Purple Passion

The next logical step in my watercolour analysis was to mix red with blue. Starting with crimson red.

Now…. I of course knew mixing red with blue produced purple, but I was surprised at how many different tints and shades were possible. I started to see the colour in a whole new light. 

Although purple has regal and spiritual connotations in our society and its history, it is a colour I have always associated with old age. Growing up in the 70s and 80s, purple rinse hair was popular with the older generation. Hospitals, doctors surgeries and care homes were painted lilac. And lavender scented products were a favourite gift to grandparents. 

The almost fossilised purple and white VW camper van that sat in the drive of my fathers house didn’t do much to elevate my impressions of this interesting hue either. That ridiculously old vehicle broke down more than it ran and didn’t go above 50 miles an hour. 

Today I am seeing purple as if for the first time, with a fresh new perspective. 

Crimson and ultramarine blue
Crimson red and phthalo blue
Crimson red and french ultramarine blue
Crimson red and cerulean blue

Put on Red Shoes and Dance the Blues

The colour red has quite a history, dating as far back as neolithic times. The prehistoric cave paintings at Lascaux, southwestern France, are full of it. The Aztec’s of Mexico were the first to produce vibrant red fabric dye. The Romans associated it with courage and adorned their gladiators in it. Charles the Great, the medieval emperor of Western Europe in the Middle Ages, painted his palace red as a visible symbol of his authority. And ancient Chinese philosophers believed it could elevate confidence, vivacity and luck. 

I wanted to compare the three watercolour reds I have. First up was vermilion red.

Vermilion red
Crimson red
Brilliant red

Mix and Match

My foliage paint colour journey continues with an exploration of phthalo blue mixed with yellow ochre.

I am finding this new path of investigation rather soothing and could quite happily play all evening. Often getting lost in the gentle swish of the brush and tranquil swirl of the water, forgetting the concept of time completely. Before I know it, the clock has struck twelve and I’m about to risk looking like a middle aged, over ripe pumpkin tomorrow. Time for bed! 

Phthalo Blue + Yellow Ochre

Lemon yellow and phthalo blue this time. I tried a different brush, thicker more rounded than the fine tipped water brush I’ve been using. Not sure I like it.

Phthalo blue + Lemon Yellow

And to finish a mix of medium yellow and phthalo blue. I used some metallic watercolour brush pens to add the detail. A recent gift from my sons. If only the tip were a little finer. 

Phthalo Blue + Medium Yellow

Seeing them side by side, my minds eye is already using the different shades for future illustrations.

Mixing Maddness

I was tempted to buy new paints today. The allure of something shiny and new pulled at my consciousness like a toddler tugging on its mother’s apron strings. Hang on, I said to myself. Get to know the paint you have first. Apprehension has held back my usual desire to experiment. Reaching for the pre-mixed tubes or blocks has become a matter of course of late. Time to try creating my own colours.

Foliage seemed a good subject for a colour investigation. The endless assortment of tints and shades to inspire is mind boggling.  

I added varying amounts of ultramarine blue to yellow ochre in this first study.

Ultramarine Blue + Yellow Ochre

For these leaves I used lemon yellow and ultramarine blue.

Ultramarine Blue + Lemon Yellow

Finishing off todays observations with a mix of medium yellow and yes you guessed it……ultramarine blue.

Ultramarine Blue + Medium Yellow

So many different colours with only four hues. I’m falling in love with watercolour. 

Cup Cake Anyone?

cupcake watercolour illustrations

The local gym my mother attends regularly holds fund raising events, to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Society. This week there was a homemade cake stall. Imagine my delight when she turned up with a plateful. Seemed rude not to illustrate them. After all, confectionary has been a bit of a running theme for me lately. I could not waste the opportunity to draw from life instead of reference.

Layering Leaves

layered tropical leaves painted in watercolour

I tried a different style of painting today. No outlines! Instead painting inside the pencil lines, then rubbing them away once dry. Rather than adding tone and definition with the glazing technique, I experimented with overpainting. Arranging the leaves on top of one another, waiting for each to dry before painting the next. Resulting in a transparent layered effect, that previously I have only ever created digitally. 

