Saturday, April 30, 2011

Barbarea vulgaris

The afternoon turned dark and wind-chilled as I set out after my unknown little plant. In mind was that just yesterday as I walked towards the main entrance of work that I'd passed by dozens of my mystery plant sprouting from the lawn. Was I being taunted, I wondered.

Today I was greeted by a field full of specimens in flower! Unlike my earlier find, these has very little purple in stem and leaf. 

Once home, with images loaded and my browser pointed to the Connecticut Botanical Society, the identification was made in seconds. Barbarea vulgaris, commonly named Bittercress, Yellow Rocketcress, and on and on.

Notice the four-petaled flower that Mike advised I watch for. And, he was spot on suspecting this was a member of the Mustard family. Well done, and many thanks, Mike! And thanks go out to Gretchen as well for all her scouting work!

From The Entomologist:

"I was walking this afternoon beside the Blackwater, a small stream which flows through our valley, when I observed a common hive bee hanging, as I supposed, by the abdomen, from the blossom of a yellow cress, which is abundant there, Barbarea vulgaris. Accordingly, I picked the blossom and examined it more closely, as the position of the bee was peculiar, and I did not think it was dead. As it did not move, I at first thought it must have been detained a prisoner by some viscid fluid peculiar to the plant. I found, however, that in reality it was being tightly held by the falces of a bright yellow spider, so exactly the colour of the yellow blossom of the Barbarea vulgaris that at first (1 know something of botany) I mistook the yellow legs of a spider for the multifid stigma of the blossom."

Newman, Edward, The Entomologist: an illustrated journal of general entomology, Volume 5.  London, 1870-1. 315. Web. Google Book Search. 30 Apr 2011.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Egg Tempera Vinca

Trying to get into the swing of things with egg tempera. The big no-no is applying another layer before the last is dry. Notice my holes on leaf tips. I was applying light washes of alternating blue and green, developing some shadowing. Just like that, whoosh! All the layers were gone!

There's a saying with egg tempera, "Make haste slowly."

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Egg Play

Yesterday I stopped in at the local farm for a dozen fresh eggs. Last evening I collected all my pigments and recorded into the laptop, just so I know what I really have. (I really have a lot of pigments!)

It's been a long time since working with egg tempera. Right after this photo, the yolk got away from me, breaking the membrane. I dumped the whole mess into my jar and I have to be careful when making up my mixes. If this was going to be a serious piece, I'd have dumped the egg and started over.

Just a bit of quick play here for working back the feeling for this medium. Now it's time to pull my egg tempera books off the shelf for some good reads.

Apologies for Blogger misbehaving today, all of a sudden comment posting failed. After a bit of poking about, it seems that popup commenting was the culprit. Changing to embedded comments looks to be a proper fix.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

I'm Stumped

I've spent a good deal of time thumbing through my books and googling about, all for naught. This little plant, about 6" tall, is proving a challenge. Does anyone know what we have here?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Closeups of Familiars

One thing I like about nature photography is the surprises that appear on the monitor screen. Not until just before uploading did I notice how the ray flowers are opening in a progressive fashion. Somehow I imagined that they all pop at once.

On most of my lake walks I pass by a row of white pines and so notice the development of yearly growth. Here is the very beginning of five radial buds surrounding a central bud. These will extend out over the season to form another year of pine needle covered branches, the needles in packets of five.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Whitlow Grass

So very easy to overlook is the lovely little Whitlow Grass, Draba verna, already in flower and building seed pods.

From The Sylvan Year by Philip Gilbert Hamerton published in 1876:

The note of the following extract from 'The Flower and the Leaf' may, it is true, seem delicate and tender rather than passionate, yet its tenderness is passion in repose :

'When shoures sweet of raine descended soft,
Causing the grounde fele times and oft
Up for to give many an wholesome aire,
And every plaine was clothed faire

'With new grene, and maketh small floures
To springen here and there in field and mede,
So very good and wholesome be the shoures

That it renueth what was old and dede
In winter time; and out of every sede
Springeth the hearbe, so that every wight
Of this season waxeth glad and light.'

If from the 'small floures' of Chaucer we descend to particulars, and ask of what 'small floures' the verse at once reminds us, I think we can hardly fail to remember the common Draba, or Draba verna, which is both small and early, and as pretty in its elegant humility as many little plants that happen to be more popularly known. Tiny as it is, with stalks just strong enough to carry its little pods and flowers, and not burdened by any leaves, for they lie on the ground about its root, it still has an appreciable effect on the color of an April foreground, which it powders with white like a hailshower, and even at a distance it will make the green of a pasture grayer. The power of small plants in the coloring of landscape is often forced upon the attention of artists, and there are many remarkable examples of it in different parts of the world. The Draba does not strike the eye as it would if the flower were scarlet or bright blue, but it has its influence nevertheless as a moderator of crude greens.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Pussy Willow Blooms

Sunny, warm, and a light breeze--a perfect day to poke about looking for photos.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Vinca - Composition

I'm wrapping up my composition. I'll add third stalk tomorrow with a fresh sample detailing a flower in rear view. I think that will be it--simple, with lots of open space to lend a delicate nature. There could be some movement of the stalks during a transfer. For instance, I might rotate the left stalk a few degrees clockwise.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Vinca - More Skteches

I began this evening with a few little thumbnails, just to think about possible layouts.

And then I got back to a few more sketches. Sketching is becoming a lot of fun. I try to forget about looking at leaves and simply see the shapes and the spacings between them.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Vinca - Test Sketches

I took a few closeup selective sketches to become more familiar with this little plant. After the first few, I can let up a bit on the mental editing and just let them flow. Not always easy to do!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Vinca in the Box

Yesterday I potted up a bit of Vinca for indoor study. It sure looked shabby last night but by morning had perked up considerably. This evening it was positively beaming.

