Month: February 2013

Don’t leave your Greens!

Wedding Colour Wheel

Colour Wheel

I have just finished painting a couple of watercolours of Bridal Bouquets and it became obvious to me that I needed to pay more attention to `my greens.’ As a Botanical Artist the colours you use most will be green as this colour forms the basis of nature. It is possible to use green paint straight from the tube or pan. However as all greens can be mixed by combining blues and yellows I don’t have green in my paintbox.  Learning to mix your own shades of green gives you far more understanding of the qualities of the individual paints in your paintbox.  Colour knowledge certainly helps.

In basic terms green is a secondary colour mixed from blue and yellow. In order to mix the `right’ green you need to know the blues and yellows in your paint box intimately. It is important to distinguish between warm and cool pigments.

Painters Colour Wheel


The concept of Warm and Cool Colours can be very confusing. The way I remember is that warm colours have a red or orange undertone and cool colours lean towards blue. How do you distinguish between blues? A blue paint with a red undertone, such as French Ultramarine, is a warm blue and a blue paint with a yellow undertone, such as Winsor Blue (Green Shade), is a Cool Blue.

– Warm Blues lean to purple or red, e.g. French Ultramarine, Cobalt Blue

-Warm Yellows lean to orange or red, e.g. Indian Yellow, New Gamboge

-Cool Blues lean towards green or yellow, e.g. Winsor Blue (green shade), Cerulean Blue, Manganese Blue

-Cool Yellows lean to green or blue, e.g. Lemon Yellow, Aureolin

How do you decide whether your individual paints are Cool or Warm if you don’t know? The best way is to consult the Manufacturers Paint Charts. I have an excellent Hand-Painted Chart from Winsor and Newton. All of their paints are listed helpfully according to their warmth/coolness – Cool Yellows-Warm Yellows- Warm Reds-Cool Reds-Warm Blues-Cool Blues. Their earth pigments are shown separately.

Knowledge of warmth and coolness will help you choose the right blue and yellow for the job. For instance if you mix a Warm Blue (consisting of primary blue with red undertone) with a Warm Yellow (primary yellow with red undertone) you will get a muddy colour of browny olive or grey and not a fresh Spring Green. That’s fine if you want an olive colour, but not so good if you have arrived at this colour through lack of understanding  Any yellow or blue with a red undertone will mean you are mixing the equivalent of the three primaries together – red, yellow and blue, which mix together to make grey or brown.

I find that I often need a specific green for my Bridal Bouquet watercolours so I have systematically mixed all my blues and yellows together and made myself Green Charts for future reference.  I have organised my charts with the blues going from Cool to Warm. Winsor Violet isn’t strictly a Blue in the true sense of the word but I included it as Violet is a bluey red pigment and I thought it useful to include it.

The time I spent making these charts was invaluable. To make a chart like this do make sure you use a clean brush to mix the pigments and change the water regularly. Start with the yellow when mixing greens. You don’t need to add as much blue to the yellow to make green. If you are after a yellow green it is much easier to start with the yelllow.

Cool Yellow Greens


Winsor Lemon Greens

Winsor Yellow Greens

Aureolin Greens

Cool Yellows can produce lovely fresh bright Spring Greens. These yellows produce my favourite greens as they are so vibrant and cheerful. When I painted my Spring Bouquet I needed fresh Spring Greens including a limey colour for the Viburnum Opulus in the background.Sunshine Bouquet Card jpg I mixed the vibrant lime green with Winsor Lemon and Winsor Blue (Green Shade). Cool Yellows do produce lovely fresh greens when mixed with Cool Blues, but the green can be a bit over-powering, particularly in shadows. More pigment will just produce a brighter green and not a duller green. If you need to dull the green add a touch of red to the mix or use a warmer blue. For the jasmine leaves I used French Ultramarine mixed with the Winsor Lemon to give a slightly duller green. Where the leaves were in shadow I added a touch of red Permanent Rose to dull them down further. By sticking with the same cool yellow throughout the image retained it’s Spring like qualities.

Colour mixing has taught me a few things about my blues. Manganese Blue and Cerulean are very similar tonally. However Cerulean granulates much more than the Manganese. This surprised me as Winsor and Newton specify that both of these blues granulate. The Cerulean creates wonderful textures which would be great for seascapes and rocks particularly on textured paper. However granulation means it is hard to mix with the yellow. I found this particularly noticeable with Raw Sienna which is also a granulating pigment. Cerulean therefore separates from any colour it is mixed with. I also found it harder to get strong deep greens with Cerulean and Manganese. Winsor Blue (Green Shade) on the other hand is a really strong pigment which does not granulate. It could be described as a `bully’. You only need the merest touch of pigment to change the yellow to green. However it does produce very beautiful turquoise, aquamarine colours which I love.

