Summer Open Studio – Botanical art

Its that time of year again. Children are on holiday and the waterways (as well as motorways) are bustling. The sun is shining and the bees are buzzing, making sure we get the produce from our kitchen gardens and seeds for next year.

From my shed (studio), I can hear happy sailors in the creek, as well as curlews as they land. There seem also to be a lot of children and teenagers learning the ropes out on the water. But I am happy painting away with the sun pouring in through the open door and the cats curled up asleep as company; oblivious to anything.

Do come and experience my little haven during the next couple of weekends. You will be most welcome.

2015 Summer Open Studios flyer

One of the pieces I will be working on is my latest challenge. Fuchsia microphylla. Microphylla means small leaves. Everyone knows more or less what a Fuchsia looks like as for some it seems to be a challenge to find as many different sorts as possibly – whether hardy in the UK climate, or not. This plant is hardy but intriguing. The flowers are tiny, as are the leaves, but the fruit is also quite small although seeming to get somewhat larger than the flower.

Fuchsia microphylla
Fuchsia microphylla
Fuchsia microphylla flowers
Fuchsia microphylla flowers

I have started to paint a picture in watercolour. The composition is the real challenge and how I am going to express this on paper, with dissections. Come and see how I intend to try and solve the problems. Comments and suggestions will be most welcome.

Fuchsia microphylla painting started
Fuchsia microphylla painting started

My husband commented today that he didn’t realise that the colours in the plant were so vibrant. I had done a tad more on the painting by the time he made this comment. But it is like all things botanical, once you get down to the detail – even in grasses – the colours are amazing.


Fuchsia microphylla setup in my shed (studio). Plant, magnifying glasses galore, easel, chair, paints, brushes and water.
Fuchsia microphylla setup in my shed (studio). Plant, magnifying glasses galore, easel, chair, paints, brushes and water.

Robin will be ably manning the gallery and I look forward to you joining me down in the shed.

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.


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.

Spotting the near miss with a Dipladenia leaf

The sun has just come round and is shining in the shed door. It is the only period during the day that I risk the sun coming directly into the shed and shining onto my work. I had just done loads of detail on a leaf and was doing a gentle wash on top. The sun suddenly appeared and I made a mistake. Hopefully it is recoverable.

I therefore took a couple of deep breaths, went out into the vegetable garden directly outside – picked a runner bean and chewed on it to gather my wits. Whilst the work is drying I have decided to do this blog.

Did you see the detail that I showed you yesterday, which was a near miss? In actual fact I did make the mistake and it wasn’t until I was checking over the days work that I saw it.

In the top left hand corner of the second picture I showed you yesterday, there is a leaf going off the page. To the right of it is a tendril of new growth. It was meant to appear from under the leaf. Guess what I did. Without thinking I had painted the petiole of the leaf (rather than curling it round behind and out of sight) and I connected the tendril and the leaf petiole!!!! How stupid can you get? My picture therefore had the a leaf with a petiole and the tendril as a continuation of the petiole! i.e a tendril with the tip completing one end and a leaf completing the other!

I don’t know how many times I say to students, paint what you see and not what you think you see. That also applies if composing a picture from various parts of a plant to make a cohesive whole. The details in the picture have to be completely botanically correct even though taking elements from different parts of the plant.

To correct the whole, I had to lift the edge of the leaf, petiole and end of the tendril – luckily it doesn’t show. I re-painted the tendril to disappear a little lower down the leaf, and then added a stem coming in from above the leaf. That meant I also had to slightly change the direction of the stem coming out from below the leaf. All very complicated and of course that mistake has knock-on effects with the composition in other areas. Hopefully I have managed it reasonably well.

I know that some people will find the above explanation and detail unnecessary in a blog such as this. But I am already being very honest about this picture, so why not go into the detail. It might even help someone else avoid similar stupid mistakes.

Anyway, the first of today’s pictures is the corrected view. The second picture is more leaves that I have done. These include views of the underside of Dipladenia leaves, foreshortened views and a full frontal view(!). The last is not finished yet.

By the way, I have found that for these leaves I have needed to use smaller brushes than I normally use and a dryer mixture.

Finished leaf and tendril.
Finished leaf and tendril.
More leaves
More leaves
Last adult Dipladenia leaf
Last adult Dipladenia leaf


Dipladenia progression

I have to be honest that the photos I am sending out in my blog are ones taken during work done over the last couple of weeks.  I suppose that rather than show you them as I am doing them, I am still hesitant as to where the painting will go and if I will get over my fear of doing it badly yet again!

I am still spending quite a bit of time on the Palmengarten exhibition organisation which means that some days I have virtually no time to paint.  Additionally I mark the assignments for the two botanical art courses at the London Art College. It all takes time off the actual painting. But, I am enjoying seeing the assignments that come in and the development of the students.

Do have a look at the London Art College website if you are interested in doing botanical painting either in watercolour or coloured pencil. Obviously getting hands-on tuition is the best, but sometimes distances preclude this and the distance learning is a good option.


Now a couple more photos from the Dipladenia picture.

Dipladenia flower pair with bud and a flower having lots its fused, tubular petals.
Dipladenia flower pair with bud and a flower having lost its fused, tubular petals.
Dipladenia flower shrivelling & two buds.
Dipladenia flower shrivelling & two buds.

