

This is customary in botanical art when painting correctly.

 

It is important to give an indication of the habit of the plant if painting life-size and the plant is very tall; try to include as much of it as possible in the same painting. I have divided the flower spike in two and have shown the cut ends with the same profile at the cut edge.

On this stem you can clearly see the flowers and buds spiralling off.

I have started off with a pale wash for the bud leading up to the main flower before completing the detail with a dry brush technique.

Now the start of the top flower and he developing bud just underneath. This was actually quite difficult to get right.


All my sketches were done outside in the garden last year and if you don’t keep your head still while drawing, the detail visible will change.

If you are enjoying following the stages in the development of the Benton Iris ‘Farewell’, you might like to come to my next workshop March 23-24th, where this time we will be concentrating on a line drawing and tonal sketch. Normal, good preparation for any botanical art painting. Get in touch with me via the contact form below if you would like to join us. The details are on the Workshop page of my website.

Look at the last blog of 2017 to remind you about how I started off this Iris. https://gaynorsflora.com/2017/12/30/last-gaynors-flora-blog-of-2017/.

Although botanical art is fairly strict in what is ideally included in a picture, it is quite wide ranging and much wider than for pure botanical illustration. But it is important to remember that what I show you in my blog is my style of working. There are many different styles and none are wrong; It is the result that counts!

 

Last but not least the link to the Association of British Botanical Art website: www.britishbotanicalartists.com/2018exhibition

The Benton Farewell Iris progression

I am fighting to get time to paint! Last week I was unable to anything for about 10 days because of the dreaded flu. After that it was trying to catch up with assignment marking and the Iris picture.

The only thing that you the reader will be interested in, is the Iris and how that is progressing. My last blog showed you some of my preparation sketches and my planned drawing. After that it was a question of tracing all the sketches that I decided to actually use in the picture. I traced them onto my final art paper using the the technique you will find on this page:gaynorsflora.com/my-tutorials/ The video is called ‘How to trace an image to art paper’. The reason I do it this way is to remove any risk of creating any indentation in the art paper. An indentation tends to collect pigment when using watercolour, or leave a white line if using coloured pencil We don’t want either of these results.

I used the old Fabriano extra white HP, 640 gsm. I am in the lucky in that I have enough old stock to last me!

The main colours that I am using in my greens are Maimeri Cyan, which is a Phthalocyanin PB15 pigment. This is one of my favourite colours as a base for greens, although if needing to go very dark I might use Idanthrene Blue. The yellow is Quin Gold with a touch of Transparent Yellow. For warming the colour, greying it down or even creating a grey I use Perylene Violet. Therefore I use mostly these colours to create my greens and browns.

Although I have loads of sketches and colour swatches, I have also taken a plant into the house and luckily the leaves have started growing. This confirms the colours that I have chosen to use.

First big mistake!

You will notice that I have the whole length of the stem cut in two on the right side of the picture. In botanical art, when the height of the plant is rather tall as in this instance, one needs to actually show its whole length. This is done by cutting it and showing the two matching end pieces in the design. Here I have cut the upper portion away, leaving the bottom of the stem attached and growing from the leaves. The upper section will include the open flowers and developing buds.

So what was my big mistake? I decided to mask out the stem and do the leaves behind it. But I needed to cut the edge of the tape. I tried to mark the tape with a pencil, but it didn’t work, so used a pen! I know stupid, stupid! As you might expect, when I applied water the ink ran onto the paper, even though I thought I had cut it away.

Also, the cut edge was not close enough, so I ended up with either a gap or an extra wide stem. Artistic license is all very well, but not in botanical art when you need to show the plant as it is.

 

I won’t go into so much of the detail in the stages I will show you today. But notice that the leaf going off to the left is grey. This is graphite. I don’t want to do heavy painted leaves for the whole design or I am afraid the delicacy of the flower will be lost. I could be wrong, but we will see how it goes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I hope it won’t be too long before I can do some more work on this. However, the Worldwide Botanical Art Exhibition is now at a crucial point. Just before Christmas we in The Association of British Botanical Artists (ABBA) had the first stage of jury selection which was done digitally. Those successful artists have been getting their work framed over Christmas and are now delivering it, mostly to me, for the final stage in the juried selection due to take place up at Kew next week. We will then start the process of uploading the final forty successful paintings into a slideshow which will be included in the Worldwide slideshow with Forty native plants illustrated from each of 23 countries.

