Second part of Andromeda polifolia – Bog Rosemary picture

Distanced celebrating of VE day in the front garden. Reminds me of Claude Monet, The Picnic.

I have to say first of all that we are so lucky when so many people are struggling with Covid19. We have room to move and we can get out at the same time as recognising we have to leave two metres between us and anyone we might meet. The idea is to prevent the spread of the virus as much as possible and save the NHS.

That gets me clearly to my next point as I am a sinner in relation to the NHS – I had to go to A&E after a walk whilst keeping fit a couple of days ago! We had a lovely long walk over heathland and I was looking for a spot where I knew  Vaccinium myrtillus – Bilberry grew. This is one of the plants I have been studying and preparing for my next RHS exhibit. All of a sudden, my knee gave a great ‘snap’ mid-stride. So now I am extra grateful to the NHS for their treatment and advice.

I am now not only having an enforced lockdown because of the virus, but also enforced rest with my leg up. I hope that the tear will mend soon so the powers that be can determine if more treatment is necessary.

This means that for a few days I won’t be able to respond to the call from my shed to paint!

So imagine, Friday was VE day – 75 years since the end of World War 2. We had afternoon tea with our immediate neighbours, distancing from each other in our front garden. I am now paying the price and sitting with legs up on the settee, with crutches at the ready. But, I am enjoying the peace and quiet to sit and write this blog.

My previous blog finished with the flower spike of my Andromeda polifolia botanical illustration completed. I didn’t tell you that at natural size the flower and leaves are quite small; the flower is ca. 8mm long and the leaves ca. 2cm long. In my painting the flower spike is done at three times its natural size so the detail of the plant can easily be seen and admired. I have planned to talk about how I did the scaling in the last blog about this plant.

The next two parts are the stages of painting the pedicel and receptacle. You can see that the ovary is most likely fertilised and swelling just slightly. Also there are still a couple of stamens hanging on for dear life. 

To the right a stamen is enlarged just a bit more. I was so intrigued seeing the horn-like appendages to the anther and it was incredible to think that all this was packed so beautifully into that tiny flower. The stamens were just over 2mm long and very colourful.

So the packaging; I carefully did a longitudinal dissection of the flower. See the previous blog to view the shape of the flowers. The petals are 5-lobed and fused so I needed to cut two and a half petals carefully away to show what was underneath. I then shaved back the single carpel so that you can see the ovary inside, leaving the style and stigma whole. Again I am including the dissection painting in two stages so that you can see how I have built up the colour.

It is hairy inside the flower and I used a little masking fluid after I had done the first layer. If I do this again I might put in the masking fluid on the white of the paper or not use masking and paint around it. The final result is fine, but I personally feel I could have done it better.

You can see how the enlargements follow on from each other. The flowers on the flower spike are the same enlargement as the pedicel and receptacle; that is equal to x 3. I then enlarged the stamen further to make the detail even clearer and this time you see it at x 10, the same size as the longitudinal dissection.

From these photos of my work it is impossible for you to work out the actual sizes on the painting, or even the actual size of the plant. I am trying to make a point here because many people still write a magnification on their artwork, then post it online or even print it. You might be reading this on your phone, tablet, laptop or desk top computer; All are different sizes, so if you give the magnification as I have done here, you have no way of knowing what the real size is. I will be showing how to do scaling in a later blog.

Finally, I want to mention paper – OLD Fabriano hot-pressed. I have both Fabriano extra white and 5. I have come to the realisation that I will not need all this paper to last out my years of painting and teaching. If anyone is interested and will be able to come and buy some (Bosham, West Sussex) after the restrictions are lifted, please get in touch with me.

 

 

 

 

My latest piece of botanical art – in Watercolour

Bog Rosemary at 900 metres in the Norwegian mountains. Peeping up from Sphagnum moss and surrounded by Cloudberry leaves.

Its been a while since I last did a blog about my process, but as I am getting into a new piece I thought I would share it with you as I go along. First of all let me tell you the story behind the plant.

The plant is Andromeda polifolia or bog rosemary and I first saw it in wet boggy areas high up in the Norwegian mountains.

I am painting a series of plants with edible fruit from this area  but found this beautiful little flower and decided to investigate it. The fruit is not edible and may in fact, cause some uncomfortable side effects, therefore not suitable for my series.

