Botanical art workshops

This last weekend I had a very select group enjoying the peace and quiet of Bosham as well as individual botanical art tuition. The weather is gradually improving and picking subjects in the garden (the Magnolia) or in the vicinity (Eucalyptus), is no longer a trial. The following are a couple of photographs from the weekend:

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There are more workshops lined up, the next one is Friday and Saturday 8 -9 April.

So many people have asked me to have a workshop that focuses on drawing and shading. Now is your opportunity. It is called: Botanical drawing and shading in graphite.

So what is it that you want to draw in graphite? Is it a delicate flower, some twigs, leaves or what is it that takes your fancy?

Many plants started flowering in January and even before, but surprisingly enough there are still plenty of spring flowers. I am surprised that so many daffodils are flowering and there are swathes of them wherever you go.

I’m afraid that the Magnolia really suffered this year. Its been trying to flower since the beginning of January, but with the recent cold snap it hasn’t been happy. As you see, one of my students at the weekend produced a really lovely picture. The tree normally flowers in early April and is hugely spectacular – but I doubt that we will see much of its glory by then.

But there is still a lot of last years plants drying out in the hedgerows and they provide very interesting subjects for graphite. Some leaves just have skeletal remains and these are really attractive.

Do get in touch soon to book your place.

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Another workshop happening this year is in Norway, June 24 – July 1. If you want to save a little on this holiday, book and pay your deposit by 31 March. Go to the page on this website specifically dedicated to the holiday.

June and July is a very beautiful time of year to visit Norway and if you haven’t been there before, it is likely to give you a taste for more. That of course is in addition to the teaching – which I am told, is good.

Imagine being able to concentrate on doing what you love – or interested in starting, in the most amazingly beautiful surroundings. You will have a view over the Oslo Fjord and you will experience the crystal clean air and sparkling colours that derive from this.

Do get in touch if you have anything you are wondering about in relation to workshops in Bosham or the Workshop holiday in Norway.



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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Adjusted yesterday’s blog and next botanical art workshop.

Yesterday’s blog was written at the end of a busy day – or at least in the middle of the night. I should have waited until I had been refreshed by a night’s sleep! My husband read it a short while ago and tried very diplomatically to tell me, that not all of it had read too well. I have therefore adjusted it to tell you that my ‘photographs’ were not good, but that the artwork was good. If you read last night’s version, please read it again.

I thought I might add a couple of pictures of lichen. If anyone knows what they are exactly, please let me know.

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The next botanical art workshop will be Friday to Sunday, 26 – 28 February. The title is White Snowdrops against dark Hellebores. Now it is anyones guess if either will still be flowering by then. They are both flowering well in the garden now (much too early) and the Magnolia soulangeana buds are bursting! I did a very quick tiny picture a couple of days ago, of Leucojum aestivum – commonly known as ‘Summer snowflake’!!!!There are loads out at the moment.

'Summer snowflake' - Leucojum aestivum. Watercolour over graphite.
‘Summer snowflake’ – Leucojum aestivum. Watercolour over graphite.

Whether the Hellebores and Snowdrops are flowering or not, there will still be loads to paint. Or why don’t you grab the opportunity to work on something in which you know you can improve? There are a few places available, so get in touch soon.

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.







A new botanical art video: How to draw a Poppy seedcase in graphite

In actual fact, I ought to make a correction to the above title straight away; its How I draw a poppy seedcase in graphite.

Since we came back from Italy, I have been chasing my tail as usual. But there is a result, so the time wasn’t wasted.

I’m in the process of writing a new, online botanical art course starting off with graphite, moving to pen & ink and then either watercolour or coloured pencil (one or the other – the choice being the student’s). I have put a lot of work into the sections I have done so far and knowing that different people learn in different ways, I have thought a lot about this quite a bit.

My husband has been a beautiful model in some sections so that I have been able to explain in words and show in photographs, different techniques. That is the reading and seeing bit. But then we have audio input too, and that is where videos come in.

Some of the videos I have done so far are very short and will not be available unless through the course, but today I have actually finished one that shows how I do a botanical graphite drawing from line drawing to finished piece.