The warmer blues produce greyer greens and olives.

Warm Yellow Greens


Indian Yellow Greens

Quinacridone Gold Greens

Raw Sienna Greens

When I was experimenting with mixing paint colours for my `Simple White Bouquet‘ image Simple White Bouquet I started with warm Raw Sienna as my yellow. This was a mistake. Raw Sienna produces a lovely creamy colour which was a good colour for the roses. However I struggled to make a decent green for the leaves. I knew I wanted a dark dull green so a Cool Blue wouldn’t work for the darker leaves as it would be too bright. However the warm French Ultramarine blue and Raw Sienna just didn’t mix together to make green – all I got was sludge, which wouldn’t do at all to depict a beautiful white bouquet! Raw Sienna and French Ultramarine are also both granulating pigments so they just don’t mix to create a smooth shiny leaf. I ended up using French Ultramarine with a Cool non-granulating Yellow.

I found mixing greens with the earth pigment Quinacridone Gold interesting. On the colour chart and in the palette Quinacridone Gold looks biased towards warm red. However it has a decidedly green gold hue when mixed. It reminds me of old gold rather than pale brushed gold. This meant that it did make a good olive green when mixed with the French Ultramarine unlike Raw Sienna.

Other consideration when mixing greens – do you want a bright fresh colour? I favour mainly transparent colours due to their translucent properties which results in fresh, bright paintings. Try to avoid pigments marked as opaque in Botanical Paintings. Catherine's BouquetYou can always dull a green down by mixing a tiny touch of red (green’s complementary colour) to the mix. In Catherine’s Bouquet image I used a combination of fresh bright greens with more muted greens for the shadow areas. As there was a lot of foliage this made sure the foliage was varied in colour. I first painted this image with the shadow area in a bright green which didn’t work as the green over-powered the beautiful flowers.

I hope you find my Green Colour Charts as useful as I do. I am going to work on more colour charts experimenting with violets, pinks and purples which should be useful in my flower painting. Watch out for them in a future Blog Post!

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Signs of Spring in my Garden

DSC_8078After a burst of enthusiasm to get out in the garden on New Year’s Day my excitement had been dampened down by the snow and cold. February is always a turning point in the gardening year for me. Slowly there are signs of Spring. Daylight hours are beginning to get longer and the first flowers of the year are emerging from the frozen earth. I spotted a couple of blue tits checking out our nest box the other day.

One of my favourite flowers are snowdrops. They aren’t fancy or frilly and don’t shout from the roof tops `Look at me!’ like the cheerful yellow daffodil. However snowdrops are the first brave flowers to emerge when the February Chill keeps me inside.dreamywhite This months Gardeners World Magazine describes the pleasure of seeing `snowdrops washing gloriously through the Winter woods – the pleasure is in the sheer mass of white flowers, rather than the detail.’ I must admit my snowdrops are disappointing. Although I tried to plant a clump of them underneath the apple tree, the bulbs seem to have been eaten by the rather greedy squirrels which visit our garden mistaking them for nuts. We do have the odd lonely sporadic snowdrop but they are scattered across the beds and couldn’t be described as drifts unlike the glorious display in Dorchester Abbey grounds.


I can’t decide whether to try grow more snowdrops next year or simply to give into the squirrels and enjoy them in the wild.

When other plants are trying to hide under the cover of the earth I am always amazed by my beautiful hellebores  (sometimes known as Christmas or Lenten Rose). iced_gem I have several varieties of hellebore that are blooming marvellously in my garden. Hellebores do seem at odds with nature as they are so pretty and are quite happy surviving in harsh cold frosty conditions. Hellebores can have single or double flowers and come in shades of white, red, pink or green and some have plum spotted throats. I have four varieties in bloom at the moment.

Helleborus Orientalis `Double Queen’ is a frilly double form of Lenten Rose which I obtained from Nottcutts Garden Centre.

Helleborus Double Queen

The other white blooms I have are from Helleborus x ericsmithii `Winter Moonbeam’. Helleborus x ericsmithii is a hybrid between the sub alpine Helleborus niger and a hybrid ( x sternii) both of which parents are from Mediterranean Islands, but the mix is one of the best of all Hellebores. Winter Moonbeam has attractive marbled leaves with pure single white blooms flushed with pink held clear above the foliage on red stems. Winter MoonbeamI have two other varieties of Hellebore in bloom in my garden. DSC_8267One delightful flower is Helleborus Orientalis Tutu – a rare double pleated Hellebore which looks like a pretty pinky purple ballerina’s tutu.

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Hellebore Orientalis Tutu

The last variety of Hellebore in my garden has lost it’s label so I would welcome verification of it’s name from any Hellebore expert!









