Fuchsia watercolour sketch

A quick fuchsia watercolour sketch felt like a satisfying outcome of this evening’s studio time.

The past month has been a combination of intense, structured painting time – some in watercolour and some in oils, and no painting time at all as I travel and work away from the studio. Today, in a brief spell at home, I had a chance to spend a precious bit of time in the studio. As I walked through the garden, just coming into it’s best month for blossoms, I noticed the fuchsia’s starting to bud.

Fuchsia watercolour sketch
Fuchsia Sketch

I was reminded of a series of flower photos taken by Marc, which focussed on some gloriously fat blousy blooms. These may need to be captured in a fully worked fuchsia watercolour one of these days. But in the meantime, this fuchsia watercolour sketch is sufficient.

About the Fuchsia Watercolour

The petals of this particular flower are dense and tightly packed, like the underskirts of a sumptuously outfitted society lady dressed up for the ball. These flowers have a lovely old- fashioned feminine feel. They seem to dance and flirt as their petals open up.

Using HP paper enabled me to capture the delicate melding of colours, in the layers of petals. This was a quick, 20 minute work, not looking for perfection in any way. I like the sense of movement in this. The lost and found edges, and the sense of there being so many petals, the flower is ready to burst into a purple and pink floral explosion.

Right now, I have a half-completed oil painting on my easel and an Open Studio weekend fast approaching.  There are three weeks to go before I have visitors coming to see my watercolours. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to a wonderful weekend with the fabulous Olivia Quintin and Alain Fortier.  I sense a productive period of art work coming up.


Daffodil studies – working on observation skills

Daffodil studies
Shy Daff

I’ve spent some time this week on a range of daffodil studies.  

At last Friday’s meeting of the Saffron Walden Art Society, John Tookey talked about the benefits of sketching. Despite saying that drawing is not a particular strength of his, he managed to make it all look very easy. His demonstration results were impressive. Using pencil, marker pen, watercolour, and oil pastels, his landscape sketches very quickly displayed a remarkable range of tones and textures. I know that it’s not really that easy. But his point was well made: Sketching regularly hones your ability to observe and ultimately improves your painting.

I spend a lot of time experimenting – but not really on sketching. My experimenting is generally all about the colour and the texture rather than capturing the form. So with this in mind, I will start working on my sketching. There’s a sketch pad and pencils in my bag. Now I just need time.

In the meantime, although they’re a little more down my experimental path, this week I did a series of daffodil studies in different styles. I’m sure there will be more to come of this subject. I’ve got lots more images to work from and a nice collection of blossoms appearing in my garden. There’s certainly more than enough material to keep me painting daffodil studies at least as long as the sunny little flowers are in bloom. Hopefully, by the time the daffodils have faded I will be better able to capture the essence of the flower on paper.

Daffodil studies at various stages of development:


Picked daffodils - 3minute sketch. Daffodil studies
Picked daffodils – 3minute sketch

Done in pure watercolour. Timed to exactly three minutes. This one turned out to be semi abstract, but somehow quite appealing

Daffodil studies - trumpet frill
Daffodil study – trumpet frill

The frills on the trumpet are much more obvious on a variety that has a darker trumpet. The complexity of the frill is one of the most fascinating visual aspects of this flower.

Daffodil studies  with Daniel Smith liquid watercolour
Daffodil study with Daniel Smith liquid watercolour

Taking the frill a bit further, I added Daniel Smith Watercolour Ground to add some dimension to the blossoms.

Daffodil studies  - in Relief
Daffodil Study – in Relief

After the watercolour ground had dried ( a full 24 hours later) another layer of watercolour was applied. This is not my favourite of the studies – if feels a bit dense to me – but every one of these has been worth the time.

The watercolour sketch at the top of the page (Shy Daff) is one that was done using a reference photograph of a blossom taken in our garden. I found the angle of the stem really interesting because it’s so extreme and yet the flower is still pristine. The unusual perspective made it an ideal addition to my daffodil studies. Shy Daff is my favourite because it is simple, elegant, and doesn’t really need anything more to work all on it’s own.

Watercolour Flower Painting: Anemone Pair

watercolour flower painting: Anemone Pair (watercolour 10 x 15 cm) Artist: Vandy Massey
Anemone Pair (watercolour 10 x 15 cm)

Another watercolour flower painting with a slightly different treatment in the finishing off. I love the lush greenness of the background. I have anemones in my garden which is packed full of plants. This has the same sort of feeling as those flowerbeds which are just jammed with blossoms and leaves as my Japanese anemones come into bloom.

This painting is Day 9 of 30 Paintings in 30 Days, and it’s also available on the Running with Brushes website.

Another post about Watercolour Flower Painting:

Day 7: Qualifying Time

Qualifying time. (watercolour 51 x 35 cm) Artist: Vandy massey
Qualifying time. (watercolour 51 x 35 cm)

One of the challenges I have set myself for this year is to experiment (and hopefully have some successes) with painting more dynamic images. Paintings have the ability to create wonderful atmosphere. I started on this path by painting landscapes which had a sense of great scale and stillness.

