I haven’t been able to write a blog since the last one in May. A lot has happened since then – not only for me but for many people! But this is a very brief description of what we have gone through, just to bring you up to date.
As in most families the world over, children are always concerned about their parents, particularly during these difficult times. My daughter asked us if we would consider moving back to Norway and my husband said yes immediately. It took a little while to persuade me as although I have always loved Norway, it took me a long time to get used to living back in the UK again. Eventually I said yes and the process started.
We sold our house – not without hiccups on the way, and whilst this was going through we packed and moved late August. My daughter invited us to live with her whilst we got sorted here in Norway and although all the legal issues have taken far longer than normal because of Covid, everything is completed this week and we now are legal residents. Best of all, my daughter and I are still friends!
We have found a lovely house (address and contact details above) and will be moving into it 11 January. It is a very exciting time even though we have had continuous rain for the last 14 days and 31 of the last 44 days. Global warming hits here too. We are coming towards the shortest day of the year after which everything will start getting lighter again. One notices how dark and short the days are, even in southern Norway, when it is overcast. But when the sun comes out, it is fairly low on the horizon and sparkling bright.
I’m not going to bore you with loads of writing. I have only done some painting to keep my hand in, such as the Amanita mascara above, and a fairly regular weekly entry sketch into my perpetual diary. I am still running my Botanical art online course https://gaynorsflora.com/tuition-2/online-botanical-art-course/. I have discovered that the pandemic has given many old students the chance to finish off the course and for many new students the excuse to start it.
There are two sections of photographs here. The first are from my perpetual diary since being back in Norway and the other is a series showing the area in which we are and will be living. Notice the change in light and obvious temperature.
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.
I thought that it would be pleasing to show one picture started in the last workshop, completed. Sue James sent me this message and gave her permission to use use her name and her image.
‘Finished article! Thanks for a great workshop, learned a lot! Looking forward to the next one’.
I am sure that you will like it as much as I do. Painting the hairy buds of the Magnolia x solangeana in the technique that I use is not easy although it gives the best result. I think you will agree with me that she has achieved this very well.
Because I limit the number of students at each workshop I teach in watercolour, coloured pencil and or graphite.
The next botanical art workshop in Bosham is ‘White flowers against dark ones’, although in reality the topic is really about what is to be gained by painting pale flowers against something darker in the background; leaves or darker flowers. The workshop is Thursday, Friday and Saturday 16 – 18 February and there are still a very few places available.
The workshop holiday at Le Manoir in the French Dordogne has only four painting places left, so if you want to come, sign up for this soon. Take advantage of being looked after from the botanical art point of view, and in relation to the holiday with well thought out afternoon trips and of course looking after your taste buds.
Last, but not least is the ongoing Online Botanical art course. Unlike many other online botanical art courses, this one takes a limited number of new students each month and is therefore continuous. It is spread over a longer period of time (18 months), allowing you to fit it in with your other commitments and life in general. Additionally, you can get in touch with me with any queries you have about the course at any time; you can communicate with other students participating in the course via a secret Facebook page; the feedback you get for each of your assignments is a several page long very detailed constructive critique about each of the pieces you send to me. I take on new students for February 1 tomorrow, and again 15 February. Get in touch.
It may be grey out there just now, but there is so much already in the garden (in the Northern hemisphere), just ready and waiting to explode. Down under, it is probably the hottest part of the year, but it is always exciting for me to see the subjects chosen to paint, which might be considered exotic in the UK. Oh how I love doing what I do!
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.
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.
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.
I mentioned previously that I had been trying out various papers to use with coloured pencil, rather than my favourite, Fabriano Classico. The trouble is that I kept on having to start my tomato picture again and the ultimate goal was to film the process to use with my online botanical art course.
In the end I gave up and the video is based on my fourth attempt, but with my favourite paper! I hope that this will make some people happier about their numerous attempts with whatever media they might be using.
Having read the above, you will think that I didn’t find any suitable replacements for the Fabriano, but that isn’t quite true. The problem was that I chose what seems to be a simple subject, which in reality wasn’t all that simple to do. The tomatoes are very red, smooth and shiny. The red was the problem.
For those who work with coloured pencil, they will know that the colours are translucent and therefore the colour or colours that you are aiming for are in fact a layered mix of different colours. The tomatoes were a yellowy red – simple; but they also had areas of deeper red, areas of pinky-red, colder areas and warmer areas.
I have also been painting a Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ recently, and I encountered similar problems with that, because of the red.
I suppose what I am trying to say is that if is difficult, try and try again; it will be worth it. Particularly with coloured pencils it is worth trying out different mixes before you start and sometimes simpler is best.
I finished the series of videos for the course, starting off with tracing the line drawing, a separate short video for each of the tomatoes and then one for the sepals and truss. But unless you are signed up for the course you will only see this video which concentrates on the second tomato. It is speeded up considerably, therefore not going into huge detail about techniques. But you do see how the tomato develops and the list of colours I used for the whole picture is in the information section underneath the video.
This is the Youtube video link: The second of three tomatoes in coloured pencil.
This coming weekend is the ever popular Fruit and veg botanical art workshop. It looks as though it won’t be such glorious weather as has been for the last couple of days, so everyone will be able to concentrate on their painting, but be rewarded with strawberries and cream at the end of it!
Whilst I was away, I was filling in forms, writing CVs etc for the American Society of Botanical Artists (ASBA) conference in Pittsburgh and the exhibition in New York in November. I didn’t have access to all my paperwork to fill everything in, but thought I could rely on the information in my website. Not so! For some reason or other a couple of pages were empty, such as the one for awards, and several others were not updated. Why, I don’t know. But as my husband says it is because I’m human. That might be a surprise to some!
