Saturday, 21 December 2013

Happy Holidays


Broad leaved Dock - Rumex obtusifolius
I love these holey leaves, like lace.

I really have to take my hat off to Rosemary's brushes. 
I put an order in last night for 
5 sable brushes and they have arrived today,
 with chocolates!! I am in shock!
Thank you Rosemary xx
www.rosemaryandco.com/


Wishing everyone a Happy Holiday wherever you are
 and a bright New Year to come.
Love and light from Wales x

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Fungal Foray

It's getting late in the season now for mushroom forays but there are still a few species to find out there. The weather has been a bit milder here recently and so great for some late mushroom hunts. 
 Every year I visit a local woodland in the hope of seeing the fungal fantasia that I found in October 2010. Everywhere I looked were the velvet caps of Boletus calopus with their beautiful red netted stipes and primrose yellow pores. But it was not to be this year again, maybe next year will be good for them, fungi are sometimes so elusive.


 I've found lots of all the usual suspects like Fly Agarics, Russulas and Wood Blewitts but one of the most plentiful mushrooms for me this year has been the Chanterelle. Their apricot to egg yolk colour stands out from the moss and leaves and they grow with most trees. They are very tasty to eat obviously that great french delicacy; it's lovely to see them in such abundance but then it's been a great year for most flowers and fruits. I've found a few false chanterelles too so you have to be very careful if picking mushrooms to eat. The false ones have a more orange colour and slightly different shape. 


I also found some poisonous 'yellow-stainers' the other day; these are the edible field mushroom look a likes,so similar but they stain yellow when cut while field mushrooms do not. They have a nasty smell of ink too. 
I love that some mushrooms have these strong odours,it's a great characteristic. Some smell pleasant like stewed apples, marzipan or honey while others pong like rotting fish, raw potatoes or TCP! The  smell of 'stinkhorns' is so pungent that it can be smelt upon the air without ever seeing the actual mushroom itself. They are one species that I wouldn't cut and take home to draw!!
Fungi really are fantastic.


Thursday, 28 November 2013

Latest work in Progress

I've had a very stressful time of late with ongoing financial and health problems. Life has been a struggle some days and very emotional but I have managed to paint and draw still. It helps to blot out things, a kind of meditation or mindfulness, where you can live in the moment and forget future and past.
 While driving, I saw a beautiful autumn sycamore twig against the blue sky, all yellow and russet and glowing,so stopped the car to get the branch. Sycamores are a gorgeous tree in autumn one of the most colourful here I think along with red oaks.
  It is in gouache on a blue mount board for a change. I had to draw it quick as it was curling up a bit in the dry indoors but I love the way they curl and catch the light. The branch is dried up now but I made colour notes and took a photo in case the leaf colours changed too much.
Should be finished in the next few days.






 

Sunday, 3 November 2013

After Elan

 
The exhibition at Elan went very well and I met some lovely and interesting people. Not many sales but it wasn't about that for me, just being able to show the work and have people appreciate it is enough. I did a few simple and small demos of conkers, acorns and crab apples and have inspired a few people to have a go which is brilliant.
 
 
I was pleased that this painting was the most admired maybe because it was the biggest with so much to look at. I loved it being shown underneath an oak tree, that looked great. Also the gouache work was more popular with people than the botanical work but it does have more impact.
The hanging equipment I highly recommend if you need to hang on these boards; very easy to use and unobtrusive.
Not sure where I will exhibit next maybe at the SBA in Westminster next May and also at Elan again. I must find some more venues in Wales; I was given a few ideas by some lovely people too which I'll follow up.
 
Lastly I highly recommend you take a look at my friend Shevauns' new botanical blog. Her sketches are so exquisite and neat that they put mine to shame!! Beautiful work Shevaun xx


Thursday, 24 October 2013

Nearly there

Getting very excited and nervous now about the imminent exhibition. I have hanging equipment for 17 frames and the rest (16 of them) are cellophane wrapped with mounts. They are to be hung or attached with velcro strips to grey exhibition boards. The hanging equipment are screen hook anchors specially designed for the boards and I got them from a company called picturehanging.co.uk who were very efficient. We'll see how well it looks and functions soon!
I have also sorted out note cards, greetings cards, A3 ,A4 and A5 prints of some of the paintings to sell while there.
 The big Welsh Oak woodlands painting is finished now, what a labour of love! A whole year to complete. I think I like it but I am still waiting for a frame for it which has been promised to get to me tomorrow morning in time for setting up!
 
 
Lastly I have been painting a merlin falcon but I didn't manage to finish it for the exhibition so I've cropped it here.


Monday, 7 October 2013

Getting ready

Its been a long time since my last post; time just flies by quicker each year I'm sure.
Lately I have been busy with the preparation of my first solo exhibition which is starting on 26th of October in the Elan Valley in Powys. It is only on for the week and is finishing with a craft fair which should be fun. I'll have a table set up where I can do demos for people passing by.That'll be nerve racking!
 

