Friday, 27 February 2009

Flowers in the Desert

The cactus mural is now getting very close to completion. Today I wanted to pull together a few things and add detail to some of the plants.

I began by working a little more into the sandy pebbly foreground. This was to give it a bit more 'finish' to my satisfaction! I have to be careful not to 'overfinish' things - but there was a little I needed to do here ...

I did the same on the left of the mural. The Aloe dichotoma needs detail on the leaves and also some moulding on the trunk. On the right of the Cereus the Aloe buhrii requires flowers.

I painted in detail in the leaf rosettes of the Aloe dichotoma using various colour mixes which I had used elsewhere in the painting. I also used an olive green mixed with Ultramarine Blue, Yellow Ochre, Cadmium Red Medium and some Titanium White.
For the Aloe buhrii flowers I used Cadmium Yellow Medium, Titanium White and a touch of Cadmium Red Medium.

I have been asked to paint two flowers on the Echinopsis pachanoi, so I decided where to position these. I initially tested them higher up on one of the middle sections, but this didn't look right, so I washed the wet paint off. (One of the conveniences of acrylic!)

I decided that the position I had chosen on the right of the Echinopsis was good, so I applied an underlay of Yellow Ochre mixed with Titanium white.

While this was drying, I worked a little more detail into the low trunk of the Cereus. Paler Yellow mixture was also added to the flowers of Aloe buhrii.

The ochre on the Echinopsis flowers had now dried, so I applied a layer of Titanium White, with just a tad of Yellow Ochre mixed in.

I will let this layer dry overnight before applying the details.

More detail was added to Aloe buhrii, defining the flowerheads.

The leaves of Aloe dichotoma were also worked into with more detail. Just before finishing for the day I firmed up my sketched in Agave americana, ready to put the details in tomorrow!
Cactus House Mural, University of Durham Botanic Garden

Glaucous and textured

It was time to add some of the glaucous colour and texture to the cacti! I applied a thin layer of Ultramarine Blue mixed with Yellow Ochre, Titanium White and a touch of Cadmium Yellow Medium to parts of the Echinopsis.

Above are two cuttings from Echinopsis pachanoi and Cereus jamacaru. They have been useful in determining the colour of the respective cacti and observing the different shapes. The Cereus is much more angular in cross section than the Echonopsis. Both have a glaucous bloom on their surfaces.

I added more layers of glaucous bloom onto the Echinopsis.

This reminded me of some photographs of trunks I had taken a couple of days ago here in the Botanic Garden. I took the above photo because of the setting sun just gleaming on the edge and the tremendous variation in colours and texture.

The trunk of the Prunus above has such contrasting effects of the shininess with the papery texture. I love the vibrant colour.

The papery edges look like fire when the light from the setting sun shines through them!

Back to the mural, and I work the glaucousness into the Cereus.

Next in line for textural treatment is the Opuntia Robusta. I had already prepared the effect, and now I added more raised texture by applying creamy coloured paint with a narrow bristle brush.

This close up shows the effect.

I had previously worked a little of the trunk and leaves of the Aloe dichotoma on the left, and now started to add more detail.

The long narrow leaves are in rosettes, and I created more depth by emphasising the leaves in the foreground, and adding more in the background in blue-green and mauvey colours.

The honey gold trunk has scales which are now worked in.

While the Aloe is drying, I add some spines to the Echinopsis. I flick these on with the edge of a narrow bristle brush.

In the background to the right of the Cereus is an Aloe buhrii, which was just hinted at. Now I work in some definition on its leaves and flowerheads.

I am pleased that there is a sense of depth emerging, and stand back to have a look at the whole. Time for tea! It's a nuisance having to eat when you're engrossed in a painting, but it'll be good to let it dry before doing any more ...

Cactus House Mural, University of Durham Botanic Garden

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

And more detail ...

Today I continued to work on the details of the foreground cacti.