Painting a larger surface area has highlighted my crude application. It is rather uneven and patchy. Perhaps I need to use a bigger brush. Or maybe the inconsistency of the results is what makes watercolours so unique and I just need to lighten up. 

Mask it Out

selection of cacti watercolour
Don’t Stand so Close to Me

I tried masking fluid for the first time today. Wow…. Love it! However, I do need to get a silicon brush. Ordinary brushes get clocked up with dry fluid, making the tip gloopy and uneven. So you lose some of the precision.

Doughnut Disturb

The one thing I quickly learnt about watercolour is, you need a plan. Colours must be chosen in advance, as the paint needs to be wet and ready to apply. The light direction has to be determined, so highlighted areas are not painted and will show in the finished artwork. And time needs to be set aside for the paint to dry between applications. When working digitally, colours and highlights are something I experiment with. And changes are instant. Sometimes I start a piece I have sketched with no idea of the colour palette. There are no do-overs with watercolour, what you put down, stays down. No ‘control z’ if you make a mistake. 

water colour chocolate and pink donuts

Trying to master chocolate, experimenting with different colour browns in today’s watercolour illustration. 

Chocolate with Everything

I probably eat chocolate four, five times a week. Wow! I hear the health conscious cry, that can not be good. And it is probably not. However, a study in the Journal of Nutrition found that regularly eating small amounts of chocolate could actually reduce the risks of heart disease. Well, if that’s not a good enough excuse I don’t know what is. Just need to take on board ‘small amounts’ and I’ll be fit as a fiddle. If only!

Here’s is my attempt at watercolour chocolate cakes.

selection of watercolour chocolate cake illustrations

I found it challenging to produce a smooth finish on the chocolate, both the matt and gloss versions. Although I am rather pleased with how cookie and brownie turned out. Almost good enough to eat.

Tea Break

I am not the biggest fan of biscuits, they are too dry for my particular palette. However, add a cup of tea and things change. Dunking biscuits in hot tea is a sweet British treat. Judging when the biscuit has retained enough liquid to be soft, yet not so much that you lose haft to the teacup, is as much of a delight as eating the biscuit itself. 

I find it difficult to trust the watercolour paint. I am not used to having to wait for the results, so have a tendency to over glaze. 

All Butter and No Waistline

I have the sweetest tooth and continental pastries are a particular vice. Living close to three stores that sell fresh baked goods is precarious for my waistline. I can’t resist their wondrous variety of fillings and topping. And the way their buttery pastry melts in my mouth. Hmmm yum yum. 

I used a different watercolour technique, called glazing, to paint these delicious pastries. Starting with a light all over base colour. Leaving some areas completely paint free, that would later work as the objects highlights. Once dry I went over with the same shade to create volume. Finally adding detail with more colours once the second layer of paint was dry.

Coffee for Breakfast

Continuing on the theme of a daily art practise, I have been playing around some more with watercolour paints. 

Having enjoyed illustrating food almost as much as eating it, it seemed logical to persist with it as my subject matter. 

My mother is French, which meant coffee was an essential part of everyday life as I grew up. Whenever we visited France breakfast was round the table, often outside, sharing fresh bread, croissants and homemade fruit preserves. All washed down with large bowls of coffee for the adults and hot chocolate for the children. Today even the slightest waft of brewing coffee beans and I am transported back in time instantly.

I used the wet on wet technique to paint these coffees and their accompaniments, as it can produced some really interesting colour mixes. Wetting the paper first, painting the subject with clear water, then adding the wet paint on top. 

It wasn’t as easy to reproduce the wet on wet success of the previous illustration in these upright coffees. The paint mixed beautifully as it gathered in the circle shapes, but vertically….not so much. It is in these instances where I miss the controllability of digital painting. Adobe’s Illustrator gradient tool kept popping in to my mind as I struggled with producing a gradient using watercolours. 

Back to Basics

I can not actually remember the last time I used any traditional mediums. Apart from sketching with pencils and creating ink textures to use in photoshop. And sometimes wonder if my endless strive for perfection is a derivative of this. The temptation to edit is too irresistible.

