Leaf peeping: from 25 degrees C to snow in five days!

At present we are staying at Old Forge in the Adirondacks. In the last blog I mentioned that we had driven across from Erie (the town on the edge of the lake), to Old Forge arriving during a thunderstorm.

The day after was stunning. Clear blue skies and very warm. 25 degrees centigrade. We had prepared ourselves for cold weather with thick hiking gear and long-johns. In actual fact, we unzipped our legs off our trousers, put on thin tops, with fleece round our waists in case, and set off.


We hiked through the woods, following different trails and these are some of the pictures that I took. The rain had obviously brought most of the red coloured leaves down the night before as they lay fresh on the ground. But it was still beautiful as you can see.

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That day we walked 8 miles and had our lunch by a large lake.

Yesterday it was a lot cooler, 16 degrees C, 9 degrees less than the day before. The sun still shone for most of the day, but this time our trousers were long and we wore our fleeces. We didn’t go very far this time, spending a lot of it chasing leaves, selecting a few to dry and some to immerse in glycerin. We saw more deer eating the odd fallen apple, but mostly leaves. There were far fewer deer in the gardens this year than we had seen three years ago. Go back and check out the pictures from those blogs. Apparently the reason is that the hunting season started last weekend!

Notice the black squirrels. Initially we thought the first one we saw was just particularly dark, but we have seen quite a few of them, plus the usual grey ones.

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Yesterday, I started this in my sketch book.

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Snow is expected on Saturday! But by then we will be on our way back towards Boston to fly home!

Pittsburgh ASBA conference and beyond

My hats off to the ASBA who managed the biggest annual conference ever. It was big, but didn’t feel it. I got to meet a lot of people from around the world, many of whom had been Facebook ‘friends’ – and of course still are. But now, having met some of them it helps to have even better communication.

Apart from going to the conference to meet a lot of like-minded botanical artists, and as well as teaching, I also wanted to learn. The more I learn, the less I know and the more I want to learn. I tutored at one workshop, demonstrated once, saw three others demonstrating, went to two amazing workshops and an additional conference at the end of the main one. It was busy.

The first of the two workshops I attended was with Carol Woodin on juror training. Carol is responsible for planning the exhibitions and getting the relevant people together. She has an incredible amount of experience in the area and was able to impart some of her knowledge to us. We also did a practice run on putting an exhibition together from a lot of submitted pictures. The results and reasoning behind the results were very interesting and funnily enough quite similar.

The other workshop was with Jean Emmons. I met Jean and Denise Walser-Kolar (who organised the teaching at the conference) in 2010 when we all three had exhibits in the RHS. Since then I have remained in touch with both. They work mostly on vellum and have encouraged me to learn to paint on vellum.

As a teacher, Jean too has such a lot of knowledge to impart and she also does this in a lovely way. I struggled a little as I suddenly realised that my subject would not be available to me when I returned home to England. Therefore I started doing the opposite of what we were being taught – I tried to rush. Stupid! The four main things we learnt apart from actual techniques was, slow, light, very little water and don’t go back over anything until completely dry. I did the opposite of all that when I started worrying about time. But at least I learnt.

There are no pictures to show from the above workshops, but I do have one from the Hunt exhibition opening. The UK were well represented this year but with only one artist present – Robert McNeill. However, several of the UK tutors had work in the Hunt collection from previous years.

The Hunt 15th International Exhibition of Botanical Art and Illustration
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The British, Irish, Australian and American table
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Martin Allen & me
Christie Bruzenak & me
Christie Bruzenak








On Saturday evening there was a banquet with some sad farewells and happy prize and sponsor giving.

We left Pittsburgh after staying for the International Congress of Botanical art, and spent our first night in Erie, a town on the edge of the lake.

Yesterday we went through some incredible landscape and increasingly strong leaf colour until we reached our present destination Old Forge in the Adirondacks. On arrival, the heavens opened with the additional huge flashes of light every now and again. Today its beautiful with a forecast due to be 25 degrees. At the end of the week, snow is forecast, so I have to get out there.

Here are some colours from the journey.


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.


On the way to Pittsburgh!

We have been welcomed to the USA with open arms – except for the people at border control who were extremely serious about their roles!

Our first few days were with some marvellous friends of ours who live just south of Boston. Apart from being taken to beautiful beaches, the oldest Tavern in the US at Newport, Rhode Island, a children’s party right on the water’s edge at Buzzards Bay, and an end of season evening at a local tennis club, we also went to see Cranberry Harvesting.

Did you know that Ocean Spray, the company whose name we might be aware of if we drink Cranberry juice, harvest their cranberries in at least two different ways.

Mass production of the large cranberries used for their drinks means that they are grown in ‘fields’ of bogs. I have normally seen them grow relatively sparsely in the wild in the mountains of Norway, but here the bogs are just carpets of the plants. They are lovingly tended all year round and at harvest time the bogs are flooded, a machine gently disturbs the growth of submerged plants and the fruit floats to the surface. The fruit is then manually lensed towards a suction pump which draws the fruit up into a washing facility and then transferred to a waiting truck. The trailer was about 60 feet long!

The process certainly made me think and we only saw a minute section of this vast production.

Although we didn’t see it, apparently fruit that is sold as fresh, frozen or dried fruit is picked dry by hand. In this instance the fruit appears riper than that seen in the pictures below.

I was told that there are quite a few varieties used for in their production and the ones in the wet bog are called Early Blacks.

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Today we have had a really long day. We started driving at 10:00 and arrived at our overnight destination of State College, at 19:30. But we had some amazing views of the changing colour of the leaves. We are due to arrive in Pittsburgh tomorrow afternoon, but this time it is a very few hours travelling in comparison to today.

Autumn colour
Autumn colour