Botanical art and 50th Nurses reunion

I knew that May was going to be a jam packed month, but…….  I’m still trying to breath sensibly!

It started with Open Studios for two weekends, sandwiching my weekly botanical art shop and a workshop at Goodnestone Park in Kent. Once that was all cleared up, it was preparation for the nurses reunion. 

I never got as far as to finish an individual picture for all the girls meeting again (with some husbands – 26 of us), but I did manage eight, so gave a copy of each of them to the 17 girls( yes we are). The flowers included, Hellebore, Snowflake, Gorse, Primrose, Canary Bird Rose, Bluebell, Periwinkle and Aqualegia. 
People started arriving on Thursday, we met for supper on Friday, then from Saturday afternoon we hosted everything from home!!!. Afternoon tea, a super dinner provided by local caterers ( I couldn’t do it), and then Sunday brunch as people waved goodbye until the next reunion. I gave the caterers earplugs (which I don’t think they used), although I really felt sorry for the people downstairs in the pub where we had our Friday meal. Our neighbours sensibly went out for the evening on Saturday.




Monday morning, 09:30 sharp, we were at the Oxmarket in Chichester. It was the Society of Floral Painters (SFP) hanging in day. Robin was a runner and I was on the selection panel. I have to say that we have some really lovely work in this year. We spent all Monday and Tuesday selecting and hanging the artwork. You can come and see it until 6 June, except for Mindays, although it will be open this bank holiday Monday.

This isn’t meant to be a diary, but there is a lot going on at the moment.

Yesterday I had my normal class in the morning and then we went into London to bust Chelsea, with a small stop on the way at the Chelsea Physic garden. I have to say that was the best bit. It’s so peaceful there.  We go home late last night, up early again today and the day was spent demonstrating for me at the Oxmarket and Robin was stewarding.

Once we got home this evening I marked a couple of London Art College assignments and tomorrow we are off to Devon. Robin is going on a cookery course and I’m going to sleep!  

Chichester Open Studio event

I spent a lovely day last Friday painting bugs and beasties with Sarah Morrish. For once I was on the receiving end and sitting down trying to get a good result from painting. Sarah showed us what to look out for when painting bugs and we concentrated mostly on Butterflies and Moths. She also gave us some good tips in an effort to get a good result. I started a Spurge Hawkmoth, but I was so busy enjoying myself I didn’t get it finished!

Spurge Hawkmoth

Since Friday I have been working hard to catch up (of course). I had quite a few assignments to look at for the London Art College where I am the botanical art tutor. But now it is preparation for the Chichester Open Studio event that is taking place over the next two weekends, including the bank holiday Monday. I was preparing some of the pictures a couple of weeks ago and now it is time for preparing the house and garden.

Everything is growing so quickly in the garden already. The Magnolia feels as though it is long gone. The lilac tree standing next to it is just about to open its buds. The Wisteria flower buds have been swelling gently over a few weeks and now it looks as though they are about to burst.

But Robin thought that we should change the name of our house to Crab apples. Because I painted crab apples for the last series I exhibited at the RHS, we now have quite a few crab apple trees. We have four in the front garden and three in the back garden. They are an absolutely amazing display this year. But in addition to those we also have some eating apple trees in full bloom (something ate round the base of the Bramley apple tree last year, so it is struggling), a cherry tree and the Canary Rose has started to bloom. That will be an incredible sight too.

But for everything to look good, the weeds need to be removed. I have spent a long time digging up three-cornered garlic in the front garden. It looks really lovely but it seems to kill off everything else. In removing it one needs to be very careful and lift it gently so that all the new tiny bulbs don’t break off into the soil. One day I will get on top of it! Robin has been removing the same from his Fern patch before they become taken over.

A couple of days ago I removed the weeds from one of the kitchen garden beds, but today I have been weeding around the shed at the bottom of the garden. For those who haven’t already heard this, the shed is where I paint. This will be the place that hopefully you will come and visit sometime over the next two weekends.

In the house, we will move the table that I use for my classes and workshops, and hang botanical art pictures. This will include those that I have been dealing with the last few weeks. Robin looks after this side of things as I am much better at showing and telling people how I do it. With any luck we might interest more people to take up botanical art.

