Today is exactly a year since we had the Worldwide Botanical Art exhibition where twenty five countries participated on the same day. The UK exhibition ‘In Ruskin’s Footsteps was held in Lancaster.
On the 19th May several artists demonstrated their skills in botanical art. They were the late Mally Francis painting Gorse, Jackie Copeman on vellum and Sandra Doyle painting Spindle Tree Moth caterpillars.
Sandra’s painting of the Euonymus (Spindle tree) was in the exhibition and for her demonstration she painted the caterpillars showing their strange behaviour on their host plant.
Today I am lucky enough to be in Vienna, participating in the first ‘Get Together’ conference, where botanical artists from around the world are congregating to learn from and teach each other. This is being held at the Vienna School of botanical Illustration. Unfortunately I was not able to be here the whole week, but today we have been on a Field trip to the Donau-Auen National Park.
Apart from seeing at least ten different orchids including my first live Bee orchid.
I also saw the effects of the Spindle tree moth. It was hanging right over the path we were walking and I think if I had reached it first all the wild animals in the forest would have deserted. I do have an almighty scream when I get going!
As it happens I was completely amazed by what I saw. It also helped to remind me about the first ABBA event exactly one year ago.
Tomorrow I am going to a workshop by Denise Walser Kolar. She is teaching painting on vellum. A workshop I have always wanted to do with her as she has encouraged me to paint on vellum for many years. I am so looking forward to being a student and getting to paint all day,
It is an awfully long time since I last wrote a blog! It isn’t because I didn’t want to – it was just the usual problem – Time!
The Worldwide Botanical Art Exhibition held in May 2018 took over my life virtually from the latter part of 2016. Initially it was to put on the UK arm of the exhibition, but this evolved with the development of ABBA.
My last blog post was following the London RHS exhibition in July 2018 when I, as part of ABBA (Association of British Botanical Artists), helped man its stand. We had a great response to the formation of the organisation and found that there was a huge expectation and need for us to continue. That is where all my time has gone!
With a fantastic new team and a lot of hard work, especially from the other members, we have come a long way since then. A new ABBA website, which also opens up to membership, is planned for 21 March. As I write this it is only 18 days away. Read about what ABBA is all about and watch for when the new website is launched by following this link: ABBA
After the RHS exhibition I realised that I had to get my own botanical art life back on track. I knew this would take time as work would continue with the development of ABBA.
I have previously mentioned the preparation I was doing for my own next RHS exhibit. It is a series of plants from the Norwegian mountains. Robin and I travelled to the beautiful Norwegian mountains in early August, where I continued to sketch my chosen subjects. In 2017 I had sketched my subjects in flowers this time I hoped to catch all of them with fruit. As we all know, the climate changes from year to year, so it is difficult to judge when is the absolute best time foreach of the plants. Heat and drought had also struck Norway, but luckily enough after much hunting we managed to find examples of everything. Whew!
Initially I had planned to get the series of paintings ready to exhibit this year, five years since my last exhibit and the last year I am allowed to do so without being re-assessed by the RHS. One has to be able to produce botanical art at a consistent set standard before being allowed to exhibit. The standard is rising year on year! But because of all the commitments already mentioned, I was unable to start on my final paintings and they will not be ready in time. I will not rush them. This means I have to go through the RHS application process again.
Here’s hoping they don’t refuse me! The sketches below were done in 2018 and are fruit, leaves and roots from three of the plants. In actual fact, I could write about my time sketching in the mountains and about each of the plants in detail. Perhaps one day I will. The more I learn about them the more fascinating they become.
There was a heatwave in the UK whilst we enjoyed cooler conditions at 900 metres in Norway. When we returned home for a short period the weather cooled down. In October we travelled to experience Spring in Western Australia with my sister. Again there was a heatwave in the UK whilst initially in WA we were dressing warmly with anoraks, jumpers and boots. My husband loves the warmth, I like it in between!
It was cooler in the southern part of the state, but quite warm by the time we went north. Whilst in WA we saw the most amazing varieties of spring flowers and took nearly 3000 pictures. Imagine if we had done this on the old 35mm cameras! I perspire (as I am a woman) at the thought of getting them all processed.
These pictures are from the northern part of the state near the Pinnacles in WA. It was apparently the worst period for flies. Although we laughed at the idea of wearing fly nets over our hats, it didn’t take many minutes to change our minds. But the flies still managed to get in many nooks and crannies you didn’t know existed.
Since we got back at the beginning of November I have been trying to catch up. Nothing has been straight forward, but I now see this blog as the beginning of getting back to some state of normality – even if the ABBA website launch and membership is only a few days away.