Andromeda polifolia in Chelsea Physic Garden, London.

The plant was named by Linnaeus, comparing the plant to Andromeda. The plant is indeed beautiful in its native boggy setting.

I am a member of the Chelsea Physic Garden Florilegium Society (CPGFS) and one of the plants in the garden is an Andromeda polifolia, although at lower altitudes it seems to be a much sturdier plant, taller and with more leaves. Being part of a Florilegium means that on a yearly basis one has to paint one of the gardens plants as part of its documentation process. With the beautiful little mountain plant I had in mind from Norway, I thought this a fantastic opportunity to study and paint it properly for the CPGFS. By the way, although I am painting it for the CPGFS, it doesn’t mean that it will be accepted. A rigorous process is gone through before artwork is accepted into their collection – this I won’t know until February 2021.

As I normally do, I studied the plant carefully, researched it and drew detailed sketches in my sketchbook. I also dissected the flower as I thought this told a story in its own right. The anthers have appendages which is typical of plants in the Ericaceae (Heather) family. Also, the petals (5) are fused into a tube. I am not a botanist, but the more I study the plants I paint or draw, I feel I always want to know more about them!

Once I felt I had enough information I planned my composition. This is not always easy and although we have lots of ‘rules’ etc to guide us, in the end it is what you feel looks best that is the decider. Here are two plans that I made to choose from.

Which one do you prefer?

In the end I chose the composition to the right as I felt this was more likely to guide the eye around the composition.

I did both of these compositions digitally, using the sketches from my sketchbook.

The following pictures are are photos taken at different stages, but as the painting is not finished I will need to come back with additional blogs to show you the rest of the process. By the way, the graphite line drawing in the centre is a habitat drawing showing the plant at its natural size.

The start of the ‘Stay-home’ mode.

One of my students wrote to me using the phrase ‘Stay-home mode’ and I thought this was lovely. Far better than some of the other terms that have been flying around at this difficult time.

None of us know how long this present situation will last and of course none of us know what it will be like at the other end. The Coronavirus has created a lot of uncertainty.

During the week I had my last botanical art workshop which had been brought forward from next week. The subject was the Perpetual Journal, something that was developed, taught and promoted by Lara Call Gastinger in the US. Lara has been very generous with this and encourages everyone to do something similar.

There were quite a few booked onto the workshop, but in the end there were just two very brave ladies who attended and enjoyed it. The workshop was a little unusual in that this time there was as much chatting as drawing and painting. Something we all needed before going into self-isolation. We didn’t solve the world’s problems but we certainly lifted our spirits.

An image from the workshop where they used only  a technical pen to draw the initial image with a layer of colour on top of this. Both ladies who attended were colour pencil artists, so this page shows the loose laying of CP on the pen line drawing. Colour pencil can be used just as much as watercolour. It means you can take your pencils anywhere without having to worry about using water.

It has been a tumultuous year so far. In the UK we have had our fair share of rain and wind. I have been terribly lucky in that although we are close to the sea no flooding has affected us; so many have been devastated by this.  But I think  that our  plants  are glad of the water as it has been quite dry for the last few years.

The wind hasn’t been quite so kind to us, although again we are lucky in comparison to many. Below is a picture of some of our garden. Bottom right you can just see the eves of my shed, but on the right is a massive Deodar tree. It is very tall and probably over 100 years old. It is standing too close to the house and for every storm I watch it sway. We have kept it trimmed so that wind can go through it, but  I am constantly worried. During a recent storm a big branch towards the top broke halfway and is hanging there, a little dangerously. We have decided the tree must go as our home is in jeopardy should the tree uproot, but as for much at the moment, dealing with it is on hold.

But, the sun is shining today and summer is on its way.                          

I have been offering an online botanical art course using watercolour or colour pencil for over four years. It took over two years to write and do the videos and since then I have had a steady stream of students from around the world.  I have controlled the number of students I have at any one time as a previous tutoring experience meant I was overwhelmed. Unfortunately I am my own worst enemy as I use several hours on marking each assignment so that the student feels they are getting enough information to continue their own development.

This year I have noticed an increase in the number of people wanting to do my course and initially I didn’t realise why!

