onsdag 22 juni 2011


Poppy galore. The world has lost the war on drugs, and the United Nations call for a new approach. An article on the new war on drugs in today´s Hufvudstadsbladet had to be illustrated, and it had to carry a whole spread. At first I thought Trainspotting, nightmare visions of ghostlike human slaves of drugs. But no, that´s too ugly. If I can spend office hours exploring botanical drawings of poppy flowers, I do exactly that. I wanted to draw a big poppy that lies on bottom of the spread, with tiny people on the stem.

This was the first time I painted in Photoshop, and I´m not quite pleased. First I drew the poppy in pencil, scanned it, placed it in a layer with about 60 % opacity and "Linear burn", and then painted it in layers beneath. The texture from the paper makes it look a bit better, but how on earth do I simulate the way gouache or water color spreads on wet paper? You know, that unpredictable flow? Please, if someone knows the trick, tell me!

Here´s the inspiration, this one below is a wikimedia common. There are red opium poppy flowers as well, and I used red because it´s most people recognize it at one glance.


Old natural history engravings are the best. I bought a similar one on insects on a trip to Stockholm in may. It´s a litograph from 1843 by Johann Conrad Susemihl from a book by Lorenz Oken. A beautiful old book was destroyed so these pages could be sold to stupid people like me for a few hundred kronor... but, I think some day I will use some of the insect engravings as inspiration, just waiting for the right time and place.

Back to poppy flowers. Many many painters in the past have studied them. First in mind is maybe Monet and his repeating poppy field. Last summer, on a trip to Paris, I visited Monet´s garden in Giverny. There´s a small field with poppies and cornflower where one can have a touristic picture taken when walking through that field, just like in the painting. Well, don´t really know what to think about that. Maybe best not to think at all.

Here in Finland we are saturated with poppy flowers in the shape of Maija Isolas Marimekko pattern Unikko. Bedspreads, curtains, tablecloths, tea pots, television sets and nordic walking sticks, all covered with the pattern. Not to mention these baby feeding bottles by Ainu.

Marimekko has a fantastic range of patterns, but the Poppy prevails. 

Another commercial poppy is painted by my favorite children´s book illustrator, Rebecca Dautremer, for Kenzo (picture below). On the same Paris trip last summer we visited a small gallery, Jeanne Robillard, with Dautremers painings so I could take a close up look on how she does it. I also bought one her originals, it´s my treasure!


Edit. I found a usable tutorial on how to paint "watercolour" in Photoshop here. It´s close, but no cigar. I tried it out with a texture created from the paper I usually use. Hmm... Tomorrow I will take this to the next level and make a real water colour. Here comes today´s version:


Not pleased with the result, but it was fun learning...

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