Do come and join us. Bosham is a lovely place to come and see at anytime of year, but during the Chichester Open studios art trail there are a lot of artists who are inviting people in to look at their artwork and to watch how they make it. Our address is in the trail catalogue which can be picked up almost anywhere, but it is also in the ‘exhibitions’ page of this website. In particular the little enclave where I live – Critchfield Rd and Windmill Field, there are several artists. But as I am the last one you get to, please don’t wear yourself out before you Reach me. You can always come for a sit-down and a cup of tea, have a wander in the garden, visit the shed (and me) at the bottom of the garden and my husband in the house. The trail is open 10:30-17:30 each day.

These pictures are all from the front garden.

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The other side of being an artist

This is the time of year for a botanical artist, in the UK,  when there are the most exhibitions and opportunities to promote ones work. You only need to see the list of dates and places on my ‘Exhibitions’ page to see all the occasions for which I need to prepare my work.

I love painting with watercolour and coloured pencil, or drawing with graphite or pen and ink. Many of my subjects are at their most beautiful at this time of year, but this doesn’t always mean that they are at their most interesting. People starting out in botanical art are often surprised to find that there is something of interest all year round.

I don’t love having to prepare my work for exhibitions! The reason for this is that it takes me away from doing what I do best and enjoy most – creating the actual artwork. But it has to be done.

For the last week I have not done any real painting as I have been preparing what I have done to exhibit. I try to keep on top of preparing each painting for printing as I finish that painting and rarely allow myself a backlog of more than two. This alone can take about two full days for each picture, where I use Photoshop to match the colours as closely as possible to the painting.

Luckily I haven’t had to do any colour matching on the pictures that I have been framing or mounting this week, as I had done it previously. But I do have some small pictures that will soon have to be done.

I got into the mounting and framing mode a week ago when my husband, Robin, needed to prepare some of his work for an exhibition. He did most of the work himself and I just helped him. After all, he does an awful lot in supporting me at my exhibitions and shows. So I just carried on from his framing to my framing.

The large table used for classes and workshops comes in very useful when mounting and framing artwork – but it’s never large enough!

The working table - at work
The working table – at work


You will hopefully recognise all but one of the pictures. The nightshade is one that I had intended to do as a series, but other subjects became very interesting!

'Young or old and still spiky'; Acanthus.
‘Young or old and still spiky’; Acanthus.
Daffodil; 51 shades of grey.
Daffodil; 51 shades of grey.
'Fatal attraction' ; Dipladenia and 'Solanum x dulcamara'; Bittersweet nightshade.
‘Fatal attraction’ ; Dipladenia and ‘Solanum x dulcamera’; Bittersweet nightshade.


Before I forget, the hanging of the pictures at the SBA exhibition at Westminster Central Hall in London, seems better this year. the exhibition continues until this coming Sunday, so I hope you get a chance to see it. Five of my six Crab apple paintings in coloured pencil from my exhibit at the RHS last year, are hanging there. Although not mentioned in the SBA catalogue, the series won a Silver Gilt medal.







My first home-made video – the Pineapple of course

This is going to be a very short blog as my eyes are popping out of my head.

I finished off a long series of London Art College assignments this morning, intending to go back to the easel afterwards.  I was then asked to write a short article to go on the website for the Chichester Open Studios event in May. Naturally I decided to do something about the Pineapple, put it forward as a suggestion including the use of my first video tutorial.

I know that there is already a series of videos that you can find via the Tutorial page on this website, but those are professionally done. Back to this one video so far: I started filming and doing a series of ‘time-lapse’ pictures at the beginning of the pineapple painting.  This video comprises both elements covering the initial period and lasts about three minutes. I continued to film throughout the whole painting, so in due course I hope to release something that will show the whole pineapple develop before your eyes. But that is still in the cooking pot.

Following the query earlier today, I therefore logged onto Youtube and created a channel called Gaynor Dickeson. It contains just one video: ‘How to paint Pineapple segments with Gaynor Dickeson’ . Do enjoy and let me know what you think. This is the link:


The Norwegian Society for Botanical Artists – newly founded today!