This is the finished artwork – only small and as yet I haven’t really found a title for it other than Poppy seedcase. But if you have some imaginative titles, please give me a prod. At the moment I am a little brain dead!


Poppy seedcase in graphite
Here is the link to the YouTube video. Comments are welcome: How to draw a Poppy seedcase in graphite. By the way, does anyone know the name of the species? It is rather unusual in that it doesn’t have the typical pepper-pot top. Apparently, the seeds remain within the capsule and it is a species that is collected as a source for poppy seed in cooking. I was told its name, but I didn’t make a note of it.

Botanical art workshops in Bosham for 2016, now available.

Phew! I have just managed to post the list of botanical art workshops for 2016. Do have a look at them and make your reservations for next year. The schedule and the booking form can be found under Tuition – Workshops. My UK based workshops are limited to 8 people so that I can concentrate on each person and give them advice to improve their skills.

I’m afraid that I haven’t got quite so far with the Norwegian botanical art workshop holiday. The hotel is booked for Friday 24 June to Friday 1 July 2016 and I have posted this in the relevant section under Tuition. However, all the details and booking form have yet to be completed. Do start saving. Fantastic weather has been booked yet again and the hotel is looking forward to looking after us. This year, everyone was amazed by all the flora that was out. Norway is now very careful about using sprays on roadsides etc, so now everywhere is fantastically beautiful as wild flowers are encouraged.

As well as working on botanical art painting and improvement, we will be taking trips out to collect subjects to paint, and hopefully organise an afternoon trip a little further afield too. I intend to offer  a two-day focus on pen & ink in addition to the mediums you normally use (watercolour, coloured pencil or graphite). I will be providing the materials for the pen & ink, so that no-one needs to worry about sourcing that equipment prior to the week’s holiday workshop.

I’m afraid that in looking through the pictures from the Norwegian workshop holiday this year, I got rather involved in them and as well as posting a few on the page about the holiday, I have included some more here. Please do enjoy. If you like the photos, imagine what it is like to see it all in real life!

I look forward to hearing from you soon.



View along the valley at Blåfarveværket
View along the valley at Blåfarveværket
Looking at part of the exhibition in the held in the Mine managers house at Blåfarveværket.
Looking at part of the exhibition in the held in the Mine Director’s house at Blåfarveværket.
From the same exhibition.
From the same exhibition.

This exhibition was very unusual as it was held in the Mine Directer’s barn. Torvald Moseid had embroidered a long frieze depicting Orfeus & Euridike. He had done it between 1978 and 1985 – apparently working on nothing else. Each section depicted beautifully the feelings throughout this story.

Flora from Mølen
Flora from Mølen
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More flora from Mølen.

You need to bear in mind that Mølen is Norway’s largest beach of rolling stones, but apart from being an area of scientific interest, it is outstandingly beautiful.

Fruit & Vegetable workshop + gluttons for botanical art workshop (punishment).

Yes, gluttons for punishment! On Tuesday and Wednesday I was teaching the Gloucestershire society of Botanical illustration. Two from that group took the long trip to Bosham for the Fruit & Veg botanical art workshop, when they had already been on the pen & ink one at the beginning of the week. They assured me that it was really Robin’s cooking they came for. I have to say, his lunches are getting really good.

Anyway, once again I am told that the students who attended the workshop over the last couple of days, had a good time and learnt a lot. The group included a couple who hadn’t done any botanical art before and a couple who wanted to learn to use either coloured pencil or watercolour, when they had used the opposite very successfully for many years. They did well, although I know from experience it can be a struggle converting one to the other. It will be interesting to see if they try the new medium again. I hope so, as it is useful to be able to ‘master’ more than just the one medium. Although, I don’t think anyone can claim to ‘master’ any of them. It would be useful to hear if anyone thinks this possible?

We had incredible weather over the two days, so there were some frequent trips to the kitchen garden.

The first picture only includes a few of the students. I’m afraid I forgot to take these until the other tables had already packed up.

Now the gallery of pictures. Make sure that you have a reasonably good Internet connection. Unfortunately, it seems that when out and about, some of the connections limit what you can pick up and sometimes one is unable to see the pictures until you have a full broadband.

