Sunday, May 12, 2013

Perfect Partners

Going through my reference photos for the millionth time, a photo I took at Longleat House caught my eye.  I don't know why something that I've previously passed over suddenly shouts "Paint me!", but it happens all the time, maybe as my style evolves I become more adept at adapting promising references into good paintings?

This time it was a photo of a herbaceous border with red poppies and purple allium, I played with a few different compositions in thumbnail sketches and finally decided to have the poppies in the foreground with a diagonal sweep, and alliums in the background.

Perfect Partners
Watercolour, 15" x 11"

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Birth of a Watercolour - how I painted Blueberry Fizz

Last week I treated myself to a bunch of blue anemones.  I think they're my new favourite flowers with their velvety petals and amazing blue colour.  I set about trying out colours in quick sketches and discovered that W&N Smalt combined with cobalt violet were perfect, and the granulation of both pigments was beautiful.  

Blueberry Fizz - watercolour, 15" x 11"Not for sale

Starting with a simple drawing to guide me, I added some tiny spots of masking to reserve a few highlights and, once that was dry, wet the paper before dropping in colour.  Remember the pencil lines were only there to guide me, the wet paper allowed the pigment to spread and soften edges.

Then it was simply a case of building colour and form, working on individual petals by wetting then adding more pigment.

 Purple/blue flowers can easily look flat and lifeless, but my choice of pigments helped to keep things lively. I used some ultramarine and quin. magenta for darker areas on the petals, always being careful to allow textures to show through the washes.

 Now the detail in the centre, bringing in one more colour.  Indanthrene blue was perfect for the dark centre, and texture was added by sprinkling a little salt in the wet wash.

I had one more decision to make...... what about the stem?  The flower needed some form of support, but the yellow-green stem would have looked incongruous among the blues and violets.  I decided  to suggest a gently curved stem with a purple wash, hard edged on one side and fading out so there is no edge on the other side.  Done!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

I've been spending more time working from life recently, it's a challenge but I've found it easier to paint directly from life than drawing first.... I have more freedom with a paintbrush, pencils are too static and restrictive.

I bought a bunch of wonderful parrot tulips, they're amazing to paint!  All the frills and flounces would have taken me hours to draw accurately, so I dampened the paper and started adding colour, developing the curves and ruffles as I went.  I'm quite pleased with how it turned out!

Orange Parrots - ©Ruth S HarrisWatercolour, 15" x  11"

Monday, March 04, 2013

If in doubt, try a crop!

This was painted last month, around Valentine's Day, so of course it had to be called "Roses are Red".  I've been doing more work without drawing recently, it allows me to enjoy placing the brushstrokes without any boundaries.

I started this as a quarter sheet but the left side wasn't working, so it's now cropped to a 9.5" square and I like the modern feel that gives to the painting.

Roses are Red - 9.5" x 9.5", watercolour on paper ©Ruth S Harris

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Papery Poppies

I needed some red after all the yellow daffodils, so back to poppies!  When I started I intended to only paint a few poppies and leave the background white, but it evolved and turned into a small, square wildflower meadow with an out of focus background.  I'm really happy with how the poppies turned out, especially the focal poppy.  I think the secret of papery petals is lots of water and careful brushstrokes, keeping washes fluid and light.

©Ruth S Harris - Poppy Meadow - Watercolour, 7.25" x 7.5"

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A bunch of daffodils

One bunch of daffodils can provide inspiration for many sketches!

First, the whole bunch...

Birthday Daffodils - © Ruth S Harris 2013
Watercolour 15" x 11"
Then single flowers...
Single Daff from life #1 - ©Ruth S Harris 2013
Watercolour 5.5" x 7.5"

Single Daff from life #2 - ©Ruth S Harris 2013
Watercolour 5.5" x 7.5"

Single Daff from life #3 - ©Ruth S Harris 2013
Watercolour 5.5" x 7.5"

It's great practice at painting from life, with different angles presenting different challenges.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Dreaming of Spring

This has been the longest winter ever, or at least it feels that way!  We seemed to jump from spring last year straight to autumn and winter, no summer at all, which is incredibly depressing.  Now it's February and thoughts turn again to spring and daffodils.

