Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Leafscape 1

Botanical art
Catalpa Leaf - a work in progress

So here I am. I would say in a different format, but I have been blogging for a while, so that doesn't really count. For those who don't know, I temporarily removed my personal profile from Facebook. I have been grappling with this move for some time and this week I took the leap. It wasn't an easy decision to make as I like to keep in touch with all of my friends and I enjoying posting uplifting content for you, but by sidestepping Facebook ever so slightly I have created space - space which has already been filled in with other activities such as reading and writing instead of 'tapping the tablet'. This is good, as such sources will no doubt feed into my work and be spread outwards via another broadcasting channel, including this blog. 

Botanical art
A sense of scale, complete with the brush I am using

So news... well I have just been knuckling down really and trying to keep warm. It's very cold here now and our ginger cat from Nerja isn't amused as he is more accustomed to a maritime climate. I myself am currently sitting at the computer dressed like an Inuk in alpaca, complete with Afghan slippers which are underneath my New Zealand woolly slipper boots. What I could really do with are some Chinese silk fingerless gloves for painting in, not only for the warmth, but also to don me with as many international fibres as possible. I am going for the Fully Monty in reverse.

Botanical art
Close up on the leaf

So other than the ego playing horrendous games with me to reactivate my Facebook account all is going smoothly. I have almost completed my first big leaf for Abbot and Holder. I have found this to be a more physically challenging leaf rather than a mentally challenging one (like the Blackberries and Loosestrife). I have found my eyes have been refusing to work properly in the darker zones. To paint the shadows I turn my lights out and pull my blind down to remove the glare which can make painting the dark bits a bit easier on the eye. 

Botanical art
Botanical art with a sense of perspective
Here's a video I made for Amber Halsall who asked me if I painted all of the leaf using the small brush pictured above - the answer is 'pretty much most of it'...

1) Pro Arte, Series 100, Number 10 - for washes
2) Pro Arte, Series 100, Number 6 - for washes
3) Rosemary and Co., Series 99, Number 2 - for most of the piece
4) Rosemary and Co., Series 99, Number 2 - for most of the piece
5) Pro Arte,  Series 107, Number 0 - for blending edges and doing the fine veins

And because it is so satisfying to watch, rather like flowers coming into bloom, here are a couple of time lapse videos showing the changes in colouration and shape. I have been rather lucky with my leaves in Spain as they sort of become 'petrified' with the intensity of the sun and keep their colours like a herbarium specimen. 

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Monthly Image Digest #1

Thinking of starting a monthly thing of putting up random botanical images I have come across in the last month during my searches on the internet in an attempt to generate interest, enthusiasm and continue to inspire.  Here's number 1:

Dani Soon: 'I’m always inspired from natural things and from my dreams. 
I think it’s because I grew up in a small country surrounded by nature.'

I really like the randomness of Dani Soon's work. She cleverly blends eastern and western artistic influences in all of her work, which is part Korean-folk art & part western kitsch. Infused with ideas borrowed from European fairy tales and with modern imagery, her illustrations evoke natural wonderscapes that tinged with her own brand of quiet commentary.

Happy Easter,  photography by Irving Penn
 If you click on that link you get a fabulous Pinterst page full of Irving's flowers.

Yama no sachi. A book consisting mainly, but not entirely, of plant and insect illustrations.
Japan, 1765
 Nice marrow, nice bat too, but I really like the marrow...

Erbario, an illustrated herbal from Italy, 15th cen.
I like the fact that his one leg is crossed. 

Fragments From Being, by Elena Ray

Watercolours from a 16th-Century De Materia Medica 

Sunday, 15 November 2015

They dry like poppadoms in the sun

One thing is for sure, and that is that I'm still obsessed with the Catalpa bignonioides tree growing in our back garden. Everything about it is fantastic. Its leaves, its long spooky pods and its entire form. I have always loved these Cigar Trees. There used to be a large specimen growing at the end of my road on Brick Lane. I loved that one too, but there is just something extra special about this one. 

