Thursday, March 30, 2017

True Colors

I am always in great awe of botanical friends who only work with a 6 color palette. I love that disciplined old world feeling that gives to work, BUT I just can’t do it. I am a bit of a cheater. I am in love with the kaleidoscopes of color. Give me a new tube of paint or a dot chart and I am off. If it’s already mixed for me I am happy. I once asked Kay Rees-Davies, a wonderful botanical artist and teacher what she thought. I told her I been pulled up by another teacher for not being a purist. Her eyes lit up and she said ‘Deb, if it is out there use it! Don’t worry about mixing it. You know how to and that’s good but enjoy what’s there’. We then happily went on to swop paint info.

For example have you tried The Terry Harrison collection of 3 greens, Midnight Green, Country Olive, & Sunlit Green? I love the Sunlit Green, it has that fresh spring look for new leaves. Daniel Smith’s Moonglow, Shadow Violet, & Lapis Lazuli Gen. can add so much to a painting and you only need a small amount. Just a touch of Moonglow or Shadow Violet are wonderful as under shading. Lapis Lazuli Gen. can be worked into a great range of smoky shadowy blue and I found at its’ palest it is perfect for pussy willow.

New paints are popping up all over the place and that’s so exciting. Young people are setting up independent companies  and they are passionate about producing new color variations.

Two companies have recently caught my eye. Both can be found on Etsy.

Redwood Willow is charming and fun and is created by Josie, a one woman business. Doesn’t the name Popsicle Set make you want to try it! You can send for a dot chart to try colors out as shown below. And the lovely little sketch book is also a Redwood Willow product. However, don't expect these paints to be delivered overnight. Josie has to make each order herself so be patient. And that's also attractive to me. That the paints are not sitting on a shelf but will be made especially for me.
Greenleaf and Blueberry are created by a modern duo, Jess and Matt in Colorado. They create wonderful Artisanal Handmade watercolors, travel palettes, The Adventure Set, The Alpine Set and more. And of course being a romantic who likes to travel just the company name sets my juices flowing.
So if you have a bit of an artists block or just for the hell of it why not order some new paints and experiment. I don't think you will be disappointed.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Beet Goes on ...

Out of all my works shown this year the favorite and most discussed were the Red & Gold Beets.
I have been often asked how I achieved the rich color mixes in this painting. It is very simple, I worked on wet in wet for a first layer, and then dry brushed about 10 layers onto the red beet and 6 on to the golden beets. Slow and steady work. 

All of the paints used were Daniel Smith watercolors.  On the red I used Trans Pyrrol Orange, Quin Red & Ultra Violet and no masking fluid, just white spaces left that I gently worked the color into stippling the paint into the white. I am not very experienced in using masking fluid and its something I intent to work on in 2017.

For the gold beets I used Gamboge, Quin Gold & Rich Green Gold with touches of Burnt Sienna.

I alternated between several brushes, including a Billy Showell #2, ProArte Minature 0 & 1, A Connoisseur filbert 10/0, and Billy Showell’s Eradicator brush. I used the filbert and even the Eradicator to smooth and fade out the paint.

I did not use under painting for the shadows but if I was doing it again I would. I am very keen on 2 colors for underpainting, DS Moonglow, & Shadow Violet, & from time to time, Raw Umber Violet.

Of course like all artists I am continually experimenting with paper, brushes and paints and we learn as we go along. Look out for some paint experiments in the New Year. Small companies are popping up with limited handmade water colors – exciting!
Wishing everyone a great start to the New Year. I hope you all get an opportunity to try out new creative ideas.

The Un Blogger

It’s been ages since I blogged, in fact I think I should be called The Un Blogger! I have been so busy in the 2nd part of this year that there was no time for anything but painting. It has been a great year for me. I made my decision in the New Year to open up, mix more with other artists and generally try to get my work out there. It worked!
I did enter our local fair exhibit with 4 paintings and won 4 first ribbons! I felt so honored. It was great fun as I was also a judge for the Childrens Art exhibit. So interesting and so many young talented artists out there. It was great to be part of the local community.

Elvis even made an appearance at the fair!

I have entered a juried exhibit that is being held by the Lan Su Chinese Gardens in Portland Oregon. We will know our results in January 2017. The exhibit is called Lan Su in Bloom and will open March 1st 2017. I had never been to the gardens and so Ian and I took off for a weekend to Portland to check them out. They are a hidden jewel of Portland, a Shangri-La in a busy city. I had no idea. We went on an autumn day and it was packed with people but somehow we never felt the crowds. I took many photos and made sketches. In the end I ran out of time due to other deadlines and have only entered 2 paintings but I have lots of ideas for other paintings.

