Thursday 15 January 2015

The Finished Phragmipedium Bel Royal and a Gala Dinner

Now it's official, I can show everyone what the finished Phragmipedium Bel Royal painting looks like.   It is one of the prizes at the Gala Dinner of the European Orchid Show & Conference.  I wish I could go to the conference as it's the best place to see and buy the most extraordinary and beautiful Orchids. 

Phragmipedium Bel Royal watercolour painting

If you'd like to see the whole painting, there's a picture of it on the Facebook page of The Orchid society of Great Britain.  Some great prizes on offer for the lucky diners.

Tuesday 2 December 2014

On my Easel today - Update

This is moving quite quickly, despite interruptions.   I try to plan for interruptions and if I'm lucky I can get to a stage where paper and paint need to dry, before I have to walk away.  It's good to have time away, as you can lose sight of your goal and end up over-working the painting.   So regular breaks are necessary.  Just because I haven't got a brush in my hand, doesn't mean I'm not working on it though, it's all going on in my head so when I go back to it, I know exactly what I need to do.

Phragmipedium Bel royal - strengthening the shadows by  Polly o'Leary©2014 All rights Reserved
Phragmipedium Bel Royal - Strengthening the Shadows
 Here I've been strengthening the shadows and just bringing the whole painting up to the same level.  If I don't do this, and just paint separate items until they are finished, I find that the painting never really 'gels' for me.  there's also a danger I'll take some parts too far - usually the wrong ones!
Phragmipedium Bel Royal - modelling in colour on top of the shadows  by Polly o'Leary©2014 All rights Reserved
Phragmipedium Bel Royal - Modelling in colour on top of shadows
 In this picture you can see I've been strengthening the colours and continuing the modelling in colour on top of the shadow colour.  That top stem under the bud has become too dark, so I'm going to have to take out some of the colour - not easy on this paper, as I turned it around to avoid the water mark, and the paint seems to sink in far too easily. 
Phragmipedium Bel Royal starting to define the markings of the petals and leaves by Polly o'Leary©2014 All Rights Reserved
Phragmipedium Bel Royal - starting to define the markings of the petals and leaves
More washes here, building up the colour in the petals and starting to define the markings of the petals and leaves, along with the bud.   I still have to change the colour of the stems and the bud, but the underpainting is about there.   Then I can start on the details - my favourite bit, as that's when it all starts to really come alive.

Next time I'll also give the lowdown on the colours I've used and the mixes.

Thursday 27 November 2014

On My Easel today...

Phragmipedium Bel Royal sketchbook page

 This is a painting of a flower I fell for 'hook, line and sinker'.   I think, by now, most people are aware of my love of all things Orchid, so it won't come as much of a surprise, but this is an orchid that I'll probably never own.  It just grows too big!   I ran out of space a long time ago and still the collection is growing.  I've had to repot and split a few this week, so I've suddenly got two more plants I didn't anticipate, but I digress.

My new love is an Orchid I met at the Orchid Festival of Wales, on the stand of The Orchid Society of Great Britain.  It's a Phragmipedium Bel Royal and is one of the most striking slipper orchids I've seen.   The colours just glow!

It was one of the flowers I was given to bring home with me to paint, and I've got plenty of drawings and sketches despite having to work so quickly to record it.

Phragmipedium Bel Royal - First washes

 The first picture shows the delicate first washes of colour laid down, reserving the white areas to keep the highlights.  This is the stage where I often feel that it's going wrong and maybe I should start again.  Nerves of steel are needed to continue.  It also takes a lot of patience, waiting for the washes to dry.  Painting on damp washes is one of the quickest ways to dull a painting.

Phragmipedium Bel Royal - Further washes

 This second picture shows how the washes have developed and the shadows are beginning to give shape to the flowers.  Edges need tidying up in places and I'm removing as much pencil as possible at this stage.

Phragmipedium Bel Royal - Even more washes

The last picture shows how further washes have been added and the painting is now starting to look a little more like a pale version of what I have in mind.    There's quite a bit more work to be done and many more washes to come, but not all over.  Pale areas will stay very pale unless I need to adjust them. 

I hope you've enjoyed this work in progress, I'll update it in the next few days as it grows and develops.

Tuesday 4 November 2014

How many colours do you need to paint flowers?

I've been thinking a lot about colour lately.   Specifically, how many colours does a beginner need in order to paint a painting?   Notice the word need, rather than want.

Many beginners in watercolours seem confused as to what colours they need to buy, and I'm sure many of us have bought as many colours as we could afford, thinking that more is better.  Then sat around unsure as to where to begin, overwhelmed at the sheer number of colours in their kit!

So with this in mind, I picked three colours which work really well together and are transparent, and set out to find out how many colours I could make with just those three colours. 

The answer is...  a lot.      I decided to keep my colour chart to just one side of watercolour paper, and a bit smaller than A4.  No reason for the size apart from already having several pieces, all the same handy size.
Three colour chart with Cotman Watercolours ©2014 Polly o'Leary
Three colour chart with Cotman Watercolours

First, I mixed two of each of the colours, adding tiny amounts of one colour to another and recording the colours as they changed.   I did this with each of the three colours.

Then, I picked mixes of two of the colours and added tiny amounts of the third to see what colours I got.

I labelled everything so that I could repeat any colour I wanted just by looking at the chart.

Notice that each primary colour can be changed to either warm or cool by adding tiny amounts of one of the other colours.  So you get a Warm Red and a Cool Red, a Warm and Cool Blue and a Warm and Cool Yellow.    Then, as you continue adding tiny amounts, the colours change to produce a range of Oranges, Purples and Greens.

