Saturday, 25 June 2016

Carnation (video) and Arches Hot Press paper test

In my previous post I discussed briefly my most helpful reds. This time I would like to take a closer look at Arches HP paper. I used this paper to paint a carnation which I finished yesterday:

It was last year or even a year before when someone gave me Arches HP paper for testing. I did some tests, very simple tests, which already showed that Arches HP would not be my favorite paper. I don't know if I got a bad batch then or I had a bad time but painting on Arches HP was just terrible. 

Some time ago I got a block of Arches HP again. It was on my drawer for quite a long time but I decided to see how it would work for me now. I know there have been some issues with Fabriano Artistico paper lately and many botanical artist test other papers. I personally still love Fabriano and I have never had any problems with it.

Oh, speaking about Fabriano. Some of you probably have seen the video made by Eunike Nugroho (this video). Two spots came out on the paper while she was painting. I don't know if it is connected anyhow, but two weeks ago I started drawing zendalas on Fabriano Artistico (you can see 3 videos if you like: zendala 1, zendala 2, zendala 3). When I looked at a sheet of Fabriano against the light to check a watermark I noticed white round spots. It immediately reminded me of Eunike's spots. So maybe it's worth checking if there are those spots before we start painting. I can't check if this spot would somehow affect the painting because I have a zendala there. Just a little observation.

Let's come back to Arches. I used this block:

Before I started to paint a carnation I did some color tests. I also wanted to practise before I start something more serious. What I noticed was that on Arches paper paint didn't cover an area evenly. The colors looked as if they had been covered with a chalk. It is probably not really clear in the photos, but here is Arches:

and here is Fabriano Artistico:

On Fabriano colors seem to be stronger and washes are more even. This upset me, because I remember similar situation with Winsor&Newton CP paper. 

I did more practice and it turned out that when I applied more water at the beginning (much more water) the washes later looked really good and even. It seems that Arches likes water.

Arches is also a very smooth paper, much smoother than Saunders Waterford HP. The only thing I can complain about is the creamy color of Arches. Fabriano Artistico Extra White is really extra white next to Arches


I surprised myself and I really like Arches. 
  • The colors eventually look really well, they are very bright and strong, just as I like. 
  • Painting wet-on-wet is really nice, paint spreads out evenly with a soft edge. 
  • It is easy to lift out the paint as well. 
  • Edges are crisp. 
  • The surface is very smooth.
  • The paper cockles less than Fabriano Artistico
  • As I mentioned before, the only thing that I can complain about is the color of the paper, but it doesn't bother me much. 
All in all, I think it's a very good paper. Painting on it is a pleasure and it can be a good alternative to other papers if there's a need. I'm very happy with my painting on Arches. The flower is 20 cm high (8").


In case you were interested in colors which I used:
I've also made a video of how I was painting it. It's in to parts: part 1, part 2.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Looking for the right reds

Two days ago I started a small painting of a red carnation. At the beginning I was quite sure I would use mostly Winsor Red PR254 to paint it but then I realized that I got stuck in a trap of coming back to the same red every time. Whenever I had to paint something red, the first red that came to my mind was always Winsor Red. This time it turned out that the red I needed was completely different from Winsor Red. And what's worse - I didn't have the right one on my palette. 

At firt, I started to mix colors which I had on my palette. I thought maybe this time I would try the optical mixing method. I decided to test Arches HP paper (this will be the subject of another post). I painted spots of different colors: Permanent Rose, Translucent Orange, Quinacridone Red, Winsor Red, Perylene Maroon and Quinacridone Magenta. Once they dried, I applied the second layer of Winsor Red and I checked out what I got:

I got various reds, but none of them was even close to the one I was looking for. So I opened my box with paints and I took my color swatches. It turned out that among my tubes of watercolors I had Pyrrole Red Light which I had opened only once when I painted a swatch. I looked at the swatch and... it was exactly what I was looking for!

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Billy Showell's new book!

