Haven’t had time to update my own website – so here goes!

I have been really bad at keeping on top of my own website because of all the work in relation to ABBA (Association of British Botanical Artists). Therefore this information about my participation in the RHS exhibition next week is not on the right page! Sorry about that, but I am telling you a little more about it now and hope that you will be able to make it.

Following on from the exhibition ‘In Ruskin’s Footsteps’ at Lancaster University, we (ABBA) have a stand this coming week at the RHS Plant and Art Fair, which for Botanical artists is a very important event. It is on 11th & 12th July at the RHS Halls in London. ABBA have a stand with the majority of Botanical artists, in the Lindley Hall. As I said in my last blog, Follow the Banner!

We are exhibiting five of the original pictures from the juried exhibition in Lancaster, giving everyone a further opportunity to study them. One of them is mine – Sea Thrift, painted on vellum. I mentioned that I would be demonstrating at the exhibition and now it is clear which medium I will be using, also which plant I will be painting.

I had intended getting my own exhibit finished for the RHS exhibition next year, but because of the amount of work that has gone into ABBA, I have decided to put this off until 2020.  My topic is ‘Foraging plants of the Norwegian Mountains’.

It became very clear whilst going through the various phases of the Worldwide exhibition preparation, that although the UK is a distinct island it is still part of the European Continent. At one point in our history we were connected without needing to use a tunnel, boat or plane. Our plants bear witness to this in that many of the plants that are native in Northern Europe, are also native in the UK. However, some may not be so common these days.

Image being drawn on vellum

One of my series of plants is the Arctostaphylos  uva—ursi, Common bearberry in English and Melbær in Norwegian. It looks similar to a Crowberry, but is white inside (floury), giving its Norwegian name. When picking Crowberries it is not popular to mix Bearberries in by mistake as they don’t taste quite as nice, although edible. Also it is a stone-fruit and not a berry!

ABBA wants to encourage botanical art in relation to our native flora. As I intend to paint the series on vellum, I will be using this medium on the ABBA stand at the RHS. I have a nice little plant of the Bearberry with the beginnings of small flowers. The image is already transferred to a small piece of vellum which will be ideal to practice on and make decisions about which colours to use.

From my sketchbook.

You might be just able to see that in my sketchbook I have quickly done a rough tonal drawing, indicating where the light is coming from. I have also put in a little blue to indicate where the light of the sky has reflected on the leaves and started indicating the difference between the colour on the front and back of the leaves: but that is in my sketchbook. Which colours I will actually choose to use on the vellum, remembering that colours appear far more intense on vellum as it reflects the colour of the pigment better than on paper, will be the result of this trial piece.

In addition to my demonstrations we will be talking with people to find out what they want from ABBA in the future and whether they – you, want to be part of it. Our focus will be to help anyone, anywhere, interested in botanical art to learn more.

But there is a little icing on the cake: The RHS have agreed to show the Botanical Art Worldwide exhibition slideshow from 25 countries. This will happen in the talks area of the Lindley Hall, between and after the talks. But just in case you want to see it otherwise, we will be showing it on the ABBA stand.

This is the last opportunity to see the Worldwide Slideshow!

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A Gaynor’s Flora Update!

The last time I wrote a blog was at the beginning of April. That is a long time ago for a blog, but the time has been filled to the limit.

I won’t go into the intricate details, just enough to let you know what I have been doing.

The RHS Launch February 2017

I don’t think I have mentioned in any great detail the formation of the Association of British Botanical Artists (ABBA), initially just to allow the UK (England and Wales) to participate in the Botanical Art Worldwide Exhibition.  At the American SBA conference in Pittsburgh in 2016 we were faced with the possibility that the UK would not participate because we were all too busy! I couldn’t let that happen. In the end 25 countries took part.

Our esteemed judges: Martyn Rix, Christabel King, Helen Allen, Ann Swan & Brent Elliott

At a meeting back home in November, three of us met and agreed to form a steering group with me as main co-ordinator; we launched ABBA at the Royal Horticultural Society’s (RHS) Botanical art show in February 2017 and the process for participating in the Worldwide Botanical Art Exhibition began to take shape. A few more botanical artists joined the steering group and we were away.

We decided we wanted to hold the exhibition ‘up north’ as everything happens ‘down south’, doesn’t it? We found an exhibition space in Lancaster and ‘In Ruskin’s Footsteps’ (the name of the UK exhibition) started to develop. An RHS Dawn Jolliffe bursary was applied for and granted, so now we had something with which to pay for some of the things we had to pay for!

Packing after the judging: Christabel King, Deborah Lambkin, Sarah Morrish, me, Lucy Smith.

