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Spring into Autumn as Summer falls

The season is changing as we spring into Autumn and Summer falls into a distant memory and our days feel shorter.

Can we really be saying goodbye to Summer already? It seems only a few weeks ago, that I was eagerly anticipating the white blossoms sprouting from the hedgerows. Painting the blackbirds flitting about, their beaks crammed full of worms. It appears nature has moved quicker than me.

Helen-Parry-Watercolour-Artist-Female-Blackbird-1-of-1.jpg
Female Blackbird 30 min watercolour

Over the Summer months I have sauntered over fields, searching for those elusive stunning viewpoints, painting them, from the first rays of sunlight, through morning mist, under storm breaking clouds, to the evening long shadows, spreading as the fiery sun sets.

 

Summer Plein Air Watercolours

It has been an interesting Summer Sketch outdoor exploration and I have drawn and painted in various sketch books and scribbled plenty of notes. During the summer months I’ve been out and about in the countryside quickly painting as much as possible . Yet I still feel I’m on the outer edge of observing and painting nature.

Summer
Wheatfield watercolour wash plein air

As an artist I am always attempting to balance my time between painting large, detailed, meticulous watercolours and plein air watercolour washes, that instantly capture an overall loose impression. I am surrounded by a marvellous array of interesting subjects and it can be difficult trying to paint them all. I am well aware there are only so many summers within a lifetime and sadly I watch as another one disappears, before I can fully paint my understanding of nature in Summer.

Fine Art Prints

Summer
Storm watercolour wash plein air

I love standing and observing and being totally immersed with my paint and brush, painting what has caught my eye. I am trying to make sense of it all and interpret and share what I see. It is interesting to see how the light can glare through the clouds and across the landscape. The sunlight can create stark shapes, vibrant colours or deep shadows.

Summer
Red Sunset watercolour wash plein air

I hope you enjoy these few plein air watercolours I painted this Summer. I have painted quickly, firstly to capture my immediate impression and secondly to make the most of the daylight and a long walk. Therefore if you see me wandering about, I’ll probably be balancing an open sketchbook as I walk (waiting for a watercolour wash to dry, so I can begin another one).

Fine Art Prints

Autumn

I am looking forward to painting the Autumn colours, as weather experts predict a good Autumn display this year. So I am really hoping to use lots of yellow, orange and red watercolour pigments. My rucksack is packed and I have my paint brushes ready, because you never know how long the Autumn colours will last.

New Year 2016

Start of a New Year

I’m not one for new year resolutions, but I do make lists, though not long ones, they are far too daunting. I had thought to share a new year poem with you here, but nothing springs to mind. Most New Year poems relate to the ending and misfortunes of the previous year and of wild snowy winters. So nothing appeared to suit the New Year of 2016.

Helen Parry_The Tree
Oak Tree – Branching Out watercolour

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Firstly I am not one for looking back with regrets, though there are times when I can begin to moan, but this is just a moment (perhaps a long moment?), though soon I start to look forward and see the positive side and what I have learnt (nauseating for some, I’m sure). Secondly this (2015) Winter season has not felt like Winter, no frosty mornings, with dry, hard soil under foot and a bitter blustery wind to contend with. Instead it has been dark, overcast, misty and wet! Admittedly there have been sharp. tempestuous storms raging (living on a ridge means we feel the full force of these violent storms), but each day it has rained, leaving limp soggy leaves squashed in the mud, lanes with trickles of water running to the potholes and everyone hurrying along with heads bowed.

It feels we are not starting the year anew, but waiting for Spring to arrive, the sound of the cuckoo, the lighter evenings and the sprouting of crocuses and of course more dry sunny weather. Therefore at the start of this New Year I shall imagine we are in Spring. Though if we were suddenly to have blankets of snow across the landscape I would embrace the concept of Winter. I enjoy walking upon the crisp unmarked snow and how the landscape changes character when immersed in fresh gleaming white snow and the brightness of sky and moonlight as the snow reflects the light around.

Arley in Autumn - My Original Watercolour Painting by Helen Parry Watercolour Artist #HelenParry, #HelenParryArtist, #HelenParryArt
Arley In Autumn watercolour

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So though there are no New Year resolutions, I aim to write more blogs (don’t hold your breath) and I have assessed and made plans for more outdoor sketching, though this is always weather dependent (watercolour paint and rain are not conducive and umbrellas are cumbersome over stiles and rocks). Of course I shall continue the 30 minute watercolour series and I have yet to write blogs and organise the images of paintings I completed in 2015, so still lots to do.

Therefore I had better get on with it and wish you all a drier 2016, especially everyone suffering the floods across the North of England and Scotland.

Helen Parry pencil sketch of a stile
Stile and Tree pencil sketch

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Christmas

Merry Christmas

Christmas is quickly approaching and I’m looking forward to a few hectic relaxing days with the family (one can dream!). I am sure our house will be filled with sarcasm laughter and fun!

