Friday, 18 December 2015

Oh Happy Day! New books!

I have to start with what happened yesterday - I finally received my self-Christmas-gift! Around three weeks ago I ordered "Botanical Sketchbook" by Mary Ann Scott with Margaret Stevens. A book is always a great gift. I was waiting for this particular book very impatiently, because I was very, very curious what is inside. And it totally blew me away! Can you imagine that I spent the whole day until 2 a.m. at night, not drinking, not eating, with an English-Polish dictionary next to me, reading this book?! And I read it from cover to cover! 

This is what we read on the back cover:
This is the story of Mary Ann Scott's development from enthusiastic amateur painter to supremely accomplished botanical artist, told through the paintings she produced for the Distance Learning Diploma Course run by the Society of Botanical Artists. Featuring work from every assignment she undertook, it offers a first hand account of the joys and challenges she faced as she progressed. Packed with practical advice, Botanical Sketchbook will serve as a guide and inspiration to anyone wanting to embark on life as a botanical artist."
It describes this book very well and I must add that it is just a must-have for everyone who is interested in botanical painting. I was fascinated not only by the detailed description of the whole Mary Ann Scott's journey through every assignment (I've found out how the Distance Learning Diploma Course works), but also by those just absolutely amazing paintings inside the book. I especially love all the pages from the sketchbook, all those color swatches with handwritten comments, which were a true pleasure to read. On the front cover there is a subtitle "A guide and inspiration for any botanical artist". This book is one of the most inspiring books I have, honestly. I was just hypnotized by every single page and I can truly recommend this book to everyone who hasn't got it yet. Satisfaction guaranteed! Here is a quick flick through:

This is not the end. Today we've had a small Chrismas Eve with my friends before we go to our hometowns for Christmas. And guess what... I was given another book! Billy Showell's "Watercolour fruit & vegetable portraits"! I'm in a half way of reading it now, but I just had to write this blogpost, because I'm so excited. Two wonderful books. I have previous books of Billy Showell. The only book about botanical painting in Poland (!) translated into Polish (!) is Billy Showell's "A-Z of Flower Portraits". This was my first ever book concerning botanical painting and I think Billy's style of painting has influenced me the most. Since then I started collecting other botanical painting related books, of course from abroad as we don't have any here. I have all three Billy's books now (and I'm already waiting for the new one which will be published in 2016, I can't wait).

Now, I have never painted any vegetable nor fruit. But again, Billy's book, as all of her books, is so inspiring, it has so many fantastic paintings inside, so many tips, techniques, explenations, that I just fell the urge to pick up my brush and paint a tomato from my fridge. All Billy's books are excellent, they are truly informative and I always recommend them to everyone who wants to start painting. Here is a quick flick through:

It's a real pity that all those wonderful books are not translated into Polish. But eventually, with a litlle help of the dictionary, I can read English versions. Maybe one day, if botanical painting will be more popular here, there will be a possibility to translate them and someone will publish them. As for now my little library of books about botanical painting is getting bigger:

I'm absolutely fascinated by botanical painting and I love books about it. 

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

The Big Brother lily - first washes

I've started my next painting with this big wonderful Big Broher lily. I've applied first washes on the buds of the lily. On one of the buds, the one on the right side, there is a butterfly. I don't know yet if I will paint it as a next step or I will leave it for later. Probably the second option is better, because on my palettes I have mixes of colors which I'm using to paint the lilies. I would like to keep them for other parts too.
It is always very surprising for me how many colors there are on, you might think, such a simple object. My buds are full of colors. I used yellow, greens, blues, pinks, violets and even Cobalt Turquoise Light (PG50) - the color that I bought but was not even sure that I would ever use it. And here it was very helpful (actually I'm using this color much often I would think).
Here are the three photos from the process. On the first one you can see the magnifying glass. I was using it to paint the details but I must say that it was not comfortable because the size of it is too small for me and the frame of it was quite annoying. I was able to see only a small area and I was focused on it but I like to see the whole part, because this way I can make better adjustments. Even so, I think that a magnifying glass is very helpful, especially that my sight is not really good. Instead of putting my nose very close to the paper I can sit straight and still see everything clearly. OK, I'm rumbilng. Here are the photos:

