Botanical art workshop at Goodnestone Park Gardens, Kent

On Monday and Tuesday this week I lead a workshop at Goodnestone Park Gardens in Kent. I have a couple of workshops there per year for Fieldbreaks.

The subject was Hedgerow produce and most of the students were using coloured pencil. One of them had neither used coloured pencil nor watercolour previously, so this was an experience. She did very well, although it felt a bit scary for her.

They are very good at Goodnestone and allow us to pick what we want from the gardens to use as botanical subjects. Some of the subjects we can find there can be quite exciting. But funnily enough, at a workshop I often find that other than new students who have not yet grasped that the ‘prettiest’ is not always the easiest to do, people generally choose very simple subjects. I think that this is because they are more intent on improving technique or learning something new to add to their repertoire of techniques.

Here are the results. I am very pleased with them and I am sure you will think them very good too.

Tree Peoni seed capsule. Coloured pencil.
Tree Peoni seed capsule. Coloured pencil.
Tree Peoni seed capsule pair. Coloured pencil.
Tree Peoni seed capsule pair. Coloured pencil.
Portugese Laurel berries. Coloured pencil
Portugese Laurel berries.
Coloured pencil
Lily seed capsule - Coloured pencil
Lily seed capsule – Coloured pencil
Rose hips - Watercolour
Rose hips – Watercolour
Rose leaf - watercolour
Rose leaf – watercolour

This morning I had an ordinary weekly class and since then I have been working on the pen & ink Bears Britches.

Bear britches in pen& ink
Bear britches in pen& ink

I have only done a small portion of it so far and this is only establishing the flowers and fruits. Once I have established all the elements in the picture I will create tone and then…….. But you will have to wait for that.

Botany and botanical art is very exciting!

On Friday and again on Sunday afternoon after church I was able to continue with my Acanthus ( in case you wondered what my new picture was all about). I finished the sketch and transferred it to the paper I am using for the final work. A warning, the following picture is not the whole composition as it will contain a third element – hopefully. It is a large project, but hopefully it will go well.

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On Saturday my husband and I drove up to Leicester, visiting briefly the University botanical Gardens. But we also went to an IAPI meeting on Grasses. Now many of you might wonder what was so special about grasses – and I did too. But, with just one lecture and some amazing views through the microscope, I am converted.

There were so many different types for different types of habitat and temperature zone. They may look very ordinary, but up close they are absolutely beautiful.

Think of a colour wheel and pointillism. If you mix the three primaries, you get a grey shade, depending upon the mix. Optical mixing of colours means that you don’t mix the colours on your palette, but by placing colours side by side, your brain mixes the colours together creating a third colour.

Now back to the grasses. When a grass is waving in the wind, depending upon the type, all you might see is a greyish or beige-ish colour in the frond. Well, at the height of the season, those ‘fronds’ are the ‘flowers’ (inflorescence) of the plant and contains the male and female parts.

I looked at these under the microscope and saw some tiny, really beautiful flowers. Most of all, the colours were amazing ( I know I’ve used the word again, but have to). The one I was looking at had wonderful reddish purple and green parts with the tiny style and stigma in purple sticking out of the tip. The colours glowed.

Unfortunately the pictures I have taken do not reflect the beauty that I saw under the microscope, but hopefully they will give an indication.

Back to optical mixing of colours. Bearing in mind the smallness of the inflorescence, even though the colours were individually very beautiful, they were small surfaces to the naked eye and therefore had the same effect as pointillism – the colours became optically mixed to a dull grey! Could this be natures way of protection?

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What do you think? I know the photo does not do the plant justice, but hopefully you can see the promise of the intricate and beautiful design.

A new botanical art project started.

On Saturday I will be travelling up to Leicester for the day to go to an Institute for Analytical Plant Illustration (IAPI) meeting, Grasses masterclass, at the University botanical gardens. I am looking forward to this as I have only just joined the group and this is my first meeting with them.

Monday will again be a very early start to arrive at Goodnestone Park Gardens in Kent for 09:30 in the morning. I am teaching at one of the Botanical art workshops arranged by Field Breaks and hugely looking forward to it. Goodnestone Park is a lovely place to do botanical art and the gardens contain a lot of subjects! Already I know some of the students and some use watercolour and others coloured pencil. I enjoy this mix.

But I have started another picture. I am still doing the initial sketch! But the final picture will be in pen & ink. I have another two-day workshop 1-2 October which will be pen & ink. How far I will get with this picture by the start of that workshop, I don’t know – but it will be useful having something on the go.

So far I have only started sketching it. Guess what it is!

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Botanical art on Vellum

Again I haven’t done too much painting over the last week as we have had family staying and we took the opportunity to have a little bit of a holiday with them.

But now I’m back to painting.

Whilst in Pittsburgh last year there were several botanical artists who tried to persuade me about the benefits of painting on Vellum. I saw some really beautiful work there and was really tempted. My husband bought me a few small sheets for Christmas and it has been lying there. Since then I have seen some more work on vellum and I wasn’t too enamoured. It definitely was not of Rory McEwen quality! You see I aim for the best.

I have been painting a small picture on vellum during the last few days. I had taken a photo of a bee on the runner beans and wanted to do this. Normally I only paint from real life and obviously this was a problem as I didn’t have the bee although did have the runner beans. I did some research on the bee and found out that it is called a Bombus pascuorum worker. It also meant that I had some other bee pictures to make sure that I got the details right. I’m not happy if I haven’t got the subject actually in front of me.

For once I decided to paint it oversize. This is another thing I don’t normally do, so I have several ‘firsts’ here. I know that I had to paint using a dry-brush technique, but still wasn’t sure how. I therefore examined the pictures in the Rory McEwen book ‘The colours of reality’. I had to refer back to this book on several occasions as I built up the layers. I thought that as I had painted on Porcelain many years ago, that I could adopt a similar process. I’m afraid that didn’t work! But I gradually began to get the hang of it and also take advantage of the fact that you can lift out mistakes.

I will put a couple of pictures in this blog, but add a few more as an album on my Facebook page.

If anyone has any tips, please let me know. I haven’t stretched the vellum, but would like to do so on larger pieces.

Runner bean leaves, first washes and details
Runner bean leaves, first washes and details
The bee
The bee
Runner bean flower
Runner bean flower
Finished painting
Finished painting

The Dipladenia: Anything missing?

In between marking assignments and receiving pictures for the SBA exhibition at Palmengarten, the botanical gardens in Frankfurt, I have been painting.

Last time I suggested you find the part in the picture where I had made a mistake, but had rectified it.

Now I have three photos of the final work on the picture – I think!

Dipladenia picture: What is needed to balance the composition?
Dipladenia picture: What is needed to balance the composition?
Dipladenia picture: Notice the difference? Does it work?
Dipladenia picture: Notice the difference? Does it work?
Dipladenia picture: Is it finished?
Dipladenia picture: Is it finished?
Part of my shed. The table looks as though a bomb has hit it, therefore hidden!
Part of my shed. The table looks as though a bomb has hit it, therefore hidden!

What to do with the plants now as it is poisonous. It nearly took the life of one of our cats and is very much a temptation to play with – as well as being very beautiful and exotic looking for our colder climate.