New online botanical art course available from 1 March 2016

At last I have published details of the new online botanical art course. You will find information on the page of my website by clicking here: Gaynor’s Flora online botanical art course.

The course is based on six modules and is suitable for both experienced and inexperienced students. You choose your main medium;  either watercolour or coloured pencil and I have made YouTube videos to demonstrate techniques.

Unfortunately I will have to limit the number of new students that I take on at any one time, but take on new ones each month.

I look forward to hearing from you.

As it is almost the end of Hellebore time, I will pretty up this blog with ‘Hellebore mix’ in watercolour.

Hellebore mix in watercolour

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Botanical art workshop: Dark Hellebores and White Snowdrops

I couldn’t believe it, but between us all we had enough dark Hellebores and Snowdrops to concentrate on the effects of doing something light against a dark background.

The intention of the workshop was to show how little work was really necessary on a white flower when placed against a dark background. Luckily I have some very dark Hellebores and one called ‘Slate’, that were still flowering. Additionally one of the students came with some that were a delicious ruby-red.

I was afraid that we might have to use the Leucojum that are still flowering in the garden, because the snowdrops really didn’t do too well and were almost finished – or finished off by slugs. The Leucojum normally doesn’t start flowering until after the Snowdrops, but this year started in December, before the Snowdrops. Weird!

I won’t rabbit on any more but show the progression during this weekend’s workshop. As usual it was a lovely group and they worked hard.

Painting like mad with coloured pencils.
Painting like mad with coloured pencils.

 

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The next botanical art workshop in Bosham will be 18-20 March when we will be doing ‘Spring is on the way: flowers & bulbs’. It would be nice if those coming to the workshop would consider doing the flower attached to the bulb. I think that botanical pictures showing what also lies beneath the surface can be as interesting as that above the ground. There are still some places available, so do get in touch.

Coloured pencil or Watercolour for a botanical art subject?

In actual fact, I’m cheating a little, as I was going to write this blog this evening having spent a couple of days off from writing my botanical art online course, to sketch some Fritillaries in preparation for a commission in watercolour. But, I also got a query from a lady this evening, about the use of coloured pencils and how I choose whether to use watercolour or coloured pencil for a subject.

My answer to her and anyone else who asks ( as I do get the question fairly regularly), is that I have no idea. I just have a feeling that I want to do one or the other.

But, when I did my last RHS exhibit in 2014, I deliberately chose to do it in coloured pencil to show that solid subjects (crabapples), dainty subjects (blossom) and delicate detail (dissections), could be done in coloured pencil. The judges said they didn’t realise I had used CP and thought it was in watercolour!

Back to the commission; I had bought some Fritillaria meleagris at the local garden centre and Fritillaria Michailovskyi at Chelsea Physic Garden when I was there at the beginning of the month. I think we are innate plant hoarders! So this week I have been doing a series of small sketches in my sketchbooks.

Without thinking too much, I started out in a Stillman & Bern Epsilon sketchbook, realised what I had done (as the Zeta is better for watercolour), but continued in it, deciding to do my colour samples in coloured pencil. Although you can’t compare CP and watercolour by the names, or know how one colour mixes with another, I know the two mediums well enough to be able to convert fairly happily.

I’m afraid the following photo is not brilliant as I took it on my easel this evening, but I think you get a reasonably good idea of the results on the page.

Fritillaria meleagris in coloured pencil.
Fritillaria meleagris in coloured pencil.

By the time I had finished these, the one dark flower I had was looking a bit faded as it was being subjected to being in the warmth of the shed during the day and outside during the cold night. I needed to concentrate on the foliage as it was a bluish green, except near the base, but felt I really should do this in watercolour.

I changed to the Stillman & Bern Zeta sketchbook. Shame they aren’t all in the same one – but never mind! I had hacked (dissected) the one flower to pieces and done one or two small sketches, so decided to draw a portrait of the bulbs. In the end, all of the sketches on the 2nd page are watercolour over graphite. The bulb is from the Fritillaria meleagris, but you also see the Fritillaria Michailovskyi. I have taken a photo of that one halfway through so you can see the amount of graphite shading I actually did. Before adding colour, I did a wash of clear water to ‘set’ the graphite so it wouldn’t discolour the colours I was going to use.

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First botanical art picture accepted by Chelsea Physic Garden

I am so excited. I got a letter in the post today to tell me that my first picture has been accepted by the Chelsea Garden Florilegium, without needing to be adjusted in any way. On top of that, the comments from the Kew Botanists who evaluated the work, were pretty good too – that made the acceptance even more special.

I applied to and was accepted as a member of the Chelsea Physic Garden Florilegium in the middle of last year; full membership is limited making membership even more exciting. The intention of membership is to document all the plants that are in the Chelsea Physic Garden. As you can imagine, there are thousands, so it will take a long time.

For the privilege of being a full member, everyone is meant to submit a picture each year, of one of the plants in the garden. Of course, a plant needs to be chosen that is not already in the archives. As I became a member half-way through the year I was in reality excused from painting a picture until 2016, but those who know me know I like a challenge.

I painted the Fuchsia microphylla. As the name suggests the leaves are minuscule, as are the flowers, although I was surprised by the size of the fruit. Except for the pen & ink habit drawing, which is life-size, the rest of the painting is on a larger scale. Once the scale of anything is increased, the colours become much more intense. Anyone who has looked through a microscope to see the detail of grey-looking grass, will know how intense the multitude of colours is in reality. The Fuchsia microphylla was painted enlarged because it was so tiny and I wanted to convey its real beauty.

I have posted the picture before, but here it is again, now as part of the archives of the Chelsea Physic Garden.

Fuchsia microphylla from Chelsea Physic Garden, in watercolour with ink.
Fuchsia microphylla from Chelsea Physic Garden, in watercolour with ink.