Friday, 11 December 2015

Big Brother lily and the Old World swallowtail butterfly

I'm preparing to my next painting. This time I've chosen the Big Brother lily and the Old World swallowtail butterfly. They both are so interesting!
I spotted the Big Brother lily (actually Lilium hybridum Big Brother Oriental Trumpet) last year when I was walking around with my camera to capture the beauty of the flowers near my parents home. I was just rooted to the spot when I saw this flower. It was huge, the flowers were the biggest lily flowers I had ever seen before. Moreover, I could smell it from a distance and I actually found her by following her fragrance. I took several dozen photos of it. Here is how it looked like:

I still remember how fascinated I was by it's beauty. At that time I just new that I would paint it one day. And here is the time.
I've read that this lily can get very tall (up to 2 meters), with blooms up to 35 cm in diameter. I think the one that I spotted was about 1,5 meters tall.
I'm still thinking which colors should I use for the petals. They are not really white, they have lemon yellow centres, but the petals have light-butter-like color. The colors will be challenging in this one, that's for sure.

I decided to place this flower in the center of the page with about 15 cm of stem with the leaves. On one leaf I want to paint a caterpillar of the Old World swallowtail butterfly and the adult butterfly on one of the buds. The butterfly is also known as the common yellow swallowtail or simply the swallowtail. That's interesting because in Poland (where it's very popular, like in most countries in Europe) it's called paź królowej, which in English literally means the queen's pageboy. Wikipedia also says that it's considered to be one of the most beautiful insects, which has become valuable prize for collectors.
Here is my initial ink sketch. Now I have to transfer it to watercolor paper and I'll be ready to pait. I can't wait! :)

Monday, 7 December 2015

Iris - video tutorial

A couple of days ago I painted this iris. I made a video tutorial how to paint it and it was the reason why I didn't paint as many details as I would normally paint. But I think it still can be categorised as botanical style. So, if you would like to see how I was painting it maybe give it a go, just check out the videos below.

Iris. Finished version.

The Great Mormon and Orchid Tree - finished

It was a long journey. But so pleasant! This is my second painting done for the Museums at Night 2016. I was asked to paint illustrations referring to Maria Sibylla Meriam's artworks. They will be exibited in May 2016. I hope I will have managed to paint five paintings by the time.

Scanned version.

Here are the photos from previous stages and the close-ups.

It was fascinating to learn more about the cycle of life of the Great Mormon. The caterpillar looks amazing.
Notice the way the chrysalis is hanging on the twig. It uses very very thin hair-like strand (I don't know how to name it).

Sunday, 22 November 2015

The Great Mormon video

I managed to finish the Great Mormon yesterday. It was my third butterfly in watercolor. And I have to say there is something special in a painting if an animal is in it. The painting somehow comes to life. Ive been always focused on painting plants but I had a great fun with painting butterflies or the latest cardinal bird. I think I'll add more animals in my paintings.

I was asked to record even a few minutes of how I'm painting this commision soo I took my camera and decided to record how I was painting this butterfly. Here it is. Take your time and relax while watching...

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Orchid Tree. Slow progress

I had a break from painting, but because of very tight deadlines I just had to make time for it. This part is very challenging for me because I don't have much experience in painting leaves (and I consider them very difficult to paint). And the leaves of Orchid Tree are quite complex. After finishing the first one I decided that I should practice with the leaves much more. 
There will be one more leaf here, a little bit bigger, but I'm going to leave it for later. My next step will be to paint the big butterfly sitting on one of the flowers.

Cardinal and Holly - video

Lately I made a series of videos of how to paint a Cardinal and Holly leaves and berries. Maybe someone is interested. If so, then there are links to the videos below.
This is the final painting:

PART 1 - Leaves

PART 2 - Berries

PART 3 - Cardinal part 1

PART 4 - Cardinal part 2

Monday, 19 October 2015

Brushes and orchid tree flowers

Unexpectedly yesterday I painted more than I thought I would paint. It's good, because I have a tight deadline and it will help me to spread my painting in time. 
Someone asked me yesterday which brand of brushes I'm using. In general in botanical painting I'm using Raphael 8408 series, #2, #4 and #6. I like them, because they have very very fine tip. Although I have to sincerely admit that sometimes that really long tip is a little bit troublesome. It ends with almost one hair, or two maybe, and sometimes it's difficult to release the paint from the brush, especially when you paint something really tiny. 
I wish I could try Winsor&Newton series 7 brushes as I've heared they are excellent. I have to save up for them.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

The Great Mormon and Orchid Tree

I've started a new commissioned botanical painting this week. This is the second one out of 3 or 5 (depending on how much time I'll have, but 3 at least). This time I decided to paint The Great Mormon (Papilio memnon) butterfly sitting on a flower of the Ochid Tree. I had a great pleasure to spot this butterfly while I was in Bali island in Indonesia last year. This butterfly was huge! It's wings were as big as my hands!
I took dozens of photos of course, because I knew that in the future I would paint it. And now I have this opportunity.

