Botanical art workshop starting tomorrow

Tomorrow morning several students will be arriving to do a botanical art workshop entitled ‘Autumn Colours’. Obviously with the storm that was, and the pouring rain today and forecast for tomorrow, I am not exactly sure what people will be wanting to paint.

This year the seasons seem to be running a little late and the trees are not really changing too much yet. We have nothing like the number of Maple trees in the near vicinity that have the colour that we saw in the Adirondacks, but we do have one or two. One of our neighbours has a Liquid Amber tree, but only the leaves at the top have begun to change colour.

The things that are striking in our garden are the different colours of the crab apples. In fact, as we now have all six sorts that I am in the process of painting, they do make a spectacular picture dotted around the garden. I can imagine that someone might be tempted to paint one of them or even an apple scattering from each of them!

One thing is sure, that someone will arrive with something that I want to paint!


A Hurricane in the south of England

Would you believe it, in the last couple of weeks we had a Tornado ( not up to American standards) which was devastating for those affected on Hayling Island, a little further along the coast. Early on Monday morning we had a brief storm which was forecast. I say brief as the major winds only lasted a few hours. But again devastating for those affected.

We were warned a couple of days in advance that we needed to make sure everything was battened down, so we duly went round checking everything. People moved cars out of range of tall trees. Tables, chairs and flower pots were stowed. In the short time allowed only a few people got their boats out of the water, but most had to rely on their moorings and that they would hold.

The Eucalyptus from our house.

A couple of gardens away someone has an absolutely massive Eucalyptus. Each time there is a storm I worry for the houses in the next road and downwind of the tree. On Sunday night I was no less worried as the tree was getting a hammering and the massive boughs were waving in the wind. I wondered, before I went to bed, how the tree would weather this storm forecast to be major. I also prayed that the people in the houses nearest the tree would be safe.

The storm started seriously during the night and when we got up at 06:00 when still dark, we could see in the gloom that the skyline had changed. The tree was down! But where and how were the houses on the other side? Was anyone hurt?

As it got lighter we could see that the tree had fallen along the boundary and luckily only taken with it the surrounding fences and our next door neighbours garden lounge – now squashed flat! Thank goodness! Although our immediate neighbour now had a massive tree lying across the bottom of their garden and a lot of physical damage from that, they too were relieved that it was this rather than the people in the houses in range of the tree that was affected!


The horizon in Early November 2009 and today.

Now I suppose it is an issue for the tree owners to sort out, but it does bring home the fact that if you have something planted in your garden that isn’t native to the area, it does have to be looked after appropriately. Even our native species can grow too large for our private gardens so we do have responsibilities.

By the way we now have a lot of light in the garden. And, of the boats in our creek we could only see two that had come loose from their moorings and had beached.

We were lucky. Not everyone was.


The remains of the tree on its side today. Phil Weng, the tree surgeon, is removing it.

My husband was amused by me taking the last picture in my dressing gown!

Do you use photographs in botanical art?!!!!

Yes. Sort of.

Some of my paintings take around two years to complete especially if I am doing a series of paintings and they include; A year in the life of………

How do you complete a series of paintings if the series is from the same genus and they bloom and fruit at similar times?

This is how I do some of it. As an example I will use the picture that I have been working on this week. Malus Gorgeous.

In the spring last year I did some sketches, colour detail and size of the blossom. I had to do five other crab apple trees at the same time and, during a ten-day period. This year I did dissections of blooms from the same trees and preparation sketches of the dissections to include in the pictures.

Going back to the Malus Gorgeous specifically, this summer I planned the composition and sketched this out on my final paper. I used elements from various pictures I had taken of the small tree. Bearing in mind that the apples were not full size and far from ripe and the finished painting was to include ripe fruit. The photographs were and are only a rough guide. This is the photograph I used for the main bunch of fruit.


I had to enlarge the fruit slightly to the size they were likely to be when ripe, allowing for the fact that even this allowance might be slightly out. I had measured the ripe fruit the previous year so had a good idea of the size. I then started painting the leaves.

I picked the leaves I intended to paint, one at a time. None of them the ones in the photo. Some were more interesting than others, but I had to make sure that the leaves I picked were the ones arising from the fruit spur. These were the type I had included in my picture, and not those born on new shoots, as these are more leathery and differ quite a bit.


I positioned each leaf as I had sketched it in my composition and painted it into the picture until most of the leaves were in place.

I have been doing the same with the apples. These are this years ripe apples. They have started falling off the branches, therefore I had to get on and paint them whilst I could – particularly if I wanted the series finished to exhibit at the RHS next year. That is if I get exhibition space.


Funnily enough and, luckily, the apples seem to last different lengths of time on the trees. But there isn’t much in it, so I have to plough on until all the apples are finished.