I’m not expecting watercolour materials under the christmas tree, but I will be wishing for snow. It would be great to get outdoors and go sledging. The higher the hill, the more thrilling, though trudging uphill with a sledge can be tiring, but warming.

I do like to walk on the crisp, white snow and view a blanket of whiteness stretching from our home across to the Clee Hills, the Stretton Hills and the Wrekin. It would be wonderful to paint these winter scenes.

So besides wishing for snow, I just wanted to wish you all A VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

Winter Sunrise Watercolour painting
Winter Sunrise Watercolour

Deer by John Drinkwater (1882-1937)

SHY in their herding dwell the fallow deer.
They are spirits of wild sense. Nobody near
Comes upon their pastures. There a life they live,
Of sufficient beauty, phantom, fugitive,
Treading as in jungles free leopards do,
Printless as evelight, instant as dew.
The great kine are patient, and home-coming sheep
Know our bidding. The fallow deer keep
Delicate and far their counsels wild,
Never to be folded reconciled
To the spoiling hand as the poor flocks are;
Lightfoot, and swift, and unfamiliar,
These you may not hinder, unconfined
Beautiful flocks of the mind.

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All Quiet on the Autumn Painting Front

Painting Time

It seems I’ve been quiet throughout Autumn, but I have discovered something really interesting that has proved to be very helpful. It is surprising how you can be caught up in something and then realise you’re losing painting time. What am I talking about? Social Media, especially Twitter and Facebook. It is remarkable how many hours you can lose to chatting or just responding to comments. So I decided to leave social media for a while, who knew it would be this long, but in doing so I found I had more time to paint. Now don’t misunderstand me, I do love to chat and interact, but painting has to be my priority.

Watercolour palette mixes
Watercolour Palettes

It can take a long time to produce one of my watercolour paintings, any where between 30 to 130 hours and that is just purely painting time. Then I need time to explore, research and sketch. Then I need time to reply to emails, posting to VIP client accounts, ordering supplies, yet more paperwork and not forgetting my demanding adorable family that I have to clothe and feed. Then I need time for one of my best resources, my beloved garden, which could be a full time job on its own.

So during this ‘quiet’ Autumn front I have been outdoors more, painting the shimmering light upon the waves, the ploughing of the fields for harvest, the farmers baling the golden strands of hay, the pear trees heavy with fruit, the blackberries protruding the hedges, the leaves turning golden yellow, orange and vibrant red, the Swallows leaving for warmer climes, the first morning frosts and the glowing deep red skies as the sun sets and ………

Watercolour Autumn Sketches
Autumn Watercolour Sketches

As you can imagine there are lots of blogs to write and share with you. Hopefully I will not be so quiet now, but the desire to capture all that happens in nature, as the seasons change, pulls my attention, before these moments in time are lost and I have to wait another year.

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Crimson Vine leaves – 30 minute Watercolour #50

Crimson Vine Leaves Vitis Coignetiae

The big, bold, broad leaves of the climbing Crimson Vine come to full glory  during the Autumn months. The Crimson Vine has green flowers, followed by small black grapes in Autumn that become insignificant against the large fiery red leaves. It is a vigorous climber and best left on its own to spread out. You may not notice it against a wall during summer with its dark green rough textured leaves, but come the Autumn and the leaves come to life, turning into a vivid orange, a bright scarlet and a deep crimson colour.

Crimson Vine leaves watercolour in 30 minutes
Crimson Vine 30 minute Watercolour

I came across the beautiful Crimson Vine on one of my walkabouts near my home. It was rigorously climbing an old, high sandstone wall and was nearing the top and making its escape. With the sunlight brightening, the already vibrant crimson leaves, it was hard to miss.

So perched in the muddy verge I sketched a quick outline of the leaves and was making notes of the tones of reds and blotches of remaining green, when the rain decided to descend with full force. So I quickly packed away (threw everything in my rucksack) and scurried home.

Once I was back in the studio I decided to complete the Crimson Vine leaves sketch, while it was still fresh in my mind. I applied green washes first, applying small dabs of paint to parts of the leaves, notably along the veins. Next I applied a weak red watercolour wash to the leaves, avoiding the green paint. Then I applied a deeper red wash layer to the veins and edges of the Crimson Vine leaves, I continued this process a few more times, until I was happy with the tone achieved. Then another layer of green wash.

Finally I used a stronger mix of red watercolour to apply small brushstrokes around the veins and edges of the leaves. Then I created a slightly looser crimson tone wash that I brushed along the edges of the leaves.

Hope you like the Crimson Vine leaves, I’m glad I found them before the rain came and just in case you’re wondering, it continued to rain for the rest of the day.

