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 teaching 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 which I have yet to paint!

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The whole thing began as an exciting new project. I planned it to be painted especially to exhibit at the SBA (Society of Botanical Artists) this year. It is the most mammoth painting I’ve ever made!

I started the process by studying my subject thoroughly so that I didn’t miss any of those incredible details. What looks like a flower to start with is actually a series of inner and outer bracts which protect the inner whorl of tepals with 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 colour palette and swatch to help me with the colours of my subject. I use this as a guide. My palette consisted of 7 primaries ( Winsor Blue (Red shade), Indanthrine Blue, Indian Yellow, Quinacridone Gold, Transparent Yellow, Permanent Carmine, Permanent Rose and two others Perylene Violet and Winsor Violet. All Winsor & Newton professional watercolour pigments.

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I planned a practice run of three tricky elements first. After a practice run I was happy with the techniques I needed to use to achieve a good painting.
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I used a fair bit of wet-in-wet 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. This 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. These don’t actually feature in my painting as they were not visible. That’s the bit we love!
20181113_123657Next 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 stamens with their hairy tops. Getting that shine was essential too. This meant getting the highlights right. The first layer was wet-in-wet 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 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. For the ones that were loose I used a very pale warm grey colour and painted in the fine hairs. 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!
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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 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. Great for small areas and fine lines though.

 

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.
20181120_115843Now 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.

 

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!
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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. Getting 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 beigy-grey texture. For the top I used fine detail dry brush and the bottom soft washes with a splayed brush to make the pattering as described above in this blog.

 

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 from the President of the SBA, Billy Showell.

 

Thank you for reading my blog and I hope you enjoyed it!
Jackie 🙂

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!
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I have chosen to include relevant pollinators in my work and a lot of research has gone into finding out which insects use each of my chosen plants as a larval food plant. It is important for me to make the insects to be relevant to the plants. One of my plant species was altered due to this information not being available. This was Greater Burnet – Sanguisorba officinalis. Again, my hunt went on for another suitable wet meadow plant which had a relevant insect. I have sourced one now and found out where it grows so I can see it in its natural habitat. It’s Achillea ptarmica – Sneezewort. You won’t believe how long this research takes!

There are three moths in my selected insects, also pollinators too! A Marbled Coronet, Beautiful Golden Y and a Tawny Speckled Pug. They all use one of my chosen plants as their larval food plant. Three butterflies will adorn my paintings too, an Orange Tip, a Marsh Fritillary and a Wood White.

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 14 : Paint a Peacock Butterfly NEW Online Course January 2019

Ever wanted to learn how to paint a Butterfly?

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.

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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.

For the Facebook course link, look under the Events tabhttps://www.facebook.com/jackieisardbotanicalnaturepainting/

Looking forward to teaching you!