Botanical art entry provisionally accepted for New York

x zumi"Golden Hornet" crab apple in coloured pencil.

The American Society of Botanical Artists(ASBA) has provisionally accepted one of my pictures for its New York exhibition this November. However, I daren’t take it as a ‘fait accompli’  just yet as the jury have only seen the digital version of my picture so far.

Just like having work accepted at the Hunt Institute of Botanical Documentation, the ASBA  reserve the right to refuse any artwork if it isn’t up to scratch when they see it in real life. So I am still keeping my fingers (and toes) crossed that they will like it. I had to un-cross them long enough to have half a glass of bubbly which my very happy husband poured for me. I’m also rather chuffed!

But this is the picture they have chosen:

Malus x zumi  "Golden Hornet" crab apple in coloured pencil.
Malus x zumi “Golden Hornet” crab apple in coloured pencil.

Today I was demonstrating coloured pencil at the Society of Floral Painters Exhibition in Chichester. Being British, I was also aware that the sun was shining outside, but as I was painting a very sunny yellow Iris from the pond in the back garden, the sun was brought into the exhibition.

I would have liked to show you the results of that exercise as I am trying to find the right paper for use with coloured pencil. This is to replace the Fabriano hot pressed papers that we botanical artists are struggling with. Unfortunately I am not convinced yet that I have found a paper that suits me and my style when using coloured pencil. But I know that I have found a lovely Strathmore paper to use with watercolour.

I have realised that yesterday’s blog showed a poster with a painting of the Strelitzia-reginae ‘Bird of Paradise’ plant, but the signature was too small to read. The honour for that lovely piece of work should fall on the Chairperson of the SFP, Gill Jelley.

Ménagerie à trois plus botanical art workshop

Please note the difference in spelling!

We have four cats, a pond with visiting ducks, a pair of Crows, Chaffinches, Wrens, Robins (as well as my husband and sister)Blackbirds, Goldfinches, Bearded Tits, Blue tits and Great Tits, two sorts of Woodpeckers, squirrels, rats and the normal rodents etc.

Although we have the cats, birds seem to feel very happy i the garden and seem to be left alone. In fact, one day there was a pheasant in the garden and the ginger one  – Fudge decided he wanted to join him, so walked towards the bird with his tail in the air. They seemed to spend a happy time following each other gently round the garden! The only things that seem to come to grief are the rats – 22 in 18 months!

During the workshop one of the students had her dog with her. She was a little worried at first as she thought her dog might chase the cats. The black & white cat – Allsorts (as in liquorice), brother of Fudge, knows how to deal with dogs. He just sits and stares them down. It always works. I think he took five minutes to train the dog!

These were some of the views from the conservatory during the workshop at the weekend!

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There was a botanical art class between Friday and Sunday. The title was May blossom and Irises. Irises are usually the topic of choice, but there was a whole garden to choose from. In the end there were 1 1/2 Iris pictures, two Canary Rose pictures, one crab apple blossom, a very pregnant Hellebore  and none of the yellow Irises from the pond. Three people used coloured pencil and two watercolour.

From my perspective the workshop was enjoyable and the feedback I have got is that those taking part also enjoyed it and learnt something too.

I am now taking on people who want to start the online botanical art course in June. To see what it is all about, have a look at my webpage on the subject. I restrict the number of people I take on board each month so that it is best to reserve your place as soon as possible.

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And the results of the weekend so far. As I forgot to take it before packing up, there is one picture missing, but hopefully we will see the finished result in due course.

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Visit me during the Chichester Art Trail

Over the next two weekends I am taking part in the Chichester Open studios event.

Our conservatory will be ably manned by Robin and he is looking forward to see people arriving to look at my botanical art which is hung there for the occasion. Whether or not the weather remains cold, you will be welcome to have a cup of tea – or coffee with us.