Dipladenia – again

I am now on my 6th attempt – I think. I’m losing count.

It is a while since I last wrote a blog and since then I have been trying to get my head around my temporary(!) lack of skills. I had decided to paint a Dipladenia plant for the Botanical art exhibition at Palmengarten, Frankfurt in October. The title of the exhibition is Poisonous and Medicinal plants.

Prior to going to Norway I had sketched out and gently started the picture. For those who may not know, the Dipladenia is as poisonous as Poinsettia. But it grows long tendrils and these are a temptation to a playful cat. Unfortunately I didn’t know how poisonous the plant was and I now know that when the cat suddenly became seriously ill before we went away, that in fact he had been poisoned by the plant.The trouble is it also seems to have had a negative affect on my painting skills.

The plant is now in the shed – well away from playful cats, and will be given away once the picture is finished. I will not give up.

This time I have reduced the design and have painted most of the flowers first. I suppose that is asking for trouble as I seem to get a blockage when I get to the leaves. I know what I want to do, but somehow there is a disconnect between my head and the messages sent to my hand and skills with the brush, pigment and water!

I am taking some photos as I go along.

Dipladenia flower 1
Dipladenia flower 1

First layer of the dipladenia flower. Note what looks like a heavy dark tracing. It is in fact not heavy and is traced in the method I have demonstrated in an earlier blog. Because no sharp tool, even a pencil is used to do the tracing, the graphite is easily lifted off completely with a putty rubber, leaving NO indent.

Dipladenia flower 2
Dipladenia flower 2

The layers of watercolour are almost complete.

First day at Stansted Park Garden Show

What a lovely day. The weather was super- the sun shone all day, it was warm but not hot and there was a slight breeze.

The stand we have is just inside the Art and design marquis, so we had the benefit of fresh air coming in. I can imagine it might not have been so pleasant on a cooler day, but lovely just now.

As soon as the gates opened to the show, people streamed in and there seemed to be a constant flow of interested visitors during the whole day.

I had decided to demonstrate botanical art using coloured pencil. This worked out well and was obviously the right choice as it attracted quite a few people to the stand. I had loads of questions and this also meant that they looked a little more closely at the pictures than they might have done. I also found out that Irises are in fact a flower that is much appreciated.

This evening has been spent with stocking up again and now a very slightly earlier night than usual.



Stansted Park Garden Show – stand AD25

You are all invited to come to Stansted Park Garden Show. This a yearly show situated near Chichester. For those who love their gardens, this is the place.

I have a stand in the Art and Design Marquee – and I’m terrified! Not that there is anything to be terrified about.

I believe that I am the only botanical artist there although there will be a plenty of general art and design. But there will be plants and lots of them.

Summer still does not seem to have reached us yet. Chilly and cloudy with the occasional sun burst. But I am told from several sources in Norway that they have summer proper! I can’t wait for the workshop there in four weeks time.

In the meantime, I have again spent most of the day on the organisation, information, form design etc. for the SBA exhibition at Palmengarten. I think that so far I must have spent a week solid on this. The emails come in fast and furious following sending out an email to all members asking if they intend to submit. The response so far has been really good and today I got the instructions and forms finished off and sent to those thinking about exhibiting.

I managed to start painting at 17:00. Not much of the day left. My husband had got some more Irises for me to work on the Coloured pencil picture, so I did a little on that. By the way, I intend to work on the irises in coloured pencil and the Mandeville in watercolour, at the Stansted show. But it will be different days spent on each. I haven’t decided which days yet.

This is how far I have got with the Irises. I’m afraid the lighting was not very good for the photo, but it’s better than nothing.


Tomorrow will be the last weekly botanical art class until September. After which I will be packing things together to take to Stansted for setting up on Thursday.

Demonstration at Society of Floral Painters in Chichester

Following a lot of preparation on composing and drawing a new botanical art picture, I spent the day starting the watercolour painting as a demonstration for the SFP.

The day dawned sunny and warm; the first nice day for a while. Watching the weather forecast as I write this, it reverts to cooler and wetter weather for a few days! Has spending the day inside demonstrating botanical art been worth it?

I am told that the SFP exhibition at the Oxmarket in Chichester, has attracted a lot of visitors. Visitors who I spoke with today, found the exhibition to be very interesting and many were amazed at the variety of floral painting; from very loosely painted Irises in oil, through the tighter botanical art, to strict botanical illustration. There is something there for everyone.

From previous experience, I knew that even though warm outside it can be cool sitting and demonstrating. I was well prepared. We didn’t have huge numbers of visitors and I am told that Sundays do not seem to attract the crowds. However there were quite a few people interested in my demonstration and I was able to talk a little of what I was doing.

The following is pictures from today finishing off with what I have done so far. The plant is a Mandeville, or Dipladenia.




Tomorrow I will be catching up:
– with London Art College assignment marking;
– preparation for the exhibition in Palmengarten Botanical gardens in Frankfurt, Germany. A joint exercise between Palmengarten and the SBA. My husband and I receive botanical art from across the UK and take it over to Frankfurt in October for the exhibition;
– preparation for the Garden Show at Stansted House ( this coming FRiday, Saturday and Sunday. We have a stand there for the first time. Do come and support us. I intend to demonstrate some more.