Blog 12a: RHS working on the wild side!

It’s been one long amazing adventure since I first wrote about my RHS Sketching Adventures in 2016 and it’s not over yet! This was the year I was accepted to exhibit with the RHS (Royal Horticultural Society). My journey has been of new learning and a great deal of research so far. This Blog is about my continuing journey and the progress I’ve made so far. Up to now it’s been hugely interesting and at times very intensive but most of all a rewarding and enjoyable journey!

You’re most likely wondering why this is Blog 12a. Well, I’m not usually superstitious but today I am. So it’s 12a, not 13!

My journey began by selecting a subject matter to paint for the RHS. A theme which would be interesting as well as something I was passionate about. After all, it involves 6 paintings which need to be absolutely spot on and perfect, so I had to be excited and inspired by my theme. Just before I was accepted, I had become very interested in the importance of meadows which have been declining rapidly from our countryside. This is affecting our very important pollinators and may eventually lead to food and fruit crops failing. I also became very interested in pollinating insects, bees and butterflies. So I had to include them somehow!

My garden, over this time, has become a haven for pollinators. I selected a few areas of my garden to grow wild and planted meadow wildflowers in the grass. I purchased solitary bee homes, planted bee friendly plants, painted butterflies and bees too…I was smitten!

Just a few real facts…
97% of our UK Meadows have been lost since the 1930s, taken away by intensive farming, affecting pollinators and wildlife in a staggering way. I became very interested in this subject matter and much to my pleasure I discovered a wealth of organisations all working hard to change things. A few are listed below:

Plantlife (campaigning, sharing knowledge and working with partners for the protection of meadows and introduction of wild road verges);
Magnificent Meadows (taking emergency action to prevent the disappearance of meadows and sharing knowledge);
Coronation Meadows (initiated by HRH The Prince of Wales to create meadow in every county to mark the anniversary of The Queen’s coronation) and of course The Wildlife Trusts, the National Plant Monitoring Scheme and so on… I joined the NPMS (National Plant Monitoring Scheme) to help with their research in my area, around the Severn valley. You can volunteer to record species growing in an area near you. Sadly, the fields they allocated to me for recording species had been ploughed over. Not what we like to see!

My journey took me to many meadows and open spaces where our beautiful native wildflowers still grow.  Seeing again the many wildflowers I took for granted as a child, was like coming home after a long time away. I remember as a child sipping nectar from white nettle flowers. Everyone thought I was weird! The wildflower plants were there but I didn’t really pay attention to them much as a young adult, although I’ve always loved long nature walks. Now, I admire them each and every day and through learning recognise many species. I’m always in awe when I see one I recognise!

I even made friends along the way. Thank you Jeni Burton (pictured above) for taking me to Eades Meadow, a truly sacred place. I saw my first Bee orchid with Jeni, we were so excited! (it’s the first photo below).

I take a lot of photos of these wondrous wild flowers. Their beauty really comes to life in a close up. You could quite easily walk right past them!


The places I went to all had different habitats. Some were grassland, some damp meadows and some just road verges. I started to learn about which plants favoured particular habitats and decided that this would be my ‘theme’ for the RHS. To study a set of species which favour certain environments. Also included in my ‘theme’ would be relevant pollinators to these habitats and plants as I feel they are just as important. I went through many wildflower plant choices before I finally decided my final 6 earlier this year. I even started sketching some of them which I have now excluded. My final 6 are wet meadow plants.

My first choice was Cardamine pratensis (Cuckoo flower). It grows in the field behind my house. I like to call this field a ‘meadow’ as over the last two years more wildflower species have arrived. The local farmer looks after it. The area where I live is damp so the fields surrounding the house and garden favour wet meadow species. Nice bonus!


Here my research and preparations began. I have watched all of my chosen plants grow through their lifecycle. I decided to plant some Cardamine pratensis plants in my garden which grew beautifully. One day, I was studying the plants and discovered a butterfly egg on one of them. Soon there were more eggs. I was delighted as I knew it was most likely an Orange Tip Butterfly as they use this plant as their larval food plant. Of course, the pollinator I would link to this painting would be the Orange Tip! ….and guess what it’s latin name is? Anthocharis cardamines! 


I watched the caterpillars grow over a few weeks until they were quite large. What I didn’t realise was that they would devour the whole plant all the way down to the basal leaves. Every little bit…. so to finish off my studies I went out into our back meadow and thankfully some of those plants were still intact! One cold night this year an Orange tip butterfly rested overnight on my garden plants near one of the eggs (photo above). It was there for 39 hours!

My studies continued and involved some dissection and learning a little botany. It was important to study the whole plant, including a little botany, so that I could understand all its details. Even a study under the microscope to see what’s inside the flowers and how its reproduction works. This would make it a lot easier to draw accurately. By happy accident along the way I discovered that reproduction was not only via seedpods but also from the plants basal leaves. Left in a dish of water for a few days, my basal leaf specimen started to sprout babies! The botanical term for this is viviparous (see photo below). My composition started to form but it changed again this year to the left side composition in the last photo. I felt the arrangement and story made more sense in the second composition idea.


I have started my final 6 this year and completed research and sketchbook notes for 3 of my choice wildflowers. I approached each one with the same detailed research. The ones I have finished researching and almost done compositions for are Cardamine pratensis, Lychnis flos-cuculi (Ragged Robin) and Lotus pedunculatus (Greater Bird’s-foot trefoil).

We’re having a really hot Summer this year which means everything is going over and seeding too early. This is the same in the meadows. The Greater bird’s-foot trefoil growing in my garden didn’t grow to full height and started to seed almost as soon as the flowers opened. This made measuring very tricky! A very kind friend, from a little further north than where I live, offered to pick a few pieces near her house and send it to me. The amazing thing was, she was going on holiday and just happened to be passing my house that day! The pieces of plant were quickly measured and placed in the fridge minutes after they were delivered. These wildflowers are very fragile and fade very quickly once picked. Thank you Paula Golding, you were a life saver!