However, I will be down in the shed painting. Some people have watched the development of the Indian corn picture, which has only been done at open studio events or exhibitions. One of these days I will have to find a subject that is equally long lasting. But I know that several people have been coming on a regular basis to see the development of this picture. This is what it looked like following a demonstration in November last year.

Indian Corn in coloured pencil
Indian Corn in coloured pencil

Additionally I am also painting a Fritillary for a commission, so you might very well see me doing some of that. These are some of the sketches in my sketchbook .

Fritillaria meleagris in coloured pencil.
Fritillaria meleagris in coloured pencil.

The commission is in watercolour.

I am looking forward to seeing you here. Don’t forget to tell me who you are and where you come from. Here is the link on my website giving you the address to head for:

A blog about paper testing!

I hope you will be interested in the topic of this blog! There are loads of photos that can be perceived as dull if you are not interested in the subject. I have used my iPhone for some pictures, in addition to two different microscopes connected to the computer. If I call myself a botanical artist, why not use the equipment to find out about the paper we use.

The topic of the day is to find a paper as good as Fabriano paper, loved by many botanical artists. Some may have heard that Fabriano hot pressed paper seems to have changed recently. The manufactures have apparently changed their process for commercial reasons. But one result seems to be that people find that the paper is no longer as smooth as it was.

The papers that seem affected are Fabriano Classico 5 and Fabriano Artistico – both hot pressed. I have used Fabriano since the early eighties, so the thought of having to find something else was a little upsetting. But put into context with all the terrible things going on in the world, it is a minute problem.

R.K.Burt’s in London identified the problem earlier in the year and contacted St Cuthberts Mill, the company that makes Saunders Waterford paper. They immediately put everything in place to come to our aid and have even changed their sizing process. The sizing seems to be the main reason why we all like Fabriano – but of course it may not be the only reason.

I have decided to put the photos in four different galleries. I compared Fabriano 5 with the two Saunders Waterford’s papers – Botanical Ultra Smooth (50% cotton replacement for Fabriano 5) and High White (100% cotton replacement for Artistic0).

  1. First Fabriano 5 painted on the non-mesh side:

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2)  Saunders Waterford High White painted on non-mesh side (except for one example). The non-mesh side held the label, :

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3) Saunders Waterford Botanical Ultra smooth. Painted on mesh side (with label) :

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4) Saunders Waterford Botanical ultra painted on non-mesh side:

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My opinion so far, not having painted a complete picture with either media on the two new papers:

There seems to be a clear difference between the mesh pattern and non mesh patterned sides, but more significantly with the Botanical Ultra Smooth. I found it easier to get better layers and deeper colour on the non-mesh sides of both papers. I also found that the coloured pencil result was not good on the Botanical Ultra Smooth mesh side, but worked well on the reverse. It seemed pale and fluffy on the mesh side, but much easier to get depth of colour on the reverse. In fact, although I didn’t Use as many layers as I might in a complete picture, I liked it the result.

The effect wasn’t quite the same with the High White as neither side became fluffy with CP.

With the watercolour washes on both Saunders Waterford papers, close views of the washes seemed to show the white of the paper in between the fibres. This became accentuated with more layers. This was quite strange. Also it wasn’t easy to get an ultra clean edge to the pigment line although I particularly went over with a damp brush, using a magnifying glass.

Looking at the views in the microscope, one can almost understand why. I used the microscope, because when looking at the mesh-side of the Botanical Ultra Smooth in the sunshine, the surface seemed to be covered with fibres that weren’t visible before I did anything on the paper. That could also explain the fluffiness of the CP on that side.

But comparing Fabriano with Saunders Waterford, the length of the fibres seemed different and the way the fibres accepted colour seemed different too. It also seemed that with watercolour, the pigment tracked out along the filaments on the edge of the painted section, much more with the Saunders than the Fabriano. Trying to go along the edge with a damp brush and magnifying glass didn’t make much difference.

