A big welcome to Jarnie Godwin

We would like to officially welcome Jarnie Godwin as a new tutor to our team. She will be running our Botanical Painting course. Jarnie has written a very interesting introduction to herself and her work below and we hope you enjoy reading it and are inspired too!

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Achieving your own Botanical so Beautiful with Sketchbook Squirrel

Hi, I’m Sketchbook Squirrel. Well, it’s Jarnie Godwin really, originally from East London, now working in Hampshire, and ever since I could hold a pencil and a brush, I have loved to draw and paint. Art lessons at school opened a world of colour and wonder for me, and my favourite teacher Mr. Campbell instilled a sense of fun and quirky charm into every lesson, (I have never lost that). On leaving school, college didn’t follow, but I went straight into a job on a building site as a trainee Architectural Technician in the architect’s office, using the strict disciplines of technical drawing to prepare elevations and plans for new buildings. The job gave me a wonderful grounding for proportion, and the appreciation of structural beauty, but fate intervened and the company folded. Following the creative path this time, I ended up on a college course studying Graphic Design, with a stint working at several advertising agencies in London. Here I was introduced to the heart of creative design, with everything from packaging to posters coming my way.

Somehow later along the path, I ended up in teaching, and had some wonderful times during my years in the classroom. A promising career beckoned before fate once more played its hand, and I had to make the painful decision between my health and my job, so I had to quit. Or, one might say, it was the opening door of a new beginning.

What I Do Now

Working professionally as a botanical painter, my watercolour paintings still have a technical feel, drawing on my love of structural proportions and form, but many compositions also reflect the more fun and quirky side of my nature. Looking at a subject, I don’t always see its perfection, but rather its imperfection, with the belief that beauty can be found in all things. Dying tulip blooms, dried seed-heads, and nibbled bramble leaves have all appealed in recent years, along with the perfect blooms of dahlias and clematis. Generally, subjects are portrayed life-sized, but sometimes I will also scale up a bit, by two or three times to create a bigger impact, with deep, saturated colours and dramatic compositions.

Teaching still plays a very important part in what I do, and along with the Sketchbook Squirrel Blog which started while I was still on the SBA course, I continue to teach one and two day workshops, and hold studio days at my Hampshire garden studio. My latest venture has been to launch my own online learning website Botanical so Beautiful, where students can subscribe to view, and work along with video tutorials, practical sketchbook exercises, and the Technique Tool Box of technical advice. Online learning is such a wonderful resource, and I am very excited to be also sharing my knowledge with the students on the London Art College Botanical Painting Course.

Although teaching is my real focus again now, helping others to achieve their own goals and ambitions with their painting, and introducing beginners to the joys of painting in the botanical style, I still paint myself, and continue to exhibit as much as I can. For me, we are all still learning, evolving our style, and breaking old habits. The day I feel I have learnt it all, I’ll hang up my brush.

What’s in my kit? 

Well, not as much as some might think. Being someone who started with a very small budget, I have maintained my spendthrift ways, and only spend money where I need to. General studio gear such as china palettes, boards etc. are bought from charity shops, and homeware stores as cheaply as possible.

Watercolours though must be Artist’s quality, never the student range. Artist’s quality watercolours always have finer pigments and better translucency, maintaining their vibrancy and clarity. On that point, I only use transparent paints, with only one or two semi-transparent colours making it into the box. These are mainly used as a final over-glaze, and I never use opaque or semi-opaque colours. The cadmiums were ditched a long time ago in favour of the beautifully transparent substitutes.

Brushes are the next thing I do like to spend good money on, and although I have tried many of the superb brands available now, I always return to my favourite sable. Da Vinci Maestro 35 with their longer, finer point often lead to them being called a ‘designer’ brush, and I guess as I used to use the very long ‘rigger’ brushes during my design days, I like the feel of these, and the control I get by using them. For my paintings, I use nothing larger than a size 4 brush. The handmade brushes by Rosemary & Co are also a favourite of mine, with the Series 22 pointed designer brushes, and series 323 spotters always finding a place in my kit.

