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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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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 Norwegiansis ‘Multe’, and in English, ‘Cloudberrry’.
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.
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).
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.
The male flower contains stamens in a ring round the inside of the outer whorl.
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.
I don’t usually work with photographs but I haven’t the time to paint all this! I just wanted to share the glorious summer colours of Some of my garden with you.
The Glory of the Garden : Rudyard Kipling
OUR England is a garden that is full of stately views,
Of borders, beds and shrubberies and lawns and avenues,
With statues on the terraces and peacocks strutting by;
But the Glory of the Garden lies in more than meets the eye.For where the old thick laurels grow, along the thin red wall,
You’ll find the tool- and potting-sheds which are the heart of all
The cold-frames and the hot-houses, the dung-pits and the tanks,
The rollers, carts, and drain-pipes, with the barrows and the planks
And there you’ll see the gardeners, the men and ‘prentice boys
Told off to do as they are bid and do it without noise ;
At the weekend I had a two-day workshop with the title of ‘Daffodils – Herald of Spring’.
Looking into most gardens on the south coast of England, the daffodils were long gone, so how did I decide to teach this subject at this time of the year.
When planning my botanical art workshops, I look back at the photos I have taken of daffodils over the years and note the dates. Before my introduction into the digital age, I remembered that for my 49th birthday (21 years ago), we had snow (in the UK) and the daffodils were just coming out.
Working from then until last year, I expected that there would still be some in the garden. If you remember last year the daffodils were extremely early and we thought that was that. But then we had a new flowering and rather than just a few odd ones, there was an almighty crop. Not so this year!
Robin and I went trailing around Chichester and surrounding areas buying up what we could find. It was an interesting exercise.
As you can see, in the end we found the remains of some tiny ‘Tête á Tête” bulbs still flowering, but also some Narcissi. Therefore the workshop was saved.
As a note here, all my workshop titles where specific plants are mentioned, are just suggestions for subjects to paint. My workshops are not based on a step-by-step approach, but on individual support to improve your own technique.
Here are several pictures from the workshop including a preparation page, a very rough sketch and a ‘before and after’ picture showing the importance of cleaning up around the image as a last task.
I will let the pictures speak for themselves, but once again I met with some lovely, hard working botanical artists and I believe a good time was had by all.
Now to prepare for the next two weekends, which is the Chichester Open Studio art trail. In addition to my usual exhibition space where my workshops are held, I will be doing some work towards pictures I will need to have finished before the end of the year. Robin will be looking after the exhibition and you will find me tucked away in the shed at the bottom of the garden. Do come and visit me at Venue 35 in Bosham. For more details visit page: https://gaynorsflora.com/exhibitions/.
In 2011 I had finished three years work on a series of paintings showing a year in the life of the Magnolia x soulangeana. The series was exhibited at the RHS that year and I won a Silver medal – my first RHS medal. One of the paintings was chosen by the Hunt Institute for Botanical documentation in Pittsburgh, USA and it was first exhibited there in 2013. Since then it has had a three-year tour around the USA with the rest of that exhibition, but is now back in their archives in Pittsburgh.
I was super lucky to have some huge fruit on the tree the years I was doing the paintings and they were featured. But since then tree from which all the paintings were done, has not produced much fruit at all; in fact nothing until last year when it had a couple of small ones. I think the tree knew that I was painting it’s portrait and wanted to show itself at its most beautiful.
I am hoping that the tree is building itself up to another magnificent display later on this month. At the moment there are masses of terminal buds in which the blooms develop and you can almost see them growing a little more for each day.
It is obvious that the Magnolia tree means quite a lot to me after having studied it so closely for those three years. I learnt such a lot about it, how it is fertilised and why it is a particular type of bug that is responsible.
If you want to know more about Magnolia x soulangeana, and you are interested in botanical art as an artist, do book to come to my workshop Friday to Sunday 31 March to 2 April. I still have a few places available.
This is the first time that I have had a workshop on this subject – and you can probably guess why. But now I would love to help others who would like to paint the blooms in watercolour or coloured pencil (dry), or even draw them in graphite.
Get in touch with me as soon as you can so that you don’t lose this opportunity.