Dreaming of Spring - watercolour, 11" x 15"

©Ruth S Harris

Dreaming of Spring - detail©Ruth S Harris

This painting is currently available to buy from my shop

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

January Inspiration

I don't know whether it's because of the enforced break from painting over Christmas, but January seems to be my most experimental and inspired month!  Last January I painted Cosmic Poppies, which went on to win the SAA Amateur Artist of the Year award, this week I've painted this, White Windflowers, and it's not at all like my usual work!

White Windflowers - watercolour, 15" x 11" $150
So 2013 is off to a good start, let's hope I can keep the energy flowing!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Another year over

 Another three month gap between posts.... I'm ashamed, forgive my neglect!

It has been a busy few months, lots of painting, framing, selling - it's hard to keep up with everything and unfortunately this blog suffered, as well as my Christmas cards which were never sent.

Poppies were a recurring theme, these two captured the papery petals perfectly!

Opening Day - Watercolour, 15" x 11" SOLD

Poppy Trio - Watercolour, 15" x 7" SOLD

More of the small format, square florals which look amazing in beech or white 12" square frames!

Lacy Days - Watercolour, 7" x 7"
£40/$80 US (painting only)

Anemones - Watercolour, 7" x 7"
£40/$80 US (painting only)
A couple of tall, narrow format florals for a change...

Tall Daisies - Watercolour, 5.5" x 15"
                           Glad Rags - Watercolour, 7" x 14"
Then the purple clematis in my garden caught my eye, I had fun with lots of colour and water!
The President - Watercolour, 11" x 15"

The President #2 - Watercolour, 15" x 11"

There was then a series of small format work aimed at the affordable gifts market, with a wide range of subjects.

As the year ends I'm taking stock, thinking about what I want to achieve next year.  I need to spend more time painting, paint more animals in particular, and I'm also going to try something completely different - block prints - hopefully that will inspire me in my watercolours too!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

My paintings in a book!

For a while I've wanted to make a portfolio of my work which I can show to galleries or interested people and I've finally done it!  The whole process was relatively painless although it took far longer than I imagined it would, but now I have a beautiful book full of my favourite paintings.  Even better, I've made it available for everyone to buy and already sold two copies!

Have a look and let me know what you think.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Small but beautifully formed...

I've been working on more small watercolours this year, it just seemed sensible in the current economic climate, we're all struggling to make ends meet for one reason or another.  I found the ideal size for ease of framing was 7.5" square which frames beautifully in a 12" square, so I set to work on a series.

Essence of  Summer, 7.5" x 7.5"
Purple Haze, 7.5" x 7.5"
Pond Peas, 7.5" x 7.5"
Red Day Lily. 7.5" x 7.5"
"Essence of Summer" and "Red Day Lily" are both displayed in the Kington Gallery.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Irises update

Is it really 3 months since I posted here?  I owe you all a huge update!

Although it has been a long time the irises haven't progressed much.... this is as far as I got before other things drew my attention.

It's still waiting for me to paint the last iris on the right.... one day!

Over the coming days I'll share what else I've been up to over summer.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Irises in progress

Inspired by the incredible work of Rosie Sanders I decided to start a large (half sheet) watercolour of the bearded irises in my garden.  The background will be the white of the paper which is a challenge in itself!  The first image is a detail showing where I'm up to so far, the other three are progress images showing the whole thing.  So far, so good!

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Poppy play (WIP)

The poppies are still looking amazing in my garden, the bright red flowers shouting "PAINT ME!!!"  It would be rude not to!

I'm enjoying a basically analogous palette for most of my paintings at the moment, loving the way red and pink interact, and that was the starting point for this watercolour.  I've become more and more comfortable with hot pressed paper, finally enjoying the way the pigment slides around on the surface, and the bonus of amazingly vibrant colour!

