Blog 28 : Colour Matters

Colours by the same name….part 2!

I’m back at last! I have decided to continue on from Blog 25 which discussed Quinacridone Gold across three brands and how very different they all were. It is very easy to make the mistake of thinking different brand pigments will be the same if they have the same name or a very similar name. Some even have the same pigment index number!

In this blog I will be looking at a number of pigment colours across the Daniel Smith and the Winsor & Newton range. All but one have identical names but as you will see many of them are quite different. One colour even shows a difference in temperature, one is warmer and the other cooler. Some are more intense than others, five are completely different!

I am a big fan of W&N as the colour selection, where primaries are concerned, suits me well. Don’t get me wrong I like DS pigments too. DS pigments are beautifully intense and I especially like their iridescent range. These are great for adding shine to butterfly wings. I just feel there is too much choice in the DS range as it is possible to mix every colour you need with 3 blues, 3 reds and 3 yellows. When you mix with primaries, I really don’t think you need 25 reds to choose from, do you? There are also 13 violets in the DS range and I only use 2 from the W&N range, Winsor Violet and Perylene Violet. Some pigment colours across both brands make you think, do you really need them? W&N Ultramarine Violet for instance, why not add a little Winsor Violet to French Ultramarine? Cobalt Violet….a little Quinacridone Magenta mixed with Cobalt Blue will do the trick! Anyway, it’s food for thought.

I have selected 25 W&N pigments for my palette and one DS, Lemon Yellow. The only reason this yellow is there is because it is very like cool Winsor Lemon but DS Lemon Yellow is transparent, not semi-transparent. I generally use 6-9 of my pigments at the most when painting, depending on the subject.

The colours with the same names (except one) that I have selected to compare across these two ranges are listed below:

New Gamboge
Indian Yellow
Quinacridone Gold
Quinacridone Red
Permanent Alizarin Crimson
Perylene Maroon
Burnt Sienna
Cobalt Blue
French Ultramarine
Indanthrene Blue (Indanthrone Blue)
Perylene Green
Perylene Violet

I have written an outline for each pigment below to show you the differences and qualities. As you will notice there are three DS pigments which are semi-transparent. I prefer to use transparent or semi-transparent pigments. Some of the differences here are huge but some are actually quite favourable!

(Note: Some photographs are not always a true representation. The DS transparency symbols are different to W&N. Their semi-transparent symbol is a circle which is half black and half white. W&N uses a square which is half white and black but in this brand it means semi-opaque).

New Gamboge
DS – Transparent PY97, PY110
W&N – Transparent PR209, PY150
DS – very close to the primary yellow with a slight orange bias. A lovely pure pigment similar to W&N Indian Yellow but nearer to the yellow spectrum.
W&N – a muted yellow, similar to Transparent Yellow with a very slight brown bias when at full colour. A little warmer than Transparent Yellow. Makes a beautiful pale cream/yellow when watered down.

Indian Yellow
DS – Transparent PY97, PY110
W&N – Transparent PO62, PY139
DS – a cool yellow with translucency. Not what I would consider an Indian Yellow, more like W&N Transparent Yellow. This pigment could be used as a transparent yellow.
W&N – a rich orange yellow, flows smoothly and makes beautiful cream/apricot tones when watered down. Great for mixing bright oranges.

Quinacridone Gold
DS – Transparent PO48, PY150
W&N – Transparent PR206, PV19, PY150
DS – a warmer, less muted version with a lovely golden glow. It has an orange bias.
W&N – a muted, duller QG with a strong yellow bias. Rich brown/gold when at full strength.

Quinacridone Red
DS – Transparent PV19
W&N – Transparent PR209
DS – a cool magenta/red resembling Permanent Rose (PV19). Quinadridone Red in the DS range is closest to Permanent Rose.
W&N – a warm primary red. The match for this red is Quinadridone Coral (PR209) in the DS range. It is quite a weak pigment in both ranges but a beautiful pink/red.

