Nature is painting for us, day after day, pictures of infinite beauty if only we have the eyes to see them” John Ruskin
This years journey has been full of adventure and some very hard botany learning. It became evident that it was essential for me to understand exactly what I am painting! As the weather perked up in April and was good to us during the summer months, my decision to go on a search for my chosen 6 plants in their natural habitats proved very successful. Their habitat is wet meadows, the selected subject of my RHS exhibition. I knew this was very important to ensure my drawings were as accurate as they could be to the wild plants of the field. My son also has a great interest in nature and accompanied me with his little dog, Toby, on my treks. Always great to have company!
Having completed 4 plants in my Botany sketchbook, I asked a botanist to check my final drawings for me. Good job I did! Even though you think you’ve got it just right there can still be little details which need adjusting, especially with dissection drawings which I’d never attempted before. I’m so pleased I took this advice from a fellow botanical artist. I had very little knowledge of botany when I started this project and still struggle to remember all the botanical terms. My brain doesn’t have enough space left at my age! It’s been a massive learning curve.
Below are my botany sketchbook pages for 4 of my chosen species. This helps me to learn about each plant before I start drawing. I measure them, study their habit, dissect them, study them under the microscope, press pieces of plant in a flower press, have a little practice run on mixing up colours and paint a few small sections of each one. The record is then referred to as I draw and paint the final compositions.
Botany Sketchbook – Water Avens
Botany Sketchbook – Devil’s bit scabious
Botany Sketchbook – Ragged Robin
Botany Sketchbook – Cuckoo flower
The drawings so far… My drawings for Ragged Robin, Water Avens, Greater Bird’s foot trefoil and Cuckoo flower have now had a full botany check and are transferred to watercolour paper ready for painting. It took many, many months to get to this stage. Left to right below: Cardamine pratensis – Cuckooflower, Lotus pedunculatus – Greater Birds foot trefoil, Geum rivale – Water Avens and Silene (Lychnis) flos-cuculi – Ragged Robin. They are all life-size compositions.
Next year, as well as painting the final pieces, I will be studying and drawing up Great Burnet (Sanguisorba officinalis) and Devil’s bit scabious (Succisa pratensis) in late summer. I have managed to get some of the painting for three of my chosen species done this year which are featured below. The sections below were painted using live plants. I have a great deal of photo reference to enable me to continue painting these three through the next few months.
Cardamine pratensis drawing
Lotus pedunculatus drawing
Geum rivale drawing
Silene (Lychnis) flos-cuculi drawing
My journey started locally where I live in Bristol. I have grown some of my chosen plants in my home garden which were doing well. Although these are great to refer to, they do not necessarily grow in exactly the same way as they would in their natural habitat. It’s great to have them on the doorstep though. They can be dug out and popped into a pot to use when painting! To find my chosen species in the field was really difficult but with a lot of research and walking I eventually located all of them this year.
Cuckoo flower (Cardamine pratensis) grows near my house and also on a lovely dog walk my son and I often do from Alveston to Old Down. One sunny day in May I decided my son and I should try this walk in order to find the pub at the end and have a lovely roast dinner. What a wonderful walk with yummy food half way. Essential therapy! It was full of meadow plants and pollinators. I saw my very first Green winged orchid and Musk thistles on this walk, one of which had a white flower. It became our favourite local dog walk this summer. Later in the summer I thought I had found Devil’s bit scabious (Succisa pratensis) growing there too but unfortunately it turned out to be Field scabious with a genetic fault! It looked like Devil’s bit but the leaves and height were all wrong. It’s also very important to research your wildflower keys!
Green winged orchid
White Musk thistle
Not Devil’s bit… Field scabious with a genetic problem!
Two of my plants were really difficult to locate so my journey led me into Wales this year. What a beautiful country. There is so much wildlife and Wales is abundant with wildflowers. Love it!
The first plant, Greater Bird’s foot trefoil (Lotus pendunculatus), I found at Great Traston meadows near Newport. Great Traston is a piece of protected land consisting of a series of wet meadow fields and teeming with insect life. We saw many dragonflies, damselflies and butterflies. We even saw a beautiful blue lacewing, many grasshoppers and later in the year a nursery-web spiders nest which was huge! This place is also home to the very rare Shrill Carder bee. Unfortunately, I didn’t see, or rather, hear one but maybe next year! There was also evidence of other wet meadow wildflower species like Marsh orchid and Marsh musk thistle. I visited three times in total. Once when Greater Bird’s foot trefoil was starting to grow, then when it was in full flower and finally when it had gone to seed. It is important for me to see the plant growth in all its stages as my drawings are intended to cover the whole aspect of each plant, telling their story.