Have a look at my website, because some of the factual things were updated yesterday.
Whilst doing this vital function, I was reminded that I needed to mention that I have some places on the online botanical art course Online botanical art course . I keep the number low for new people starting each month so that I don’t become overloaded with teaching, leaving no room for my own painting.
The feedback that students get back from me for each assignment is comprehensive – as those who are already doing the course can vouch for. Each assignment I receive often takes several hours to mark, so that as you embrace the tutorials and struggle with practicing for the work you send to me, you know that your efforts will be treated seriously.
The course is suitable for people starting out in botanical art and for those who want to improve. Generally speaking, the ‘wanting’ to improve in our botanical art practices applies to all of us and it sometimes helps to have someone else to guide us further along this path. Do sign up and give it a go.
Going back to the beginning of June and the Cedric Morris collection of Irises; these are the pictures of the second Iris. This time it is the Benton Apollo. In the garden in Hadleigh, Suffolk, the Irises were at various stages of flowering. The Benton Farewell that I showed you yesterday had only just started flowering and there was only the one fully opened. However, the Benton Apollo Irises were very much in full bloom.
In this picture you can see some of the other Iris colours in background. And I believe that this part of the garden was secondary!! Anyway, again I was smitten. But who in their right mind would choose a yellow flower to paint?
Both white flowers and yellow flowers are considered very difficult to paint, but it all depends on whether you have leaves backing the flowers, and the way you do your shadows. In actual fact the Benton Farewell had a lot of subtle mauve tints in the white and the yellow iris has also some beautiful and interesting shades, particularly in the fall petals.
On Saturday evening I made my way home in the car. It was hot. For the first part of the journey, Julia accompanied me, sitting in the front seat holding her Iris cutting with all the windows wide open. My Iris was safely supported in the boot of the car – or so I thought! Julia’s Iris didn’t even flutter in the wind and mine was safely in the boot being torn to shreds.
I was lucky enough to have some buds left on the cuttings and during the following week I did demonstrations on four days. What did I use for my subjects? The Irises of course.
Both sketches are watercolour in a Stillman & Bern Zeta sketchbook.
I’m afraid I still have no new painting at the moment as I am writing, writing, writing – with of course a load of research in the middle. There is a lot going into this new online course I am doing, but I am really happy that several people have agreed to allow me to show their work as well.
I feel it is so important to let people know that there are so many styles of botanical art and so many ways of getting to where you want to go with it. Other artists have been really helpful in this and some have even offered to write bits about what they think is important in the style of work they do, to go into the course.
Anyway, Robin and I were checking dates in our diaries the other day and as I want to go to the ASBA conference in Pittsburgh this year, I have had to make a change to one of the workshops in October. This is the link: Botanical art workshops 2016
What have I been doing of late? You probably think that I haven’t been doing anything at all – but I have been working on my new online botanical art course. Poor Robin, he hardly sees me these days!
For those of you living in the UK you know that the weather has been very mild – and very wet. I live on the south coast and although we haven’t suffered the same floods as further north, it has been wet. All the plants in the garden are in turmoil. Everything is sodden and the cats leave muddy paw prints everywhere – they get the blame as they can’t answer back! A lot of the daffodils have finished flowering and if we get some cold weather now, goodness knows what will happen to those in bud.
We spent Christmas in Norway and had a really super time with my daughter (the hostess) and my son. We even got some lovely snow there – which was refreshing. we enjoyed some very special Norwegian food such as Lutefisk, had a Norwegian Christmas Eve supper of delicious cod and an English Christmas Day meal of Roast pork with all the trimmings. My children are fantastic cooks; they obviously felt they had to learn as I am such a bad cook.
We came back home before the new year to see the Hellebores, Daffodils and Snowdrops in full flower! Starting on the watercolour module of my online botanical art course, I therefore had plenty of subjects to paint from. I chose the Hellebore after picking off a live caterpillar! Several of the flowers had their stamens chewed right off. I’ve pulled this picture off the video, so it isn’t too clear. I wish I had taken a picture of the caterpillar too.
From painting the Hellebore I have done a whole series of videos for the course right from : Stretching light to medium weight watercolour paper (I hope you find it useful), sketch to line drawing, colour matching, tracing over to art paper, tonal value reference study to actually painting the picture. All of the videos are on Youtube, but only the one about stretching paper is available to the public. The rest will only be available to students doing the course, although I am considering doing a very fast one showing the painting. I still have a load of writing to do yet, so I will see how it goes.
I may not be keeping up too well with my own artwork, but I am keeping my hand in when doing the videos.
I am developing an online botanical art course using written guidelines, links to good support subjects, diagrams, photos and videos showing techniques. I will also discuss the materials you might wish to use. But have a look on this website under Tuition and you can read a little more about it.
In the process of writing the course I have been filming work as I do it and making videos from the material. The course will include several detailed videos with accompanying written information to make sure that the techniques are understood.
The videos posted already have been done ‘quick time’ so that you can see the effect of the process as the subject is developed. But in the course the videos are broken down into smaller bites so that each technique can be clearly seen. Although the ‘quick time’ videos are available on YouTube, you will need to sign up for the course to see the full material.
Christmas will soon be upon us and no doubt there will be less time to do painting, drawing or writing for a couple of weeks. But I think you may hear from me at least one ore time before Christmas.
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