Botanical art in graphite – workshop

Today was the second and final day of the botanical art workshop using graphite. It was a lovely small group of artists and I believe that we learnt a lot from each other. 

I think this aspect of a workshop is important, whereby we all learn something from each other – even the tutor. 

I may have mentioned this before, but personally, I don’t think I would have got so much enjoyment from teaching if I hadn’t learnt a lot from the students I was teaching. I always think that a question that one person asks, sets in motion a whole thought process which makes me think about how and why, so that I can answer appropriately. From this I can develop a process, simplifying as much as possible, and cutting out anything unnecessary on the way.

Example, why do I draw my subject onto sketch paper and then trace it via a lengthy process onto my art paper? Those of you who follow my blog ( know that once I have actually drawn my design, I trace over it  once, then again on the reverse side before transferring it to my art paper – and without leaving indented lines in the paper. The whole process seems long and drawn out, when all I want to do is paint a good picture! But I know that my final picture will be no better than the amount of preparation I put into it.

So having thought all this through, what are the benefits?

  1. Freedom to change the design as many times as I want to before the tracing process.
  2. Less waste of paper.
  3. Potential for a better composition on my art paper as I can move the tracing around the paper before tracing it over ( that was a student comment today).
  4. Pristine art paper at the start of the painting – leading to a better result.
  5. The same tracing can be used several times without additional graphite.

I expect that you can add other benefits to the above.

The gorse tracing that I made for my last blog has been used seven times since I did it, without adding more graphite to the tracing. I have just laid it on fresh paper whilst demonstrating the technique at this workshop, and rubbed gently over it with a decoupage tool as previously described.

I used the same technique when doing a new drawing during this workshop. But I used Bristol board and when I took away the removable tape I had used, it removed the surface of the paper. The same happened to one of the students. She was not fazed, and neither was I. We simply quickly repeated the process on the other side of the paper. Tip: don’t do that with Fabriano HP watercolour paper as it has a right and wrong side.

Rather than me wittering on, you will be more interested In the resulting work from the last two days. I have put a copyright on each of the pictures as they are posted on my blog, but the copyright is with each of the students.



Tracing to art paper without indentation

I wrote a blog  called: tracing to Art paper from 25 March 2013. I thought it might be useful to refer to in conjunction with my new video on YouTube :

Both on the blog and in the video I have used an instrument called a Decoupage tool. This was bought from FredAldous  online. It is very useful as it is smooth and small, but just large enough to spread the load placed on it when transferring an image onto art paper, without indenting the paper.

Why is it important not to indent the paper? Often, when transferring an image, no matter how careful you are, you will nearly always get some indentations. If painting in watercolour, the pigment is more likely to collect in the narrow grooves leaving a darker line. If using coloured pencil or graphite, pigment won’t go into the embossed lines so easily and white line are left. You don’t want either of these effects from outlining your image. 

The technique is simple and removes the risk of the embossed image during transfer.

Do give me feedback about the video, positive and negative, so that I can carry on improving ones in the future.

I will be having a graphite workshop on Friday and Saturday, following pressure to put on such a workshop. Watch this space for some pictures at the end.

Now The reason for following this blog – botanical pictures completed in the last few days. I haven’t done many of the artists trading cards as with my style of painting, each one takes about two days. The last one is the image used for the tracing and as Gorse is not easy, I am on my fourth attempt! I don’t give up that easily!

11 days until set-up of RHS exhibition

Time is running away from me! Most of the week that has gone by I was teaching – and enjoying it. But that means that preparation for the RHS exhibit has been left to one side. Today I am back doing the colour matching with Photoshop.

But before I show you a snippet from the next finished picture, I will show you one resulting from last week’s workshop.

I am not sure if it is fortunate or unfortunate, but every time I teach I want to do some of what the students are doing. I always need to demonstrate techniques anyway and I am often left with a half finished small picture – depending upon how many there are in the class. In fact, I often find that I continue to work on what I’ve started into the evening. My poor husband!

If it is a full class, then all my time is spent either demonstrating or going from person to person constantly. If it is a smaller class, I have to make myself look away from what they are doing so that they can actually start getting something wrong (but not too wrong). I find that if I hang over them too much, they don’t get a chance to do this and then they don’t learn. That is why I prefer to have several students at a time rather than a one-to-one. Although, for some people a one-to-one is essential.

These are Jonquil in graphite. It is a very small picture. I have been asked to give a small picture to a charity, so this will be it.

Jonquil flowers - graphite
Jonquil flowers – graphite

But the next RHS picture ready is Malus Red Sentinel. I think that many people have this crab apple in their gardens as it is quite common. When my grandchildren were smaller they called it a ‘tomato tree’. If you have been following this blog, you will know that we now have several ‘tomato trees’.