It will be a magnificent exhibition in each of the countries participating.

Thymus vulgaris – a botanical art project.

Have you ever really looked at Thyme when you are using it in cooking? I bet you haven’t!

I have been asked to paint a botanical picture of Thymus vulgaris. Note the correct way of writing a binomial scientific name correctly; all in italics but with the capital letter at the beginning of the first word only.

My heart sank when I got the email asking me to do this particular plant. Imagine, all that ‘tiny-ness’! How on earth was I going to create a beautiful picture from this subject, one in which the viewer wanted to take a second look. The picture still isn’t painted yet, so the result will not magically appear at the end of this blog. However, I thought you might be interested in both my thought processes and my work progress.

I eventually got a plant that said it was Thymus vulgaris.

Thymus vulgaris

In actual fact, I got three – all of them different. I knew that the leaf had to have a furled edge; two of them had furled edges. When the flowers eventually started to appear I knew that the stamens would be protruding from the tube created by the four petals. One of them did not have protruding stamens as they remained just under the fused lip of the petals. The last one did all the things I expected it to do. Or did it?

When the last plant had flowered for a while, some of the flowers didn’t have visible stamens. After much research I discovered that in fact the same plant can have flowers with all the reproductive systems in place, but some flowers are sterile as they only have a style and stigma. Whew, what a relief. I now had a suitable subject. Do you like it? But where to start!

A quick look at the leaves

As you now realise I had to do quite a bit of investigating in relation to this plant. It helped me get to know it so that as I observed, researched and sketched, thoughts for my final composition began to be a little clearer. I also found that although it was a challenging subject (apparently I like challenges). I also really began to appreciate the plant and wanted to include things in my picture that would tell others about the plant. However, one of the challenges is that there were to be no dissections! That is often how I show others of what a plant is comprised.

Botanical art is an exciting subject and it really helps you to observe things around you. So we start off with the leaves. Have you noticed anything strange about them. Have a look at a real one, rather than my pictures.

Trichomes on the leaf

You will notice the appearance of little dents in the surface of the leaves. This is the same ones under a microscope. Do you see the little dents are in fact Trichomes, a special type of hair that produces aromatic oils. The oil is the part that smells so good when you crush the leaves before adding them to your cooking. But see if you can see where else the hairs are and the oil is:

Trichomes on the flower bud
Trichomes on the flower

Every part of the plant can be used in your cooking as every part produces the aromatic oils. Exciting isn’t it?

But what about the parts that need to be included in my picture? Although I found this particularly interesting and wished I could include this information in my picture, this depth of detail was not needed by the client.

However for me, Thymus vulgaris had moved up in my regard from being a plant with lots of tiny bits that smell nice, to being a complex and interesting plant. I hope I do it justice.

A Flower spike

 

 

I decided to do a whole lot of sketches in my sketch book. This helps hands to get to know the painting of the plant, the size at which I am showing it, the colours and hopefully an idea for the composition.

 

 

 

Me painting away with a magnifier on my head.

To see the plant I needed to use a magnifier, which lead me to enlarging the flower spike for everyone to marvel at the detail of the individual flowers.I did three spikes before deciding which one to use for my final composition. You can see by my clothes that the weather was a lot colder when I started this project!

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I now had a better idea of which sketches I wanted to include in my final picture. I wanted to show the flower spike enlarged so that the flowers with their magnificent coloured anthers were clear. I also knew that I needed to give a suggestion of the surface texture of the leaves, front and back as well as the growth habit of the plant.

A trial composition,
Final composition
The final painting started.

Completed from the last botanical art workshop; when is the next?

I thought that it would be pleasing to show one picture started in the last workshop, completed. Sue James sent me this message and gave her permission to use use her name and her image.

‘Finished article! Thanks for a great workshop, learned a lot! Looking forward to the next one’.

Version 2

I am sure that you will like it as much as I do. Painting the hairy buds of the Magnolia x solangeana in the technique that I use is not easy although it gives the best result. I think you will agree with me that she has achieved this very well.

There are plenty of opportunities to learn my techniques in workshops https://gaynorsflora.com/tuition-2/workshops/ ,

workshop holiday https://gaynorsflora.com/tuition-2/exclusive-botanical-art-painting-holiday-at-le-manoir-in-france/,

and the online botanical art course https://gaynorsflora.com/tuition-2/online-botanical-art-course/.

Because I limit the number of students at each workshop I teach in watercolour, coloured pencil and or graphite.

