Far from common time!

Thymus vulgaris; how did the painting go?

The last time I posted a blog about my Thyme painting was 30 May, when I was doing sketches of it. I had also started my final painting. For those interested you can go back to that blog to see my thoughts (written down) and preparations. Since I started I have been doing a lot of sketches for other plants too, which hopefully I will talk about in due course. You have seen the preparation I did for one of the Norwegian plants.

I eventually returned to the Thymus vulgaris painting, but for some reason I was unhappy with it. This sometimes happens and I know that although I might not have a good reason for starting again, I know that were I to do so, my second attempt often goes without any hitches. On this occasion, I felt that one of the small flowers was a little too dark, so 1 August I started it again. I won’t mention how many hours I used on the first attempt, but the second one took 65 hours – with the sketches and prep in addition.

A few of the pictures I took on the way:

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And so the final painting that will be delivered at the beginning of October.

Far from common time – Thymus vulgaris. Watercolour and graphite.

First botanical art picture accepted by Chelsea Physic Garden

I am so excited. I got a letter in the post today to tell me that my first picture has been accepted by the Chelsea Garden Florilegium, without needing to be adjusted in any way. On top of that, the comments from the Kew Botanists who evaluated the work, were pretty good too – that made the acceptance even more special.

I applied to and was accepted as a member of the Chelsea Physic Garden Florilegium in the middle of last year; full membership is limited making membership even more exciting. The intention of membership is to document all the plants that are in the Chelsea Physic Garden. As you can imagine, there are thousands, so it will take a long time.

For the privilege of being a full member, everyone is meant to submit a picture each year, of one of the plants in the garden. Of course, a plant needs to be chosen that is not already in the archives. As I became a member half-way through the year I was in reality excused from painting a picture until 2016, but those who know me know I like a challenge.

I painted the Fuchsia microphylla. As the name suggests the leaves are minuscule, as are the flowers, although I was surprised by the size of the fruit. Except for the pen & ink habit drawing, which is life-size, the rest of the painting is on a larger scale. Once the scale of anything is increased, the colours become much more intense. Anyone who has looked through a microscope to see the detail of grey-looking grass, will know how intense the multitude of colours is in reality. The Fuchsia microphylla was painted enlarged because it was so tiny and I wanted to convey its real beauty.

I have posted the picture before, but here it is again, now as part of the archives of the Chelsea Physic Garden.

Fuchsia microphylla from Chelsea Physic Garden, in watercolour with ink.
Fuchsia microphylla from Chelsea Physic Garden, in watercolour with ink.

At last the Fuchsia microphylla picture

Yesterday we spent a super day in London, visiting Kew gardens. We had a lovely time and lunch with a good friend (also a botanical artist) at Kew, before going to have a look at the latest exhibition in the Shirley Sherwood gallery. The pieces that struck me most, were a series of Poppies by Denise Ramsay. If you get the chance to go and see them, please do.

We had been invited to an exhibition at the Herbarium in the early evening. The artist was Gustavo Marigo from Brazil, who had been on the Margaret Mee Fellowship programme. Watch this space, the last piece he worked on right up to the exhibition had so much depth and was quite beautiful.

The weather yesterday was so miserable and wet; we never thought, when we got up that the day would be so interesting.

Today I have been in the shed finishing off the Fuchsia microphylla. I mentioned last time that I had one or two problems because of the intense colours. Like anything else, when one sees a plant up close the colours become very clear and stronger than they might seem from a distance.

I had intended to draw a snippet of the plant actual size, in graphite. However the graphite appeared so subdued against the strong colours.

Fuchsia microphylla in watercolour with graphite section actual size.
Fuchsia microphylla in watercolour with graphite section actual size.

Robin suggested that i change the graphite section to ink to balance the picture. I was very dubious, but traced the section in ink on a sheet of acetate.



Fuchsia microphylla in watercolour with trial ink section actual size.
Fuchsia microphylla in watercolour with trial ink section actual size.




Doesn’t look too bad does it? So I took the plunge.

Fuchsia microphylla in watercolour with ink section actual size.
Fuchsia microphylla in watercolour with ink section actual size.

Here is the final painting. Try and imagine it without the watermark as it unbalances the actual composition:

Fuchsia microphylla from Chelsea Physic Garden, in watercolour with ink.
Fuchsia microphylla from Chelsea Physic Garden, in watercolour with ink.

Fuchsia microphylla progress report and BT broadband hassle!

I am getting so fed up with BT broadband, phone and TV. I cannot believe that they sell us a service like this and we have to pay as we signed a contract with them. I don’t know how many times the server fell out today, starting whilst responding to emails before 08:00 this morning. The hub seems to be going orange on and off all day and the phone is an old fashioned crackling line; a repeating problem!

Grumble over – until it goes again when I try to send this blog!