“Hold nature in your hand and take a look at the intricate beauty within. Treasure our wildflowers and pollinators. It’s so easy to just walk by…” Jackie Isard
From here I wanted to find Great Burnet (Sanguisorba officinalis). After tons of researching, my journey took me back into Wales again to a tiny little meadow called Trewalkin on the edge of Brecon Beacons. Another naturally wet meadow. It is managed by the Wildlife Trust of South & West Wales. Unfortunately, the meadow had already been cut by the time I had found out that Great Burnet grew there. However, there was evidence of the species as some new plants were starting to grow. It has very distinctive serated leaves.
I noticed a few other wet meadow species too including Devil’s bit scabious. This was exciting news as Devil’s bit was also one I needed to locate. When I returned home I contacted the Wildlife Trust officer and asked for a species list. I was so delighted when it was sent through, every one of my chosen plants grow in this tiny meadow! This included Water Avens (Geum rivale) which was proving almost impossible to find. There will be many visits to this meadow next year.
Another place I visited earlier in the year was Crickley Hill Nature Reserve, in Gloucestershire. This is a beautiful place with lovely walks. Many wildflower species live here and the insect life is abundant. I saw many 6 spot burnet moths who were loving the Field Scabious growing near the car park. Beautiful Harebells grow everywhere too. I wasn’t expecting to find my chosen species as this is a dry limestone grassland area but I very much enjoyed the walk and the stunning views.
The last photo of trees, taken in the woodland area of Crickley Hill, I entered into the Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust photography competition. I was amazed to learn this week that it had been ‘Highly Commended’ by the judges!
6 Spot Burnet Moth
My journey for wildflowers has ended this year as winter is now upon us. The plants will all sleep now until April/May next year when I’ll be off out with my camera and walking boots to see them again.
Until then, have a wonderful Christmas and a happy new year!
I thought I would share the process of how I made this painting with you all. I discovered this dying protea in the training room at the Bristol Botanic Gardens when I was teaching there. It had been discarded and left to go mouldy on the shelf. You can see the green mould on the inner stamens below. I rescued it and another one which I have yet to paint!
The whole thing began as an exciting new project. I plan to paint it for the SBA (Society of Botanical Artists) exhibition this year. It was the most mammoth painting I’ve ever made!
I started the process by studying my subject thoroughly so that I didn’t miss out any of those incredible details or colours. What looks like a flower to start with is actually a series of inner and outer bracts which protect the inner whorl of tepals containing the stamens and stigma inside. The feathery bits! The drawing took ages to complete but eventually it was all traced up onto watercolour paper (a piece of old stock Fabriano Artistico HP) and I was ready to go.
Firstly, I made a awatch of mixes to help me with the colours of my subject. I use this as a guide. My palette consisted of seven primaries (Winsor Blue (Red shade), Indanthrene Blue, Indian Yellow, Quinacridone Gold, Transparent Yellow, Permanent Carmine, Permanent Rose and two others Perylene Violet and Winsor Violet. These are all Winsor & Newton professional watercolour pigments. As you can see there are warm and cool mixes within each range below. See below drawing and practice pieces before I started the actual painting.
I practiced three tricky elements first. After this I was happy with the techniques I needed to use to achieve a good painting. The last photo above shows the beginning of the painting.
I used a fair bit of wet-in-wet technique on the first layers for the larger inner involucral bracts and the bottom leaves. The tepals, outer thin feathery ones, I did mainly in wet-on-dry and dry brush. The photo below shows a few individual tepals which sit outside the whorl (stigma and stamens) in the very centre. All are very tightly closed to start with but as they mature they spring open and spread out revealing the straight pointed stigmas. The centre part is then exposed. That’s the bit I love!
Next I had to decide where to start! I protected my painting with layout paper and moved around the painting from left to right and then down the middle, section by section. The centre section of stamens and stigma was a little scary and I often wondered how I would approach that area. I came to the conclusion that I would cross that bridge when I came to it!
I thoroughly enjoyed painting the golden hues of the bracts and tepals with their hairy tops. Making them shine was essential too. This meant the highlights had to be prominent. The first layer of wet-in-wet was followed by graduated soft washes to build up colour. Once I had achieved this I could concentrate on the dry brush and fine detailing. This sometimes included splaying my brush into points to created rough textured lines. At times I needed to use my eradicator brush to bring up highlights and lighten the edges of the tepals where they touched another. The following photos show the techniques used.