Some of the pictures of the apples being painted – with coloured pencil used dry in case anyone was wondering.





Today I managed to do all the apples. I have a couple more leaves to do and then have the dissections and branches to put in the picture. But that won’t happen yet as I have to catch up on all six pictures. The sketches Of the dissections that I have in my sketchbook will give me enough information to do this at a later time. Don’t forget that once everything is in place it has to be tied together with shadows etc in the right places.

As you see I do use photographs in botanical art, but every element in my pictures are painted from life.

By the way, comments or queries are very welcome.

My sketchbook page.


Back home to crab apples

So far this week I have been catching up – or trying to, after our time in the US.

I mentioned that everything was green and therefore a shock after seeing the intense fall colours in America. This was the first sight of our back garden and one of our cats.


It was still reasonably warm on our return, but I kept on my full length jeans.

Monday and Tuesday afternoon I did a lot of paperwork to catch up, but Tuesday and Wednesday morning I had my normal weekly botanical art classes. Everyone was very interested in the trip we had taken and most particularly in the catalogue from the Hunt Exhibition. Hopefully the catalogue will be motivational for some of the students.

At last on Wednesday I was able to get back to painting my crab apple series. Whilst we had been away, the Malus Golden Hornet crab apples had swelled up (luckily it has rained a little since we were away) and turned yellow. The apples are not fully ripe yet, but as this was the only painting where I had done no apples at all and very little preparatory sketches, it was the one picture I was most concerned about.

I had in fact actually started the painting before we went away. I had done a composition and finished most of the leaves, placing the apples roughly in accordance with measurements taken two years ago when starting the series. However, this year there has been little rain during the summer months and the fruit were not as big as originally allowed for. That aspect of the painting had to be sketched anew. A photo from the Malus Golden Hornet.


On Thursday morning it started getting really cold here (relatively speaking) and a wind was building up. The Malus Gorgeous, a lovely little tree near our front door, has quite big deep red crab apples. They were beginning to fall off the tree. Although I have painted a composition with this apple several times, I had started a different composition. I again have done most of the leaves, but need to paint the apples. The Malus Gorgeous.


I felt it was now important to do a list of the pictures, detailing what was missing on each one and the urgency of each element. I don’t want to miss an important phase in the development of each apple because I was concentrating too much on one of the..

My Malus John Downey tree now has only three apples left on it. It didn’t do too well this year. I still had five apples to paint in the picture! I decided this was a priority. I can wax lyrical about the beauty of this tree, but I will save this for another time.

So, now I have been rescuing crab apples to paint their portraits in the relevant picture and yesterday managed nine hours on John Downey. My husband went out in the evening, so I could do what I enjoyed best – paint.

I haven’t got new pictures of this painting, but here you can see the notes from my flower dissections in my sketch book. Peeking out from under the sketchbook you can just see some completed leaves on a branch contain gripe crab apples.


Today, Friday, I have only had a couple of hours painting as we had to travel to Bristol for a meeting with other tutors from London Art College (LAC). I am the Botanical Art Tutor for LAC which is a distant learning course. If you are interested in this, have a look at their website. It is a good course.

Back home in the UK

Since 07:00 US time yesterday, I have had a one hour sort of snooze. This happened on the train between Gatwick and our home. I am wide awake – but not too clear in my thoughts.

The flight from Boston to Dublin, a two – hour wait for our flight to Gatwick, was filled with a solid breakfast and we arrived home about 10:00 our time. The sun was shining, it was fairly warm and good drying weather for washed holiday clothes.

The biggest thing we came home to, were the colours. GREEN. Thick green grass, heavily leafed green trees and masses of foliage still hanging, everywhere. There are still some roses in the garden. I took photos of the roses, pink and white cyclamen, fuchsia, two globe artichokes, geraniums and lots of other things.

The cats were glad to see us and have followed us everywhere. They had been well looked after.

Once returning home I took a lot of green pictures to show you the difference between where we have been in America, to here in the UK. However, I still find it difficult to comprehend the impact the Gulf Stream has on our weather although we are much further north than where we have been of late.

Although I have taken a lot of green pictures, I will show you the pictures my husband took when we took our cats for a walk along the shoreline. They love this trip with us. I am not showing you the cats, but the colour of the sunset. Orange, as though the sky were full of fall leaves from the Adirondack, Vermont, and New Hampshire.

This is the end of our holiday. Tomorrow we are back to normal. Thank you to all those who have helped to make our trip to the Hunt Institute of Botanical Documentation in Pittsburgh and holiday before and after, so memorable.


On the point of leaving the US

It is 16:10 US time and we sitting at Logan Airport in Boston. The clouds are slightly clearing and we are due to board at about 17:00.