Now it’s time to work on capturing a sense of speed. I started this theme by painting a skier in motion which I finished just before the end of the year. Race cars are my second speed subject and I have a few other paintings in the queue which will have a similar energy.

This is the 7th painting in the 30 Paintings in 30 Days challenge.

Day 6: Budding

Budding (watercolour 10 x 15 cm) Artist: Vandy Massey
Budding (watercolour 10 x 15 cm)

I took the opportunity in the last 30 Paintings in 30 Days challenge, to paint a load of small paintings for Running With Brushes. This time I’m doing a mix of small paintings for the project, and some larger ones. I need to be sure that I have fresh work available for my Open Studios sessions in April and July so I’m getting a head start on that now, and the challenge is a great way to get started.

This week I have three small paintings for Running With Brushes. I’ve pre-painted a couple because I’m back to doing my midweek London trips again as from Tuesday which means no painting for at least 3 days a week. So here’s one of the small ones. It’s called Budding and it will be available to buy in support of Care for Casualties.

Day 5: Sunshine on the Field

In the past month I’ve come across two professional artists who unrepentantly paint a wide variety of subjects, mediums and styles. This discovery was music to my ears. I love the exploration of the new: new ideas, new materials, new subject matter, new styles of painting.

Sunshine on the Field (watercolour 16 x 35 cm) Artist: Vandy Massey
Sunshine on the Field (watercolour 16 x 35 cm)

Recently I’ve noticed some of my paintings have more than one style of painting within the same work. This one is an example of that. The background of this painting is quite tightly painted with hard edges on the sunlit trees on the horizon across the field, and the lines of their shadows on the field clearly marked. As we get closer to the foreground, the paint gets looser and looser, ending in the loose red poppies in the foreground.  There was a danger that this painting would end up with two conflicting focal points.  But the splashes of red poppies that progress across the field solve that potential problem. They lead the viewer’s on a journey through the field to the dark shadows under the trees, and then back down to the foreground to revel in the luscious paint of the red poppy blooms.

This is painting 5 of 30 Paintings in 30 Days.

Day 3: 30 Paintings in 30 Days

Love Tokens (watercolour and acrylic ink 9 x 13 cm) Artist: Vandy Massey
Love Tokens (watercolour and acrylic ink 9 x 13 cm)

Day 3 of 30: Love Tokens.

An under-wash of watercolour, washed back to bring out the texture of the paper, and followed up with a applications of acrylic ink. The ink has a glorious way of diffusing in little fractal shapes when sprayed with water while still wet. You do have to be careful not to apply too much water or you just end up with a flood. You also have to apply each ink colour separately where you don’t want the colours to merge. In this instance, a layer of red was applied to the blossoms first. Then when that was dry, the blue ink was added. Finally, when the blue was dry, a wash of yellow ink was added, and while that was wet, the red was intensified in some areas, allowing the two colours to meld.



Early Spring in Green Park (Day 1/30)

Watercolour Painting. Early Spring in Green Park
Early Spring in Green Park (Watercolour 11 x 15cm)

I started Day 1 with the inevitable ‘What should I paint?’ question. My Facebook friends supplied a number of suggestions and then I got an email request for a couple of paintings for the Running With Brushes project. So the decision for Day 1 was made: Daffodils.

My immediate thought was of a photograph I took when I was walking across Green Park in spring. Green Park has magnificent swathes of brilliant yellow blooms in early spring and it’s a pleasure to take that route on my way to meetings.

The other subjects suggested by my Facebook friends are now on a list and I’m sure I’ll get to them in the next 30 days. That’s quite a lot of painting.

Early Spring in Green Park will soon be available to buy on Running With Brushes – I’ll post it as soon as I’ve finished eating my supper.

My head is full of ideas for tomorrow’s painting already.


Soft Focus Poppies – a year makes a difference

These Soft Focus Poppies are inspired by a photograph taken by Marc of poppies growing in our garden.
It’s one I first tackled in my first few months of painting. Sometimes it’s really good to look back and compare your earlier style of painting to what you’re doing now. It’s a good (if not particularly scientific) way of measuring progress in your technique and style.
I found when I first started working in watercolours that I hadn’t quite got brave enough to let the water do it’s work. Painting still seemed like an activity where one had to put the paint exactly where you wanted it on the paper, and expect it to stay there.
Of course, once you get to understand the dynamics of watercolour, you realise this isn’t always the case. In fact, if you like a loose style of painting, it’s the antithesis of what you often want the pigment to do.
I’m rather enjoying this half finished picture of soft focus poppies, painted from the same photograph I used for inspiration for one I painted earlier this year. The style is much looser, allowing the pigment to work its magic. I think I may just leave it part done for a while so I can enjoy the flow of colour.
Soft Focus Poppies

Soft Focus Poppies – the early version

And here’s the one I painted earlier. What a difference a year’s practice makes. There’s a tightness in the earlier painting that doesn’t convey the softness and flexibility of the petals. The later painting has a satisfying flow between tonal values and colour variation. I particularly like the blue shadows creeping into the background in the top righthand corner of the painting.

Perhaps this painting should be tried again in a couple of years time again. The differences will be interesting to see.