I love the elegant twists of the stems...

A few stems. A flower almost straight on, another profiled, and a third as bud. That is how I roughly envision my composition. I want to fall back to pencil as I try to put this all together.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Vinca - First Leaves

Here's a bit of a composite--a graphite sketch transferred to watercolor paper with my vinca green mix. I first used the Quin Orange mix but had difficulty getting dark enough so back to Cad Orange I went. Deep, rich green then came easily.

Most veining is a result of razor knife scratching. Also experimented with lifting to simulate highlights.

It's rough but I'm having fun seeing the pieces come together. I suppose I'll be in this iterative loop of improving sketches and coloring. I'll bet the flowers would really kick against these greens!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Vinca - Green Studies

I'm reminded of my earlier work with Blue and Yellow Don't Make Green. I'd placed all my charts in plastic holders in a binder for easy review. Surprisingly, I found few greens that would  help--most were too clean and saturated.

Now for my little tests...

As expected, a mixture using Quinacridone Gold instead of Cadmium Orange lent to transparency. The resulting greens are quite similar.

Many artists don't use green at all but mix from blues and yellows so I thought I'd try that here. Not bad, reasonable, but a bit limited in range.

Also read that sometimes siennas are used. Although labeled as burnt sienna, this is really raw. Again, somewhat reasonable. Below is our same Thalo Green Yellow Shade, this time with Dioxazine Violet. This mix went straight to bluish and very dark. Useful in its place but not here.

And lastly, our same green mixed with Cadmium Yellow. Really too close to yellow to veer off the desaturated path.

These exercises have been most useful. I feel like there is hope for getting at least close to the coloring of Vinca leaves. I have concentrated on the tops but I don't expect much trouble with the undersides. And now I have some ideas on dealing with flowers. Next up would seem to be assembling a few sketches with coloring. Sometime in the future I must dig into more detailed studies of green mixtures, something along the article Mixing Green within Bruce MacEvoy's incredibly rich and deep Handprint web site.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Vinca - More Color Work

Today I thought I'd try to shape up leaf color. My early attempts came in too saturated and too light. After switching to Phalo Greens and Cadmium Orange, those fearful thoughts that I would never find the color slipped away. Although not yet right on, I think I'm getting close to color mixes that will work. Additionally, these green mixes lift nicely for veining.

There is a considerable color difference between the front and back of the leaf and viridian with cad orange seems appropriate for the backside.

Also tried Ultramarine Violet instead of Dioxizine Violet for the flower--not sure about that yet. Either way, I'm shading and highlighting with Ultramarine Blue and Permanent Rose respectively.

So now, I can clean my little palettes and start over with a lot less paints as I try to tune in my colors.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Vinca - Experiments With Color

Here's an experiment with Vinca flowers. Haven't painted much purple/blue... I might be leaning too far into red but it's okay for now. Just trying to get down shapes and veins and everything else going on in this little flower.

You know what's cool here? It's getting to know the subject--looking closer and beginning to notice subtleties. I stop worrying about outcome and just get into the details.

I figure that daily practice with these flowers, and leaves soon to come, will leave me in good stead.

This evening's play worked from top to bottom.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Vinca For The Fells

I'm going to try Vinca for an upcoming exhibition. Here are a few initial shots to help me work up color and composition. Not sure how this will play out but I'm thinking of a colored area surrounded with black and white. Watercolor and graphite or egg tempera and silverpoint, not sure yet...

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Robert Genn

New books came in today, among them The Painter's Keys, A Seminar With Robert Genn, by Robert Genn.

I first found this author from his Robert Genn's Twice Weekly Newsletters. Here's the most recent issue. Even when I am falling behind in my blog reading, that is never the case with his fine blog/web site.

From Hour 1, The Child and the Recipes:

"Something I am going to try to bring to you in this seminar is that as adults we should learn to daily and hourly dig out our wondering child and train ourselves to always look at what we are seeing as if it were "baby-eyes" new. When we develop again this way of seeing, our life and our work become fresher. We don't repeat ourselves so readily, and we don't become jaded. As I have explored my possibilities as a visual artist I found that this attitude became central to my happiness."

The near entirety is available via Google Books.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

More Vinca

Here I get in a bit more practice with foreshortening. Keeping track of negative space and watching the angles helps a lot!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


I'm using a little bit of Vinca to practice foreshortening. I like the curves. More of this tomorrow...

Monday, April 11, 2011

Around the Lake

Some recent tree work around the lake just broke my heart. The lovely buttonwoods are no more. The work seemed to be selective so these might have been taken for their rotten centers. I'm trying to rationalize...

Life goes on. A new Spring brings leaves of Japanese Barberry.

Soon the Royal Fern will sprout a new generation.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

White Pine Cone Ideas

How little information needs to be conveyed in order to recognize an object? Familiarity must play an important part.

Squinting on the first photo gives results similar to the second. Would that very little detail be enough?

Or how about an inversion? This might be a starting point for an etching...

Saturday, April 9, 2011

A Saturday Stroll

Spring is slipping in nicely this weekend...

Second Year Mullein

White Pine Pruning

Last Year's Green Briar

Lilac Buds

Friday, April 8, 2011

Swamp Maple Blossom

The signs of Spring continue. On today's drive home from work I noticed the clouds of red in the swamp (red) maples. Here's a little clump of male flowers.

Male Swamp Maple Flowers