Handmade watercolours: testing and painting

Handmade watercolours made – now the fun of using them begins.

Until I’ve tested the paints for consistency and lightfastness, I’m not using them in any painting that’s for sale. I have to be able to guarantee the quality of my materials and while the handmade watercolours are really interesting, they’re not yet tried and tested.

In the meantime, I’m getting to know them by painting a series of greeting cards which are being sent off to family and friends.

Handmade watercolours
Greeting card – daffodil bank
Handmade watercolours
Greeting card – Read earth, blue sky
Handmade watercolours
Greeting card – dawn trio

Testing handmade watercolours

Here’s my testing process so far:

Handmade watercolours

Naturally, I’m creating swatches in my colour journal. The details will be added as I get confirmation of the characteristics of each paint.

Handmade watercolours

I also wanted to see how the paint reacted in different papers.  As I mixed them, I tried each one on three sheets of watercolour papers of various weights and textures. They reacted well on all of them. Now I’m checking specifically for colour fastness – which will take time.

To do that, I’ve painted a stripe of each of my 13 handmade watercolours on two different papers. One is a 300lb watercolour paper, and the other a mixed media paper.

Handmade watercolours
That should read Paint test – Jan 2016!

Each sheet has now been sliced down the middle. Half of each sheet has been placed in a brown envelope and placed between large books on my bookshelf to block out as much light as possible. The other half of each sheet has been placed on a south facing windowsill where it is exposed to moderate sunshine. Next January, I’ll compare the sheet halves and see how well the sunlight exposed paint has fared.

Another article about my handmade paint project can be read on the Wash a Week Challenge website

Painting Fresh Flowers with Olivia Quintin

We ended summer with a celebration – painting fresh flowers with Olivia Quintin for two days.

A full house of 14 artists came to spend the weekend painting fresh flowers. They came from the local area, from 2 hours drive away south of London, and some even flew in from Holland. From my experience of painting in Belle Île with Olivia, I’d say she attracts wonderfully diverse groups of artist – all of whom have one common factor: the desire to paint with Olivia.

Feedback from the workshop was overwhelmingly good with most of the artists wanting to come back and paint with Olivia again next year.
(Yes – we are planning another workshop for 2016)

Olivia’s preparation for the workshop was impressive. She came ready with exercises designed to allow artists to paint the same subject at each stage, but at a level that suited their own experience.

The day before the workshop we loaded up with flowers. The weather was cool so they were kept fresh outside in the shade until they were ready. Our garden was even more blossom-filled than usual for a couple of days.

ready for Painting Fresh Flowers
Fresh flowers ready for painting

At each stage, Olivia demonstrated the particular watercolour technique she wanted her students to master.

Olivia demonstrates
Olivia demonstrates

It didn’t take long before everyone was completely enthralled and happily practicing new skills.

totally absorbed in painting fresh flowers
Hard at work – totally absorbed in painting fresh flowers

Painting Fresh Flowers – A few demonstrations and results

Olivia's Roses
Olivia’s Roses
painting fresh flowers in a glass
Olivia Quintin’s demonstration flowers in a glass

And a couple of my little exercises:

Freshly Picked by Vandy Massey
Freshly Picked
Cosmos in a Glass by Vandy Massey
Cosmos in a Glass

Olivia brought her glorious watercolour earrings along with her, much to the delight of those with pierced ears, and some who got in a bit of early Christmas shopping. Olivia’s earrings and other watercolour jewellery are sold in her Etsy shop and it was brilliant to be able to see them in the flesh, succumb to the temptation and buy a few pairs.

Olivia's Earrings
Olivia’s Earrings

Our two days of painting fresh flowers went past in a flash. My Facebook feed is showing images of flower paintings being done by some of the attendees – so the flower painting continues beyond the workshop. If you follow me on Facebook, you’ll see some more of my workshop paintings posted there, and more to come.

Istanbul Watercolours – influences remain

Last weekends colours and images have stayed with me and are reflected in more Istanbul watercolours this week (at least influenced by something from Istanbul if not a painting of Istanbul itself.

The sights, smells and sounds of the city are more than memorable. The streets are filled wit vendors – of hot roast chestnuts and freshly squeezed juices (orange, grapefruit and pomegranate). Seagulls by the thousand shriek incessantly as they follow the ferries, looking for offerings from commuters. Beautiful sunsets across the water, silhouetting the towers and minarets of the mosques and the museums. And then there’s the intense (almost to the point of sensory overload) sights and sounds of the markets, the historic buildings, and the interiors of the palace.