I have been concentrating on my Fuchsia microphylla picture (its gone again! – Broadband I mean.) for the last few days. I left you with some composition plans I had for redoing the picture. During the open studio event early August, I decided to change it and that meant starting all over again. The detail I had originally painted was too low on the page, and I felt that in fact the paper colour was a little too creamy. This meant that the pink that I saw in the flower, couldn’t be replicated on the paper I was using. The off-white of Fabriano Artistico extra white, affected the pink, warming it up too much. I therefore needed to paint the picture on Fabriano Classico 5, which I think is about the whitest watercolour paper. I of course tested out the colours before tracing my chosen design on to the paper.

I still intend to keep you in suspense about which composition I chose. Although I have had a lot of people looking at my blog both on WordPress and Facebook, so far no-one has got back to me with suggestions as to which one I did choose!

I am going to show you the various elements in my composition right before putting the picture together.

Fuchsia microphylla side branch - magnified x 2
Fuchsia microphylla side branch – magnified x 2
Fuchsia microphylla longitudinal section of flower, magnified x 4
Fuchsia microphylla longitudinal section of flower, magnified x 4

Notice how two of the stamens hang down and three curl up. This is completely different to the standard Fuchsias you may be familiar with, where the stamens hang quite a long way below the  skirt of the flower. There are a total of eight stamens attached round the base of the sepals before they split up into four sections; looking like an outer whorl of petals. There is one style with four stigma. Therefore it is very appropriate that there are four ovaries in the fruit.

Fuchsia microphylla cross-section of fruit. Magnified x 3
Fuchsia microphylla cross-section of fruit. Magnified x 3
Fuchsia microphylla longitudinal section of fruit, magnified x 3
Fuchsia microphylla longitudinal section of fruit, magnified x 3

Funnily enough, although quite small – just under 1 cm when ripe, the fruit really stain.

When the plant is seen close to, the colours are so intense, which is very obvious in the final picture – causing additional compositional problems! Watch this space.

CPGFS and IAPI meetings – all botanical art of course!

What does CPGFS and IAPI mean? Read on.

We got back from Norway on Wednesday last week after a two-day drive. I was tired and so was Robin. But of course as usual the diary was full when we got back. Against my better judgement I had said yes to an invitation to an 20th anniversary lunch held by the Chelsea Physic Garden Florilegium Society (CPGFS). This was of course in London, but was held at the Royal College of Physicians; what a wonderful building and a delicious meal. we were lucky enough to sit at a table with some really nice members and it gave me the opportunity to put my mind at rest in relation to the expectations of me as a member. I haven’t yet started the work on the picture I will be doing, although I have decided what I am going to do.

After the meal we were invited into the garden by Dr Henry Oakley for an introduction to the gardens. Although we only had a short time being led around the garden (we had a train to catch) it was absolutely fascinating. We got a potted history of the garden and then a thoroughly interesting reasoning behind its layout and the plants that were there. I think that many were surprised that so many really important medicines that are in use today, can be evolved from one and the same plant. There were several instances of this happening. I just wish we could have stayed longer. I’m glad that we made the effort to go.

Dr Henry Oakley explaining about the uses of the Opium Poppy.
Dr Henry Oakley explaining about the uses of the Opium Poppy.

Thursday was spent catching up with cleaning and washing clothes (followed all the time by the cats), before we went away for the weekend! Once a year the Institute for Analytical Plant Illustrators (IAPI) has a weekend away. There is normally a meeting every two months which we try to attend when we can as there is so much to learn from the rest of the group: botanists and botanical artists.This time it was decided that the meeting should start in the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff. Maureen Lazarus and Heather Pardoe were to show us some of the botanical art in the collection. They were very knowledgeable about the collection which included artworks from Ehret up to modern day artists.

Although we missed the beginning of the session (junction closed on the M4), we still saw most of the pictures they had selected for us and heard some of the history behind them. Pictures ranged from ones by Ehret to modern day botanical artists.

Part of a work by G. Griffiths
Part of a work by G. Griffiths
11.IAPI 0715
Work by Ehret.
Part of a picture by Bryan Poole. The composition on this one was very exciting.
Part of a picture by Bryan Poole. The composition on this one was very exciting.












The following day we planned to go to the National Botanic Gardens of Wales as a group. In between times we found each to our hotels for the night and we happened to end up at the same place as another group of people we were due to see the next day. Funnily enough, our visit coincided with Gardeners Question Time; they had chosen the same hotel as us – or the other way round!

We had a really beautiful day at the Botanic Gardens. The sun shone and it was warm. But we wanted to see everything. In the end we only watched one of the show recordings (they took two, obviously with a different panel), caught some of the talks round the garden, but we also wanted to SEE the plants as well as HEAR about how to look after them. These are one or two pictures.

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Fruit & Veg or Strawberries and Cream Botanical art workshop

We painted the vegetables and ate the strawberries and cream!

I was very disappointed for two students who at the last minute were unable to come to the workshop because of personal difficulties. We did think of them often during these two days.