In November submissions of botanical art pictures arrived from all over the country and our amazing judges took care of that- initially digitally (with signatures removed) and the last phase ready framed at Kew in January. 40 beautiful pictures were chosen for the exhibition to be held 18th May to 9th June.

Several other institutions in London decided they wanted to work with us for the Worldwide Day of Botanical Art 2018, which was on 18 May. Therefore, together there was a lot going on behind the scenes on these events too.

After some wobbles and lots of hard work, the time to set up the exhibition arrived, now to be held at the Peter Scott Gallery, Lancaster University. It is a fantastic exhibition space and people working there plus the previous curator at the Ruskin Library, were very helpful and supportive.

Martin Allen, Sarah Morrish & me just before the preview 17th May 2018
Worldwide Botanical Art Day in the Peter Scott Gallery at Lancaster University.

We had the pre-view on the evening of the 17th May, with speeches by the curator Richard Smith, myself and the opening of the exhibition by Professor Stephen Wildman. That in itself was a lovely event (I think!) and many of the exhibiting artists came along.

Starting a Colour pencil demonstration of Lily of the Valley. Worldwide Day of Botanical Art 18 May 2018
A little further along with the demo on Monday 21 May

For more information about the Botanical Art Worldwide Exhibition; In Ruskin’s Footsteps, go to

www.britishbotanicalartists.com.The exhibition is on until 9th June 2018. Generally botanical artists are there demonstrating and on the last day there will be a tour of the pictures and a talk.

In between all of this I have managed to squeeze in the Chichester Open Studios weekends and I had quite a few interested visitors. Each evening though it was back to working until the early hours of the morning, on ‘In Ruskin’s Footsteps’.

At Chichester Open Studios art trail, starting off the final work for a commission. A Bramley Apple in watercolour.

To show you a little of my own demos whilst in Lancaster I am including the unfinished picture I worked on in coloured pencil. I chose a Lily of Valley as so many people worry about white flowers. I wanted to show how best to do it. I used a lamp to highlight from the left and some of the leaves became backlit creating a beautiful architectural plant. The picture will remain unfinished as the flowers are now long gone, but it will be useful to demo on.

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The Benton Farewell Iris progression

I am fighting to get time to paint! Last week I was unable to anything for about 10 days because of the dreaded flu. After that it was trying to catch up with assignment marking and the Iris picture.

The only thing that you the reader will be interested in, is the Iris and how that is progressing. My last blog showed you some of my preparation sketches and my planned drawing. After that it was a question of tracing all the sketches that I decided to actually use in the picture. I traced them onto my final art paper using the the technique you will find on this page:gaynorsflora.com/my-tutorials/ The video is called ‘How to trace an image to art paper’. The reason I do it this way is to remove any risk of creating any indentation in the art paper. An indentation tends to collect pigment when using watercolour, or leave a white line if using coloured pencil We don’t want either of these results.

I used the old Fabriano extra white HP, 640 gsm. I am in the lucky in that I have enough old stock to last me!

The main colours that I am using in my greens are Maimeri Cyan, which is a Phthalocyanin PB15 pigment. This is one of my favourite colours as a base for greens, although if needing to go very dark I might use Idanthrene Blue. The yellow is Quin Gold with a touch of Transparent Yellow. For warming the colour, greying it down or even creating a grey I use Perylene Violet. Therefore I use mostly these colours to create my greens and browns.

Although I have loads of sketches and colour swatches, I have also taken a plant into the house and luckily the leaves have started growing. This confirms the colours that I have chosen to use.

First big mistake!

You will notice that I have the whole length of the stem cut in two on the right side of the picture. In botanical art, when the height of the plant is rather tall as in this instance, one needs to actually show its whole length. This is done by cutting it and showing the two matching end pieces in the design. Here I have cut the upper portion away, leaving the bottom of the stem attached and growing from the leaves. The upper section will include the open flowers and developing buds.

So what was my big mistake? I decided to mask out the stem and do the leaves behind it. But I needed to cut the edge of the tape. I tried to mark the tape with a pencil, but it didn’t work, so used a pen! I know stupid, stupid! As you might expect, when I applied water the ink ran onto the paper, even though I thought I had cut it away.

Also, the cut edge was not close enough, so I ended up with either a gap or an extra wide stem. Artistic license is all very well, but not in botanical art when you need to show the plant as it is.

 

I won’t go into so much of the detail in the stages I will show you today. But notice that the leaf going off to the left is grey. This is graphite. I don’t want to do heavy painted leaves for the whole design or I am afraid the delicacy of the flower will be lost. I could be wrong, but we will see how it goes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I hope it won’t be too long before I can do some more work on this. However, the Worldwide Botanical Art Exhibition is now at a crucial point. Just before Christmas we in The Association of British Botanical Artists (ABBA) had the first stage of jury selection which was done digitally. Those successful artists have been getting their work framed over Christmas and are now delivering it, mostly to me, for the final stage in the juried selection due to take place up at Kew next week. We will then start the process of uploading the final forty successful paintings into a slideshow which will be included in the Worldwide slideshow with Forty native plants illustrated from each of 23 countries.

