I have a large garden in Australia. There are three main parts to the garden: The Arboretum – we like to call it that, but it’s actually just a small former sheep paddock into which we’ve crammed as many trees as possible; the riparian area, which can only be planted with indigenous species; and the main garden that’s visible from the house, with the lawns, shrubs, roses, perennials, veggie beds, and more trees. I planted most of these deciduous trees between 2001 and 2003. The orchard, the gum trees, the cypresses, and some of the poplars were already there when we bought the property in March, 2000.
Maple – October Glory.
Scarlet oak and willow.
Oak, willow and Lipstick maple – October Glory.
Red oak and willow.
Poplars and cypress beside the secret path.
The creek with fallen gum trees making useful bridges for wildlife.
The shed fridge comes in handy for taking the overflow of tulip bulbs from the household fridge.
Professor Iain Stewart of Plymouth University lectures at UNSW, Sydney, July 2014 – Acrylic paints on canvas. It’s an unusual angle for a portrait but it’s an audience member’s view of him. I took a quite a lot of photos during the evening, mostly without a flash, so many turned out very yellow/orange due to the plywood backdrop, as you will see from the photos at the bottom of this page. The painting is an amalgam of two photos taken during question-time after Professor Stewart’s Scientia Award lecture. I wanted to try to paint his hand as well – for the challenge. I enjoy painting shiny things, so I was able to incorporate his wedding ring and his sleeve buttons in this painting too. I have made his hand a fraction too small as I didn’t want it overwhelm his face in this composition.
Photos of the painting from pencil sketch to finished picture.
I’ve shown only a cropped version because nobody looks good at this stage of any painting. I try not to make it into a proper drawing by roughly sketching the lines where the deeper shadows will go.
I like to do an under-painting in a light brown acrylic to preserve my pencil lines and stop the graphite from muddying anything that’s meant to be pale in colour.
Sideways pic to show the approximate size of the canvas – 30cm x 40cm.
Adding the first layers of colour.
More work on the eyes.
First layer of colour on the shirt. It appears to have a little bit of a sheen to it, which is nice to paint in a fabric.
More paint layers on the shirt; more work on the shadows on his skin.
Close-up of the buttons. It took a whole episode of Foyle’s War to paint just these four.
A lot of time was spent painting and repainting the background. (About three episodes of Foyle’s War, Led Zeppelin Live at the O2 x 2, and all of Rise of the Continents.)
I wanted it to represent a lava flow, but not make it so bright that it took over the subject. I did this by painting watered-down brown acrylic paint over the orange, waiting a while, then spattering clean water over it with a toothbrush, and finally, blotting the water off carefully with paper towel.
A very small, pointed brush with indigo paint was used to lessen the size of the white reflections in the eyes, and then to put in some eyelash shadows and reflections in almost-black. You can see where I have had to repaint around the eyes many times to try to get them looking right – the canvas grain is no longer visible!
Close-ups: Shirt collar – On the canvas it appears almost 3D, as if you could insert a paint brush into the folded-over bit.
Ring – The details of his wedding ring are difficult to see in my photos, so I just painted something golden and ring-shaped.
I used his face from this photo – he was perhaps coming out of a blink here, so I made his eyes a bit more open. His hand was only half in it. I can’t really extrapolate; I have to be looking at something while I’m painting it…
Richard Armitage as John Thornton in ‘North and South’. I just rediscovered this one from July 2010. It’s a digital artwork, done with Corel Painter and a Wacom tablet and stylus. I used the ‘oil paint brush’ mostly.
I call this painting: Looks like trouble at t’mill. I think I’ll stand in front of a window and brood about it.
Lots of sunny autumn mornings in May inspired a few sessions of backyard photography, featuring several of my deciduous trees, some tomatoes, and a robin.
Camellia and liquidambar.
Camellia flower and liquidambar leaf.
Early snowflakes, Italian arums, oak tree roots.
Globe artichoke. I don’t eat these; I grow them for their enormous purple, thistle flowers.
Linden, dawn redwood, liquidambar.
Rose – Sir John Betjeman. The cherry tomatoes are all self-sown.
Ginkgo – one of my favourite trees.
Another of my favourite trees, a Tupelo – Nyssa sylvatica – with poplars. Sometimes they are all in autumn leaf at the same time, which looks spectacular. This year, the poplars lost theirs very early in autumn.
Japanese maples 1.
Early blooming jonquils and late roses.
A Chinese liquidambar with Liquidambar styraciflua in the background.
Japanese maple 2.
Japanese maple leaves. One tree can have yellow, red, orange and green leaves on it at the same time.
There are actually only two Japanese maples…so far.
A yellow-breasted robin decides to join me.
The robin, which is indigenous to south-eastern Australia, regularly follows me around the garden in the hope that I might stir up some insects.
Close-up of ginkgo leaves. My husband, who is a bit of a menace in the garden when he has a chainsaw in his hands, nearly ring-barked this tree when he ‘accidentally’ cut off a lower branch recently. Naturally, I have initiated divorce proceedings.
This is a water-soluble graphite painting I did back in 2008, just for fun; starring Guy of Gisborne as an unmasked black rider. I could only fit three of the hobbits on the paper. Sorry about that, Merry.
This picture is based on Professor Iain Stewart’s swim with the golden jellyfish at Palau. An amazing sight! From the BBC’s ‘Earth: The Power of the Planet.’ Acrylic paints on 46 x 60cm stretched canvas. February, 2014. I wanted to try painting an undersea scene or two a few months ago and was looking for inspiration. Around the same time, I happened to be watching ‘Earth: The Power of the Planet’, presented by Professor Stewart. There was an episode called ‘Oceans’ in which he did a fair amount of underwater swimming. The shots of him with thousands of jellyfish in Palau were spectacular. It was fun doing all the jellyfish with different amounts of light passing through their transparent bodies. The painting is on my wall now. It’s quite nice to look at because of the shades of blue.
Drawing from computer freeze-frame.
Masking fluid to preserve images.
Jellyfish emerging from the deep!
Finished painting. Colours are more true-to-life here.
Finished painting. Clearer image.
I met Professor Stewart at UNSW Australia on July 11th, 2014. What a great lecturer and thoroughly nice person he is. He kindly autographed this cushion cover for me.
Here’s a small water-soluble graphite pencil sketch of him I did in April 2014, with a couple of close-ups. I used a screen-capture from one of the episodes of ‘Making Scotland’s Landscape.’