Last night was spent at a little town called Peterborough. We had repacked our bags last night in preparation for the flight home, so once we had eaten our porridge, we went for a small walk around the town. Although it was cloudy it was quite warm. We had done a little window shopping last night, so this morning went into those shops we had picked out. Unfortunately we didn’t find anything we were looking for. I had decided I wanted a pad of Strathmore Vellum paper to give it a good try, but they only had it in rolls. Perhaps just as well.

Before leaving, we decided to have a last coffee at our last diner.


Did you know that theterm’Diner’ refers to the type of car it was on a train. Therefor many of the diners one sees are converted railway carriages. This one was particularly fine from the outside.

But inside we were tempted, and who is strong enough not to succumb? Not us.



Once outside again we were back to Leaf peeping. As we were lower down, the colours were fantastic again. But note the name of the cafe by this maple.


For those of you who love the colours, here are a few more pictures of our drive towards Boston. They were magnificent to begin with, but began to fade and get browner the nearer to Boston we got.







The the freeway.

Then a food break at the airport! It’s diet time when we get home.


Sorry about the typos. I was rushing this to G&T it off before we are called up. Bye for now.

Goodbye Adirondacks!

Apart from the first couple of hours of our first day in the US we have had sun and warmth or heat and I have just worn sandals. This is today.



We’re sad and obviously the weather is expressing its sadness at our leaving. We are now less than 24 hours from leaving the US.

Last night we had a typical hamburger, but with sweet potato chips. Apparently that is good for you and much healthier than normal chips, said a neighbouring diner! We sort of packed for leaving this morning before I wrote the blog last night. We felt a little chilly during the night and this morning it was pouring with rain when we woke up. Thus the socks and shoes.

I mentioned yesterday that there was a definite difference to the colour of the trees. We had seen the colours reach their peak and start to deteriorate. Today, the colours were mostly dirty yellow and brown and the branches much more bare. Old Forge seemed like a typical small town on a typical damp Autumn day. It reminded me of living in the mountains in Norway – the dirty damp period between the glistening, bright colours of summer and the sparkling white of winter. It is a very short period – as is Spring, but it took us a little by surprise.

It eventually stopped raining although it remained cloudy and the colours remained very dull.


We drove across the Adirondack to the other side, passing Blue Mountain Lake again, but this time continuing East. The boundary of the Adirondacks coincides with the boundary between Vermont and New York State. We left it at the tip of Lake George which flows into the Hudson River. A beautiful area. By this time we had begun to come lower down towards sea level, so we started entering ‘leaf peeping’ areas again.





Someone had advised us that Ludlow in Vermont and Keene in New Hampshire were beautiful places and we had thought to spend our last night in a motel in this area. We couldn’t find an affordable motel. The area was obviously very expensive, indicated by quite a few elegant and coiffured women about town. We decided to move on and hope we found somewhere suitable before dark. By the way, Keene in particular was very attractive with the trees dressed in yellows, greens and a lot of red.

We were now only about 1 1/2 hours from Boston and stopped in Peterborough to ask directions to a reasonable place to stay the night. We found the only place in town. A very nice Inn. We are spending our last night in reasonable comfort. It is warmer here and the trees are peeping. I have just had my last Margarita. It was delicious. The cases are now repacked and ready to go and Robin is already asleep.

Tomorrow we will have a quick look around the town before we set off for Logan Airport. I’ve already spotted an art shop.

Thursday, Final day in the Adirondacks

Since we have been here we have tried to get one or two postcards for people without email. We had almost given up, when lo and behold a shop appeared with one or two. Now we can rest easy, but anyone reading this will not be getting a snail mail card from us. Obviously, the use of emails etc has had a real effect on such niceties. Today we sent a picture to friends and family that will not be appearing in the blog – us as we are!

Anyway, this is our last day in the Adirondacks. We have just been planning the next but last leg of our journey back to Boston. Today, like every other day has not worked out as planned ( I hope tomorrow will), but has been far better than that. Today we had planned a trip along some tracks above us in the mountains. But when we drove up, although the trackers were well marked on our maps, they were gated, barred and bolted. What to do? We started back again down the mountain (luckily driving), got lost (with the map) and found ourselves at McCauley mountain chair lift. So up we went.

The picture to family and friends was a unflattering picture of us on the chair lift.

But these pictures are ones taken before and during the lift. Note the change in colour scheme.




We stayed up at the top for a few hours. Robin had forgotten his painting things. I had mine and found a baby maple tree to try and capture the bright red of the leaves. It was so still up there except for the crickets and some sort of animal that had a high frequency sound- almost like something electrical. It wasn’t, but we don’t know what it was. Robin chased around the top a bit as it moved around, to see if he could identify it. In the end he gave up and settled down to watch the gentle clouds – with his eyes closed. When he eventually opened his eyes again he commented how quiet it was – he was right, he had stopped snoring so I could take out my earplugs!




