Tag Archives: inspiration

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!


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.


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…..



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 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! 

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.




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.


New Year’s Inspiration

I have been reading other artists’ blogs about their new year’s resolutions and found them really inspiring.  It is easy to sit down and paint something in my comfort zone and not push myself to try something new.  But that way I don’t learn anything.  I could spend time painting and then put all the paintings away, never to see the light of day again.  But then there’s no drive and sense of achievement..

I received a very good book for Christmas – ‘The Artist’s Guide’ by Jackie Battenfield.  It is written primarily with the American artist in mind, but from page 1 I was hooked.  It is full of inspiration and really sound advice for both experienced artists and those just starting out.  Initially there are a lot of mental exercises to do to clarify your thoughts on what you actually want to do.  ‘Become a successful Artist’ will just not do!  However I do draw the line at writing my own obituary!  I would recommend it to anyone wishing to do something more with their art.

On the crest of this wave of inspiration I have taken steps to have two of my paintings giclee printed.  This is something I have wanted to do for a while but kept putting it off.


I chose this because I was pleased with the composition and the architectural quality.


This is my current painting

Both paintings were done on Hahnemuhle 300gsm HP.  This was relatively new to me and I found it quite difficult and unforgiving at first.  However, when it came to adding the detail I liked it.  Initially it sucked up the paint before I was ready, but after a few layers it was very easy to manipulate.  The prints are to be of Hahnemuhle Photo Rag so should work well.  


At last I have finished my Echinacea painting.  I seem to have been working on this forever, but in reality it is only a few weeks.  This is because I have only been able to spend a short time painting each time I sit down.  Luckily I have been working from photos I took of one of my own plants, so the amount of time taken did not matter.  Also I am still at the stage where I need plenty of ‘thinking time’ when I am working on a subject.  What appears right one day will look totally different the next!

Echinacea or Cone Flower became popular with garden designer Piet Oudolf’s style of prairie planting.  Perennials and grasses are planted in large drifts and look absolutely stunning, but I was struck by the bold lines and simplicity of this one on its own.

Echinacea 2

I had meant to photograph all the stages of painting but became so engrossed that I forgot!


And so to the finished painting…


This is the largest painting I have attempted so far, being 17″ x 12″, and I did find it quite difficult to handle.  I usually work flat, or at a slight angle, on a table and this made for quite a stretch to reach the top of the painting.  Just another part of the learning process!

I went to a demonstration by the Norfolk watercolour artist Martin Sexton this week at a local art group.  It is fascinating to watch an artist at work and see the picture take shape.  He has a very relaxed approach to demonstrating and makes you feel totally at ease, welcoming all questions, however simple.  Although I do not usually paint landscapes, I found it very inspiring and picked up a few tips along the way.