Quality Hot Pressed Paper is the very best surface for botanical paintings. The very smooth surface gives the best medium to receive wet-in-wet paint, while maintaining crisp edges and vibrancy in the colours. With so much variation between the brands, paper I find, is a very personal choice, so it’s always best to sample a few to find your own favourite.

How do I Paint? 

Before starting a painting, I always complete some sketches and accurate drawings. It’s important to study a subject from all angles, to really get a feel for it, and how it grows and forms. My sketchbook contains loads of thumbnail sketches and little compositions, some with colour, to get down what I want to do, and how I want it to look when it’s finished. If it doesn’t look good or work out at 4cm, it’s never going to look fabulous at 40!

Once the drawings are done, I transfer the composition to the watercolour paper using a lightbox. This prevents any mistakes having to be erased, which can damage the fragile surface of HP paper, but also allows me to use a very light pencil line. Next comes the colour. My method includes some initial wet-in-wet washes followed by dryer brush techniques, and lots of blending to keep a smooth finish and to focus on the finer details and form. The technique sounds complex, but the way I have put it all into a workable, and structured method, actually makes it quite straightforward. Of course, there are many ways to get the paint on the paper, and I always encourage students to find the method that works for them, and to keep practising. That’s why online courses are so good for beginners, as they get you working through exercises and assignments, while discovering new methods and techniques. The safety net of a tutor to help you, also makes the process a lot less daunting. 

What’s my Motivation?

That’s actually quite a hard one to answer. I guess for myself, to be the very best that I can be would be a place to start. When you have a passion for something, it’s difficult to say where it comes from, and what drives it, you just know it’s there, and whatever it is, you want to immerse yourself in it. I mean, I was drawing everything and anything when I was young, and I mean anything, including my mum’s iron! I just had to do it, everything else just didn’t really matter. Even in the staffroom at the secondary schools I worked in, my colleagues would joke about my ‘exceptional board drawings’ to help my students. Often rendered in chalk or board markers I found any way I could to get students motivated for learning, helping them through tough exams, while also having fun along the way.

Finding botanical art has made total sense for me, and how I want to paint. My biggest goal now is to get as many people as possible who have that same need to paint discover botanical painting, and even on days when it’s just not working, to love it. Oh, and for me to actually get my series of paintings for the RHS into the exhibition before my allocated 5 years are up. That’ll be 2019! Time to get those brushes working.

Student Angela Watson…..

My Journey Continued…

Note: In June 2016 I wrote the blog post Illustrating Children’s Books for the London Art College. You may wish to read that first as this follows on from there. If anyone does read it, I would like to say, at the moment, my adorable little nephew Sam is still fighting!

Blog Post June 2016 >>

I can’t quite believe it but I have been awarded a distinction, yes a distinction, for the London Art College’s Illustration Diploma.

I was unable to get to my usual art class this term so I wanted to find something that I could do at home, in my own time and at my own pace that allowed me to continue developing as an illustrator. As I had already studied with the London Art College before I decided to sign up for their Illustration Diploma.

This was a good move as Spencer Hill – a successful, cartoonist and illustrator – is the tutor for this course. The feedback and encouragement I’ve received from him has been superb. With his guidance, rather than using the first idea that would pop into my head when approaching a new brief, I am now able to ‘think outside the box’. Consequently, as the course progressed, for each assignment I would try and come up come up with different ideas and approaches that others hadn’t thought of. I had a lot of fun with this!

I have selected several illustrations for you to look at which hopefully will demonstrate this. Spencer has been so inspiring you can blame him for the number of images I’ve added here!! I said at the start of the course I wanted to increase my confidence, so to be able to show this number of images it must have worked! Angela

In January I will be back at my weekly drawing and illustration class and with my new abilities and confidence I can’t wait. So I’d like to say a big thank you to London Art College and to Spencer Hill.

