Today it is a Cornish hedgerow, forever changing and always fascinating.
A cornfield full of wildflowers. Sadly we don’t see these anymore, wheat or barley intermingled with poppies, cornflowers and buttercups.
The fields of Cornwall are bounded by Cornish hedges this may sound obvious but it really isn’t. A Cornish hedge is a wall. It may be just a wall or it may be a wall with a hedge on top or a wall with trees on top or a wall with a whole mixture of things growing on, in or through it. Sometimes you cannot tell there is a wall at all as it has become so overgrown and looks like a huge bank with a complete ecosystem growing on top of it. Here are just a few examples.
These are the type of hedges/walls that surround the fields around our house and this is where our mouse runs to after he has been released, ( https://wp.me/p7Ohdq-kK ) they are the ideal place for him to hide.
As usual I drew out my illustration using watercolour pencils
Then I added some of the wildflowers and grass.
At last I could start the painting. I decided to paint the mouse first so that I could judge the colours in the wall better to ensure that the mouse would stand out. Each block of the wall was painted separately by flooding the area with water and then dropping in colour which would spread and merge together to create a natural effect. Then I sprinkled on a small amount of table salt to make random patterns.
I will not go into what colours were used for each block (the blog would be never ending) but over all I used Coeruleum blue, Yellow Ochre, Alizarin Crimson and the same mixture of grey that I used for the mouse which is French Ultramarine, Alizarin Crimson and Yellow Ochre. The mouse colour is much lighter on the wall because it is just dropped into clean water and dissipates.
Once I had done a few blocks and some started to dry I painted the cracks and some of the spaces between them with a stronger version of the mouse mix.
Then it was the grass and wildflowers which were painted using various mixes of green using French Ultramarine, Coeruleum blue, Lemon yellow and Gamboge Hue. The Mouse was finished using a very faint mix of Alizarin Crimson and Yellow Ochre for the ears and feet, the deep shadow mix for the eye with a white dot for reflection and the whiskers were drawn on with a gunmetal grey watercolour pencil.
Where does our mouse go from here?
The next part of the story is where the mouse is released into the wild fields of Cornwall. Although we need to catch any mice we find in the house it is not something we enjoy but setting them free and watching them bound away is a wonderful experience. Just sometimes they don’t rush off, they sit and assess the situation or even have a quick wash so we stand very still until they eventually go. This is what developed into the story, as a family we would discuss what we thought the mice, we had released, would get up to and what adventures they would have.
Thankfully this is the last illustration that includes the mousetrap, I am glad I will not have to draw that again. So having worked out the basics I transferred them onto the watercolour paper.
I roughly sketched in the details that I wanted to add, especially the dandelions that feature a lot throughout the story, the field beyond the gate and the ivy on the gate post, all with watercolour pencils so that they would mostly wash away when the paint was added.
Then I finally got to start painting. Sky first using a very faint wash of Cobalt Blue with a touch of Alizarin Crimson. Then by adding just a little Gamboge Hue to make the green wash, I painted the field, leaving a few areas at the front to paint in the flowers later. While the green was still wet, with a tiny brush I dropped in touches of the Gamboge Hue to look like dandelions in the distance. The grey metal gate was painted using a stronger version of the sky mix but with extra red and yellow and further layers for the shadows. The trap was painted using very thin layers of Cadmium Red, Yellow Ochre and Ultramarine, building up the layers depending on how much light was getting through and then the mouse using Ultramarine, Alizarin Crimson and Yellow Ochre. While that was drying I tidied up the sketches of the ivy and the dandelions and then painted some of the spaces left for flowers in the field leaving some white for the seed heads.
The ivy leaves were next, they were painted using a stronger version of the field colour leaving some white spaces for the veins. When the leaves were dry the gatepost was painted by filling the spaces with a little water and dropping in various colours which spread and merged to look a little like stone with lichen growing on it. The dandelions were painted using Ultramarine and Gamboge Hue adding a little more of the blue for the darker leaves. The flower heads are a weak layer of Gamboge Hue followed by a stronger second layer to define the petals and the seed heads were painted with water and then just a little of the mouse colour dropped in just below the centre so that it spread to fade into the white. The shoe is Prussian Blue and the foot is painted with very thin Alizarin Crimson and Yellow Ochre.