Istanbul Watercolours – Colour

Luminous Turquoise features in Istanbul watercolours

Blue is the dominant colour of the wall decorations. Ancient turquoise tiles, beautifully hand painted adorn vast areas of wall space in the Topkai Palace, the Blue Mosque and Ayasofya.  I had the urge to paint in Turquoise this week. Lori always says that the colours you wear influence the colours you paint. This may be because you see them all the time while you’re wearing them. It’s certainly true that turquoise tones and teals are my favourite colours. I wear them a lot and they often feature in my paintings. Watching the Ray is part of my Wash a Week Challenge for this week, and will be making an appearance on Running With Brushes very soon.

Istanbul watercolour skyline

The sunsets over the Bosphorus are wonderful. Clouds waft across orange and pink skies revealing the many towers and minarets across the city silhouetted elegantly  in windows of colour. A little sketch in my colour journal captures the image and will always remind me of a ferry ride across the water, looking back towards the old city at sunset.

Artfinder news

I’ve continued gradually sorting through paintings and refreshing my Artfinder portfolio. It has been sorely neglected and I find there are many paintings on my walls which haven’t yet found themselves onto the Artfinder page. The update will continue over the next few weeks.

Two paintings went up this week – both abstracts:

VMW050 Outeniqua Mountain Mist - blog

Outeniqua Mountain Mist was painted from the platform of a treehouse as I looked out over the mountain range in the distance.

VMW073 - Rain and Spray blogRain and Spray is exactly what it says on the can – a study of water in various states. Specifically, water in motion as rain and as ocean spray.

 

Painting Style Transition

Painting style transition
Almost empty (small watercolour)

From time to time I find it a struggle to get into the flow of painting – that’s when I know I’m going through a painting style transition.

At the moment I have 4 paintings on easels around the studio – and they’re all frustratingly stuck. One is just not exciting – it needs something to bring it to life. One was too dull – it’s been washed back and will be redone in different media. One is experimental – I’m learning a new technique and its not quite working yet. And the the fourth one wasn’t working tonally, but it’s beginning to get there now. They will come together – I just have to remember to exercise patience.

Another knotty little question I’ve been wrestling with recently is whether to keep on blogging. If you add the writing time to the time it takes to maintain an online portfolio or two, and the Running With Brushes website – it adds up to quite a few evenings of laptop use. The sacrifice is painting time.

It’s actually the process of my painting style transition that has made me recognise that one of the benefits of blogging is recording those changes. My blog is a journal of my painting. It’s a great way of capturing my thoughts and the progress I make as I go through my experiments and develop new ideas.

My current painting style transition

I’ve no idea what will come out of the other side, but the little painting of my almost empty tubes of paints – some of my favourite colours – is the first sign of new elements of bold colour and semi abstract style that’s emerging.

I’ve always been a bit of a colour junkie. Now it’s just getting bolder and looser. It will be interesting to see where it takes me.

Triad Tree Paintings: Two Techniques

I decided to run another of my little comparison experiments with these triad tree paintings. Only there turned out to be two lessons it in.

Summer Triad Tree Paintings
Summer Triad Tree

I’ve been in the studio more than usual this week – which is a bonus. I had a small operation to remove a benign growth in my neck last Wednesday. Having to be at home, and resting, has meant I’ve had a bit more time to go and potter quietly in my own special den. (I do love being in the studio. It smells of paint, and is filled with colour and books and all sorts of wonderful food for the senses)

Triad Tree Painting
Autumn Triad Tree

Using the same paper, and the same three primaries (Perylene maroon, Aureolin yellow and Winsor blue), I just changed my technique slightly when working on these two triad tree paintings.

For the Autumn Triad Tree, I sprayed the paper before laying on the paint. Not very much. Just enough to give the pigment some movement to when it hit the paper.

For the Summer Triad Tree, I left the paper completely dry.  The colours stayed broadly where they had been placed, just mixing gently with those directly adjacent to them.

So, just changing that one small variable gave each of these paintings a very different feel. The Summer tree is more alive and vibrant, and the autumn tree is fading softly into dormancy.

The Triad Tree Paintings

Here’s where you can see the paintings on the Running With Brushes website:

– Summer Triad Tree

Autumn Triad Tree

I mentioned two different lessons. The second one came when my husband looked at the paintings. Aside from the outlines of the trees, he could not see the difference.  I may have mentioned it before – he’s red/green colour blind. Basically, the changes in the way the colours mingled were not apparently to him. He can see the tonal differences, and the outline, but the colours don’t stand out for him, so the difference in technique is completely wasted on him.