Today's post is all about Billy Showell's new book "Botanical Painting in Watercolour". I was given it as a birthday gift and I was really, really surprised, because I'd been waiting for this book since I'd learned about it but my online bookstore says that the premiere is to be on July. But I already have it!

Of course I spent all day yesterday reading it and admiring all those beautiful paintings inside. I have all four books by Billy and all of them are just pure perfection. The newest one is no exception. 

For me Billy is very special because I started my botanical journey from her book "A-Z of Flower Portraits". It is the only book about botanical painting here in Poland and of course still the only one in Polish. I learned so much from it and I was eager to learn more so I bought her other books abroad + two DVDs. Every time I learned something new and my paintings were getting better. 

"Botanical Painting in Watercolour" is Billy's fourth book and I thought nothing would surprise me. But it did. I found new tips, new techniques, new information which I will definitely implement in my paintings.

The book has 192 pages and it's square which is very nice change. There are dozens of excellent photos inside. I love every single book by Billy because they are very neat and all photos and illustrations are of very high quality so it's very easy to see details and understand everything. Not to mention, that there are many photos of each stage and they are described in concise language, without unnecessary details. The language is easy to understand even for non-native-English speakers like me.

The content is divided into 16 chapters + Introduction, Glossary and Index. Each page is beautifully decorated with Billy's paintings or, as in the first chapter, photos of materials. The chapters are: Materials, Getting started, Working from life, Observation, Drawing, Using brush, Painting techniques, Troubleshooting, Painting detail, Adding pattern, Creating texture, Painting multi-headed flowers, Painting from enlarged photographs, Colour and colour mixing, Composition, Stretching and finishing.

Billy provides us with a lot of useful information, such as how to keep fresh items fresh, how to observe a plant, how to transfer a sketch onto watercolor paper, how to stretch paper and so on. 

The heart of the book for me is the techniques of painting. Billy explains everything very clearly showing us everything on the photos. This book is like a great encyclopedia of watercolor techniques useful in botanical painting. 

We learn how to use a brush properly, what effects we can achieve, what obstacles can occur and how to deal with them. I specially like the "Adding pattern" and "Creating texture" chapters. The first one begins with stunning roses with lovely pattern.

We can also find information about colors. The chapter is divided into several parts, each part is dedicated to different colors. The one shown below is about blacks.

I think that this book is just excellent for everyone, specially those who wants to start painting in botanical style. All the neccessary information can be found there. I would recommend this book to everyone without a second thought.

Here's my "Billy's collection". Unfortunately, Polish edition of "A-Z of Flower Portraits" looks terrible when compared with English edition and I think I will buy English edition because it's really worth it. 

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Mission completed!

I'm very happy to announce that today I've completed my mission! Five paintings for the Museums at Night 2016 in Gdańsk are ready to go. Tomorrow I'm going to deliver them to Gdańsk.

The last part of the painting was the Giant Atlas Moth (Attacus Atlas) which is the largest moth in the world. I just couldn't wait to start painting it because it is so spectacular. The ornaments on the wings are like a big jigsaw puzzle. 

I wanted to know something more about this moth and I came across some super interesting facts about it (source). Let me quote some of them:
1. It's the largest moth in the world in terms of wing surface area.
Ready for this? The wingspan of a female Atlas Moth can reach up to 12 inches with a surface area of 62 square inches. Go ahead and hold up a ruler … that’s one big bug. 
2. The word “atlas” in its name has many meanings, referring to its “mapped” patterns, “titanic” size, and the snake-tipped edges of its wings.
Many see the word “Atlas” as a reference to the bold and distinct lines that form the map-like pattern found on its wings, the different colors representing different geological formations.
A second theory is based on Greek mythology. The moth is said to be named after “Atlas,” the Titan condemned by Zeus to hold the sky upon his shoulders. The reference is more about the large size of the moth than the idea that they are bearing some sort of burden.
Lastly, in China, the Cantonese name for the moth translates into “snake’s head moth,” referring to the outer tips of the wings that look very similar to the head of a snake. You can see this very clearly in just about every photo of an Atlas Moth.
While all three theories have some ground to stand on, we think the Chinese are most on-point in their observation. Those tips sure do look like snakes! 
3. Once they emerge from their cocoons, atlas moths have a very short lifespan. 
After spending about a month in their cocoons, Atlas Moths emerge as the beautiful creatures we’ve been describing above. Unfortunately, this state is short lived as the adult moths typically die within a week or two of spreading their wings.
I really like the Chinese observation. At first I didn't even notice it but the outer tips of the wings do look like a snake's head. 