Painting the hairs…how do you paint white hairs on a white background I hear you say! Well, I used the very tip of my Billy Showell No. 2 brush and carefully painted in between the hairs (so painting the negative) where they overlapped another stamen in the background. For the ones that were loose with nothing behind them, I used a very pale warm grey colour and painted in the fine hairs. Of course, the red hairs were much easier. There were also little white hairs on the bracts which I painted in using a white paint……..sooooooo many hairs!
Suddenly, I realised I was reaching the centre section of stamens! Ugh….what to do? Taking a deep breath I checked the subject thoroughly to see how the colours changed over the stamens and where the warm/cool areas were. I had already drawn in fine lines to indicate where the stamens were and the little twirly hairy bits (anthers) which occasionally appeared within the mass. It was again a case of painting the negative and laying soft graduated washes down to create form. The anthers needed masking out before I started the fine detail work. I use a mapping pen for this but you must be careful not to scratch the paper as the nib is very sharp. It’s a great tool for small areas and fine lines though. See the first photo. I erased the masking fluid with a Tombow monochrome eraser pen. This has a small tip and is ideal for removing masking fluid. A soft rubber or a clean finger can also be used to do this. Make sure you do this gently to protect the surface sizing of the paper. The images below show these items.
I started by adding a thin layer of colour to the central area. This was a creamy tone which was what I call the ‘base’ colour. From here I began painting into the negative to create the fine lines between each one. I used soft graduated washes of various beige tones to build up form on the individual stamens as well as across the whole area. Once I had built up the colour enough, I rubbed off the masking fluid. I was now ready to paint the anthers. Treating them like feathers, I detailed in the shadow tones between the hairs. This took a very long time! The whole painting took about 4-5 weeks to complete.
Now I had to finish off the top part with twiddly stamens and hairy anthers to create the rounded top. This was all done with intricate dry brush work. Painting the shadows was important here to create form and give the impression of lots and lots and lots of stamen hairs!
Mission accomplished! Next on the agenda was to finish off the right side and the rest of the inner bracts. Once complete I used wet-in-wet technique to apply a base layer to the leaves. They had really beautiful pattering and were very colourful. See the two images here.
Laying in the subtle colour tones was great fun! This was the first layer of wet-in-wet followed by soft graduated washes and much detailed dry brush work. The hardest part with the leaves was getting them to look like the reverse of the leaf. In most cases they were reversed. Much erasing happened as whatever I did they looked the other way round! It was an optical illusion because the more I stared at it, they kept changing! The reverse of the leaf needed very short shadows along the midrib to achieve this. Eventually it all came together. But if you stare a while longer…..you may still see it the other way! See progress photos below.
Next on the agenda was the stem, my favourite part. I just love painting woody stems. Essentially it’s a lot of wet-on-dry and dry brush work with very fine detailing. Adding every little detail in counts too! The more detail the more realistic it will look.
The top part of the stalk has lovely red/brown tones with deep grooves but faded below to a beige/grey texture. For the top I used dry brush for the fine detail and on the bottom, soft washes with a splayed brush to make the pattering as described above in this blog. See images here.
Finally, the finished painting emerged. What a journey but so worth it as it won the Margaret Granger Award at the SBA Mall Galleries exhibition! I am so delighted as this was a very ambitious project for me. I now have three awards on my wall. I feel very honoured! The photo below shows me receiving my award and my Fellow Membership from the President of the SBA, Billy Showell.
Thank you for reading my blog and I hope you enjoyed it! Jackie 🙂
During the winter I’ve been very busy continuing with my RHS studies and finalising 3 compositions. It’s been a long trek! In between these studies I’ve been enjoying preparing for a course at Brackenwood which will cover White and Yellow Spring flowers. A subject many find hard to paint…even I do!
I also had a chance to go on an owl event where I had the pleasure of holding 6 different owls. The Owls in the photos above are a Barn Owl, a Tawny Owl and a Little Owl. My favourite was the Tawny Owl as we have a mating pair in the area where I live. I love hearing their calls, Twit – T-wooo. Apparently they are the only owls who make this type of call. I even got to hold an Eagle Owl. They are huge and very heavy! I’ve always admired these beautiful birds but never been this close up. It was delightful and I will remember it for a long time.
I have now completed my compositions for Cuckooflower, Ragged Robin and Greater Birds foot Trefoil.
Last week I started preparing sketchbook studies and botany notes for the fourth plant, Geum rivale – Water Avens. What a gorgeous little plant! It has delicate nodding flower heads and beautifully shaped leaves. Very much overlooked I think.
