Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Autumn garden - winter pansies and dry hydrangea flowers

Winter Pansies, photograph copyright Vivien Blackburn

The summer flowers are still going strong but it's time to think about winter - shudder. Yesterday we popped into a local nursery I like, to buy some trays of winter pansies to plant in the old Victorian chimney pots on the patio. They will be cheerful to look out on as the days get colder :>)

And very very appealing to paint. I love the little whiskered faces of pansies.



I just hate to see flowers like these in a clashing jumble of colours - the burgundies and yellows and oranges and purples all planted together. I chose soft pale yellows, blue purples and pinker purples and the ones above in the same colours as the little wild ones - they all go beautifully and complement each other. I always think that the way you plant flowers is rather like painting - you have drifts of colour and then echoes of it elsewhere in the garden to balance and link. (I only have a tiny garden and it's quite wild and tangled and overgrown - but I love it :>) )

Those gorgeous blue hydrangea heads are now an incredible range of colours with deep pinks that are starting to fade to the soft neutral beige they'll end up.





There's a real nip in the air and the trees are turning fast and losing their leaves.

Does anyone know if begonias would over-winter indoors? (continuing to grow I mean). I've got a beautiful double soft, very pale apricot one I'd like to keep and a hanging basket with a vibrant red one - ditto.

We don't have anywhere cool to store them and so they always die with the first colder weather. They are flowering beautifully and it would be great to bring them in if they'd survive the central heating and year round growing?

Link to those hydrangeas flowering and here

and digital experiments with them

more flowers

Sunday, September 27, 2009

How I paint


Old painting - Stormy Day, Small sketch 6 inches square, oil on paper, Vivien Blackburn

I read this quote by Nina Murdoch

Basically I put stuff down to work against – Put on a mark and then cut back – What takes the time is finding those patterns, making space work, where the light comes out – not just ‘ooh colour!


....... the play of colours and light – the sense of something real and concrete but at the same time constantly melting and reforming,
Nina Murdoch

and it so accurately describes the way I like to work.

Even in the recent, more illustrational, observational sketches of apples and the skull - there are tentative marks put down, areas of colour or tone, constantly adjusted, wiped out, drawn over, changed, until I've pushed it to where I want it to go :>) .

In oils I mix colours on the painting often in putting down one colour into another wet colour, scratch through to earlier layers, scrape paint off, flick paint, drip paint, use painting knife or edges of card to 'print' shapes - then modify, adjust, keep changing ....

This little sketch was done in the teeth of a gale, blowing off the sea, The only thing I could hold still enough was this tiny 6 inch square sketchbook. The colours are scratched through, overlaid and generally pushed around in exactly the way Nina describes. There is even a little scumbled coloured pencil in there put down the next day when it was dry (done in quick drying Griffin Alkyd oils).

I have a general idea of how the finished work will look but as important it is the 'feel' of the day - catching that wind and wildness - or calm stillness/whatever. The marks help to get this. I never start out with a crystal clear end image in mind - the journey is important and because of the layers etc, it isn't possible to envisage every outcome clearly and the image evolves as it progresses.

How about you?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

goat skull in watercolour and coloured pencil, demo for students

Goat skull in watercolour and coloured pencil, life size. Vivien Blackburn

I did this to show students how to work in watercolour without any preliminary drawing, simply drawing with the paint and brush, building up the tones. Working this way is so easily altered, so flexible and fluid, allowing mistakes to be corrected easily in the early stages.

I then added some coloured pencil to sharpen edges and haze glazes of colour in highlights and shadows. I wanted to show how blues added as glazes with watercolour and coloured pencil over the deep shadow colours add depth and coolness to contrast with the warmer highlights, which themselves have a little additional amber warmth added to the ochre underglazes.

Done with college materials: White Knights watercolours and Lyra coloured pencils.

Below is a link to a coloured pencil version I had done in the past - almost the same view, but not quite.

you can see it here.


Which works best?

I need to get back to seascapes and waterways and get on with my own projects now.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Apple 2 in coloured pencil in moleskine sketchbook

Braeburn apple, coloured pencil, moleskine sketchbook, Vivien Blackburn

and another sketch for Jeanettes challenge :>)

This one is lighter, more luminous because the sun was shining on it - the first one was done when the light was gloomier, earlier on. Both on the same spot on my desk.

now which one works best?

Apple in watercolour and coloured pencil


Braeburn Apple, study in watercolour and coloured pencil. Life size. Vivien Blackburn

Jeanette on Illustrated Life
has issued another challenge - this time to paint an apple.