Here are some close-ups. For the moth I used a lot of Perylene Maroon PR179 and mostly four browns that I have on my palette: Gold Ochre PY42, Burnt Sienna 101, Raw Umber PBr7, Burnt Umber PBr7. For the white dots I used white tempera.

And the final painting:

Finally, I was able to frame all five paintings. 

In addition, I designed and printed business cards with my paintings.

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Almost there...

My deadline is so close and today I just had to sit down and paint no matter what. This post will be very short, I just wanted to show you what I did.

I finished the leaves, althought I think I will apply one more final glaze over the leaves on the right side. They were supposed to be more shiny but I could't get this effect. Now I see they are too blue and one more unifying glaze over it should enhance it a bit. Unfortunately, in the photos the leaves look quite differently than the original. In fact they are darker.

I also took off the masking fluid from the eggs and painted them with a mix of Winsor Red Deep + Permanent Rose + some browns mostly for the main light parts and for the darker spots in the middle I used Perylene Maroon with Quinacridone Magenta and some brown + some Transparent Orange and very dark mix of French Ultramarine + Burnt Sienna + a bit of Quinacridone Purple in the centre. 

There is also this little guy at the bottom. I painted this leaf because I wanted to add the pupa of the Atlas moth somewhere and this idea seemed to be a good one. 

Now I only have to paint the moth and it will be finished. I can't wait to frame my 5 paintings and see them. I'll take a photo of them all and let you know! :)


Sunday, 1 May 2016

Juicy greens + pink tulip video

It's not a secret that my favourite color is green. Therefore, the painting that I'm working on now is very pleasing to my eyes. I finished hairy rambutans and I moved on. My next step was this fascinating fourth instar caterpillar of the Giant Atlas Moth. I've seen many photos and videos of this moth life cycle and I can honestly say that it's absolutely amazing. One of my favourite videos is made by Adam Grochowalski from Poland and you can watch it here if you like.

The fourth instar caterpillar is covered with white powder. Firstly, I painted the whole caterpillar and then I used white tempera to add powder on its body.

I placed eggs on the leaves and I masked it with masking fluid. This way I was able to paint the leaves without worrying about the little round shapes. Three days last with masking fluid on the paper and I took it off from one egg just to see whether I would have a problem or not. It came off easily without tearing the paper so I left the rest of it just in case. I'll come back to them when I finish the leaves.

Basically, I'm using three greens here:
1) Permanent Sap Green (PG36, PY110, Winsor&Newton)
2) a mix of Permanent Sap Green and Quinacridone Gold (PO49, Daniel Smith)
3) a mix of those from point 2 + French Ultramarine to make it darker. 

My three favourite and basic greens are Winsor Green (Blue Shade and Yellow Shade) and Permanent Sap Green. I use them as my base to make other greens. I like to add French Ultramarine or Winsor Red Deep to make them darker. I also love Quinacridone Gold in my green mixes. I've found it makes beautiful greens with blues.  

Here is a little tip. I don't have a brush holder and usually I lay my brush on a tissue but I noticed that the bristles sometimes deform. I took a little cardboard box in which I kept my business cards and cut out triange shapes on both sides. Now my brushes are laying still and the bristles are straight. 

I also made a video of a pink tulip lately. You can see it on my YouTube channel if you like (click here).