I still have 3 more wildflowers to study and make compositions of this year and early next year.  After that I’ll be painting my final compositions for the rest of the year when the plants are in flower. Here are my final sketchbook notes which will include some dried pieces of each plant on the right side page gap.

My advice to anyone thinking of applying to exhibit with the RHS is to look at Katherine Tyrell’s pages on the Botanical Art and Artists website. There she explains the procedure, rules and how to plan your exhibit. If you are accepted spend at least a couple of years watching and studying your subjects. Preparation and research for the final paintings is essential.

I will return with more about my journey next year. I plan to exhibit, if all goes well, in 2020.

I hope you enjoyed my Blog!

Online Mixing Colour Accurately for Watercolour Course

Jackie Isard Botanicals – Mixing Colour Accurately for Watercolour Course (Launches every 3 months, next course September 2018)

I’ve been busy preparing my new online colour course! I’ve developed and planned a course which will help you to ‘See’ colour more easily. It has been very successful so far and students have found they mix colours far more easily than they used to.

The course involves comprehensive notes, video clips together with a series of exercises which can be done in your own time. We cover mixing with primaries, those difficult greens, botanical greys (we touch on this, an advanced course will cover this in more detail at a later stage) and neutral beige/brown tones for those beautiful Autumn colours. Exercises include making a few small reference charts, matching swatch colours and many other useful tips/exercises. The course also involves some important exercises which are posted to you and your final work will be assessed by post too. Part of the course has to be done by post because this is all about mixing colour accurately. A computer screen or scan/photo/colour copy will not show true colour! There is a Secret student group page for posting work and discussion. I am available on Facebook Private Messenger, Whatsapp or Email to answer any questions you have during the course. Please bear in mind the time difference if you are overseas! I appraise your work as you complete each of the Lesson exercises.

Some student reviews:
“Mixing watercolour accurately is exactly what this fantastic course has taught me and a most enjoyable process too. Very much a novice, the notes and exercises are clear and easy to follow. The feedback was prompt and very helpful. All in all – BRILLIANT! Thanks Jackie.” Sylvia

“I’m very satisfied of improvements obtained. Before my paintings were a bit ‘childish’. Now they are more realistic. I learned to recognize the subtle shades of color, to mix them and to obtain more natural colours. And I understood how much I still have to learn by looking carefully at my surroundings.” Simona

“At last!! I now approach colour mixing in a more organised and knowledgable way. I now search for ‘many’ colours within a plant and have gained the confidence to closely match them. This course should be compulsory for all botanical painters. Jackie is a knowledgable and encouraging tutor who responds quickly to our questions and posts on the ‘Secret’ Student Facebook page. Wish I had taken this course before I started my Certificate! Thank yo Jackie” Catherine

Payment can be made via PayPal, details will be sent on Registration. If you do not have PayPal, it’s really simple to set up online. Just visit www.paypal.com. Bank transfer is available using a UK bank account. Please request bank details if required.

Contact me for more details!

Blog 12: Painting a Portuguese Shell…

I was given this shell at my Daughter-in-laws wedding last year in Portugal which has their wedding date inscribed underneath it. It has a special meaning to me as you will no doubt understand. So, I had to paint it for the couple to enjoy in their home!

To begin with, shells are rather difficult shapes to draw. Full of spirals or curved lines and beautiful patterns. This shell has lines going both vertically and horizontally over a curved surface. We really need to get those right first! I started by doing the outline of it’s total shape and then worked from the top/middle of the drawing putting in the curves carefully as they go from left to right. As they go round to the edges the space between them reduces almost to a vanishing point. Once these were completed and the little cracks across it’s surface drawn on, I then worked from the centre/top, putting in the vertical lines, across to the left and then across to right. These also curve across the surface subtly….quite tricky!

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My shell has a number of interesting colours and I studied them carefully before I started to make my swatches. A lovely slate blue grey at the top and warm tan colours at the bottom intermingled with beige tones and yellows. I now had a good idea of what colour mixes I would use and created my swatch of colours.
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For the slate blue/grey I used W&N Ultramarine Green Shade (U(GS), Transparent Yellow (TY) and Permanent Rose (PR). Mix it like you’re making black (70% blue, 20% red and 10% yellow) but add in a little bit more of the blue. For the Tan colour I used Burnt Sienna (BS), Quinacridone Gold (QG), a tiny little Indanthrine Blue (IB) and a tiny bit of Sennelier Rose Madder Lake (SRML). I used the SRML to just add a little brightness to the mix. For the second tan colour which is paler and more orangey, I used QG and BS, more of the QG. I also mixed up a black using IB, TY and QM with a little of the U(GS) added for a darker slate grey used at the top of the shell.
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The first step was to add a wet in wet layer using the base colours, grey, beige, warm yellow and rusty browns. When the wet in wet layer was totally dry, I started to add in some of the details with a watered down mix. Step 1: starting to add in some of the vertical and horizontal patterning. Step 2 shows me adding a little more shadowing and some of the cracks in. It’s best not to work with to thick mixes at this stage or your painting will start to look smudgy. Now it’s starting to look more interesting!

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Step 2

From here I now added in more of the background colours to give my shell some form. These were very watered down versions of my original colours plus a slightly bluer version of my slate grey/blue. I applied these individually as a thin wash and then quickly rinse/dry off my brush before softening the edges. It’s important to soften the edges of these washes with a damp brush. It gives a lovely smooth finish.

