Watercolour method – my approach, in response to a reader question

sunflowerI have a very complimentary question from a Facebook reader – What is my watercolour technique?  So I have outlined my approach below for anybody who cares to emulate it.  It should suit anybody with poor impulse control.

My technique is: panic because I have to get a picture up today, think F*** it just draw something in pencil.. Sometimes I trace an image if it is a particularly complex one.  A lightbox is a massive help here.  Some artists feel that a tracing can remove all the life from an image, others (Quentin Blake) use tracing quite a lot, but mainly as a guide to positioning.

On this 100 Day project I am using a water resistant ultra fine point sharpie to outline first but often I don’t use outlines at all. I really like wet-in-wet and what this does to colour. Often I often use this even when it won’t give me any sort of naturalistic effect but because I can’t stop. The paper cockles because I haven’t taped it down, leaving weird tide marks.

I fail to wait for it to dry completely because I lack patience and then end up doing more wet in wet instead of finer dry details as intended. Then I cast it to one side often in disgust. I come back later and use a fine brush to do the fine details over the top.

I use a standard Schmincke paint palette which is well worth the expense. Yay Schmincke!  but proper botanical artists probably customise and add more greens and pinks to their palettes. I also love Start aquarelle pencils for quick things like birthday and cards for friends.

The secret to super easy flower arrangements – five ways

131116 glass bottles and PierreHow to make perfect flower arrangements with whatever you have in your garden, using one simple tool

Happily we don’t have to be florists, or have a Sissinghurst style picking garden. The prettiest arrangements are perfectly within reach.  All you really need are need are some simple little glass bottles.

You can buy bottles like this cheaply from homeware stores or Trademe. However, there are plenty of small bottles which can be recycled into new life.  It still makes me laugh that mine started life as IV paracetamol bottles.  Well cleaned, and with labels scraped away, they have been pressed into a new and more decorative life

Right now in our part of the world the burgeoning, budding spring loveliness is all around us.  Even if you don’t have a garden it isn’t hard to find a few buds or blooms.  This type or arrangement is marvellously non-discerning.  Here are five ways you can use bottles like this to satisfying effect:

131116 Pierre bud vase1. One perfect bloom in a bud vase

Meet Pierre (de Ronsard).  I get ridiculously excited when M. de Ronsard decides to pop out a few fat, heavy buds, the petals of which open gradually into this lovely old fashioned quatrefoil arrangement.  It speaks for itself and doesn’t need any further embellishment.

 

131116 burgundy sweet peas

2. The tiny, fragrant bouquet

I wish I could link you through to the amazing old fashioned scent of these purple sweet peas.  If anything will take you back to your grandmother’s garden, it will be these.  The stems are not always as long as you might like, which is why these little bottles are just perfect.

 

131115 Purple Opium poppy

131116 poppy flower heads close3. the ‘personality’ seed pod arrangement

These glorious purple opium poppies bloom and then give way to these plump upraised seed pod faces.  They seem to have their own comical characters and I like to see them in chatty little groups. My children sometimes draw fierce little faces on them when I am not looking.  It can be quite disconcerting to have a flower arrangement stare back at you!

131116 dinner party flowers

4. The easiest dinner party arrangement ever

I used eleven small glass bottles and whatever I could find in the garden to create this centrepiece for a dinner with friends last night. This is an extremely simple arrangement to create but it brought lovely colour and sparkle to the table creating and a real sense of occasion.  On a practical note, the cakestand makes it easier to remove the arrangement from the table when it came time to put the main dishes on the table.

131116 centrepiece deconstructed

131116 fresh flower ringTo make the arrangement simply, cut the stems to roughly the same height and place them in their bottles on the base of a glass cake stand or plate. This brings them together and give them some height.. Add simple tealights in decorative glasses for a bit of glimmer.

131116 House elf 5.  The birthday party

I had no time, and not many flowers.  But a surprising number of the few blooms went with the froot-loop inspired bunting. Keeping the arrangement on the windowsill took advantage of the sunlight and kept them out of the way of serial small party-hyped elbows.  (You will have to supply your own house-elf though.  This one is ours ;-) ).

There you have it, five ways with everyday flowers, glass bottles and no time.  Do you have any favourite tricks with flowers?

Made from scratch: Gorgeous lemon sugar handscrub for gardeners

limeI can’t tell you how excited I am by this discovery.  Cheap, effective and smells delicious!

The siren call of Spring and the warmer weather have lured me out into the garden. I’m spending many happy hours out there, redesigning on the hoof and trying out different kinds of garden bed construction (more on that later).  It’s bliss for most of me, but not my hands which have become scratchy and rough with ingrained dirt in skin and nail.  I don’t know about you, but I always forget my gloves, and on the odd occasion I do remember them, they don’t seem to stay on for very long!

The results?  The garden looks pretty but my hands look awful.  Worse, the really rough skin catches constantly and most unpleasantly on delicate and synthetic fabrics such as microfibre cleaning cloths and lingerie (I know, first world problems right, but still).

So it was with great pleasure that I discovered this super quick, super easy and very economical handscrub.  Major bonus?  It works to slough off dry skin and leave your hands smooth and supple and your nails looking great. Even better, you can make this with ingredients you probably already have to hand.

handscrubGardener’s lemon handscrub

  1. Put a cup of sugar into any old jar with a lid, choose a pretty jar if you have one
  2. Pour on sufficient olive oil to moisten the sugar
  3. Mix well, add more olive oil to your preference (I like it slightly on the wet side)
  4. Add a few drops of your favourite essential oil.  I’m a lemonophile so I go for lemon.  Lavender would also be lovely
  5. Keep it by your sink and next time you come in from the garden scoop a generous spoonful, rub between your soil encrusted hands and simply rinse off with warm water
  6. Enjoy your newly smooth and supple paws!

To my delight, this handscrub works every bit as well as the L’Occitane salt version (Lordy that’s pricy!) which my beloved once kindly bought for me.  So if you’re working out where to invest your hard earned cash I’d make this scrub and put the money towards a good shea butter hand moisturiser.  And, maybe come to think of it, I may just need one of these scrubs in the shower for exfoliation as well…