Long Shadows Watercolour – Evening Light

Long Shadows watercolour
Long Shadows (watercolour 21 x 25 cm)

The Long Shadows watercolour is another one of my small paintings. You’ll be seeing a few of those on my blog in the next week or so. But that’s mainly because I’ve been neglecting them for some months.

The overall goal of painting 1000 small watercolours as part of the Running With Brushes project had a great start – we reached 360 paintings in the first year. This has only been possible with the help of all the wonderful Running With Brushes artists.

However, in the lead up to taking part in Cambridge Open Studios, my painting time was dedicated to creating more works for the exhibition. Now, after two weeks of breathing space, I’ve started on small works again. I’ve got a few bigger ones on the easel as well, but I’m enjoying doing some quicker pieces in the meantime.

Long shadows watercolour

All my life, I’ve loved trees. As a child I was constantly climbing them, invariably going as high as I could get. There’s a majesty and a timelessness about large trees. Very old trees have a particular charm (and I may be painting some of those in the near future too). I’ve now got a collection of tree photographs to inspire me.

Most summers we spend some time travelling in Europe. More often than not,  we go to France for a few short breaks each year. Recently we’ve been to Italy as well.. In both countries, I’ve noticed the structure and order of particular tree  formations. I’ve been drawn to the long lines of Cyprus trees, standing tall across the countryside. They look like sentinels standing to attention along roads and long driveways.

In this Long Shadows watercolour, early evening light forms long elegant reflections of the line of tall trees. And at the same time, the long shadows spread across the land offset the soft golden glow on the fields.

 

Tuscan Doors With Character

Tuscan Doors (watercolour 15 x 21 cm)
Tuscan Doors (watercolour 15 x 21 cm)

I’ve been working through photographs of a range of Tuscan doors. They were taken one afternoon on our holiday in that part of the world last month. (These Tuscan Doors are from the Running With Brushes website)

We went off on an excursion to see the hilltop towns of central Italy, many of which have a link to the work of the artist Piero Della Francesca who famously painted the pregnant madonna.

Starting in Umbria and meandering over into Tuscanny, the drive is beautiful. It invites a slow ramble up and down some winding roads which traverse the hills and valleys between Medieval towns with magnificent walls.

For me, the most interesting aspects of these towns are the old bits. The narrow roads within the old city walls. That’s where all the character-filled bits of buildings can be found. And somehow, the Tuscan doors seem to be a great feature of the buildings. I’ve seen similarly interesting doors in other parts of Southern Europe, but this part of the world seemed to strike me as having a deliciously wide variety from which to choose.

Our Tuscan Doors route
(or the official version – the Piero Della Francesca Route)

One of the reasons for this route is that Piero Della Francesca, unlike many of the best known painters of the time, does not have his works in many of the major museums.  Instead, he chose to stay close to his roots and his works have remained in the part of Italy that he loved.

– Start in Sansepolcro  has a beautiful walled centre. Park just outside the walls and amble along to the Museo Civico to see The Resurrection
– Monterchi is where the pregnant Madonna can be seen. I didn’t think much of the museum dedicated to this painting. The staff were lackadaisical and not particularly interested in visitors, and the museum is small – leaving the visitor thinking, “Is that it?”  However, as part of the drive, this is a glorious part of the route.
– We missed seeing Rimini and Arezzo where I believe there are some spectacular works, but that was because we stopped for lunch in glorious:
Anghiari. I was utterly charmed by this town. We visited the little Da Alighiero restaurant for a lunch which ultimately lasted almost 3 hours. Husband and wife team Gianni and Sylvia pull of that perfect combination of fantastic food and great hospitality. On the way back up the hill, we took photographs of the town’s Tuscan doors. Every one seemed to entice us to stay a little longer and explore this wonderful town.

Restaurant interior sketch
Da Alighiero – bottles and old trunks sketched while waiting for lunch

Whether you’re interested in Piero Della Francesca, medieval towns, great old architectural features, or just plain fantastic places to do long lunches, this route through Tuscanny is hard to beat.

Lest We Forget – Commemorating the start of WW1

Today’s post should have been written yesterday, the day when we were all saying, “Lest We Forget”.  But it didn’t happen because I was down at the Tower of London.

Yesterday was a poignant day for many people. Commemorating the start of WW1 one hundred years ago is a significant occasion for those who value human life. It’s slightly depressing that we (the human race) haven’t learned to do this peace thing a lot better by now.

I decided to do something positive to mark the day. I haven’t had time to work on my Running With Brushes contributions for some time, so over the weekend I painted a few.

RWB0104 Fields of Green
Fields of Green (Watercolour 21 x 15 cm)

This one, Fields of Green, is particularly appropriate. It reminds me of the reason for the sacrifice made by all those men and women so many years ago. The right to live in peace in a country of our choice seems such a simple thing. And yet, without those soldiers who fought for it, we would not have it.

