Category Archives: Colour

Coloured Pencils Artwork – Learning to use new media and techniques

It is a generally accepted view that we should all try something new occasionally.  It is thought to be good for us!  It can give us a new outlook on life, renewed enthusiasm and who knows, we might find that one thing in life that we were meant to do.

Coming back down to earth, in art we are encouraged to move out of our comfort zones and try new things.  This is just what I have been doing this month – coloured pencils.  Every so often I have thought about having a go, but remembering ‘colouring-in’ efforts when I was at school put me off.  It wasn’t something to be proud of.

Having done a lot of research and watched many YouTube videos I finally decided upon Faber-Castell Polychromos which are oil based and have a good range of colours available.  I chose a dozen that I thought would be suitable to create animal fur as a starting point – a mix of browns, black, greys, yellows and a blue and green for eyes.

My first attempt was a cat’s eye and I was pleased with the results that could be obtained although somewhat surprised about the time needed to produce an acceptable result (no definitely not like colouring-in at school!).  I then decided to try the whole head of a domestic kitten.  I have not yet worked out how to do white whiskers over brown fur.  I have used a stylus pen, which puts a groove in the paper which the pencil just glides over.  This means the groove should be left the colour of the paper i.e. white, but it definitely needs more practice.  I would welcome any advice on this one.


Paper is not a problem for me as it needs to be very smooth and I already use hot-pressed paper.  I have tried Bristol Board but the HP has a little more tooth to hold on to the colour better.  Other things I have found useful are: a Derwent  Blender and Zest-It, a citrus smelling solvent made in the UK,  which when applied sparingly with a brush also blends and smooths out the colour.

The most important tip I have found is keep the pencils very sharp all the time!

To sum up I would say that I am really enjoying the coloured pencil work, but I still love watercolours and have no intention of giving them up.  Do have a go it you get the opportunity.  They are a real surprise!


Blue Hydrangea

Blue Hydrangea

I painted this in memory of a lovely lady I used to garden for.  She adored her garden and one of her favourite plants was the blue hydrangea.  She would grow them in very large half barrels in special acid compost.  In the part of Norfolk where I live the soil is alkaline and the hydrangeas grow in various shades of pink.

It is a fact of human nature that we always seem to cherish the rare or unusual.  I am sure those who garden on acid soil would love to grow  the pink hydrangeas.

The painting took me quite a while as it was important to show all the different shades of the warm lilac blue in the many bracts.  The flower itself is insignificant, with the modified bracts holding all the colour.  As the whole is essentially a ball shape (hence the name mophead hydrangea) the shading had to show this whilst not being too dark as to lose the light airy feeling.

I have chosen to paint in a botanical style, but a looser style would also work – they are so spectacular.  It makes you feel good just to look at them.


       “Painting from nature is not copying the object; it is realising one’s sensations”

Paul Cezanne


When is the first day of Spring?

Spring is here at last!  This year it was 20th March at 4.30 in the morning.  This is the day when the day and the night are of equal length and is called the Vernal Equinox.  This time does change very slightly which explains why I always looked forward to 21st March as the first day of Spring.  That’s when it used to be!

A meteorological season is different.  Spring begins on 1st March and ends on 31st May which makes it easier for forecasting and recording weather trends.  However I have noticed this does seems to create at lot of confusion in the media.

Spring has seemed a long time coming but then it always does.  That is what makes us appreciated it all the more.  This year with the warmer winter the spring flowers seem to have shown their heads earlier than usual.  There was some concern that they would all be over too soon, but not so.  The garden is full of crocus, daffodils and hellebores.

Helleborus niger

Helleborus niger

The snowdrops are still bravely hanging on and the tulips just starting to form.







The colours of spring flowers are so clear and fresh they raise the spirits,  even though the temperatures can still be very chilly.


Iris reticulata



” The beautiful spring came; and when Nature resumes her loveliness, the human soul is apt to revive also”  –  Harriet Ann Jacobs


The Colours of Advertising

I have to admit to being disappointed!

Trusting to the pictures in advertising, I have bought items and they have not come up to expectation!  Yes I know that is very naive, but that’s how it is.

The thing is that now I have been painting flowers for quite a while, I have begun to look at plant purchases which inspire me to paint them.  So I look at the pictures on the packet (for bulbs, tubers, seeds etc) or on the label (plants).  Seems simple enough, but no!  As I say, I have been disappointed.

