Swallow

Summer Visitors

As I write we have less than two weeks left of summer here in the northern hemisphere.  Autumn officially begins on 22nd September this year and you can already feel the beginnings of change.  The light is starting to mellow from the harsher sunlight of summer and the foliage on some trees is starting to change.

We count ourselves very lucky to have a pair of swifts come every year to raise a brood under our roof edge, but they have long since left to spend their winter in Africa.  Their arrival in the Spring is awaited with great anticipation – will they make it this year?  It is such a relief when they finally arrive and a joy to see them swooping and screaming through the air on summer evenings.

Swallows no longer seem to be attracted to our part of the village but I could not resist painting one after having seen several in the air round me as I worked one day.

They are still around but it is a sign that summer is finally over when they begin to congregate on the telegraph wires in preparation for their long flight south.

 

Tawny Owl

Owl Experience

In May we went for an ‘Owl Experience’ at  Baytree Owl and Wildlife Centre in Lincolnshire.  We were booked for one person to ‘experience’ and one person to observe.  I was the observer with my camera.  Although I am not very proficient at photography I just wanted to capture an owl with personality that I could paint.

We met a selection of different owls from the very small one named Frost – a white faced owl with a huge personality – to the very large Eurasian Eagle Owl.  It was a fascinating day – I hadn’t thought about what a large range of owls there are in the world.  Throughout the visit we learnt such a lot about the lifestyle and habit of the owls and even saw many of the young that are reared there.  Unfortunately I couldn’t make a note of the names of all the owls we saw (lack of organisation on my part) but here are a few of the photos:-

There were also many other owls which flew on different days that we could see in their pens.  Of these I managed to photograph a very obliging Tawny Owl who posed for me very nicely.

 

It was definitely a day to remember and well worth a visit.

 

Crocus

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.

Snowdrops

Snowdrops

Tulip

Tulip

 

 

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

Irises

 

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

 

Painting Again!

I’m still having internet problems!  At least now its not a problem of no internet, just very, very slow internet.  It is very frustrating and makes you realise how much you have come to depend on it.

I have been having a lovely time lately.  Gardening work ceases for me at the end of December and doesn’t begin until March so I can concentrate more on my painting.  Having more time means that more thought goes into a painting and in my case I try to give more attention to composition.  This has always been difficult for me as I am too impatient when I have an idea of what I would like to paint.  I know it is best to plan a painting carefully, but if I am enthused by an idea I usually plough straight in and worry about the setting later.  This usually results in either too little space or too much to put in a realistic background.

Feeding the garden birds in winter is such a joy as you get wide a variety of birds on the feeders.  I have been watching some coal tits and decided to paint them as they waited in the ornamental cherry tree which hangs over our garden from next door.

Coal Tits on a Cherry Tree

Coal Tits on a Cherry Tree

They are such lovely birds, as are the long-tailed tits which come in gangs about 4 o’clock in the afternoon almost smothering the fat ball holder

Long-tailed tit

Long-tailed tit

One bird I hadn’t seen this winter was the Greater Spotted Woodpecker, but at last today it was there on the peanuts.  It is such a magnificent creature, although the other birds  do not seem to appreciate it.  They all keep well away when the woodpecker is around.

GS Woodpecker done

Greater Spotted Woodpecker

The warmer weather this year seems to have had an effect on the winter visitors.  I have seen no bramblings or siskins on the feeders.  Such a shame!

 

 

 

Robins and Others!

I have not posted for a while as I have been unable to get internet access for almost seven weeks!!  This has been quite difficult as it made me realise how much I have come to rely on it.

I do a lot of research on line before I start a painting, for ideas and to make sure I have the details correct. It is interesting to see how other artists approach a subject and whilst it may not be your style, it can lead your imagination on to other ideas.

Blogs are another thing I have missed.  I read a lot of other blogs, particularly those on botanical art.  Some are factual, which helps and inspires the learning process, and some are friendly chat about all things botanical.  Painting can be quite a lonely business and it is lovely to feel that there are other people out there with the same issues as you.

I have recently become interested in painting birds.   I have always loved watching birds and would like to be able to catch their character in watercolour.  Once I have painted the eyes in it brings the painting to life.  Depicting feathers is quite a challenge, but I have found plenty of advice from other bloggers.