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See how it’s starting to take shape! On some areas I used a Billy Showell technique to apply rough lose lines, a dry brush method. This gives a little more interest to the patterning, which are not always just curved lines. To do this, I load my brush and splay it into a fan in my palette. Then I slide the brush away from the palette until it forms little points instead of one point. Holding the brush as a 45° angle I then brush lightly across the area. For thinner lines hold the brush more upright. (There is a video demo of this technique on my Feathery Pursuits blog) This takes a bit of practice, so try it out on a separate piece of paper first!20180212_113038
To add in the spots onto the surface I used another technique. These are not just spots you see. Some are blurred and others have a line coming down from them. To achieve a blurred effect the paper needs to be damp. But rather than dampen the paper first, it’s best to do this with the brush afterwards. You have to be quick and patient! Here’s how it’s done:

Some of these dots were paler than others so I used a watered down mix for those but the same method to apply them.
20180212_171931Once the dots were finished I worked on the top of the shell. This area is not solid colour so I’ve dampened the paper first to get a more mottled effect. It looks pretty messy at this stage but once I add the fine detail it comes together. To get a stronger mix this time I’ve used Indanthrine Blue (IB), TY and PR with only a little of the U(GS) in my mix. This part of the shell is quite dark and U(GS) is a weaker pigment. It’s make the same shade of slate grey/blue though.

From here I worked at the fine detailing on the top part of my shell, even the vertical lines show up on parts of it as they go down into the striped part. To the right side there is a slight halo of light where the slate grey disappears over the edge of the shell. I left this part a little lighter and graduated it away. It’s a little like the reflected light from the surface which you get when painting pears and apples** see below for better photo!

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Now to join bottom and top together. There were lots of lines to do here so I had to be very careful! Firstly, to guide me I added in the lighter blue/grey section between the darker lines. Then I carefully added in the vertical lines and horizontal curves. **You can see the slightly highlighted edges at the top of the shell better in this photo below middle.

Next, I worked on the cracks to enhance their depth. I added a darker mix into the top areas of these cracks with a thin wavy line, softened this a little with a damp brush and at the same time pushed the paint back into the top part of each wavy line. This creates backup which is perfect for this type of detail. It gives a nice sharp edge with a thin graduation in front of it. Lastly, a little extra shading around the sides and bottom to make it pop off the page!

I hope you enjoyed this Blog and that you are encouraged to have a go at a shell. Happy painting!

Blog 11: Painting an Autumn Ivy Leaf

Autumn leaves can be difficult! …but with all of those wonderful colours, such a delight to paint.

In this blog I hope to help you understand the method more clearly. I found this Hedera (Ivy) leaf in my garden and decided to paint it as it was so colourful. It sang out to me with those colours of Autumn when they just begin to show.

When I start a painting a subject of any type, I first study it carefully. I look at texture, colour, pattern, form, growing habit, shape and how the light falls on it before I start to draw. The drawing will be more accurate if you take time to study your subject carefully. Look at every little detail and blemish. Fall in love with it!

I loved this Hedera leaf with its wonderful colours and the first stage was to mix my palette. When you do this look for all the tones and shades. There will be many more than you imagine!

All about the colours…

My swatch included the greens, yellows and browns – quite a few of these. I added to this palette as I went along, with some darker shades for the stalk and blemishes on the leaf.

This is my leaf along side my final swatch. If you look you can see two different shades of green, a darker one at the edges which is blue in tone and the lighter one across the leaf which is a more yellow green. There are many browns too! Here’s how my swatch works: The X signs are colours I’ve didn’t use after testing.

The green mixes (1&2) are made from Winsor Blue Green Shade (WB), Transparent yellow (TY) and a tiny bit of Permanent Rose (PR). The PR rounds the green to make it less stark and more natural looking. Green No. 2 has a little more WB added than the No. 1. The bluer one is used around the edge of the leaf and to define the shadows in between the small veins at the fine detail stage. The yellower green is for the main area of the leaf. My yellow shade is purely TY (3) and sometimes TY plus water (H20).
There are many shades of brown, 6 to be exact. These all vary slightly. The darkest ones are for blemishes and the stalk, 7, 8 and 9. No.s 4, 5, 6 and 10 are the ones used on the brown areas of the leaf. No. 11 is the green/yellow used at the top of the stalk only. Here are the mixes for 4-11:

4 – Burnt Sienna (BS), Quinacridone Gold (QG) and Winsor Violet (WV) = (= means a little bit!). In addition I have added a little more QG to make a slightly yellower version of no. 4.

5 – BS, QG and Indathrine Blue (IB) = (=a little bit). Again I have mixed a slightly darker version of this tone by adding a little more IB.

6 – BS, IB and QG=

7 – IB, QG and PR (Permanent Rose) making a black
8 – IB, QG and PR with extra PR and QG making a reddish brown
9 – IB, QG and PR  with extra PR and QG plus a little extra IB making a dark brown

10 – BS, QG and IB= making a conker rusty brown

11 – TY (Transparent yellow) and WB= making a pale greeny/yellow

Let’s start painting the wet-in-wet layer!

So to begin with, for the first layer, I used wet-in-wet technique on one side of leaf at a time. Always do one side at a time because if you try to do both sides at once, one side will dry up on you before you get there!

You will need to use good quality Hot Pressed watercolour paper for this technique as it will not work on ordinary watercolour paper. I am using my every dwindling old stock Fabriano paper which is perfect but the quality has changed completely over the last two years. An alternative paper, which I tested recently, is St. Cuthbert’s Mill Bockingford Traditional Watercolour HP white. This paper I find as good as the old Fabriano for wet-in-wet.

Firstly, I wet the whole area carefully and evenly. When doing this technique take care not to leave pockets of water but aim for a smooth all over effect. You’ll need a No. 6 full bodied pointed tip sable brush. Fill your brush with water and make a puddle in the middle of the area first. The following two photos show an example of wet-in-wet I photographed for a Pear painting.

Carefully move the water with the tip of the brush into the uncovered areas. Along the edges use the tip and move the water very slowly around the edge of your drawing. The point will help you to get the water accurately up to the line for a nice neat edge. Try not to go too fast when doing this.
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Now check for puddles and sweep off some of the water as needed. Don’t sweep too much off or you’ll end up with a dry bit!