Angela Watson

http://angelaruthwatson.wix.com/books
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https://twitter.com/angelaRwatson

Emily Miller – Tribute to Richard Adams

My name is Emily Miller and I am a student with the London Art College. This is my tribute to Richard Adams who died at the end of last year. Watership Down was such a big part of my childhood, and indeed my whole family. We all read the book, or had it read to us, at least once. And later I watched the film repeatedly as a child. Many people find the film, and the book, too much and talk of how traumatic it was – but for me, as a student on the Children’s Illustration Course, it makes me recognise the importance of children’s fiction in making sense of the world around us, especially in tackling difficult subjects at a young age.

As the bunnies say: “my heart has joined The Thousand, my friend stopped running today.” Rest in peace, Prince with a Thousand Enemies.

Emily Miller
Facebook – @millyshark
Twitter  – @millyshark

Pam Cherry – Still Life

Student Pam Cherry has been busy! Her paintings below of varying objects for her still life projects are coming along very well. Each object has been painting beautifully, particularly the texture of the bears jumper in the second painting.

If can be very helpful to set up your still life in the corner of a room or somewhere you can block out the background. This way it doesn’t interfere and take your eye when you are sketching and painting.

If you would like some guidance with panting still life objects and scenes like this, or help with general drawing techniques and colour theory, our Still Life course might be perfect for you. Take a look at our dedicated course page on our website – Still Life Painting and Drawing >>

Pam Cherry

Pam Cherry

Pam Cherry

Sufia Rahman – Painting Portraits

A fantastic piece of artwork for this Monday morning! This pastel portrait was created by student Sufia Rahman who is studying on our portraiture painting course. We love the way Sufia has rendered the top of the head and forehead area, it really looks and feels as if its receding. The shading has been created very subtly and the colours are superb.  Sufia should be very pleased with this portrait.

If you would like to have a go at painting or drawing portraits, head on over to our Portraiture course page to find out more…..painting portraits >>

Sufia Rahman 43830

Beginners Drawing – Edith Steinberg

Student Edith Steinberg has been working through the Beginners Drawing Course and this is one of her drawings from the submitted exercises. A quote from the beginners drawing course tutor is below…we hope that it helps and inspires our beginners reading our blog today!

If you are doing a drawing which isn’t going to include a background, try putting the subject matter into a cardboard box! Take a box and cut off two of the sides, so you are left with a Corner. Then place a piece of white paper or cloth on the base and up the two sides, inside the box. Then place your object inside it. This is so much less confusing for your eyes, and also helps you judges the areas at the edges of your subject. This is true of light too.

 

Still Life – John Peace

John Peace has been working on the Still life course with tutor Alan Dedman. John has created two superb paintings for his first set and his introductory letter is below. We hope that our prospective students can gain some confidence from reading it. Not everyone is confident about their artwork and it can be a big step to send work in to your tutor. If you are hesitating, hopefully this will be a huge encouragement to you. Our tutors are all very friendly and will guide you every step of the way.

 

Hello Alan,

I am submitting my first lot of work for your assessment. The quality of work I feel is dreadfully poor but I suppose that is why I have enrolled on the course – in order to improve! With having a wife who spent a year on a Foundation Course at Goldsmiths many years ago I have already had some guidance – or perhaps I should describe it as harsh reality criticism!

I have been through the exercises you have outlined although I have to admit that despite buying sugar paper I didn’t manage that successfully partly because all were of similar colour rather than dark, medium and light shades. I understand where you are coming from, however, in regard to shape and identifying tone.

You will see that I took photos of my still life studies before starting them. I have tried as far as I can to do as you recommend. Unfortunately, I don t have the steadiest of hands and my sight is not great but I hope this should not be too much of a handicap.

I look forward to hearing from you. If there s ways of submitting work in a better way please let me know.

Regards,

John

Botanical Art Course – Mollie Melhuish