Nearly there with the Benton Iris ‘Farewell’

Hopefully, through this series of paintings with the Benton Iris ‘Farewell’ you will have understood how important it is to plan and prepare a painting from the initial composition , through tonal sketches, practicing techniques to finally the painting.

Because i believe that good preparation is the basis for getting a result in botanical art that I am happy with, I planned this year’s workshops to help others with this process. The next one is 23 -24 March and is all about developing the careful line drawing and using it as a basis for the rough tonal drawing. There are still places, so do get in touch.

But back to the Benton Iris. Actually as the painting has developed I have felt some sadness that there isn’t too much left. Obviously I also learn from doing it and this painting has been rather different to ones I have done before. It has been quite a large painting, it is on 640 gsm which doesn’t feel quite as smooth as 300 gsm paper. I used quite a bit of graphite so that the picture would not be heavy and doing this on the 640 gsm was not so easy. It was important to show all the intricacies of the plant, to get them absolutely right and to make it an attractive picture as well.

Some of the things that I had to include in the flower were:

  • The view showing the Stigmatic lip. This is the view into the flower showing the sexual organs. look very closely inside the back of the flower and you will see a slight transverse ridge; that is the Stigmatic lip. The Stamen – male organ, is vertical, deep inside the flower and just below the transverse ridge. The pollinator climbs over the beard to try and reach the nectar deep inside the throat of the flower, gets pollen on its back and rubs it off on the stigmatic lip, fertilising the plant. You will see this view in more detail in the last blog.
  • The view with the emphasis on the Standard and Fall petals (this blog),
  • Buds developing
  • The height of the flower spike.
  • The height of the leaves particularly related to the spike.
  • The top part of the rhizome.
  • The growth habit (the fan of leaves)

This time my pictures show the development of one of the falls.

 

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This is the final stage of the top flower. I will show you the complete painting in the next blog, so that you can judge whether or not the painting is successful. It is the viewer that determines this. 

 

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A little more of my Benton Iris ‘Farewell’

Trying to paint more with the Benton Iris – work that I love doing, has been complicated by all the adjustments in relation to the botanical art exhibition ‘ In Ruskin’s Footsteps’. But you can now see the updated website in relation to the new improved venue (still at Lancaster University) and adjustment to the dates. I will give you the link at the end of this blog.

In my last blog I showed you my progression in relation to the large fan-like leaves of this majestic plant. I chose to include only colour for those on the right hand side of the artwork and graphite on the remaining leaves. This was so that the picture would not be overwhelmingly heavy with green leaves. 

I finished off last time with the bud spike on the left hand side of the artwork. Now I will show you the start of the main flower spike, which needed to be divided in two because of the height of it.

 

 

 

This is customary in botanical art when painting correctly.

 

It is important to give an indication of the habit of the plant if painting life-size and the plant is very tall; try to include as much of it as possible in the same painting. I have divided the flower spike in two and have shown the cut ends with the same profile at the cut edge.

On this stem you can clearly see the flowers and buds spiralling off.

I have started off with a pale wash for the bud leading up to the main flower before completing the detail with a dry brush technique.

Now the start of the top flower and he developing bud just underneath. This was actually quite difficult to get right.


All my sketches were done outside in the garden last year and if you don’t keep your head still while drawing, the detail visible will change.

If you are enjoying following the stages in the development of the Benton Iris ‘Farewell’, you might like to come to my next workshop March 23-24th, where this time we will be concentrating on a line drawing and tonal sketch. Normal, good preparation for any botanical art painting. Get in touch with me via the contact form below if you would like to join us. The details are on the Workshop page of my website.

Look at the last blog of 2017 to remind you about how I started off this Iris. https://gaynorsflora.com/2017/12/30/last-gaynors-flora-blog-of-2017/.

Although botanical art is fairly strict in what is ideally included in a picture, it is quite wide ranging and much wider than for pure botanical illustration. But it is important to remember that what I show you in my blog is my style of working. There are many different styles and none are wrong; It is the result that counts!

 

Last but not least the link to the Association of British Botanical Art website: www.britishbotanicalartists.com/2018exhibition

Where to find daffodils and global warming!

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/.

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Magnolia x soulangeana soon in bloom

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.

© Magnolia x soulangeana: Maturing Blooms

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.

© Magnolia x soulangeana: Ripe fruit and seeds

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.

 

 

 

I am sooo-o chuffed after this weekend’s workshop!

Yesterday and today was the first botanical art workshop of the year in Bosham. What do you paint in the wintery months? There are loads of interesting subjects in the hedgerows. The title of this workshop was textures and as usual I tried to make suggestions as to what these may be.