‘Staying-home’ has meant that botanical art tutors everywhere can no longer teach their workshops physically and are looking for another way to teach – potentially online. There is now much more online botanical art teaching available, some are set up quickly as a reaction to the virus and some are tried and tested over a long time. The teaching varies with several providing step-by-step tutorials using monthly subscriptions; a few do online demos or even provide one-to-one lessons on screen; these are good for those who want to start painting flowers and plants.

If you want to do botanical art, courses with written tutorials and feedback from assignments are more in depth. They will often teach you about what to look for, how to do it and why.

Importantly, if you love botanical art and want to learn how to do it, there are now more than enough different types of tuition to be found online that will suit how you like to learn.

You will find information about my online course here: https://gaynorsflora.com/tuition-2/online-botanical-art-course/

I also have some videos you can watch on this page – these don’t cost a thing: https://gaynorsflora.com/my-tutorials/

In the meantime, these are a couple of recent pages from my Perpetual Journal, which I have now been doing for a year. Good luck, stay safe and healthy!

Week 12-Lesser Celandine: 19/03/19, Grape Hyacynth: 16/03/20 
Polygala myrtifolia, WC and pen&ink, Week 12 : 11/03/20

Wishing you a very peaceful Christmas and all you want from 2020

The Christmas and New Year periods are not happy times for everyone.

During a period in my life I worked every Christmas and New Year holiday doing night duty on A&E. It was my way of finding peace in myself and helping others also to do so. As well as treating patients it also opened my eyes to the suffering some people experience during these big holiday periods.

Our church provides breakfast to the homeless in Chichester twice a week and my husband is up early on these two days as part of the team doing this. Thursday is Boxing Day, he and my daughter (who has joined him whilst in the UK) will be there as usual. The numbers of homeless have increased in recent years and those the streets in Chichester can find one meal provided every day. It is worth thinking of these people as every one has a story to tell.

This Christmas I will be at home, surrounded by family; but then I am one of the lucky ones. I am fighting to find the time for my botanical art, whereas some are looking forward to being able to spend time and absorb themselves in drawing and painting.

Whatever you are doing, enjoy the Christmas and New Year period, but have a thought for those less fortunate and happy than you are.

From me, a personal thank you to all those I have been in touch with this last year and I look forward to hearing from you or seeing you again in 2020.

The length botanical artists go to get the right plants!

My daughter, husband and I ready to battle the elements on our first hike together this working holiday. We managed 3 km in 4 hours!

Preparing to climb the mountain behind the cottage in the bitter cold and hail!

It was bitter cold and hailing when we started out, with a temperature of only 2º, and the wind coming from the north! It felt quite a tough climb particularly as I wasn’t in as good shape as I used to be. But the views were worth it, as were seeing the variety of plants.

On the way up we saw quite a lot of wild flowers from Wood Cranesbill, Bilberry, Bog Bilbury or Blueberry, Cowberry (or for Ikea addicts – Lignon berry), Bog Rosemary, and loads of Chickweed Wintergreen everywhere we looked.

Its funny, but this last plant really livened up the steep slopes and the Norwegian translation of its name felt more like the experience we had of it – Star of the Woods!

Wood crane’s bill – Geranium sylvaticum

We rapidly got above the tree line with lots of heathers (most of the plants I have mentioned come from that family) and low lying Mountain Birch.

The small plateau on which we arrived had a lake and a further track leading over the mountain top. Patches of winter snow still lay there.

Rypebaer, Arctostaphylos alpina – Arctic Bearberry

On a patch of rock clung another plant carrying its immature fruit – The Artic Bearberry. I have heard of it, but hadn’t really made particular note of it before. Perhaps the redness of its autumn colour confused me with the red of the prostrate Mountain Birch.

 

Vaccinium uliginosum – Bog blueberry/bilberry – Skinntryte

This is the other plant I managed to colour match on vellum whilst up in the mountains. But I will update about that one in a later blog.

Cold but stunningly beautiful!

Bringing you up to date with Gaynor’s Flora

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.

Cloudberry, Cowberry and the tiniest plant is Cranberry.

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.

ABBA – Success at the RHS

All these months of work have been worth it. What a fantastic team effort.