Robin

This Robin was my first attempt

Blue Tits

Blue Tits came next

Wren

and then the Wren

I apologise for the brevity of this post, but I am not totally confident that my internet connection is now Ok and I wanted to make sure I had posted.

 

 

 

Join in the Big Butterfly Count

Butterfly PosterIt is time for the Big Butterfly Count in the UK.  It runs from 17th July to 9th August and the general public are asked to get involved.  All you have to do is count the butterflies you see during a fifteen minute period at any sunny spot you choose.  This gives an idea of the state of the environment and is a really fun and educational thing to do.  I have done it twice now, downloading the identification chart from www.bigbutterflycount.orgButterfly ID and have learnt a lot about the different species.  The first time I took my dogs for a walk along a nearby track to the forest and was amazed by the amount of small brown butterflies I saw.  Without the identification chart I wouldn’t have been able to tell what sort they were.  Some meadow browns, speckled woods and gatekeepers that I had never identified before, with the flowers of the blackberry brambles being very attractive to them.

Red Admirals

Red Admirals as Asters

The second year I decided to count the butterflies in my garden.  I have planted lots of butterfly and insect friendly plants in my garden, so I was hoping for a lot of different ones.  However I was a little disappointed to find they were mainly peacocks, red admirals and cabbage whites with smaller amounts of commas and small tortoiseshell.  (Quite a lot really, but the identification chart makes you aspire to greater things!)

Isn’t it always the case that when you want to see something it is never there!  To be fair though some species and just not around at this time of year.  The orange-tip flies very early, in the Spring.

Orange-Tip

Orange-Tip

The large blue is a very beautiful butterfly, but one of the rarest in the UK as its life cycle depends on the grubs of the red ant.  This makes them very vulnerable.

Large Blue

Large Blue

If you are interested in butterflies and haven’t joined in with the count, have a go this year!

 

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.

 

Selling at a Craft Market

I love doing craft markets, fairs and fetes and so on because it gives me the opportunity to talk with like-minded people about the things that really interest me.  I have done a lot of plant stalls where I also sell my greetings cards, but last week I went to a Makers’ Market at the Parish Church in the nearby town of Fakenham.

My stall was predominately made up my artwork, but with spring flowering plants also included to add an extra dimension and to enhance the display.

Usual Plant Stall

Usual Plant Stall

New Improved Stall

I love designing a stall and was so pleased to receive several comments on how pretty it looked – great when that’s the look I was going for.  There are so many interesting people who stop by to talk, I wonder if they realise how much this means to stallholders.  I know it is difficult not to feel that you have to buy something when you stop, but it can also be of great help.  Other people will often feel more comfortable stopping at a stall if there is someone there already and they may buy something!

It was a very enjoyable and worthwhile morning, the organisers were very welcoming, the other stallholders really friendly and the range of crafts diverse and high quality.  To anyone who is nervous about attending a market I would definately say ‘Have a Go!’

 

 

Show your artwork

I have not posted for a while ~ life as they say got in the way.  I have been very busy getting ready for an art exhibition at a local gallery and a makers’ market at a nearby town.  It is not so much the amount of work involved that has stopped me blogging, but the fact that these two things seem to have taken over my brain.  There is so much to plan that I find myself thinking of ideas when I should be doing other things. Happily planning is now almost complete ready for the two events next weekend.

The art exhibition is at a beautiful little gallery in Watton, Norfolk called the Dragonfly Gallery where the welcome is warm and the vibes are inspiring.  The exhibition is called ‘Spring is in the Air’ and is mixed media.  There are 16 East Anglian artists taking part.  These are the four watercolours I will be showing:

Tulip

Tulip

Snowdrops

Snowdrops

Crocus

Crocus

Apple Blossom Time

Apple Blossom Time

They are all in simple off-white 10 x 8 frames and I am hoping they will make a nice colourful display together.

The Makers’ Market in Fakenham, Norfolk has taken a lot more planning as I decided to virtually redesign my whole stall.

Fakenham Makers' Market

Fakenham Makers’ Market

It is to be next weekend so I will save that information for another time.  I would love to hear your experiences of craft markets!

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!