It will be a magnificent exhibition in each of the countries participating.

UK native plants packed for RHS botanical art exhibition

Packed and ready to go.

Tomorrow two of us are travelling up to London to set up the ABBA table in the RHS Lindley Hall, Vincent Square near Victoria Station. It will be the RHS botanical art show with the best of International botanical artists showing their work. Neither of us are exhibiting our own work this time, but we will be demonstrating different techniques.

The main reason for having the table at the exhibition is to talk about the plans for the Worldwide Botanical art day in May 2018 and to encourage British botanical artists to take part. A new Association of British Botanical Artists (ABBA) formed to do this has put an initial ‘call for entries’ on it

Www.abba2018.wordpress.com

On  Friday and Saturday this week, I have chosen to demonstrate a sketch book or study page in graphite and watercolour from  one of the native plants I have packed to take with me. Come along and see how I do this.

Apart from the Primrose, do you know what these plants are called?

The one on the right, with hardly any leaves just yet, is a Bilberry. This is a small wild blue berry. It doesn’ look very interesting at the moment, but if you are going to paint the portrait of a plant, including something from various stages in its life cycle, makes the resulting picture more interesting.

The plant above  the Bilberry with the small oval leaves is Cowberry and has small red berries. You might know it as Lignonberry and has smaller and sharper tasting berries than cranberries. This plant has the beginnings of tiny flower buds.

The one above the Primrose is a Crowberry and will eventually have small, almost black berries. Again the plant doesn’t seem so interesting in this stage of its life, but I think might offer some challenges whilst painting its portrait.

Common for for all three species ( not the Primrose) is that they all produce fruit that is edible.

I am lucky enough to be able to do some sketches now, while the plants are only just coming out of their winter state. This will be particularly useful for me and for future work I have planned.

Do come and see us at the RHS, Lindley Hall, Vincent Square, Friday and Saturday.

Now I know what the Seven Sisters are!

We have just got back from long, tiring hike, with a lot of steep hills. We started near Cuckmere Haven, went up through the Friston Forest and then down to the Birling Gap, going along the cliff path in the Seven Sisters Park back to Cuckmere.

I generally write about something pertaining to botanical art and this is no different. But if one is able to get around – and I recognise that not everyone can do so, getting out into nature to look at the subjects it provides for us is exciting. Unfortunately not everyone does have the ability to get around and hopefully my blog can bring some of what I experience to those people.

I have spoken a lot about native flora of late and of course that is because I am involved in the ABBA team that is putting the UK on the International Botanical Art map in May 2018.

I, like many other botanical artists have always painted or drawn the plants that do something for me, no matter where those plants have originated. The topic of the Worldwide exhibition is ‘Native plants’, therefore I have looked long and hard at the pictures I have painted before and those I want to paint in the future. There are so many plants that are considered native and often they are right outside our back doors. But they can also be quite stunning.

Click on this link to see a picture of Bee Orchids at the bottom of the page, painted by Claire Ward. I had to ask her if they really were native plants – and yes they are. http://www.abba2018.wordpress.com

Back to the Seven Sisters and Friston woods where we saw this lovely forest of Beech trees.

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Apart from swathes of Snowdrops at the beginning of the walk, we also found clumps of Primroses –
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and some stiles! Not good for us old people. Bear in mind Robin is just older than me (although he hides it well), but it is me that struggles so much with these contraptions. I can walk for miles over rough terrain, up and down. But climbing a stile gets me. I think those stiles will get me before walking a long distance does. I am so glad when I see a gate that can be opened, and would happily hang over an edge to get round a post rather than over the stile that might be inbetween. Not to mention some of the stiles that are so rotten, that they are dangerous. None were today.

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We had tea and cake, outside at the Birling Gap. I only mention that to show the difference in the weather over one week. Last week it was bitter cold, but today was quite pleasant if one kept walking.

The Seven Sisters is a series of chalk cliffs that rival Beachy Head (the White cliffs of Dover). Part of the South Downs Way runs along the cliff top, which goes up and down seven times. In fact, I thought I counted eight, but by the time I got to Cuckmere Haven, I was past caring. Along this stretch there was a lot of flowering gorse. Pictures do show a little of the beauty up there.
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A very good three-day botanical art workshop.

What a week it has been!