Next I added a shadow to the gate post and to the ivy leaves. Then I started filling in the colours of the gravel and stones on the path using various mixes of the colours already used in the rest of the illustration. I put in a few low growing plants and grasses and finished painting the dandelions. Finally I added some white highlights to the mouse trap.
Next time a mouse sized hole to hide in.
Just over a year ago I was looking for an excuse to paint a hedgerow when I discovered a poem by Don Moore called “The Hedgerow Watcher”, It was exactly what I was looking for, a Cornish hedge, with many wildflowers and small animals in a Cornish landscape.
Here I will describe how I went about creating the first of what turned out to be a four part painting.
The poem is full of descriptions so that made it very easy to visualise the scene. To begin with I did some very rough sketches of what I was aiming at and then some sketches of other images I could find of Pan and of men sitting on the floor.
As Pan is sat in the an Elder bush I chose to use the more upright of the figures, it also felt more exotic and would adjust better to look like the god. I added the horns and beard and made the cheek bone more pronounced, then finally added the faun legs and feet. Next I had to work out the size that would fit best, so I copied out various sizes and tried them on a rough sketch of the scene drawn out on the same size paper as the final piece. It sounds long winded but it saves problems later. When I was happy with everything I copied it out on to the watercolour paper and drew the Elder bush.
So that I didn’t loose Pan amongst the leaves and branches I painted his skin first to make him stand out. Next I painted the branches so that I could see where they crossed the body and where the leaves would be, adjusting as I went along. I tend to work from the top left to the bottom right to reduce the chances of damaging any paint, so once the structure was done I filled in from that corner down adding the detail as I went. When all the scene was painted I added shadow to give depth.
As I said earlier this was the first part of four, each 22 x 15 inches all four parts were painted simultaneously so as to keep them all consistent with each other, for example , Pan also appears in the last part so I painted both Pans at the same time so that there was no variation in colour.
The final four panels were the centre piece of my foundation degree exhibition last year.
In our garden we are lucky enough to have many birds visit throughout the year, the Wren is one of them, this spring they even nested in our Blue Tit box. They dart in and out of the stone walls and under the plants and occasionally we get to spot them perched on a branch or even a post singing amazingly loud for such a tiny bird. I try to photograph them but they only want to pose when I am without my camera so the few photos I do have are not very clear.
A while back I was considering trying to paint in the style of Tiffany Glass with its luminous colours and idealised landscapes, so I thought I would try to produce a series of paintings based on my Wrens with added simple details about their lives. As I was doing a series of paintings I needed to work on them all at the same time, this way it is easy to keep the continuity. I drew them all out before painting and then painted similar subjects together so that the colours would match, first the Wrens and then the trees leaving an area clear for the captions.
Once the main structure of the picture was painted I could concentrate on getting each one finished keeping the colour palette as similar as possible with the exception of one which needed a hint of evening with more shadows and a sunset like glow.
To give the impression of back lit glass I used rich vibrant colours and inked some of the outlines, not every line but enough to suggest sections of leaded glass. Finally I added the captions with basic natural history information about Wrens.
I have a fascination with hedgerows and roadside verges and have amassed a huge collection of photographs of hedges, walls, banks, field edges and general clumps of tangled greenery. They are miniature worlds of intertwined plants and scuttling bugs in various layers, mostly oblivious to the rest of the world. These photos have been a great reference source in many of my projects especially when the hedges are the subject themselves. Here are just a few.
Whether it is Spring or Autumn there is much to see just beside the roads and lanes of the countryside, as the year progresses the same spot can look completely different and sometimes it is enough just to paint a small metre square section. In the Spring there are the leaves unfurling and the wildflowers in bud, I love to see the first Celandine, in the Summer the banks are covered in flowers and insects with grasses rustling in the wind, in the Autumn all the fruits and berries and the leaves turning red and even in Winter there are the dried seed heads and the frosted edges, and that is just the plants. Usually there are insects and butterflies but if you are quiet and lucky there may be small mammals and birds. When I do paint places like this I think of them as the ‘unlooked for’ subjects, things that are around us everyday that we don’t notice and I love them.
This last photo is of a work in progress, so I can only show this stage, it is one that I am painting when I have time to fit it around other things. The subject is mainly Bindweed and Ivy but I think the some small creatures may be about to crawl in.