Little Gems: acrylic 12×5″

Update August 1st; this little picture won itself a place in the listings on, in the special recognition category of Botanicals 2019. The whole exhibition is viewable at their YouTube channel,

The British weather continues to be sultry and stuffily hot; younger folk probably don’t mind but us old ‘uns find it a bit too much, specially around midday to mid-afternoon. I tend to be indoors during this time-period. The heat drains a lot of my energy, which is one reason why there hasn’t been a lot of new work lately.

However, I am doing some small things. Today’s subject continues with the ink medium but incorporates some acrylic as well. While this time of year produces glorious garden blooms, there are also plenty of others that get overlooked or dismissed as nuisance plants. These tend to be rapidly dug up and removed before they spread everywhere….and I am as guilty as anyone else. You can have too much of a good thing (or bad, depending on your point of view).

This little plant goes by the somewhat unenchanting name of groundsel; or Senecio vulgaris. It produces masses of tiny green buds that eventually burst forth into golden flowers, just like miniature dandelions. And, just like dandelions, it eventually creates thousands of seedheads. It is probably most spectacular when seen en masse , in fields or gardens.

The work was started on a black ink coated piece of acid-free mountboard; using Ph Martin’s black and spreading gently with a 1″ wide hake brush; this brush having seen better days and been abused with all kinds of mixtures from gesso to ink to acrylic medium. Having got a reasonably smooth-looking coat of black laid down, it was left to dry. Now came the hard bit.

I had to sit outside (in the heat) and choose my stems to paint. I could have waited till the evening but the plants were already starting to release their seeds and could all be gone by then. Armed with the coated board and a bottle of FW white ink, I started to draw in the main stems using a fine pointed brush…I don’t recall the size, something around 00 to 000, I think. Sometimes the ink needed to be thinned a little with water, to avoid blobs of thick pigment in the wrong places. A good fine point is essential, however. I could also have used a sharp white pastel-pencil, but there’s always the danger of accidentally rubbing parts out.

After about an hour, I had managed to draw the parts that I wanted. The board was taken indoors and left to dry. The following day I had to decide how to proceed with it; either with coloured ink overlaid, or use acrylic paint. In the end I went for the tube acrylic paint, using small blobs on a palette and mixing lightly with just water (no glossy medium). The initial white ink drawing was fine but I felt that the use of tube paint on top might just give the image a little more “body”. Not many colours used; white, pale yellow, ultramarine, a little burnt sienna. My cadmium yellow tube was virtually empty, so I used pale yellow and added a little bit of orange to it. The seedheads were made with a blue-brown centre, then extra white added to make greys, coming out to near white at the edges.

If time and heat had permitted, I may have worked a larger picture and added more stems, but this was enough for me, for two work sessions. I don’t see myself as a botanical painter; they measure everything and work for hours or even weeks on one painting….that’s not for me. There are too many other things to paint and draw.

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