My workshops have a limited number of participants so that everyone gets help where they need it. This time people brought catkins, bark, ash keys, pine cones, algae and magnolia buds. I also brought in some lambs ears (leaves) and sticky buds (horse chestnut).  There was an ample supply of everything and people worked in coloured pencil, or watercolour, or graphite.

My workshops always begin with a little about composition; a subject everyone seems to be scared of, and drawing. Everyone always wants to jump straight into the painting, but of course the final painting is never better than the planning that has gone into it.

This time, as I knew everyone from previous workshops (normally there is at least one new person), they felt it was OK for me to concentrate more than usual on the compositional aspect of botanical art.  They duly did their thumbnails and decided which one they would focus on to create their line drawing. I am going to show you the progress of one student from thumbnails to where she got to today.

Magnolia soulageant buds
Magnolia soulageant buds

Version 2

We talked a lot about the Golden section, rule of thirds, diagonals and ignoring the lot!

Of course we mustn’t forget that the workshop was also about textures, so I demonstrated different techniques in all three media. Of course they found that the furry buds were the most difficult, but everyone persevered and got some amazing results.

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So finally, why am I so chuffed? Well, those who chose to do the Magnolia buds in watercolour, actually mastered the dry-ish brush technique that I use. Many do give up on this because the issue is the water/pigment mix, and taking care of brushes and picture at the same time. But I think the part giving me the biggest thrill were the compositions. I have superimposed two of the pictures with the three-by-three golden section divisions that help to find where the focal point is best placed. The eye was drawn in particular to these two pictures in main because of their composition, but also their fluffy buds. Remember they are half finished, but they just show how a well planned composition can have a good effect on completing a picture. Do you agree?

Magnolia x soulageana terminal buds in graphite.
Magnolia x soulageana terminal buds in graphite.
Magnolia x soulageana terminal buds in watercolour.
Magnolia x soulageana terminal buds in watercolour.

Textures and the South Downs

South Downs Way with reflection from the sea.
South Downs Way with reflection from the sea. 5 January 2017

Now what on earth do ‘textures’ and the South Downs Way have in common? Nothing, other than that my next botanical art workshop has very few places available and we have been picking up some specimens for it on our long weekly hike today; this time along the South Downs Way.

Happy New Year. For some 2016 was a good year, but for some it was filled with sadness or difficulties. For most of us, it will have been a combination of both.

We are now at the beginning of 2017 with all the possibilities it has in store for us. The days have already started to be slightly longer and apparently we got an extra second on 31 December! Some days are beautifully sunny – like today, and as was one day last week when the Hawthorne branch picture was taken. But other days, like yesterday for us in the south of England, it was wet, grey and gloomy. But everything is already waking up.

I hope that you enjoyed your Christmas festivities or relaxation and that you are now raring to go with what is on offer in the way of botanical art workshops.

I have only a couple of vacancies left on the next workshop, ‘Textures’ with bark and moss as examples. But if we think laterally about textures we also have furry buds such as the Magnolia and furry leaves such as ‘Lambs ears’. There are useful techniques to be learnt both with watercolour or coloured pencil.

In addition to Magnolia buds and Lambs ears in the garden, we also have Garrya elliptica (the silk tassel bush) with its very attractive silvery catkins; which might be a nice challenge for someone.

Do get in touch as soon as you can to book your place. The workshop is Friday and Saturday 27 -28 January. As usual coffees, teas and lunch are included in the price.

The booking form can be found linked to this page:  Gaynor’s workshops

Hawthorne bench encrusted with lichen
Hawthorne bench encrusted with lichen
Furry Magnolia x solangeana bud
Furry Magnolia x solangeana bud

Workshop schedule and booking forms now available

I had to work hard to finish the Liriope muscari ‘Moneymaker’ in time for handing it in at the beginning of this month. Including the sketches when I first got the plant in 2015, sketchbook drawings, colour matching and composing the picture to my satisfaction, it took 211 hrs.

I remember a comment that someone made not too long ago; when they started painting they thought that as they got better they would be quicker, but it didn’t work out that way. They too were a botanical artist.

I have to say that when I took up painting plants a few years ago, having painted birds in great detail previously, I too thought that I would get quicker as I got more experienced. The trouble is that as one becomes more experienced one knows what to look for and that getting the detail right is imperative. I suppose that this is affected too by my style of painting which is not wet-in-wet. I use a fairly dry technique generally, which allows for the finer detail. Added to which I am my own worst critic!

