Thymus vulgaris – a botanical art project.

Have you ever really looked at Thyme when you are using it in cooking? I bet you haven’t!

I have been asked to paint a botanical picture of Thymus vulgaris. Note the correct way of writing a binomial scientific name correctly; all in italics but with the capital letter at the beginning of the first word only.

My heart sank when I got the email asking me to do this particular plant. Imagine, all that ‘tiny-ness’! How on earth was I going to create a beautiful picture from this subject, one in which the viewer wanted to take a second look. The picture still isn’t painted yet, so the result will not magically appear at the end of this blog. However, I thought you might be interested in both my thought processes and my work progress.

I eventually got a plant that said it was Thymus vulgaris.

Thymus vulgaris

In actual fact, I got three – all of them different. I knew that the leaf had to have a furled edge; two of them had furled edges. When the flowers eventually started to appear I knew that the stamens would be protruding from the tube created by the four petals. One of them did not have protruding stamens as they remained just under the fused lip of the petals. The last one did all the things I expected it to do. Or did it?

When the last plant had flowered for a while, some of the flowers didn’t have visible stamens. After much research I discovered that in fact the same plant can have flowers with all the reproductive systems in place, but some flowers are sterile as they only have a style and stigma. Whew, what a relief. I now had a suitable subject. Do you like it? But where to start!

A quick look at the leaves

As you now realise I had to do quite a bit of investigating in relation to this plant. It helped me get to know it so that as I observed, researched and sketched, thoughts for my final composition began to be a little clearer. I also found that although it was a challenging subject (apparently I like challenges). I also really began to appreciate the plant and wanted to include things in my picture that would tell others about the plant. However, one of the challenges is that there were to be no dissections! That is often how I show others of what a plant is comprised.

Botanical art is an exciting subject and it really helps you to observe things around you. So we start off with the leaves. Have you noticed anything strange about them. Have a look at a real one, rather than my pictures.

Trichomes on the leaf

You will notice the appearance of little dents in the surface of the leaves. This is the same ones under a microscope. Do you see the little dents are in fact Trichomes, a special type of hair that produces aromatic oils. The oil is the part that smells so good when you crush the leaves before adding them to your cooking. But see if you can see where else the hairs are and the oil is:

Trichomes on the flower bud
Trichomes on the flower

Every part of the plant can be used in your cooking as every part produces the aromatic oils. Exciting isn’t it?

But what about the parts that need to be included in my picture? Although I found this particularly interesting and wished I could include this information in my picture, this depth of detail was not needed by the client.

However for me, Thymus vulgaris had moved up in my regard from being a plant with lots of tiny bits that smell nice, to being a complex and interesting plant. I hope I do it justice.

A Flower spike

 

 

I decided to do a whole lot of sketches in my sketch book. This helps hands to get to know the painting of the plant, the size at which I am showing it, the colours and hopefully an idea for the composition.

 

 

 

Me painting away with a magnifier on my head.

To see the plant I needed to use a magnifier, which lead me to enlarging the flower spike for everyone to marvel at the detail of the individual flowers.I did three spikes before deciding which one to use for my final composition. You can see by my clothes that the weather was a lot colder when I started this project!

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I now had a better idea of which sketches I wanted to include in my final picture. I wanted to show the flower spike enlarged so that the flowers with their magnificent coloured anthers were clear. I also knew that I needed to give a suggestion of the surface texture of the leaves, front and back as well as the growth habit of the plant.

A trial composition,
Final composition
The final painting started.
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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.

Does anyone know what this is and is it native?

I hope you now have an idea as to why I have been focusing on native plants recently?

For those who are still not aware, we have formed a new organisation for all UK botanical artists whether they belong to an organisation or not. It is called ABBA, the Association of British Botanical Artists, although slightly a misnomer as this also includes Norther Ireland.

Why was this started? Well, the American Society of Botanical Artists (ASBA) initiated a worldwide botanical art day for May 2018, inviting all nations to to join them in organising a botanical art exhibition in each country. Some of us felt it particularly important that the UK was represented because we have some brilliant botanical artists here. Some of them remain independent and have no allegiance to any organisation. Therefore having an association inviting everyone, was the answer.

For more information about the exhibition, please look on the ABBA website:

abba2018.wordpress.com

But, today during my latest workshop, I was looking through my sketchbook and found the following drawing. I know that I did it through a microscope at an Institute of Analytical Plant Illustrators (IAPI) meeting, about mosses and liverworts. The problem is I was stupid enough not to write what it was. Can anyone help me, and is it native to the UK?

