The other side of being an artist

This is the time of year for a botanical artist, in the UK,  when there are the most exhibitions and opportunities to promote ones work. You only need to see the list of dates and places on my ‘Exhibitions’ page to see all the occasions for which I need to prepare my work.

I love painting with watercolour and coloured pencil, or drawing with graphite or pen and ink. Many of my subjects are at their most beautiful at this time of year, but this doesn’t always mean that they are at their most interesting. People starting out in botanical art are often surprised to find that there is something of interest all year round.

I don’t love having to prepare my work for exhibitions! The reason for this is that it takes me away from doing what I do best and enjoy most – creating the actual artwork. But it has to be done.

For the last week I have not done any real painting as I have been preparing what I have done to exhibit. I try to keep on top of preparing each painting for printing as I finish that painting and rarely allow myself a backlog of more than two. This alone can take about two full days for each picture, where I use Photoshop to match the colours as closely as possible to the painting.

Luckily I haven’t had to do any colour matching on the pictures that I have been framing or mounting this week, as I had done it previously. But I do have some small pictures that will soon have to be done.

I got into the mounting and framing mode a week ago when my husband, Robin, needed to prepare some of his work for an exhibition. He did most of the work himself and I just helped him. After all, he does an awful lot in supporting me at my exhibitions and shows. So I just carried on from his framing to my framing.

The large table used for classes and workshops comes in very useful when mounting and framing artwork – but it’s never large enough!

The working table - at work
The working table – at work


You will hopefully recognise all but one of the pictures. The nightshade is one that I had intended to do as a series, but other subjects became very interesting!

'Young or old and still spiky'; Acanthus.
‘Young or old and still spiky’; Acanthus.
Daffodil; 51 shades of grey.
Daffodil; 51 shades of grey.
'Fatal attraction' ; Dipladenia and 'Solanum x dulcamara'; Bittersweet nightshade.
‘Fatal attraction’ ; Dipladenia and ‘Solanum x dulcamera’; Bittersweet nightshade.


Before I forget, the hanging of the pictures at the SBA exhibition at Westminster Central Hall in London, seems better this year. the exhibition continues until this coming Sunday, so I hope you get a chance to see it. Five of my six Crab apple paintings in coloured pencil from my exhibit at the RHS last year, are hanging there. Although not mentioned in the SBA catalogue, the series won a Silver Gilt medal.







Happy New Year!

This is a rather delayed New Year greeting, but as soon as our Christmas Guests left I went down with a ‘large’. I think I am recovering!

The holiday period has not given me much time to paint, but I have now managed to finish off the Bear’s Britches in Pen and Ink. The only problem now is that I am looking for a suitable title. All the titles I have thought of so far seem only to be understood by me.

The Acanthus has quite a history in that it is well known and used a lot in Greek and Roman designs. It is a very stately and elegant plant. The one in our garden is very tall, and quite beautiful particularly as the flowers open down the stem. But get too near and it pricks you. Yes, it is an extremely prickly plant and certainly looks after itself. It is even more prickly in its dried state as I have been drawing it. Does this give anyone any ideas for a meaningful title?

Now I am in the process of marking more assignments and clearing up the shed to start another picture. I always have to go through this process. Once a picture is finished, the shed has to be cleared of all the debris accumulated from the making of it, so that I can start off with new thoughts and feelings about the next picture. I know what it is going to be, but first out with the old!

It is very fitting isn’t it? Out with the old year and artwork and in with 2015 and a new picture and its challenges.

Detail from the initial sketch
Detail from the initial sketch
The start of the initial sketch
The start of the initial sketch
The tracing
The tracing
Mummy, daddy and baby bears.
Mummy, daddy and baby bears.

Botanical art Painting holiday in Norway 2015

The SBA botanical art exhibition in Palmengarten, Frankfurt, has almost left my to-do list for this year! Our SBA member Sue Henon and Palmengarten have already started having meetings about the next exhibition in 2016, but I will now have nearly a year free to decide about any involvement I might or might not have.

The pictures that came back are nearly all out of the house and there is only one last collection due. The house almost looks empty – so much so, that I can now see all the dust that quickly collected when so many people were in and out of the house collecting pictures. We will have exactly six days to clear up before our Christmas guests arrive!

As so many people were coming and going, I decided it was best to leave the Acanthus work in the house so that I could do a little of it whilst waiting for people to arrive. This is where I have got to with the picture. It is taking its time.

Acanthus 1 Pen & Ink
Acanthus 1 Pen & Ink
Acanthus 2 Pen & Ink
Acanthus 2 Pen & Ink
Acanthus 3 Pen & Ink
Acanthus 3 Pen & Ink

More importantly for me – and hopefully for a few of you out there, I now have all the details for the next Botanical Art workshop holiday in Norway. By clicking on the image below you will be linked to my website to download further information including the booking forms.

Brochure art course Norway 2015

Bosham craft trail and Palmengarten pictures!

As usual life is hectic, but once we got everything ready for the Bosham Crafts trail and pictures were hung, I could relax. That was 02:00 in the morning in Friday.

We had a very good trail and although this is the first time we have done it at this time of year, I was very pleased with the number of people who came to see us and of course what they took with them and left behind! I was even more pleased that very occasionally in between visitors, I was able to carry on with my Bear’s Britches(Acanthus).

I will show you a couple of pictures prior to visitors, but compare them with a couple of them at the end of this blog.





Now imagine the nice and cosy relaxed atmosphere of the last pictures and then imagine today!