Permanent Alizarin Crimson
DS – Transparent PR177, PV19, PR149
W&N – Transparent PR206
DS – a rich intense version of this colour but made with three index colours. It has a slightly warm red bias compared the W&N version which is cooler.
W&N – a cool not as intense version which can look a little flat when watered down on some watercolour papers.

Perylene Maroon
DS – Semi-Transparent PR179
W&N – Transparent PR179
DS – a rich intense version of this colour. It has a slightly warm red bias compared the W&N version which appears a little cooler.
W&N – Nicely intense too. Very slightly cooler than the DS version.

Burnt Sienna
DS – Semi-Transparent PBr7
W&N – Transparent PR101
DS – a very different Burnt Sienna to W&N and it appears to granulate. It is also semi-transparent.
W&N – one of my favourite reds. A much warmer version than DS. It is more like Pompeii Red (PBr7) in the DS range. I would add a tiny bit of Transparent Yellow (DS Indian Yellow) to Pompeii Red to make it a perfect match!

Cobalt Blue
DSSemi-Transparent PB28
W&N – Semi-transparent PB28
DS – this appears to granulate a little more than the W&N version and is very, very slightly cooler despite having the same index number.
W&N – a lovely middle blue, granulating. There seems to be a very slight difference but it is minimal.

French Ultramarine
DS – Transparent PB29
W&N – Transparent PB29
DS – a pure primary blue slightly more intense than the W&N version. Granulates.
W&N – a vibrant primary blue with no bias. Granulates. The only difference here is intensity of pigment.

Indanthrene Blue & Indanthrone Blue
DS Indanthrone – Transparent PB60
W&N Indanthrene – Semi-transparent PB60
DS – Indanthrone Blue is more like royal blue compared to Indanthrene Blue. It has a very slight red bias.
W&N – this version is very different to the DS version. It is a deeper blue with a very slight green bias. They both have the same index number though!
These are a nice option for a choice of warm or cool dark blue!

Perylene Green
DS – Semi-Transparent PBk31
W&N – Transparent PBk31
DS – very slightly warmer than W&N. It is semi-transparent. Mix it with a rich red like Pyrrol Crimson for a true black.
W&N – this version is very similar but it has a very slight blue bias. It is totally transparent as opposed to semi-transparent. Add a rich red like Permanent Carmine for a true black mix.

Perylene Violet
DS – Transparent PV29
W&N – Transparent PB29
DS – a rich pigment but it is more muted than the W&N version, that is, it has duller appearance.
W&N – slightly brighter and more intense. It veers more towards the violet spectrum and less towards the brown. A favourite pigment of mine, seen so much in plants! Mix with different yellows for some wonderful muted ochre and brown tones.

As you have seen there are various differences for a number of pigments listed above. There are even slight differences with pigments that have the same index numbers. This variation will most likely be due to different production processes and binders. On one occasion above we saw that a comparison offered up warm and cool versions, W&N Indanthrene Blue and DS Indanthrone Blue. When mixing with these two pigments, the tones would be more muted with Indanthrene Blue and brighter with the DS version. A few DS and W&N pigments have the same name but another colour in the DS range matches more closely.

So, I hope you enjoyed this blog and that it proves useful to you. Thank you for reading and I’ll be back soon with more interesting colour matters.

Great news received today!

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.

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

Also available as an e-book worldwide.

Blog 22: Colour matters

Blue hues…

Welcome to the second ‘Colour matters’ blog, The topic this month is about my favourite Winsor and Newton blues and a select few that I use as an underlay colour. Laying down a pale blue underlay is a great way to cool a colour mix placed above and enhance strong highlights when added thinly along the edges of them. Just as yellow will warm from underneath and violet will darken shadows. You may have come across this method when painting richly coloured subjects like Holly and Conkers.

