Showing posts with label watercolour. Show all posts
Showing posts with label watercolour. 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!