Category Archives: Inspiration

Visiting horses at the World Horse Welfare Centre

Under an azure blue sky with House Martins darting darting here and there in the late summer warmth, I spent the morning at the World Horse Welfare Centre at Snetterton in Norfolk.  http://www,worldhorsewelfare.org

 

Horses, ponies and donkeys come here when in need.  They are rescued, cared for and rehomed after rehabilitation.  The work of the organisation, whose president is the Princess Royal, can range from giving advice to owners through to court cases for cruelty.

During a walk around the paddocks you may encounter many different equines.  Hall Farm can be home to up to 104 horses at any one time.  There differences in size, colour and personalities are all represented.

My visit was part of an event organised by my local art group.  Members can sit and draw or paint anything that inspires them.  My own aim was to take photos as my  style is very detailed and considered.  This does not gel with animals continually on the move.

I took many photos;  some horses ignored me, carried on grazing, they’d seen it all before.  Others came over to see what was going on and came much too close to photograph!  It was lovely to stroke their soft, velvety noses though.

I had a lovely morning – the weather was glorious, the surroundings idyllic, and the atmosphere very calming.  I also have many photos to work from over the coming months – looking forward to that!

Thanks to the staff of World Horse Welfare for opening it doors to us on a non-public opening day!

 

 

“Ask me to show you poetry in motion and I will show you a horse.”

~ Author Unknown

 

 

May Inspiration

“All things seem possible in May”  Edwin Way Teale

May is here and everything is bursting into bloom. Growth is exuberant, a time of blossom, hope and optimism.  There are so many flowers in the garden which inspire an artist to paint, but where to start?  What is it that particularly draws the inspiration?  I have been trying to understand.

In the past I have noticed most of my paintings seem to be of pink, lilac or blue flowers.  Very seldom do I pick out a yellow, orange or red bloom as I wander round searching for my next project.  But not every pink, lilac or blue flowers get considered.  Why not?  What next?  Perhaps how it catches the light.  This is very important in the finished composition as it adds depth and quality and brings the painting to life.

Size – it is not always the biggest and blousiest blooms that appeal.  Some of the smallest florets have the most amazing detail and the only limit to the finished size of the picture is your own imagination (except of course if it is to be a botanical illustration, when the dimensions must be scientifically accurate).

So to sum up, I think what attracts me is:

  • colour
  • sufficient contrast in the lights and darks
  • clean lines – I have found I do not like too much information, simple and uncluttered works best for me
  • interesting focal points – there has to be something to draw your eye into the picture.
Geranium robustum

Geranium robustum

This geranium seems to fit all my criteria.  I have it growing alongside a path in my garden and it always makes me smile as I pass when it is in flower.  I love the colour and the white centres make it really stunning as it is such a prolific flowerer.

I would love to hear what draws you to a particular subject to paint.

 

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.

Amaryllis

Amaryllis

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

 

 

Time to Stand and Stare

I read Katherine Tyrell’s blog today on the her ’10 golden rules for every busy artist’ and it got me thinking.  We all struggle to allow ourselves time to do what we want, when there is so much that needs doing.  However I do think there is a balance.  The things that need doing are so much easier when personal satisfaction has been achieved by doing the things we want to do!
On my personal list I would put – allow myself time to think or rather let my mind wander.  That is when I find I am at my most creative or inspired.  We have so much “noise” and “traffic” from computers, radios and televisions going on in our heads now that original thought is sometimes difficult to grasp.  I have a picture in my mind of Mel Gibson in the film ‘What women want’ when all the thoughts of women passing by are entering his brain.  He looks as if his brain is about to explode.  I think we all feel like that sometimes…so….. 
WHAT is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?—
No time to stand beneath the boughs,
And stare as long as sheep and cows:
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass:
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night:
No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance:
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began?
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.               Wiliam Henry Davies
This is a very well cited poem, but nevertheless relevant.  I often recite it to myself, but rarely do it.
Changing the subject I have at last opened a shop on Etsy.  I have had it in mind for a while now but there is quite a lot of new ‘learning’ to do to understand the system.  At present I have only two items in my shop, but hope to increase as I get better at photographing etc.  It is all taking an inordinate amount of time at the moment.  Please have a look if you have time.  I would also really appreciate any  comments you might have.
And finally, a picture to leave you with of pink phlox growing in my garden…..
 

Phlox

 

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!  www.empower-yourself-with-color-psychology.com

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.

Rhododendron

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 www.suzannehullwilson.com) 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! 

chrishaywood31

June 16, 2014

Isn’t it amazing what the eye sees and how that is translated in the brain?  At art group this week we were talking about how useful coffee breaks are.  Just that break from your work for a few minutes is enough to give you a fresh perspective on it.  I find when I am working from photos I will carefully paint in the shadows and emphasize the light, but whilst I am working on it, it still remains a flat piece of paper as I look at it.  However, after 10 minutes or so when I return, there is the beginnings of a three dimensional object on the page!  I can now “see” the flower and judge how much more depth or light is needed, whereas before the break I would have kept laying on washes in a vain attempt to bring it to life.  It has to be said though, that it is still a flat piece of paper!

I don’t know how much of this is down to having a fresh perspective and how much is simply the paint drying as this does make a lot of difference with watercolour.  One thing I do know is it is immensely valuable.

Another useful trick I find when assessing my work is to scan it and view it on the computer.  This seems to put a distance between ‘my painting‘ and ‘a piece of art on the computer screen‘.  It just feels more impersonal and I can then make better judgements.  Composition is something I find quite difficult and I have often added another leaf or a bud using this method.  All in the mind I know, but what does it matter if it works?

I have added a few more cards to my collection.  I am pleased with how they have turned out and so far they seem to be going quite well.  I have added a DL size this time (long and thin if, like me, you are not familiar with the term).  This size suits the foxglove as it cuts down the amount of white space on the card.  The others are all C6.

Cards Available page 2 alt

 

Here’s hoping that my current painting has turned into a masterpiece whilst I have been writing this!

Having been away on holiday for a week I have not had the opportunity to paint much just lately.  However my thoughts have been free to wander at will and inspiration for new paintings is brimming over.  The only thing is now Spring is here everything is growing again.  As I work as a gardener and have my own garden to tend, I now have less time to paint!  Such is life!

I found another bonus from going away for a week.  The composition of the painting I had been working on beforehand didn’t seem to be working and I couldn’t see what to do.  It is of an azalea from a photo of my own plant.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

The photo didn’t have enough detail in it except for the main flower so I was struggling a bit.  Returning to it this week I could see that it needed a detailed bud behind the flower to balance the picture. The one in the background is not visible enough for me to paint from.  I have now been able to add leaves and a gap for the bud, which I should be able to do in a few weeks time when the original plant comes into flower again.

Meanwhile I have been spending time looking at other botanical artists work on their websites and blogs.  There is such a wealth of beautiful paintings out there.  Mostly I feel inspired by it, but if my own painting is not going too well it can have the adverse effect!  There is a lot to learn from looking at other styles and techniques, some of which you can incorporate into your own work.

 

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…..

Snowdrop

Snowdrop

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

Clematis

Clematis

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.