Thursday, 7 November 2013

The Pop-up Botanical Art Studio

So nowadays we get pop-up cafes, pop-up galleries and pop-up shops or pop-up anything really. Life has become nomadic, ever 'on the move'. Forget your diary? No worries, we have an app for that. Forget your i-pod? No worries, everything is synced.  Businesses take advantage of niches, of disused spaces and holes. With this in mind, I have jumped on the band waggon and am calling my Kew studio my 'pop-up studio'. So what's been happening in the pop-up studio I hear you ask? Well I am still busy painting the third Tulip painting in a collection I have made of Tulips. Why are you doing this? - I hear you ponder... Well, I am doing this mainly to practice my techniques. I am trying to master my watercolours and these Tulips are so very different from leaves, and from Cos, that they are a welcome break from what happens in 'The Studio'... I also find them technically challenging with all their changes in colour, their highlights, reflected light and their shadows.

Tulip 'Reduced to Clear' - work in progress
Oddly, when I stared this collection of paintings I just jumped in and did them, because they were something I found to be rather beautiful on that sunny day I spent in Chelsea Physic Garden in May 2012. And it wasn't until after getting under way with two of the pieces that I noticed I had made a bit of a mistake on them. The first one - 'Buy One Get One Free' I really didn't think about the composition and dived in. Only to notice that I had painted two flowers on one stem. Putting the other stem in would have ruined it and I rather liked the oddness of it. Botanical surrealism - or call it what you will. I have therefore titled it 'Buy One Get One Free' because I love supermarket gimmicks.

Close up on 'Buy One Get One Free' - place where the two flowers meet
The second painting 'Buy Three for the Price of Two', where there are three in a row, is still not finished... this doesn't have any mistakes (yet).

Tulips 'Buy Three for the Price of Two' - work in progress

The one I am currently working on is called 'Reduced to Clear'. Again - getting way too enthralled in the heat of the sun I didn't realise that what I was sketching was a mutant... too many petals on this bad boy! So yes - bad stock and thus it is 'Reduced to Clear'.

'Tulip 'Reduced to Clear' - work in progress

Whilst painting the Tulips and the Lettuce there is one question that has really stuck in my mind and that is how I much am I consciously painting in the reflected light? With the lettuce it isn't too tricky, but with the Tulips it is. A lot of the reflected light is blue, green or pale indigo. Quite remarkable really - it makes the whole thing almost look like a rainbow when you add it in with the predominant colours of yellow, orange and red. I have been doing a bit of reading on reflected light and I found these articles in case any one is interested. I don't subscribe to any magazines or own any how to books, so I am really learning as I am going...
Subtleties of Light by Jane Jones
Understanding how Reflected light works by Christopher Schink 

On another note - a nice bit of reading about some rare watercolours depicting English varieties of fruit trees at the Ashmolean Museum can be found here.  I particularly like the bit about the astrological signs on the sheets - very unusual and something I'd love to do with my own work being an advocate of astrology. 

 Painting of the Great Roman Hazel Nut with a red squirrel and frog below

"Little astrological signs can be detected on some of the pictures. A cherry which ripened on June 10 has the sign for Gemini beside it. A Morocco plum which ripened on July 15 is accompanied by the sign of Mercury. Astrology was important to the pictures’ owner."


  1. Great post! Another great resource on light in art is James Gurney!

  2. Great post, love the names of your tulips :D