Spooky beans of Catalpa bignonioides at night
Like the 'Whomping Willow' in Harry Potter, or a wet dog on the beach, it is now shedding its massive leaves in one big shake. Scattered across the sunlit lawn they dry like poppadoms. A fan of the Indian snack, I later come along and gather them all up, study them, select the best leaves and paint those. Here's the latest:

Inky Leaves studio
Inky Leaves studio

Indian Bean Tree
 Close up on another one of my Catalpa bignonioides poppadom leaves
Apparently, the name Catalpa derives from the Muscogee name for the tree, "kutuhlpa" meaning "winged head". Later on, between 1729 and 1732, the spellings "Catalpa" and "Catalpah" were used by Mark Catesby and then Carl Linnaeus published the tree's name as Bignonia catalpa in 1753. Giovanni Antonio Scopoli then later established the genus Catalpa in 1777. I wonder what represented the winged head on the tree?

Observations #151115

One man in a cut field with a gun

One lady thrashing plants on the side of the road with a stick

Two men with radios

One man sitting on a wall looking pensive

Two dogs fighting

Two runners

One man throwing corn seed into a ditch

Two cyclists, both stationary. One at the start, one at the end

Observations,  11am on 15/11/15, Belicena, Granada, Spain

Hiroshima: after the explosion, shadows "fixed" in the walls and pavements 

It's been preposterously light here over the last seven days. A continuum of blue still dons every crown and seeps through the gaps until it’s halted by something opaque. Such is the nature of light, and I am once again rudely reminded that every light casts a shadow. What that shadow is, I am not entirely sure. I suppose it is just a different state of being. A wall can be in the sun in the morning and by afternoon not, but it is still a wall. Like a chameleon, it has just temporarily changed its skin. If there is light, then there are definitely shadows and so where there is light, there is darkness. On a metaphorical level, my greatest fear is that as I try to step closer into the light spiritually, someone or something else edges a little closer into the darkness.  Such is the impossible violence of light.

Still from the documentary film, The Effects of the Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, produced by Akira Iwasaki and Kihon Eigasa, 1945. Photographed at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum's daily screening by slavick.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Studio updates

It's been quiet again. I think I am getting quieter and quieter, going deeper and deeper underground. I am bored by social media and more entranced by the things outside my door. I suppose this isn't a bad thing. 

Currently, what I find when I step outside of my door are platoons of corn stubs,
shimmering Poplar trees and long, long shadows.
So I have been getting on with a commission of a wreath made up of Salvia officinalis, Lavandula officinalisMarjorana officinaleVeronica officinalis and Rosmarinus officinalis plants  for a new website.

Preparations are also underway for my upcoming show. I have worked out the time I need to build a collection of work together. I was aiming for February 2017, but with the RHS also in contention, I might have to wait until 2018. Lets see... So I have been very carefully selecting specimens for the job. I feel like one of those judges at a summer fete judging flowers, fruits and vegetables, except my criteria are slightly different in that I am looking for the perfection in imperfection. 

As for the RHS... well this has all gone awry in my heart. I still don't feel 100% happy doing what I wanted to do and all other ideas still aren't really fitting the bill. They are either too whacky, too difficult or not very me. I am finding it difficult trying to find something that I want to do that isn't going to be seen by the judges as madness. With this difficulty, I have decided to just step back from the whole thing and let the plant/theme/subject find me. 

After drawing after drawing, and fantasy session after fantasy session I have had a complete rethink on what I am doing. I often find that this is how I come to most of my pieces of work - there are those that come from dreams and fantasy and those that come from reality. Dreams come first and I tend to stick with them. Darth was a dream, as was the Coffee and Cos. They are usually softer paintings that come with an aura of uncontrollable darkness. Sometimes I dream so much I end up falling out on the other side and finding a simple solution in reality. I wonder how it will be with the RHS? So no blogging about this for a while now. Not sure what I will be writing about instead but I want to carrying on going deeper within in order to create something incredible and I feel I can't do that when I am spreading myself out on the web.