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Tribute to Maria Sibylla Merian

As some of you may know I am preparing several paintings to Museums at Night events. The leading theme of Museums at Night 2016 at PAN Biblioteka Gdańska (see the video) is mainly concentrated on flowers and plants perpetuated in various library materials – manuscripts, early printed books and botanical illustrations. 

I've been asked to paint several paintings referring to Maria Sibylla Merian's artworks. I've done four paintings so far and the other day I started the last one. I think this one is the most complicated and I think I was not aware, when I was choosing the subject, that the deadline is so close...

For the last painting I chose the Giant Atlas Moth in the various stages of development. At first I wanted to paint an orchid which I have in my room but I started to read about the Giant Atlas Moth and I found out that it lives in the Malay Archipelago. I was surprised because it evoked my memories from my two trips to Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. Then I read that this species feed on a variety of plants including Rambutan Tree. I realized that when I was in Malaysia I took many photos of the leaves of this tree as well as the fruits. I thought it would be a great idea to show the Moth with the Rambutan.

Here's my sketch. I placed the eggs on the leaves. Newly hatched caterpillar is at the same twig where the eggs are. Older caterpillar is crawling on the twig. I also sketched one more leaf below and placed the pupa there. The adult moth is in the bottom left corner. The whole painting will be in contrasting colors: reds, browns and greens.

Do you know why they are called rambutans? The word "rambut" in Indonesian and Malaysian languages means... hair. Here is one of the photos I took in Kuala Lumpur:

I started with one opened rambutan. At the beginning I painted each section at a time as I normally do but I realized that it would take me ages to finish it and I kept in mind my deadline. 

I decided to paint the whole fruit in a different way. I applied yellow ends on the hairs. Rambutans start out green, then turn red, orange, or yellow as they ripen. The hair-like "spines" are green when the rambutan is fresh picked, but later they turn yellow and then black.

I applied red on the skin. I used Winsor Red PR254 which I found the most suitable here. It's a very strong red. 

For the shadows of this red I used a mix of the same red with Winsor Green (Blue Shade) PG7 or in some parts Winsor Red Deep PR264.

The second rambutan I painted in the same order. I started with applying the colors on the ends of the spines. Here I used more green.

Then I was gradually adding reds on the skin.

And this is the stage where I am now. I'm in a half of the second rambutan. This painting so far has taken me about 15 hours including the sketch. 

Friday, 11 March 2016

Crimson Spark

My next painting is finished, yay! The leaves took me much less time than I had expected. Unfortunately, I don't have photos from the process, because I was so stressed while painting that I just forgot about my camera. Not a big loss, though. I just used several layers of greens. 

I used two basic greens: light and dark. My light green was a mix of Winsor Green (Yellow Shade) + Quinacridone Gold. My dark green was a mix of my light green mix + Ultramarine Blue. Sometimes I also added Winsor Red Deep just to neutralize the greens a bit. 

I wanted to name this painting differently. I always give very simple names to my paintings, usually I just call a spade a spade. In this case I would probably call it "Three Tulips" or something equally boring. This time I called it "Crimson Spark". 


This is my fourth painting that will be shown during Museums at Nights festival in Gdańsk. If I manage to paint one more I will be very happy.

Here is also a video promoting Museum at Nights festival in Gdańsk. I was asked to make this video, although my video editing skills are lousy. Take a look if you like and of course feel invited to this festival :)

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Tulips - one step further

Yesterday I managed to complete the three tulip flowers. Now only leaves left and it will be finished. In the images below you can see the process of painting one of the flowers. 

I already have shadows on the petals. I applied them at the very beginning and it was my first step. Shadow color was a mix of either Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Sienna or Ultramarine Violet and warm yellow, depending which area I was painting.

In the next step of the process, I applied a very light wash of Winsor Red to indicate where my reds would be. 

Next, I added more layers of Winsor Red (approximately four). Once it dried, I added darker reds using Winsor Red Deep. At this stage I also strenghtened my shadows.

Finally, I added stamens, the pistil, red border of the petals and little marks on the petals. In the next stage I will add leaves.