Once the area is even and full, turn the paper sideways to check you have covered every little bit evenly. Now wait until the water is at a ‘glistening’ stage. When it is ready it will look shiny. It’s important to catch it just at the right time. If you wait too long it will start to dry on you. Once the whole are is covered and glistening you are ready to apply your paint.


Drop your paint (a light-medium thickness, not thick!) into the areas where it appears taking care to leave highlights clear of paint to start with. Rinse and dry your brush off before adding new colours onto the painting. The paint will spread out naturally. I have blobbed the green and yellow paint in on this side which gives the impression of the smaller veins in between where the paper shows through. You can move the paint around a little and wipe it out with a dry brush too. Add more pigment to areas like the edges on my leaf where the green is stronger if you have time. Move quickly and if any area starts to dry out on you, STOP! and leave it all to dry thoroughly. DON’T attempt to keep going as you will ruin the layer. Once it’s dry you can repeat the whole process again to get your first layer down.

Now do the same to the other side once the first side has dried completely!

Your first layers should look like this, a bit wishy washy, but it is best to work with a lighter mix than a thicker one or your paint will go smudgy. Notice where I have left the highlights clear of paint.
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Now the first layer is done, make sure it is completely dry before you attempt the second layer.

Painting the second layer…

The second layer is the layer where you will add more colour to enhance the first layer. In this photo the left side looks more colourful now. On the right side I have started the 3rd layer which involves graduated washes. I am now using my no.2 full bodied pointed sable brush. I have added washes to dry paper which smoothes out the leaf making the appearance more solid, but without losing the highlights. Where the arrow is, I have already started to add a little of my shadow mix to create form and depth. My shadow mix is a very watered down version mix of No. 6 on my swatch. It creates just the right tone for shadows on this area. Test your watered down mix first as they can appear watery but still dry darker! On some areas I will use No.4 for shadowing depending how pale the shading appears on the subject. Towards the top part of my leaf (right side) I have used no. 4 rather than no.6.
leafBelow I have started to add some of my darker blue green mix along the edges of the veins and washed it out to make smooth graduations.To do the graduated wash apply a damp brush along the edge of the paint so that it fades away smoothly rather than leaving a definite line. These washes line the edge of the veins as well as giving form to the undulations. In areas between the main veins I have made shapes to define the smaller veins more using this same method. Fiddly work!
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Now the right side is starting to look more formed I will do the left side using my different shades of brown to create the mottled pattern. Firstly, I’ve applied graduated washes along the bottom sides of the larger veins. Again, I’ve worked into the areas in between to define the undulations using the same method. You can see how it’s starting to take shape now. Lastly, I added a thin wash of BS & QG mix to enhance and warm up the browns (see swatch above).
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I couldn’t resist painting the stalk earlier in the painting! I just love fine detail work. For the stalk I began by putting a thin wash of no. 11 all the way down the stem. Then I added the brown details using 4, 5 (darker one) and 9. It’s all dry fine detail work on the stalk. Lastly, I added thin washes of my shadow colour no. 6 along the left and right side to create the curve of the stalk which is more obvious at the top where the leaf begins.

The final details…
To finish up the left side I applied more shades of brown to create the patterning using no. 4, 5 (darker version) and 6. I’ve enhanced the shadowing under the larger veins again. Finally, I added in the rusty parts (no. 10) and fine detail using 7 & 8. Well it almost looks finished….. except I’ve added a fine wash along the left side of the middle vein to give depth and enhance the dip where the leaf bends.

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The finished painting…

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So that’s it, all done! I would like to have kept more light on the right side of the leaf but with all the working into the small veins it disappeared a little. We learn something from everything we paint!

Any question please feel free to contact me via here or PM on facebook!

https://www.facebook.com/jackieisardbotanicalnaturepainting/


Hedera hibernica – copyright Jackie Isard Botanicals 2017. All rights reserved.

 

Blog 10: SBA awards – ‘Vessels of Life’

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I was thrilled last week to receive a phone call from the SBA (Society of Botanical Artists) announcing that I had been presented with a CBM (Certificate of Botanical Merit) award for my seed head painting ‘Vessels of Life’. This award was created by the SBA to give credit to artists whose paintings/drawings are created in true botanical style and who may at some time in the future be awarded medals at the RHS (Royal Horticultural Society) Botanical Exhibition. I am now very privileged to use the letters CBM after my name. So you can see why I am so excited!

For more about the awards see: https://www.botanicalartandartists.com/news/society-of-botanical-art-2017-certificates-of-botanical-merit

This was one of three paintings which were chosen to be hung at the SBA exhibition The other two are featured below –

The exhibition this year is outstanding and I will now be seeing it twice when I go again on the 21st! My award was presented to my by Jekka of Jekka’s Herb Farm . Her speech was really interesting, informative and funny. It is sad to see Sarah Wall-Armitage retire as president but welcome Billy Showell as the new one!

For more about the painting of the painting and video tips, see Blog 9

Cards, small prints and Limited Edition unmounted or mounted prints available. Contact me on Facebook or here.
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Thank you for reading!
All photos and images on this blog are copyright of Jackie Isard Botanicals, all rights reserved

 

Blog 9: Dancing Seed Heads… ‘Vessels of life’

I have a passion for Autumn colours and all the bits and pieces you can find on the ground at that time of year. I began collecting seed heads around a year before I decided to paint them and like a lot of Botanical artists soon found I needed to invest in quite a few storage boxes!

I can’t believe the beautiful things nature throws down from the trees and plants in the Autumn. These little ‘vessels of life’ really are so very interesting. I spread out my collection on my desk ready to select which ones to use and start arranging them in possible compositions. This went on for about a week… I kept changing my mind!