I grow a lot of classic cottage garden flowers including our native wild flowers. As February is progressing I have a good show of  native primroses in the garden – primula vulgaris. The garden centres are full of brash polyanthus and primroses in bold, vibrant colours at the moment. They are fine in a colourful display in pots by the front door, however I prefer the pretty pale yellow flowers of our native primrose. DSC_8149The primrose is another flower which symbolises to me that Spring is on its way. My Uncle picked a small bunch of primroses from the woods for my mum when she was born in March. We often remember her birthday with a woodland walk. DSC_8147Apart from the native primrose I have another variety in bloom in the garden called `Emily’ which is a similar yellow colour.

DSC_8155I do have a slightly more ornate primula Polyanthus `Gold Laced’ although I still think she is a delicate beauty.

Dotted amongst the primroses in my garden are violets, which are also a native woodland plant. DSC_8118

It’s lovely seeing all the signs of Spring in my garden. Next month I will be getting busy. I have started off my seed potatoes chitting and it will soon be time to start sowing seeds in the greenhouse. I look forward to sharing more pictures of my emerging garden.


Spring Sunshine Wedding

Sunshine Bouquet

When I married Mr Smiles our Spring wedding was full of sunshine and optimism.

When we were deciding which season of the year to get married in I knew I wanted a Spring Wedding. Spring is my favourite season. I am drawn to fresh Spring colours which can’t but help make you feel cheerful after the drab monochrome of Winter. Spring is seen as a fresh start for a New Year just as our marriage was the start of our New Life together.

Choosing a Wedding Colour Scheme

I love colour. I love mixing paints and experimenting with the different colours and tones they produce. I like experimenting with which colours work well together both in a painting and in my job as a Dispensing Optician when advising on frame choice. In my previous Blog Post  on `My Paint Box’ I shared how  I systematically record how my paints work together when mixed.

My advice to any Bride planning their wedding is to start thinking about which colours suit you and which colours you are attracted to.

Spring Colour Swatch

Spring Colour Palette

I invested in having my `colours done’ by House of Colour many years ago and found I am a `Peaches and Cream’ Spring or a Light Spring.  This knowledge was invaluable when planning my wedding. The book `Be a Beautiful Bride’ published by Hamlyn for Colour Me Beautiful is very useful.  As I am warm in colouring I knew that ivory, cream or golden shades suit me. The first thing I did was choose my dress. I wanted a dress which was pretty, feminine and romantic, preferably made of lace. I knew the dress I chose was the one for me as soon as I saw it. Pure White doesn’t enhance my warm colouring so I chose a champagne coloured taffeta gown by Essense of Australia. Essense of Australia D586 Front

Wedding Dress DetailMy dress was described  as an elegant slim-line tulle and crushed taffeta gown. It was Empire Line in shape as this suits my pear shape and high waist. The Empire Line was highlighted with a band of taffeta and the tulle was appliqued with lace and beaded with Swarovski crystals. Of course I thought my dress was absolutely beautiful! I accesorised my dress with cream shoes by Rainbow Club with little diamante detail, a delicate gold and crystal bracelet and a fabulous golden sparkly handbag. The best bit was my golden diamante tiara. I loved it and paraded around the house when I came back from the shop!

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Having chosen your dress you can then decide on a colour theme. We had chosen to get married in the Baytree Hotel in Burford, a beautiful old Inn with lovely gardens. The moment we visited the Baytree we knew this was the venue for us. It is a beautiful place with a sense of history, but has an air of cosy relaxation. We chose to have our ceremony in the conservatory which is very light and airy and has views of the garden.

I am as passionate about wedding flowers as I am about colour. I knew that I wanted my flowers to be romantic, natural, pretty country garden flowers. As a child I dreamt of creamy yellow primroses in a posy as a bouquet. My uncle picked my mum a posy of primroses from the local Woods when she was born. Bagley PrimroseIn reality primroses are too small for a bouquet. However the idea of something picked straight out of the garden arranged in an informal way has stayed with me. I am also passionate about roses as you will see from the pictures on my website. I now have 12 different varieties of rose in our garden at the last count and I know them all by name! I am particularly fond of big, old fashioned roses. Harlow Carr RoseI’m not keen on supermarket  roses which never open out. Yellow and pink are my favourite colours where flowers are concerned. I decided against pink flowers and pink as a colour scheme. Both myself, my bridesmaid and my mum-in-law can flush a nice shade of rosy pink and I thought it was best not to draw attention to our rosy cheeks!  Yellow seems to me to be bright, cheerful and optimistic. This is how I wanted my wedding to be. I therefore chose to have yellow roses in my bouquet. The colours that suit me best are peaches and cream so I opted for a bouquet of old fashioned roses in creams, yellow gold and soft peach. I included the variety of Narcissi ` Sir Winston Churchill‘ which are creamy-white with centres of peach.