The finished painting can now be seen in my website portfolio. Follow this link: Liriope muscari ‘Moneymaker’

At last my schedule of botanical art workshops in 2017 is complete and you will find the detail and booking form here: Workshops for 2017

The booking form for the botanical art workshop holiday at Le Manoir in the Dordogne region of France is also ready. You can find this here: Le Manoir 2017. There has been a lot of interest for this workshop holiday, so grab your place as soon as you can. There is a lot packed into the holiday and if you want to take your partner, there will be plenty for them to do too – that is if they want to do anything outside the planned trips! You will be painting at least in the mornings and can choose to do the excursions if you wish.

As a reminder, all levels of experience in botanical art will be welcome because the class sizes are small. Life is about continually developing your skills, therefore to join a workshop, experience is not necessary, just the desire to learn.

You can use coloured pencil, graphite or watercolour on all of the workshops and the holiday – except for the workshop with vellum.

Botanical art workshop booking form for 2017
Botanical art workshop booking form for 2017
Le Manoir; Exclusive botanical art workshop holiday
Le Manoir; Exclusive botanical art workshop holiday

Do get in touch if you have any queries.

Workshop last weekend and this weekend

Last weekend started off pretty laid back in comparison to how it developed. I had a botanical art workshop on pen and ink with IAPI (Institute of Analytical Plant Illustrators)at Leicester Botanical Gardens. Apart from getting there slightly later than planned, we had a lovely day and again with a lovely group of people. The group is composed of Botanical artists and Botanists. The aim is to work together to document botanical subjects. We learn from each other to produce the documentation needed to identify plants.

IAPI at Leicester Botanical gardens
Well into the subject in pen and ink

After the workshop, we took a plane directly to Amsterdam to watch my son and daughter do the Dam to Dam 16 km run.

It was a great privilege to see them take off. They are the ones with their arms in the air. Believe it or not, Robin and I cycled to meet them at the finish line, but they arrived there 15 minutes before we did! By the time we got there, worn out, they were full of beans and raring to go. It really put us to shame.
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I don’t normally talk about things we do, keeping the blog mostly to botanical art. But I was very proud of them.

The trouble is, after the run, they got transport back to Amsterdam and we had to cycle – getting lost on the way! At 20:00 in the evening, they were about to send out a search party when we eventually got back.

Age is apparently taking its toll.

Now I am in the process of preparing for the last workshop with the SFP (Society of Floral painters). Unfortunately, it is now folding due to lack of offers to take on some of the committee roles. The Society has been spoilt for years with the same people doing the work. But after all this time they too need to take a breather.

I want to use this small opportunity to thank the SFP for all that they have done over the years.

Lovely people for the Fruit & veg botanical workshop

Sometimes I feel really privileged to meet so many lovely people in botanical art.

I love painting and often wish I could just sit and paint all day every day. But that would be boring in the end. I don’t think my husband would be too happy about that either!

However, as I teach regular botanical art workshops, I am pulled out of the shed at the bottom of the garden to meet these lovely smiley people who turn up at my front door. They are always so pleasant and wanting to learn, and it is such a pleasure to help them.© 02.IMG_2007

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who could be more blessed than that?

The Fruit and Veg workshop was no exception. For both days the weather had turned sour and rainy, but they still stood at the front door looking really happy. Luckily it didn’t rain too heavily whilst they were choosing their subjects in the garden and they were back in doors by the time the heavens opened.© 01.IMG_2005

But as you can see from the photos, we still had some sun.

We don’t have too many subjects in the kitchen garden, but funnily enough they all chose things that were completely inedible. The globe artichokes were pointing skyward in all their majesty, but even the purple petals on the top were now brown. However, half of the group were attracted to these and the other half with radishes that had long gone to seed and were all large and wonky. One person brought their own subject – a sweet corn still suitably jacketed.

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But whilst all this was going on the cook was in the kitchen preparing lunch  and of course the Strawberries and cream for tea.© 03.IMG_2008

But these are what you are probably wondering about.

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I am pleased to say that from emails I have since received, that those taking part in the workshop thought it was successful, they learnt a lot and had enjoyed it.

The next workshop is Friday to Sunday September 30 – October 2 (Colour in the Hedgerows), just before I head off to Pittsburgh in the US to take part in the  ASBA annual conference. Although there are no more places on the workshop in Pittsburgh, there are still some vacancies in the one in Bosham, West Sussex, so please do get in touch if you want to take part. You will find the booking form here: Workshop booking form, or you can send me a message in the form at the bottom of this page.