Flowers and Fauna – Sketchbooks

At the point of writing up several sketchbook blogs this has been the most prolific sketchbook to date and probably the one that is the easiest for me to really ‘get going’ on as flowers are simply everywhere! This sketchbook was started in April 2015 having taken several photographs of some of the small orange poppies that grow wild wherever they can – for easy of photography I picked several and placed them on white printer paper and this also enabled me to paint and draw them without having to worry about the  somewhat unpredictable weather we have had this year.

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From the photographs I did some paintings as colour studies and studies in lines and marks and also keeping a record of any colours mixed alongside for future reference.

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This is the first colour study I did which was to try and capture the vibrant oranges, yellows and greens of the petals but also concentrating on the marks/veins too and putting a little more emphasis on them than you see on the actual flower.

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The second study was of the buds of the poppies – as a lesson in observation this was incredibly useful as it made me look really closely at the different tones and shades of greens also made me see the shades of very deep red that you don’t notice when you just look casually.  I decided on cheap printer paper for these studies at this stage as I was not versed in the advantages of watercolour paper but this has also proved useful as the gouache and watercolour paint dried quickly and I was able to concentrate on the textures of the buds and petals.

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At this point an old friend saw my paintings when I posted them on my Facebook page and promptly requested I did one for her so decided to combine the lessons I had learned about colour mixing and study so far just in this sketchbook with learning more about watercolour paper and seeing what I could produce in a larger format.  The images on the left are images from Google images  of the larger oriental style orange poppies that were to be an inspiration.

I had yet to learn about watercolour papers and how they are with watercolour or gouache paints so this was a huge learning curve at this point.

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Having taken advice in a local art shop I decided on a simple cold pressed water colour paper (weight about 30 grames) and found the smooth texture was a good simple start.  The paper took the paint well and enabled me to work with the painter longer than I could on printer paper before drying and yet absorbed the colour much better too – the paint did not sit on top of the paper and seemed clearer in hue.  I am not happy with this first trial simply because I think I over worked the flowers too much and tried to give too much of a sense of the curves of the flowers but at the same time like the almost fiery nature of the petals too.

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In doing the second version I decided to set the flowers against a sky blue background again (at my friend’s request) and decided to spread them out a little – the blue and the orange being complementary colours made the poppies really vibrant (thinking ahead to assignment 2 this really worked).  The outer edges centres of the poppies were worked in tones of lilacs, pinks and greys all with a blue tone base and the inner centres of half were done using the pink/red colours used in some of the poppy petals (with a red base colour).  Looking back now I realise that my colour palette was in fact quite small  and as I learn further about  colour theory I will come back to this particular set of paintings.  This painting has been sent to my friend but I ensured good photographs were taken for my sketchbook.

The following photo is not in my sketchbook but is one taken of a whole series of leaf prints done in the garden in early July 2015.

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As is explained in my blog about my Mark Making – Sketchbook I decided to try using leaves (and the odd flower) found in my garden to do some prints using gouache paints.  Some of the initial trials were done in order for being a record for Mark Making and these were done with this sketchbook specifically in mind.

I also did two sheets using gouache paints on NOT watercolour paper – this was my first try with this paper and I find I like the fact that is mid way between the smoothness of the Hot pressed paper and the Cold pressed rough paper.  On these two sheets, like in the Mark Making Sketchbook, I have made a clear note of which leaf is which and also used both sides to make clear prints.  By doing this I have a clear reference for when the leaves are not in season and also enables me to trace them for winter-based work.

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After doing both of these sheets of prints I decided to try using the same leaves to try seeing how they would work in patterns with a view to designs.

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The centre of the flower-like design was done using elderflowers dipped in paint and some of the smaller dot-like markings are done using curry plant flowers (the leaves were too small for use).  On the whole this was very successful I felt and a wonderful selection of marks and prints.

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This second trial I didn’t feel was as successful although I am happy with the prints themselves – again the curry flowers were used extensively and are certainly worth remembering for next summer. I do find I love the leaves with clearer vein markings but also like some of the ones where they are not so clear as like the general shape of the leaves and how they have printed.

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From these prints I decided to try using fabric paints on some muslin fabric – the colours I currently have are basic yellow, pink and orange but these made for clear and bright prints that could be easily seen.  This first fabric printing experiment proved really effective and admittedly a lot of fun too!  The buddleia and lilac leaves are proving the best for the clear vein marks and combined with smaller mint and fushia leaves provide a good range of marks.

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A further experiment was in cotton that I had dyed a pale green last summer for a personal project.  For this one I tried a more definitive design and combined using larger and smaller leaves.  My chief problem was making sure I had enough paint on the leaves to produce a clear print but not too much to smudge the markings and loose definition and for this purpose I kept a rough sheet of paper next to the fabric to do an initial trial print or to get excess off.

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I did a second version of the first print but an elongated version to try to use the shapes of the leaves to produce a different pattern.  By this point some of the paint was beginning to mix and produced a pretty two-tone effect which I decided to take further.

 

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I felt these leave prints were the idea first try in my sketchbooks to take to ‘print and stitch’ so printed using the same paints a circular flower pattern.  I used the fact that some of the pink and orange paints had started to mix and further painted them on to mix further and give the aforesaid two-tone effect.  I looked through my threads and found a pink and variegated pearl thread and orange and yellow embroidery threads that were a good match for the paint colours.  I used a combination of cretan, fern, running, straight and French knot stitches to enhance rather than hide the marks and after completion was very pleased with the result.

By following this process through from initial mark making exercises to a stitched sample this has taught me to really look around and use whatever appeals and to just try what comes to mind no matter how simple it seems and has given me confidence in trials of techniques too.

 

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