WinstonChurchillMy bouquet was tied with lace picking up on the lace in my dress. When I was deciding on which flowers I would like in my bouquet I found the magazine `Wedding Flowers’ the best magazine on the market. It is full of good advice and more importantly there are good quality large photographs of example bouquets in every colour scheme imaginable. Once I had made some choices about how I wanted my bouquet to look I painted an imaginary watercolour which I used on our wedding stationary.



My painting portrayed an informal hand-tied bouquet in my colour scheme of peaches and cream with a splash of cheery golden yellow. I included jasmine as I intended to have jasmine hung in garlands in the conservatory at the Baytree. I carried this design through on our invitations, Order of Service, Table Plan and Bridal Favours.

Order of Service

Table Plan

Baytree Hotel Conservatory











Sunshine Bouquet



For the table decorations I chose to have informal jugs of flowers incorporating roses from my bouquet but also less structured foliage and flowers giving the impression that they had just been picked out of the garden. The jugs and ceremony flowers included foliage of yellow forsythia and viburnum opulus. The viburnum was a lovely fresh lime green colour. I loved it so much I hunted it down to grow in our garden. The only nursery I could find that stocked it is Sarah Raven.

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Bridal Favours

I included home-made crab apple jelly pots on the tables as bridal favours. Crab apple jelly is a beautiful peach colour. I topped the pots with lace and tags with my own design to match the theme.P&D (169)P&D (014) I also managed to find peach tea lights which co-ordinated beautifully. I made confetti cones from paper with textured paper containing dried flowers and filled the cones with  freeze-dried rose petals.

The vast majority of my wedding photographs here were taken by Steve Hicks of Squib Photography. He is a fabulous wedding photographer with a delightful manner and I would highly recommend him.

The next stage in deciding on a colour scheme was to make a decision about outfits for my bridesmaid and the men, including the groom! I found my colour knowledge as an artist was an invaluable. It does help to have a little colour knowledge and this colour wheel is helpful:-

 Wedding Colour Wheel

Wedding Colour Wheel

I found this Colour Wheel on a Blog called Budget Brides Guide and the article on colour schemes was really useful:-

There are basically 3 types of wedding colour combinations to choose from:-

Monotone. With this colour scheme you pick one colour and stick to it. You can use many different shades of the same colour. For example my sister-in-law wanted her colour scheme to be pink and pink it was!DSC_0034

She had a variety of pinks in her bouquet including soft pink Sweet Avalanche roses and darker pink bombastic spray roses. I gave her the flowers as a wedding gift and Fabulous Flowers of Abingdon did her proud.Her shoes were vibrant pink and the groom had a tie and shirt in shades of pink.

Sujinan's Bouquet




I decided to be different and wore a dress with red flowers!



Analogous Colours. This colour scheme combines 2 colours next to each other on the color wheel. For example: red and orange, blue and green, violet and red, etc. These make really good colour combinations as they are pleasing to the eyes.   You can combine shades of 2 or 3 colours next to each other on the colour wheel. When I was deciding on my colour scheme I was intending to use `Peaches and Cream’ as my colour scheme with accents of golden yellow. You can see on the Colour Wheel that these colours all lie next to each other and are therefore analogous colours.  I was therefore considering putting my bridesmaid in a brushed gold or yellow dress. She refused! If I’d had my way she may have been in cheery sunflower yellow! However my bridesmaid doesn’t suit yellow. My bridesmaid has lovely bright blue eyes and although light colours suit her like me, she doesn’t have my Spring colouring. She is a light, Summer.  Many of the light pastel colours that suit me work well on her, however blues work better on her then any colour biased towards yellow. Summer ColourA person with Summer colouring does not look good in yellow, gold, orange or peach. The only possible yellow may have been a pale primrose yellow which she can wear, but wouldn’t have been keen on wearing! This can be a problem if your bridal party includes several people with a bias towards particular colours. In the Colour Me Beautiful Book `Be a Beautiful Bride’ there is a list of several colours which suit everyone and this lists includes purple, turquoise, emerald and true red.

Complementary Colours. These are colours that are opposite to each other on the color wheel. These colors when used together stand out and create contrasts. For example orange and blue, yellow and violet, red and green. Suddenly my knowledge of colour and the colour wheel was invaluable. If you find peach on the colour wheel and look for  the complentary colour on the opposite side you get a beautiful teal blue/green. Sorted! I found a beautiful dress by Dessy in a suitable colour called `Capri’.  It was a fabulous colour for my bridesmaid and went with my   colour scheme as a cheery complementary colour. I am not quite sure what the groom and the grooms men thought about wearing such bright coloured cravats, but I loved it!  I thought the colour was bright, cheery and optimistic. I did make a joke about the colour in my speech!

Dessy 2759 Capri

I’d love to know what you think about my wedding colour scheme!

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