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Home2010Making it Work

Making it Work

How wonderful it is to return once more to the routine of my studio after the break! 
Iris foetidissima seeds on vellum… almost there!
 Alas, my Iris foetidissima seed heads didn’t  fare too well in my absence. The lovely orange seeds have lost much their plump juiciness, the crispy husks have darkened, and the leaves are really only fit for the compost heap. Fortunately I took a few photographs at the start of my set up, and so the painting continues using both the sad looking iris and the photographs. However I am pleased with how the painting is progressing.

ALWAYS take a photograph at the beginning of a painting!

Photographs are undeniably a great resource and so useful as a back up, but they can never be a substitute for the real thing. I much prefer to work from life. You can see and understand so much more from your subject when it’s sitting in front of you.

Using Artistic Licence to Make it Work

Very often you will find that the only way to paint a plant is to use a several different specimens of your chosen plant and combine them.  One plant might have a fantastic flower, but no buds, another might have some really super leaves but no flowers. Or, as in the case with my Iris seed heads, the seeds are still there (just about) but the foliage is completely beyond rescue! Photographs are useful, but they won’t help you in this. It’s much better to have a selection of plants in front of you and to use a little bit of  artistic licence to create the perfect specimen.
Ceiba speciosa, Silk floss tree 2010
The Ceiba speciosa painting above was one where I had to use a lot of artistic licence to make it work. It’s a beautiful flowering tree that grows everywhere in Egypt. Unfortunately as soon as it flowers, it begins to lose it’s leaves, and I really wanted to show both the leaves and the flowers in this painting. 
A Ceiba flower in Egypt and some dying leaves
 At the time that I was painting this, Egypt was having a mini heatwave, and everything that I picked was wilting within a few hours. It was a nightmare! I managed to find a tree that had both it’s leaves and it’s flowers, and every day I set out early to get fresh cuttings. I started by drawing out the main stem, noting where the leaves and flowers should be, and then it was just a matter of trying to find a similar plant part each day to match up. 

Flower by flower, leaf by leaf, I completed this painting. Photographs would not have done because this perfect specimen only existed in my head.
So back to my iris… I am almost finished (at last!!) The photographic references have helped me with the berries, but I am going to have to seek out some fresher foliage this weekend and try to select leaves that will add elegance and interest to the composition. Sometimes you have to take a few liberties to make it work!

“Even in front of nature one must compose.” Edgar Degas

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