Monday, 26 October 2015

Olive Inspiration


Olea europea, olive painting on vellum Shevaun Doherty
A Taste of Spain, watercolour on vellum, ©Shevaun Doherty 2015
"When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy" ~Rumi
 Every now and then something finds you, and it whispers to you about golden sunshine, birdsong and the rich warm smell of earth. 
Paint, it says.

Olive tree Egypt watercolour sketch, Shevaun Doherty
Olive tree, Egypt, 2010
The olive groves in Spain filled me with sense of longing. There is something quite special about an olive tree, with it’s gnarled twisted trunk and crown of silver grey leaves. The branches were full of fruit of every colour. Pick me, they whispered.
So Marta filled a box for me and placed a sprig of wild thyme in amongst the leaves. I had so much to do when I got back, but when I opened the box, the jewel-like colours and that wonderful aroma seduced me.  In my studio, a piece of natural calf vellum in warm honey tones lay waiting for me, soft sable brushes at it’s side, enticing me to come and paint. 

Olive Studies 2010
I have painted olives before. They are one of those subjects that I find myself irresistibly drawn to. There is a large organic olive farm just outside Cairo (WESC) that I used to visit with my paints and sketchbook, and ziplock bags for fallen treasures. The fact that it was also a tortoise sanctuary and had owls and bats made it even more of a special place.

The teeny tiny writing reveals that the pigments are Terre Verte, Lemon Yellow. Cerulean, Indanthrene, Perylene Green, Raw Sienna and  Manganese Violet. I would not recommend Terre Verte!
At the time I was just starting out on my botanical art training, still unsure of my pigments and struggling with the techniques. I looked at my tiny colour notes and saw that I used Terre verte for the leaves, a pigment that I wouldn’t touch with a bargepole now! 
It’s pretty, but far too sticky and insipid.


In my sketchbook, I found a later study page with lots of green notes, and saw that I had progressed to Perylene green which I mixed with winsor yellow and cerulean. Raw sienna and quinacridone violet were in the mixes too. I didn’t have much time to waste, so after a quick sketch on tracing paper, the painting began!


I decided to paint the leaves first and leave my favourite part, the fruit, until the end, although I soon switched tactics when the fruit began to shrivel! I also ended up changing my mixes slightly. I prefer Verditer blue (Daniel Smith) to Cerulean (it’s more transparent), and having recently had a very interesting conversation with Jess Shepherd and Denise Ramsay about green mixes, decided to try a little Paynes Grey with Transparent yellow (both Winsor&Newton). 
Although Paynes Grey contains some black, it can be a very useful colour when used SPARINGLY (Beware- it stains and can muddy colours!) I knew that I would be adding it to the fruit to get those rich darks, so didn’t mind introducing it to the leaf colours. It actually makes quite a nice green.

If you look at the leaves carefully, you can also see quite a lot of purple, particularly down the midrib. I found that mixes of Schmincke Quinacridone violet and Raw sienna, and mixes of Quin violet with Verditer did the trick in the first washes. Those mixes also helped define the outer edges of the leaf.

The fruit was the fun part. I used the same technique as I used with my dates
I started with washes of Cobalt violet and Verditer, but as the fruits vary quite a lot in colour, I had quite a range of pigments on the palette. (listed below)

When using a lot of pigments, the trick is really to layer the colours, so that they don’t become muddy. With vellum you can lift any mistakes, so if it’s not working out, it’s sometimes better to start again. Fortunately this was one of those paintings that flowed gloriously from the start.


For the colour junkies out there: 
I used raw sienna, cobalt violet, Verditer blue and quinacridone violet in the first washes. Then perylene maroon, perylene violet, alizarin, purple lake, winsor orange-red, quin violet, winsor yellow, indian yellow, Verditer and Paynes Grey, depending on the fruit colour.


By chance this week a friend sent me a photo of an earlier olive painting that she had framed! How nice it is to see my work in it's new home!
Despite the distraction of the olives, I still managed to get through my list of other jobs. 
There are many new and exciting things happening here which are keeping me very busy (all to be announced very soon), but it was just nice to escape into my studio, turn on the music and succumb to the pleasure of painting.
Sometimes you have to listen to that inner voice. 
If it’s saying Paint, then do that. Everything else will fall into place.
  
A Taste of Spain Olea europaea -  Shevaun Doherty 2015 watercolour on calfskin vellum
Olea europaea watercolour on natural calfskin vellum, Shevaun Doherty SBA


“Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
 Steve Jobs


30 comments:

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    1. Angela, I'm honoured! I'm a big fan of your work! Thank you. http://angelamariarusso.blogspot.ie/

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  2. Just perfect and a feast of colours too !