I have decided that my next blog will show you how I have changed the ergonomics of my workplace in the shed. Hopefully it will be of interest as a well adjusted workplace is the best way to keep one healthy enough to keep on painting for many years.
You might very well wonder what the connection is particularly if you didn’t read my last blog a month ago! ABBA stands for Association of British Botanical Artists. For some of us working with ABBA during the last year, at times we have been so busy that we felt as though we could buzzzzzzzzz away to something more relaxing. But we stuck with it and had a lovely exhibition at the Peter Scott Gallery, Lancaster University.
That was the start of ABBA, formed to take part in the Botanical Art Worldwide Exhibition where we were one of 25 countries taking part. For my part, I co-ordinated the UK offering.
But, whilst doing this it became very clear that there was a wish for ABBA to develop into an organisation that catered for everyone interested in botanical art. We are now putting things together to develop ABBA. Do come to the RHS Art & Plant Fair at the RHS Lindley & Lawrence Halls in London 11-12th July where we have a stand. You will be able to talk with me and my colleagues about our plans for ABBA’s future. Hopefully we can encourage you to join.
If I get time, I will be having some work there to demonstrate on, but I haven’t decided in which medium. That can be a surprise!
So what has been going on with me since my last blog?
I had a very interesting workshop at the end of May, where we concentrated on colour mixing. This is the sort of workshop that everyone says they want to do, but when it actually happens, life has taken over. But some people did sign up with an attendee from a loooooooong way away.
Although there was the opportunity to work in watercolour, people chose colour pencil. The results were amazing and there were pencils everywhere! In fact, it became so thoroughly interesting that I continued with my weekly class on one colour found to be a real challenge.
See if you can find a solution. I have to say it was slightly easier in watercolour than colour pencil. But a lot of layers are necessary no matter what medium you choose.
Following on from that was the event at the Stansted Park Garden show. We again had a really super show and met a lot of lovely people and the weather was perfect.
I notice that I am listing up events, which is not what my blog has normally been about. I want to show you work that I have been doing, but everything has been done in small bites as we race around the country setting up, taking down and planning.
But I did work some more on my Indian Corn in colour pencil. Luckily the fruit part of the corn doesn’t change too much over time as long as you look after it and keep it away from the light and gnawing bugs. But it is different with the leaves. I do need fresh supplies of those if the colour is to remain vibrant.
I hope to see you at the RHS in a couple of weeks time. Do let me know if you have read my blog!
General Data Protection (GDPR
If you want to only follow my blog then please do sign up for it on this page. However, if you would like to get the occasional email from me about workshop availability or general information abut my botanical art news, then you will need to sign up for this separately.
Below is a link for you to subscribe to either or both email lists.
The Easter break has been and gone, visiting family who enlivened the recent days have gone back to their own homes and it is back to botanical art.
I will say farewell to “Farewell” (the Benton Iris) at the end of this blog, but invite you to see a couple of developments.
My project for the Chelsea Florilegium this year is the Rhododendron impeditum. It is an exquisite dwarf Rhododendron. Why I do such tiny plants, I have no idea. I spend a lot of time trying to think out how I am going to portray it even before I start. I know that it won’t be easy but at the moment I am doing as many sketches of it as possible before the buds open. Initially the buds looked fairly dead and in fact the winter did kill off my first plant and killed the buds of the 2nd plant. Luckily I managed to find a 3rd one, so my sketches so far have been from this one.
I think I will tickle your imagination as to how I might tackle this by just showing you a picture of my plant this time. With any luck, before too long I might have a better idea of what I am doing because soon the plant will flower and I will need to capture the detail on paper.
There is still a lot of work to do in preparing for the UK part of the Botanical Art Worldwide Exhibition – In Ruskin’s Footsteps. I hope as many people as possible will put the dates of the exhibition into their diaries. It will be held at the Peter Scott Gallery, Lancaster University between 18th May – Worldwide Day of Botanical Art – and 9th June. It will be open on weekdays between 12:00 – 17:00, and there are two special event days on Saturday 19th May and 9th June. These Saturdays will be open from 10:00 – 16:00.
Apart from the 40 juried pictures of native flora on view, we will also be having some demonstrations in botanical art and in depth tours of the artworks on the special event days. All this in addition to showing a continuous slideshow of roughly 40 pictures from each of the 25 participating countries throughout the whole exhibition.
I think this exhibition will be very different to any one you will have seen before because of the involvement of so many countries from around the globe – all at the same time.
I also want to share with you the excitement I have felt recently because of one of my plants from Norway. It is called Empetrum nigrum; hermaphroditum (Krekling in Norwegian or Crowberry in English). Normally this plant is either male or female, but at high altitudes it has both sexes in the same plant. During the autumn my plant developed some flower buds. But nothing else happened until this last week when a couple of them started opening and showing petals.
