Thursday, 27 August 2015

Aerides thibautiana: Bird-like Orchids and Colours Permanency

Blossoms that look like a band of birds praying

When I first time saw Aerides thibautiana while glancing through orchids in my favourite nursery, I almost missed this remarkable subject of painting. The orchid had tiny blossoms and modest, all purple colour, unnoticeable pattern and common petals shape. However, after I could not find what I looked for, I scrutinized again the Indonesian orchids that were blooming. As I paid close attention to the Aerides thibautiana, I was surprised to see what I saw, an orchid that resembled band of birds!

I had seen some pictures of unique orchids that looked like other species, but only on the internet. That day, I finally found one myself and it was native to Indonesia. What a prize!

Do you see what I saw? Doesn't Aerides thibautiana look like a band of bird praying? 

Since the plant was quite expensive, I was so grateful that Mrs. Tarigan (the owner of the nursery) gave me an inflorescence to bring home. She even offered me to take more than one (I refused) and other orchid blossoms as well.

At home I quickly photographed the flowers since I didn't want to miss their prime time. Later, I was happy to be able to paint the illustration based on my photograph and the specimen, which surprisingly remained intact for almost a week.

Colour Permanency

I knew I would want to use Opera Rose to imitate the vivid colours of the blossoms. However, since I learnt that Opera Rose is one of those fugitive colours, I replaced it with WN Quinacridone Magenta, which used the same pigment PR122 but without the fluorescent dye.

Fugitive colours are colours which are based on impermanent pigments or dyes that lighten, darken, or otherwise change in appearance over time. The opposite of fugitive is lightfast, which meant (a dye or pigment) not prone to discoloration when exposed to light and the atmosphere.

The recognised testing system of lightfastness is ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials). They rate and classify paints to: I (excellent), II (very good), III (moderate) and IV (poor). If a paint has not been rated, it is described as N/A= No assignation (Not Rated). Reputable paint manufacturers usually provide information about the lightfastness and other qualities of the paints, such as Winsor & Newton. You can check their websites or check the label of your paints. Further, you consult an easy to read yet informative blog post, "What are fugitive colours?" by Katherine Tyrrell or read (and bookmark!) a very useful source, Handprint.

I learnt that some florilegiums and botanical societies and some reputable exhibitions require artists to use only paints with good permanency rating (I and II only). Thus, rather than finding my work got rejected from an exhibition, I resisted my personal satisfaction in seeing vivid opera rose colour for this botanical work. However, I still keep some fugitive but favourite of people paints on my paint box, e.g. Alizarin Crimson, Aureolin, Rose Madder Genuine and of course, Opera Rose and sometimes I use them for short-term or reproduction-orientation commissions.

The replacement paint, Quinacridone Magenta has exactly the same pigment PR122, which "is a lightfast, semitransparent, staining, dark valued, intense violet red pigment", said Bruce MacEvoy from Handprint, "PR122 has the strongest violet hue of any violet red pigment available in watercolors". However, after using it a lot in this painting (along with Winsor Violet (Dioxazine) PV23 and Permanent Rose PV19), I found that it underwent a drying shift. The dried paint was not as bright/saturated as when it was still wet. Sadly it slightly lightened. Adding more layers of the same paint somewhat helped but only to a certain level, not as intense as I wished.

Anyway, I am happy to gain this insight. I love to know how different
each paint behaves (oftentimes not a big deal) and how practice gives me idea on how to deal with it.

Here are my work in progress and scanned illustration of Aerides thibautiana.

Friday, 26 June 2015

On Instagram

Dear my lovely readers,

I have not posted for some times, I am sorry for that. Having Nawang, my little girl, and folowing my calling to be a professional illustrator require almost all the time I have.

No new blog post doesn't mean I do not paint. In fact, I have been very productive these months ^-^. I have been working on 3 personal paintings and more than a half-dozen commissions.

Some clients wanted to keep their project confidential but some gave me permission to publish what I did for them. I am certainly excited to share them to you. However, since I do not have much time lately, I tend to post them using my mobile phone on an image-centric online service.

If you are curious as to what I am working on, please visit my Instagram account @inikeke. You can either visit this url, follow my Instagram account @inikeke, or click the new badget "view on instagram" at the top right side of this blog page.

I hope to see you there. Thank you :)

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Dendrobium spectabile: Limited Palette and Magic Eraser Sponge


Learning from my failures when painting Phalaenopsis cornu-cervi and how important to effectively pick and mix paints, I decided to do my Dendrobium spectabile with as few pigments as possible. I used only 3+1 paints, W&N Perylene Maroon (PM), Indanthrene Blue (IB), and Daniel Smith Hansa Yellow Light (HYL) and, for some area, Permanent Rose.