About 160+ pictures came back from Palmengarten today, at the same time as students arrived, at the same time as other visitors arrived – including a policeman on duty!

All the pictures had to be checked off the van and into the house, then sorted. As did returning cards, books, banners and paperwork! What happened to my poor students unexpectedly up in the middle of this? The pictures were due to arrive yesterday! They were really lovely and understanding, as was my husband who had delayed his trip up to London today so he could help, as were my other visitors. But chaos reigned.

I am now sitting with a cup o tea and a cat trying to add to this blog. I am surrounded by this-




And left with this!



Bosham Christmas Craft Trail starts today!

I don’t think that I have ever been so late at putting together everything when participating in an art trail – or in this case a craft trail!

I have hardly had time to think these last few months because of the SBA exhibition at PalmengArten. I thought I would get a bit of a break whilst the exhibition is on, but I forgot that I need to use that time preparing for the next stage – return of unsold paintings. Having said that, Sue Henon has worked solidly the last month for us.

Anyway, all of the above meant that I was not as well prepared as I should have been. But, it looks as though the ‘gallery’ is ready for a few visitors when it opens in the morning. We just need to bring my easel up to the house and the picture I started months ago; Acanthus – Bears Britches. It is much too wet and muddy for people to traipse down to the shed, so it will be lovely and cosy and everything in the house.

Just imagine; a nice warm, light area to view the paintings and the smell of Mulled wine and Mince pies. Do come and join us. Your invitation and instructions to find me are attached. I am number 6.


Second hanging day at Palmengarten Botanical Gardens, Frankfurt

I’m afraid that I don’t have a single picture to brighten up this blog today. I have been very busy as we have had many more botanical art pictures to hang than in the two previous times we (the SBA) exhibited with Palmengarten.

When the hanging team arrived at Palmengarten this morning, our men mentioned in yesterday’s blog, got stuck in with hanging more pictures. They have been absolutely amazing, even though it is not them who are SBA members but us ( the women mentioned yesterday). They are extremely supportive and what we would do without them I don’t know.

We spent the rest of the day hanging pictures, reorganising a few, straightening and labelling them. Tomorrow will be spent cleaning the glass so that they are fully presentable in all their glory.

I think this evening will be spent easing backs and feet for all of us. How we will do this is anyone’s guess, but our hotel is not far from the student area of the city, so please use your imagination.

To brighten up the page a little I will include another picture of the Bears britches painting.




Day before the journey to Frankfurt’s Palmengarten

My last blog mentioned that the botanical art exhibition at Palmengarten is now less than a week away. Each day that comes I think that I might get a little painting in before we go – but no such luck. I will show you a couple more pictures from the pen and ink drawing of Bear’s britches progression though.

I thought I had all the paperwork for Palmengarten clear in relevant folders etc, but then the cat jumped up onto the keyboard and knocked my tea all over the paperwork and the printing paper. That took a couple of hours to reprint it all as well as clear up the mess.

But today, my husband Robin got up early, gave me a cup of tea in bed and then took the train to Portsmouth to collect a van for our trip to Frankfurt. It is quite a large van, but he thinks we will be comfortable enough during the long journey, although it doesn’t seem to have all the mod cons one might expect/ wish for.

So we checked all the paintings etc against the spreadsheet I had done and loaded everything onto the van. Robin fastened everything securely and one of the cats, Fudge, inspected the lot to see that we had done it properly. His black and white brother (guess what his name is) inspected the suddenly empty spare bedrooms. They will be having a strict cat-sitter for the duration!

A good night’s sleep tonight and tomorrow we will be on our way to Kent to pick up the other half of paintings.




The bear’s britches (Acanthus)




Botany and botanical art is very exciting!

On Friday and again on Sunday afternoon after church I was able to continue with my Acanthus ( in case you wondered what my new picture was all about). I finished the sketch and transferred it to the paper I am using for the final work. A warning, the following picture is not the whole composition as it will contain a third element – hopefully. It is a large project, but hopefully it will go well.


On Saturday my husband and I drove up to Leicester, visiting briefly the University botanical Gardens. But we also went to an IAPI meeting on Grasses. Now many of you might wonder what was so special about grasses – and I did too. But, with just one lecture and some amazing views through the microscope, I am converted.

There were so many different types for different types of habitat and temperature zone. They may look very ordinary, but up close they are absolutely beautiful.

Think of a colour wheel and pointillism. If you mix the three primaries, you get a grey shade, depending upon the mix. Optical mixing of colours means that you don’t mix the colours on your palette, but by placing colours side by side, your brain mixes the colours together creating a third colour.

Now back to the grasses. When a grass is waving in the wind, depending upon the type, all you might see is a greyish or beige-ish colour in the frond. Well, at the height of the season, those ‘fronds’ are the ‘flowers’ (inflorescence) of the plant and contains the male and female parts.

I looked at these under the microscope and saw some tiny, really beautiful flowers. Most of all, the colours were amazing ( I know I’ve used the word again, but have to). The one I was looking at had wonderful reddish purple and green parts with the tiny style and stigma in purple sticking out of the tip. The colours glowed.

Unfortunately the pictures I have taken do not reflect the beauty that I saw under the microscope, but hopefully they will give an indication.

Back to optical mixing of colours. Bearing in mind the smallness of the inflorescence, even though the colours were individually very beautiful, they were small surfaces to the naked eye and therefore had the same effect as pointillism – the colours became optically mixed to a dull grey! Could this be natures way of protection?




What do you think? I know the photo does not do the plant justice, but hopefully you can see the promise of the intricate and beautiful design.