Showing posts with label painting by polly o'leary. Show all posts
Showing posts with label painting by polly o'leary. Show all posts

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Meconopsis cambrica - Welsh Poppy

A native perennial with a taproot, even when it looks as if it’s been killed by the most severe winter, the Welsh Poppy will bounce back in the spring.  And it doesn’t need much soil, being happy to grow anywhere as long as there is moisture and a little sunshine.

When it came to choosing a native wild flower to paint, this elegant and delicate beauty was an obvious choice, it deserves more attention than it gets and makes a perfect subject for a watercolour painting.  Luckily, I had harvested a few seeds from wild plants some years ago.  I thought they were lost, but late in 2016, they started growing on the patch where they'd been sown. By spring last year, I had several small plants all showing good growth. As with all my paintings, my first move was to make studies of alll aspects of the plant, starting with it's growth habit and working through all the parts - even down to the tiny hairs on the buds and parts of the stems. Initial studies go in my sketchbook. Later studies are done on the paper I will work on.

Initial Leaf Studies Welsh Poppy©2018 Polly o'Leary
Initial leaf studies - Welsh Poppy

Initial Studies Welsh Poppy©2018 Polly o'Leary
Initial Studies - Welsh poppy

Painting Leaves Welsh Poppy©2018 Polly o'Leary
Painting leaves - Welsh poppy

Flower Studies Welsh Poppy©2018 Polly o'Leary
Flower studies - Welsh Poppy
 The bright yellow flowers were an enjoyable challenge. I had great fun finding the combination of yellows that would give depth and the correct colour, then working out how to portray the shadows without losing the glowing yellows.  

Yellows and Buds - Welsh Poppy©2018 Polly o'Leary
 Further studies on the flowers


Welsh Poppies on the Good Paper - Welsh Poppy©2018 Polly o'Leary
Welsh Poppies on the Good Paper
Close-up of the leaves - Welsh Poppy©2018 Polly o'Leary
Close-up of the leaves

 The leaves were a challenge all their own since they change colour even under daylight lamps. Painting them in daylight is clearly the answer, but in a cold, wet, Welsh summer, daylight is somewhat scarce and painting in the rain with watercolour not really practical.  Nevertheless, needs must and it was October by the time I was able to finish the painting, grateful for the mild autumn which allowed the plants to survive longer than usual.

Meconopsis cambrica - Welsh Poppy©2018 Polly o'Leary
Meconopsis cambrica - by Polly o'Leary

Friday, 13 April 2018

The problem of PY153 – New Gamboge, Indian Yellow

PY153 New Gamboge, specifically the W&N version has been my favourite warm yellow, my ‘go to’ colour whenever I need a warm toned yellow. I’ve discovered too late that my tiny tube is about empty, having cut open the end and peeled back the tube has helped, but the day is fast approaching that it will finally be gone.

My first reaction was that there must be some left somewhere, I just have to find it. An evening spent online revealed that sadly, it's too late. There is no more to be had.

I thought that there might be a pigment available to artists that would be a good substitute. Several purchases later I haven’t found one that will serve the purpose. Those which looked promising online arrived and I find they are not as pictured. None will do. Despite being lovely colours in their own right, they are too close to orange and have almost no yellow, even in tints, despite being called yellow.

So I’m left with creating a mix.

The criteria – 
Permanent – all my paints are rated as highly lightfast. Transparent or Semi Transparent – PY153 was listed by W&N as Opaque, but mixing 2 colours to replace it, I feel it’s better to keep transparency if possible as I use it to mix other colours.  Non Granulating. Warm yellow but not orange.  Easily mixed to an exact replacement without endless colour correcting. Has the same colour constancy as PY153.  Works in mixes of greens and oranges producing the same range of colours as W&N New Gamboge PY153 (old).

It’s a tall order!