Gradually the sun began to fade a little as it got more cloudy, so we decided to pack up our things and take the trail down the mountain. I have to admit it wasn’t a big mountain – more like a large hill. But it had ‘mountain’ in its name and it was used during the winter for slalom skiing. Apparently the trail down was less than a mile, so you can make your own impressions from it.

Whilst on the top I burnt my shins and the back of my neck. I think that may probably be the last hot sun we are likely to experience this year. But I could be wrong.

What is so incredible is that since we have been here in Old Forge, the leaves have changed so much. When we arrived on Monday we were impressed with the colours, but the next day they were really amazing. Today I would definitely say that they are on the wane. A lot of leaves have fallen, therefore there is a lot of bare branches. Where the leaves are still clinging to the trees they are often shrivelled and brown. Mixed with some of the deep and bright reds still around, it is still an incredible sight in the sharp clear sunlight.

We see white tailed deer every day, mostly in the early morning or evening. They seem to like eating apples and crab apples fallen from the trees in gardens. No-one seems to mind this at all. One isn’t allowed to feed them and I haven’t seem them rummaging for food. This evening when we came back from eating our supper, one appeared outside our door. I happened to have a handful of crab apples I had picked, so held them out – not really expecting the deer to come over to me. It did. So Robin took these pictures. It is such a privilege to have a wild animal feed from your hand.



Wednesday in the Adirondacks

The day started off similar to yesterday although slightly chillier. Having prepared ourselves by eating a simple porridge breakfast and getting a prepared salad for our lunch, we set off to explore the Adirondacks a little more by car.

We headed off in the direction of the Blue Mountain Lake. The colours continued to be magnificent and eventually the clouds cleared to give us the sun. We drove slowly to get as many impressions in as possible. As the morning wore on and the sun stayed out, it got increasingly warmer. It was beautiful.

Before leaving Old Forge, we went to look at the Adirondacks National Exhibition of American Watercolours. Apparently this is an annual event. I was unclear as to whether the exhibitors were meant to be from the Adirondacks, or whether the scenes were meant to have an impression of the Adirondacks, as I understand the artists were from all over the US and watercolour seemed to include Acrylic, Gouache, pen &link as well as traditional watercolour. The subjects of the pictures were from many places, also external to the US.

We had proudly been advised by locals that the exhibition demonstrated for everyone that there was a lot of very good art in the Adirondacks. This exhibition certainly did have quite a lot of good art, but as is the case everywhere, some of its quality is in the eye of the beholder. I can only say, thank goodness to that, as I know not everyone appreciates botanical art. I’m of course glad that some do.

This photo was taken as we came out of the exhibition. The centre itself was very impressive and worked really well in exhibiting artwork.


We carried on up to Blue Mountain Lake, intending to go into a museum there. However, the entry fee was a lot more than we wanted to pay for only having a quick look, rather than dedicating the day to taking in the history of the Adirondacks.


This is the view we had whilst eating our lunch. Today the wind was up and there were waves on all the lakes we passed. Yesterday, everything had been wind-still.

We had thought about making our way up to Lake Placid and the High Peaks, before wending our way back to Old Forge. But we dropped in at a place calling itself ‘The Trading Post’ to get a cup of coffee. During the conversation, we mentioned what we had intended, the lady there came after us as we were leaving saying we ought to change our minds and do something else. She suggested that a few miles along the road there was a track leading up Coney Mountain, with fantastic views on the top.

Of course, as you realise, we have been very obedient to the advice we have been given along the way and have actually done some fantastic things we might not have done otherwise. Although not really clad for the hike, we had fairly strong sandals and some water, so found the track and did as we were told. What can I say! If a local gives advice and your gut feeling is in rhythms with it, go for it!



Look at the colour of these leaves, and they are on the ground!

On the way up, we met three pleasant couples. One couple in particular were really helpful and if they read this, thank you. We explained that we were taking this trail on the spur of the moment and were not really prepared. They had some written information about the climb and what we would see on the top. They gave it to us and it made everything so much more interesting in knowing what we were actually seeing. I had filmed a video that I had intended including in this blog. Unfortunately it won’t download for some reason, so I can’t include it. Still it was a fantastic 360 degree view of the Adirodacks, with the high peaks in the distance. We may not have gone to Lake Placid, but we had a rough idea of its position from our viewpoint on Coney mountain.

However, I will include a few more pictures of our return journey down the mountain and on our way back to Old Forge. The crickets continue to rub their legs together!