When I wasn’t walking in Norway …

…..I was either hunting for plants or painting.

I had a list of plant detail that I had worked out I needed to complete the composition planning for my series of pictures. My vellum size for each piece is 25 x 31 cm – which I suppose relatively speaking is quite small. But all but one of my plants is very small with leaves varying from 2-6mm long on the Vaccinium microcarpum, to the Rubus chamaemorus where the leaves vary hugely in size.

Vaccinium microcarpum – Small Cranberry – Leaves 2-6mm long.

Impetrum niger ssp. Hermaphroditum – Crowberry – Leaves 3-6 mm long

Rubus chaaemorus – Cloudberry (image is 13cm high)

I decided that rather than work on all seven pictures at once as I have done so far, I would work on half this year and the rest next year. For all of them I needed to do some colour matching on vellum as this will be different to the colours I have used on paper. You have already seen the small piece I did on the Cranberry a couple of blogs ago. You may also have noticed the difference to the actual flower size (tiny) and the painting  which I did at twice the size.

Luckily enough although there is a slight difference in the terrain from which each of the plants come from, we have found each species within walking distance of the cottage in which we have been staying. The Cloudberry and the Cranberry can be found intertwined with each other in the soggy sphagnum moss – but not always. The Bog Blueberry (Vaccinium uliginosum) comes from a similar area, but I have seen it reaching up the side of rugged outcrops. The Crowberry can be found all over the mountains although the Ssp Hermaphroditum can only be found at higher altitudes. The Bilberry can also be found pretty well most places, but doesn’t seem to be above the tree-line and doesn’t seem to like really boggy areas. The Cowberry – Lignonberry (Vaccinium vitas-idaea) is spread on ant mounds and rocky outcrops.  Common Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) likes much drier conditions and is often found in pine woods. But we did find an example not far from the cottage. Last year Robin drove about 150km to find a spot that I knew about!

Below is the colour sample of the Bog blueberry done this year. The very new new leaves start out quite red and as they get older they become bluer and stiffer. Sorry the photo is a little dark.

Vaccinium uliginosum – Bog blueberry – Watercolour on vellum 5×7″, painted twice natural size.

Summer snow in the Norwegian mountains

Whilst everyone else is suffering extremely high temperatures in Europe, we are experiencing +4 high in the mountains of southern Norway! I believe it is warmer at the North Cape.

However, as there is now no longer a direct ferry from the UK to Norway, we drive here over several days, with our cargo of painting equipment. A necessity for the job I am going to do whilst here.

On the way we stopped off in Amsterdam to visit my son and partner and had a cycle ride to the coast in 37 degrees. It was almost a relief to eventually get to a cooler climate, although the day we arrived it was in the high twenties lower down in the valley.

Today’s view from our rented cottage.

Since then, the temperature has gradually sunk even lower. Today we are awaiting my daughter who lives on the Norwegian coast, advising her to bring  winter woollies. I didn’t dare tell her that it has been snowing today – although it hasn’t settled.

So why am I subjecting my sun loving and warmth seeking husband to todays chill in the Norwegian mountains? It’s the plants of course. I am now back to getting all the plant information to paint my pictures for my next RHS exhibit. I know I have spoken about this for a couple of years or so, but my involvement in the Worldwide Botanical art exhibition last year and continuance with setting up the Association of British Botanical Artists (ABBA), rather delayed things.

Because of the delay, I also lost my right to exhibit at the RHS – this year being five years since I last exhibited. I therefore had to apply again. Luckily, my work in general was again accepted as potentially worthy of a medal place, so now I am going to work through my subjects properly and, rather than rushing it, plan to exhibit in 2021.

Små Tranebær is Small Cranberry in Norwegian. The practice piece is twice natural size (the actual flower top right) is on vellum – as the final work will be.

This year I am focusing on three of the plants I have chosen and plan to get information I feel is lacking to complete a picture. My first is Vaccinium microcarpum – or Small cranberry. Last year I was able to find ripe fruit and was able to get all the information from that. Previously I had only drawn one flower, so I am concentrating on these now.

I thought you might be interested in my already messy workplace setup at 910 metres over sea level!

If Denise Walser-Kolar sees this blog, I hope she will notice I have taken on board her teaching. As long as I practice what she taught in Vienna, painting on vellum is going much better – even with the tiny leaves! Thank you Denise.