I think that we might have found replacements for the coloured pencil paper, as long as I use the right side of the paper,  the non-mesh side. By the way, it is even more difficult to determine the right side with Saunders than the Fabriano, as the mesh pattern is very faint.

I am writing the coloured pencil section of my online botanical art course at the moment, so I intend to use this paper for the demonstrations and YouTube videos. I probably won’t be doing so much watercolour whilst I am doing this, so I hope others will be able to give more useful information about that.

I hope that what I have written so far will useful.



Next botanical art workshop in Bosham

The next botanical art workshop in Bosham is Friday to Sunday, 18-20 March. The topic is ’Spring is on the way: flowers and bulbs’.

There is a huge opportunity to paint almost anything flowering in the garden, but particularly plants with their bulbs. I have noticed over the years that people love to see a flowering bulb. Painting the bulb is almost a welcome relief from the detail of the plant itself. Also, the difference in texture between the softness of the bloom and the solidness of the bulb gives additional opportunities for learning.

What is likely to be around then? It is only two weeks away and there is already a lot out there. I have some Crocosmia Lucifer corms growing in the garden, which you are very welcome to use as we have too much. The way they grow is quite intriguing and although they won’t have any flowers on them yet, the green spikes of the new leaves will be showing.

There are loads of flowering bulbs at the garden centre, such as small Irises, late flowering tiny daffs and even Fritillaria. If you have any in your garden, more the better. I know that normally the garden centre sell the flowering bulbs much earlier than they pop up in the garden. The Fritillaria below is the result of one such example. I don’t think they have begun to show in the garden yet, but the garden centres are selling them.

You can use either watercolour or coloured pencil. A delicious lunch is served each day as well as plenty of coffee, tea and biscuits.

Anyway, I still have some places available, so get in touch quickly to book your place.

Fritillaria meleagris FB event

New online botanical art course available from 1 March 2016

At last I have published details of the new online botanical art course. You will find information on the page of my website by clicking here: Gaynor’s Flora online botanical art course.

The course is based on six modules and is suitable for both experienced and inexperienced students. You choose your main medium;  either watercolour or coloured pencil and I have made YouTube videos to demonstrate techniques.

Unfortunately I will have to limit the number of new students that I take on at any one time, but take on new ones each month.

I look forward to hearing from you.

As it is almost the end of Hellebore time, I will pretty up this blog with ‘Hellebore mix’ in watercolour.

Hellebore mix in watercolour

Botanical art workshop: Dark Hellebores and White Snowdrops

I couldn’t believe it, but between us all we had enough dark Hellebores and Snowdrops to concentrate on the effects of doing something light against a dark background.

The intention of the workshop was to show how little work was really necessary on a white flower when placed against a dark background. Luckily I have some very dark Hellebores and one called ‘Slate’, that were still flowering. Additionally one of the students came with some that were a delicious ruby-red.

I was afraid that we might have to use the Leucojum that are still flowering in the garden, because the snowdrops really didn’t do too well and were almost finished – or finished off by slugs. The Leucojum normally doesn’t start flowering until after the Snowdrops, but this year started in December, before the Snowdrops. Weird!

I won’t rabbit on any more but show the progression during this weekend’s workshop. As usual it was a lovely group and they worked hard.

Painting like mad with coloured pencils.
Painting like mad with coloured pencils.


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The next botanical art workshop in Bosham will be 18-20 March when we will be doing ‘Spring is on the way: flowers & bulbs’. It would be nice if those coming to the workshop would consider doing the flower attached to the bulb. I think that botanical pictures showing what also lies beneath the surface can be as interesting as that above the ground. There are still some places available, so do get in touch.

Coloured pencil or Watercolour for a botanical art subject?

In actual fact, I’m cheating a little, as I was going to write this blog this evening having spent a couple of days off from writing my botanical art online course, to sketch some Fritillaries in preparation for a commission in watercolour. But, I also got a query from a lady this evening, about the use of coloured pencils and how I choose whether to use watercolour or coloured pencil for a subject.

