Blog 21: Colour matters

Colour matters – colour comparison tip

based on Winsor & Newton professional watercolours

From today, each month, I will be making a short blog about Winsor & Newton watercolour pigments and explain a few discoveries I have made along the way. Each blog will contain a range of interesting facts, tips and tricks. It will be a monthly post at about the same time each month, so look out for it around the 24th! Like my ‘Jackie Isard Botanicals’ Page to receive it on your Facebook timeline. You will find my page on this link: https://www.facebook.com/jackieisardbotanicalnaturepainting/

Alizarin Crimson versus Permanent Carmine…

Is Alizarin Crimson dulling your paintings? It looks really bright in the palette so why should this be? Don’t you wish it would stay bright?… well, unfortunately, that’s not possible as it will always dry a little duller than expected. This is because Alizarin Crimson (PR83) is a warm red with a slight maroon bias. It is also fugitive and will fade in sunlight. If you like to use Alizarin Crimson then make sure you buy the permanent version, Permanent Alizarin Crimson (PR206) for reliability. Another question springs to mind. What’s the difference between Alizarin Crimson and Permanent Alizarin Crimson? There is very little difference in colour but Permanent Alizarin Crimson is very permanent, rated ‘A’ so shouldn’t fade. Alizarin Crimson is moderately permanent, rated ‘B’ and fugitive so it will fade badly. Alizarin Crimson is not good to use if you are exhibiting paintings where reliability and permanence are expected. An ‘A’ rating is always much better! You could substitute this colour for Permanent Carmine (Quinacridone pyrrolidone) which is only a teensy, tiny bit cooler. Add a teensy, tiny bit of Transparent yellow to it and you’ll have a Permanent Alizarin Crimson match which stays bright. It will also give a slightly brighter colour mix when added to yellows and blues. Add French Ultramarine for a beautiful rich warm purple/mauve. Add Indian Yellow for really rich and vibrant orange and red mixes. Historically, Carmine was made from thousands of crushed kermes insects, ewwww… Thank goodness for Quinacridones! Until next months, take care and keep safe! Look out for my book ‘ Watercolour Mixing Techniques for Botanical Artists’ coming out later this year!
Email address:jackieisard@googlemail.com Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/jackieisardbotanicalnaturepainting/ Instagram: @jackieisard Blog: https://jibotanicals.com/ Web: https://www.jibotanicals.co.uk/ Etsy shop: https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/jibotanicalsGifts

Blog 18: RHS research journey 2019

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.

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.

The Journey…
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!

Common Blue Butterfly
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.
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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!

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!

Blog 17: Painting a Faded Protea

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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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 🙂






Email address:jackieisard@googlemail.com
Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/jackieisardbotanicalnaturepainting/
Instagram: @jackieisard
Blog: https://jibotanicals.com/
Web: https://www.jibotanicals.co.uk/
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Blog 16: The beginning of more RHS adventures

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!
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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!

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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.
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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!

 

 

Blog 15: Online Course – Mixing Colour Accurately for Watercolour for Botanical

Jackie Isard Botanicals – Mixing Colour Accurately for Watercolour for Botanical 

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A course for those who struggle to mix accurately with watercolour! 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 A COURSE  YOU CAN JOIN AT ANY TIME! Private message me on Facebook or email me to Register, please – jackieisard@googlemail.com.

This course is for Beginners and Intermediate students. The course contains a lot of exercises, detailed course notes, pre-recorded 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! 

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!
 
• A listed palette of pigments to buy (Winsor & Newton professional watercolours). A very versatile palette of pigments!
 
• Learn how pigments work
 
• Many exercises that teach you how to mix accurately.
 
• Detailed notes and pre-recorded video tutorials
 
• Develop a structured way to test colours and mixing possibilities
 
• Understand which pigments to choose for vibrant mixes and subdued tones
 
• Practical tasks for a better understanding of colours and what they do
 
• Patient online appraisal at every stage throughout the course
 
• A dedicated student group page to share and learn
 
• A final appraisal letter and certificate
 

The course exercises 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, there is more detail in my book ‘Watercolour Mixing Techniques for Botanical Artists’), mixing purely with primaries and neutral beige/brown tones for those beautiful Autumn colours. Learn from the pre-recorded video tutorials and there are a couple specifically for beginners. You will be added to a hidden 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 if you choose to (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!


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

See Jackie Isard Botanicals on Facebook and private message me for more details about me. Join my mail list for updates on courses and workshops www.jibotanicals.co.uk.

Payment can be made via PayPal, details will be sent on Registration. The fee is £105 UK and Internationals. 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!

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Great news received March 2021!

My first published book has arrived in the UK! 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 2021, USA arrival October 2021. E-books are also be available worldwide.

USA and Canada distributor: www.ipgbook.com

Otherwise, Europe or UK can order through www.crowood.com or as below:

Amazon link UK : https://www.amazon.co.uk/Watercolour-Mixing-Techniques-Botanical-Artists/dp/1785008285
Waterstones link UK :https://www.waterstones.com/book/watercolour-mixing-techniques-for-botanical-artists/jackie-isard//9781785008283
WHSmith link UK: https://www.whsmith.co.uk/products/watercolour-mixing-techniques-for-botanical-artists/jackie-isard/paperback/9781785008283.html






Email address:jackieisard@googlemail.com
Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/jackieisardbotanicalnaturepainting/
Instagram: @jackieisard
Blog: https://jibotanicals.com/
Web: https://www.jibotanicals.co.uk/
Etsy shop: https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/jibotanicalsGifts

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!

Blog 12: Painting a Portuguese Shell…

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!

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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:

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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).

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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 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!

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

 

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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