For those few of my readers who might not know about Running With Brushes, this is a project to paint 1000 small watercolours, and sell them to raise funds for Care for Casualties. Care For Casualties supports the families of members of Rifles Regiment who have been killed or wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan. To date, over 350 paintings have been created, 162 paintings have been sold, and as a result, almost £3200 has been received by the charity.

Tower of London 4th August 2014. Lest We forget
Tower of London 4th August 2014. Lest We forget

Tower of London: Lest We Forget

We also took a trip down to The Tower of London to have a look at this powerful and poignant art installation.

The Blood Swept Lands And Seas of Red exhibition, by

Artist Paul Cummins created Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red to represent the lives of every British and Colonial death during the conflict.  The poppies will be planted continuously until 11th November when there will be 888,246 of them in the moat around the Tower.

The poppies can be purchased by members of the public to raise funds for 5 military charities. I’ve just ordered mine.

I’ve been playing with creating video clips with my phone. This one is slightly wobbly but gives a slightly better idea of the scope of the poppy field in the moat at The Tower.

Medieval Village Sketch from Umbria

This little medieval village sketch was started while I was on holiday in Umbria.  Standing at the window of our room, this was the view down the valley. I made a quick pen sketch before we left.

It always seemed really quiet and almost uninhabited, and we wondered what went on in Borgo di Santa Giuliana. It seems, although the village has been restored, it only has one resident at present. What a great pity to have such a beautiful place and no-one to enjoy it. Sadly, it does seem to reflect a lot of what is happening in Italy at the moment. The economy is still struggling and if you look around, you can see the signs.

Having done only a pen sketch on site, I thought it would come to life more if I used a bit of colour. So this weekend, I used a few water soluble graphite pencils on the medieval village sketch.

Medieval village sketch
Borgo di Santa Giuliana – Sketch with water soluble graphite activated

Just for interest, here’s the sketch before the graphite pencil was activated. Although the colours aren’t particularly vibrant, I do like these pencils.

Medieval village sketch
Borgo di Santa Giuliana – Sketch with water soluble graphite

Borgo di Santa Giuliana – Medieval Village Sketch

Here’s an English translation (although perhaps not a perfect one) of the text found on the website link to Borgo di Santa Giuliana:

The first news about the ancient village of Santa Giuliana back to the year 1362. In 1411, Captain Paolo Orsini, an ally of Braccio da Montone Fortinbras, attacked the castle in the north of Perugia, and Santa Giuliana was besieged. The reaction of the inhabitants, however, was so resolute and effective that the attackers had to leave.  The commander, Orsini, was seriously injured. After many years of neglect, the whole complex has been completely restored, respecting the original structure. It is a beautiful example of a small medieval village. Inside the castle is a little church, built in 1558, dedicated to St. Anthony.  At about 1 km you will find a tower, an ancient outpost of defence, and the church dedicated to Santa Giuliana.

I’ve been doing some planning for a few more complete paintings of this village. More to come. I’ll try not to bore you with too many of them.

Society of East Anglian Watercolourists

East Anglian Watercolourists

The art event in my August calendar is the summer exhibition of the Society of East Anglian Watercolourists.

It’s been a while since I’ve been in blogging mode.  July was a busy month with more than a few highlights:

We went off to Umbria for the annual Jazz Festival in Perugia. My head is filled with images of musicians, great buildings, and fantastic unspoiled scenery. There’s loads of painting subject material in that part of the world. Once I’ve sorted through my photos, I’ll have enough for a series. I’ve not managed to get back into the studio since I got back, but I will be picking up my brushes again soon.

I took part in Cambridge Open Studios for the first time this year. Our home was open to visitors on the first and last weekends of the month. Over the course of these two weekends I had 83 visitors, most of whom hadn’t seen my work before. I’ve taken part in Saffron Walden Open Studios for the past two years, which was a good way to get into the Open Studios groove. Being located half way between Saffron Walden and Cambridge presents some challenges for visitors at either of these events: we are in the outer regions from either direction.

The Society of East Anglian Watercolourists Summer Exhibition

This is the next event I’ll be taking part in. I’ll have six paintings on show at this event next week. Unfortunately, I’m not likely to be able to attend the preview evening, as I’m due to have a little operation two days beforehand.  Marc is (yet again) being wonderfully supportive and will deliver my paintings for me so that I can take part.

If you’re in the area and would like to attend the preview of this event, please let me know. The standard of work from these East Anglian Watercolourists is extremely high and it’s always a good exhibition.