How am I incorporating more nature into my artwork - experimentations and new techniques.
Below is a blog that is based on my vlog about my brand new mixed media ink on watercolour paper artwork, from my art studio in Wimbledon Art Studios. In the video, I share how I am incorporating my love of nature, and particularly plants and leaves into my new Woven Contemplation series of artworks. Please note, I’ve edited this blog from the original video version for clarity and brevity. To see the full video go here for Facebook and here for YouTube.
What is my weekly video series of vlogs?
Hi everyone! Welcome, I’m Vera! I am a London-based, nature-inspired abstract artist. Thank you so much for joining me today as part of my weekly video series “Dispatches from the Art studio” where I share with you some of the behind the scenes footage of my life as an artist in London, what I’m working on in the art studio, and some behind the scenes peaks of some of my inspiration and my influences.
What artwork am I working on currently?
I’m here in my art studio in Wimbledon Art Studios making progress on some of my textile inspired mixed media weaving artworks. These past few weeks, I’ve been trying to find different ways of incorporating more of the nature influence into the weavings themselves.
Incorporating nature into my artwork.
You know that all my artwork, whether it’s acrylic on canvas or on watercolour paper with inks, is always inspired by nature… the colours of nature and the texture of nature. And yet, I’m always looking to incorporate more elements of nature into my artwork… not just the influence and the inspiration and the colours and the textures, but actual elements of the natural world into my artwork.
Experimenting with different ideas.
I’ve been doing quite a lot of experimenting in terms of trying to figure out different ways how I can incorporate leaves, flowers, as well as some pieces of bark and stone into my actual artwork. You can see here in front of me, I’ve done quite a lot of different experiments to see how some of these techniques might look, with different colours and leaf shapes. Essentially, all these different leaf shapes are stamped onto the paper.
I like some of these experiments better than others, but that’s the nature of experimenting… there’s quite a lot of trial and error when you think about different ways of doing things and what you want the artwork to look like. And you can see maybe also behind me, I have one of my artworks that is nature inspired – it’s a tulip in a vase. Obviously, a tulip is a plant, it’s a flower, it’s nature… but again, I really wanted to incorporate more elements of the natural world into the artwork in a very physical and real way. One of my loves, in terms of nature specifically, is gardening. So for that painting behind me, you might be able to see all those circular shapes that I’ve created with different mixed media and acrylic paint. I created those circular shapes using flower pots.
Using flower pots as paint brushes.
I use flower pots all the time in the garden. When you buy different plants, they come in pots and then you replant them in your own garden. Visually, I love the circular shape of them, but I wanted to add an element into that painting that speaks to the nature influence and the gardening inspiration. I wanted it not to just be a circular shape element in the artwork, but the fact that this circular shape comes from the flower pots, which are a fundamental part of gardening – that’s significant.
Incorporating real life leaves into my artwork.
In terms of these leaves, you can see that I’ve created some watercolour paper painted and textured strips and some of them I think have worked out… at least I’m happy with them. There are a couple of different things that I’m experimenting with and you might be able to see. This might be a good example – you have the stamped image of the leaf itself and then the reverse image where effectively I’m putting colour on the negative space. When I was doing leaf stamps early on, I thought both of them had their pluses and minuses, in terms of how they looked. And actually, I think there’s something to be said about the mirror image and reverse images and working with both of the elements together in one weaving. You can see another example of that technique that I did here in these strips that I did with ivy, the ivy in front of me actually. Again, there is the one image and the reverse image.
Adding further detail, texture, and interest.
The other element that I was looking at quite a lot in terms of experimenting and seeing what I like and what I don’t like as much is the white outlines. And you can see here, I have a couple of strips where I don’t have any white outlines around the leaves and I think those are quite good… but, then when I added the white outline, I think it helps focus the eye a bit more. I think in terms of the composition overall of the weavings, I like to include a bit of white pencil, white paint pen here and there just to lift the composition, to make it a bit more interesting, and give it more texture and detail. But with these shapes in specific, I also thought that it was a good way to lift out the leaf shape. So that your eye can register a bit more easily that it is meant to be a leaf. And you can see on this watercolour paper strip that I’m still working on, on this side, I haven’t done the white outlines yet and if you really look at it, you can sort of see that it’s a leaf shape, but you might not be able to pick it out as easily. Whereas on this side of the watercolour paper strip with the white outlines, I think it’s much more clear that it’s meant to be a leaf.