Let’s find out a bit more about the blues

Many blues are granulating and some are semi-opaque or opaque. It is useful to know what’s what! When painting in layers, transparent and semi-transparent pigments are best to achieve translucence and depth. Opaque pigments will make your work look dense on watercolour paper. The symbols on your tubes and pans will advise you of this. Those bearing the marks ‘A”, ‘AA’, ‘I’ and ‘II’ are ratings which are best for lightfastness and permanency. Transparency symbols look like this:
transparency symbols
Here I have split some of the W&N blues into categories. The permanency, lightfastness and transparency ratings are under each colour:

strongs new copy

Strongs – those which have greater intensity of pigment, you’ll need less when mixing!

granulators newGranulators – those which granulate, not good for smooth rendering! Some of them will granulate more than others. Cobalt Blue isn’t as grainy as French Ultramarine. However, Ultramarine Green Shade shows very little granulation, but it does have a very slight green bias compared to French Ultramarine. I like the intensity of this pigment compared to French Ultramarine though.

Cerulean is a particularly granulating pigment and semi-opaque. If used as an underlayer, you will not achieve a smooth see-through effect with it. It is good for textured style painting though. See the image below for a comparison. Hopefully you can see it as this was quite hard to photograph! The difference is more obvious in real life. Try it out and see for yourself.
new swatch copyAs seen above, a purple overlay was painted over base layers of Cerulean and Winsor Blue (Red Shade). The purple mix overlaid is a transparent mix. As you will see in the Cerulean example, it appears less crisp and quite mottled by the granulation. It also looks a little flatter where transparency is concerned. The Winsor Blue (Red Shade) underlay appears crisper and more see-through. So, if you are looking for a lighter blue underlay but with a slight yellow bias, just add a teensy bit of Winsor Lemon to Winsor Blue (Red Shade) and you will have a lovely smooth Cerulean look-alike!

green bias new

Green bias – those which will cool a mix or are more green in appearance. Further along the image above are the very green bias blues, turquoise. The greener a blue is, the more vivid it will be when mixing greens. It will need to be tamed by adding a tiny bit of red to make a more natural mix. Add Quinacridone Red (QR) to Phthalo Turquoise (PT) and you will make a muted purple/mauve/burgundy because of the green bias. Add QR to Ultramarine Green Shade (UGS), a less green biased blue, and you will make brighter purple and mauve. This is because the green bias adds more yellow to the mix muting it down. Yellow and blue make green (green/blue), plus red makes brown!

red biasRed bias – those which will add warmth a mix. Add Transparent Yellow to a red bias blue and you will make more natural greens. Add it to Winsor Blue (Green Shade), a green bias blue, and you will make vibrant but less natural emerald greens. Red will need to be added to tame these mixes.

Nearly greens
Nearly greens
– those which have a definite green bias. You will notice above that Cobalt Turquoise and Cobalt Turquoise Light are semi-opaque. They also granulate. I would only use these for textured, looser style painting.

nearly blacks
Nearly blacks
– those blues which are very dark pigments with a blue bias. Notice also that both Indigo and Payne’s Grey are opaque and semi-opaque. These pigments contain black which gives them their opacity. Both have the same colour index numbers – PB15 • PBk6 • PV19 but in different proportions. The black colour index will make a mix dense and flat looking. These pigments are only useful in extremely dark areas although darkening a mix is much better using transparent or semi-transparent primaries. If done this way, it will still have a see-through feel despite being almost black.

My underlay blue choices

My favourite blues for underlaying are Winsor Blue (Red Shade), French Ultramarine and Cobalt Blue. Winsor Blue (Red Shade) is particularly good when watered down as it is really smooth. It is a lovely bright red biased blue. Make sure you paint it on very pale though as it is one of the stronger pigments. It is also one of my favourite blues to mix with. French Ultramarine, although it granulates, when used very thinly it adds a nice coolness. It is a blue with little to no bias. It is great for edging highlights on dark coloured leaves like holly. Cobalt is a lighter blue which also granulates a little. Again, used thinly, it adds a nice coolness to the layers above.

Well that’s it for this month! If you like, please do message me with any suggestions of which colours you’d like to discuss next.