First I set about choosing the yellows to work with. After spending time looking at the qualities of PY153, I narrowed my choices down to three. Winsor Lemon PY175 (almost Transp.), Permanent lemon PY109 (Transp.), Sennellier Yellow PY154 (almost Transp.) – this pigment is also sold
by W&N and others.

Next, I identified the likely candidates for mixing a credible match to PY153. These I narrowed down to Winsor Orange (yellow shade) PO62 (Opaque), Permanent Deep Yellow PY110 (Semi Opaque) and Winsor Yellow Deep PY65(Semi Transp.). I had hoped that Winsor Yellow Deep PY65 would be a like for like substitute after looking at the swatches on the W&N website but was sadly disappointed.

After a day of careful mixing, matching, and testing, I found that a mix of one from each group would make a very similar colour. However, I wanted as near identical as possible.




Polly's mixes to match New Gamboge PY153
For me, Permanent Lemon PY109 + Winsor Orange PO62 was the closest match and the easiest to get right quickly and reliably. Followed by Winsor Lemon PY175 + Winsor Orange PO62. Both PY110 and PY65 also make good matches with the Lemon paints but are a little trickier to get right.

The best I can recommend is to try out mixes with the colours you have, but make sure you have a good swatch of your New Gamboge PY153 (old) of choice to compare it with. Preferably on the same paper. Also, transparent or near transparent colours work best.
If you have any interesting colour mixes for New Gamboge PY153 (old) let me know.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Echeveria cante - Step by step.

“Paint what you really see, not what you think you ought to see; not the object isolated as in a test tube, but the object enveloped in sunlight and atmosphere, with the blue dome of Heaven reflected in the shadows.” - Claude Monet



In April I wrote about this year’s SBA exhibition, and the paintings I had exhibited there. I was tremendously encouraged to be told that one of my paintings had been awarded the Certificate of Botanical Merit – the Echeveria cante.

It was a wonderful plant to paint, since it's such a challenge. In full sun, the plant can be blindingly white, on dull days the plant can look grey.

On the day I saw this plant for the first time, it was very sunny, and as I looked at the plant, a cloud covered the sun. In that moment, the plant came alive with colour and I knew that I must capture it for others to see.

First task was to get an accurate record of the colours, using my trusty mini paintbox and travel brushes. Then measured drawings and notes made of the plant from different angles in order to capture as much information as possible.

Once back in my studio, I decided on a small study, in order to work out how to render the colours and textures and work out which colours and colour mixes would best express the glowing quality of the plant.   In this case, I decided on Cobalt Turquoise and Cobalt Blue as the Blues for the palette, as I felt they had just the qualities I was looking for.
Echeveria Study - First Washes©Polly o'Leary2016
Echeveria cante Study - First Washes
Echeveria cante Study - Further Work©Polly o'Leary2016
Echeveria cante Study - Further Work
 
Once I was happy with the choice of colours, I made an inked copy of the composition on tracing paper. This is used to transfer the composition to the watercolour paper via a lightbox, and is also insurance against having to start the painting from scratch in the case of disasters - flying brushes usually!
Echeveria cante - First Washes©Polly o'Leary2016
Echeveria cante - first washes

Echeveria cante - Growing nicely!©Polly o'Leary2016
Echeveria cante - Growing nicely!

Echeveria cante - Further Work©Polly o'Leary2016
Echeveria cante - Further work

At first, the washes were laid in very lightly.  I wanted to make sure that I kept the tones light at this stage, and for the same reason the reds were left until last- deeper and brighter tones would add punch, but would not reflect the delicate colours and textures of the plant.  I decided to work in stages so that I could keep already painted areas clean by covering them as I worked.


Echeveria cante - Palette and colour mixes©Polly o'Leary2016
At this stage, this is what my palette looked like.  I tend to mix on the fly once I have chosen my colours.  This ensures plenty of variety in the colours of the painting and keeps me on my toes matching colours to the plant.  The grey at the bottom is mixed from the colours in the painting - in this case, Cobalt Blue, Permanent Magenta and a Transparent Lemon. This grey is then used to increase the range of tones in the painting and is also used for the very darkest areas - tiny areas of dark that help to lift the whole painting.