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Wild Rabbit – 30 minute Watercolour #49

Wild Rabbit

A dish of Wild Rabbit with garlic and herbs perhaps sounds more apt than pronouncing,’ Wild Rabbit, part of my 30 minute watercolour series’. Though personally I would rather paint than eat one, especially when you see them at first light, scattered across the lawn, like scenes from Watership Down, you couldn’t eat Hazel and Fiver (the main characters for those who have yet to see or read ‘Watership Down’, but seriously I can’t believe you haven’t).

Wild Rabbit watercolour in 30 mins by Helen Parry
Wild Rabbit 30 minute Watercolour

While we’re on the subject of books and rabbits, I’m also hoping you have read The Velveteen Rabbit and another thing have you read…..? Promise I’ll leave you alone and only mention two discerning rabbit books. It’s surprising how many rabbit characters there are when you start to recollect or is it reminisce?

Now this Wild Rabbit was sitting in the sunshine just outside the studio and clearly hadn’t noticed me or they’d have soon hopped it. So as quietly as I could, with sketch pad, pencil and paints I quickly drew a pencil outline. Then I mixed the golden and mid browns I needed to paint and suddenly thought ‘I’ll try to complete it in 30 minutes’, though I knew the Wild Rabbit would soon turn and flash his white tail.

Therefore I painted quick short strokes of the mid tone brown watercolour mix, just to give definition and shape to the Wild Rabbit painting. I thought if I could get the main shapes around the body, the chest, the snout, the eye and the ears, I’d still be able to fill the areas with brushstrokes of paint, if the rabbit darted off into the hedge.

I managed to apply more watercolour layers to the ears and snout (it was important to accurately capture these) before the Wild Rabbit finally sensed it was being watched and hopped it. So then I painted more brushstrokes, firstly applying a golden yellow/ brown mix and while these dried I applied the first layers to the Rabbit’s eye. Then I painted short brushstrokes of a darker brown mix to represent the rabbit’s fluffy fur.

Finally, after lots of brushstrokes of watercolour, I painted the Wild Rabbit’s whiskers. Though the rabbit didn’t stay for 30 minutes at least I managed to complete within the allotted 30 minutes. I’m sure I’ll see him again.

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Purple Iris – 30 minute Watercolour #48

Purple Iris

No surprises that another Iris, this time a Purple Iris, features in the 30 minute watercolour series. This velvety, luxurious looking deep purple Iris,  captured my attention, so I quickly drew an outline of its shape and scribbled down all the tones of purple and the distinctive markings, for when I’d be able to create a watercolour painting. There are times when I just happen to be out somewhere and something wonderful captures my eye and the only resource I have with me is a pencil and paper. Cameras are also a great resource (when you plan ahead), but nothing beats a quick sketch and notes about your first impressions. So this 30 minute watercolour has been painted using the pencil sketch below as my inspiration.

Purple Iris bearded 30 min watercolour
Purple Iris 30 minute Watercolour

My notes tend to describe the colour pigments I’ll need to recreate the colours I see. I also note down the date, the location, the type of setting and also the weather for the day and sometimes the descriptive words that come to mind as I observe the subject.

Bearded Purple Iris pencil sketch and notes
Purple Iris pencil sketch with notes

Now with this purple Iris I knew I wanted to recreate the deep purple tones, but not lose the subtle lighter blue/purple tones underneath. Therefore I had to work quickly with drier washes,so I would be able to achieve more layers of watercolour paint within the 30 minutes. I left areas around the Iris beards as there were white areas around the ‘tiger looking’ stripy markings on the Iris falls.

I decided to include the Iris bud sprouting from the stem of this Purple Iris. Aesthetically it would probably look better without it, but I wanted to show the Iris in its true form and I don’t think the Iris bud detracts from the main Iris.

The first layers of watercolour were quite flat broad washes and I continually added more blue pigment to the purple mix as I added more layers, to achieve a darker purple tone. The darker tones of purple add shape and form to the Iris standards and falls. This provides a sense of the Iris standards curling against the draping Iris falls.

The Iris’ vibrant yellow beards were the last features to be painted and once they were dry I painted a blue wash over certain areas of the Iris beards to create shade.

Hope you adore this deep Purple Iris. Click here for Irises

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Hellebore x hybridus – 30 minute Watercolour #47

Hellebore:

Helleborus x Hybridus Ashwood Strain

I can’t imagine there are many people who don’t adore a Hellebore. These beautiful flowers with their range of colours and markings, offer a choice to suit everyone. Hellebore plants require you to seek them out as they are usually in dappled shade or wooded areas and their gorgeous flowerheads are bent downwards, like tiny umbrellas protecting themselves from the rain, which means you have to lift each hellebore to see its distinctive beautiful colour.