Following loads of preparation, ABBA (the new Association of British Botanical Artists) launched its new website on Wednesday and I had one of my workshops on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

The steering group for the new organisation put in a lot of work up until the launch of information about the Worldwide Botanical Art day in May 2018. For more information look at the website: Www.abba2018.wordpress.com. We have had a lot of very positive feedback and quite a few botanical artists have already started thinking about a species of plant they want to paint.

The botanical art workshop concentrated on painting pale flowers on white paper. My students were extremely brave and worked on the sort of thing a lot of people fear doing – painting white flowers on white paper. They actually chose to do this, although I suggested they could work with any pale flower.

Here are a couple of the results. One in watercolour and one in coloured pencil.img_0214

Hellebore in watercolour
Hellebore in watercolour
Hellebore in coloured pencil
Hellebore in coloured pencil

 

 

 

 

 

 

The trick is to try and paint your pale flower with a background of darker colour – leaves or a dark flower.

I was extremely pleased with the results, as were they.

Tomorrow we are going for our long walk to build up for long days at the end of the week when we will be at the RHS exhibition in London.

Sarah Morrish and I will be there for both Friday and Saturday, demonstrating and giving out information about the Worldwide botanical art day. Lucy Smith will be joining us for one of the days and the intention is for us to use different methods of drawing or painting native plants.

Hope to see you then

Liriope & Open Studio

What a busy life, but who would have it any other way! This is both a progress report on the Liriope picture. Two days worth again, although I didn’t get anything done yesterday as we were preparing to welcome all those wise people who have decided to come and visit our home this weekend.

We are now ready and waiting for your visit during the Open Studio event – or at any time. Welcome!

Robin and I welcome you!
Robin and I welcome you!

But what you are really wanting to see is the Liriope muscari. Come and see me working on it this weekend.

Day 3
Day 3
Day 4
Day 4

The Bearded Iris: 52 Shades of Grey.

Today I have been licking my wounds and demonstrating coloured pencil in botanical art at the Society of Floral Painters Exhibition, the Oxmarket, Chichester. I had a lot of interested people looking at how ‘crayons’ can be used successfully. Hopefully we might get a few converts.

I have been working on a piece with Indian Corn as the subject. The painting has been going on and off for a long time, but hopefully with the little I did today and the work I will be doing on it at the Stansted Garden Show, I might get some more of it done. In time you might see it, as long as I don’t ruin that too. Understandably I am getting a little unsure about transporting work in progress after yesterday’s events!

After I came home today, I have been getting some more things ready for the show at the weekend. But I have also colour-matched and printed yesterday’s damaged original. Here it is.

The Bearded Iris: 52 shades of grey.
The Bearded Iris: 52 shades of grey.

Stunning Irises workshop in Bosham

I haven’t been very good at keeping up with my blogging as there has been so much going on this month. We came back from our weekend away, back into the thick of things and preparation for the three-day workshop that has just happened.

A few weeks ago I held a workshop for Fieldbreaks at Goodnestone Park in Kent. That was a great success (according to the students) and it was time to do the same thing here in Bosham. Irises is really the thing at the moment. Unfortunately they are so short lived. Stately and elegant in their glorious drapery; some with beards, some without; some very slim and sylph-like, others plump and very ‘Reuben-ish’. If you remember, he liked to paint women with something to them – buxom and a bit more.

We had something of everything here. The simplest in appearance were the ones you get in the supermarkets – we had a lot of them! Others brought beautiful bearded Irises and some, very beautiful slim yellow irises or blue irises with highly patterned falls (the name of one of the petals). Common for all was the way God has assembled them for us.

So that we would have a better idea of how an Iris really looks and how it is assembled, we actually took a few of them to pieces and there was a queue for the three microscopes. Initially, no-one on the workshop was interested in botanical illustration. After they had looked through the microscopes I actually saw some of them drawing what they had seen! It is exciting.

We were a little late in starting to paint the irises as a fair amount of time went into examining them and drawing them ready to paint. In fact unusually, no-one started painting until the next day. But it seems that the knowledge of what they were doing (i.e. careful observation of the plant), actually seemed to help them both in the drawing of their subjects and painting them.

The sun actually shone on the second day – but it did cast some strong shadows for some of these photos.

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Work in Watercolour and Coloured pencil on the second day.

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And the paintings at the end of the three days. All took Irises home with them to complete their work.

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So what now? Tomorrow, all day,  I will be demonstrating Coloured pencil in botanical art at the Society of Floral Painters Exhibition at the Oxmarket in Chichester.  The exhibition is open until Sunday midday, when it will be taken down. Do try and take the opportunity to go there to have a look.

I will be having my penultimate botanical weekly art class for this school year, on Wednesday, and Thursday we will be setting up for the Stansted Garden Show due to happen from Friday until Sunday. There will be a lot to see there and I will be continuing my demonstration in coloured pencil. I understand that the weather is to improve for the occasion. I hope to see you.