Make a note of the new leaves on this crab apple. They often have a slight red tinge round the edge when new.  The flowers are fairly simple showing up a pale pink. Although on a bright Spring day against a clear blue sky they look really exotic.

Malus Red Sentinel Blossom - Coloured pencil
Malus Red Sentinel Blossom – Coloured pencil



From Sketching to drawing – learn to draw botanical images workshop.

Today was the last day of the workshop concentrating on sketching and drawing skills – which is a necessity when creating botanical art images.

It was again a super workshop; as regards the participants. My husband always says that such lovely people join us for the workshops. They seemed very interested and commented upon how well they had progressed over the three days.

The first day was used in sketching and drawing simple shapes, from apples, bananas, grapes and cups. In fact it seemed that the forms we are most used to were the most difficult – the upside down cup caused the most problem.



I have a very simple way of teaching the use of perspective in botanical art, so placing elements in space seemed less of an issue.

The second day was spent on working up a daffodil from sketch, through tonal drawing, to completed graphite picture . At least, the completed graphite picture was not done until today.

I deliberately chose daffodils as this gave a greater challenge than many simple flowers. The gardens are full of them too, so it all made sense.


This afternoon, I was told that they hadn’t thought that they would be able to complete the workshop with a reasonable result. In fact, they and I were thrilled with the results. What do you think?



From Sketch to drawing – Learn to draw botanical images.

This is the title of the next workshop in Bosham, Nr Chichester.

I still have some places on the workshop Tuesday 25 – Thursday 27 March. Would you like to join us?

In every workshop I run, I always set off time to compose and sketch out the picture that is to be painted. As often as not people are reluctant to spend time on the drawing, thinking that it will sort itself out when the paint or coloured pencil goes on. It won’t! your final picture will only be as good as the drawing you use as a ‘master’.

Now you have the opportunity to learn the tricks of drawing your botanical subject easily. Remember that awkward leaf that sticks directly towards you? How difficult do you find drawing it? Just follow the tips I will give you, and reduce the problems you have in the future.

What about drawing a load of petals round a centre part – do they meet when you get round to the other side? Again, find out how to do this. Or a daffodil; getting the trumpet right?

Here are some sketches from my sketchbook and  a couple of final drawings done with graphite.

If you want to join us, go onto my website and contact me via the contact form. Its on

Magnolia x soulangeana seeds
Magnolia x soulangeana seeds
Oriental poppy seed-head sketch & colour matching
Oriental poppy seed-head sketch & colour matching

Daffodils from sketchbookDaffodils from sketchbook

Stinking iris from Sketchbook. sketch & colour matching.
Stinking iris from Sketchbook. sketch & colour matching.
Final Euonymus leaf in graphite on Bristol board
Final Euonymus leaf in graphite on Bristol board

Open studios the next two weekends

Spring is coming. At last!

This coming weekend I will be opening my studio during the Chichester Open Studios event. It will be open from Saturday to the bank holiday Monday and again the following Saturday and Sunday.

My pictures will be hung in the conservatory and prints and cards will also be displayed there. Luckily my husband Robin will be manning this area whilst I am down in the shed at the bottom of the garden.

As the event is called ‘Open Studios’, I have the excuse to stay in the shed all day long. I will be getting on with either painting my current piece of work or doing the preparations for other aspects of it.

Normally people do like to find their way down to the shed to see what an artists studio is like. I expect all studios are very different, just as the mess in mine varies according to what I am doing – even though it is generally botanical.

During ‘Open studios’ I can’t say that I work too effectively. I enjoy the visits throughout the two weekends as people are so interested and have so many questions. As I work in coloured pencil, watercolour or graphite, I am given so many opportunities to explain and demonstrate the different techniques. Sometimes, visitors become so interested they want to learn more. This is exciting.

Presently I am working on a series if crab apple paintings. There are meant to be six different crab apples, but my neighbour has just gone and bought a new one which is quite beautiful.

My husband Robin bought me a microscope for my birthday and at last the crab apple flowers are beginning to open, allowing me to capture their detail. Hopefully, more of the trees will be coming into blossom, in which case I will be using the microscope when dissecting the flowers. This might well be art with a difference for those who visit me down in the shed during these next two weeks.

I do hope you will join me.

The address is on my website, but have a look on the Chichester Open studios website for instructions as to how to get here. It is

I really look forward to seeing you in my shed!

FRom an earlier ‘Open Studios’ event:


The Artist at work in the shed!