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

Far from common time!

Thymus vulgaris; how did the painting go?

The last time I posted a blog about my Thyme painting was 30 May, when I was doing sketches of it. I had also started my final painting. For those interested you can go back to that blog to see my thoughts (written down) and preparations. Since I started I have been doing a lot of sketches for other plants too, which hopefully I will talk about in due course. You have seen the preparation I did for one of the Norwegian plants.

I eventually returned to the Thymus vulgaris painting, but for some reason I was unhappy with it. This sometimes happens and I know that although I might not have a good reason for starting again, I know that were I to do so, my second attempt often goes without any hitches. On this occasion, I felt that one of the small flowers was a little too dark, so 1 August I started it again. I won’t mention how many hours I used on the first attempt, but the second one took 65 hours – with the sketches and prep in addition.

A few of the pictures I took on the way:

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And so the final painting that will be delivered at the beginning of October.

Far from common time – Thymus vulgaris. Watercolour and graphite.

Magnolia x soulangeana soon in bloom

In 2011 I had finished three years work on a series of paintings showing a year in the life of the Magnolia x soulangeana. The series was exhibited at the RHS that year and I won a Silver medal – my first RHS medal. One of the paintings was chosen by the Hunt Institute for Botanical documentation in Pittsburgh, USA and it was first exhibited there in 2013. Since then it has had a three-year tour around the USA with the rest of that exhibition, but is now back in their archives in Pittsburgh.

© Magnolia x soulangeana: Maturing Blooms

I was super lucky to have some huge fruit on the tree the years I was doing the paintings and they were featured. But since then tree from which all the paintings were done, has not produced much fruit at all; in fact nothing until last year when it had a couple of small ones. I think the tree knew that I was painting it’s portrait and wanted to show itself at its most beautiful.

© Magnolia x soulangeana: Ripe fruit and seeds

I am hoping that the tree is building itself up to another magnificent display later on this month. At the moment there are masses of terminal buds in which the blooms develop and you can almost see them growing a little more for each day.

It is obvious that the Magnolia tree means quite a lot to me after having studied it so closely for those three years. I learnt such a lot about it, how it is fertilised and why it is a particular type of bug that  is responsible.

If you want to know more about Magnolia x soulangeana, and you are interested in botanical art as an artist, do book to come to my workshop Friday to Sunday 31 March to 2 April. I still have a few places available.

This is the first time that I have had a workshop on this subject – and you can probably guess why. But now I would love to help others who would like to paint the blooms in watercolour or coloured pencil (dry), or even draw them in graphite.

Get in touch with me as soon as you can so that you don’t lose this opportunity.

 

 

 

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.

Workshop schedule and booking forms now available

I had to work hard to finish the Liriope muscari ‘Moneymaker’ in time for handing it in at the beginning of this month. Including the sketches when I first got the plant in 2015, sketchbook drawings, colour matching and composing the picture to my satisfaction, it took 211 hrs.

I remember a comment that someone made not too long ago; when they started painting they thought that as they got better they would be quicker, but it didn’t work out that way. They too were a botanical artist.

I have to say that when I took up painting plants a few years ago, having painted birds in great detail previously, I too thought that I would get quicker as I got more experienced. The trouble is that as one becomes more experienced one knows what to look for and that getting the detail right is imperative. I suppose that this is affected too by my style of painting which is not wet-in-wet. I use a fairly dry technique generally, which allows for the finer detail. Added to which I am my own worst critic!

The finished painting can now be seen in my website portfolio. Follow this link: Liriope muscari ‘Moneymaker’

At last my schedule of botanical art workshops in 2017 is complete and you will find the detail and booking form here: Workshops for 2017

The booking form for the botanical art workshop holiday at Le Manoir in the Dordogne region of France is also ready. You can find this here: Le Manoir 2017. There has been a lot of interest for this workshop holiday, so grab your place as soon as you can. There is a lot packed into the holiday and if you want to take your partner, there will be plenty for them to do too – that is if they want to do anything outside the planned trips! You will be painting at least in the mornings and can choose to do the excursions if you wish.

As a reminder, all levels of experience in botanical art will be welcome because the class sizes are small. Life is about continually developing your skills, therefore to join a workshop, experience is not necessary, just the desire to learn.

You can use coloured pencil, graphite or watercolour on all of the workshops and the holiday – except for the workshop with vellum.

Botanical art workshop booking form for 2017
Botanical art workshop booking form for 2017
Le Manoir; Exclusive botanical art workshop holiday
Le Manoir; Exclusive botanical art workshop holiday

Do get in touch if you have any queries.