This plant has a very interesting botany. Quite different to the other plants I have studied. So much is learned about botany when dissecting and studying plants. I’ve really got into it! Like Cardamine pratensis it has different shaped basal leaves. They are more rounded at the top with leaflet pairs running down the stem. Quite attractive! It’s also very hairy in places and has hundreds of stamens all enveloped beneath 5 petals. There will be lots of fine details on this one. Here are some microscope images of the stigma (of which there are many too!), stamens and hairy buds…
So far I’ve dissected a young flower head, drawn up a budded branch, a flowering branch and one of the basal leaves. This is my drawing to date. I love the shape of those leaves! This will be a tough one to draw accurately. So much botany going on!
I have chosen to include pollinators in my work and a lot of research has gone into finding suitable insects for each plant in my series. It is important for me to make the insects to be relevant to the plants. You won’t believe how long this research takes! Below is a photo of a Common Blue which I took in Alveston, beautiful!
For my final 6 plant choices I have included two options for the last one. This is because it’s always good to have a back up. I have chosen 5 butterflies, a bee and a hover fly. They all use one of my chosen plants as either a larval food plant or for feeding. The butterflies are the Orange Tip, Marsh Fritillary, Wood White Common Blue and a large Scarce Blue.
This weekend I was taken on a surprise trip to a Nature Reserve by my son. I’ve been wanting to visit this place since I discovered it late last year. It is a farm in Cricklade called Lower Moor Farm. There are many fields of meadow flowers and wet meadow plants too! Although too early in the season to see the meadows in full swing, I did see evidence of plants beginning to peep through. My heart sings when I visit these places which really helps with the intense work I’ve had to carry out. I hope to view some of my chosen plants in another natural habitat later in the year when I visit again. I also wanted to see the Snake’s-Head Fritillary which are growing wild at North Meadow Cricklade not far from Lower Moor Farm. The fields of North Meadow are protected as this species is now very rare in the wild. Unfortunately, we were a little premature as they were only just starting to grow. Another visit is planned for Easter weekend to see it in its full glory.
This plant is actually not a British native species otherwise I may have chosen it as one of my Wet Meadow species. It’s a shame because it is a much loved flower to paint by Botanical artists! I have planted some in my garden wild areas which are flowering already …perhaps because the weather is milder in Bristol than North Meadow.
So, from here I must carry on with my Water Avens studies and composition ready to begin painting soon. Three of my plants will be flowering between April and June so time will be short! I’ll be back later in the Summer with more news and to show you how I’m getting on, plus some more meadow visit photos.
Until then Easter is just around the corner, so enjoy all that chocolate!
Jackie Isard Botanicals – Mixing Colour Accurately for Watercolour for Botanical
A course for those who struggle to mix accurately with watercolours! Learn how to mix watercolour accurately using primaries. You’ll be amazed at what can be achieved with practice and you won’t need to buy so many pigments!
THIS IS NOW AN ONGOING COURSE AND YOU CAN JOIN AT ANY TIME! PLEASE DO NOT MESSAGE ME ABOUT THE COURSE HERE as I’ve had some issues with replies not being sent through. Private message me on Facebook or email me please.
This course is for Beginners and Intermediate students. The course contains a lot of exercises, detailed course notes, video tutorials and a dedicated Secret Facebook Group, all designed and created by your tutor Jackie Isard. It concentrates on mixing with primaries and aims to help you ‘see‘ colour more easily whilst building your confidence in colour mixing. It’s definitely not another course with endless colour charts! An Intermediate/ Advanced Colour course will be launched in 2020.
Details of the course:
• A course designed to help you ‘see’ colour more easily and build your confidence with colour selection and application
• No endless charts!
• Learn how pigments work
• Exercises which help you to ‘see’ more easily with detailed notes and video tutorials
• Develop a structured way to test colours and mixing possibilities
• Understand which pigments to choose for vibrant colours and subdued tones
• Practical tasks for a better understanding of what has been learned through the course
• Patient online appraisal all through the course
• A dedicated student group page to share and learn
• A final appraisal letter and certificate
The course consists of comprehensive notes, pre-recorded video clips together with a series of exercises which can be done in your own time. We will cover pigment qualities, warm and cool pigments, those difficult greens, botanical greys (we touch on this, the advanced course will cover this in more detail), mixing purely with primaries and neutral beige/brown tones for those beautiful Autumn colours. There are tutorial videos as well as videos specifically for beginners. You will be added to a Secret Facebook Group where the video tutorials are held. In this group you can view other students work, find useful tips and post your work for appraisal (personal appraisal is always done via private messenger not publically). One-to-one tuition and help is always on hand and you will never have to wait long for a response. It is important to me that every student is given the attention and help they need to ensure they have a successful and rewarding journey throughout the course.