Until the 24th of next month, I hope you all have a great August. Maybe even have a break and be able to spend a few days away from home!

Happy colour mixing and painting!

Jackie Isard BA (Hons) SBA Fellow CBM ASBA

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!

Blog 20: Painting a Photinia Autumn Leaf

Welcome to my blog about the process I went through to achieve the fine detail on this Photinia (Red Robin) autumn leaf painting. I’ve decided to split the blog into sections this time as they are quite a few aspects of the process to explain. You can click on the link below to jump to each section. Here’s the list:

1 The problem with Fabriano Artistico!
2 Making the drawing
3 Brush types
4 The techniques : Planning colour and painting technique

1 The problem with Fabriano Artistico!

Everyone is familiar with the problems we have had with our beloved Fabriano watercolour paper of late. Here I will explain how you can still use your Fabriano by making a few adjustments to your painting style. The reward for a little more time spent is worth it as you can see from the success of this painting. Patience is key!

I have always favoured Fabriano Artistico HP Extra White 140lb as my preferred watercolour paper. For my Red Robin leaf I have chosen the heavier weight, 300lb, as I had heard the surface was more sturdy and manageable, although not perfect as in the old days! The difference between 140lb and 300lb is great and I must admit the heavier weight does seem more reliable. This can be bought by the sheet. The heavier weight does seem to have better surface sizing applied. The lighter weight can vary between sheets and blocks. Here’s how to check the lighter weight paper…

Look at the surface in good daylight and use a magnifying glass if required. On a poorly sized surface you will see a linen/cross hatch pattern. Now turn it over and check the other side. You may find the other side looks better and you can see paste marks where it has been surface sized. If it is then use this side to paint on. If both sides don’t show this cross hatch pattern obviously then you’ve got a good sheet! If both sides looked cross hatched then use it for swatch colour testing or practicing only. It’ll drive you mad otherwise! The density of the sizing will also give you a guide as to how successful your sheet will be. If you can see sizing (smooth paste brush marks) and a little hatching too then it will behave badly. Too little sizing affects the flow of paint across the sheet and won’t take water well. 

Painting technique changes: Some changes to technique are essential. Working in wet in wet is not advised as the new weaker surface fibres tend to break up and burnishing them back isn’t always successful. However, if you haven’t added too much water to a smaller section of your painting the surface fibres will dry back. Depending on the size of the area it can take far longer to dry, even as long as overnight! With this in mind, I advise to work drier and only use thin soft washes/glazes once the layers underneath have dried completely. This can take a half and hour or a few hours depending on the size of the area you have applied the soft wash to. You’ll need to be patient!

Erasing out is still possible but again you have to be extremely careful not to disturb the fibres too much or you end up with a mushy mess! Burnishing can help to flatten the fibres back but beware as they will never be absolutely flat again. In fact, I’ve burnished an area to a nice smooth surface recently only to come back a little while later to find the fibres have all popped up again! Extremely frustrating… Take great care when applying fine detail, dots or lines over the top of an area like this. Use a magnifying glass to see the damage first and paint it dot by dot if needed!

So, in a nut shell, it’s better to work drier. Dry brush is perfect. Thin soft washes/glazes are good in small areas. Paint small washes over smaller areas rather than use wet in wet technique. Buy the heavy weight paper in sheets. Underlay colour where possible to enhance colour from below. Use transparent/semi transparent pigments at all times. Colour enhancement (see section 4 below) is still possible on subsequent layers but only as a very thin glaze. Don’t overdo it!

2 Making the drawing

I decided to make a larger than life painting of this beautiful Photinia leaf in order to get as much detail in as I could. The actual painting of the leaf is 28cm in height. To start the drawing I clipped my leaf into a clamp and shone a bright light on it so that I could see all those veins and details. I then proceeded to draw in every single vein. The reason I did this is because once you start painting something as complicated as this you can very easily lose track of where you are. You need a detailed map!