Firstly I added some shadows in a blueish dark green. For this I used Ultramarine Blue, Cadmium Yellow Medium and Titanium White, neutralized with a little Burnt Umber.

I wanted to check out the areas on the cacti where they met the ground, as I know that the Cereus jamacaru and the Echinopsis pachanoi are very different at the base. The Cactus House has a couple of good specimens, so off I went.
On the way back from the Cactus House I met this little friend, who was somewhat shy and soon jumped under the hessian to hide!

In the Cactus House I had made some quick sketches confirming aspects of the cacti in question. I just used biro on lined reporter's pad, (Woolworths - quite a relic now!)

While we are on the subject of working tools, here are my paint pots! I cover these acrylic mixtures over with plastic film and bubble wrap at night so that they will not dry out.

My observations in the Cactus House enabled me to continue with the details, and as well as the bases of the cacti, I worked more detail into their shading and structure.

I like to work from vivid to less vivid. With these cacti I had underlaid hues of golden yellow, which I now brushed over with blueish green. Much more lively than just putting the blueish green on first!

The real life cacti are quite greyish in appearance. If I had painted them thus from the beginning, the effect would have been rather dead. By applying layers of complementary colours you create a vibrancy to the painting. More time-consuming, but much much better!

Lastly, before finishing for the day I added more detail into the prickly pear.

Cactus House Mural, University of Durham Botanic Garden

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Adding Detail

Today I started by working more into the forms of the rocks on the right, to bring in some mid tones.

The boulders on the left were also worked into. The mixture I used was more greyish than yesterday, still using Ultramarine Blue, Burnt Umber, Yellow Ochre and Titanium White. This softened the harsh contrasts between the light and shade.

My next task was to add detail to the cacti. Firstly I used a blueish green, with Cerulean Blue, Lemon Yellow, Titanium White and a touch of Burnt Umber, working into the shadow areas of the cactus.

Next I mixed a mid tone yellowish green, using Cadmium Yellow Medium, Ultramarine Blue, and a little of the grey I had used on the boulders, to tone it down. This was painted onto the barrel shaped cactus and the Cereus.

I began working on the spiny edges of the Echinopsis using a darker mixture of the same pigments. The highlights set in a lattice type pattern were in a cream colour mixed with Titanium White and Yellow Ochre.

The Prickly Pear was worked into with the earlier blueish green, using a dry-brush technique to suggest its texture.

It is always good to stand back and look at the effect of one's work from a distance. Especially when you get to notice a new giant waterlily flower opening beside you!

This was in bud about 15 minutes ago!

Below is a photograph which 'went wrong' ... I don't know what I did, it was supposed to be true to colour, but I rather like the green effect!

Cactus House Mural, Durham University Botanic Garden

Monday, 23 February 2009

Pleasant People and Water Lily Leaves

Sunday afternoon has a nice feel to it and today was no exception. There were a lot of visitors to my 'studio' glasshouse, and I had a very pleasant time indeed talking with them. Many had read about the mural on this blog, and were interested to see it in real life.

My painting task was to add some darker shadows to the boulders. I used Burnt Umber, Ultramarine Blue and a little Yellow Ochre and Titanium White.

I applied this colour sparsely to the crevices and lower edges of the boulders.
At present it looks rather stark, until I scumble and dry-brush in some medium tone to link the dark and light areas together. When I first used acrylics many years ago, I used to gasp in horror at this contrast - now I see in my mind what the next stage will be, so all is calm!

The above photograph was taken on Friday. Not being familiar with these lilies, I had wondered about the strange round orangey form that had appeared overnight. The close-up below shows its rolled edge and spiky appearance.

Today I was amazed to see a large new leaf!

It had a crumpled texture like seersucker fabric, and the spikes were just visible on the upturned edge.

I found it spell-binding. Looking at it closely was quite surreal, and I could imagine all kinds of artistic applications in multi media works! It is so awe-inspiring that this incredibly complex structure has grown over two-and-a-bit days ...