Welcome to the blog of the Association of British Botanical Artists To view our NEW website please click here

In May this year ABBA organised the British contribution to the first ever Worldwide Day of Botanical Art, joining 25 other countries in this amazing event.  ABBA’s main exhibition in Lancaster, ’In Ruskins Footsteps’ was a great success as were our partner events in London, at the Shirley Sherwood gallery, Royal Botanic gardens Kew, Chelsea Physic garden and the RHS Lindley Library.

The Association of British Botanical Artists is now entering it’s next exciting phase. At the RHS Botanical art exhibition 10-12 July we announced the start of the formal establishment of the association.

There was a great deal of interest shown by people visiting the show including established artists, people new to botanical art and people passionate about our native flora. Their enthusiasm, combined with our successful online application process highlights the great interest in our native flora.

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     Setting up at the RHS…Follow the banner!

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ABBA and busy bees!

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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!

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Mountain gold!

This is a plant found amongst other places, in the mountains in Norway. It is one of the reasons For my next RHS exhibit – probably in 2019, I decided to paint Norwegian mountain plants that provide food for us mere mortals. Its scientific name is Rubys chamaemorus, but the common name in Norwegians is ‘Multe’, and in English, ‘Cloudberrry’.

Unripe Cloudberry

Why is it called ‘mountain gold’? Apart from its very special taste, it is not always easy to find. It likes boggy areas and generally you will find that Norwegians will not tell anyone else where ‘their’ patch can be found. I know one or two places because I used to live in the mountains in Norway. I also found some whilst staying in a friend’s cottage this summer (Tusen takk Eva og Jon for låne av din nydelig hytte Thank you Eva and Jon for lending us your beautiful cottage). I was in the mountains specifically to sketch these and other plants I had decided to include in my exhibit.

If you travel to Norway and ask someone where cloudberries can be found, unless you know your host well, it is unlikely that you will be told.

The picture on the right is an unripe Cloudberry. There are very strict laws governing this plant, therefore it is illegal to pick them before they are fully ripe. At that stage they are a beautiful golden orange colour. Unfortunately I have no pictures of a ripe fruit as this happens in the autumn, that is why I need to travel back again next year to sketch the ripe fruit.

Over the years I have picked a lot of Cloudberries and thought I knew them! I also found that Norwegians are as un-knowledgeable as I am. Because I am now studying the plants to paint I decided to delve deeper. But I also needed to find the flowers and the unripe fruit to draw. This year, there were few fruit ripening, but an awful lot of flowers. On closer examination and with the help of a very good series of old botanical books borrowed from the Eggedal Library (Tusen takk Jorunn. Thank you Jorunn), I discovered that Cloudberries are dioecious, either male or female plants. Each plant has a huge underground root system travelling for some distance and that is why I found difficulty when looking for the unripe fruit.

Patch of male cloudberries.

Patch of female cloudberries.

The large patches of flowers were mostly all male, but we were soon able to distinguish these patches at a distance. They had a lot of beautiful white flowers, but also  many red sepals where the petals had fallen off.

The female plants seemed to be few and far between – less than last year. The flowers were  fewer and smaller, but with several immature fruits at different stages of development.

Like so many of the plants I have painted, I study them first then become completely intrigued by them. This of course helps me portray them as best I can.

Before I show you the sketches, this is a picture of a small female cloudberry patch in quite a boggy/Sphagnum moss area, together with nearly all of the plants I had chosen to do and which I will talk about in other blogs.The picture also includes Robin’s boots, Vaccinium oxycoccus(which I didn’t think I would find as its so tiny),Vaccinium myrtillus (small blueberry),Empetrum nigrum (crowberry),Vaccinium uliginosum (bog blueberry) and Andromeda pilifolia (a heather I won’t be including in the series).

Robin’s foot and a mix of plants.

So what is the difference between male and female flowers? It should be obvious, but I’m afraid I never looked and saw previously. I just took things for granted.

Male Cloudberry flower – larger than female.

Longitudinal section of Male Cloudberry flower.

The male flower contains stamens in a ring round the inside of the outer whorl.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Smaller female cloudberry flower.

Longitudinal section of female cloudberry flower.

The female flower is slightly smaller than the male flower, has several styles and stigma in the centre – one to each ovary, but round the edge is a ring of white, sterile stamens.

 

Cloudberry plant with developing fruit.

Sketch page of Cloudberries.