 

At Christmas I was lucky enough to receive a microscope from my better half. I decided to have a closer look at the little seeds falling out of my seed heads onto my desk. I don’t have a microscope camera but managed to take these with my samsung 6 phone by resting it on top of the viewer. They proved very interesting indeed!

 

Recently I find I’m putting everything under my microscope to discover what’s within. It really opens your eyes! I have found it a great tool for studying small flowers before I paint them. It gives me so much more information than with the naked eye.

Selecting my subject matter

So, I began by selecting my favourite seed heads which I felt went best together and drew them all up on tracing paper. When I was totally happy with the drawings I outlined them in black fine liner and cut them all out….this was only the beginning! It then took me about another whole week of fiddling around and rearranging them in between painting before I finally decided on my composition!

 

Now I was ready to transfer them to my watercolour paper using my light box. The ones I chose are as follows: Cow Parsley, Agapanthus, Cowslip, Rosa Glauca pourr. rosehip, Iris sanguinea, Honesty, Yellow poppy, Camassia and Marigold.

Cow Parsley seed head

The first seed head was Cow Parsley with it’s flat discs which pop open in the same way as Honesty seed heads and then the seeds fall to the ground. They have little reddish brown stripes on them too. For all my seed heads I have used very neutral tones of different shades but each one is very individual. Cow Parsley seeds are pale beige in colour but with a greyish tone, so I mixed up a range of colours and tints matching them against my subject as I went. It’s important to match your colours against your subject to get an accurate mix. Make sure the paint is absolutely dry though before you add it as these pale tones always dry darker than you think! I mostly used Winsor Violet (V), Neutral tint (NT), Quinacridone gold (QG), Winsor Lemon (LY), Transparent yellow (TY) and Burnt Sienna (BS) for this one.

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And so I began painting the first seed on the sprig, firstly with a pale wash, then building up the shadow areas to give it form. The stem was woody in appearance and the beige/grey tones worked well on this to give it that feel. You must be careful when using pale greys and beige tones as they always dry darker than you imagine!

 

Here’s some little videos of me working on it.

 

 

I built up the individual seeds with my beige and grey tones to give the curved shape of the casing where it held the seed inside. I dissected a seed to see what the inner seed was like inside and painted that too. It had an orangey/pink tone which I made with Burnt Sienna (BS), Quinacridone Gold (QG) and Winsor Violet (WV). Looking at the seed casing I noticed that the reddish brown lines were different on each side. There were 4 on the front and only two on the reverse. Some of the seeds were twisted on my sprig so the reverse showed. This was an important discovery! I studied all of my seed heads very closely before drawing them to ensure I understood all the detail which is needed to make them look as realistic as possible.

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Agapanthus seed head

Next was the Agapanthus seed head. What amazing black, flat and crinkly seeds inside the pale yellow casing! It was tricky to draw as the seed casing twists open and curves exposing the seeds from within. These seed casings flick open and the seeds pop out, like sweet pea seeds. The casing is a very pale and only has hints of colour so it is important not to overwork it and retain the highlights. I left paper white highlights and painted deep shadows to give it contrast. For this seed head I used similar neutral mixes but used transparent yellow instead of Quinacridone Gold as it is brighter. I mixed a selection of warm greys of different shades for the shadow areas. For the seeds I made a nice blue black out of Permanent Rose (PR), Quinacridone Gold and Indanthrine Blue. I left open spaces between the strokes to achieve strong highlights and give the appearance of the crinkled surface on the seeds. At the end I added a little (very watered down) Winsor blue tint over the seeds in some areas to enhance their blackness and shine.

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Cowslip seed head

Next on the agenda was the Cowslip seed head. Cowslip flowers are really interesting as when they dry, the petals (corolla) curl back to form the top of a little cup in which the seeds sit and the sepals (calyx) become the bottom part of this container. The seeds are dispersed by the wind shaking the little cup. Below is a diagram drawing which I drew showing the flower parts and some microscope photos of the Cowslips’ ovary, stamen, stem and leaf detail. You may be familiar with the fibonacci series found in nature, well, in the ovary where the seeds are formed, the immature seeds sit inside their capsule forming the fibonacci spiral pattern.

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The seedcase is made up of warm browns so I mixed up some warm reddish browns using my usual Winsor Violet (WV), Quin Gold (QG) but in some of the mixes I added Burnt Sienna (BS) or Sennelier Rose Madder Lake (SRML) to warm it all up. For the darker browns I used Indigo (I), Quin Gold and Burnt Sienna and a little Burnt umber (BU) to the darkest brown mix. For the very darkest brown I used Indigo, Permanent Rose and Quin Gold, almost a black mix but with less blue.

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I started working on the first layer with the warm pale tones and then adding in the stronger colours for the detail and shadows. I had to work very carefully to get the shadows into the corolla curls at the top!

 

Rosa Glauca Pourr. Rosehip

The next seed head was the Rosa Glauca Pourr. rosehip, …not a seed head I hear you say! Well it is a seed head but this time the seeds inside the rosehip are injested by birds or they rot on the plant and fall to the ground eventually. The hip contains quite a few seeds inside it’s skin. My rosehip was turning dark red and black and drying out hence the crinkled surface. It was hard to keep the highlights as the crinkled areas were very small. My favourite part were the sepals, wonderfully curly and spikey! I used a lot of colours and tones for this piece.

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I started with a thin wash of my red mix leaving unpainted areas to create the highlights where the undulations were on the surface. I then built this up using shadow tones mixed using my original red and browns to achieve the round form. I will admit it was very hard to keep the highlights as this piece is very small. Once I finished the hip I used my brown and black mixes to develop the sepals and stalk. The seeds have tiny hairs at both ends and almost look like waxy apple seeds.