The other two plants I hope to get some more information on is the Vaccinium uliginosum (Bog Blueberry) and a little from the Rubus chamaemorus (Cloudberry). In both instances, it is only small details I need. I have already noticed that the leaf colour of the Bog blueberry seems to change in the sun. New leaves have a red tinge to the edge of the leaves, older leaves don’t, but in the sun they become red to almost a Perylene Violet (for watercolour artists) colour. I didn’t realise that before.

The Cloudberry fruit is only to be found on female plants. Each plant can be quite huge and spread many metres. Around the cottage I have only seen the male flowers of the Cloudberry – no female ones at all. it might be because it hasn’t warmed up very much yet where we are. The temperatures are set to improve, but I doubt we will be here long enough to benefit from it.

Please don’t get the wrong impression of Norway. The summers can be hot and the winters cold. It is a fantastically beautiful country and every area has its own attraction. I like it in the area we are staying as I lived in the valley for several years. Lastly, a picture of the sun rise a couple of days ago. It doesn’t get totally black at night at this time of year, but this was taken at 03:30.

Mountain gold!

This is a plant found amongst other places, in the mountains in Norway. It is one of the reasons For my next RHS exhibit – probably in 2019, I decided to paint Norwegian mountain plants that provide food for us mere mortals. Its scientific name is Rubys chamaemorus, but the common name in Norwegians is ‘Multe’, and in English, ‘Cloudberrry’.

Unripe Cloudberry

Why is it called ‘mountain gold’? Apart from its very special taste, it is not always easy to find. It likes boggy areas and generally you will find that Norwegians will not tell anyone else where ‘their’ patch can be found. I know one or two places because I used to live in the mountains in Norway. I also found some whilst staying in a friend’s cottage this summer (Tusen takk Eva og Jon for låne av din nydelig hytte Thank you Eva and Jon for lending us your beautiful cottage). I was in the mountains specifically to sketch these and other plants I had decided to include in my exhibit.

If you travel to Norway and ask someone where cloudberries can be found, unless you know your host well, it is unlikely that you will be told.

The picture on the right is an unripe Cloudberry. There are very strict laws governing this plant, therefore it is illegal to pick them before they are fully ripe. At that stage they are a beautiful golden orange colour. Unfortunately I have no pictures of a ripe fruit as this happens in the autumn, that is why I need to travel back again next year to sketch the ripe fruit.

Over the years I have picked a lot of Cloudberries and thought I knew them! I also found that Norwegians are as un-knowledgeable as I am. Because I am now studying the plants to paint I decided to delve deeper. But I also needed to find the flowers and the unripe fruit to draw. This year, there were few fruit ripening, but an awful lot of flowers. On closer examination and with the help of a very good series of old botanical books borrowed from the Eggedal Library (Tusen takk Jorunn. Thank you Jorunn), I discovered that Cloudberries are dioecious, either male or female plants. Each plant has a huge underground root system travelling for some distance and that is why I found difficulty when looking for the unripe fruit.

Patch of male cloudberries.
Patch of female cloudberries.

The large patches of flowers were mostly all male, but we were soon able to distinguish these patches at a distance. They had a lot of beautiful white flowers, but also  many red sepals where the petals had fallen off.

The female plants seemed to be few and far between – less than last year. The flowers were  fewer and smaller, but with several immature fruits at different stages of development.

Like so many of the plants I have painted, I study them first then become completely intrigued by them. This of course helps me portray them as best I can.

Before I show you the sketches, this is a picture of a small female cloudberry patch in quite a boggy/Sphagnum moss area, together with nearly all of the plants I had chosen to do and which I will talk about in other blogs.The picture also includes Robin’s boots, Vaccinium oxycoccus(which I didn’t think I would find as its so tiny),Vaccinium myrtillus (small blueberry),Empetrum nigrum (crowberry),Vaccinium uliginosum (bog blueberry) and Andromeda pilifolia (a heather I won’t be including in the series).

Robin’s foot and a mix of plants.

So what is the difference between male and female flowers? It should be obvious, but I’m afraid I never looked and saw previously. I just took things for granted.

Male Cloudberry flower – larger than female.
Longitudinal section of Male Cloudberry flower.

The male flower contains stamens in a ring round the inside of the outer whorl.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Smaller female cloudberry flower.
Longitudinal section of female cloudberry flower.

The female flower is slightly smaller than the male flower, has several styles and stigma in the centre – one to each ovary, but round the edge is a ring of white, sterile stamens.

 

Cloudberry plant with developing fruit.
Sketch page of Cloudberries.

