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. 
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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
 
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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  watercolours! Learn how to mix watercolour accurately using primaries. You’ll be amazed at what can be achieved with practice and you won’t need to buy so many pigments!

THIS IS NOW AN ONGOING COURSE AND YOU CAN JOIN AT ANY TIME! PLEASE DO NOT MESSAGE ME ABOUT THE COURSE HERE as I’ve had some issues with replies not being sent through. Private message me on Facebook or email me please.

This course is for Beginners and Intermediate students. The course contains a lot of exercises, detailed course notes, video tutorials and a dedicated Secret Facebook Group, all designed and created by your tutor Jackie Isard. It concentrates on mixing with primaries and aims to help you ‘see‘ colour more easily whilst building your confidence in colour mixing. It’s definitely not another course with endless colour charts! An Intermediate/ Advanced Colour course will be launched in 2020.

Details of the course:

• A course designed to help you ‘see’ colour more easily and build your confidence with colour selection and application
• No endless charts!
• Learn how pigments work
• Exercises which help you to ‘see’ more easily with detailed notes and video tutorials
• Develop a structured way to test colours and mixing possibilities
• Understand which pigments to choose for vibrant colours and subdued tones
• Practical tasks for a better understanding of what has been learned through the course
• Patient online appraisal all through the course
• A dedicated student group page to share and learn
• A final appraisal letter and certificate

The course involves comprehensive notes, video clips together with a series of exercises which can be done in your own time. We will cover pigment qualities, warm and cool pigments, those difficult greens, botanical greys (we touch on this, the advanced course will cover this in more detail), mixing purely with primaries and neutral beige/brown tones for those beautiful Autumn colours. There are tutorial videos as well as videos specifically for beginners. You will be added to a Secret Facebook Group where the video tutorials are held. In this group you can view other students work, find useful tips and post your work for appraisal (personal appraisal is always done via private messenger not publically). One-to-one tuition and help is always on hand and you will never have to wait long for a response. It is important to me that every student is given the attention and help they need to ensure they have a successful and rewarding journey throughout the course.

Exercises include making a few small reference charts, matching swatch colours, mixing with cool and warm primaries and many other useful tips/exercises from which you will learn how to ‘see‘ and mix colour more accurately.

I am always available on Facebook Private Messenger or Email (unless I’m asleep!) to answer any questions you have during the course. Please bear in mind the time difference if you are overseas! I appraise your work as you complete each of the Lesson exercises and give you a personalised final appraisal at the end of the course. You will also receive a graded certificate for your efforts!

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.

Payment can be made via PayPal, details will be sent on Registration. The fee is £105 UK and £115 Internationals. The difference is purely postage cost. If you do not have PayPal, it’s really simple to set up online. Just visit www.paypal.com. Bank transfer is only available using a UK bank account.

Please contact me by email or Facebook private messenger for Registration details!

Jackie Isard BA (Hons) SBA Fellow CBM

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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.

me painting peacock


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!

Blog 12: Painting a Portuguese Shell…

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

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

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

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Step 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blog 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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Blog 7: Pretty Flamingo!…

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

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

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A bit about Flamingos…

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

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Mixing the pink!

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

Painting the curved feather

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

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Painting the oval feather

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

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Painting the large feather

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

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

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Painting the shiny white highlights

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

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Painting the after feathers – pale wispy bits

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

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

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

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

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

This is my first blog! … and one of many more to come

This year I have been accepted to exhibit with the RHS. Very exciting for me! I am making a sketchbook specially dedicated to wildflowers and pollinators using it to study for my RHS entry in 2019. This blog will show how I develop the ideas and show my progress as I go along. I hope you enjoy it.

Recently I have become very passionate about wildlife and meadow wildflowers, as well as important pollinators. I’ve also been following Plantlife and their project to preserve our declining meadowland. This affects our Bees and wildlife and is of great concern. They are working very hard to ensure our wildlife and wildflowers are protected and I feel very strongly about this, so much so that I decided to choose this as my theme for my RHS project.

I’ve been visiting meadows these last few months to find plants of interest to my studies. It has opened up a whole new world to me. It’s like when you buy a new car, you suddenly notice loads of them on the road! I’ve seen wildflowers I’ve never seen before and wow! they are beautiful. As a botanical artist I’ve been studying them very closely and seen so much beauty in what many would call ‘weeds’. I’ve noticed insects I’ve never met and they’ve bitten me sometimes!

I’m looking forward to visiting Kingcombe meadow next week whist on a course with Sarah Morrish painting butterflies. A very knowledgable lady who I admire so much. She has been an inspiration to me.

Well, I’ll be back soon with my next blog soon. Enjoy!