My answer to her and anyone else who asks ( as I do get the question fairly regularly), is that I have no idea. I just have a feeling that I want to do one or the other.

But, when I did my last RHS exhibit in 2014, I deliberately chose to do it in coloured pencil to show that solid subjects (crabapples), dainty subjects (blossom) and delicate detail (dissections), could be done in coloured pencil. The judges said they didn’t realise I had used CP and thought it was in watercolour!

Back to the commission; I had bought some Fritillaria meleagris at the local garden centre and Fritillaria Michailovskyi at Chelsea Physic Garden when I was there at the beginning of the month. I think we are innate plant hoarders! So this week I have been doing a series of small sketches in my sketchbooks.

Without thinking too much, I started out in a Stillman & Bern Epsilon sketchbook, realised what I had done (as the Zeta is better for watercolour), but continued in it, deciding to do my colour samples in coloured pencil. Although you can’t compare CP and watercolour by the names, or know how one colour mixes with another, I know the two mediums well enough to be able to convert fairly happily.

I’m afraid the following photo is not brilliant as I took it on my easel this evening, but I think you get a reasonably good idea of the results on the page.

Fritillaria meleagris in coloured pencil.
Fritillaria meleagris in coloured pencil.

By the time I had finished these, the one dark flower I had was looking a bit faded as it was being subjected to being in the warmth of the shed during the day and outside during the cold night. I needed to concentrate on the foliage as it was a bluish green, except near the base, but felt I really should do this in watercolour.

I changed to the Stillman & Bern Zeta sketchbook. Shame they aren’t all in the same one – but never mind! I had hacked (dissected) the one flower to pieces and done one or two small sketches, so decided to draw a portrait of the bulbs. In the end, all of the sketches on the 2nd page are watercolour over graphite. The bulb is from the Fritillaria meleagris, but you also see the Fritillaria Michailovskyi. I have taken a photo of that one halfway through so you can see the amount of graphite shading I actually did. Before adding colour, I did a wash of clear water to ‘set’ the graphite so it wouldn’t discolour the colours I was going to use.

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Botanical art workshop: Textures – bark and moss.

In reality the workshop became textures , bark, lichen and leaves!

In the end, I felt it had been a very unusual workshop because four of the five students were coloured pencil artists and only one was a watercolour artist. Three of the CP students wanted to do graphite only instead of colour, to improve their tonal value skills as well as the use of graphite. The watercolour student wanted to improve ‘green’ skills. They were definitely students who knew what they wanted to do! Their intention was to improve various aspects of their skills in botanical art and it was such a pleasure – and honour to help them.

On the first day we focused a lot on preparation. This time we didn’t actually talk very much about composition, but we went through the first stages of drawing and making a rough tonal value reference drawing.

Broken piece of Birch
Broken piece of Birch
Drawing wood and lichen
Drawing wood and lichen
Drawing piece of wood found on the beach.
Drawing piece of wood found on the beach.











As well as the different drawing techniques, we also looked at light and shade forming a solid object, and mixing greens. Unfortunately not all of the photographs turned out too well, but I think you will appreciate some of the results anyway.

Dried oak leaves
Dried oak leaves
The piece if wood with lichen
The piece if wood with lichen






Of course the various types of lichen we had collected between us was worthy of more detailed investigation, so out came all the magnifying glasses and lenses that we could muster. The specimens were hugely intriguing and the colours definitely became accentuated when you see them in detail.

I was particularly pleased with the results and I am just sorry that the photograph of the CP picture did not do it justice. I’m afraid the light was failing when I took the picture, but the tiny detail of the lichen was actually very well done – and exhausting to do. It will obviously take time to finish that piece even though it is small. I hope that the artist will not lose patience with it and complete it at some point so that it can be shown again on the blog. I think the other photographs of the work have turned out reasonably well.