A spontaneous burst of pigeons - fabulous movement. 
Came across this the other day... a diary entry before I went to the UK in August... Made me laugh whilst also highlighting the importance of taking one's time in planning:

"Drawing it out and its the wrong size, only slightly wrong. Could go forward as is, but not happy with the size and that will ruin everything. I know it will. I got away with it on the pineapple, but not with this. I need Gertrude to be big. Bugger. Totally pissed off I have wasted 3 whole days  on this, sitting in a boiling hot room for nothing. Part of the process. The planning is so important and remember what Steven Moffat says - 'it is all the ideas that you didn't go ahead with that makes good writing'. It's all the silly doodles and ideas that lead to something ground breaking. I must remember this".

Saturday, 7 November 2015

The fabulous work of Nancy Blum

Last night my mother and I discovered the work of Nancy Blum. It was a magical moment. So magical that I wanted to share it with you on here in case you hadn't heard of her. Based in New York, Nancy draws these spectacularly detailed botanical pieces full of vibrancy and colour. Each one of her carefully executed works is practically busting with life. She has a Facebook page which can be found here and a website in case you want to see more of these fabulously tantalising pieces. 

Botanical Art by Nancy Blum
Nancy Blum ©

Art by Nancy Blum
Nancy Blum ©

Botanical Art by Nancy Blum
Nancy Blum ©

For me, I feel that there is something inherently 'William Morris' about them, but they also remind me of the stylised botanical paintings of the 19th century, such as the illustrations made for John hutton Balfour for his students in Edinburgh (below) or the bright intense paintings of Walter Hood Fitch (also below). Add a dash of Georg Dionysius Ehret's more brazen works, such as his Opuntia and the intensity of Maria Sibylla Merian's work, and I believe you get something a little like this. They almost look a bit 'Indian' with their rich colours and never ending embellishment. However, despite all of this, I still find Nancy's work to be completely unique. 

Working clockwise from top left: John Hutton Balfour drawing aid, 'Blandfordia grandiflora' by Walter Hood Fitch, 'Opuntia' by Georg Dionysius Ehret and  'Butterflies sun' by Maria Sibylla Merian. 
Balfour botanical drawings
Artist unknown: "Stenocarpus sinuatus Endlicher (PROTEACEAE). Firewheel tree, tulip flower, Mr Cunningham's stenocarpus", c. 1846, botanical illustration, watercolour and ink on board, 95.2 x 60.3 cm. 
Botanical Art by Nancy Blum
Botanical Art by Nancy Blum - I would love to have this on my wall.

Nancy Blum ©

"Of all known forms of life, only about ten percent are still living today. All other forms – fantastic plants, ordinary plants, living animals with unimaginably various wings, tails, teeth, brains – are utterly and forever gone. That is a great many forms that have been created. Multiplying ten times the number of living forms today yields a profusion that is quite beyond what I consider thinkable. Why so many forms? Why not just that one hydrogen atom? The creator goes off on one wild, specific tangent after another, or millions simultaneously, with an exuberance that would seem to be unwarranted, and with an abandoned energy sprung from an unfathomable font. What is going on here?"

Annie Dillard
Pilgrim At Tinker Creek

Friday, 30 October 2015

Killer Blackberries

Blackberry painting
Blackberries (Rubus ulmifolius), 2015, Watercolour on Saunders Waterford Paper, J R Shepherd ©, Inky Leaves

I panicked then that I'd lost all my images, but I had filed them under 'Rubus' rather than 'blackberry'! I really do need to sort out my taxonomic system on my computer, it goes from Latin to English far too readily. So yes, here they are in all their glory. BEHOLD THE RACEME OF BLACKBERRIES!

I would certainly be lying if I said that they were easy to paint, but even though they were a challenge, they were really fun to do. I haven't painted shiny berries in ages and had forgotten how fabulous they can be. I did miss my leaves, but it was good to step back from them. So the good news is I managed to finish them on time. I dropped my brush which was on both occasions loaded with the blackest of paint twice and marked the white background, but managed to recover the damage with a magic eraser - phew! So now I only have three more pieces to do before Christmas and all will be merry! Easy-peasy.

