Wasn’t the weather horrid on Friday and Sunday – non-stop rain. But we still had a very good workshop; or at least that is what it have been told by those taking part.
Roses are scary subjects. Or at least people think they are. Normally we have loads of roses in the garden even though June is normally the main time for them. But following that very warm and dry spell whilst we were away in Norway, it seems that this year it really took its toll. Still we did have some simple roses and some a little more complicated. One that really caused a headache was a stunningly beautiful one ‘Deep Secret’. It’s perfume is very heady and it is a luscious deep, deep red. Although it was a full rose, it was the difficulty in matching the colour.
Reds can be difficult at the best of times, but as this rose unfolded, the different hues that emerged was incredible. One minute you think you have got it and the next it’s changed! But that is botanical art for you. I think at some point I will have to try it myself, rather than rely on students to struggle with the colour. But my projects are another matter.
Interestingly enough, one of the students arrived having never painted before and wanted to have a go. She started with watercolour, but as there was a mixture of watercolour and coloured pencil artists there, she got to see the effects of Both. On the second day, the student wanted to try CP and eventually got hooked by that medium.
But I expect it’s the pictures you want to see.
The next workshop is 21-22 August, Fruit & Veg: Strawberries & Cream workshop. We paint the fruit and veg and eat the strawberries and cream! There are a couple of places left, so obviously first come; first served. Get in touch.
We got back from Norway on Wednesday last week after a two-day drive. I was tired and so was Robin. But of course as usual the diary was full when we got back. Against my better judgement I had said yes to an invitation to an 20th anniversary lunch held by the Chelsea Physic Garden Florilegium Society (CPGFS). This was of course in London, but was held at the Royal College of Physicians; what a wonderful building and a delicious meal. we were lucky enough to sit at a table with some really nice members and it gave me the opportunity to put my mind at rest in relation to the expectations of me as a member. I haven’t yet started the work on the picture I will be doing, although I have decided what I am going to do.
After the meal we were invited into the garden by Dr Henry Oakley for an introduction to the gardens. Although we only had a short time being led around the garden (we had a train to catch) it was absolutely fascinating. We got a potted history of the garden and then a thoroughly interesting reasoning behind its layout and the plants that were there. I think that many were surprised that so many really important medicines that are in use today, can be evolved from one and the same plant. There were several instances of this happening. I just wish we could have stayed longer. I’m glad that we made the effort to go.
Thursday was spent catching up with cleaning and washing clothes (followed all the time by the cats), before we went away for the weekend! Once a year the Institute for Analytical Plant Illustrators (IAPI) has a weekend away. There is normally a meeting every two months which we try to attend when we can as there is so much to learn from the rest of the group: botanists and botanical artists.This time it was decided that the meeting should start in the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff. Maureen Lazarus and Heather Pardoe were to show us some of the botanical art in the collection. They were very knowledgeable about the collection which included artworks from Ehret up to modern day artists.
Although we missed the beginning of the session (junction closed on the M4), we still saw most of the pictures they had selected for us and heard some of the history behind them. Pictures ranged from ones by Ehret to modern day botanical artists.
The following day we planned to go to the National Botanic Gardens of Wales as a group. In between times we found each to our hotels for the night and we happened to end up at the same place as another group of people we were due to see the next day. Funnily enough, our visit coincided with Gardeners Question Time; they had chosen the same hotel as us – or the other way round!
We had a really beautiful day at the Botanic Gardens. The sun shone and it was warm. But we wanted to see everything. In the end we only watched one of the show recordings (they took two, obviously with a different panel), caught some of the talks round the garden, but we also wanted to SEE the plants as well as HEAR about how to look after them. These are one or two pictures.
One week ago today I said goodbye to those lovely people who joined me in Åsgårdstrand for a botanical art workshop holiday. Since then I have been relaxing with my family and some of the friends I made during my life in Norway. Today was our last day of relaxation and tomorrow we pack for an early start on Tuesday.