I took this picture with a macro lens on my iPhone. The actual size of each flower at this stage is about 2mm. I am keeping my fingers crossed that they will be fertilised so that I get fruit in the autumn.
By the way, this is one of the plants that I will be painting for my series of Norwegian mountain plants.
Before I finish, my next botanical art workshop is 27-28 April and we will be concentrating on different pen and ink techniques. Have you ever thought how many techniques there are? I think you will get a surprise. Knowing a little more about them can really enhance your botanical art practice. Get in touch via the contact form on my Workshop web page: gaynorsflora.com/tuition-2/workshops/
So finally, the Benton Iris ‘Farewell’. I am pleased that I own the copyright for this picture.
Trying to paint more with the Benton Iris – work that I love doing, has been complicated by all the adjustments in relation to the botanical art exhibition ‘ In Ruskin’s Footsteps’. But you can now see the updated website in relation to the new improved venue (still at Lancaster University) and adjustment to the dates. I will give you the link at the end of this blog.
In my last blog I showed you my progression in relation to the large fan-like leaves of this majestic plant. I chose to include only colour for those on the right hand side of the artwork and graphite on the remaining leaves. This was so that the picture would not be overwhelmingly heavy with green leaves.
I finished off last time with the bud spike on the left hand side of the artwork. Now I will show you the start of the main flower spike, which needed to be divided in two because of the height of it.
This is customary in botanical art when painting correctly.
It is important to give an indication of the habit of the plant if painting life-size and the plant is very tall; try to include as much of it as possible in the same painting. I have divided the flower spike in two and have shown the cut ends with the same profile at the cut edge.
On this stem you can clearly see the flowers and buds spiralling off.
I have started off with a pale wash for the bud leading up to the main flower before completing the detail with a dry brush technique.
Now the start of the top flower and he developing bud just underneath. This was actually quite difficult to get right.
All my sketches were done outside in the garden last year and if you don’t keep your head still while drawing, the detail visible will change.
If you are enjoying following the stages in the development of the Benton Iris ‘Farewell’, you might like to come to my next workshop March 23-24th, where this time we will be concentrating on a line drawing and tonal sketch. Normal, good preparation for any botanical art painting. Get in touch with me via the contact form below if you would like to join us. The details are on the Workshop page of my website.
Although botanical art is fairly strict in what is ideally included in a picture, it is quite wide ranging and much wider than for pure botanical illustration. But it is important to remember that what I show you in my blog is my style of working. There are many different styles and none are wrong; It is the result that counts!
The Botanical Art Worldwide Exhibition; “In Ruskin’s Footsteps”, which is the English and Welsh contribution to the global exhibition happening 18 May 2018, is taking all my time these days, in addition to marking some really interesting assignments. Attracting people to look at botanical art and perhaps trying it is always an exciting prospect. For the exhibition, go to the Association of British Botanical Artists (ABBA) website: www.britishbotanicalartists.com. Here you will find all the updated information.
But I have done some more of my painting the Benton Iris ‘Farewell’. Last time I had done some of the leaves and told you that I was going to use graphite for some of them. I have decided that to show the habit of the Iris to the best advantage with the fan-shaped leaves, I would do these solely in graphite. In this way the overall effect of the picture will not be too heavy and the flowers will come to the for.
It was not easy doing so much graphite on the heavy Fabriano paper (640gsm) and I will need to adjust the strength of this as I add the flowers.
Below you get an idea of the overall layout of the picture with the flower spike with buds on the left side of the picture.
To the right is the bottom bud on the flower spike. After finishing this section I needed to adjust it because it came directly below and in line with the top bud. But as in so many plants the buds spiral round the stem and of course this is an important part of correct botanical observation.
The ideal would have been to get it right first time during the line drawing and not after having painted it! The image below is the corrected version. Here you can see the centre line at the bottom of the bud, has been moved slightly to the left.
And so the voluptuous terminal bud, with another one developing at its base. The bud of the Iris Farewell has a very typical shape to it and in my garden where I have different Irises, I can see the Farewell straight away. The tip is almost squared off rather than pointed. I think this is part of its attraction.
You will notice that I have started the flower to the right, but I will come back to that in my next blog. Whilst painting each section of my composition I am constantly looking at the rest of my picture and adjusting as I go along. I added a little more shadow to the right of the bud after I had started the flower. The image is from that stage.
I hope to get back to you soon with more images from the development of this picture.
I have another workshop in just over a week’s time. 23 – 24 February is a workshop on Composition and Perspective. If you want to improve on these particular topics in your own practice, sign up for the workshop as soon as you can.
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.
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.
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
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.