Blackberries (Rubus ulmifolius), 2015, Watercolour on paper, J R Shepherd ©, Inky Leaves
So after some more days in London, which were an absolute riot, I now find myself back on terra España and I am left feeling a little disorientated. I unpacked as soon as I got in - I always do. Almost threw myself into the washing machine as I vigorously put my four outfits into the wash (goodness knows how I kept going on four outfits) and got to work on sorting out all of my images, my accounts and many other boring little tasks, which is most likely why I have been rampant on Facebook this week. Being sat at a desk with a desktop is dangerous and highly distracting. I had hoped to get into the studio on my birthday, but that failed and today was also a failure so I am lining myself up for Sunday. Can't wait.

So news... Well Lucy the Loosestrife is now with her new owner, the RHS is still brewing in my cerebellum and I have had the misfortune to discover that Walnut trees are deceptive creatures that should never be depended upon, as are squirrels and Spanish foragers.  I have worked out that what has been making me so poorly these past 24 months (yes it is really that long) were the hormone pills I was taking, so I am coming off of those and now drinking a lot of eco-responsible soya milk (I love the idea of responsible soya beans - would make a good cartoon). I fell in love, yes, I unfortunately did that and no, it wasn't with a walnut tree (luckily) or a plant but with an actual human being, but they don't know, so alas we shall leave it there on that note. I had two very happy unbirthdays, and one real birthday yesterday, which was super nice and basically did a bit of growing up.

Oh, and I got myself a gallery... In London. 

Monday, 12 October 2015

Blackberries Take II

So yes, I ended up starting again with this one. Unhappy with the composition and the general direction of the first blackberry painting I decided to put it to one side and I make head way with another. I am happy to say that within minutes of me doing this I was pleased I made this move and remain to be. I had been umming and errring about it, but after the eclipse something shifted in me and I went straight ahead in making a new painting. I didn't feel angry or sad about this, only positive.

Blackberry branch (Rubus ulmifolius)
Blackberry branch (Rubus ulmifolius), a work in progress

So it's been two weeks and this is where I find myself. I hope to finish it in the next few days... the speed is ramping up as I get into the groove and memorise the new tricks I have learnt with this one, for I have learnt many! This is the first time I have tackled a berry like this since I painted that bunch of grapes back in 2011. I find myself re-deploying many of these skills I learnt back then for this piece, but also a few newbies. My hard mini brush has been an absolute God-send. I use this for the highlights and to merge colours together. It comes out on every painting, but with this one it is pretty much in permanent use. I have learnt that transparent yellow is very, very useful at making the berries look three dimensional when placed in the right area (green on the black berries) and that the colour is never what you think it is. I wish I had done this on vellum in a way too. There is something about the rough finish of the Saunders Waterford that doesn't lend itself very well to shiny berries. The burnisher has been very much used on this one.

Blackberry branch (Rubus ulmifolius)
On the easel.... 

So there is my update. Not much going on in the world of Inky. All very quiet really. I have been thinking about the RHS again and trying to work out what I might do for my Christmas cards, but that's all as I eagerly wait for my next subject of the commissioned triptych to do its thing and open up... Hint - it is a nut.

Had my eyes tested - they've got worse, which is hardly surprising. Even more short sighted now, but that's ok, as long as I can still see up close. We can't have it all and I'd rather go this way if I had to choose. The great news is I have a beautiful optic nerve - he was an Italian optician whose use of words was rather wonderful.

Saturday, 10 October 2015

Raymond Booth Exhibition


Paintings from the Estates of Nancy and Jill Anne Bowden
6pm Thursday 19th  – Saturday 28th November 2015

Primula. Oil on paper. Signed and dated, 1994. 25x19cms. Framed: 33x27.5cms.
"The variety of the works by Raymond Booth in this rounded Collection reflect the touching manner in which it was put together. While sisters Nancy and Jill Anne Bowden first saw and fell in love with Booth’s work at his 1970s Fine Art Society exhibitions, they also made friends with him (by telephone, they met but once) and over 35 years bought from, and were given by him, studies which enriched the group of paintings they were able to afford from Bond Street".
Lords and Ladies. Oil on card. Signed and indistinctly dated, 'May 198...'. 16x21cms. Framed: 23x27cms.
I might have to fly back for this as he is one of my all time favourites...