Echeveria cante - laying in some reds©Polly o'Leary2016
Echeveria cante - laying in some reds

Once I was happy with the colours and tones of the main part of the inflorescence, it was time to lay in some of the reds.  A light wash of yellow went on first, which helped the more orange reds to glow nicely.  Then, the different reds were painted in - lightly at first so as not to overpower the rest of the plant.

Now it was time to add the stem, and reassess all of the colours.  The details of  the Stamens and Carpels were left until last and added a final touch of realism to the painting.

At this point the painting was put away for a few weeks.  I do this because working so intensely, it's easy to lose perspective.   After a few weeks, the painting is reassessed and any problem areas are more easily spotted and remedied
Echeveria cante - Finished!©Polly o'Leary2016
Echeveria cante - finished!
I hope this Step by Step has given some insight into how this painting evolved and the techniques used to finish it.

Next up - Paper testing!

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Five Paintings and a Phonecall !


2016 has been an interesting year so far.

Five paintings finished and taken to London for selection for the SBA Shape Pattern, Structure Exhibition, in late February and then the nail biting wait to see if any have been selected.   Luckily they didn't make me wait too long to find out that not only were all five selected, but I had also been made a full member of the SBA!  To say I was happy is an understatement!

Then later I find out that all five paintings are to be hung!   And on top of that, I get The Phonecall...  I have been awarded Certificate of Botanical Merit for the Echeveria cante Inflorescence painting!  I didn't scream, honest, I was quite restrained, but I did need to sit down and take it all in.

Certificate of Botanical Merit - Echeveria cante

Gladiolus Hybrid - Dried Flowers

Phragmipedium sedenii
Paphiopedilum Maudiae Hybrid

Stanhopea graveolens

The SBA Exhibition in  Methodist Central Hall opposite Westminster Abbey is wonderful.  Almost 600 paintings by Botanical artists from all over the world.   But you really need more than one visit to take it all in.

Katherine Tyrrell has written a Review of the 2016 SBA Exhibition which will give those who can't get to London an idea of what they have missed.  Katherine also has written posts about Prizewinners, Certificates of Botanical Merit, and the Private View.  Giving a comprehensive idea of what the SBA 2016 Exhibition holds for the Botanical Art lover.

On top of all this, I have been working on a project which is still under wraps - more about this later!
Coming up - Dyffryn Gardens Orchid Day 7th May 2016

Friday, 18 December 2015

Vellum Adventures

 “Have no fear of perfection, you'll never reach it.” Salvador Dali

For a while I'd been wanting to try out painting on Vellum and last year, fellow artist and friend Shevaun Doherty gifted me a sample of vellum for me to try.   For a year I looked at it, examined it and backed away.  what if I spoiled it?  what if I wasted it making mistakes and ruined it?

In the end, I contacted William Cowley and bought a sample pack suitable for painting on.   Still I waited, there was only one piece of each type and I'd never worked on vellum before.

More research was needed. Luckily some of my Botanical Artist friends have blogged online about their Vellum painting techniques, so I was able to read about how they work with this tricky medium.

Dianne sutherland - Painting On Vellum who also teaches an online course Dianne Sutherland Botanical Art Online Course - Painting On Vellum,   Shevaun Doherty of Botanical Sketches and Other Stories: V is for Vellum,  Sarah Morrish of  Art and the Hedgerow: Painting on Vellum, and Kate Nessler for her article in The American Society of Botanical Artists: Painting on Vellum, all have excellent articles online about painting on Vellum and I learned an enormous amount from them.
 