So therein lies a problem for the artist wishing to sketch them from life. It means you need patience to crouch down on your knees, bent over, as you paint and study the hellebore, while onlookers wonder what you’re doing.

hellebore - helleborus x hybrid watercolour in 30 mins
Hellebore 30 minute Watercolour

Now this variety of Hellebore is a hybrid,which was created at Ashwood Nurseries (hence Ashwood Strain). The lovely Ashwood Nursery and garden centre  is near Kingswinford and has a canal running along one side and a nearby marina, where you can stroll along the towpath. The nursery is open to the public and offers a gift shop and a popular tea room as well.

Ashwood Nursery is owned and run by the renowned John Massey VMH, whose passion for plants is self evident in the design of the nursery and the quality of the plants on offer. Also John’s personal garden, over 3 acres in size, is open to the public on certain days throughout the year, where tours and lectures are also available.

Now if you really love hellebores then you shouldn’t miss the hellebore garden tours in January and February, plenty of wonderful, colourful, distinctive varieties on display.

As much as I love Irises (which you’ll know already if you’ve read previous 30 minute watercolour blogs Click here for Irises) I think I’m falling for hellebores too. Therefore I hope to paint more hellebores as part of the 30 minute watercolour series.

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Chestnut Brown Iris – 30 minute Watercolour #46

Chestnut Brown Iris (bearded) – Kent Pride

This watercolour of a chestnut brown Iris was a pleasure to paint, as part of the 30 minute watercolour series. Describing it as a chestnut brown Iris is rather apt, as there are a multitude of yellow, orange and red tones to the Iris petals. It really is a beautiful looking Iris, so no wonder it is known as Kent Pride.

Kent Pride Iris 30 min watercolour - chestnut brown Iris
Chestnut Brown Iris 30 minute watercolour

Several layers of watercolour washes have been applied to this chestnut brown Iris, to show the varying tones of reds and oranges, which ultimately transform into a chestnut brown on the edges of the Iris falls. The first layers were broad washes of yellow, on the style crest and the three standards, then I’ve added light red pigment of watercolour to the yellow washes, to create an orange tone. While these layers dried I painted the first light yellow washes to the falls and the stem. Then I applied darker red brushstrokes to the Chestnut Brown Iris standards, to add definition to these petals. There are lots of small brushstrokes to create movement and flow around the style crest.

Next I painted a deeper yellow pigment wash to the Iris falls, using small brushstrokes, to create lines within the petals and I also painted the first layers of the Iris beards. I mixed a green wash for the Iris stem and the bud of the other Iris, yet to emerge. I then painted a drier red watercolour mix to the Iris standards again. Then I also applied this drier mix to the outer edges of the Iris falls, and once the wash had dried I applied it again using a dappled effect, to create the dotted markings on the falls.

Generally with only 30 minutes to produce this painting I have to keep adding watercolour paint and constantly work around the different areas of the Chestnut Brown Iris. Finally I added a brown/red mix to the Iris falls and the Iris bud and a final layer of deep yellow watercolour to the Iris beards.

I will continue to paint right up to the timer going off, because I always aim to show as much detail and depth of colour as I can. This chestnut brown Iris, known as Kent Pride, is stunning in the flesh and I hope I’ve conveyed its depths of colours.

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Himalayan Poppy – 30 minute Watercolour #45

Himalayan Poppy Meconopsis

I decided to paint the Himalayan Poppy as part of the 30 minute watercolour series. I appreciate the striking blue against the golden yellow interior and the way the flowerheads bend over, like umbrellas. It is such an eye-catching blue poppy and though I don’t have this beauty growing in my garden, thankfully I have some summer sketches to work from.

Himalayan Poppy watercolour in 30 mins
Himalayan Blue Poppy 30 minute watercolour

When I have planned a day out sketching and painting, I try to quickly capture as much as possible. My eye wanders everywhere, while my hand sketches large landscape potentials. I’ll also be considering the subjects that make up the landscape, i.e the moss on the bark, the birds flying about me, the flowers emerging from the grass and the berries forming on the branches and so much more. I love to paint the whole landscape, but I also enjoy painting the individual parts that make the whole landscape, including old weathered structures . There is so much to sketch and study and never enough time. Therefore I make the most of the long summer days, to sketch as much as possible and use the winter months to turn these sketches into watercolour paintings. I do also sketch through the winter, but this year appears to have been ‘rained off’.

There are different varieties of the Himalayan Blue Poppy and sadly I am not sure which variety I have painted. There were other blue poppies amongst this variety, with more open flowerheads, but I chose this particular variety because of its elegant form. The Himalayan Poppy bends over gently, almost hiding its golden pollen and it nestles on a fan of flat green leaves with tiny hairs protruding the edges of the leaves. I like the balance nature has created between this Himalayan Poppy flower, its buds (yet to burst open) and the shape of its leaves. Amongst all the other blue poppies this is the one that caught my attention, hope you enjoy it too.

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