Clos Mirabel - AteliersClos MirabelJurançon, South West France

Painting Botanicals
with Helen Allen


Ignite your curiosity on this botanical painting week at Clos Mirabel with Helen Allen.


About this course:

The marriage of science and art is beautifully described by Wilfred Blunt in “The Art of Botanical Illustration”

“….the botanical artist finds himself at once and always in a dilemma: is he the servant of Science or Art? There can be no doubt that he should try to serve both. Intent rather than ability separates the botanical artist seeking to record accurately the details of plants for scientific purposes and the painter of impressionistic flower-pieces seeking primarily aesthetic effect. The greatest flower artists have been those who have found beauty in truth; who have understood plants scientifically, but who have seen and described them with the eye and hand of the artist.”

This course will be perfect for those painters with some experience of painting botanicals and for the experienced artists it is never too late to refine and perfect your work. The aim during this week will be to create a watercolour painting from live material perfecting and practising techniques appropriate for the style of the work, be it an illustration or a painting.

Botanical illustrations are often beautifully composed and works of art in their own right. Accurate drawing and colour are essential if the work is to be used for identification purposes. Botanical paintings must be accurately drawn in a way that shows the vitality of the plant. Aerial perspective and colour harmony further create images that capture the beauty and essence of the plant.

The history of botanical art and the study of contemporary images aid the botanical artist in developing a critical vocabulary and aesthetic judgement that informs their own practice in terms of composition, line, form and colour balance.

Throughout the week Helen will demonstrate techniques and processes and give group and individual tuition.
Botanical study and content, the use of sketchbooks and composition are taught and discussed throughout the studio sessions along with pertinent and really good ideas for extending the practice of this wonderful scientific art.

Course outline:

Saturday – Guests settle in and explore Clos Mirabel
Welcome drinks and introduction to the course with Helen followed by dinner

Sunday – 9.30-12.30 Studio
Presentation to introduce you to the plants to be studied during the week

Drawing with attitude
Observation of plant material, investigation and recording will be followed by free drawing and mark making in graphite, ink and paint
Free drawing to capture the attitude and stance of the plant can then be ‘padded out’ and refined
Lunch 1-2pm
Free or studio-time
3-5pm Studio
Colour bias and the limited palette – analysis of colours seen in the plant material and exercises in watercolour painting and colour mixing

Monday – 9.30-12.30 Studio
Refining and layering the drawings
Continue drawing the specimen in preparation for painting
Colour matching and swatches
Lunch 1-2pm
Free or studio-time
3-5pm
Light source, pattern and form
The illusion of creating three dimensions on a flat surface and the magic and harmony of form and pattern
5pm – 6pm
Presentation – a brief history of paintings of the plant (TBC)

Tuesday – 9.00-12.30
Wild flower walk in the Ossau Valley (TBC)
Lunch at a local Auberge
Return to Clos Mirabel
3.30 – 5.30pm Studio
Refine drawings and transfer to watercolour paper
First watercolour washes

Wednesday – Free day
Wine tasting in local vineyard, explore Pau or beyond or simply paint

Thursday – 9.30-12.30 Studio
Painting the specimen
Helen will demonstrate, advise and give individual feedback and tuition
3-5pm
Mounting and framing presentation and discussion
Fine detail in painting – dissections

Friday – 9.30-12.30 Studio
Fixing and finishing
Harmony in glazes and really dark darks
3-5pm
Group discussion and ‘show’ of work

Saturday – Breakfast and departure

What you need to bring:

Your tutor will be in touch well before the course with a suggested list of materials.
Clos Mirabel stocks some basic art supplies that you can purchase and there’s no obligation to bring anything specific.

To save you being overloaded on your flight we can provide the following:

portable chairs
drawing boards
water bottles
white spirit
rags
easels

As for clothing the days are usually warm in the summer time, but it can rain, sometimes for a day or two at a time. So, we recommend a lightweight waterproof coat and perhaps an umbrella to protect your work. The evenings might be a little cooler, so warm pullovers or tops are recommended. Walking shoes are also highly recommended.

We are very happy to welcome non-participating partners: husbands, wives, partners, friends of people who come on one of our courses. We can suggest a wide range of activities to make their stay memorable. Click through to learn more…


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