My latest piece of botanical art – in Watercolour

Bog Rosemary at 900 metres in the Norwegian mountains. Peeping up from Sphagnum moss and surrounded by Cloudberry leaves.

Its been a while since I last did a blog about my process, but as I am getting into a new piece I thought I would share it with you as I go along. First of all let me tell you the story behind the plant.

The plant is Andromeda polifolia or bog rosemary and I first saw it in wet boggy areas high up in the Norwegian mountains.

I am painting a series of plants with edible fruit from this area  but found this beautiful little flower and decided to investigate it. The fruit is not edible and may in fact, cause some uncomfortable side effects, therefore not suitable for my series.

Andromeda polifolia in Chelsea Physic Garden, London.

The plant was named by Linnaeus, comparing the plant to Andromeda. The plant is indeed beautiful in its native boggy setting.

I am a member of the Chelsea Physic Garden Florilegium Society (CPGFS) and one of the plants in the garden is an Andromeda polifolia, although at lower altitudes it seems to be a much sturdier plant, taller and with more leaves. Being part of a Florilegium means that on a yearly basis one has to paint one of the gardens plants as part of its documentation process. With the beautiful little mountain plant I had in mind from Norway, I thought this a fantastic opportunity to study and paint it properly for the CPGFS. By the way, although I am painting it for the CPGFS, it doesn’t mean that it will be accepted. A rigorous process is gone through before artwork is accepted into their collection – this I won’t know until February 2021.

As I normally do, I studied the plant carefully, researched it and drew detailed sketches in my sketchbook. I also dissected the flower as I thought this told a story in its own right. The anthers have appendages which is typical of plants in the Ericaceae (Heather) family. Also, the petals (5) are fused into a tube. I am not a botanist, but the more I study the plants I paint or draw, I feel I always want to know more about them!

Once I felt I had enough information I planned my composition. This is not always easy and although we have lots of ‘rules’ etc to guide us, in the end it is what you feel looks best that is the decider. Here are two plans that I made to choose from.

Which one do you prefer?

In the end I chose the composition to the right as I felt this was more likely to guide the eye around the composition.

I did both of these compositions digitally, using the sketches from my sketchbook.

The following pictures are are photos taken at different stages, but as the painting is not finished I will need to come back with additional blogs to show you the rest of the process. By the way, the graphite line drawing in the centre is a habitat drawing showing the plant at its natural size.

A very short blog!

This blog is my husband’s fault; He thought that today warranted one.

It has been a bit of a tough day with many different things to sort out including preparation for my botanical art workshop: Composition and Perspective, starting tomorrow.

But in the middle of the day the post arrived with a letter that gave me a huge lift. It said that my third picture in three years, has been accepted into the Chelsea Physic Garden Florilegium collection. This means that I am now a Fellow!

Of course I am really pleased too as it shows the effort has paid off – in addition to the added enjoyment I get from botanical art. But, the CPGFS are a lovely group of people who are never afraid to share their knowledge about botanical art. I have learnt a lot since becoming a member and of course it is situated in an especially beautiful garden which is well worth a visit at any time of the year.

My third piece – Armeria maritima – Pink Sea Thrift.

Finishing off and delivery of the Liriope muscari

I’m afraid that at the moment i can’t show you the colour calibrated final picture of the Liriope muscari, but I can and will show you the the last two photos I took of it, before its delivery yesterday.

I struggled in places with getting the minute details on the paper that I used for the painting and wished that I had a never ending stock of the Fabriano Artistico. I therefore contacted the company in London that imports and distributes a lot of our art papers, to see if by any chance they had some old stock of these papers.

The company was fantastic and had a really good search in their two places where they store their stock. They did manage to find some Artistico and some old stock Fabriano 5 and when going up to London yesterday for the Chelsea Physic Garden Florilegium Society meeting, we went in and bought what they had found for us.

Day 15
Day 15

I am now a happy bunny! But I am still keeping my eyes open for a good paper to recommend to my students. So far, this might well be the Canson Moulin du Roy.

But as one of my artist colleagues pointed out to me yesterday, we can’t rely on having the same paper available to us for ever. So part of our skills as botanical artists also needs to be, in having the ability to paint on anything and still have a magnificent result.

 

The last two pictures:

The final day
The final day

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.