September 30, 2014

Sunny Days and Seashells

I didn't realize how very attractive sunflowers were to bees until two sunflowers seeded themselves near our back door this summer. I feed sunflowers seeds to the birds in our backyard so there are usually a few self-seeded sunflower gifts throughout the garden. These ones however are so close to the house that they provide the opportunity for close observation. As I have been going in and out of the door in the past few days, it is rare that I don't see at least one bee on the sunflowers.

Our garden has frequent bee visitors which makes me happy since I know that their population has been declining in past years mostly likely due to pesticide use, specifically neonicotinoids. In our garden, the bee magnets this year were bee balm (of course), lavender, salvia and the sunflowers.

While I love seeing bees everywhere, there is something particularly happy about seeing one on a sunflower. They look like they were made for each other.

Speaking of busy bees, I have been busy painting a series of small seashell paintings. I am painting three sets of three. If you follow me on Instagram, you will have seen their progress. I am now working on the last one. I love painting natural objects. I love the challenge of observing an object closely and conveying the detail while still maintaining a painterly look. 

The creation of this series is a bit of a story. I did the first three paintings two years ago after I received a gorgeous gift of shells from my Australian artist friend, Cindy Lane. I was experimenting with different papers at the time (I love doing that) and each trio of shells was painted on a different paper. 

Three small watercolor paintings of shells
That was great as an experiment but it meant that the three paintings didn't really work as a set to be sold together because of the different weight and textures of the papers. So I decided (with some encouragement from my daughter Emma) to paint three sets of three. Threes abound. I used Arches 140 hot-pressed paper, BFK Rives 280 gsm and Arches 300 lb hot-pressed paper. The shells I have used as my references for the paintings are a mix of the Australian shells I received from Cindy, ones I have collected on past visits to Maine and a piece of mother of pearl that was a gift from my friend Sonia in France.

While my favourite brush for just about any painting is my Isabey No 8 brush, these small paintings have had me using my 3, 1 and 00 brushes! Each painting is taking me several hours and sometimes more than one day. Each little shell, because there are no two exactly alike, presents its own challenges. I'll post a photo of the paintings once they are completely finished.

Collage of sea shell watercolor paintings

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