Orchard Art on Belle Île

I’m back from my trip and have just completed some another piece of  Belle Île Orchard art.

When we arrived on Belle Île the first thing that struck me was the glorious sunset. The following morning, I noticed the field across the road that was filled with meadow flowers. This is where the material came from when we started painting flowers from a French field. They were quite literally picked from the field a few minutes before we sat down to paint.

Orchard Art
Belle Île Orchard (watercolour 48 x 38 cm)

There were other subjects to paint during the week, some of which I will come back to. We saw sea, rocks, lighthouses, fabulously coloured houses and so much more. But the Belle Île Orchard art subject matter really captivated me. The field with it’s flowers seemed to epitomise the name of the place, and as the sunflowers and cosmos blossoms waved gently under the island sun, they seemed to invite more painting time. So I conceded and painted more flowers – just for now. The rest will come later.

Belle Ile Orchard Art

There’s a fascinating juxtaposition in this painting between the loose randomness of the meadow full of flowers, and the tidy, conforming lines of the Brittany house just behind the hedge. Even more so, when you consider the straight upright of the flag pole in the garden. The fruit trees in the orchard march neatly down the field in obediently productive lines.

Amongst all of this tidiness and order, the wild flowers display a delightful touch of nature’s rebellion against the order of the man-made world – creating their very own Belle Île Orchard art, at least during the summer months.

I now have a head full of other images that need to be painted so I’m off to the studio for a short evening painting session.  I may come out for supper.


Painting Flowers from a French Field

Painting flowers is always harder than it seems. It’s all too easy to make them stiff and un-natural looking.

Despite the fact that we see flowers all over the place, on a daily basis, it’s often quite difficult to capture the essence of a particular flower – the shape, the tone, the angle of the stem. It all adds up to making the general impression.

So why am I painting flowers from a French field?

About a year ago my friend, Olivia Quintin called to tell me about a painting week she was organising on Belle Ile. I would have jumped at the chance to paint on the island, and when she told me that the other tutor was to be Fabio Cembranelli, I was completely hooked. Fabio’s atmospheric painting style is one I have admired for some time, and Olivia paints with stunningly vibrant colour mixes. Fantastic combination of tutors and some dedicated painting time on a beautiful island. What could be better?

Painting Flowers
Flowers from a French Field (watercolour – 40 x 30cm)

This is the result of my second day of working with Fabio and I couldn’t be happier with the result. I’ve loved doing this painting and have now been spurred on to do more like it.

Painting Flowers from a French Field

The field opposite our little complex of chalets is a mass of wild flowers. There are sunflowers, wild crysanthemums, pink cosmos, white cosmos and cornflowers. Painting flowers is almost unavoidable when you have that much fantastic material on the doorstep. Here’s one bunch that provided inspiration for the artists who wanted to spend time painting flowers.

Flowers from a French Field originals

Fabio’s approach to painting flowers is not to slavishly follow the bouquet in front of him. Instead he uses the shapes and colours as inspiration, but takes artistic licence on the composition and in adding new flowers to bring in colours and form to enhance the original image.

Plein Air painting with Olivia tomorrow. What surprises will that bring?

Watercolour Flowers: Cyclamen Dance

watercolour flowers: Cyclamen Dance (watercolour 10 x 15 cm)
Cyclamen Dance (watercolour 10 x 15 cm)

Some subject seem ideal for a particular medium – like watercolour flowers.  The way the pigments float across the paper lends itself to conveying the softness of petals and the subtle curves of leaf and stem.

This week, as I walked to meetings in London, I particularly notices windowbox after windowbox of glorious pink cyclamen. They had so many blooms they stood out in splashes of colour threaded through the streets of the city. And their blossoms looked like crowds of bright little ballerinas. I really wanted to capture their dancing feel on paper. 

This painting is available on Running with Brushes.

Other Watercolour Flowers on Running With Brushes:

– Bell Snowdrops

– Three Queens

– One More Daffodil (because spring is not too far away).

Winter Flowers: Bell Snowdrop watercolour

Bell Snowdrop watercolour (watercolour 10 x 15 cm)
Bell Snowdrops (watercolour 10 x 15 cm)

Every January I have good intentions about painting a snowdrop watercolour. They are almost the most exciting flowers of all because they arrive just when we think summer will never come again, and they remind us that beauty in the garden is coming soon. In fact they are the first beauties of the season. This evening I decided to play with getting a fairly strong texture into the painting I was finally doing (of snowdrops). Day 23 of the 30 Paintings in 30 Days challenge in upon us (in my case, ‘was upon us’) and this is my submission. I rather like these bigger, slightly more decorated bell snowdrops. They  remind me of little ballerina skirts twirling on the ends of their stems.

Snowdrop Watercolour: One of a range winter flowers painted for Running With Brushes:

Here’s the collection of all flower paintings (with the other seasons dropped in for completeness on Running with Brushes.


One Brush Roses in Watercolour

I had to get creative to paint my roses in watercolour today.

Roses in Watercolour: Three Queens (15 x 10cm)
Three Queens (watercolour 15 x 10cm)

Pack light watercolour kit.

I’m taking a couple of days to get off the daily treadmill and chill out at a spa for the weekend. It’s a chance to read, rest, do some stretching sessions, and be pampered. It also meant packing really light.

One brush and Daniel Smith's Georgia Mansur palette
All a girl needs to paint: One brush and the Georgia Mansur palette

I had planned to pre-paint my couple of entries for this weekend, but I was just too busy so I had to make a plan: a few sheets of pre-cut paper, one brush and the Georgia Mansur palette from Daniel Smith.  Georgia very kindly sent me a sample sheet for her palette before I went on her workshop last year. It has some wonderful juicy colours. I’ve experimented with it before, so this would be a great way to work with her palette again, and pack light at the same time.

Roses in Watercolour

Having worked out the ‘how’, the next point was the usual question: “What to paint?”

When in doubt, I trawl through the photographs on my laptop for inspiration.  I have some glorious flower photographs taken in our garden by Marc. Valentine’s Day is round the corner, so I thought I should paint a few roses in watercolour for sale on Running with Brushes.

I’ll get back to the fishing flies collection again soon.