? Bryophyte capsule
? Bryophyte capsule

I have a strong suspicion that this is a Bryophyte capsule, but of course it doesn’t tell me which one and therefore I don’t know if it native.

My next sketch is native and is Deadly Nightshade (Atropa belladonna). I think this is a really beautiful plant, although, if walking past it the colours of the flowers are rather dull. But of course the plant is often seen with flowers and large, shiny black berries at the same time. One day I hope to paint it, but I will have to be careful with it.

Atropa Belladonna - Deadly Nightshade.
Atropa Belladonna – Deadly Nightshade.

Next week, 24 and 25 February, ABBA will have a table at the RHS botanical art exhibition in the Lindley Hall, Vincent Square, London. We are there to tell you about the exhibition in May 2018 and how you can take part. Additionally, over the two days, Sarah Morrish will be demonstrating on Vellum, Lucy Smith in pen and ink, and I will be doing a graphite and watercolour worksheet.

Please make yourself known when you visit us.

I am sooo-o chuffed after this weekend’s workshop!

Yesterday and today was the first botanical art workshop of the year in Bosham. What do you paint in the wintery months? There are loads of interesting subjects in the hedgerows. The title of this workshop was textures and as usual I tried to make suggestions as to what these may be.

My workshops have a limited number of participants so that everyone gets help where they need it. This time people brought catkins, bark, ash keys, pine cones, algae and magnolia buds. I also brought in some lambs ears (leaves) and sticky buds (horse chestnut).  There was an ample supply of everything and people worked in coloured pencil, or watercolour, or graphite.

My workshops always begin with a little about composition; a subject everyone seems to be scared of, and drawing. Everyone always wants to jump straight into the painting, but of course the final painting is never better than the planning that has gone into it.

This time, as I knew everyone from previous workshops (normally there is at least one new person), they felt it was OK for me to concentrate more than usual on the compositional aspect of botanical art.  They duly did their thumbnails and decided which one they would focus on to create their line drawing. I am going to show you the progress of one student from thumbnails to where she got to today.

Magnolia soulageant buds
Magnolia soulageant buds

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We talked a lot about the Golden section, rule of thirds, diagonals and ignoring the lot!

Of course we mustn’t forget that the workshop was also about textures, so I demonstrated different techniques in all three media. Of course they found that the furry buds were the most difficult, but everyone persevered and got some amazing results.

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So finally, why am I so chuffed? Well, those who chose to do the Magnolia buds in watercolour, actually mastered the dry-ish brush technique that I use. Many do give up on this because the issue is the water/pigment mix, and taking care of brushes and picture at the same time. But I think the part giving me the biggest thrill were the compositions. I have superimposed two of the pictures with the three-by-three golden section divisions that help to find where the focal point is best placed. The eye was drawn in particular to these two pictures in main because of their composition, but also their fluffy buds. Remember they are half finished, but they just show how a well planned composition can have a good effect on completing a picture. Do you agree?

Magnolia x soulageana terminal buds in graphite.
Magnolia x soulageana terminal buds in graphite.
Magnolia x soulageana terminal buds in watercolour.
Magnolia x soulageana terminal buds in watercolour.

Thank you and the Liriope mascara

Thank you to all the lovely people who have visited us over the weekend during the Open Studio event. It was good to meet new faces, put faces to names and of course see those who come regularly. It was a lovely weekend and the weather also put on a smiling face.

We still have a lot to put away, but this is Robin hard at it!

Robin doing the heavy work after Open Studio
Robin doing the heavy work after Open Studio

I have continued to work on the Liriope muscari picture. But continuing on from the last photos, these are days 5 and 6.

Day 5
Day 5
Day 6
Day 6

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

Open studio in Bosham this weekend: Friday to Sunday

There are a number of artists in Bosham and each year we get together just before Christmas to create an art trail. As I am the only fine artist, and all the others are makers, we have decided to call it the “Bosham Christmas Craft Trail”.

For those who have visited Bosham at this time in years gone by, you will know this is a trail worth doing.

Robin and I will welcome you in our home whether you are just looking at my work or want to buy. There is plenty to choose from for that special present; a single card, a print, an original, or even a voucher for a workshop or the workshop holiday at Le Manoir next September.