But that isn't the end of the story, each of those Oranges, Purples and Greens can be further changed by adding tiny amounts of a primary colour to produce progressively warmer or cooler versions of the colour.   And as you add more and more of the primary, you get a range of browns, golds and greys.

All of this was done using only Cotman Watercolour paints, since this is often the paint bought by beginners, but you'd get the same results using Artist's Watercolurs too.

As I was enjoying myself, I then decided to make colour charts with six colours guided by a MaimeriBlu Tryout Set I had hanging around (In the Cotman Chart below, I used seven colours as I wanted to see the difference between PG7 Phthalo Green, and PG36 Phthalo Green in the mixes) .   But this time, I limited my mixes to just two of the colours, otherwise I'd still be mixing colours.

Six-colour Palette Mixes - Cotman, MaimeriBlu and Artist's Watercolours ©2014 Polly o'Leary
Six-colour Palette Mixes - Cotman, MaimeriBlu and Artist's Watercolours

So there you are,  it's possible to mix a huge number of colours with just three well chosen tubes of paint - certainly enough colours for your first tentative steps in Watercolour.   And it's possible to mix an almost infinite number of colours with just six well chosen tubes of paint.    Good news for anyone wanting to start painting in watercolour without spending a fortune.

More on Colour

Lightfastness Testing #1

Lightfastness Testing #2 - Results

The Problem Of PY153 - New Gamboge, Indian Yellow

Saturday 27 September 2014

No rest for the wicked!

Polly o'Leary at the National Botanic Garden of Wales

The stall was well received, with lots of interest, and plenty of business cards taken.  My meagre supply of note cards swiftly disappeared and after the frantic five months of painting, it was such a relief to have such positive feedback.

What wonderful people Orchid enthusiasts are!  At the end of the Orchid Festival, I was astounded and humbled to be given several orchid flowers to bring home, very carefully, and paint from life.   Of course, this meant that the idea of putting my feet up after such a long and intense stretch of painting and general getting everything ready, not to mention the festival itself, was not going to happen.  You can't put many Orchid flowers in the fridge to extend their lives, it often has the opposite effect.  So they were placed in sealed pots with damp paper.

Instead, out came easel, pencils, paints, ink, dividers, rulers and paper, and of course the magnifying glasses and loupes.  And so the race against time began.

One of the Orchids, a Stanhopea, only lasts about 4 days in flower, and by the time we packed up, it was already almost 3 days old, so that was the first one recorded.   It was also the most intricate and strange Orchid flower, looking like something out of a sci fi film, so lots to note and record.   I also got sketches of the main flower spike and the rest of the plant whilst at the festival.  Strangely, I wasn't at all bothered by drawing and painting in front of people after the first few minutes.  But the detailed drawings will be so much more helpful.

The other Orchid flowers weren't too bad by the time I got to them, the Phragmipedium sedenii was the worst and with the warm weather faded fast, so I'll have to find another plant to complete the sketches in more detail.  Phragmipedium 'Bel Royal' was much better and I was able to make some really detailed sketches and colour notes of this lovely orchid before it finally collapsed.

Sudamerlycaste locusta was another strange Orchid and the one I painted last, it being very robust and of a heavier texture.   I'm still trying to find out what pollinates this plant - the lip is so interesting and intricate!

My grateful thanks go to Dr Kevin Davies for the Sudamerlycaste locusta flower,  Val Micklewright of The Orchid Society of Great Britain, for the Phragmipedium flowers, and Andrew Bannister of Orchid Alchemy, for the Stanhopea graveolens flower.   Many thanks also to everyone else at the Orchid Festival, for making it such a wonderful weekend.

Of course, I also managed to come home with three new orchid plants,  a Paph. sukhakulii in flower (guess what I'm working on now?), a baby Paph. 'Vanda Pearman', and a baby Anoectochilus albolineata - as if I didn't have enough orchids already!  many thanks to Francis of Phalaenopsis and More and Andrew Bannister for these plants, they look right at home here already.

Thursday 4 September 2014

Small is beautiful - Paintings for the Orchid Festival

Polly o'Leary©©2014
Cymbalaria muralis - Ivy Leafed Toadflax

 In the spirit of getting ready for my stand at the Orchid Festival, I have been doing a painting a day.  Obviously they aren't large, but there's one that I think is really ditsy.   It may look like a miniature, but it's a life size view of the plant,  Cymbalaria muralis, common name Ivy Leafed Toadflax.  I have a real soft spot for this plant, it grows where other plants won't grow and seeds itself by burying the seedheads in crevices - which I think is amazing!   In this way, it scrambles over bare walls and along their bases, making a very decorative effect.  I think it's the bees knees, and so do the Bumbles, they can always be found buzzing around this plant on a summer's day.

The tiny brushes  and magnifyer had an outing for this one and despite it's size it took quite a long time to paint.  You'd think a small painting would be quick, but there's less room to move around and more chance of spoiling it.
It's the smallest painting I'm taking to the Festival, and I hope it enables those who see it to realise what a very specal plant it is.

Saturday 23 August 2014

Welsh Orchid Festival at National Botanic Garden of Wales 6th and 7th September

Having a deadline is a mixed blessing.

On the one hand there is a sense of purpose, and the comfort of knowing what you have to do.  No shilly shallying, no procrastinating on what to paint, the decision is more or less made.  Or maybe
But the deadline is fast approaching and there's a feeling of not having enough paintings, or frames or....  time! eek    where did it go?

And of course I have to take time out for other things, like designing and ordering my new business cards.   I'm always amazed at just how much time can be swallowed up by having to work on the computer.  Even when I know what I'm doing, and have everything worked out beforehand, a day can be gone.

So... (drum roll)   at long last, here's my new business card.