 

Iris sanguinea seed head

Next the big Iris sanguinea seed head. A friend gave me this seed head as a gift as I thought it so interesting! I loved the curves and colours and made it the focal point on my painting, right in the centre! This one was great to paint as it had immense detail. It is shaped like a cup in which the seeds sit in rows. As the Iris cup curls open the seeds drop out. This seed head has very strong yellow tones on the outside mixed with greys. It is very pale inside so I needed to mix some very watered down grey tones and take care not to over paint it. The seeds are a dull orangey brown. My colour mixes included the following: My regular colours as previously on this blog but I added SQG is Sennelier Quinacridone Gold deep, SI is Sennelier Indigo and SMRL is Sennelier Rose Madder Lake.

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This was one of the hardest ones to paint and the finished piece looks like this, I spent a long time creating the wrinkles using neutral tones and neutral greys to make the cup look three dimensional where it dips in and out.

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Honesty…. this is very tricky to paint! It has such subtle tones all over and needs perfect highlights to keep it looking shiny. Again I used the same colours to make my neutral tones which were very watered down, as below. Honesty is papery thin and made up of three layers. In between each layer sit the seeds and the whole thing pops open to let the seeds drop out.

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I started by putting a thin random blobby wash of the yellowy neutral mix over the areas which were darkest and the paler beigey grey tone around the sides. There were tints of a pinkish/orange around some of the edges too. It’s good to study your subject and look for all the tones before you start painting. There were many different shades and tones in this delightful little subject. Getting those tones in as well as the fine detail makes the painting look more realistic.

 

Here’s a little video of the beginnings:

 

Once I had finished the background by building up colour to define the undulations, I then painted in the edges, stem and the pointed spike at the top, which brought together its shape and form. I decided to add 3 seeds to the painting. I was only going to do 2 seeds originally but decided 3 was a better balance. I used various shades of browns for the seeds and some black mix (PB, IB and QG) to define the shadows. I had collected a number of seeds and selected three that varied in their patterning.

 

The finished Honesty seed head…

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Yellow Poppy seed head

Next on the agenda was the Yellow Poppy seed head. I love the little crown at the top of this seedhead! The seeds are contained in the cup below the crown, just like a regular poppy, and dispersed as it shakes in the wind. It’s colouring is quite dark so I mixed a few browns for the base cup and some neutral beige tones for the top. I also mixed a warm reddish brown to add to the cup area as I felt it needed warming up. It would have looked very drab otherwise! I also mixed an ‘almost’ black colour to define the creases and shadows. It was especially important to add shadow colour to the top ‘crown’ where the pieces all join together to enhance the 3D’ness of this part.

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Camassia seed head

Next in my row of seed heads was the Camassia. It has a beautiful golden yellow tone so Quinacridone Gold (QG) shouted out to me! I love this plant and it grows in my garden ‘wild’ area in the Spring. Here’s a photo of it in situe:

 

These seed heads are like cups and the seeds disperse when the wind blows. I began by mixing up my colours and used a series of neutral beige and yellow tones mixed with a reddish brown and a darker brown. Quinacridone gold featured highly as you can see below!

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This seed head was also shiny and papery. To get this across I needed to ensure my highlighted areas were as light as they could be. You’ve probably noticed that I stick the seeds onto my drawing board with Blutac. This is so I can view them closer up and see them more clearly. I added pale yellowy washes first and then I worked into it adding a little of my reddish brown to define the detail and stripey areas. I added a pale beigy grey tone into the shadow areas to define the undulations and inside of the cup.

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Here’s a little video of me working on  the camassia seed head:

Next to give it some depth I added more layers and some other warm tones to create the shaded areas. Now for the three seeds by the stalk. These seeds are quite black in tone with a blueish tint. You can just see it showing through on the final painting below. To enhance this I laid down a wash of watered down Indanthrine blue first on the darker areas of each seed. After this I used my black mix, creating the dips and creases by leaving areas unpainted.

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Marigold seed head

Last but not least the Marigold seed head. What an amazing shape this is! The seeds on this seed head are curled up inside the head and snap off as the seed head dries. They are very sturdy and have spikes around them. The whole seed head is extremely interesting to look at and is made up of many different parts. I must look them all up one day! It was a task to get the drawing right but I really enjoyed painting this one. I mixed very similar neutral tones once again, beiges, yellows, warm browns, greys and tans. One extra colour was added, Perylene Violet, to create the pinkish brown tones on the ‘arms’ of this seed head. This one was going to be a challenge!

 

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I started again by laying down thin washes of my pale yellowy beige mix then began defining the wispy parts at the bottom with pale shadow tones and browns at their tips. I used the Perylene brown mix for the very tips of these too to give sharpness. The rest was created using mostly dry brush and graduated washes. Finally with the very tip of my brush I added in the fibonacci series of dots on the flat centre part. I only added one seed to the side of this one as they are so detailed in their form. I felt it was enough to have just one to look at!

 

 

The finished piece…

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And so the painting was complete… I hope you enjoyed this blog and that it will have been of help to you.

Happy painting!!
seed heads-J.Isard

*All photos, content, text and videos are subject to copyright – Jackie Isard Botanicals 2017

 

NEW Botanical & Nature Watercolour Painting courses!

I’m excited to announce that I have launched 3 initial courses at Brackenwood Plant & Garden Centre, Leigh Court Estate, Pill Road, Abbots Leigh, Bristol BS8 3RA starting in March 2017. Courses are £35 per person per day. It’s an exciting adventure for me!

The first three courses are geared around important watercolour painting techniques which aim to improve your skills and give you the know-how to create beautiful botanical watercolours.