I’m not too good at relaxing fully and need to be doing something. My first day after the workshop was enforced relaxation with a book, whilst a knee problem was given a short chance to recover a little. It did a little, but I also enjoyed having an excuse to sit and read.
One of the things I wanted to do during this holiday week, was to introduce Robin to some of the Norwegian cuisine I enjoyed whilst living here. My daughter thinks I am trying to glorify the past in relation to some of the simple meals we used to eat. But I enjoyed them and I thought Robin might enjoy them too.
On Tuesday we drove up into the mountains to a village in the valley of Sigdal. I spent some happy years there when the children were small and made some very good friends. When we arrived, they pulled out all the stops and made us very welcome, serving us one of the meals on my list; Rømmegrøt. This is a porridge made of sour cream. It is normally eaten with a variety of salted meats, scrambled egg, flat bread (unleavened bread) and Rømme. Delicious. Luckily, Robin also enjoyed this.
Later on in the week, I bought some ‘fiskepudding’. This is a very uninspiring looking meal in that it looks very pale and simple. In the old days, fish scraps were blended with milk and flour into something like a fish loaf. It is served with boiled potatoes, carrots and white sauce (with of course parsley). I know that this is a meal for which many tourists will turn up their noses, but I like it. If there is any of the fiskepudding left, this can be eaten on a piece of bread with a slice of beetroot, the next day – for breakfast or lunch. I’m not trying to put you off Norwegian food – it sounds strange, but it is good.
Another meal is ‘kjøtt kaker’; This is meat cakes. Many might mistakenly assume this is like Ikea’s meat balls, but there is absolutely no similarity. Think of the size of fish cakes, meat cakes are a similar size and made of good ground beef.
Later in the week we visited a friend who I met within the first six months of my 25 year stay in Norway. She and her husband live east of the capital Oslo in a lovely house looking out over a valley cut out by the Glomma river. The river is the longest in Norway and runs almost the whole length of southern Norway from the mountains south of Trondheim nearly down to the border with Sweden at Fredrikstad. But as the river covers such a huge area, there have also been some very significant floods during snow melting – particularly if it rains as well. Of course the areas almost worst affected are towards the end of its course towards the sea; Lillestrøm near where this house is situated, and Fredrikstad.
This visit was hugely interesting, because we were taken to the Fetsund Timber booms. This is where the wood was floated down the Glomma and collected. Additionally, our hosts were hugely knowledgeable about Norwegian History and able to impart it in a very interesting way. To cap the day, we were surprisingly treated to Meat cakes. I know that they had no idea of the list I had in my head, but they helped tick off one more delicious meal that I had wanted to introduce to Robin.
Yesterday we took the ferry over the Oslo Fjord from Horton to Moss. This shortened the journey from my daughter’s home in Tønsberg, just south of Åsgårdstrand, to another friend’s home in Sarpsborg; neighbour to Fredrikstad and also on the Glomma river. She also helped to tick another box in relation to Gravet Laks.
I am very lucky to have so many good friends living in Norway, and fortunate to catch up with many of them in such beautiful weather and surroundings.
What was left? There is so much to do and see in Norway. My daughter thought we should visit the Rolling Stones at Mølen, near Larvik. This has been chosen as one of 37 areas in Norway with special historical and cultural value and therefore protected. The area in itself was completely fascinating. It was amazing to think that we were walking on rocks and stones carbon dated as far back as over 200 million years!
But for me as a botanical artist, there were even more wonderful sights to be seen. The range of wild flowers was huge. Something was clinging in to every knock and cranny; plants you wouldn’t expect to see there. The colours were beautiful.
I know some of the plants in the following pictures, but not all of them. If I haven’t given them a title, I would be very grateful if you know what they are, to let me know. I have used a Norwegian Flora book, found out the scientific name and the English version in many cases.
One thing I nearly forgot. Have you seen and wandered through a Peony field?
2015’s botanical art course in Norway came to an end on Sunday after breakfast, although our last supper was when we sadly said our goodbyes.
