Tuesday, March 12, 2013

How to Paint a vase of Flowers
with waterproof ink and watercolour

Setting the scene
1. Make sure you like the surface it's on - I don't like if it's crumpled (much) or too elaborate as you've usually had enough by the time you come to the end of the flowers. Then again, that can make for a very rushed tablecloth or whatever, and that can be lovely.
2. Do you like the jug or vase? Will it set off the flowers nicely? Choose one you like. A jam jar can be gorgeous, if it's clean.
3. Are the flowers sitting nicely? Then begin...

Positioning the subject on the page
1. Even if I don't do much in the way of pencil sketching, I always make sure the subject will fit on the page as I'm always leaving too little room. So I rough out a shape in pencil.
2. I do rough ovals for the flower heads, and rough leaf shapes, and a nice rough jug or vase shape.
3. Here's the crucial bit.
Look, and look again, and again. In fact, you won't stop looking for so much as five seconds until you're done. The answers are not in your head, they are on the page. Don't bother photographing your subject, because the answers aren't there either.

Finding the answers
Ah...but what are the questions?
Here are a few:
What shape are those leaves?
How does that one relate to that one?
Is that stem in front of or behind that one?
These can be drawn in a 2B pencil but with a very light line - no gouging heavy black lines on to the page because...
(a) they will be impossible to remove
(b) if they're wrong, they will make the picture look horrible, especially if you can't remove them (see (a) above)
So, where are we? We are looking, and determining, and looking, and paying attention, and not looking for answers in our heads, but in the subject in front of us.

Inking your lines
When you are happy that you have a more or less correct rough pencil shape, it is time to switch media.
I use a waterproof Carbon black cartridge pen by Pelikan. It has a nice smooth nib, which is vital for fluid lines.
This is the tricky bit. It's easy for me because I am very confident but the pencil line will lend you this confidence, especially if it's correct.
A word about correct lines:
All the lines occur in their own space and as long as you don't move them they have a fixed position with reference to the line next to them. It's up to you to look carefully and make sure they are in the right place.
There is NO SUBSTITUTE for a correct line. No amount of splashing pretty bits of colour around, no gimmicky techniques, nothing will make up for a wrong line.
"But I can't get my line right," you say. There's only one reason for that - you're not looking hard enough.
Start with just the one flower. Try drawing it a few times till you start to improve. A whole jugful might be a little strenuous.
Good news: it doesn't matter at all if you make a mistake. heaven knows why, but it doesn't seem to make the drawing look worse...AS LONG AS you paint only the correct one. You must tell the viewer which one is the correct one.

In the end you should have a really nice drawing in ink, and it should be good-looking enough for you to think, "Will I bother painting it?"

Tomorrow: Painting it

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Cottage in Maree, Co. Galway, early Spring
It was a very cold afternoon. A young boy of about 12 footered about tending his sheep, wearing a pair of navy overalls, in a field across from me and my fellow sketcher, Fiona. Eventually he fiddled with a few things near us and then he struck up conversation. "Wooooowww," he said. "Do you like to draw?" I asked him. "Yes, but I can't draw like that," he said, and added, "I did a project on that cottage." This was great: I might find out something about it. "Well, what can you tell me?" I asked. He thought about it and said, "The old man who lives there is eighty. He has never looked through another window nor walked through another door." I wondered what on earth he meant. He struggled slightly to explain but eventually I realised he meant that he had lived there all his life. "And he has never sat at another kitchen table," he added."That must have been a well-made table," I commented, rather lamely. Anyway he was charming.

The lambs were adorable and their mothers were very nervous. The babies leaped over hillocks and generally expressed their joy to be alive. The old man made a few brief appearances and walked around the outside a bit. If only my place was as immaculate as his. He has good neighbours: two ladies called into him while I was there and his daughter did too (I found out who everyone was from one of the good neighbours, who was happy to stop and chat.) I told the nice neighbour that I would be making prints and that I would drop one into her, and one into the old man in the cottage. Better get onto it so.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Hyacinths and Tulips
Hyacinths and tulips...just before they opened fully.

A day or two later.
It is always a pleasure to paint seasonal flowers, and these were no exception. I bought them in a German multinational to put on the chest of drawers in the bedroom in which my parents would be staying for a few days. Then I immediately took them away and told my mother that I needed them to paint, and anyway, weren't they better to be enjoyed by everyone?