Browse or buy with a warm mince pie and mulled wine or a nice cup of tea. Donations go to St Wilfrid’s Hospice. At the same time I will be continuing this picture from these sketches. See how far I’ve got by the time you arrive.

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I hope to post the painting of the Liriope muscari picture as it develops. It is in watercolour on paper and includes an enlargement of the flower spike as it is so small, but with the growth habit in natural size.

Which artists to visit on the trail, and where you can find them. I look forward to seeing you:
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Pittsburgh and ASBA 2016

What a wonderful event!

I was in Pittsburgh for the ASBA conference, three years ago when I had a picture included in the Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation. Robin, felt that as the ASBA was again in Pittsburgh for the opening of the new Hunt exhibition (it is every three years), that it was time we came again.

When we arrived on Tuesday afternoon it was really good to meet up with old friends from the last time we were here, and new friends made on Facebook. It was quite strange meeting up with some of the latter, as they had become ‘friends’ on the net and we never met in person. But now we had the opportunity to get to know these familiar faces.

The Facebook phenomenon is a really interesting as it has opened up connections in the botanical art world allowing us to communicate worldwide across borders. We are now learning from each other without restriction – something we never could have imagined only a few years ago.

What have we done since being in Pittsburgh?

The first morning started off with a Portfolio sharing session. Anyone who wanted to could take part in this and I too had a table. The response for me was brilliant and was quite a surprise.

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There were several workshops and during one of them a cry went up that Barack Obama was leaving the building next door to us. We had been told that he was due to give a talk in the University and we knew that many of the streets had been closed off round our hotel. But we had no idea that he was so close.

I get the impression that in America, Obama is a president much loved and respected.

Obama leaving
Obama leaving

Last night, after the opening of the new Hunt exhibition, we met an ‘old’ friend from my nurses training days in Birmingham, fifty one years ago! It was a treat we thoroughly enjoyed.

Today has been particularly busy for me, starting at 09:00 doing a coloured pencil demonstration. Apparently the ASBA hasn’t done ongoing demonstrations from the tutors before this. As far as I can judge it was received extremely well. A lot of people turned up early to watch the demonstrations and once I had finished I was able to watch John Pastoriza-Pinol from Australia take over from me, followed by another highly regarded American botanical artist Robin Jess.

Interestingly enough, I was able to use a couple of comments I heard during these two demonstrations, in my own workshop also held today. Yes, it has been an extremely busy day.

These are some of the pictures from my own workshop.

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I was amazed at how quickly people started picking up the technique. It was a thorough enjoyable class with a lot of very nice people.

I think I have commented before about how much pleasure I get from working with such lovely people. Botanical artists seem to have a lot of joy in what they do.

 

The last SFP workshop and the next Gaynor’s Flora workshop

This seems a very busy time of year! Two weekends ago I had a pen and ink workshop with IAPI(Institute of Analytical Plant Illustrators), and this last Saturday I had my last workshop with SFP (Society of Floral Painters). This coming weekend will be a three-day workshop in Bosham – Colour in the Hedgerows. This will be the last workshop before I travel to Pittsburgh to teach a workshop at the ASBA (American Society of Botanical Artists) annual conference.

All of that was in one paragraph and one breath! As I said it is a busy time of year.

But before I tell you about the next workshop where there are places available, I will tell you about the lovely but sad time spent with members of the SFP in Pitton near Salisbury.

Unfortunately the SFP has had to make the decision to wind up the Society for the time being. In actual fact they were a really good Society, although I’m not too sure how many members there were. They were very good at producing a regular newsletter throughout the year, with a lot of useful information to help and support artists interested in developing their skills in floral painting or drawing. In addition to the newsletter, they offered workshops to members and one day a year was allotted to selection of applicants to full membership. It wasn’t left to a simple yes or no, but good feedback was given about the reasoning behind each decision that was made.

But I wanted to show you a little from the workshop near Salisbury. AS usual it was a lovely group of people who got along well and encouraged each other throughout the day. The rest can be shown in pictures rather than words. Although I will give you information about the next workshop in the UK.

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SFP coloured pencil workshop

After I return from the USA, there will be another three-day workshop in Bosham. The subject this time is Autumn colours. Wow! The date is Friday 28 – Sunday 30 October. For those who book in time, I will give you a recipe on preserving some of those gorgeous leaves so that they stay reasonably still to allow you to paint them. So book now!

Look at some of the work being painted at the SFP workshop.

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To book your place on the next workshop contact me via the form below.