The Christmas and New Year periods are not happy times for everyone.
During a period in my life I worked every Christmas and New Year holiday doing night duty on A&E. It was my way of finding peace in myself and helping others also to do so. As well as treating patients it also opened my eyes to the suffering some people experience during these big holiday periods.
Our church provides breakfast to the homeless in Chichester twice a week and my husband is up early on these two days as part of the team doing this. Thursday is Boxing Day, he and my daughter (who has joined him whilst in the UK) will be there as usual. The numbers of homeless have increased in recent years and those the streets in Chichester can find one meal provided every day. It is worth thinking of these people as every one has a story to tell.
This Christmas I will be at home, surrounded by family; but then I am one of the lucky ones. I am fighting to find the time for my botanical art, whereas some are looking forward to being able to spend time and absorb themselves in drawing and painting.
Whatever you are doing, enjoy the Christmas and New Year period, but have a thought for those less fortunate and happy than you are.
From me, a personal thank you to all those I have been in touch with this last year and I look forward to hearing from you or seeing you again in 2020.
The last time I wrote a blog was at the beginning of April. That is a long time ago for a blog, but the time has been filled to the limit.
I won’t go into the intricate details, just enough to let you know what I have been doing.
I don’t think I have mentioned in any great detail the formation of the Association of British Botanical Artists (ABBA), initially just to allow the UK (England and Wales) to participate in the Botanical Art Worldwide Exhibition. At the American SBA conference in Pittsburgh in 2016 we were faced with the possibility that the UK would not participate because we were all too busy! I couldn’t let that happen. In the end 25 countries took part.
At a meeting back home in November, three of us met and agreed to form a steering group with me as main co-ordinator; we launched ABBA at the Royal Horticultural Society’s (RHS) Botanical art show in February 2017 and the process for participating in the Worldwide Botanical Art Exhibition began to take shape. A few more botanical artists joined the steering group and we were away.
We decided we wanted to hold the exhibition ‘up north’ as everything happens ‘down south’, doesn’t it? We found an exhibition space in Lancaster and ‘In Ruskin’s Footsteps’ (the name of the UK exhibition) started to develop. An RHS Dawn Jolliffe bursary was applied for and granted, so now we had something with which to pay for some of the things we had to pay for!
In November submissions of botanical art pictures arrived from all over the country and our amazing judges took care of that- initially digitally (with signatures removed) and the last phase ready framed at Kew in January. 40 beautiful pictures were chosen for the exhibition to be held 18th May to 9th June.
Several other institutions in London decided they wanted to work with us for the Worldwide Day of Botanical Art 2018, which was on 18 May. Therefore, together there was a lot going on behind the scenes on these events too.
After some wobbles and lots of hard work, the time to set up the exhibition arrived, now to be held at the Peter Scott Gallery, Lancaster University. It is a fantastic exhibition space and people working there plus the previous curator at the Ruskin Library, were very helpful and supportive.
We had the pre-view on the evening of the 17th May, with speeches by the curator Richard Smith, myself and the opening of the exhibition by Professor Stephen Wildman. That in itself was a lovely event (I think!) and many of the exhibiting artists came along.
For more information about the Botanical Art Worldwide Exhibition; In Ruskin’s Footsteps, go to
www.britishbotanicalartists.com.The exhibition is on until 9th June 2018. Generally botanical artists are there demonstrating and on the last day there will be a tour of the pictures and a talk.
In between all of this I have managed to squeeze in the Chichester Open Studios weekends and I had quite a few interested visitors. Each evening though it was back to working until the early hours of the morning, on ‘In Ruskin’s Footsteps’.
To show you a little of my own demos whilst in Lancaster I am including the unfinished picture I worked on in coloured pencil. I chose a Lily of Valley as so many people worry about white flowers. I wanted to show how best to do it. I used a lamp to highlight from the left and some of the leaves became backlit creating a beautiful architectural plant. The picture will remain unfinished as the flowers are now long gone, but it will be useful to demo on.
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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.
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!
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/.
The SBA botanical art exhibition in Palmengarten, Frankfurt, has almost left my to-do list for this year! Our SBA member Sue Henon and Palmengarten have already started having meetings about the next exhibition in 2016, but I will now have nearly a year free to decide about any involvement I might or might not have.
The pictures that came back are nearly all out of the house and there is only one last collection due. The house almost looks empty – so much so, that I can now see all the dust that quickly collected when so many people were in and out of the house collecting pictures. We will have exactly six days to clear up before our Christmas guests arrive!
As so many people were coming and going, I decided it was best to leave the Acanthus work in the house so that I could do a little of it whilst waiting for people to arrive. This is where I have got to with the picture. It is taking its time.
More importantly for me – and hopefully for a few of you out there, I now have all the details for the next Botanical Art workshop holiday in Norway. By clicking on the image below you will be linked to my website to download further information including the booking forms.
It has apparently been a good day at the botanical art exhibition in the botanical gardens of Frankfurt, Palmengarten. They have had quite a few visitors there, interested in both the beautiful gardens and the exhibition.
But tomorrow Sue Henon who is manning the exhibition there will have her life made even more complicated.
Apparently there is to be a week long strike of the railways, starting in the evening. This means that she is now in search of somewhere to stay for the rest of the week as there is no other way in which she can get home tomorrow night and back again to the exhibition. But as she quite rightly says, her problem is no different to everyone else’s who travels into the city by train.
As a fellow member of the SBA I am hugely grateful to her for what she is doing for the society and for me as an individual; I too have some paintings in the exhibition.
Today I have been putting together some designs for new cards and downloading assignments ready to start marking after I have finished teaching my weekly class tomorrow (today actually!). Unfortunately the trip to Germany has left me a little behind with that work. As botanical art tutor for the London College of Art (LAC) I am really pleased to see that there seems to be an increase in interest for learning to paint botanically.
More pictures from the exhibition. Some of the artwork looks as though it isn’t hanging straight in the photos. But unfortunately it was me not hanging straight when I took the pictures!
On Monday and Tuesday this week I lead a workshop at Goodnestone Park Gardens in Kent. I have a couple of workshops there per year for Fieldbreaks.
The subject was Hedgerow produce and most of the students were using coloured pencil. One of them had neither used coloured pencil nor watercolour previously, so this was an experience. She did very well, although it felt a bit scary for her.
They are very good at Goodnestone and allow us to pick what we want from the gardens to use as botanical subjects. Some of the subjects we can find there can be quite exciting. But funnily enough, at a workshop I often find that other than new students who have not yet grasped that the ‘prettiest’ is not always the easiest to do, people generally choose very simple subjects. I think that this is because they are more intent on improving technique or learning something new to add to their repertoire of techniques.
Here are the results. I am very pleased with them and I am sure you will think them very good too.
This morning I had an ordinary weekly class and since then I have been working on the pen & ink Bears Britches.
I have only done a small portion of it so far and this is only establishing the flowers and fruits. Once I have established all the elements in the picture I will create tone and then…….. But you will have to wait for that.
In between marking assignments and receiving pictures for the SBA exhibition at Palmengarten, the botanical gardens in Frankfurt, I have been painting.
Last time I suggested you find the part in the picture where I had made a mistake, but had rectified it.
Now I have three photos of the final work on the picture – I think!
What to do with the plants now as it is poisonous. It nearly took the life of one of our cats and is very much a temptation to play with – as well as being very beautiful and exotic looking for our colder climate.