Exercises include making a few small reference charts, matching swatch colours, mixing with cool and warm primaries and many other useful tips/exercises from which you will learn how to ‘see‘ and mix colour more accurately.
I am always available on Facebook Private Messenger or Email (unless I’m asleep!) 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 and give you a personalised final appraisal at the end of the course. You will also receive a graded certificate for your efforts!
Lantana montevidensis by student Raashmi
Some student reviews:
“I wanted to learn from Jackie the day I first saw a pic of her painting on FB. Her painting was highly detailed and showed a certain sensitivity to colour. Fortunately for me, Jackie announced an online course a few days later. I paid up for the ‘Mixing colour accurately course’ but was a bit skeptical of learning online. Having completed the course, my doubts stand dispelled. The course content, the exercises and the patient online appraisal of the exercises by Jackie, all made for good learning. I recommend the course to anyone on a tight budget. It has taught me a structured way to test a colour and it’s mixing possibilities.” Raashmi
“Mixing colour accurately is exactly what this course has taught me and a most enjoyable process too. Very much a novice, the notes were clear and easy to follow. The feedback was prompt and very helpful. All in all – Brilliant, Thanks Jackie” Sylvia
“At last! I now approach colour mixing in a more organised and knowledgeable 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 artists. Jackie is a knowledgeable and encouraging tutor who responds quickly to your questions and posts on the dedicated group page.” Christine
“Thank you for the very clear instructions, I read them all and watch all the videos, they are all very useful and easy to follow. Jackie Isard you are great artist and a great teacher too!” Mari
“I am very pleased with this course! After all the exercises and tasks, I finally began to see colour and understand how to mix it. I liked the fact that I had not only charts of colours but even in the end practical tasks for a better understanding of colour on real leaves and flowers. Separately it will highlight the fact that Jackie responded very quickly to questions and supported me throughout the course. I highly recommend this course to anyone who wants to learn how to mix watercolour accurately for botanical” Svitlana
“The course material for this colour mixing course is structured, interesting and clear. The exercises explained well and the extra videos and Facebook group tips are a bonus. I have learned to look further than ‘first sight’ when looking at a plant. A green leaf is not just green but a myriad of green tones and hues. What I most appreciated was Jackie’s personal support and the speedy replies with appraisal. It is an important motivator when working online.” Hilde
Payment can be made via PayPal, details will be sent on Registration. The fee is £105 UK and Internationals. The difference is purely postage cost. If you do not have PayPal, it’s really simple to set up online. Just visit www.paypal.com. Bank transfer is only available using a UK bank account.
Please contact me by email or Facebook private messenger for Registration details!
Great news received February 2021!
My book has arrived in the UK! I will be receiving one of the first copies in the post soon. So exciting! More details below.
Watercolour Mixing Techniques for Botanical Artists
A practical guide to accurate watercolour mixing with primaries for botanical artists Colour mixing is a key skill for the botanical artist. In this practical guide, Jackie Isard explains how to observe and use colour accurately. She shows artists how to make informed choices when selecting pigments, as well as how to learn about colour mixing and its application. • Gives detailed instruction and advice on understanding colour and pigments • Explains how to ‘see’ colour and tricky mixes, from greens and reds to the difficult botanical greys • Includes advanced colour application techniques – colour enhancement, shadow colours and colour temperature transition • Step-by-step guides illustrate how to paint with layers, how to use underlaying colours to enhance, and colour and fine detailing
Order online via major book shops or Amazon. Published by The Crowood Press Ltd
Arriving 22nd March for purchase. I will announce on Facebook or via email if you have joined my website mail-list www.jibotanicals.co.uk. Please note, preorders are available online. E-books will also be available worldwide.
Then do look out for my New online course coming in January 2019!
The Peacock is one of my favourite butterflies. The patterns and colours are just so stunning. We’ve seen a lot of butterflies this year as there’s been so much sunshine. Come and learn to paint one of the UK’s most beautiful pollinators with me, yes they are pollinators!
I will take you through the stages and teach you the techniques to create your very own Peacock Butterfly watercolour painting. You will learn how to mix the vibrant colours needed and how to add those incredibly fine details. There will be instructive videos to help you throughout the course. Watercolour painting skills essential please. Not for absolute beginners.