It all began last year when I  purchased morning glory (ipomoea) seeds and looked forward to that rich blue.  The flowers when they came were, to put it politely, insipid.  My Viola sororia ‘Speckles’ which looked lovely on the label – white petals liberally sprinkled with violet dots, was actually sporadically sprinkled with pale lilac dots, which could not be seen from a distance.

At Christmas I bought myself an amaryllis which, according to the packet, was white with red stripes.  I watched it sprout, bud and grow with mounting anticipation, paper and paints at the ready until the day it opened.  Cream with peach stripes which, whilst lovely in its own right, was not what I was expecting and the desire to paint it withered.



Maybe from the seller’s point of view more sales are made from pictures with brighter colours, but it is …well…….disappointing.

I have finished my watercolour painting of an Himalayan Blue Poppy (Mecanopsis betonicifolia).   I had to use artistic licence here as the plant in my garden is distinctly pinkish.  Not the fault of the advertisers this time as it is probably due to my soil being quite limey, whereas these beautiful poppies prefer it more acidic.

Himalayan Blue Poppy


In the future I think I will just have to keep an open mind when looking at advertising material!


A Rose for Valentine’s Day

Last summer while working in a local garden I noticed a beautiful rose that made me just want to drop everything and paint it.  The lady who owned it very kindly let me photograph it and now here it is.  Usually when I paint I get to a point where I think it looks awful and it takes a leap of faith to keep going. This time however that did not happen and I enjoyed painting it from start to finish.  That has honestly never happened before!  I mostly painted it wet on wet and I was so enamoured with the changing colours that it kept me going.

I also decided to photograph my work in stages and I found this really helpful to see how the painting was progressing.

I actually took twelve photos but there was little difference to see between some of them.  Unfortunately my photography skills are somewhat limited.

A very kind lady at my art group said you could almost smell the rose!  Music to my ears!  Perhaps I should print the cards on scented paper!

The finished card all ready for Valentine's Day

The finished card all ready for Valentine’s Day



Think Pink!

I think I have said before that I always seem to favour pinks and blues when choosing flower subjects to paint.  Well this week it has all come to a head.  I often have two or three paintings on the go at any given time, usually at different stages.  However, at the moment I am finishing off the details on three paintings – all pink.  There is a lovely pink hollyhock which I have been working on for a while, a pink phlox which just begged to be painted and my pink rhododendron.

Hollyhocks in my garden

Hollyhocks in my garden

Original rhododendron

Original rhododendron

Amended rhodendron

Amended rhodendron

If you read my last blog you will remember I was not happy with one dominant leaf and have been trying to lessen the effect by adding another leaf.  I don’t know if it has worked, because all I can see when I look at it is that one leaf!  I would really welcome your comments.

Why though, am I inspired to paint pinks and blues – is it simply that I like those two colours?  A little research tells me that pink is a compassionate and nurturing colour, basically female and that blue is a safe colour implying honesty and dependability ( boring do you think?)  However when you mix the two colours you get lilac which I have taken to wearing a lot. Apparently, this means that I need to create order and perfection – perhaps a good trait for a botanical artist!

OR…  maybe there’s just more pink and blue flowers our there in the UK.






Artist’s block or writer’s block?

I have not posted for some time as I appear to have been suffering from writer’s block.  Thankfully not artist’s block as I have plenty of subjects to choose from in my own garden.  The thing is – what to write about.  I know what the problem is or rather what the problems are.  1.  I have been looking at the blogs written by artists who are members of the SBA and/or are teachers of botanical art.  These are marvellous in that they are so informative and inspiring I want to try all the ideas, but ….. they are all so good!  I wonder if I will ever get to that stage!  2.  This is a similar end result.  I have entered several local art exhibitions and as a consequence become very critical of my paintings during the time lapse between entering and exhibiting.  This rhododendron for example needs more work on it.  All the time I was working on it I hadn’t noticed the prominence of the large leaf at the bottom.  Still I can perhaps solve that problem by adding more leaves.


This dip in confidence has meant that I have not been able to think of anything to write about that is informative or noteworthy.  Then I realised I may not be the only one who has this problem and would love to hear your experiences of confidence dips and how you get over them.

I have been inspired this week by the artwork of Suzanne Hull Wilson (at for the beautiful transparency and clarity she gets in her colours.  I love her subjects too for no other reason than they make me feel good.  Definitely worth a visit! 