I also received an invitation to take up a once a week teaching post at the Calyx school where I was a guest earlier this year. I couldn't believe it, it was such a lovely offer. I am so busy I am not able to take them up on that but I counteroffered with a proposal. So I will be teaching one workshop a month and then the group of 10 year olds will work on the project and I will see how they are doing every month and give the children guidelines. I am very excited about it. We are opening in 2017 studying bulbs and roots working with graphite and pen and ink.

I had 2 exhibits going on at the same time for November and December in MUSEO Gallery in Langley and in the Flower House Café in Bayview. To my delight I sold several paintings mainly to people from Seattle visiting and even bartered a painting with another Whidbey artist for a large roll of Fabriano paper!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

I'm late, I'm late, I'm late...

I don't know where the time has gone to. May and June have flown past and now we are halfway through July!

May was a time of trying new things for me. Karin Bolstead, Headmistress of Blueschool Arts invited me to speak about my sketchbook habits along with 2 other artists, Lauren Atkinson and Susan Zwinger. All very different artists. I had never done anything like that before and so I took along everything but the kitchen sink. I showed finished artwork along with sketchbook work to show the part sketches played in my paintings. There were many laughs and the audience were very kind and we all had a great time. I also learnt masses from the other 2 artists.

Lauren also invited me to visit the Calyx school where she teaches. Calyx is an amazing school on the edge of one of our parks and focuses on nature and art playing a major role in children's education. The kids, ages 6-11 were incredible, they latched on to botanical art and soon were all drawing cut strawberries to show the inside. They were very enthusiastic about eating the subjects after drawing them!

May was also a birthday month for me and I was very honored when dear friend and botanical artist Debbie Crawford sent me an original piece of art. I had long admired her camellias and now they are on my wall in my studio opposite my desk where I get inspired by them every day. Did I mention how generous botanical artists are? I am always getting wonderful gifts of paper etc.

During this time I also got 2 paintings accepted for my first juried exhibit in St Louis, IL., The Beauty of Botanicals. I got to learn how to frame for a juried exhibit and how to pack paintings for travelling.

June also opened with me having a small solo exhibit in the Flower House Café. I used mainly prints all framed the same and a few originals. The outcome was I sold 3 prints and many cards from the gift store in the garden center next to the café. For some reason masses of my business cards were taken, perhaps people were wall papering! And I was invited to hang again in November.

I also realized in my intention to 'get my work out to the public' this year that I have over extended myself a little for the next 4 months. My postcard exchange was falling behind so I have been working on a few of those and its a good practice for me.

I am also working on a tattoo, another first for me. I spent ages trying to work it out and finally I decided just to shut up and paint it, a pink dogwood, and the tattoo artist can workout the details.

And finally for now I am working on an ASBA exhibit in 2017 Out of the Woods: Celebrating Trees in Public Gardens. I have spent some time in Meerkerk Gardens on the island and have picked 3 trees to study, a lot of work! But I need to stretch and challenge myself.

Next time, something completely different, my first time entering the art exhibit at the local fairground in August. Should be fun!

Friday, April 29, 2016

Books, Artists and Gardens

' Like the musician, the painter, the poet and the rest, the true lover of flower is born not made' Celia Thaxter
I have had a busy month of entering juried shows, being part of a local Garden Art show in a gallery, preparing for a talk on sketchbooks and designing a botanical tattoo.  Much of my latest work in in progress so lacking something to show you this month I thought I would share something close to my heart, gardens and artists.

Botanical art and gardens go together of course. Many botanical artists you will talk with all have a love of gardens and often paint plants that they have grown. I know when I am stuck for inspiration I wander around my local garden center until a particular plant 'waves' to me. I love the idea though that sometimes people developed gardens with the idea of bringing together creative energy. The thought of many talented people all inspired in the same place, ideas bouncing off one another is fascinating.

There have been so many famous gardens in history linked to artists we all know and love but I am especially interested in women who created artistic gardens.

I have been recently reading a wonderful book 'The Artist's Garden' edited by Anna O'Marley. Each chapter is fascinating but Chapter 3 Home of the Hummingbird stuck with me. Poets and artists have always drawn to one another and the chapter is about the poet and artist, Celia Laighton Thaxter and her friend, the artist Childe Hassam. I have long been a fan of Hassam's romantic work but knew nothing about him. Celia was born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, in 1835. From the age of 4 she grew up on the magical Isles of Shoals where her father was a lighthouse keeper. She married at 16, had 3 children and unhappy in her marriage moved with her children to become the innkeeper at Appledore House, a large tourist hotel on the island. When her parents died she moved into their cottage and cultivated an old fashioned garden of heirloom flowers. The garden and her salon became a retreat for the gathering of writers and artist friends. There were gatherings of writers such as Nathanial Hawthorne, Harriet Beecher Stowe, musicians William Mason and John Paine and artists William Morris, J. Appleton Brown and of course Childe Hassam. Hassam and Celia worked together on the book 'An Island Garden' published just before her death in 1894. Sadly in 1886 a large fire destroyed the hotel, cottage, garden bringing the artistic revelries to an end.

