Botanical art, workshops and vellum

What a mix!

The week after next I have my first workshop in 2017. There are no places available for that workshop, but there are places still available for the one after that.

The following workshop will be Thursday 16th to Saturday 18th February and the topic will be White flowers against dark ones. I decided against being too specific about which plants, allowing students to think about what they have in the garden. The intention is to show how easy it is to paint pale against dark, thus reducing the amount of shading necessary. People often have problems with white and yellow flowers in particular, but the method I will show you eases this problem hugely.

Do get in touch soon to book your place on the workshop:

When I am running these workshops and showing what people have accomplished, I often get comments that they wish they lived nearer. Well, as I am now running my online botanical art course, you have the opportunity to learn from me whether you live nearer or far away. Presently I have students who live fairly near and occasionally come to one of the workshops in addition, but I also have students on the other side of the globe. Not only are they able to get detailed feedback from me throughout the course (watercolour or coloured pencil), but they also communicate with each other.

I don’t take on many students each month, but will be taking on new ones 1 February. This is the link to the online course:

But of course, this autumn we are having the exclusive botanical art holiday at Le Manoir in the Dordogne. Places are limited for this workshop holiday, so do book early to avoid disappointment.

Lastly, what’s all this about vellum? A tutor is no good if they too aren’t constantly learning. I feel so privileged that I learn so much from my students, but also now and again I have the opportunity to go on a course myself. When I was in Pittsburgh, USA, for the annual American SBA conference, I not only taught but I was able to go on a workshop with Jean Emmons. For those of you who know her name, she does the most exquisite work on vellum. I have at last finished the piece that I started on her workshop. If you read this, thank you Jean.


A Maple leaf
A Maple leaf on Kelmscott vellum

The opening of the Hort exhibition

Please excuse some of the limitations with this blog as I am trying to write it with a very slow wifi connection. Added to which I am so tired that I am falling asleep.

Suffice it to say that I personally was extremely honoured by having my work accepted for the prestigious ASBA exhibition and being at the opening today was an experience I wouldn’t have missed.

Dr Shirley Sherwood opened the exhibition and all of the artists at the opening spoke for a few minutes about their work. It was interesting hearing about how their artwork came to fruition.

Although there was work from five British artists out of the 48 pictures selected for the exhibition, Dianne Sutherland and I were the only British artists present. However, three of the awards went to British artists including one to Dianne. Congratulations!

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Unfortunately the last photo showing Lizzie Sanders picture did not turn out. I hope she will excuse the exclusion.

Where am I packing up to go?

My husband is keeping on at me because I haven’t done any packing yet and tomorrow I am going back to the States.

I have my usual class  tomorrow morning and on the dot of 12 MD we drive to the airport. I am going to the opening of the 19th Annual International Botanical art exhibition at the New York Design Centre. The exhibition is held by the American Society of Botanical Artists and the Horticultural Society of New York and one of my pictures is being exhibited.


This is the picture that was accepted.


I will only be there for a few days and back again at the weekend, but it will be lovely to see the friends I have made over there.

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.


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.



Bad news and good news.

A few days ago we were walking round the garden and noticed that one of the Fuchsias seemed to have real problems with flowering. On closer examination the growing tips were curled up with the new flower buds curled into them. We then checked out another fuchsia in the front garden which had flowered. It was the only one we had with variegated leaves. But that too seemed to be infected. We had no idea what this was, so Robin had a look on the net.

Distorted growing tip of a Fuchsia plant
Distorted growing tip of a Fuchsia plant

Apparently it is the Fuchsia gall mite and has been written about by the RHS. It had first been seen in Brazil in the late 1970’s and has since spread to areas with warm climates, reaching Fareham on the south coast of England only a short time ago.

The only thing to do with it is remove it completely as removing the distortions doesn’t get rid of the mite and neither do pesticides – which we wouldn’t want to use unless there was no other way. When removing the plant, it either has to be burnt or got rid of safely – not on the compost heap. The mode of transportation is you and I, birds and the wind. Therefore we have to be careful that we clean tools, change clothes and wash hands after handling it.

I have just found it in the back garden too, but so far it has only affected one of the fuchsias (all hardy). Therefore we have to get rid of it as soon as possible. However, before doing so I thought I would take some pictures. The mite is 0.25 mm long, therefore too small to be seen with the naked eye. But I have one or two microscopes and have taken some stills and a short video.

First, two stills so that you know what to look for:

Fuchsia gall mite still_1 copy


The same gall mites taken within seconds of the first picture.
The same gall mites taken within seconds of the first picture.

I had hoped to show you a short video I took of a mite moving along a stem, but unfortunately I haven’t found a way to include it on a WordPress page. But needless to say, the mite is very bad news for those with Fuchsias at least living in the south of the UK . But perhaps this will be a warning to have a look at your Fuchsias and remove those infected as soon as you can.  This could minimise spreading.

Now the good news. The American Society of Botanical artist (ASBA) has its annual conference in Pittsburgh in October. I know I have mentioned this before. I was asked to teach and the online registration was opened on 23 July. I booked the workshops that I wanted to attend, but also checked out my own workshop.

I couldn’t believe it and I thought there was a difference between the meaning of the American and UK English words ‘waiting list’. I picked up the courage to ask and found that they meant the same thing. Already on the first day of registration, my workshop was fully booked with a waiting list! I have to keep my fingers crossed now that I can still get crab apples as subjects for the conference. At the moment, I have loads of different ones ripening here, but how they are ‘over there’ is another matter. Perhaps someone could tell me if they are likely to have any left at the time of the conference?

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Thursday in Pittsburgh

A busy and exciting day. This is the first full day of the ASBA annual conference and the opening of the Hunt’s 14th International Exhibition of botanical art and illustration.

This morning started off with a Portfolio session where many members lay out their work for query, comment and I suppose critique. There was a huge variety of styles and it was very interesting. Many had done their work on vellum, but there were other techniques too. I was encouraged to try vellum although it is extremely expensive. Also suggested that I use the sort available in the UK as this is the best.

I am told that the latest ASBA magazine has a very good article on how to paint on vellum. For people out there who paint botanically, I recommend that you join this organisation. Membership has quite few benefits.

I saw some beautiful silver point work, and some very good pen and ink work. I wish I could describe some of it as it is obviously a new technique to try and learn. Unfortunately I didn’t take any pictures.

Towards the end of the Portfolio session I went to a talk on the history of Vellum. Unfortunately, it was more a history of the family who produced Vellum in the US. Parts of it definitely were interesting, but I feel that I know little more now than I did before I went into the talk.

We had a long lunch combined with AGM.

The afternoon was filled with a techniques showcase. Three different artists with three different techniques and materials demonstrated for us. The topics were Graphite, watercolour and coloured pencil. They were very good. Although other workshops were going on at the same time, the auditorium was pretty well full of interested artists.



Then the opening of the Hunt Exhibition. Several school buses picked us up at the hotel and drove us to the Hunt. We went to the top floor (walked!), where we were greeted with nibbles and punch. A friend of mine who started nursing at the same time as me 50 years ago in Set 231, now lives in Pittsburgh. She came to hep celebrate with her was lovely having them there too.

All the pictures were hung in a large room and some speeches were made to open the exhibition. Unfortunately I can’t repeat what was said as you couldn’t hear. But a good time was had by all, even when the fire alarm evacuated the building.

We were turfed out into the balmy evening air, but it didn’t deter any conversation.