Tuesday, 17 February 2009

First Steps into a Desert ...

I do love a blank canvas - or as on this occasion - a blank panel! A lovely smooth white surface just waiting to be painted on ...
The light in the glasshouse is quite bright, and the pure white gesso panel very glaring. Fortunately I have my sunglasses with me!
Before commencing painting, I like to stand and look at my 'canvas' from all angles, to familiarise myself with its shape and size.
It is not often that I paint on a panel with a fascinating collection of plants right behind it! And this is the first 'studio' I've worked in where there is a giant raised lilypond right behind me ...
The enormous leaves gleam bronze in the overhead light, and I marvel at their patterns.

One beautiful lily is open. What an inspiring place to work!

Time to begin! First of all I look at my design, which I have printed onto a sheet of A4 paper as a guide.

I have sketched in a simple grid based on the four upright panels, with a division half way down.

I mix some Titanium White and Yellow Ochre acrylic paint to sketch in the positions of the cacti and mountains. This is brushed on quite thinly so that I can make adjustments. Working swiftly I use rhythmic brushstrokes to impart a liveliness to the composition, frquently standing back to see the design as a whole.
Next I lay in the first coat of the sky. This is applied using a sponge, which I scumble in lightly. My colours are Titanium White, Cerulean Blue and a little Yellow Ochre.
You can see the scumbled effect of the sponge in this close-up. I will leave this to dry, and come back to lay in some of the lighter gradations of the lower sky.
Time for a cup of tea!

But not until I have stood back and looked again and again from a distance ...
And paused to admire the new house for stick insects which is being built behind me as I paint!

Durham University Botanic Garden

Ingrid Sylvestre

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