Experimenting with more leaves.
The other aspect that I wanted to show you is other experimentations. So here, I have a plastic ziplock bag that I’ve kept in the fridge for a couple of days until I had a chance to use it today. In this bag, there are all sorts of different leaves that I have collected from different places, including my mother in law’s garden in the Isle of Wight. There are different leaves with different textures that I wanted to experiment with and to see what works well with this technique.
Part of it is a visual idea in terms of what leaf shape and texture works well because each leaf obviously has its own texture that may or may not translate into the actual artwork itself. And I want to test that to see how it looks. But then the other idea for me is specifically which plants I choose to work with. I didn’t want it to just be a matter of, “oh, let’s just incorporate just a bunch of leaves and that’s that.”… I want there to be a reason why I’m using certain plants and not others.
Polarising plants - plants we love and hate.
The first two plants that I started with for these artworks are because of my idea to focus on plants which some people love and some people hate. Plants that can be quite polarizing. Plants, which if they are controlled and managed in a garden environment, can be amazing. Plants, which can also dominate quite quickly and spread quite widely and take over other plants and as a result of that, some people absolutely hate them. The two examples that I have in terms of starting out with that idea of focusing on polarizing plants is buddleja and ivy. In the UK, buddleja is quite popular, in the US less so... frankly, I’d never heard of buddleja until I moved to the UK. Buddleja is this plant which butterflies absolutely love. If you look at the flower itself, they are clusters of flowers in an elongated pyramid shape and they tend to be purple. Some of them are darker, purple, lighter purple, and there’s even white ones. I think they’re an absolutely beautiful plant and I have them in my own garden. Unfortunately, because they are so vigorous, strong, and hardy, they can grow everywhere. If you travel via trains in the UK, often times you see them growing along the train tracks. You also see them taking over abandoned building sites, and that type of thing, so there’s that association with them. In a controlled environment and when they’re managed and pruned, they can be absolutely beautiful - a gorgeous plant and butterflies love them. But when they’re left to their own devices, they can be quite domineering.
With ivy, it’s the same thing. I adore ivy. I love the leaf shape. There are different varieties bit I love the leave shape in general. I love the fact that it’s basically evergreen and unkillable… and I love the climbing aspect of it. It covers walls and sometimes it trails, depending on which ivy you get. It’s one of those plants that apparently they’ve done lots of studies and they have found that it purifies air quite well, so I have a couple of ivy plants in my. But again, just like buddleja, it’s one of those plants that if you don’t manage or control it, it can take over. There are derelict building sites that ivy has taken over. So to me, that’s why those specific plants are two examples of plants that polarize people. That was one of the aspects of plants that I wanted to look at and incorporate into my artwork.
Some of the other plants I have in this plastic bag to experiment with are foxgloves, geraniums, aquilegia, violets and even strawberry leaves. Because actually, strawberry leaves are quite pretty and textural. And there’s also hydrangeas – one of my all time favourite flowers.
Thank you for joining me this week!
So that’s what I wanted to share with you this week – a little bit more about my inspiration with nature and ways that I’m trying to incorporate nature into my work. Not just from an inspiration and influence perspective, but also in a fundamental way to actually incorporate nature into my artwork.
Let's connect in real life and social media!
Thank you very much for joining me this week. I hope you’re enjoying watching these series and I’m sorry for my squeaky chair. I hope you’ve been enjoying watching these weekly video series – my Dispatches From the Art Studio. If you want to connect with me in real life, you can always come visit me at the Wimbledon art studios, in southwest London or online, I have my website and online gallery shop at https://www.veraveraonthewall.com or I’m Facebook to Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Ello, YouTube and others and on social media, my handle is always @veraveraonthewall. Thank you so much for joining me this week and I hope you enjoy your day. Whatever you’re doing, wherever you are, have a wonderful rest of your day. Bye!
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