I wanted to get back to basics and needed to move away from the screen for a while. So I took a Skillshare class by watercolour illustrator and surface designer Ohn Mar Win. “Sketchbook Practise: Grow your art everyday”

The class encourages you to start a daily sketchbook practise. Creating a safe place to experiment and grow. To improve your skill and develop your own style without purpose or judgement. Somewhere just for you and your own creative advancement.

Day 1

Here is my first attempt with real watercolours. As a younger artist (before Adobe) I always painted with Acrylic. It dried so quickly and layered so easily I felt in control. Watercolour meant risk, no room for error….so I stayed well away.

Day 2

I am starting to understand how the watercolour paint lays on the paper in this second attempt.

Day 3

Experimenting with tone and shade with these limes. Finding it a little tricky to keep that transparent quality.

Day 4

Trying to add contrast to these oranges by playing around with watercolour pens.

Day 5

Feeling so much more confident with the paint already. A daily painting practice is really going to improve my skill level. This class is definitely what the soul doctor ordered, I quite like these lemons!

9 Different Face Shapes

I recently took a Skillshare class by picture book illustrator Nina Rycroft. Exploring the nine different face shapes and how to draw them.

Drawing the faces of characters has always been a challenge. Fear and trepidation sets in and familiarity takes over, compelling my pencil to sketch shapes and features I have previously used. Resulting in a collection of characters who look like they could be related. Not ideal…!

Here are the results of the class project. 

Kite shaped faces
Oval shaped faces
Square shaped faces
Teardrop shaped face
Heptagon shaped faces
Oblong shaped faces
Rectangle shaped faces
Added colour using Photoshop brushes

Active Animals Illustrated Alphabet

Illustrated Active animal alphabet

Everywhere I look these days children are staring at screens. How times have changed, when my twin boys where young I spent much of the time wearing them out doing various physical activities, no matter the weather. Screens where limited to a only a couple of hours a day.

As they grew so did their appetite for new experiences and with it a curiosity of all things active. With each new school year came the desire to try something new. As a single parent keeping up with the monetary costs and the demands on time was often a struggle. There was never enough time in the day or coins in the pot.

Thankfully I have had the love and support of a great mother, who made keeping up with such challenges possible. And the benefits have long outweighed the costs. For with this inclination to be active, came an eagerness to explore. To discover and investigate, to question and to enquire.

Now in their twenties my twins still adore new experiences. They appreciate the importance of trying something new. Whether that be an new activity, a new destination, a new recipe or a new encounter, they relish the opportunity to expand on this adventure we call life. I wish I was more like them….!

With these thoughts in mind I wanted to encourage children to be active. And when better than to start, than at the beginning. This active animal alphabet could help stimulate a healthy interest of activity from an early age.

Where is The Love

At the moment, I can not read an article without picturing how I would illustrate it. This interesting read was on the opinion pages of the Guardian. 

‘It’s easy to mock old hippies, but what the world needs is peace and love’ written by Carol Birch, made me think about my rather liberal childhood and the influence it had on forming my own belief systems. 

In the 70′s, when we first moved to Colchester, we stayed at a hippy commune in East Bergholt. And for many years, after moving into our own home, we visited their yearly music festivals, craft fairs and social events.

Growing up in a free thinking socialist household kind of guaranteed my belief in the power of collective communication. As a teenager I marched against the Poll Tax, camped out at CND protest sites and attended Green Peace rallies.  

Experiences that not only enriched my youth, but taught me to speak out when I believed something was unjust. To be myself, even if it meant not quite conforming, and to love with passion. I met some colourful people too, learnt a lot of tolerance and improved my knowledge of the wider world. 

Lately I have worried a lot about the woes of the world. Everywhere you look injustice prevails, corruption conquers and greed robs. Yet no one wants to talk about it.

Carol Birch suggests in her article, that we have lost the capacity to communicate, for fear of reprisal. People don’t want to debate, disagree or challenge one another’s opinions anymore. 

I agree…..I am hard pushed to find a friend who wants to talk about current or social affairs these days. ‘Oh, get off your soap box Rachel’, I hear before I even finished sharing my thoughts and concerns. 