Here's the final painting and then three progress images.
Fiesta - 15" x 11" watercolour on hot pressed paper

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Poppies are Popping

My garden has been giving me a treat with red poppies really putting on a show in the sun.  Yesterday I sat out for about an hour and sketched them with charcoal, then moved inside to play with colour.

First the charcoal sketch, I tried to get good contrast tonally, something that isn't easy with red so this exercise helped me later.

Poppies - charcoal sketch

Now the first play with colour to choose a palette.

Poppy - colour study
Then this morning I tried to use what I learned in a fun, loose painting.  Choice of paper was important, I wanted to keep the looseness of the colour study, so I chose hot pressed fabriano artistico extra white.  I am really happy with the result!

Some Like it Hot - 15" x 11", watercolour on Fabriano HP

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A rare landscape

I don't really know why but I rarely feel like painting landscapes and this has led to me being out of practice with them.  Today I thought of a photo I'd taken several years ago and decided to have a go, partly to see whether my technique and style had developed the way my floral work has, and partly just for a change!

I went small, 7.5" square, an used a large brush for most of it, only picking up the small brush for the detail towards the end.  I think it worked out pretty well, loose without being messy and I didn't overwork it..... what do you think?

Symonds Yat - a birds Wye view

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Last Year's Iris

We're suffering miserable spring weather in the UK at the moment, it has been cold and wet and miserable and I think the flowers are sulking!  I went through my photos from previous springs and found a lovely iris to cheer me up.  Finances being tight at the moment I need to sell more and figured small work would be more affordable, so I'm working on a series of small square works.... fingers crossed this strategy works!

Square Dance - 7.5" x 7.5", watercolour on Fabriano Artistico extra white paper
Buy Square Dance

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Spring Inspiration

I think spring is my favourite season, almost all of my favourite flowers show up at this time of year and the inspiration is wonderful.  Flowers that appear later in the year just don't have the same appeal to me, I much prefer cheerful little primroses to blousy roses, I love the frills and flounces of irises but dahlias leave me a bit cold.  I keep searching for late summer flowers which will give me the same thrill of excitement but so far I search in vain.

Here's one of the earliest spring flowers, the glorious magnolia stellata which has the most amazing shape and is tough enough to stand up to the late snow showers and frosts.  I'll be honest, white flowers aren't my favourites, I prefer colour, but if you look closely you see yellows and pinks and blues within the white petals.

Magnolia Stellata - 15" x 11", watercolour on Fabriano Artistico extra white

This morning I see the first iris opening in the garden and I've been painting last years flowers, anticipating the thrill of seeing each new bud burst..... I love spring!

Monday, May 07, 2012

Exciting News!

I've had some amazing, exciting news recently which I wanted to share with my blog friends.  My painting "Cosmic Poppies" has won the SAA Amateur Artist of the Year award for 2012!  The news came in a phone call from the Chairman of the Society for All Artists and to say I was speechless would be an understatement, in fact I'm not ashamed to admit that I cried tears of joy for the whole day!

This is a huge honour for me, I have never, ever won anything before, and this was only the second time I entered the SAA competition..... the first time I didn't even get anything shortlisted.  My prizes are an engraved goblet and £100 for art materials, plus my painting will be featured in the SAA members magazine "Paint" in July with a short interview.

I realise you've all seen this before but here it is again, my award-winning watercolour!
Cosmic Poppies - Watercolour on paper, 15" x 11"

Saturday, April 21, 2012

So much for my promise!

More than a month has passed since my last post, how useless am I??

As promised, my experiments first.  I decided to try to use some of the paper which was otherwise wasted on my failed paintings, so I obliterated one disaster with gesso and set to work with more watercolour.  It's a great exercise in loosening up and it was fun!

Mellow Yellow - Watercolour on Gesso, 15" x 11"     

Gesso allows you to build up texture and you can also lift pigment right back to the white of the gesso so if you don't like something, just wet it and lift off!  It's not something I'll do every day, but as a fun exercise it's well worth trying occasionally.