Here is my apple :>)

A quick sketch in watercolour - no initial drawing, just laying down colours - finished off with a very little coloured pencil.

Now I'm going to eat it :>)

Why not join in with her challenge?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

September Sunshine and Cats


It's a lovely early autumn day and she-who-is-incredibly-spoilt is loving the sunshine in the garden.

And yes, the lawn does need cutting I'm afraid. I'm up to my eyes in paperwork and hope to paint later - so I have no plans to even consider it - and anyway the cats love it long ;>)

I love this kind of light. I hope the weather continues like this as it's the kind that leads to spectacular autumn colours that stay for a while.

Monday, September 14, 2009

sketching at the botanical gardens



Sketch of a water feature in the pool at the University Botanical Gardens, 10 ins approx

Today I was sketching with my class at the University Botanical Gardens - I don't normally 'do' gardens/manicured/tidy so decided to just look at texture and reflections. This isn't a finished painting - just a study, a practice piece, so the composition isn't great. The subject wasn't one I'd want to do a 'finished' work of, I couldn't see a composition that really appealed to me.

The water was very murky and the fish (koi carp) had to swim near the surface to be seen! Depending on the light - which changed by the minute from sunlit and warm to overcast and chilly and back - the water was deep khaki/peaty brown or amber.



detail of painting above

The surface of the bronze bell interested me as it contained so many subtle nuances of colour and texture - at the bottom (due to an unseen patterned structure underneath?) the water trickled at regular intervals, creating a pallisaded effect.

A short jet of water came from the top, to trickle down the sides and drops caught by the breeze created circular ripples on the water around it.

My attention was focused on the bell and water - so the far edge and grass are very roughly put in.

There are lots of layers of glazes to try to get the subtle colours in the bronze, some washes, some scumbled dry brush marks, some drips. There is also coloured pencil and some white oil pastel and gouache and some tippex pen - they've started to sell them in art shops now but of course they were designed as typing correction pens and that's when I first got the idea of using them. I use them for the white ripples caused by the drops from the fountain and to create some of the lightest reeds.

Do you do 'practice' pieces just to hone skills?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Still overcast day and reflections

Detail of the finished painting below: Mixed media, a still overcast day, dulling colours. Vivien Blackburn

I arrived in bright sunshine but it almost immediately turned overcast and soon started to rain - a misty soft rain. Colour dulled and contrast softened, except for the strong contrast of the block of trees with heavy summer foliage, and their reflection, against the pale bright clouded sky.

Whole painting: Swithland Reservoir, overcast day, summer. Watercolour and coloured pencil. 10x9 ins approx. Vivien Blackburn

A very very still subject, as different from the rough seas of Cornwall as possible but an equal challenge. There was a very limited colour range because of the light and the dense foliage of summer. I may try an oil paint version to see which works best - I have a suspicion that water colour may win.

other posts in the series can be seen here

Friday, September 11, 2009

demo done for class to show techniques

Beach, mixed media - acrylic and coloured pencil, 8.5x4.5 ins, Vivien Blackburn

This started as a doodle, showing a class of students new-to-painting the variety of mark making possibilities they could use. It isn't great art - just done to show techniques in action.

It started off with wet washes of acrylic, dry brush scumbled layers to adjust and add depth when these were dry, washes of glazed colour, blotting paint out, smudging with fingers, dragging the end of the brush through wet paint to draw with it, tapping the brush to get fine flecks of paint for texture - sometime dragging the end of the brush through these to draw them out into other shapes and finally scumbling a little coloured pencil over it.

I wanted them to understand that painting is a language of marks and colours and not just about neatly colouring in areas, or thinking that once a colour is put down that it isn't touched again - or most importantly that the paintings they were doing were NOT a disaster and were capable of being pulled round into good work by working on, using all the 'language' at their disposal.

older posts on this subject

scumbling

mixed media - 52 posts!

Monday, September 07, 2009

digital images

Serengeti Carpet, digital image, Vivien Blackburn

This is an earlier version of the image shown in the last post. Sadly the original file is lost to a past computer breakdown. This is a scan of the one print I have left. My daughter has another. It's about A4 in size and printed on Rosapina printmaking paper, which works as beautifully with computer inks as it does with more traditional printing inks - not as lightfast of course.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Digital imagery from old designs

Digital manipulation of a design done in a very old sketchbook, Vivien Blackburn

This started life, some years ago, as a design in a sketchbook, done in gouache - the colours were more subtle but shapes were very simplified, as here.

I played with it on the computer, heightening and changing colours some time ago and I don't think I've ever shown it.

I wonder if I could expand on this as a story book for my grandson? First need story, animal characters etc .... and time!