Once I had enough information, it was time to practise my technique.   I've never been one to practise a piece fully before painting.  A few tonal/colour swatches and notes, a trial of a few petals/buds/leaves and I'm off.  I've always produced better results when I'm still exploring a subject and there's no point in having my best work in a sketchbook.  But there's no room for this with Vellum, it's too rare, so practise I did.

First practise was on paper, then on a small piece of Sheepskin Parchment which was lovely to work on.  Fortunately the gooseberries didn't ripen together so there was a steady supply of berrries. 


watercolour dry brush, vellum, paper
Dry brush practise on Paper, then Vellum (on top)
watercolour dry brush, vellum, paper
Dry brush on paper above, on Vellum below
Then, with more confidence, a more ambitious attempt on Manuscript Vellum, I tried a little piece of Kelmscott, but really didn't like working on it.

watercolour gooseberry, dry brush, paper, vellum
Dry Brush on Manuscript Vellum
 At last I felt that I could brave a larger piece and decided to try working on the Calfskin Vellum, a small branch of Gooseberries

watercolour gooseberry, vellum, paper
First washes and Dry brush
 At first they looked a bit like glass Christmas Baubles, with their pale colours  
watercolour gooseberries on vellum
Building up the colours on the berries
Then as more colours were laid down, they started to look more Gooseberry-like
Hairless Gooseberry - Watercolour on Vellum

Salvadore Dali was right, there's no danger of me reaching perfection, but I won't stop trying.
I'm still not sure how I feel about painting on vellum, but I have a little more, so will try it again when I find the right subject.  What do you think, are you tempted to try it?

Sunday, 30 March 2014

As one door closes, another opens.

At last, after Twenty Seven months, I've completed my SBA Distance Learning Diploma Course.  I don't know where the time went!  It seems only yesterday I received the box with my course materials.    
Diploma sneak preview © Polly O'Leary 2014 All Rights Reserved, polly0leary@aol.com
The paintings have been packed and sent, along with the sketchbook and now begins the nail-biting wait for the judging. 
Since sending off my work, I've had more time to think.   About what has made it easier to complete this course, and what has made it difficult.
Good brushes.  It's important to find brushes that suit your way of painting and which have the right spring and water holding capacity, with a really fine point.    I found that for me, my Da Vinci brushes with long fine points were the biz.
Good paper.   One of the most difficult aspects of the course for me was the variability of the paper provided.   I was used to the paper, as I bought some to practise with before starting the course and was very happy with it.   But the pad I was sent was a disappointment.   I bought a replacement one which was much better, but not perfect.  I am going to try contacting the manufacturer to find out why it is so variable.  It's almost impossible to do delicate watercolour work on paper that has patches which behave like blotting paper!
Good Paint.  Top quality artist's watercolours are essential to being able to render realistic images and cannot be skimped on.  But it's important not to get seduced by the often romantic blurb of the manufacturers.  I made a point of trying watercolours from all the major manufacturers and all of them are excellent.  Some brands have more colour choice.  One brand has a bewildering selection amounting to hundreds of different colours.    Those new to watercolour often think more colours are better, but when learning about mixing and about the different properties of paints it's better to stick to a limited selection.  In this respect, some companies are very helpful and put together sets which are useful for beginners and reasonably priced when compared with buying the tubes or pans separately.  However, it's best to be aware of which colours you are likely to need, as some manufacturers have a tendency to produce sets with colours chosen for Landscape artists.  Manufacturers also give different names to colours, but a quick look at the pigment number will tell you whether they are likely to be the same, eg. PY153 (Pigment Yellow 153) is named Indian Yellow by some manufacturers and New Gamboge by others, but essentially they are the same colour - a wonderful warm, transparent, egg yolk yellow in mass tone and a cooler yellow when used in a light wash.
The important thing is to get to know your colours really well, know what pigments they contain as well as their names, play with them, mix them, make notes and keep those colour swatches and mixes safe, you never know when you'll need a particular shade for a painting, and having it to hand makes life much simpler.