Botanical art workshops

This last weekend I had a very select group enjoying the peace and quiet of Bosham as well as individual botanical art tuition. The weather is gradually improving and picking subjects in the garden (the Magnolia) or in the vicinity (Eucalyptus), is no longer a trial. The following are a couple of photographs from the weekend:

© 1.IMG_1621 © 2.IMG_3428 © 3.IMG_3429

There are more workshops lined up, the next one is Friday and Saturday 8 -9 April.

So many people have asked me to have a workshop that focuses on drawing and shading. Now is your opportunity. It is called: Botanical drawing and shading in graphite.

So what is it that you want to draw in graphite? Is it a delicate flower, some twigs, leaves or what is it that takes your fancy?

Many plants started flowering in January and even before, but surprisingly enough there are still plenty of spring flowers. I am surprised that so many daffodils are flowering and there are swathes of them wherever you go.

I’m afraid that the Magnolia really suffered this year. Its been trying to flower since the beginning of January, but with the recent cold snap it hasn’t been happy. As you see, one of my students at the weekend produced a really lovely picture. The tree normally flowers in early April and is hugely spectacular – but I doubt that we will see much of its glory by then.

But there is still a lot of last years plants drying out in the hedgerows and they provide very interesting subjects for graphite. Some leaves just have skeletal remains and these are really attractive.

Do get in touch soon to book your place.

© Graphite daffodil 8bit+sig

Another workshop happening this year is in Norway, June 24 – July 1. If you want to save a little on this holiday, book and pay your deposit by 31 March. Go to the page on this website specifically dedicated to the holiday.

June and July is a very beautiful time of year to visit Norway and if you haven’t been there before, it is likely to give you a taste for more. That of course is in addition to the teaching – which I am told, is good.

Imagine being able to concentrate on doing what you love – or interested in starting, in the most amazingly beautiful surroundings. You will have a view over the Oslo Fjord and you will experience the crystal clean air and sparkling colours that derive from this.

Do get in touch if you have anything you are wondering about in relation to workshops in Bosham or the Workshop holiday in Norway.

 

 

Coloured pencil or Watercolour for a botanical art subject?

In actual fact, I’m cheating a little, as I was going to write this blog this evening having spent a couple of days off from writing my botanical art online course, to sketch some Fritillaries in preparation for a commission in watercolour. But, I also got a query from a lady this evening, about the use of coloured pencils and how I choose whether to use watercolour or coloured pencil for a subject.

My answer to her and anyone else who asks ( as I do get the question fairly regularly), is that I have no idea. I just have a feeling that I want to do one or the other.

But, when I did my last RHS exhibit in 2014, I deliberately chose to do it in coloured pencil to show that solid subjects (crabapples), dainty subjects (blossom) and delicate detail (dissections), could be done in coloured pencil. The judges said they didn’t realise I had used CP and thought it was in watercolour!

Back to the commission; I had bought some Fritillaria meleagris at the local garden centre and Fritillaria Michailovskyi at Chelsea Physic Garden when I was there at the beginning of the month. I think we are innate plant hoarders! So this week I have been doing a series of small sketches in my sketchbooks.

Without thinking too much, I started out in a Stillman & Bern Epsilon sketchbook, realised what I had done (as the Zeta is better for watercolour), but continued in it, deciding to do my colour samples in coloured pencil. Although you can’t compare CP and watercolour by the names, or know how one colour mixes with another, I know the two mediums well enough to be able to convert fairly happily.

I’m afraid the following photo is not brilliant as I took it on my easel this evening, but I think you get a reasonably good idea of the results on the page.

Fritillaria meleagris in coloured pencil.
Fritillaria meleagris in coloured pencil.

By the time I had finished these, the one dark flower I had was looking a bit faded as it was being subjected to being in the warmth of the shed during the day and outside during the cold night. I needed to concentrate on the foliage as it was a bluish green, except near the base, but felt I really should do this in watercolour.

I changed to the Stillman & Bern Zeta sketchbook. Shame they aren’t all in the same one – but never mind! I had hacked (dissected) the one flower to pieces and done one or two small sketches, so decided to draw a portrait of the bulbs. In the end, all of the sketches on the 2nd page are watercolour over graphite. The bulb is from the Fritillaria meleagris, but you also see the Fritillaria Michailovskyi. I have taken a photo of that one halfway through so you can see the amount of graphite shading I actually did. Before adding colour, I did a wash of clear water to ‘set’ the graphite so it wouldn’t discolour the colours I was going to use.

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