The next botanical art workshop in Bosham is ‘White flowers against dark ones’, although in reality the topic is really about what is to be gained by painting pale flowers against something darker in the background; leaves or darker flowers. The workshop is Thursday, Friday and Saturday 16 – 18 February and there are still a very few places available.

The workshop holiday at Le Manoir in the French Dordogne has only four painting places left, so if you want to come, sign up for this soon. Take advantage of being looked after from the botanical art point of view, and in relation to the holiday with well thought out afternoon trips and of course looking after your taste buds.

Last, but not least is the ongoing Online Botanical art course. Unlike many other online botanical art courses, this one takes a limited number of new students each month and is therefore continuous. It is spread over a longer period of time (18 months), allowing you to fit it in with your other commitments and life in general. Additionally, you can get in touch with me with any queries you have about the course at any time; you can communicate with other students participating in the course via a secret Facebook page; the feedback you get for each of your assignments is a several page long very detailed constructive critique about each of the pieces you send to me. I take on new students for February 1 tomorrow, and again 15 February. Get in touch.

It may be grey out there just now, but there is so much already in the garden (in the Northern hemisphere), just ready and waiting to explode. Down under, it is probably the hottest part of the year, but it is always exciting for me to see the subjects chosen to paint, which might be considered exotic in the UK. Oh how I love doing what I do!

 

I am sooo-o chuffed after this weekend’s workshop!

Yesterday and today was the first botanical art workshop of the year in Bosham. What do you paint in the wintery months? There are loads of interesting subjects in the hedgerows. The title of this workshop was textures and as usual I tried to make suggestions as to what these may be.

My workshops have a limited number of participants so that everyone gets help where they need it. This time people brought catkins, bark, ash keys, pine cones, algae and magnolia buds. I also brought in some lambs ears (leaves) and sticky buds (horse chestnut).  There was an ample supply of everything and people worked in coloured pencil, or watercolour, or graphite.

My workshops always begin with a little about composition; a subject everyone seems to be scared of, and drawing. Everyone always wants to jump straight into the painting, but of course the final painting is never better than the planning that has gone into it.

This time, as I knew everyone from previous workshops (normally there is at least one new person), they felt it was OK for me to concentrate more than usual on the compositional aspect of botanical art.  They duly did their thumbnails and decided which one they would focus on to create their line drawing. I am going to show you the progress of one student from thumbnails to where she got to today.

Magnolia soulageant buds
Magnolia soulageant buds

Version 2

We talked a lot about the Golden section, rule of thirds, diagonals and ignoring the lot!

Of course we mustn’t forget that the workshop was also about textures, so I demonstrated different techniques in all three media. Of course they found that the furry buds were the most difficult, but everyone persevered and got some amazing results.

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So finally, why am I so chuffed? Well, those who chose to do the Magnolia buds in watercolour, actually mastered the dry-ish brush technique that I use. Many do give up on this because the issue is the water/pigment mix, and taking care of brushes and picture at the same time. But I think the part giving me the biggest thrill were the compositions. I have superimposed two of the pictures with the three-by-three golden section divisions that help to find where the focal point is best placed. The eye was drawn in particular to these two pictures in main because of their composition, but also their fluffy buds. Remember they are half finished, but they just show how a well planned composition can have a good effect on completing a picture. Do you agree?

Magnolia x soulageana terminal buds in graphite.
Magnolia x soulageana terminal buds in graphite.
Magnolia x soulageana terminal buds in watercolour.
Magnolia x soulageana terminal buds in watercolour.

Days 9 and 10 of the Liriope muscari picture

This time I finished off the enlarged flower spike of the Liriope muscari picture and started on one of the immature spikes in natural size. The tuft of leaves and immature flower spikes are done in this way to show the growth habit of the plant.

I chose to do the flower spike enlarged as the individual flowers were quite small, therefore to appreciate their beauty I felt it was better to do these on a larger scale. In actual fact they are only twice natural size, although when you see them against the immature spikes, they seem to be more than this.

In botanical art one needs to try and give as much information about the plant as possible, without repetition. There is always so much that defines an individual plant, that a picture can just get complicated if the information in it is repeated too frequently. This is often a mistake I have made. But in this instance, because the flower spike is enlarged the number of petals, stamens and stigmas can be seen clearly in relation to the size of the the whole spike.

