Friday, 4 April 2014

Daffodil Days

Golden daffodils are always the first to appear each year, heralding the start of spring and the promise of warmer brighter days.

 William Wordsworth's beautiful poem comes to mind whenever I see them.

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze. 

Feeling quite cheerful myself, I decided to paint daffodils in this month’s Nature Trail sketchbook. This sketchbook belongs to Julie Douglas, a remarkably talented artist living in Belfast. Julie teaches art, or rather, she inspires her students to paint. Her sketchbook is certainly a reflection of her personality… it’s bold, it’s fun and it dares you to step out of your comfort zone!

Daffodils would certainly make a statement, but they were also going to be a challenge, not least because they are yellow. Yes, I know that I’ve grumbled about greens before, but yellow is a tricky pigment too. How do you depict subtle hue changes and the delicate nuances of light and shade, when you can’t mix in another colour? Yellow mixed with any other colour is just not yellow.

A old sketchbook study proved really useful in terms of colour and technique. The top flower on the right was done mixing yellows with shade colours, the one beneath was done using shade first, followed by a wash of yellow
The answer is layering. You need to paint the underlying shade tone first and very lightly build up the form of the flower in soft greys. I found that my daffodils had two shades of grey- one leaning to green (cerulean+ cobalt violet+ perylene green) and the other leaning to purple (cerulean+ cobalt violet + light red). Once you have established the form of the flower, you can then paint over with a washes of yellow.

I began with some very quick loose sketches on cheap A4 paper just to get the feel of the plant. I did lots and lots of these quick sketches and most were not as neat as this one!!

Once I have drawn out my flower, I paint over the pencil lines with a thin line of the paint and then erase the pencil lines.

I used lemon yellow, winsor lemon and winsor yellow as my cooler yellows, whilst cadmium yellow, winsor yellow deep and winsor orange provided the warmer tones of the corona.

The result is a page of happy daffodils. I think it’s a bit looser than my normal style but I quite like that.

And then my heart with pleasure fills, And dances with the daffodils.
(William Wordsworth)

Draw In

I’ve another reason to be smiling this week. I’ve been invited to take part in a Symposium to celebrate the value of Drawing, which will take place in the Belfast School of Art Saturday 30th and Sunday 31st  August.

 This event will bring together some incredibly talented artists, PJ Lynch, Colleen Barry, Paul Foxton, Julie Douglas, Peter Cooper, Matt Weigle, Ian McAllister and Katherine Tyrrell, all of whom are passionate about art. 

"The aim is to celebrate excellence in drawing. You will view some amazing drawings, paintings, sketch books and work in progress by the invited artists and learn how to improve your own skills in a friendly, inclusive environment. Drawing is relevant and contemporary, even in this world of technology. Drawing is a powerful tool towards personal well being, far beyond the delicious act of mark-making itself. Drawing is not a luxury, it is a necessity."

There will be workshops, talks, demonstrations, and lots of creative and inspiring ideas being shared. As well as the weekend workshops, there will be workshops running the week before and also the week after. 
You can read more about the event on Katherine Tyrrell’s excellent blog Making a Mark.

Please take time to check out the Draw In website too- it's wonderful!


  1. Shevaun, what wonderful daffodils! And thank you for revealing how you tackle them, yellows are so tricky to paint.

    1. Thanks Polly!! It was a bit of an experiment but worked out okay in the end.

    2. Thanks Polly!! It was a bit of an experiment but worked out okay in the end.

    3. Thanks Polly. It was a bit of an experiment but turned out ok... I'd even be tempted to tackle daffodils again sometime!

  2. Definitely a breath of spring ... which is still hesitant here in NE Ohio. Beautiful colors. I think I'll have to get to the florist for a handful of daffs! Thanks for posting.

    1. Thank you Carole. There's really nothing like those bright colours for bringing a little sunshine into your life! Yes, go on... grab a bunch of daffodils and have some fun!

  3. The daffodil pages are so bold and cheery, yet delicate--well done! I like the color of the leaves, which is a tricky one to match, and the yellows in the blossoms stayed nice and fresh. I saw Aislinn this week and she showed me the sketchbook she is working on--you all are having such fun! Great idea. Congrats on the Draw In as well, I love anything that promotes drawing.

    1. Thanks a million, Janene. Aislinn mentioned that she met you the other day (I'm jealous!!), but not that she had the sketchbook with her! How wonderful!! She has Giovanni's now (I think). They are all looking so interesting... it's great fun. I keep bringing the sketchbooks with me to show people as well... they are very special. Maybe you could set up a similar exchange over there? Draw In will be a very inspiring event... come over! ;)

  4. Love these daffodils. Thank you for sharing them. I noticed today that some of the wild ones along the roadside are coming to an end so it's lovely to be able to look at paintings of them all year round.

  5. Thank you Shevaun for posting about daffodils. It was fascinating to see what colours you used and how you did the shading with such beautiful results. Shading yellow can often turn into mud (several of mine have!) so it was great to see how you did it.


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