Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Watercolour Paper Review- Botanical Ultra Smooth

A review of the new Botanical Ultra Smooth paper from St Cuthberts Mill

Artist's hand painting Spanish lavender in watercolour using a sable brush on Botanical Ultra Smooth Paper

In recent months, watercolour paper has been a hot topic across social media. 

Many botanical artists, like myself, use the Fabriano Artistico Hot Press paper, and recent changes to the manufacturing process have left lots of artists feeling less than satisfied.  St. Cuthberts Mill, a British company, recently brought out two new papers, which they are marketing as an alternative- Saunders Waterford HP and the Botanical Ultra Smooth. 

So, when Jackson’s Art contacted me and asked me to try out the new Botanical Ultra Smooth for them, I immediately said yes. I haven't had any problems with the Fabriano Artistico myself, as I still have a reasonable stock of it, but like many, have been wondering what paper to get when I need to order more. There have been mixed reports about the Botanical Ultra Smooth (some good, some bad), so I was curious to see for myself just how this new paper performed.

Monday, 15 February 2016

Saving the Art of Vellum

A blog post on why I am happy that the art of vellum is being saved.

Watercolour painting of yellow laburnum flowers on natural calf vellum by Shevaun Doherty
Laburnum anagyroides on vellum (crop)
I awoke today to hear the very good news that the British Government were not going ahead with their plans to stop using vellum for their archive copies of UK Acts of Parliament. 

The arguments for changing from vellum to archival paper were purely financial, because it is inconceivable that anyone would want to lose a centuries old tradition that includes the Domesday Book (1086) and the Magna Carta (1215). By switching to paper, the UK government claimed that they would save £80,000 per annum, although in fact, they only pay £46,000 p.a. to William Cowley’s, the sole producer of vellum in the UK and Ireland. It goes without saying, that the Irish Government would also quickly move to adopt such a decision if it was to go ahead.

So why do I care?

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Expressive Lines

Watercolour painting of a red and purple leaf and flower, Jacob's Coat Plant, by Shevaun Doherty
“The song of the curved line is called happiness.”
Rene Crevel
What is a line, and how can we use it to improve our art?

Art begins with a line.
Sometimes it’s tentative, thoughtful, exploring. 
Sometimes it’s quick, bold and confident.

Monday, 11 January 2016

The Artistic Process

Sketchbook studies in watercolour of green fern leaf by Shevaun Doherty
Blechnum gibbum studies © Shevaun Doherty
“Love the process and the painting will happen”

A friend once remarked that being a botanical artist is as much about loving the artistic process as it is about the painting. 
It’s true. I get a huge amount of pleasure out of creating study sheets and colour charts, chasing a leaf or flower across a sketchbook page, each time tweaking the colour mixes until it’s just right.

Artist desk with colour charts and watercolour studies of a leaf

Although there is an element of play in this, the notes that I make are also extremely useful. I’m constantly pulling out old sketchbook studies to find out what colour mixes I used to get a particular shade of green, or how to achieve a particular texture.

Watercolour study of Limonium sinuatum by Shevaun Doherty
Limonium sinuatum colour notes
Sketchbooks and study notes help me explain my process to other artists, particularly those who are just starting their own botanical art journey. I think it’s a bit of a relief for them to see the messy bits and the occasional crises of confidence (help! I’ve forgotten how to paint) !

Sketchbook page of pelargonium flowers with colour notes by Shevaun Doherty
It doesn't always work out, but making mistakes is part of the process
Very often our focus is on the destination and not on the journey, and that can lead to a creative block. It’s important to stop worrying about the finished painting, that ominous blank sheet of paper, and just enjoy the creative process that is needed to get us to that point. 
It’s only paper after all.

Sketchbook study of date palm leaf with colour notes by Shevaun Doherty
Phoenix dactylifera leaf studies... a case of trial and error!

Here are 6 steps to my artistic process-

Friday, 1 January 2016

Plans, Paintings and Promises 2016

Great Eggspectations- watercolour painting of 3 quails eggs and a feather by Shevaun Doherty
'Great Egg-spectations'  ©Shevaun Doherty 

You’re off to great places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, so get on your way! 

Dr Seuss

I really enjoy writing this post, because whenever I think about my plans for the year ahead, I inevitably end up feeling really excited! 
Already 2016 looks like it will be a whirlwind of art-filled fun!


I promise to blog more regularly in 2016. Recently my weekly blogposts have fallen by the wayside, mainly because I am doing an evening course on Digital Marketing as well as painting full time. The online art market is such a fascinating subject, and definitely something that all artists should learn more about. So as well as sharing art tips and techniques on my blog, I will also be writing articles on how to tackle the dizzying world of social media.

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Good News

“Happiness lies in the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort.”Franklin D. Roosevelt
Life has been incredibly busy these past few weeks, so much so that my blog writing has fallen to the wayside. 
The Agapanthus commission for the de Jager Bulb company has been by far the most challenging painting that I have ever painted. Getting it finished within the deadline meant that I have been spending long hours at my easel!

Painting long into the evenings. Thank goodness for Daylight lamps and coffee!
I will be writing about my "Agapantha-marathon" in more detail in my next blogpost, but there has been a flurry of good news recently, so here’s a quick update!

Monday, 26 October 2015

Olive Inspiration

Olea europea, olive painting on vellum Shevaun Doherty
A Taste of Spain, watercolour on vellum, ©Shevaun Doherty 2015
"When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy" ~Rumi
 Every now and then something finds you, and it whispers to you about golden sunshine, birdsong and the rich warm smell of earth. 
Paint, it says.