How wonderful those golden days must have been. I would have loved to have been a bee flitting around that garden listening to the conversation, watching Celia and Hassam sketching. Hassam did about 400 paintings of the island. All that inspiration and talent in one place. It sounds like the making of a film and it is!  In the trailer of Peter Randell's film on Celia's garden you will see her salon. Her garden has been now been recreated. One day I will go and visit.

Another lovely book I recently acquired is The Artist, The Cook & The Gardener by artist Maryjo Koch. Maryjo's work is vibrant and lovely and she likes to combine cooking, eating in the garden and painting. Her students get to enjoy it all, and I am sure it is really inspiring. A modern day artists retreat.

Recently someone approached me about doing classes in her lovely garden here on Whidbey Island in the summer and including afternoon tea. I am very tempted to do it even though I am not a good teacher. It would be worth it just for the tea,cake!

Back next month with some art work!

Friday, April 1, 2016

I wanna be just like you...

'I wanna be just like you. I wanna walk like you. And talk like you too' The Monkey Song.

I recently read a comment by a student of botanical art who said she was a great copyist of well known artists but she just couldn't find her own style. I thought it was a brave and honest admission. It is very easy to forget that we should be learning to understand techniques and tips and instead try earnestly to be like our favorite botanical crush.

For several years now I have dreamed to being the next Billy Showell, Fiona Strickland, Dianne Sutherland to name a few. The hours I have wasted trying to make my work look theirs and how dissatisfied I am when I fail. I recently read Jess Shepherds new Inky Leaves post and it was like being smacked in the head with a baseball bat minus the pain. A real wakeup call. Jess wrote about her own struggle with finding her style and how she has now moved on. And boy has she!

So my advice is to watch the videos, do the courses, admire the professionals, read the books and then step away. Put on your favorite music and just create. Children do it all of the time. We have just forgotten how.

Some of my new cards in the series 'From an Artists Sketchbook'

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Stepping out of the box

I often notice that a lot of botanical artists seem quite shy to show their work. I also fit that picture.
I enjoy solitude and I love painting in my studio eerie perched above the garage, listening to music. Extremely nice but not so great if you want to promote your work. Sometimes my shyness, my uncertainty to believe in that people might like my paintings stops me progressing. I have to really push myself to move on.
A recent goal that I made myself do was to join a local art group who have a guest demonstrator every month. I needn’t have been nervous. The group were very kind and encouraging about my work which helped boost my confidence. I also enjoyed seeing the demoes of work that are nothing like mine. The group take part every year in a island art tour, something I have wanted to do for ages but somehow never did. Perhaps this year will be a first for me. 

And a contact made last year turned into a show this year. Last year I had approached a wonderful local printing company, Fine Balance Imaging, to get some scans done.  Nancy and Joe are a mother and son team who work in the most incredible building called Bayview Cash Store, part of a group of historical buildings. The light in this building is amazing, it’s got huge old beams and old iron work, all recycled. The printers have these huge machines and print on metal and fabric as well as traditional surfaces such as paper. Nancy is always so helpful and ready to listen to an artist’s woes J and to my delight invited me to be part of this years’ Gratitude Show. This is an annual show that Nancy & Joe put on for artists who have ordered prints from them. They show their gratitude by allowing any sales to go completely to the artist, what a wonderful gift! The prints I have in this show are the baby bok choy, willows, camellia & daphne, and September Treasures. I chose white for the framing as I felt it would suit most people's décor.
I also recently applied to a prestigious local gallery in a local town and to my delight I got accepted for the popular garden show that's put on there every April. The paintings the owner liked and settled on to show were the beets, pears and roses. She felt that the colors would pop against the white walls of her gallery. But botanical art and the watercolor technique were new to her so I had quite a bit of explaining to do. I found it difficult at first but warmed up to it when I realized she was genuinely interested.

My cards are still selling well at the Flower House Café and I have decided to continue with them. I will be introducing an Artists Sketchbook range, images that are little looser and more spontaneous, divided by color.
So already this is an exciting year. Just by making some small changes in my life I can feel doors opening and new opportunities coming in. I consider myself extremely lucky. Not only do I now have the time in my life to paint which gives me huge amounts of joy and centers me, but I get to meet wonderful people along the way who in turn help me to produce prints, sell my work etc.
I also intend to enter some exhibits and to attend more classes with botanical artists that I admire.
My focus for the moment is on the Turk’s Head Squash that I am finally finishing and I have a few sketches of spring flowers that I managed to squeeze in recently.
So remember to step out of your box from time to time, you never know where it may lead. What will you be working on this year?