 
I have been working on a large painting entitled ' A year in the Welsh oak woods'. It is still unfinished as I am working on the autumn section now and have been working on this for nearly the whole year. I'm hoping I have it finished in time for 26th of October for Elan and I'm hoping that I like it!!
This is it so far.
 
 
 
Other paintings that I have completed are Seashore Treasures, from pieces that I have collected over the years from Ynyslas beach near Aberystwyth.
 


The painting below is called 'Day Flyers'. I went on a one day moth course back in summer and got well and truly hooked on these beautiful creatures. We had many to study and photograph in a moth trap, some with dazzling gold and copper patterns. These three below are moths that I had found in Ynyslas sand dunes.  The top one; the six spot burnet is very common in any flower rich meadows where they lay their eggs on birds foot trefoil.
 
 
 
I also painted this Tawny owl. I went to an owl sanctuary and couldn't resist as he was so cute. Unfortunately though he was blind in one eye.
 



 
Lastly I'll post some sketches that I did while on holiday in France in August. I was camping in a place called 'La Foret de Cognac' and then also in Monbahus. Saw so many gorgeous butterflies and moths. Below right is a scarce swallowtail; beautiful and quite large, they glided on the breeze like kites and collected around the hilltops so were easy to find. I loved all the meadows filled with wild carrot and chicory, buzzing with wildlife. I also liked the way the farming fields were laid out in mosaics;from  hazelnut plantations and maize to damson orchards and towering sunflowers and always edged with wild flowers verges.
  
 
 
 
 

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Iris in Gouache


Iris sibiricas in gouache ,just completed. Not sure how I managed it as work has got steadily busier but fitted it in somehow. These Iris are my favorite garden flowers, I love the golden edges and patterns on the fall petals, a little like animal print! Consequently they are the garden flower I have painted the most. I have used a gold gouache paint by Winsor Newton on the patterns and some leaf edges. It is very subtle and only caught in a certain light. 
Having wonderful weather at the moment in Wales, too hot to paint almost (and definitely too hot to work!!!) How very rare but most welcome.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Coed Simdde Lwyd Oak woods

I've visited some more sessile Oak woods still within the Rheidol Valley but this time downstream of Coed Rheidol (where I was last week). They are called Coed Simdde Lwyd which means 'Wood of the grey chimney' in Welsh. Not such a nice name but it harks back to an age of heavy metal mining in this area.Indeed there are many ruins of mines dotted around Ceredigion.
These woods are much bigger than Coed Rheidol and as they are south facing are drier with less luxuriant moss growth. I saw hundreds of oak saplings, some covered in red pea galls, so the woods are regenerating well. I collected some galls to draw at home. These galls are fascinating; they look like tasty little fruits.






The wildlife Trust of South and west Wales have put in some new paths, one I followed right to the top of the steep valley (phew,very tough!!) above the woods,with glorious views of the Rheidol valley and the sea beyond. Some of the gnarled trees at the top are only just bigger then me!! There were plenty of bluebells and bees here too. I could here the unique call of a cuckoo in the distance.



 





 Following the valley top I then descended back into the cool woodlands, and found a rushing stream cascading down. Here the plant-life is slightly more varied with more species of tree, including Wych Elm and Ash and I collected some golden Saxifrage to draw; its a common plant found in these damp places.
So as promised I have uploaded some sketches, some from the oak woodlands of the Rheidol and also Coed Cwnch in the Elan valley too. You can see bilberry, barren strawberry, golden saxifrage and common violet with the hairy wood-rush and some mosses. Also a bumble bee.

 
 

Below is the actual oak woods painting with some spring additions so far; hazel catkin & hard fern (Blechnum spicant) crosier,



Below is a wood anemone, an acorn germinating, the red pea galls and some wood sorrel. I germinated the acorn myself, but the fresh oak leaves are from a one year old sapling. Really enjoying this painting but its a good job that these oak woods are quite low on species diversity as I wouldn't fit everything onto the page!!



Saturday, 18 May 2013

The Oak Woods in Spring

I have visited Elan valley oak woodlands, (Coed Cwnch) and Rheidol oak woodlands to record the spring species I find and collect some things to paint. We have had a really cold spring and lots of plants are very late in their growth. The oak leaves are just starting to burst and there are curly fern crosiers everywhere.


In the photo above;  The ancient woodlands clothe the sides of the Rheidol valley, they exist mainly in steep river valleys.
The main plants of these oak woods are bilberries, heather and mosses, with birch, Holly and rowan trees adorned with honeysuckle, lichens and ivy. There are few species of flower as the soil is more acidic, but we have wood sorrel and violets,with bluebells and wood anemone in the deeper soils. Some of the mosses are now producing their spore capsules on bright red and orange stems, so I've been painting these for my oak woods painting. Also some Pied Flycatcher eggs in a little nest, these birds along with redstart are seen frequently in these woods; They are summer visitors.
 I saw many bumble bees too feeding on the bilberry flowers.


The sessile oaks are twisted and gnarled and in some places their roots cling to the rocks.


