Originally I was going to write this post about testing watercolours, however flipping back through some old photos and drawings prompted me to write about this. You may or may not have seen my little foxglove watercolour sketches on the homepage. If you haven’t, please take a look, I’m so pleased with them! And if you have, you may be interested to read about their development, and believe it or not, I have been developing them for years!
The foxgloves commission came to me a while ago before I left to go to university. I spent hours and hours playing around with my watercolours, it was all so much fun learning new techniques in order to try and paint this fabulous flower. I’d practised with them very little before, but felt they were the perfect medium for this painting. I was determined to get a hang of them.
Above is a photo of some very initial sketches. I absolutely loved the colours, the deep reds, purples and pink.
This was my first attempt at the painting. I had great fun experimenting with different techniques in this, and overall was quite pleased with what I had produced. However I wasn’t completely inspired by it. I felt like my painting was trying a little too hard.
Above, my second attempt. I actually much preferred this, I had begun to develop much more depth into the painting, and it had a wildness which the first had not been able to capture. But I still wasn’t pleased, and so I put it off, hoping to find a way of painting that truly inspired me.
Of course, you can’t always sit around hoping an idea will come to you. In this case, it wasn’t an idea that I needed. What I needed was to develop an artistic style. I actually remember the beginning of that journey like it was yesterday. On our first day at university we were asked to design and present 8 individual panels that explained key things about us. This task was meant to be one that we could do during the summer, however, this email had got delivered to the wrong email addresses, and so instead we had a weekend to come up with ideas. I remember panicking a little, thinking I needed to do something quick and consistent, but needed to make a good first impression. I grabbed my fountain pen and started quickly sketching photos I found on my computer.
Here are two of my favourites. I loved drawing these, and quickly began to adopt a drawing style, a style which aimed to have a freeness to it, and where the pen left the paper as little as possible. This was reinforced on a study trip to Paris, where our tutor insisted we did several exercises where we could not remove the pen from the paper. Below is one of my favourites. I’ve always struggled with wanting things to be perfect, so I found this incredibly beneficial and freeing!
And so throughout university, I enjoyed this new found love of imperfect drawing. I insisted doing everything by hand, and drawing as much as I could.
I graduated this summer. When I got home, I decided I was ready to tackle the foxgloves again. Once again I began testing. I knew that I wanted to draw them in pen and watercolour, and that the painting would be a collection of smaller drawings.
Once I had drawn them out, I scanned them all in and laid them out on the computer. I was really pleased with them, but knew I had the tricky bit ahead. At first I began experimenting with lots of colour.
Here is an image of one of my first tests. I wanted to use bright colour all over the image, a deep pink for the flower, and a green (unfortunately murky) in the background. I did feel this was a vast improvement on the last time I had attempted it, however it seemed heavy, and although I had intended for it to be bright, it perhaps came across too much.
Here are more tests I did. I tried inverted the line drawing, and even overlaying the watercolour. I much preferred the image where the focus was on the drawing, and not the watercolour. I felt like this was the direction I wanted to head in, and so put paint brush to paper one last time.
Here is the first one I tried – I was so pleased with it! I knew then that that was the inspiration that I had been looking for.
My time at university studying architecture had helped me to find my style, and this painting brought it out of me and onto paper. I am so so excited to see this up on the wall!