I am pleased that these four are all single-pigment paints and two of them (PM and IB) have a great range of colour-mix, from which I could get all colours I need to paint the orchid. They covered the "white" lip/labellum, greenish yellow sepals and petals, to the very dark burgundy pattern on the lip.

Beside having significant amount of clarity of colours when finished, I found painting with fewest possible pigments eased my mind. I worked with wet in wet washes a lot, which allowed me to let the paint flow and mingle with each other. These limited palette really helped me avoid muddy colours, which could easily result from inadvertent clashes of pigments. In addition, the limited pallete brought about harmony to the whole painting.


Magic eraser sponge can completely remove unwanted marks from the paper but I avoided using it due to its abrasive nature. However, I made a mistake, which couldn't be erased using eradicator brush. Hence, I used my eraser sponge this time, but with care. 

My tips of using magic eraser sponge:
1. Make sure the colouring is final. Once rubbed with the sponge, the paper surface impacted is somewhat damage and difficult to paint.
2. Use masking tape to protect the other area for precise result. Make sure all paint and paper is completely dried.
3. I cut the sponge into a small square because I prefer to use pointy corners to rub tiny areas.
4. Dampen the sponge and rub it gently until the unwanted mark completely removed. Wash and rinse the sponge regularly.
5. Remove the masking tape when the paper completely is dried
6. If you need to tidy the edge, apply only dry brush, as dry as possible.


The orchids are native to Papua island (Indonesia and PNG). The blossoms have an alien look, but I fell in love with it since our first encounter at a local orchids nursery in Yogyakarta back in 2013. Their extremely twisted sepals, petals and curling lip made them look as if they danced and their intricate patterns were the very first reason I had a crush on them.

By mid of this month, I visited the same nursery and I was happy to find it bloomed, reminded me of my long desire to paint it. So here is my latest painting, Dendrobium spectabile, The Dancer!

Friday, 27 February 2015

[Commission] Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazin

I could be out of my mind when deciding to work on a commission from Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazin. I had only about a month to work on 5 botanical illustrations and, at the same time, I and my family were moving from the UK to Indonesia for good. We had no house when we arrived in Yogyakarta and the contrasting weather was also a real problem for Nawang, my toddler. Mostly, where and when to paint were the big problem.

The twists and turns of my effort to paint in these chaotic period will take hours to tell! Let's skip it. I thank my family (especially husband) for making it possible and still love me after these months.

And now the magazine is out! Of course, it looks great! Just to see some of my illustrations on the cover feels like all those hardworking days/nights is paid in full.

And taking a look at the fashion pages is such a pleasure. It is said, after a hurricane comes a rainbow. And indeed, the "rainbow" looks wonderful! Thank you, Ralf Zimmermann and Sarah Beckhoff, for having me in this great project!

Please check my behance to see the complete original illustrations. Thank you! :)

Photographer: David BornScheuer
Styling: Almut Vogel
Illustrator: Eunike Nugroho

Photo Assistant: Alex Orjecovschi, David Fitt | Digital Operator: Benjamin Roulet | Hair: Helene Bidard / Artlist |  Makeup: Kathy Le Sant / airport agency | Styling Assitentin: Anna Koppmann | Model: Helena Severin / Viva Models | Retouching: Christine Schubeck / Bird Imaging | Location: Studio Daguerre | Thanks to Studio LB Paris.

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Blogger/Google Turned My Pictures Darker!

Actually it has been ages since I realised something was wrong with pictures uploaded from Google's Blogger. When uploaded, the pictures always turned darker. White background became grey and all my paintings became darker or more greyish. Many times I went back to my editing programme, made the pictures a bit lighter and uploaded them again, but, still, they turned darker. Eventually, I was just too tired and ignored the problem.

After my previous post of Painting Yellow and Defeating the Dullness, I couldn't take it anymore! Instead of showing the brightness of the yellow Sunflower, I got dull greenish yellow petals.

However, a quick internet browse solved the problem (I wish I did it earlier! T__T). Blame it to Google Auto Enhance, which claims "It makes subtle adjustments to help your pictures look great". Well, thanks, but NO THANKS! So if you have the same problem with me. Here is how to stop it:
1. Open Google+
2. Place your cursor over the Google+ logo on the top left corner. Click Settings.
3. Scroll down to Auto Enhance section and click it Off.

4. And replace your "enhanced" pictures with the same files from your computer.

I hope it helps you too! :)