Course 1 : Watercolour Painting Techniques 1 – 18th March 10am-4pm

On the first course I will teach you the techniques necessary to achieve perfect Wet-in-Wet. Link to event on FB

Course 2 : Watercolour Painting Techniques 2 – 15th April 10am-4pm

On the second course I will teach you washing out, shading, dry brush, how to paint fine lines, erasing out and perfect fine detail. Link to event on FB

Course 3: Mixing Colour Accurately – 27th May 10am-4pm

On this course we will learn colour mixing and matching to plants making swatch records, learn how to create bright tones, learn how to get perfect neutral (natural) tones, other bits and pieces like overlaying tints to enhance colours and not quite 50 shades of grey! Link to event on FB

To book please contact me personally by email at jackieisard@googlemail.com and I will send you full details and material lists. Look out for more courses and future online tuition on my FB page Jackie Isard Botanicals

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NEW Botanical & Nature Watercolour Painting courses!

I’m excited to announce that I have launched 3 initial courses at Brackenwood Plant & Garden Centre, Leigh Court Estate, Pill Road, Abbots Leigh, Bristol BS8 3RA starting in March 2017. Courses are £35 per person per day. It’s an exciting adventure for me!

The first three courses are geared around important watercolour painting techniques which aim to improve your skills and give you the know-how to create beautiful botanical watercolours.

Course 1 : Watercolour Painting Techniques 1 – 18th March 10am-4pm

On the first course I will teach you the techniques necessary to achieve perfect Wet-in-Wet. Link to event on FB

Course 2 : Watercolour Painting Techniques 2 – 15th April 10am-4pm

On the second course I will teach you washing out, shading, dry brush, how to paint fine lines, erasing out and perfect fine detail. Link to event on FB

Course 3: Mixing Colour Accurately – 27th May 10am-4pm

On this course we will learn colour mixing and matching to plants making swatch records, learn how to create bright tones, learn how to get perfect neutral (natural) tones, other bits and pieces like overlaying tints to enhance colours and not quite 50 shades of grey! Link to event on FB

To book please contact me personally by email at jackieisard@googlemail.com and I will send you full details and material lists. Look out for more courses and future online tuition on my FB page Jackie Isard Botanicals

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Blog 8: Autumn Gold Beauties…

Wandering around the garden in late autumn I discovered some rather gorgeous looking Magnolia leaves still hanging onto our tree. There was a golden carpet beneath too which took my eye. I collected 3 leaves and decided to paint them. Thankfully there were still some on the tree if these ones started to fade.

The first thing to do was to try and protect them from drying up. I took reference photos and then into the fridge they went in a plastic bag! Sadly overnight they had gone very brown and the lovely gold hues I wanted to paint had disappeared. Thank goodness there will still some on the tree for colour reference.

I started by drawing up my three leaves onto tracing paper then used a black fine liner to outline my drawings. From here I could then put them on my lightbox in position and trace off carefully with an H pencil onto my watercolour paper.

Once transferred onto my watercolour paper I very carefully used a Faber Castell gum rubber to remove excess graphite. Take care not to rub, just press it onto the graphite and then lift it up as you go. If you rub you’ll ruin the surface of the paper. You also only need to do this where the painted areas are pale. You can use Bluetac to do this too.

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Mixing the colours

The next stage was to mix up my colours, the lovely golden hues and browns. For your reference all are W&N colours unlelss specified: Burnt Sienna (BS), Burnt Umber (BU), Indanthrine Blue (Ind), Quinacridone Gold (QG), Indigo (I), Transparent Yellow (Trans Y), Winsor Lemon (LY or WL), Permanent Rose (PR), Sennelier Rose Madder Lake (S.RML). Also 2+QG (top row far right) equals Brown no. 2 plus QG. See photo of my swatches below.

You may notice in the next photos that I have cut out the shape of my leaves on some tracing paper and laid it over the top of my painting. This is to protect it from splashes. It’s better to use cartridge paper as tracing paper curls up a little and I have been known to catch the paintbrush on the curled edge!

The first wet-in-wet wash!

To begin with I added a pale transparent yellow wash all over to enhance the brightness of all that followed. on the next layer of wet-in-wet I started to introduce some of the tones from my palette. On the second layer I took each section of the leaf individually adding in more colour to strengthen it all up and then a little of the shadowing on the leaf ridges. This highlighted the veins a little more. There are some more videos later in this blog explaining these techniques so scroll down now if you want to know now!

Once I was happy with the intensity of the gold shades over the leaf I again worked on enhancing the veining and adding in small details, smaller veins and dots. Gradually working my way across the leaf and the furled edge. I also added more of my gold/burnt sienna mix to strengthen up the background layers in places, washing it out at the edges so it didn’t give an edge line.

I then used my Eraser brush (Eradicator) to enhance the light veins. Here is a little video which explains how I approached this. Once you’ve done this the whole thing starts to appear more 3D. I use 2 types, Jacksons Icon 1/8th inch series 702 and a stiffer one which is white synthetic – ProArte sterling 201 oil acrylic short flat size 0 (this is a long handled brush so I cut the end off!)

After this I started to work on the twisted broken part of the leaf. This was a challenge as I needed to show the curves and twists to get a good effect. It’s all in the shading and highlights. I painted the brown first leaving a nice highlight along it. Then added other colours as they appeared. Finally, I used my eraser brush to lift out lighter parts and darker paint to create the veined areas. It’s a case of looking carefully at where the shadows are and deepening the colour in those areas.

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To get the papery effect on the little bits sticking out at the base of the leaf I used a very pale beigh tone and dotted grey into it. Painting a darker grey very occasionally along the very edge on the smaller bits.

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Lastly, I strengthened up the golden areas of the leaf with a thin wash of my gold mix. Now onto the right side of the leaf using the same methods! Once both sides were done, I noticed a little green tone over some of the leaf so I added my green mix in a very thin wash to those areas. Leaf no. 1 finished!

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Leaf no. 2 – lots of videos here!

As this leaf was quite large I used wet-in-wet technique on each section between the veins rather than go over the whole thing. I do each section alternately so that they don’t bleed into one another. Firstly I laid a thin layer of Transparent yellow down to keep the overlying layers nice a bright. Here’s a video to explain the process.