Fourth Gaynor’s Flora update

I am so glad that I have these blogs to look forward to each day. They are helping to remind me about the lovely things I have done over the last few weeks. Particularly as I am still catching up with all the undone things, including doing a coloured pencil video.

I am really struggling with the video. I expect that those who are just starting out in botanical art will be relieved to hear that someone who has been doing it for a while, continues to struggle in periods. But the reason that I am struggling is because I am trying out different papers to use with coloured pencils, so that I can advise my students. The subject is tomatoes.

I think that I am now on my third attempt. Its not that I don’t get good enough results, it’s just that I feel I have to adjust my technique for each of the different papers I use. But I suppose that is something new learnt.

First Tomato picture attempt on Strathmore 500 Bristol Plate.
Incomplete first tomato picture attempt on Strathmore 500 Bristol Plate.

Going back to catching up.

A lot had been going on over the last few months with a great deal of time spent on writing the online botanical art course, exhibitions, demonstrations and teaching. I felt I needed a break, but my head was still working ‘twenty to the dozen’. My workshop in Norway was unfortunately cancelled, therefore this time we would be taking a holiday there. I still had work to do on the botanical art course and informed family that this was the case.

I have a strong and determined family! After one day spent working, I was told that enough was enough. I was unhappy at the time as of course I still had to do the work. But since then I have every reason to be grateful to my daughter in particular. I had a holiday and had a proper rest. Maybe I was a pain to everyone else!

Whilst in Norway I didn’t get much painting done either. But we stayed with some friends at their cottage in the mountains and I think I now have a group of subjects to paint for an exhibition at the RHS. It won’t be next year, but if I get my act together, possibly the year after.

As here in the UK one is not allowed to pick certain plants. But I made a note of the plants around my friend’s cottage and I think they will make a very good subject series.

© Skinntryte page

I know that this page in my small Moleskin drawing book looks very boring. But this is how botanical art paintings start, particularly when planning a series of paintings. I’m afraid that I have written the Norwegian names, but you will also see the scientific names if you want to look them up.

Three of the plants are important for fruit picking in Norway –

  • The Vaccinum vitas-idaea is called Tyttebær in Norwegian and Lingon in Swedish (goes with your Ikea meatballs), but Cowberry in English. They are the same genus as the Cranberries we buy in the shops, but a smaller species.
  • Blåbær is Blueberry in English, but again a different and smaller species from the ones we buy in the shops.
  • Multe is Cloudberry in English. They are the most sought after and difficult to find – but generally one knows of a ‘spot’, and doesn’t tell anyone else! There are very special rules governing Cloudberries. One is not allowed to pick the flower and definitely not allowed to pick the fruit until it is fully ripe. If you are caught with red fruit you are fined.

In 1974 and long before I knew the importance of Cloudberries,  my parents visited me in Norway  and we took them into the mountains. My mother loved these delicate white flowers and picked a whole bunch of them!!

Skinntryte is also a form of blueberry. I have found several English names for it including Whortleberry and Bilberry. They grow with Blueberries and for those who don’t know the difference, they might also pick these.

Krekling is apparently becoming more interesting to harvest. It is Crowberry in English.

Of course Tettegras is the Common Butterwort, which is a carnivorous plant. When picking fruit in the mountains, I think one is very glad that there is something that digests all the buzzy, biting things!

Last of all, the Flekkmarihånd is the Marsh Orchid and just beautiful.

This is my friend’s cottage in the mountains. They have invited me back next year to continue painting the series. Thank you Eva and John.

© 1.Eva & John's hytte

First day botanical art workshop by Oslo Fjord

The sun shone in my window at 05:00 this morning – bright and powerful. I went back to sleep!

After a lovely breakfast in the Thon Hotel Åsgårdstrand, we started the workshop by choosing specimens to paint.

I had been very lucky to get some Norwegian plants from the mountains in Telemark as described yesterday. I had also got some standard flowers from the local garden centre, but nothing exotic from warmer climates. In addition to this, some of the students had been out and picked some flowers (with permission) round the hotel.

The plants chosen to paint were Multe or Cloudberry, pansies, Dianthus and the lovely Hydrangea Paniculata. Some people will be using watercolour, and some coloured pencil. It already looks very promising. So far graphite drawings have been done and traced ready to start painting tomorrow. Although one person has already completed one small picture.

The first picture is from my bedroom at 07:00 this morning. The remainder are from the room we are using to paint. Please make particular note of the final picture which is a view from our painting room.

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