Pop over to my Jackie Isard Botanicals page to see the Event date then private message me if you would like to join. Payment can be made through PayPal. The course fee is £75 UK and £85 Internationals. The difference is purely due to postage cost. For more details on how to register Private Message me on Facebook or email me.
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!
Eades Meadow, Wiltshire
Box Farm meadow
Tea with Jeni Burton
Box farm meadow
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!
Common spotted orchid
? let me know please!
Wild comfrey? let me know!
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!
Orange tip male resting overnight on a cold evening, see egg under him
Orange tip butterfly mature caterpillar
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.
First rough sketch and measurements done in the garden
Different leaf types
Seeds under microscope in pod
First ideas for composition
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!
Greater Bird’s-foot trefoil
Specimens for measuring
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 was given this shell at my Daughter-in-laws wedding last year in Portugal and it 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!
My shell has a number of interesting colours and I studied them carefully before I started to make my swatch. 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.
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 Indanthrene Blue (IB) and a tiny bit of Sennelier Rose Madder Lake (SRML) – this could be replaced with W&N Permanent Rose, PR. I used a little SRML to just add a little brightness to the mix. For the second tan colour which is paler and more orange, I used QG and BS, more of the QG. I also mixed up a black using IB, TY and PR.
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 using a little stronger beige mix. Image 1: Here I started to add in some of the vertical and horizontal patterning. Image 2 : Here I am adding a little more shadowing and some of the cracks in. It’s best not to work with the mix too thick at this stage or you will not be able to add further colour without it smudging. Now it’s starting to look more interesting!
After this, I 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 more blue version of my slate grey/blue. I applied these individually as a thin wash and then quickly rinsed/dried off my brush before softening the edges. It’s important to soften the edges of these washes with a damp brush. This blurs the edge rather than leaving a sharp edge. It gives a lovely smooth finish.
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!
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 through them. To achieve a blurred effect the paper needs to be lightly damp. But rather than dampen the paper first, I prefer 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 paler mix for those but the same method to apply them. Once 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 strong darker mix, this time I’ve used Indanthrene Blue (IB), TY and PR with a little U(GS) in my mix. This part of the shell is quite dark. Indanthrene Blue will strengthen this and the U(GS) will add just a little brightness. It will be similar tone as the slate grey/blue though.
After deepening the slate grey mix a little on the painting, not too dark though, I worked at the fine detailing on the top part of my shell. Vertical line patterning goes over this area too. 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. This is the reflected light from the surface. It is only a small area but crucial to create good form (** see photo further down).
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 paler blue/grey sections between the darker lines. Then I carefully added in the vertical lines and horizontal lines and 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 slightly darker mix into the top areas of these cracks with a thin wavy line. This was softened a little with a damp brush. At the same time as softening I pushed the paint back into the top part of each wavy line a bit. This creates backup which creates a definite edge, perfect for this type of detail. It gives a nice sharp edge with a thin graduation in front of it. Lastly, a little glazed 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!
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 as 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 colours. When I do this I 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 more 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 on the swatch are colours I didn’t use after testing.
The green mixes (1&2) are made with 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. 1 has a little more WB added than the No. 2 mix. Green no. 1 is used around the edge of the leaf, on blemishes within the lighter green area and to define the shadows in between the small veins at the fine detail stage. The yellow/green no. 2 is for the main area of the leaf. The yellow area is purely TY (3) and sometimes TY plus water (H20).
There are many shades of brown, six 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 (top right on swatch) 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 very dark brown 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 mahogany 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!
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 reach the other side! Let each side dry thoroughly before attempting the second side.
You will need to use good quality Hot Pressed watercolour paper for this technique. I am using my ever 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 although for colour not so vibrant. Saunders Waterford 425gsm is also a good paper.
Firstly, the whole area needs to be wet, this must be done 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. Use the tip of the brush to pull the water up to the edges for a neat outline. The following 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, dragging the water from the central puddle. Along the edges use the very tip to move the water very slowly around the edge of your drawing. The brush tip will help you to move the water accurately up to the line for a nice neat edge.
Now check for puddles and gently sweep off some of the water as needed with a damp, not wet, brush. Don’t sweep too much off or you’ll end up with a dry bit!
Once the area is even all over, 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 (glistening) but not really 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 it is ready to apply colour.