Printing Your Own Artwork Dilemmas

I have been very busy lately learning how to make good prints of my paintings.  Before I started I didn’t realise what an all encompassing task this would be.  It all began with a new printer – a Canon Pixma which takes up to A3 and is wonderful.  Then I had to calibrate the screen on my laptop as the colours were not the same as the printer’s.  This is not an easy task as it seems to be all down to personal preference and we all see things differently don’t we!

I already had a photoshop elements 1 but after wasting a lot of time, paper and ink trying to get prints I was happy with I finally decided to buy a more up-to-date version – number 11, thanks to a recent birthday.  This was an eye-opener. it is so easy to use compared with the original version.  My colours are so much better now although I had to change a lot of settings on my scanner, computer and printer to get them all working off the same hymn sheet as they say.  The beauty of the internet is that there is always someone somewhere who has the information you require and I certainly required a lot.  It is very satisfying when it all comes together though, because I do not find computer technology very easy.

I still get through a lot of paper just fine tuning my prints, but I think experience will probably help on this one.  It always seems to be the case that the more you know, the more you realise you don’t know.  My next issue is with paper as they all take up the inks differently…… but enough of the technical stuff for now!

Recent paintings …



Chionodoxa are small spring bulbs which look lovely naturalised in grass.  The colour is beautiful and they look so cheerful.  I love to paint close ups of small flowers as it really makes you appreciate how intricate they are.  Some day I intend to paint so called weeds as they are just as beautiful as our prized garden flowers when you look as them properly.



This is of  Helenium ‘Ruby Tuesday’ which is growing in my garden.  It is not quite as tall as other heleniums and the blooms are a richer red/dark orange.  It is one of those plants that are very popular for prairie planting with lots of ornamental grasses.  I noticed that I always seem to paint blue or pink flowers, so decided to try these for a change.  It was quite a challenge because  I do think it is easier to paint subjects you like  in colours that you like.





On-line learning

I have enrolled on an on-line watercolour course to hopefully broaden the scope of what I am able to paint.  For some time I have not been entirely happy about the finished painting – it did not jump off the page as I wanted it to.  At first I thought it was just more practice that was needed, but then felt maybe a change in direction!  When I saw the on-line course by Anna Mason, it seemed ideal.

The beauty of a course like this is that you can do it in your own time, the videos are like have your own personal tutor and all the other students are there to compare notes with and to express sympathy and encouragement.

When I have completed a lesson, I then do something similar of my own to try out the new techniques.  One lesson was a white flower, so I did this snowdrop…..



A clematis followed, so I chose a clematis from my own garden whose name I do not know, but luckily photographed last year…



So far so good.  I am pleased with the results.  It is making me think more about how I want the painting to look instead of just rushing in.

The lessons range from beginner, through intermediate to advanced which are really quite difficult.  This is where it is so helpful to have the backup of the ‘community’.  Another person’s comment can inspire you and get you back on track when you feel like throwing your work in the bin.

There are quite a few artists now offering on-line courses.  They vary a great deal in content and price, but I like the fact that I can do it for as long as I want, there are no deadlines to meet – therefore no pressure, and I can stop when I want.

I would love to hear if anyone else has tried one or is running one.


Colour is very important to me. What colour I wear can change my mood completely.  Here are some of the feelings I get from colour:

  • Brown – totally unable to function properly
  • Lilac – upbeat and capable
  • Blue – calm and assured
  • Green – uncertain
  • Lemon Yellow –  zingy
  • Red- confident

As a spinner, my handspun yarn only really comes to life after I have dyed it – that’s when I get the inspiration as to what to use the wool for.

Handspun Yarn

Handspun Yarn


At one time I only really grew flowers in the garden from the lilac, blue, pink range with white added (much the same as my choice of dye colours for my yarns).  That’s fine in the Spring, but as the season progresses there are more reds and yellows about and I think we feel the need for warmer, brighter colours.  I have now added heleniums, rudbeckias, dahlias and anthemis to my planting plans.

Helenium 'Ruby Tuesday'

Helenium ‘Ruby Tuesday’

Another plant I am growing for the first time this year is echinacea – the cone flower.  It comes in a range of new colours, but mine are all in shades of pink.  It is quite an architectural plant and definitely one to paint!  It will be quite a challenge to get just the right shade of pink as it is quite  bright when first opened, but dusky as it ages.  Thankfully it stays open for quite a long time, giving me a chance to hopefully do it justice.


I think perhaps our feelings for colour are a seasonal thing.  What do you think?  I would welcome your comments.