Whatever the reason, I believe we are all missing out. Missing out on learning from one another, from growing together and from instigating change together. Lessons I learnt from the hippy movement and lessons we could perhaps do with following today. 

Single Mum

It was mothers day here in the UK last Sunday and I was spoilt rotten by my twin sons. They cooked me a traditional English breakfast, served with flowers and a huge box of chocolates. Took me for a lovely afternoon stroll along the local seafront and prepared a home cooked Thai banquet for dinner. Bringing them up alone has meant we formed a special bond. And although they have grown up now and flown the nest, we still see each other with regularity. I am very lucky.

© Rachel Lucette Adams http://rachellucetteadams.co.uk

‘Plain Sailing’ – The struggle of trying to keep some sense of ones own identity, whilst navigating the choppy and sometimes treacherous sea of life. All the while battling to elevate the precious lives of your young. 

© Rachel Lucette Adams http://rachellucetteadams.co.uk

Balancing the Books – One of the hardest things about being a lone parent is the financial strain. Making ends meet was a perpetual challenge.

© Rachel Lucette Adams http://rachellucetteadams.co.uk

A Piece of Me – If only there were more hours in the day…..this is something I have muttered to myself time and time again. When you are the only person responsible for everything, things can get tricky. Being a full time working single mother of twins meant ‘tricky’ was a good day. I was so busy I didn’t have time to think, only act. I remember feeling like I had volunteered for a stage show that I had not prepared for. Completely unaware of its challenges and pitfalls.

High Heels High Hopes

iluustrated poster design

I recently asked a close female friend what she’d like to do once the children have flown the nest. And I was shocked by her reply, so I asked a few more. Nearly all of them had the same answer….. “I haven’t ever really thought about it.”

This surprised me enormously. I have always wanted to be more than just a parent. To have a purpose beyond procreation and maternal care. I began to wonder what motivated this desire. Was it my upbringing, the influence my peers had on me whilst I grew up, or was it society.

Being the eldest of 6 children, four of which are boys, had to have played a part. If I wasn’t the babysitter, I was the referee or games-master. Having gone on to have my own twin boys and then teach at an all boys school, male dominance, if only in numbers, is what I’ve known my entire life.

Was it this, that drove my determination. Did the inherent competitive nature of men manipulate my own feminine development. I do remember thinking…. if they can do it, so can I…. I do not remember ever aspiring towards married life or the typical feminine dreams one has as a young girl. I of course dreamt of love and affection, but when it actually came down to it, I resisted the constraints of marriage. In favour of the independence and impulsiveness of living alone.

Whilst being a parent has defined who I am today and has reaped some enormous rewards. It hasn’t plugged the knot of aspiration that sits in the bottom of my belly. As a lone parent, it has only fuelled my yearning. This is however, perhaps more to do with society then my own ambition. In climate of rife tabloid stereotyping and condemning, I have always felt a pressure to overcompensate. To work harder, to parent more rigorously, to study longer and to volunteer in my community more than the average mother. All to avoid the stigma of being a single mother on government benefits. I often felt cheated of the chance to raise my children full time, after all I hadn’t  planned on being a single parent. But hey hoe, I made my bed…..In any case, I set a good example to my own children and hopefully inspires some of their own motivational behaviour.

I have been lucky enough to have had the same set of friends since my late teens. All of us very different from one another, but with one thing in common. The good fortune of being able to laugh at ourselves. And with such a dynamic mix of characters, our social lives are constantly full of fun. Was their love and support the force behind my eagerness to succeed? Perhaps……Not being part of a couple has meant I have been the instigator of many of the get togethers between us all. Having had more opportunity for freedom and spontaneity, purely for the fact that I haven’t had to clear arrangements with anyone else. Was this organisational spirit a propeller towards personal accomplishment……Maybe!

Looking back now, I realise all of these factors have played a part in my personal growth, my need to succeed. It has been a combination of emotional and physical experiences, outside influences and stimulus and of course, just the practice of being a human being.

High Heels and High Hopes, is a poster design that celebrates my own feminine qualities of appreciation, as well as my masculine virtues of conquest.