For this part I use my no.2 full bodied pointed sable brush. Drop your colour mix (a lighter-medium thickness of pigment to water, not very thick!) into the areas where it you see it, taking care to leave highlights clear of paint to start with. Some areas will need a lighter mix of pigment added. Make sure you wipe the excess off your brush before adding this or you will flood the area. Rinse and dry your brush off quickly before adding other colours to the painting. The paint will spread out and blur naturally. I have dotted the green and yellow paint in on the right side and this gives the impression of smaller light veins where the paper shows through. You can move the paint around a little and wipe it out with a dry brush if you make a mistake. After this I have added in a little stronger mix of the blue/green mix to areas like the edges where the green is stronger. You need to 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 or you will ruin the layer. Once it’s dry you can repeat the whole process again and add more to this layer. The other side is done in a similar way once the first side has dried completely!
Your first layer should look like this, a bit wishy washy, but it is best to work with a lighter mix to start with or your paint will smudge on subsequent layers. Notice here I have left the strong highlights clear of paint. When 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 in glazes 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 and a little subtle shadowing has been added under some of the larger veins. I have added a thin glaze of the yellow and yellow/green to the dry paper. This smoothes out the leaf making the appearance more solid, but without losing the highlights below. Where the arrow is on the photo above, 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. On some areas I will use mix 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. Little slightly darker pigment fine lines have then been added to make the veins appear more obvious. These have been softened in places, to blur their edges, with a damp brush. To do the softening 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! The veins are more subtle on the lighter areas of the leaf.
I added some of my darker blue/green mix along the edges of the leaf to enhance it. After this layer I added a shadow tone, grey/brown, to the very edge of this leaf. This enhanced the tight edge curl.
The same technique is applied to the left hand side of the leaf using various brown mixes, enhancing veins, shadows and creating depth. Firstly, I used the different brown mixes to create the mottled pattern. Once this was totally dry, I applied graduated washes along the bottom sides of the larger veins to create the shadows. Next I worked into the areas in between the side veins to define the undulations and finer veins using the same method. You can see how it’s starting to take shape now. Lastly, I added a thin wash of BS and QG mixed to enhance and warm up the browns.
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 using dry brush method. Lastly, I added thin washes of my shadow colour no. 6 along the left and right side edges to create the curve of the stalk. This is more obvious at the top of the stalk 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 also enhanced the shadowing under the larger veins a little more. Finally, I added in the rusty parts (no. 10) and fine detail using 7 & 8. I then added a fine thin wash of grey/brown along the left side of the middle vein to give it depth. This enhances the dip where the leaf bends.
The finished painting…
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 private message me on facebook!
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!
This was one of three paintings which were chosen to be hung at the SBA exhibition The other two are featured below –
Ash Keys- Fraxinus excelsior seeds
Stinking Iris – Iris foetidissima
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.
Thank you for reading! All photos and images on this blog are copyright of Jackie Isard Botanicals, all rights reserved
I have a passion for Autumn colours and all the bits and pieces you find on the ground at this time of year. I began collecting these seed heads around a year before I decided to make this painting. Like a lot of Botanical artists I soon found that 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. Firstly, I laid out my collection on the desk so I could decided which ones to use. Then I tried out different arrangements for possible compositions. This went on for about a week… I kept changing my mind! Please swipe the images below and on this blog from right to left. There is usually more than one!
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 am looking at almost 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 the 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 final composition!
At last 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 on the composition was Cow Parsley. It has flat discs which pop open in the same way as Honesty seed heads and the seeds fall to the ground. They have little reddish brown stripes on them. For all my seed heads I have used very neutral tones of different beige, brown and grey mixes. 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 decide 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. Please note here that I do not use Neutral tint any more as it is opaque. Opaque pigments will flatten your work. I only use transparent and semi-transparent pigments now. Thankfully very little of the mixes using NT were used in this painting.
And so I began painting the first seed on the sprig, firstly with a pale wash, then building up the shadow areas and tones to give it form. The stem was woody in appearance and the beige/grey tones worked well on this to give it that feel.
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. This part holds the seed inside. I dissected a seed head 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.
Agapanthus seed head
Next was the Agapanthus seed head. What amazing black, flat and crinkly seeds inside the pale yellow/cream casing! This one 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 pods. 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 deeper shadow tones to create contrast. I used similar neutral mixes but Transparent Yellow instead of Quinacridone Gold as it is brighter. Quinacridone Gold would have dulled the mix. I mixed a selection of warm greys of different tones for the shadow areas. For the seeds I made a nice blue black out of Permanent Rose (PR), Quinacridone Gold and Indanthrene Blue (IB). I left paper white 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.
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 ovary cup in which the seeds sit. The sepals (calyx) become the bottom part of this container. as the ovary swells inside it. The seeds are dispersed by the wind as they shake about. 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.
