Gloucestershire Society of Botanical Illustration workshops -2nd day

Whilst in Gloucester I had been asked to do a second one-day workshop with different members. I felt it was as successful as the first day and here are the results for you to see. You will notice that in fact two of the students came for a second day and continued with their pictures.

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Watch this space for the results of the ‘Fruit & Veg; strawberries & cream’ workshop happening this Friday and Saturday in Bosham.

Gloucestershire Society of Botanical Illustration workshops

What a lovely group of botanical artists – so welcoming.

I was invited to have a one- day workshop with the Gloucestershire Society of Botanical Illustration (GSBI), using pen and ink. I of course said yes as I had heard that the group are very active with a love for botanical art and illustration.

Apparently, as soon as I agreed to this and it was announced in the group, all the places were filled with an additional waiting list. Further discussions and a second workshopday was agreed. That will be tomorrow.

Normally I do this workshop over two-three days as time is also spent on composition and drawing. This one was purely to teach technique although in reality further advice in the field of botanical art is always given.

I know from feedback I get that people reading my blogs are always interested in the workshop results. Here are today’s group. Rather good don’t you think?

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CPGFS and IAPI meetings – all botanical art of course!

What does CPGFS and IAPI mean? Read on.

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.

Dr Henry Oakley explaining about the uses of the Opium Poppy.
Dr Henry Oakley explaining about the uses of the Opium Poppy.

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.

Part of a work by G. Griffiths
Part of a work by G. Griffiths
11.IAPI 0715
Work by Ehret.
Part of a picture by Bryan Poole. The composition on this one was very exciting.
Part of a picture by Bryan Poole. The composition on this one was very exciting.












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.

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The Bearded Iris: 52 Shades of Grey.

A bearded Iris in Graphite on Bristol board

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.

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:


Institute of Analytical Plants Illustration (IAPI)

I have mentioned this organisation before. It is a very good group to get involved in, particularly for botanical artists and botanists. But have a look at the website and see for yourself

Yesterday, Robin and I drove up to Northampton for one of the regular meetings. They meet once every two months in different parts of the country and generally decide on a topic, get specialists in to talk to us, or as yesterday, use the very experienced members.

Last year we went to one of the meetings where Grasses was the topic. Yesterday, winter twigs was the subject. I have already described my feelings prior to and after the ‘grasses meeting’ and this time, prior to the day, I also thought winter twigs might be boring. If you have followed my blog you might remember that I was thrilled about what I learnt about grasses and yesterday was exactly the same. How could I even imagine that the subject could be boring!

I have found that when I am doing botanical painting, the result is usually better if I have studied the subject properly and not just painted it. For each of my RHS exhibits I did an awful lot of research and actually got quite hooked on finding out more about the subjects. I am also convinced that the research helped me get medals.

I am meant to be writing up notes on the meeting to get into the minutes, but I am doing this instead!

When we arrived at the meeting place, we were confronted with a table of twigs with numbers on and a sheet of paper with numbers on. The intention was to name the plants from which the twigs came and possibly include the scientific names as well. That was throwing me in at the deep end, but it wasn’t uncomfortable. We were there to learn. But I have to say that I didn’t identify many. Everyone was discussing and helping everyone else with this or that twig they thought they recognised, but couldn’t quite place. I was really amazed at some people with their wealth of knowledge whilst others were similar to me – although not quite as bad.

Roger Reynolds had put together the collection and created the list. Peter Mitchell talked to us about what we should be looking for to identify a twig.  He described the different types of tree shapes and growth habits; how the branches grew; the bark on the tree and the twigs; colour; texture; marks on the bark (also describing what they were there for); length of internodes; appearance of the terminal bud; how the buds repeated themselves round a branch; bud size and shape and a multitude of other things. So much made sense – but should I be surprised?

I think that one of the things I found most useful were the questions you need to ask yourself when faced with a unidentified twig.

Of course all the twigs in the selection were discussed in detail and we discovered what distinguished one from the other and why.

In the afternoon we had an opportunity to draw from the twig selection. I bought a couple of simple new microscopes which I intend to encourage my students to use. We used these to start some drawings and I tried to take one or two pictures of the detail from the hazel twigs, with male catkins and female buds. Unfortunately the pictures of the catkins through the microscope didn’t turn out too well, but I can vouch that the detail was very beautiful. I will be drawing or painting something from them at some point – although perhaps not just right at the minute.

Isn’t it funny how in botanical art and illustration, there is always something that is challenging you to do its portrait?

Hazel. The female bud seen through the microsope.
Hazel. The female bud seen through the microsope.
Hazel female bud from a different tree.
Hazel female bud from a different tree.
Hazel female bud. Notice the bud scales. The number can help determine species.
Hazel female bud. Notice the bud scales. The number can help determine species.
Hazel female buds in situ on the twig. Photo taken without the microscope.
Hazel female buds in situ on the twig. Photo taken without the microscope.
Hazel catkins
Hazel catkins
Enlarged section of a Hazel catkin.
Enlarged section of a Hazel catkin. Hugely intricate

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.

Painting a Pineapple – a labour of love!

I love painting, be it with watercolour, coloured pencil ink or just graphite. Many consider using some of these materials is ‘mark making’, rather than painting, but…….

Today I haven’t been painting at all. I have been getting things ready to take some work up to London tomorrow; hand-in for the annual SBA botanical art exhibition at Westminster central hall in April. I hate this aspect of painting, getting work ready for exhibitions! But tomorrow I get to meet old friends and other members of the SBA when they also hand in their work.

Then back to painting. But before I show a couple more pictures of the pineapple, a touch of Spring!




Some more pictures of the pineapple progression. I don’t know whether you notice this or not, but once I have had the first wash on an area, I use a lot of fairly dry brush work to do the detail for each segment. As I mentioned above, starting to paint a pineapple is a labour of love. But every single segment is so different and of course each one faces in a different direction.





Rory McEwen and my pineapple.

There is nothing to connect Rory McEwen and my pineapple – other than botanical art.

But I am dead chuffed and sad at the same time. I watched the programme on BBC today about Rory McEwen and felt so sad that such a gifted person died so young and in such a manner. I so wish I had been around when he was doing his wonderful paintings.

When I was at the Hunt Institute in Pittsburg two years ago, I had to pinch myself that because my work was accepted in the Hunt, and while there I was allowed to see whatever works that they had in their collection. I wanted to see Rory McEwen’s work and saw it in the ‘flesh’ without being protected by glass. It was amazing.

Four minutes after the end of the Rory McEwen programme today I got an email from the Hunt to tell me that I had been gifted a piece of Rory McEwen vellum. When he died, his vellum was given to the Hunt Institute and pieces have been gifted to botanical artists over the years. Now I am one of them. I can’t believe it.

Painting on vellum is hugely different to painting on paper. I will have to think of something really special to paint on it in due course.

But my pineapple. More pictures.