|Turk’s cap gourd, Cucurbita maxima © Shevaun Doherty 2012|
“Let the beauty of what you love be what you do”
Art makes me want to leap out of bed every morning and rush down to the studio to paint.
What started out as a keen interest in the natural world and a strong desire to create has grown into a full blown passion for botanical art. I really enjoy what I do.
“The object isn’t to make art, it’s to be in that wonderful state which makes art inevitable.”
When I first started out, I painted and drew anything that I found. I loved keeping a sketchbook (and still do), because it took away the need to create a finished piece and allowed me the freedom to experiment and play.
Over time, I discovered that there were colour palettes that called to me (oranges, reds and earth colours), whilst others (blues and purples) have been strangely neglected.
Even my choice of subjects has been a revelation. I’ve realised that flowers are not high on my list of Top Ten Things to Paint, although I love flowers. Those roses still await their turn on my table. My sketchbooks are instead filled with seedpods, pinecones, grasses and insects
But the thing that I enjoy painting most is FRUIT.
Above all I enjoy the challenge of getting the right colour mixes, and trying to capture the waxy bloom on the surface of the skin. All plants have this bloom, some more so than others You can see it quite clearly on fruit such as olives, plums and grapes.
For years people thought that this bloom was caused by wild yeast cells, but they have recently discovered that this bloom, or epicuticular wax, is part of the plant and has a very important role. It seals the plant and prevents water loss. It also reflects UV radiation and deters insects by making it difficult for them to walk on or lay eggs. Amazingly if the wax is accidently rubbed off the plant, it will grow back. Finally it helps the plant to self-clean, causing water to bead up and roll off, taking particles of dirt and dust with it. You can read more about this here
Bloom is also notoriously difficult to depict in watercolours, particularly when the use of white is so frowned upon. I know that some artists do mix a tiny bit of cobalt with white gouache and drybrush it on afterwards, but most (myself included) carefully paint the bloom first and build up the darker colours around it.
I also love the challenge of creating form… the illusion that you can reach out and pick it up off the page. When I first started painting botanicals, I remember feeling quite confused by the term “disappearing edges”, which is often used to describe how the surface of a fruit curves away from you. It took me a while to understand this concept, and how to paint it. A better way to describe this process is to say “bring the middle bit forward”, although admittedly that’s a bit of a mouthful!
To create this effect, you use warmer colours in the centre of the fruit, and build up the layers of transparent colours so that the middle part is the most saturated, leaving the paint around the edges is quite thin.
The best thing about painting fruit though is that they are patient. They sit and allow you to take your time, unlike the impatient flowers who are constantly changing their position and colour.
If you are interested in learning more, I will be giving a two day workshop on painting fruit on April 20thand 21st in my home. For more details please contact me on shevaun.doherty (at) gmail.com
“Fruits … like having their portrait painted. They seem to sit there and ask your forgiveness for fading. Their thought is given off with their perfumes. They come with all their scents, they speak of the fields they have left, the rain which has nourished them, the daybreaks they have seen.”