After drawing up the leaf on tracing paper I then made an outline drawing too with a black fine liner pen. This gives me a chance to tidy up and check the drawing before I transfer it. If I had chosen to use the lighter weight Fabriano I would have used this line drawing under my watercolour paper and transferred it via a light pad. This way I only need to trace it off once. As I decided to try out the heavier weight Fabriano this time I traced off the drawing on another piece of tracing paper using the reverse of my line drawing. This was then transferred from the tracing paper onto the watercolour paper in the conventional way. Tip: Once transferred I use a Faber Castell kneadable rubber to take off any excess graphite where I may have pressed to hard. In general the pencil lines can be rubbed out after 2-3 watercolour layers have been applied but with this painting I found the intensity of pigment covered most of the pencil lines. Now we are nearly ready to go!

3 Brush types

I have a selection of paintbrushes which I use for all my paintings. There aren’t many of them! As you may know Billy Showell sable brushes were my absolute favourites and still are even though she has discontinued her sable brush range. These brushes are actually Raphael Kolinsky Sable 8408 series and this is what I buy now. They have a unique pointed tip which is ideal for fine detail and the full body is perfect for washes. The full body also ensures you don’t run out of paint so quickly as you would with a regular brush. I use a number 2 and 4. The ‘Eradicator’ brush (for erasing out) is still available on Billy’s website as she still sells her synthetic brushes. I also have Billy’s synthetic ‘Fine Liner’ which is perfect for really thin lines. It has a brilliant needle point. The blue handled brush is for mixing only.

4 The techniques : Planning colour and painting techniques

Planning: The planning of my colour palette was crucial as I wanted to make my leaf really vibrant and show off those beautiful red/brown hues. To do this I knew I had to include some bright primaries as well as use transparent pigments. Transparent pigments are the best and I always use transparent or semi transparent pigments. I do this to ensure translucence. With opaque pigments you don’t get that ‘see-through’ effect which creates depth and form.

This painting was painted with primaries only. A selection of reds, blues and yellows. It is important to shine a bright light onto your subject to see all the varying hues. Across my leaf were various hues of warm, middle and cool tones. To achieve this colour range I would need a selection of warm, warm-cool and cool primaries. My selection was as follows, I’ve included my short codes for each for when you read the painting technique details later:
The Reds: Quinacridone Red (QR) – warm, Quinacridone Magenta (QM) – cool, Permanent Rose (PR) – warm, Permanent Carmine (PC) – warm to cool, and a little Scarlet Lake (SL) – very warm. I did try Winsor Red (WR) in some mixes but found Scarlet Lake to be more appealing as it is less gloopy when mixing and brighter! Scarlet Lake proved very useful for punching up colour with a thin soft glaze over areas. 
The Blues: Winsor Blue Red Shade (WB(RS) – cool, and Winor Blue Green Shade (WB(GS) – warm.
The Yellows: Transparent Yellow (TY) – cool, New Gamboge (NG) – cool to warm, Quinacridone Gold (QG) – warm, and not forgetting the all amazing Indian Yellow (IY) – warm…. vibrance with transparency, perfecto!
I selected colour tones from my leaf and made a range of mixes on my palette ready to start painting. I make a paper swatch with colour codes written on it too so that I can remember which pigments I used to make the the colours. Tip: QM was mixed with WB(RS) to make a violet for highlights on the leaf, explained below. It’s practically identical to Winsor Violet when mixed! 

So, where to start painting! I generally start on the left side and work my way across and down the subject. I’m right handed so this works for me. Protecting your painting is crucial. I overlay layout paper across the painting to ensure splashes don’t happen on the precious areas of the painting. I’m especially concerned about the right hand side as, when working upright on a table easel, this area is most vulnerable to the paint brush catching the side (see middle photo) as you bring up the paint from the palette! Even with this protection a splodge decided to appear bottom right of my painting…ugh! After carefully erasing and burnishing, which wasn’t going well because the fibres were determined to stand up, I decided to place my signature over the offending area!

