Flowers and colour in February, and a couple of days drawing.

If you find yourself in need of a mood lifting dose of colour, light, flowers and gardens, go to the latest show at the Royal Academy in London. Painting the Modern Garden: Monet to Matisse is a joy. I went with a friend on Saturday, and we did two tours of the show, one before and one after lunch. It was a perfect contrast to the grey and damp February day outside, and is undoubtedly a well timed exhibition. Having accused the outdoors of dullness though, I must mention the huge and wonderful pink magnolia in bloom in a church courtyard just along Piccadilly. London is so much warmer, our magnolia is quite a few weeks from blossom time.

I had a fair amount show favourites, Kandinsky, Dufy, a lovely Matisse, beautiful paintings by Sorolla, and all the Pisarros too, please. I love to see the surfaces of paintings, the brush marks; printed and digital images never match up to the real thing.

It seems to be an incredibly popular show, which isn’t surprising considering the subject matter and its natural accessibility. It certainly made me want to come home and boldly go into the garden with a loaded paint box and easel. Unfortunately our garden is currently mostly greens and twigs, not a rose or lily in sight, and I certainly wouldn’t need a sun hat like Monet’s at the moment.

No photographs were allowed so here are a few pages from the RA Magazine to give you an idea. The show ends on April 20.

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To get my drawing muscles warmed up I went on a two day drawing workshop last week at the RBSA in Birmingham. We experimented with different media and discussed using an iPad to produce close up images to draw from. I didn’t actually do that as I did have some preparatory work for a project in mind. I would have liked to get more done, but we did enjoy a chat! All part of the workshop experience.

I don’t usually work in charcoal and graphite, mainly because I am a messy worker, as you can see. I actually now quite like that look; in the past I thought it was huge failure to have dirty paper. It was, however, good to experiment with those media, and I will use charcoal now for big, bold work.

I started with some warm-up drawings of a shell, and then went on to work with a photograph I took in Oxford Botanic Garden.





Above, a quick sketch on brown paper, and below, a drawing on canvas using graphite sticks and water, and a print from the drawing.


I wanted to start to work with a stripy plant, and this one decided it was to be the one, although it is a rather full and complex image.


I converted it to monochrome, as I wanted to use black, white and a strong colour.


I got this far, and it has a long way to go.

I think the black areas will be made blacker, they are unresolved. I am aiming for a pattern based rather than a natural piece here. At some point there will be collage, some digital printing and even more cutting up, I bet.


6 thoughts on “Flowers and colour in February, and a couple of days drawing.

  1. I find charcoal good for making sure I don’t tighten up too much. I know, intellectually, that tight work with a lot of detail isn’t my forte, but sometimes I forget, and charcoal makes it impossible to try!

  2. Have been beach combing this week on our strolls in this glorious sunshine and picked up some beautiful stones that I should try and record like you Steph. Love the drawing on brown paper and it reminds me I bought a brown paper sketchbook recently so maybe it’s time to break open the covers and go for it! The Royal Academy exhibition looks wonderful but a tad to far. Remember how few trains go anywhere down here. We’re off to the National Botanic this weekend instead which is celebrating St Davids Day so it is free entrance for everyonel. Like you I’m pulled towards the tropical houses. All those bromeliads, cacti and succulents. That thing that looks like a mad mother in laws tongue is an amazing drawing. Are you thinking needlepoint with it eventually or will it evolve into the stitch and book work? Thinking about the number of hours it would take to needlepoint makes my head ache but it would be so exciting. ………

  3. Ah, beach combing, what a joy. One of my favourite activities, but obviously opportunities to do so a little thin on the ground here!
    It’s a pity some of these blockbuster exhibitions don’t tour more. I suppose it would be an immense amount of work but once all the works are curated I think it would be great to get the shows out of London more.
    I’d love to go to the National Botanic, it’s on my list. I’m not sure if it is a mother in laws tongue but that’s what I am calling it too, in my head, as I draw it. It’s going to be a multi functional piece of work, it’s taking so long to do and has got to earn its keep!
    A needlepoint featuring it is certainly a plan of sorts too, perhaps quite a small one…

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