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The other side of being an artist

This is the time of year for a botanical artist, in the UK,  when there are the most exhibitions and opportunities to promote ones work. You only need to see the list of dates and places on my ‘Exhibitions’ page to see all the occasions for which I need to prepare my work.

I love painting with watercolour and coloured pencil, or drawing with graphite or pen and ink. Many of my subjects are at their most beautiful at this time of year, but this doesn’t always mean that they are at their most interesting. People starting out in botanical art are often surprised to find that there is something of interest all year round.

I don’t love having to prepare my work for exhibitions! The reason for this is that it takes me away from doing what I do best and enjoy most – creating the actual artwork. But it has to be done.

For the last week I have not done any real painting as I have been preparing what I have done to exhibit. I try to keep on top of preparing each painting for printing as I finish that painting and rarely allow myself a backlog of more than two. This alone can take about two full days for each picture, where I use Photoshop to match the colours as closely as possible to the painting.

Luckily I haven’t had to do any colour matching on the pictures that I have been framing or mounting this week, as I had done it previously. But I do have some small pictures that will soon have to be done.

I got into the mounting and framing mode a week ago when my husband, Robin, needed to prepare some of his work for an exhibition. He did most of the work himself and I just helped him. After all, he does an awful lot in supporting me at my exhibitions and shows. So I just carried on from his framing to my framing.

The large table used for classes and workshops comes in very useful when mounting and framing artwork – but it’s never large enough!

The working table - at work
The working table – at work


You will hopefully recognise all but one of the pictures. The nightshade is one that I had intended to do as a series, but other subjects became very interesting!

'Young or old and still spiky'; Acanthus.
‘Young or old and still spiky’; Acanthus.
Daffodil; 51 shades of grey.
Daffodil; 51 shades of grey.
'Fatal attraction' ; Dipladenia and 'Solanum x dulcamara'; Bittersweet nightshade.
‘Fatal attraction’ ; Dipladenia and ‘Solanum x dulcamera’; Bittersweet nightshade.


Before I forget, the hanging of the pictures at the SBA exhibition at Westminster Central Hall in London, seems better this year. the exhibition continues until this coming Sunday, so I hope you get a chance to see it. Five of my six Crab apple paintings in coloured pencil from my exhibit at the RHS last year, are hanging there. Although not mentioned in the SBA catalogue, the series won a Silver Gilt medal.







Step by step Pineapple pictures and a graphite Daffodil!

So what does a series of Pineapple step by step pictures have to do with a graphite daffodil picture? Nothing, except that they were done by me.

I have at last got my act together and done a separate page where all of the photos that I took during the 160.5 hour marathon for the Pineapple picture, are in one place. Just click on the heading above and you will find them all. Additionally, if you haven’t seen the YouTube video I did whilst painting one of the segments, you will find that in a link on the Tutorial page above.

I discovered whilst painting and posting updates about the picture that many botanical artists are challenged into painting a pineapple. It isn’t simple to do although it is all in the planning – as with most things – but it isn’t that difficult either.  I noticed that several people had previously painted a pineapple, as I had done, or were in the process. Some started about the same time as me, but were finished long before me, and others started well afterwards. Pictures were done in watercolour, coloured pencil and I saw one really beautiful one in graphite. Most were done actual size and one or two over-size. They were very impressive, particularly if more detail had been included.

The differences in the results were as amazing as in the techniques. Even with watercolour, there was a clear distinction between those done mostly wet-in-wet, to the other end of the scale where more dry brush techniques were used.

I mentioned that I did a pineapple once before, about eight years ago. I was given to understand on several occasions that it wasn’t bad – although I felt it could have been improved upon no end. Putting the two side by side was quite an experience for me. One could clearly see that I had developed in that time. I just hope that I continue to develop positively. I just wish that I could work faster, not slower!

So the graphite daffodil. I had no additional pictures to show you with the pineapple, so I thought I would post my latest work. A couple of weeks ago I held a graphite workshop and just continued with my demonstration piece. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I hope you like it too.

©06.Graphite daffodil 8bit+sig