Monday, 13 April 2015

Exciting Times!

Grape practice on vellum (unfinished)
“Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it. Because what the world needs is more people who have come alive”
– Howard Thurman

Spring has finally arrived bringing in an excitement of warm sunshine, blossoms and bees.
I've plenty of reasons to be smiling this week because London is beckoning! 

Yes, the Society of Botanical Artists are holding their annual exhibition in Westminster, London, and it’s always an inspiring and exhilarating event. The theme this year is In Pursuit of Plants and my Spice Market painting is part of the exhibition.

The Spice Market  ©Shevaun Doherty 2014
This year is the 30th anniversary of the SBA, so there are also daily tours and demonstrations being held. I am delighted to say that I have been invited to be one of the demonstrating artists, which is a huge honour as well as slightly daunting!

So what to paint? I always get asked a lot of questions about painting on vellum, so it seemed the ideal choice of subject. My purple paints were already out, so I decided to do a few quick studies of grapes this week to work out the colours that I will need to bring with me.

It’s always a challenge to paint a fruit and retain the bloom on the surface. I have found that using a combination of cerulean and cobalt violet in my first washes really helps establish the bloom colours. I also used a recent purchase, Daniel Smith’s Verditer Blue which is a lovely light and transparent blue (think summer skies).

I did a practice grape on paper first and then selected a small piece of natural calf vellum. 
If you are thinking about trying vellum, it’s worth contacting William Cowley who make parchment and vellum and asking them for some of their small offcuts. There is a small fee for this, but it’s a great way of trying out all the different types of vellum. Kelmscott is the best one for beginners as it has a beautiful chalky surface that is so forgiving, but I prefer the subtle earthy markings of natural calfskin. It’s a matter of personal taste.

Painting dark colours on vellum is always a challenge. To retain the translucency you need a lot of layers of transparent colours and oodles of patience. I decided to paint a small sprig of grapes and leave some of them unfinished to show the underlying layers. When I do my demo I will paint a few small grapes to show the dry brush techniques but this small studies and colour charts will also help explain how it’s done.

So if you are in London on 17th April, be sure to come along and say hello!
I'm off to pack my paints and brushes… let the adventure begin!

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Catch the trade winds in your sails. 
Explore. Dream. Discover.”
– Mark Twain


  1. Your grapes look fabulous. Thank you for your wonderful blog and information you share.

    1. Thanks Carmelle. I'm glad that you find it useful

  2. There's only one word for those grapes - LUsCIOUS !

    1. And unfinished!! I'm dying to finish them off but I think for the purpose of the demo, it's better to leave it like this. Thanks EM

  3. Those grapes look very tasty :) that verditer blue is lovely isn't it. Gorgeous colours all round! Looking forward to seeing you in London!

    1. Dianne, you got me onto the Verditer Blue. It's gorgeous. I love these colours too, but dark colours on vellum can be such a challenge!

  4. The colors and luminosity of the grapes are excellent! I love dark colors on vellum but you are right--so hard to achieve. I end up with gummy globs sometimes when I try to go too dark too fast. You have handled it well. I'll have to try that verditer blue. I haven't heard of it before.


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