Once I’d completed three sections I continued into the bottom right part of the leaf. Here’s a little video explaining how I did this part.

Now for the top part, an area which thins and is very intricate. You need to be very careful to not go over the edges when wetting the paper. I’ve erased some of the fine vein lines with a soft rubber on the dry finished areas. They will erase at this stage but not after the next coat. If you leave them too dark they will interfere with your painting. Here’s a video explaining.

Here’s the right side of the leaf finished and dry. Now you just need to apply the same method to the left side of the leaf. Notice on the picture below I have left out a very small area half way down. This part of the leaf is far too small for wet-in-wet so I will fill this in later with dry brush. By the way, you can if you prefer, start with the left side, I just happen to prefer working from right to left.

I got carried away and started doing some of the dry brush work at the top of the leaf, my favourite part! The dark area with a papery feel I will also do later in dry brush. This part will be challenging and make for very interesting painting!

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Well that’s the gist of it so far. I hope this blog and videos have helped you and I’ll be back soon with another Blog.

Until next time happy painting!

*All photos, content, text and videos are subject to copyright – Jackie Isard Botanicals 2017

Blog 7: Pretty Flamingo!…

After a visit to Slimbridge Wildlife Park I was keen to paint Flamingo feathers. It took a bit of hard work trying to source some moulted feathers but eventually Birdland Park & Gardens in Bourton on the Water came up with the goods, thank you Simon at Birdland! www.birdland.co.uk

I selected three feathers from the bundle posted to me. I chose these three for their wonderful shapes and thought they made for a lovely composition.

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A bit about Flamingos…

These tall wading birds are called Phoenicopterus and the feathers that were sent to me are from the Greater Flamingo species Phoenicopterus roseus. Flamingos have been know to man for thousands of years. They feature in cave paintings in Spain (5000BC) and the Egyptians used them as a symbol to indicate the colour red and even regarded it as the living embodiment of the sun-god Ra. The red/pink feather colour comes from a diet of crustacea and algae. Here are the Flamingos at Birdland in Bourton on the Water, Cotswolds. My feathers are from the paler birds.

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Mixing the pink!

To begin my painting I had to match the beautiful pink of these feathers. After a few trials I found that Winsor & Newton Opera Rose (OR) and Cadmium Yellow Deep (CYD) gave me the rich bright orangey/pink I needed. Other colours I mixed were variations of pale greys, some pinky, a cooler grey and a very pale yellow using Trans Yellow (TY) mixed with a tiny bit of the Flamingo Pink I had mixed previously. I also mixed some of this pink to make my pinky grey. You’ll notice on my swatch that there is a duller looking pink which I used for shadows and stronger details, this was mixed using Sennelier Rose Madder Lake (SMRL), Winsor Orange (W.O) and Cadmium Yellow Deep. When re-mixing the Flamingo pink I had to test it a few times as the mix would look different with the slightest change in quantities.

Painting the curved feather

The curved feather had awkward angles and so I had to make sure the drawing was absolutely spot on. I started by doing my pale washes and then built up the colour gradually. There were some deep shadows where it turned and for this I used stronger versions of my pale greys and the flamingo pink. I created these deep shadows  by working in between the whiter wisps. In this way you get the white wisps overlaying it.

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Painting the oval feather

The oval feather was a lovely shape but much paler that the others. It was hard to keep the subtlety of this one without over painting it. For this feather I built up the layers slowly and left it lighter than the others. There were more highlights on this one which helped to keep it from looking flat. Also notice the darker areas along the right side and the left side of the rachis (mid vein), this enhances it’s curved appearance.

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Painting the large feather

I saved painting this feather until last as it was my favourite one and the most striking in my composition. The top part had lots of furls and creases and the colour faded gradually down to almost white at the bottom. Plus, I thought to myself, how am I to paint those tiny little veins!

I started with a very pale wash leaving the paler areas free of paint. I used a watery mix of the cooler grey and pinky grey to indicate shadows on the paler part of the feather. It took 3 layers to get it up to the right strength of pink at the top. I was now ready to add in the darker pink shadows on the folds and furls. To get the appearance of the tiny veins I used a the same technique that I used in my Feathery Pursuits blog. I used the Flamingo pink on the top part of the feather and the pinky grey and cool grey further down on the lighter areas. Blog 5 contains a video showing you how to do this dry brush technique. See this link: https://jibotanicals.com/2016/10/01/blog-5-feathery-pursuits/

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Painting the shiny white highlights

My paper was not white enough to show the shine on the rachis (mid vein) and feathers so I turned to my Daniel Smith iridescent paints. Pearlescent White did the trick. If you shine a light onto the painting or turn it sideways you can see the glow of the pearlescent paint. I have yet to find a pure white that has such a good effect. Well, I’ll just have to have a spotlight pointing down onto it if it’s ever framed and hung on a wall!

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Painting the after feathers – pale wispy bits

You have to approach this part with great care and start with a very, very pale colour. You can always add but you cannot take away! The greys and pinky greys are made with very strong pigments and almost impossible to erase out without damaging the papers surface. Using the cooler grey with a flicking motion, you can interpret the wispy feathers. Afterwards add occasionally add some of the pinky grey and very pale pink. Once you’re happy with the result you can then add a few darker bits to show the shadows. It’s also good to add a few very fine chevron side hairs to some of the larger wisps. It’s hard to see on the image below but hopefully you’ll see what I mean.

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Now my painting was complete! Please excuse the greyness of the photos but these winter days are so dark and dreary!

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I must apologise for no videos on this blog, however, I will be doing a blog in a few weeks about my Dying Magnolia Leaves painting and will try to video some things which will be of interest to you. I hope you enjoyed this blog and thank you for reading.

Until then happy painting and a very Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

*All photos, content, text and videos are subject to copyright – Jackie Isard Botanicals 2017
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