This has been a very eventful day. As a result of the visit to Kew Gardens today, and a serious discussion there inspired by exhibits in the Shirley Sherwood Gallery, we decided to found the Norwegian Society of Botanical Artists – Den Norske Foreningen for Botaniske Kunstnere.

My friend Tone Minde from Norway lives on the south coast in a town called Arendal. She is a garden designer with a special interest in botanical art. She like me, has tried to find other botanical artists or even an organisation that has some interest in this subject in Norway. The only thing that either of us found, were organisations in relation to gardens, mountains, botany and the environment, but nothing in relation to botanical art or illustration. So we decided to try and do something to plug this obvious gap.

I am aware that there are a couple of illustrators living in Norway and attached to botanical gardens in the country.

I know that botanical art has been neglected for many years in some countries. In the UK it has become very popular, as it has in North America, South Africa and Australia, and parts of mainland Europe. It was brought home to us today at the Shirley Sherwood Gallery that Norway is being left behind.

There were three different exhibitions today at the gallery, including one from the Dutch Society of Botanical Artists formed within the last ten years. It was interesting to note that their aims included:

To provide information about botanical art and to bring it to the attention of as wide a public as possible.

To bring together botanical artists, illustrators and anyone interested in botanical art.

To improve the quality of botanical art in the Netherlands.

We would like to promote botanical art in Norway in the same way as has happened in other countries so that our children can learn to look and see and portray the beauty and the detail in the Norwegian landscape.

We are looking for like-minded people to join the group with the intention of developing an interest in studying and painting Norway’s beautiful flora. Do get in touch so that we can tell you more.

Last year I made a start on bringing more botanical art to Norway. I ran a successful workshop on painting Norwegian plants, in Åsgårdstrand in south-eastern Norway. This attracted two Norwegians, one American, one German and four British people. Following the popularity of last year’s event, I will run another workshop in Norway this June. Full details are on my website

Tone and Gaynor outside the Orangery at Kew today, after deciding to form the Norwegian Society for Botanical Artists.
Tone and Gaynor outside the Orangery at Kew today, after deciding to form the Norwegian Society for Botanical Artists.
Capturing crocii on camera to take home to the Norwegian winter.
Capturing crocii on camera to take home to the Norwegian winter.
Tone Minde - admiring the crocus display at Kew.
Tone Minde – admiring the crocus display at Kew.

Botanical art Painting holiday in Norway 2015

The SBA botanical art exhibition in Palmengarten, Frankfurt, has almost left my to-do list for this year! Our SBA member Sue Henon and Palmengarten have already started having meetings about the next exhibition in 2016, but I will now have nearly a year free to decide about any involvement I might or might not have.

The pictures that came back are nearly all out of the house and there is only one last collection due. The house almost looks empty – so much so, that I can now see all the dust that quickly collected when so many people were in and out of the house collecting pictures. We will have exactly six days to clear up before our Christmas guests arrive!

As so many people were coming and going, I decided it was best to leave the Acanthus work in the house so that I could do a little of it whilst waiting for people to arrive. This is where I have got to with the picture. It is taking its time.

Acanthus 1 Pen & Ink
Acanthus 1 Pen & Ink
Acanthus 2 Pen & Ink
Acanthus 2 Pen & Ink
Acanthus 3 Pen & Ink
Acanthus 3 Pen & Ink

More importantly for me – and hopefully for a few of you out there, I now have all the details for the next Botanical Art workshop holiday in Norway. By clicking on the image below you will be linked to my website to download further information including the booking forms.

Brochure art course Norway 2015

Palmengarten – Friday week 2

Still no news from Sue at Palmengarten and none expected until Monday. But people are very obviously interested in the botanical art exhibition in the Palm House in Frankfurt. For those SBA members and associate members who sent in work for this exhibition, there is a lot of positive feedback from your pictures shown on this blog.