The next section of the picture I found very difficult. The largest immature flower spike measures 5 cm therefore, because I was painting this natural size, the individual buds were tiny. Because there is some tooth on the Strathmore 500 Bristol vellum paper, I found this got in the way of painting tiny detail. So I used a piece of agate to try and burnish the surface of the paper in between layers of paint.

For all the flowers I used a magnifying glass to see the detail I was painting and to check that my edges were as clean as possible. As I don’t normally use a magnifying glass constantly, I got a nice kink in my neck!

Day 9
Day 9
Day 10
Day 10

 

Pittsburgh and ASBA 2016

What a wonderful event!

I was in Pittsburgh for the ASBA conference, three years ago when I had a picture included in the Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation. Robin, felt that as the ASBA was again in Pittsburgh for the opening of the new Hunt exhibition (it is every three years), that it was time we came again.

When we arrived on Tuesday afternoon it was really good to meet up with old friends from the last time we were here, and new friends made on Facebook. It was quite strange meeting up with some of the latter, as they had become ‘friends’ on the net and we never met in person. But now we had the opportunity to get to know these familiar faces.

The Facebook phenomenon is a really interesting as it has opened up connections in the botanical art world allowing us to communicate worldwide across borders. We are now learning from each other without restriction – something we never could have imagined only a few years ago.

What have we done since being in Pittsburgh?

The first morning started off with a Portfolio sharing session. Anyone who wanted to could take part in this and I too had a table. The response for me was brilliant and was quite a surprise.

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There were several workshops and during one of them a cry went up that Barack Obama was leaving the building next door to us. We had been told that he was due to give a talk in the University and we knew that many of the streets had been closed off round our hotel. But we had no idea that he was so close.

I get the impression that in America, Obama is a president much loved and respected.

Obama leaving
Obama leaving

Last night, after the opening of the new Hunt exhibition, we met an ‘old’ friend from my nurses training days in Birmingham, fifty one years ago! It was a treat we thoroughly enjoyed.

Today has been particularly busy for me, starting at 09:00 doing a coloured pencil demonstration. Apparently the ASBA hasn’t done ongoing demonstrations from the tutors before this. As far as I can judge it was received extremely well. A lot of people turned up early to watch the demonstrations and once I had finished I was able to watch John Pastoriza-Pinol from Australia take over from me, followed by another highly regarded American botanical artist Robin Jess.

Interestingly enough, I was able to use a couple of comments I heard during these two demonstrations, in my own workshop also held today. Yes, it has been an extremely busy day.

These are some of the pictures from my own workshop.

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I was amazed at how quickly people started picking up the technique. It was a thorough enjoyable class with a lot of very nice people.

I think I have commented before about how much pleasure I get from working with such lovely people. Botanical artists seem to have a lot of joy in what they do.

 

Its apples in the air!

Each workshop that I have done recently has been about apples. Shape, form and colour.

You have seen the pictures from the last SFP workshop that it was almost all apples. The small workshop that I had this last weekend also focused on apples.

One of the students was working in watercolour and as she was neither very familiar with watercolour, nor botanical art. I think she did an amazing job. The other student first came on one of my workshops a couple of years ago with the wish to learn coloured pencil. She hadn’t done any art either, so she too had a steep learning curve. But she comes to my classes and workshops on a regular basis and is now a very good artist.

It was a lovely balance to have in the workshop as the more experienced student had a very good idea how the other felt and was able to give encouragement.

The two pictures shown here are very good and I think both were very happy with the results so far. Obviously the coloured pencil picture is quite a challenge. Apart from the form of the apples (four different ones) with their respective shrivelling leaves, she had to contend with different textures too. I know that she went home with a determination to complete the picture.

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Normally, when one has flowers and leaves in a botanical art picture, one does the flowers first as they die first. But in this instance the issue was the shrivelling leaves as they were moving constantly. Therefore these were started first to capture the initial shape and the colour that attracted her to them in the first place. She intends to go back to them after getting the apples finished.

The next workshop in Bosham will be ‘Autumn colours. Wow!’ Friday 28 October to Sunday 30th. I still have some places available so do get in touch soon so that you can secure yours. Please use the contact form at the end to contact me if you would like to come as I will be at the ASBA conference in Pittsburgh. I will be able to pick up emails and confirm if there is still room for you.

Now, to continue with more about the botanical art holiday planned for next year. Here is a bit more about it on this page of my website: Gaynor’s Flora exclusive botanical art holiday at Le Manoir

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