I asked people on entomology group for some additional information and I found out that this particular butterfly I spotted is a female form alcanor. Here's what I found on Wikipedia:

Female form alcanor:
  • Tailed. The sides of the abdomen are yellow.
  • Upperside forewing greyish brown with veins and streaks between them black. The cell is red at the base. There is a velvety black patch at the bases of veins 1 and 2 of the upperside forewing.
  • Upperside hindwing is black with part of the cell white. There are white streaks around it. The tornus is red with a large black spot. There is a row of red terminal spots between the vein.

It looked particularly beautiful with those magenta flowers of Orchid Tree, and I decided to paint it exactly the way how I saw it.

I started with the sketch of course. I added first pale washes on the petals of the flowers, and when they were dry I started adding more details. In my sketchbook I note down the colors I'm using. 

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Echium vulgare and Melitaea didyma - finished!

I have finally finished my illustration of Echium vulgare and Melitaea didyma. It was such a long journey! And it's just the beginning, because I have to paint at least two more illustrations like this one. I'm really excited, because they all will be exhibit during Museum at Nights 2016 events and it will be the first time when I show my paintings in real, not virtual, world.

This painting took me about two weeks. I stopped counting hours... I used Saunders Waterford HP paper, 140lb, 16" x 12". I can't wait to start another painting! :)

Echium and Melitaea, part 7

Hi! Today I finished the second imago of Melitaea didyma. In the next few photos you will see the progress.

I started with very pale wash of Naples Yellow Deep and added some orange parts with Translucent Orange and Hansa Yellow Medium.

Here I added some shadows. I mixed French Ultramarine with Naples Yellow Deep. 

Before I laid down the blacks on the butterfly's wings I had painted his head and body. Here I used white tempera mixed with various watercolor paints to paint hairs. At the bottom part of the body I used beautiful mix of Phthalo Blue Green Shade with Cobalt Turquoise Light.

Finally, I used my black (Perylene Green + Pyrrol Crimson) to paint dark patterns.

Now the whole painting looks like this. So only the flower on which the butterfly sits lasts.

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Echium and Melitaea, part 6

I finished a chrysalis of Melitaea didyma.

On a piece of paper I mixed white tempera with Indigo. I used this mix to add some highlights, which are barely visible. I also add pure white tempera to add clear white highlight spots.

Echium and Melitaea, part 5

Another stage finished. I managed to finish the left part of the butterfly and paint the caterpillar on the green leaves. In the next photos you can see my steps.

Here you can see already finished butterfly and the first stage of painting the caterpillar. I laid the first layer of oranges and grays. In the last photo you will see my sketchbook with colors that I used to paint the caterpillar. I started with the lightest colors, then I added blacks. 

This caterpillar was very time-consuming. All these wonderful dark patterns had to be painted very precisely. At this stage I realised that I can't finished this caterpillar. On it's body there are hundreds of little black hairs or spines. If I painted them now I wouldn't be able to paint the leaves around, because I could damage the spines, I could smudge them while painting leaves. That's why I had to paint leaves first and then come back to paint the spines. 

When the leaves were done I could go back to add those spines. And here it is!

Here's my sketchbook. I tested the colors for the caterpillar. I was sure I would use Translucent Orange (PO71) as it just matched here ideally. But I had to make it more sunny, so I added Hansa Yellow Deep (PY65). I would love to use here my old New Gamboge here (PY153) but unfortunately I don't have it anymore, and new New Gamboge is not made of PY153.
I also had to use some grays and it was easy decision, I just used Ultramarine Blue (PB29) with Burnt Sienna (PR101). They make perfect gray. There was also another color, quite strange and hard to call, something like very light brown, but gray at the same time. I mixed it using my gray and adding Naples Yellow Deep (PBr24). And for my blacks I used my great black which I mentioned about several times earlier: Perylene Green (PBk31) + Pyrrol Crimson (PR264).