The Palmengarten exhibition title is ‘Poisonous and medicinal plants’. An item in the news today was very much in keeping with this and also a reminder as to the properties some of our beautiful plants actually have. It means that we can still see their beauty in our gardens, but some of these plants need to be treated with respect. That is where it is important to find out what we have in our gardens.

Apparently an inquest has heard about the death of an experienced gardener on an estate where there is Aconitum – common name ‘Wolfsbane’. There seems to be a possible association between tending the garden, symptoms and the death of the inividual concerned (you can tell I have worked with environmental exposure statistics – slightly different wording to the newspaper).

A quote from today’s Independent paper:

Tom Wells, from the Chelsea Physic Garden, said to the Times that wolfsbane was one of the most dangerous plants found in Britain’s gardens.

“The roots are where the highest level of poison is found, although it is still found in the flower,” he said. “If there were cuts on his hand, it would enter his bloodstream and affect his heart very quickly.”

In severe cases the poisoning causes heart arrhythmia, paralysis of the heart and respiratory problems. Other symptoms include vomiting, dizziness and diarrhoea.

We have three pictures of Aconitum in the Exhibition and I will highlight only those pictures in this blog.

Artwork by Eiko Takano. Title: Aconite napellus - Monkshood (watercolour)
Artwork by Eiko Takano. Title: Aconite napellus – Monkshood (watercolour)
Artwork by Caroline Jackson-Houlston. Title: Aconite lycoctonum - Wolf's Bane (watercolour)
Artwork by Caroline Jackson-Houlston. Title: Aconite lycoctonum – Wolf’s Bane (watercolour)
Artwork by Yuriko Kojima. Title: Aconitum japonicum - Torikabuto (watercolour)
Artwork by Yuriko Kojima. Title: Aconitum japonicum – Torikabuto (watercolour)

I wish that I had been able to take the photos without the reflection on the glass, because in reality all three pictures are very beautiful and the style of each artist is completely different.

Go and see the exhibition at Palmengarten, the botanic gardens in Frankfurt. It is well worth a trip.

End of first day’s play!

I am very happy to say that by the end of the exhibition’s first day at Palmengarten, we’ve taken a deposit for 10 pictures!

I am really pleased about this. All the months of organising, receiving botanical art pictures, delivering and hanging them in Palmengarten’s Palm house, has really resulted in a lovely exhibition. Already a lot of people have been to see it and have been duly impressed. Congratulations to all the artists and others who helped to make it happen.

The exhibition of SBA members and associate members paintings will be on in Palmengarten for a further month. Therefore if you have the opportunity, please go and see it.

Our SBA member living in Germany will be manning the exhibition throughout and we all owe her a debt of thanks for giving up so much of her time for the benefit of our members.

Robin and I are driving back home with the van tomorrow. Hopefully it will be uneventful. The weather will certainly not be like it was a week ago when we had 26 degrees. Today it was down to 12 degrees. We are definitely into Autumn.

One of the things that I regret this time, is that the hanging team were so busy hanging and organising the exhibition overall, that we didn’t even get time to walk round the gardens in daylight – as we have done on previous occasions. But, hopefully we will get more opportunities in two years time.

Finally, a picture of Karin Wittstock, Sue Henon and Me( with Robin behind the camera), about to put our feet up with a lovely cup of tea and a delicious German cake!


Second hanging day at Palmengarten Botanical Gardens, Frankfurt

I’m afraid that I don’t have a single picture to brighten up this blog today. I have been very busy as we have had many more botanical art pictures to hang than in the two previous times we (the SBA) exhibited with Palmengarten.

When the hanging team arrived at Palmengarten this morning, our men mentioned in yesterday’s blog, got stuck in with hanging more pictures. They have been absolutely amazing, even though it is not them who are SBA members but us ( the women mentioned yesterday). They are extremely supportive and what we would do without them I don’t know.

We spent the rest of the day hanging pictures, reorganising a few, straightening and labelling them. Tomorrow will be spent cleaning the glass so that they are fully presentable in all their glory.

I think this evening will be spent easing backs and feet for all of us. How we will do this is anyone’s guess, but our hotel is not far from the student area of the city, so please use your imagination.

To brighten up the page a little I will include another picture of the Bears britches painting.