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    1. Thanks Sarah! I'm so excited about seeing you soon! xx

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  3. Another wonderful post Shevaun. I really like Neutral Tint but only use it these days when time is a big factor and always in teeny amounts. Most times one of the perylenes works better. ;). I always find your color information fascinating and have learned a lot about combinations I wouldn't have thought of. Nice to know about Verditer, though my husband is still insisting it's him or a new tube of paint!

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    1. Hahaha! Do you really need your husband??!!! Seriously, send me a PM with your address on facebook and I'll post you out a squeeze of paint, Laura. You just have to try it! I have the neutral too, but the Paynes grey has a blue bias that works well as a green. It was a surprise to me too!

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    2. Giggle! You are so kind to offer Shevaun, but you know I'm in the States, right? The one thing I don't like about Paynes Grey is the huge drying shift, that's why I prefer the Neutral Tint if I'm going to use anything that has black in it. ;)

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    3. That's interesting to know. I can't say that I've noticed a drying shift, but I'm using it in tiny amounts in mixes. As for the squeeze of paint, well, the offer still stands!

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  4. Wonderful post Shevaun, pleasure to read. The olives are Devine.

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  5. Fab post Shevaun, and it's always lovely to see your olives.Great colours

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  6. Wonderful painting Shevaun, and a wonderfully informative post. I'll have to take another look at Verditer blue, didn't realise it was transparent.

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    1. I think it has some white in it, Polly, but it's easier to use than cerulean in the first washes.

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  7. These paintings are so very beautiful - you have captured the bloom on the olives perfectly!

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    1. Thank you! I did a blogpost on bloom last summer which was handy.

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  8. Je pense que votre travail est un des plus délicats qui m'ait été donné de voir.

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  9. O-love it Shevaun! Your studies are an inspiration as well!! I have shared with some of my botanical artist friends in Seattle, Washington. Look forward to hearing what's next :-)

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    1. Thanks! I really appreciate that!

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  10. Just gorgeous, Shevaun, beautiful painting and a great read! You have to be really careful which brand of neutral tint you use! I've seen a few side by side - amazing the different blue and red colour bias they have! Can't remember which was which, as it was done at a workshop!

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    1. Thanks Lesley. Yes, that's so true. I have a few and they are all so different... definitely worth doing a colour chart to compare! Each has it's use. However Paynes Grey and Transparent Yellow make a great green which is well worth checking out.

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  11. This was very interesting post Shevaun (I finally know how to write your name)! Not only because of the information about olives, how you painted them and all these colors, but also, for me, from linguistic point of view. I've learned so many new words and phrases (I wouldn't touch Terre verte with a bargepole, haha, two pieces of information at once). Stunning olives! I noticed that it's pretty popular to paint on vellum. I don't know anyone here who paints on it (actually I don't even know anyone in Poland who paints in botanical style). But I really like the result! Paintings on vellum are very impressive. Thank you! :)

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    1. I'm smiling because I have the same challenges with spelling your name Krzysztof! I'm glad that your knowledge of English is expanding due to my blog writing, and yes, Terre verte should be avoided at all costs! Vellum is a wonderful surface to paint on, and with your knowledge of transparent pigments, one that I would recommend you try. You do need a dry brush though... it should be as damp as a cloth that has been thoroughly squeezed out. It's amazing how much pigment remains. If you contact William Cowleys, you can order a small sample pack of vellum to try out. I'd recommend the kelmscott (most forgiving) but the natural calf vellum is just beautiful to look at. http://www.williamcowley.co.uk/contact/

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    2. Thank you Shevaun for all the information. It sounds really interesting and challenging. I'll check out this website. Thank you! :)

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    3. Dear Shevaun, I came to your blog through Krzystof's site and when I saw that you paint on vellum I was thrilled because I've been trying to find someone who does. Please can you tell me whether you mount and stretch your vellum first, and what other tips you may have for a botanical artist who wants to work on vellum? I would love to hear from you. I am quite new to watercolour work and want to combine it with illumination. Best wishes, Veronica


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    4. Hi Veronica, I hope you find this reply as I am not able to message you directly, but thank you for commenting. I have a number of blog posts describing the process (use the search button on this blog to find posts labelled vellum). I also have a few step by steps on my Facebook page and you can message me directly there with any questions.

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  12. Wonderful Shevaun
    Can you tell me which blog you posted about bloom please, and thanks so much for all your information. It's sensational

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    1. Hi Sue, If you look at these posts, you should find what you are looking for. I tend to start with the same blue/pink mix. It depends on the colour of the fruit. If the fruit is green, then the bloom will be bluer, and if it is red/purple, then the bloom is pinker http://botanicalsketches.blogspot.ie/2014/07/bloom-and-leaves.html
      http://botanicalsketches.blogspot.ie/2014/08/from-ripe-to-riper.html
      I will have to do a blog post specifically on bloom!! Thanks for the question

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I love the feedback so please feel free to comment. Thank you!