I have spent most of today scanning images and completing the posts from my UK trip. I have been back one day and am still feeling completely disorientated but I am almost up to date now with the blog.
There are just a couple sketches left .. the first one is of the beautiful little panel of stained glass that was set into the window of my room at West Dean. Having so recently seen all the Tiffany glass in the Orlando museum this old glass is is quite different, fine and delicate by comparison. I think the panel has been assembled from fragments of old glass as the pieces don’t seem to fit well within the leading. I always sleep with the curtains open because I love summer mornings and each morning this strange enigmatic figure playing its silent music was the first thing I saw. This mournful angel or saint with its delicate curls and sad mouth is accompanied by symbols of building of some kind and a flaming sun. It is quite beautiful. I wanted to paint it in order just to look at it more closely, more than that would be a waste of time I think. It is impossible to improve on the original.
The other sketch is of a lovely chunk of flint that I found on the path by the woods. Flint makes up much of the fabric of the buildings here. It is irresistibly drawable with its black smooth heart, the chalky white coating and bleached bone sculptural form.
These are two items which I would have happily put in my suitcase… there were many others.
Glass and Stone
Today I will be travelling back to Florida. Its Bank Holiday Monday and its raining here in the Uk. My two days in London have been lovely and fun. No drawing done but I still have quite a few sketches to post from my trip.
There is not much spare time at West Dean as the courses are quite intensive, but to take a break from the close and detailed work I made some sketches outside in the beautiful walled garden here. The shapes of the espaliered and supported fruit trees really appealed to me and I made some quick loose charcoal sketches. Also of some forcing pots in the rhubarb patch and a cyprus branch. It’s a long way from botanical painting but a good loosening up exercise. Of course now, having done these, I feel I want to get back to the oil painting… “when she’s in she wants to be out, and when she’s out she want to be in”….
Walled Garden Sketches
There are some wonderful plants in the glass houses and some glorious leaves that I really wanted to draw but there was just not enough time. There is also not enough room to draw in the glass houses and appropriating leaves without permission is not a good idea. However I always feel that fallen leaves are fair game and I found these little curly leaves from the “Aeschyanthus twister” on the bench top. They have a great rhythm and line.
Two more leaves, a lime with paddle like bract with fruit. and a huge red oak leaf.. all of 8 inches high.
Aeschyanthus Twister, Lime and Oak
The last day at West Dean and I am so sorry to be leaving. It is the most beautiful place and I am thinking of stowing away in an attic room.. I could help clear the tables .. they would never notice.
I spent the morning finishing off the leaf and packing and taking some more photos of the park and the gardens. Yesterday as a break we did a quick and very useful exercise, working out of doors to collect information for a study to be completed indoors. There are times when you cannot pick the plant or flower that you intend to work on, so it is essential to be able to make studies in the field.
We had an hour to make a good tonal sketch with water soluble pencil and then, without using pencil a colour study. The theory is that you should be able to make a good finished painting with this information. ( I w0uld take photos as well! )
The self seeded oriental poppy I chose was quite impossible to colour match in the brilliant sunshine, its vivid orange-red petals so very vibrant. I don’t think I have ever seen a painting that has ever really captured this colour…. to be honest nature’s colours usually have the edge over any painting. The artist has to bring something else to the image.
The course has been excellent and fun, and I hope I will be able to put some of Sandrine’s beautiful and apparently effortless technique into good use.
You can see some of her lovley work on her website here Sandrinemaugy.co.uk and she is a regular contributor to the Artists and Illustrator’s magazine.
Oriental Poppy Sketches
Today I move on to the calla lily, Zantedeschia black, but just the leaf. Bearing in mind that when I return to Florida I will have only 4 weeks to prepare the next unit of the SBA course, which is 8 leaves in watercolour, I need some practice.
This plant is big and very handsome, and so are its spotty leaves. In considering how to do this I decide that I will have to use some masking fluid for the spots, so drawing, tracing and masking takes most of the morning… (hesitating is also filling up lots of my time at the moment too!)
The full size of the leaf is too big for the sketchbook and is, in its finished state, about 14 inches tall. It is a very beautiful curvy shape and I am creating some nice opportunities for light and shade which I then manage to obliterate with some clumsy colour work.. maybe wet in wet is not for me.. but I persevere and I am not too unhappy with my first botanical leaf.
Leaf of Calla Lily, Zantedeschia Black
Here at West Dean there are many Hart’s Tongue ferns tucked away in corners of the gardens and more up along the forest walk where I went today on my day between courses. I walked for about two hours over the downs, through forests and fields, towards Trundle Hill following a bridle path which hugs the old flint walls of West Dean College. These little ferns are so pretty and the curly shape of the new ribbon-like fronds is lovely to draw. Unusual among ferns for its broad leaf the Latin name is “Phyllitis scolopendrium”. Scolopendrium means ‘centipede-like’ and refers to the spores or sori that develop under the leaves in lines that look like little centipedes.
The new and unfolding leaves of ferns are referred to as fiddleheads.. you can see why below!
Harts Tongue Fern
I have arrived at lovely West Dean College in West Sussex, for a short course on Botany for Artists with Liz Leech, followed by a Botanical Painting course with Sandrine Maugy.
How to describe West Dean? Well here is their own description ..
“West Dean College is a unique community, a creative and rich mixture of artists and craftspeople, conservators and restorers, working alongside gardeners, farmers, foresters and builders. Managed by The Edward James Foundation, a charitable trust, West Dean is located in an area of outstanding natural beauty in south-east England “
It’s all true, at least in my opinion.
It is a wonderful place to stay and learn and create. Once home of the eccentric Edward James, supporter of the Surrealist movement and creator of the strange Las Pozas garden in Mexico recently featured on Monty Don’s, Around the World in 80 Gardens. This will be my second visit and I feel very lucky to be able to spend a whole week here. It will rush by and I must try to concentrate on the work rather than wander about the beautiful gardens and parkland which is a great temptation.
The rooms are all different and this time I have a very pretty room with an old leaded glass window, looking out onto the little church at the back of the main house.
Go to their website here for more information on courses, Edward James and the house and grounds.
I arrived early, so after a walk around I went to visit the Sussex Barn Gallery which is currently hosting a very interesting ceramics exhibition of Felicity Aylieff’s huge porcelain structures, which are experimental, vital, and bold. Up to three metres in height they are also very impressive. Felicity Aylieff took a residency from August to December 2006 at the Pottery Workshop Experimental Factory in Jingdezhen working with a family business of ceramicists specialising in making ‘Big Ware’, enormous traditionally-formed and decorated porcelain vases. The large cylindrical pots are worked with traditional pigments in expressive surface painting, carved surfaces and transfers sometimes over-painting using Chinese calligraphy brushes. They are quite beautiful and sympathetic to the rural setting here at West Dean.
I particularly liked the surface of this one with both carved and drawn motifs.