Painting technique: I began with the top left area of the leaf. There was a lovely highlight on this area and to ensure I retained this I added a very thin soft glaze of my violet mix to enhance it before painting the base tone layers. To get a crisp papery look to my leaf I needed to ensure strength of pigment tone, cool highlights and good general colour transition from warm to cool.

Underlaying colour to enhance first: In the photo below you will see on the right side that I have laid a thin glaze of transparent yellow first. I also placed a thin glaze of my violet mix under the highlight area on the left side. This adds coolness. Underlaying colour is a great way to enhance the layers above when using transparent pigments. Tip: You can add in your shadow tones before you start painting. For instance, lay down violet on deep shadows of a conker and it will shine through the conker reddish browns creating the shadow without having to risk paint it on afterwards. Perfect! It’s often easier to do this if you are adding many layers on top as there’s always a risk of smudging when many layers are applied. Tip: If you work with thin layers and let the whole thing dry thoroughly before adding another, you will find that the paint will seep into the paper instead of laying on top of it. You can add very thin glazes to totally dry paint with this method but you must ensure it has dried totally before attempting this and use very gently brush strokes. Note: Fine lines and details which demand full strength colour should be added at the very end.

The whole left side area in the photo below was painted with about 5 layers. There is a change from cool to warm across the area. The cooler area being where the highlights appear. The curved part near the midrib vein of my leaf was quite a warm reddish brown except at the peak of the curve where it meets the central midrib vein. There was a lighter area at this point. It’s a sort of S shaped curve. I painted the base layer of yellow (TY) in here and afterwards the rusty browns avoiding the midrib vein area. I then painted in the dark midrib vein. The little secondary veins where they went into the lighter area of this peak were painted at the end. Before this I painted in the subtle pale colour on this crease and let it dry thoroughly before adding in the veins. This avoids smudging of the darker full pigment paint which is a much thicker mix! To enhance the curved area even more I added very thin glazes of Scarlet Lake (SL) and an orange mix (IY and QR) over it, once totally dry. This created the vividness which was present in the actual leaf. Tip: Colours of shadows are always different across the subject. Sometimes they are much darker and other times lighter. It’s important to check this beforehand or you could paint them in too heavily. Squint your eyes to see the colour it really is by comparing it with other shadows nearby. Shadows are never just grey. It also matters how wide you make the shadows, there are thinner and wider shadows. You need to check this too. On the left side of my leaf it was quite a wide lighter shadow which creates the S shape curve. On the other side of my leaf there were shorter darker shadows creating one sharp curve. 

I began the top right side area once I was happy that I had painted the left side to the best of my ability. It pays to stand away from your painting and double check things as you go. Always check to see if the curves are working, the indents look like they are indenting, are the tones right or does it need cooling or warming etc… Creases, indents and curves have different widths of shadow. Check as you go. All these things help to create realism! You can overlay thin soft glazes (not too watery! wipe off the excess on your brush a little before doing this) to cool or warm up areas using thin watered down PR, TY or Violet.

The layers: In the photos above you will see on the right side that I have laid a thin glaze of TY to certain parts first. There’s also a very little bit of PR ( see photo 2) on warmer areas and violet on the cooler corner (see photos 3 and 4). Notice the shadow tone is darker on this side of the midrib vein and the darkest tone is shorter and darker than the rest of the shadow area. This gives the indented appearance. Not to be forgotten, there is also a very thin almost white highlight on this side next to the midrib vein. 

In photos 3 & 4 you will see how I have enhanced the secondary and tertiary veins by putting short shadows alongside some of them with a darker line representing the vein below the highlight. Fiddly work! Tip: When painting in the darker lines of veins try not to paint the whole vein in. There is a transition of colour along the veins and sometimes it will almost disappear and reappear later along it’s route. To avoid veins sticking out like sore thumbs, don’t paint the whole lot one colour or paint what you can’t see. Only paint what you can see. Squint and use a magnifying glass to see this clearly. 