Quite early on during the workshop I felt that the students would have some results that they would be proud of. Having picked suitable subjects from the garden, as usual we spent time on the preparatory work; the composition and drawing. Having said that, one of the subjects we knew would fade very quickly and therefore it was important to get down the first layers of colour fast. This time most people used coloured pencil and only one person used watercolour. It is exciting using different media in the same workshop as each student sees how each affects the final work; although less than one would imagine.

You want pictures, so here they are.

What concentration on a lovely summer day!
What concentration on a lovely summer day!
What flowers are these?
What flowers are these?
A fading flower waits for no-man
A fading flower waits for no-man
Now guess what this is.
Now guess what this is.

Today – at the end of the workshop. They promised to finish the pictures that still had work to do on them.

Runner Beans in coloured pencil
Runner Beans in coloured pencil
What a beautiful little Courgette. Watercolour
What a beautiful little Courgette. Watercolour
Home grown tomatoes - but not from my garden. Coloured pencil.
Home grown tomatoes – but not from my garden. Coloured pencil.
Globe artichoke before its haircut. Coloured pencil and no embossing tool.
Globe artichoke before its haircut. Coloured pencil and no embossing tool.

After just two days work, aren’t these amazing?

The next workshop is entitled ‘ Hedgerow produce – those colours!’ Tuesday 2 September until Thursday 4 September. As usual it is between 10:00 – 16:00 each day with lunch included. I do have spaces on the workshop, so get in touch as soon as possible.

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 (http://www.thegardenshowonline.com/gardenshow_stansted/) 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.

Back to the Easel

For a short time yesterday and a lot of today I was able to get back to my easel.

Because of all the preparation to the RHS, I haven’t done anything since the middle of March. It feels such a long time. But I returned to a picture I had already started.

I will show you a snapshot of it at the end of this blog. It is a picture in pen & ink. Initially it looks complicated, but as it’s in monochrome this simplifies. Additionally, I feel that when I am using this style of pen & ink work I can relax a little more than I normally do when painting. Although I stay true to what I have in front of me, I feel I work a little less tightly. The difference between botanical art and botanical illustration.

The flower is a Hydrangea with quite large bracts. My husband bought it for me a few months ago and it dried beautifully on the stem. I felt that it would be lovely in ink and a suitable challenge at the same time. You will be able to determine if I have been successful or not.

After the problems that I had with my website following the RHS, my daughter in Norway decided that enough was enough. She is in the process of designing me a new one, which she feels will be easier for me to maintain. It will obviously take a while before this is up and running as she is fitting it in between other projects. I just hope that she doesn’t mind me mentioning it at this early stage.

On Monday I am off to Kent to teach a workshop for two days. It is a lovely place to go. Goodnestone Gardens not far from Canterbury, is a peaceful place. There is a walled garden and we are allowed to pick whatever flowers we want – including a lot of lovely Auriculas. They always tempt me, but whether I will even have time to start one is another matter.

This year I have three different workshops at Goodnestone. If you want to join us, get in touch with Field Breaks who arrange these botanical art workshops.

My next workshop in Bosham on the south coast near Chichester, is 29 – 31 May. If you are interested in that one contact me via my website which is working at the moment, or by responding to this blog.

My Hydrangea in Black and white.


3 days until the set-up for the RHS botanical art exhibition

Before I say anything else, I am so grateful to the support I am getting from you out there. I have had some lovely messages of support. Thank you. It helps.

I don’t know whether it is the messages that I have been getting, but today seemed easier somehow. I decided not to go to church this morning, so I had all morning to organise things before my husband returned. I wrote lists – in detail and have been ticking off every small element as I go along. I can actually see that I have managed some things and I know what I have left to do.

I have finished the information sheets and have printed them out. But I still have to mount them on board ready to go.

All my labelling is designed and printed. That too is ready to be mounted on board. But it is a very fiddly job as I found out last time – better to use double-sided tape than glue.

I will be taking some limited edition prints with me. They are printed and just waiting to have mounts put on them. I also did a combi-sheet of the different blooms from each Malus variety. I tried it out with the apples and also one for the dissections – but they didn’t look so nice. Too much information on one sheet. I will take some ‘Blossom’ sheets with me, but they aren’t limited edition and won’t be mounted. I have been going on about how different the blossom is on each tree and you can really see it with this page.

Guess who’s doing the ironing? And making supper? I am lucky aren’t I?

Another thing that has helped today is that I haven’t looked at the pictures at all.

This time I am going to show you the Malus x atrosanguinea ‘Gorgeous’ apples. They are of course in coloured pencil. If you don’t know their actual size, you would think they are just ordinary apples. In actual fact, they don’t taste as sour as the other crab apples and there are usually loads on the tiny tree.

Malus x atrosanguinea 'Gorgeous' crab apples in coloured pencil
Malus x atrosanguinea ‘Gorgeous’ crab apples in coloured pencil