Above you can see the oak branches still in bud, with the river Rheidol in the distance. A small bridge spans the gorge; called the Parsons bridge.


 The river has eroded the rock in the gorge below into cauldrons and pools.


You cannot walk very far in these woods but its good enough just to sit and think(or de-stress!). Its great that we have these places protected for the future.
Next week I'll post some sketches from the spring woodland.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Latest work

 
I have made some necklaces with resin and dried daisies- a change from painting! They are ok for a first try and I really like them( have been wearing one).

 
Heres a sketch of a frilly parrot tulip - the first to open in the garden, with a bulb. I found it difficult to get the red hue right and was using winsor red,winsor red deep, and cadium red.
 
 
 

Red Marsh Orchids, old and new paintings, the macro view is a new one. This red is painted using Schminke permanent carmine(PR19) and W/N permanent alizarin, with touches of perylene violet.
 

 
Pyramidal orchids with a six spot burnet moth, Euphrasia and common milkwort. This is a reworked painting from last summer.



                                    This spring collection is a rework of many old paintings.




Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Two Years On.

 
I have realised that this blog was 2 years old last Thursday. Time has flown so fast.
I also completed this Narcissus study as an evocation of spring. Even though we have had thick snow and it has been really cold this past week, spring is not far away.
The Narcissus is a multi-headed variety called 'Pipit' with pale lemon flowers and a beautiful scent.I found the bumble bee last summer and have kept it safe in order to paint. Despite the cold temperatures there are a few bumble bees out in the brief sunny interludes, feeding on the plentiful heather flowers in my garden. Its almost like an oasis in the mono-culture of the surrounding farm fields.
I have also found a few dead Tortoiseshell butterflies too, now in my collection. Will paint them one day soon.
Spring eruption,the vital sap,
Flows through bud and twig.
Bursting with youth,
in lime green showers.
Cells divide, regenerate.
To begin again.

Friday, 8 March 2013

Gold leaf

 The ox-eye daisies goauche painting is now finished and I have embellished it with gold leaf.
I also added a few light delicate grasses to show wildness, then I guess that the gold suggests dazzling summer light! The gold squares follow the opposite pattern to the flower buds so I thought they might strengthen the composition.
I practised using the gold leaf first as I have never used it before, always a good idea!!
 Instead of buying adhesive, size or gesso I used a jar of Winsor Newton gum arabic that I've had for years and hardly used. First I drew out little squares and painted them in with neat gum arabic. Then I placed a gold leaf sheet on top of the square, pressing down very gently. After drying for a few minutes, I gently brushed away any loose bits and edges; any gaps were carefully re-stuck.
 It seems to have stuck the gold leaf very well and wasn't too difficult.
 
 



 
 
Unfortunately the final photo doesn't show up the gold bling very well but it looks nice and shiny in real life! I have made a card out of it for my mum for mothers day but she's just told me now that she's not sure about the squares!! Oh well! Nice to try something a bit different and I recommend it for this.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

More in the Woods


I have almost finished the winter section of the oak wood painting. Now I have to wait for spring to arrive in order to start the spring section. It's bitterly cold here in Wales at the moment but with beautiful sunshine so very nice not to have more rain!
 


I have added an oak twig with the lichen Evernia prunastri at the base in graphite. Also some vibrant red holly berries to fill up gaps! I also drew some hazel catkins as they are now about and hazel is very much a part of the sessile oak woodland flora. Their tassels are lovely to see and the twigs have the tiniest red female flowers on them.

 
 
Below are the mosses, decaying leaves and Usnea lichen.
 


 
 

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

A year in the Oak Woods

I have begun a large painting of a year in an oak wood; it's a collection of things found in a sessile oak wood typical of west and mid Wales, so upland with acidic soils. So far I have collected things from 2 oak woods within a 20 mile radius of me; Elan valley and Coed Rheidol woodlands. My studio is now full of bits of moss, lichen, twigs and pots of acorns that I've gathered on recent walks and I'm trying to keep organised (and clean!).
The painting has started with the bottom left section all devoted to winter, then will travel round through the seasons until hopefully it will be finished in time for exhibition in October. Autumn may well be a bit rushed.

Above is the winter section so far with scarlet elf cups and Coriolus versicolor fungi, marble oak galls, Usnea lichen, Polypody fern, decayed holly leaf, ivy fruits & leaf and a decaying oak leaf.


Above are some sketches of mosses, lichens and fungi that I found in Elan valley oak woods.
The little cushion of moss is Ulota crispa commonly found on tree bark and branches. The other mosses are also common. There are very rare mosses, lichens and ferns that grow in the Elan valley woodlands but I have not found any and wouldn't pick them if I did.
 The Coriolus versicolor bracket fungi is also very common and it contains PSK which is used as an anti-cancer aid in Japan.
The feathery Usnea subfloridana lichen contains powerful anti-biotics and is high in vitamin C.


Above is a spring painting that I had started but have put on hold. It has been worked up from my sketches and old paintings that are no good. May finish it in spring when new material is available.