For the seedcase I mixed some warm browns and some warm reddish browns using Winsor Violet (WV), Quin Gold (QG). In some of the mixes I added Burnt Sienna (BS) or Sennelier Rose Madder Lake (SRML) to enrich them. 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 Quinacridone Gold, almost a black mix but with less blue. Please note: I do not use Indigo any more due to it being opaque. When mixing these colours years ago I thought I needed to use a very dark blue or grey to darken brown mixes. This is not so. Indanthrene Blue, Permanent Rose and Quinacridone Gold would make these mixes easily and they would not be opaque.
I started working on the first layer with pale tones and then added stronger colour 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. This 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.
I started with a thin wash of my red mix leaving unpainted areas to create the highlights where I saw undulations on the surface. I then built this up slowly 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. On reflection now (2021) I would have started the initial layer by painting in the shadow areas in a thin glaze of WV. Then I would paint thin layers of the red mixes afterwards gradually building up to the stronger red. This way I would have found it easier to retain those highlights on the creases. Once I finished the hip I used my brown and black mixes to develop the sepals and stalk. The seeds within the capsule have tiny hairs at both ends and almost look like waxy apple seeds.
Iris sanguinea seed head
The Iris sanguinea seed head was larger and more complex than previously painted ones. This would be more of a challenge! A friend gave me this seed head as a gift as I thought it so interesting! I loved the curves and colouring. I thought it would make a perfect focal point to my painting, right in the centre! This one was great to paint as it had immense detail. It is shaped like a cup and 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 shadow greys. It is very pale inside so I needed to mix some very watered down grey tones and take care not to over paint these. The seeds are a dull orange/brown. My colour mixes included my regular pigments, 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. Please note: Again the Indigo and Neutral Tint would be omitted and a 3-way blue, red and yellow mix used to make the browns and blacks.
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 cool and warm neutral tones and neutral greys to make the cup look three dimensional.
Honesty seed head
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. An Honesty seed head 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.
I started by putting a thin blobbed wash of the cream/yellow mix over the areas which were darkest in the centre and the paler beige/grey tone around the sides. There were tints of a pink/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. It was hard to create a shiny feel which is so apparent in these seed heads but keeping the highlights very light helps.
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 a very dark grey mix (PB, IB and QG) to define the shadows. I had collected a number of seeds and selected three that varied in their patterning to make them look more interesting. A little deepening of the central beige and cream/yellow tones added more depth.
The finished Honesty seed head…
Yellow Poppy seed head
Next on the agenda was the Welsh Poppy seed head. I love the little crown at the top of this seed head! 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 different browns for the base cup and some neutral beige tones for the crown top. I also mixed a warm reddish brown to add to the cup as some areas were a more rusty tone. It would have looked very drab without this additional warmth! I also mixed an ‘almost’ black colour to define the creases and shadows. It was especially important to add shadow tones to the top ‘crown’ where the pieces all join together to make it look real.
Camassia seed head
Next in my row of seed heads was the Camassia. It has a beautiful golden yellow tone so Quinacridone Gold (QG) and Transparent Yellow (TY) 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 flower.
These seed heads are like cups and again the seeds disperse when the wind blows. I began by mixing up my colours. These were a series of warm beige and yellow tones, a reddish brown for blemishes and veins, a warm grey and brown for shadowing. Quinacridone gold featured highly as you can see below!
This seed head is 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 seed heads onto my drawing board with Blutac. This is so I can see them close up and at eye level. I added pale cream/yellow washes first and then I worked into it adding a little of my reddish brown to define the detail and vein areas. I added a pale beige/grey tone into the shadow areas to define the undulations and inside of the cup.
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 warmer beige/yellow tones to create the lighter shaded areas. Now for the three seeds by the stalk. These seeds are quite black in tone with a blueish highlight. You can just see it showing through on the final painting below. To enhance this I laid down a wash of watered down Indanthrene blue first on the darker areas of each seed. After this I used my black mix to create the patterning and shadow areas. Highlight were left unpainted but the blue shows through from below.
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 huge task to get the drawing right but I really enjoyed it. 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 burgundy/brown tones on the long curved ‘arms’ of this seed head. This one was going to be a challenge!
I started again by laying down thin washes of my pale yellow/beige mix then began defining the wispy parts at the bottom with pale shadow tones and brown at their tips. I used the Perylene brown mix for the very tips of these. 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 falling seed to the side of this one as the painting was very detailed and more would distract. I felt it was enough to have just one to look at!
The finished piece…
And so the painting was complete… ‘Vessels of Life’ seemed an appropriate name.
I hope you enjoyed this blog and that it will have been of help to you.
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