In the first photo here I’m adding the fine detail, enhancing the dips and rises on the secondary and tertiary veins with short shadowing and painting in some of the finer tiny veins. The number 2 brush is ideal for this stage with it’s finely pointed tip. Used lightly and in a ‘treat it like a lady’ fashion you can achieve lines almost as fine as a hair. The shadows are not all the same tone though, neither are the smaller veins. The decaying part in the centre had a pale tone of my violet mix added carefully to the highlights (see photos 4 & 5). The left side: As the layers were thinner on this lighter area the underlying colours shine through nicely. Again I’ve added thin glazes of TY, PR & Violet before adding the layers above. Without the underlying colours it wouldn’t have such a great effect.

The whole painting has been painted in small sections between the secondary veins rather than a whole large area. With wet in wet technique you can prepare the first layers over a larger area saving a lot of time but new Fabriano won’t let us do this! However, with this complicated subject it was nice to approach it in small sections. The highlights were difficult on this paler area as the indenting was quite subtle. Retaining the highlights is sometimes hard when applying so many layers and colour mixes. If you overdo it there is help though! Billy Showell’s Eradicator brush can help bring back highlights if you use it carefully. 
20191122_165303

Erasing out: Photo 1 is before erasing out and the other photos after. It’s subtle but has made a lot of difference. When erasing like this you have to be very careful not to disturb the fibres of the paper too much. Tip: Use circular motion for wider areas and the tip of the brush for thin areas. If you use the corner of the brush in circular motions on a small area you’ll get a tiny circle. Handy for adding subtle water drops! You will never be able to erase back to white paper so don’t expect to. This brush is purely a tool for lightening areas after you’ve finished painting. It also depends on the staining quality of the pigment being removed.

For the finest detail I use a magnifying glass to help me position fine veins, add in the serrations to the edge of the leaf and tidy up edges. A subtle but dark shadow was added to the bottom of two little holes in my leaf (see photo 1 & 2). I love to paint these little features as it all adds to the realism! Tip: Always try to stand back from your painting as you go. It pays to give yourself a little distance as you will see whether the whole painting is working. It will highlight areas to you that may still need a little more toning or colour adjusting, deepening or lightening. 

You can make a greyscale version to check your tones (I convert the photo to greyscale on my phone or computer) and see if it works all round. Greyscale enhances the highlights and lowlights so you can see them more clearly.

Well, I hope this has been a helpful blog for you all and look forward to your comments. If you have a question please don’t hesitate to ask! 

Until next time, have a fabulous Christmas and New Year holiday!

Visit my website to join my mail list and for details of courses running next year. These will be added in January 2020.  www.jibotanicals.co.uk
 
Follow me on Facebook at Jackie Isard Botanicals https://www.facebook.com/jackieisardbotanicalnaturepainting/
Follow me on Instagram
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jackieisard/

© 2020 JACKIE ISARD BOTANICALS
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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!
20190327_165811
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!

20190528_132215
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.
snakes head
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 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!

20180210_104809
20180210_120845
20180210_142143


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!

20180210_165314

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.

20180212_114012

See how it’s starting to take shape! On some areas I used a Billy Showell technique to apply rough lose lines, a dry brush method. This gives a little more interest to the patterning, which are not always just curved lines. To do this, I load my brush and splay it into a fan in my palette. Then I slide the brush away from the palette until it forms little points instead of one point. Holding the brush as a 45° angle I then brush lightly across the area. For thinner lines hold the brush more upright. (There is a video demo of this technique on my Feathery Pursuits blog) This takes a bit of practice, so try it out on a separate piece of paper first!

20180212_113038

To add in the spots onto the surface I used another technique. These are not just spots you see. Some are blurred and others have a line coming down 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:

20180212_171931

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).

20180212_201136

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’

seed heads-J.Isard20171012_163603

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.
20171015_112540 (1)

Thank you for reading!
All photos and images on this blog are copyright of Jackie Isard Botanicals, all rights reserved