The week had been just right. Lovely students, good food and perfect weather. We had long bright, sunny and warm days. The nights were just a little too bright and sunny for some, but I think that most quickly got used to this. The temperature was just perfect, a mid twenty. We were also hugely lucky in that it meant we could do what we wanted, when we wanted, without having to worry about the weather.
I’m writing this on my iPad aided by my daughter’s cat. It’s funny but it seems that Norwegian cats have the same instinct as British ones – to sit on what you are trying to do! They must have the correct amount of attention.
Åsgårdstrand Hotel, which is just 15 minutes north of where I am now – Tønsberg, also on the Banks of the Oslo Fjord- did us proud this year too. We had a lovely room with a view overlooking the fjord, so that we had a first class view of the activity on the water. Sailing boats coming and going and even the big ferries taking their travellers to local and foreign destinations. I’m afraid that there is one sad point though – we didn’t do the refreshment breaks justice! Healthy and unhealthy snacks, the choice was ours. The trouble was that when we were working – we were working.
However, although everyone was there to learn and practice their botanical art, they were also there to have a holiday and relax. I think there was success In that too.
I had managed to get a variety of plants from up in the mountains and also from garden centres. However, I think that everyone was really impressed with the variety of wild flowers everywhere. They are fantastic.
This is some of the work done:
Our last meal together was a huge success thanks to Elizabeth, one of the students, and the hotel. We met in our glad rags in the separate room which Elizabeth had organised for us, and we were really well behaved for five minutes.
I had hoped to keep the blog updated in relation to the botanical art workshop holiday in Norway, but life got in the way.
Before our departure from the UK last week and our perilous journey up into the wilds of Scandinavia, our family arrived from Ghana for the start of their furlough, holiday and part house sitting exercise ( someone to water the cats and feed the plants). You can now take a breath. We had a little lovely journey over the channel and north (getting up at 03:00 to beat the queues instigated by our channel friends across the river). No-one to contact, no-one who could contact us, no undone jobs to be done – I could relax and sleep. Poor Robin drove most of the way. But I did knit a bit in periods.
We arrived in Norway two days later and got a lovely welcome. First job on the agenda was to meet a lovely lady from the Norwegian Botany Society who had collected some plants for us from the mountains in southern Norway. Then, we stocked up on plants from a local garden centre. Student tastes vary, so we were now prepared with Cloudberries, Blueberries, lignognberry, lace cap hydrangea, House leeks, Siberian Iris. But we didn’t have dog roses, wild strawberries, white campion, clover, Scabious, Vetch, these were brought in later by one of the students. The last species to be added to our plant table were some lovely Peonies, thanks to a grass-cutting-husband!
The workshop holiday started with a lovely meal at the Åsgårdstrand Hotel on the Southeast coast Of Norway, looking out across the beautiful views of the Oslo Fjord. This was Sunday evening with the course itself starting on the Monday morning. Everyone started out bright eyed and bushy tailed early on Monday morning, and as usual we started off with the most important aspects of the botanical painting, choice of subject, studying it, designing a composition and making the initial drawing, A painting is never better than its original drawing, therefore one needs to spend time on this phase.
The third day has been completed and it seems to me that the enthusiasm hasn’t wained. But a break was needed.
This afternoon a trip was planned and some of the students chose to come with us. We travelled a little way up into the mountains to a Cobalt Mine – once the largest in the world, called Blaafargeværket. The literal translation is Blue Colour Works. We had a lovely wander round the old buildings, but felt that to spend time in the actual mines, was rather a waste of a beautiful day. But we did learn a whole load about the mines’ and area history.
Apart from seeing old, restored buildings and fantastic scenery, we also learnt a bit about local history and saw two art exhibitions – all as the temperature was steadily climbing to 30 degrees. Eventually, it was almost a relief to head back to slightly cooler climbs along the coast. We felt our tasty supper this evening was very much well deserved.