Gloucestershire Society of Botanical Illustration workshops -2nd day

Whilst in Gloucester I had been asked to do a second one-day workshop with different members. I felt it was as successful as the first day and here are the results for you to see. You will notice that in fact two of the students came for a second day and continued with their pictures.

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Watch this space for the results of the ‘Fruit & Veg; strawberries & cream’ workshop happening this Friday and Saturday in Bosham.

7 days until the Set-up for the RHS exhibition

For anyone who might just be picking up on this for the first time; for the last three years I have been preparing six pictures to exhibit at the next RHS Botanical art exhibition. It is to be held in London at the RHS’s Lindley Hall, 11-12 April.

The pictures are of six different crabapples, Malus ‘Red Jade’, Malus ‘Evereste’, Malus x robusta ‘Red Sentinel’, Malus x atrosanguinea ‘Gorgeous’, Malus x zumi ‘Golden Hornet’.  Each of them are in coloured pencil and are of ripe crabapples, dissected crabapples, crabapple blossom, Longitudinal section of the flower, enlarged stamen, style & stigma and a transverse section of the ovary. Each picture basically shows in detail the times when people are most interested in the life of a crabapple tree.

Normally one sees the tree covered with blossom later on in April to early May and the next time one is interested is when the tree is covered with red or yellow apples. But do people really look at the trees, the blossom or the apples? Very rarely. For example, they assume that the blossom is the same on each tree. But they are very different.

I wanted to show the beauty of the trees right down to the detail. But I also wanted to create beautiful pictures of the whole works. Obviously it is up to those who view the pictures as to whether I have succeeded or not. It will also be up to the judges at the RHS as to whether I get a medal or not.

The judging is carried out by the picture committee and these include botanical artists, botanists, and photographers. They have extremely strict criteria and I will be judged on my worst picture. This means that they are not only judging for correctness of botanical detail, but also how I use the medium I have chosen, the composition, the information I have provided in and with the picture, and the way I have presented the exhibit. They want to see that my work is consistent and that is why the worst picture is judged: Bearing in mind, no picture is ever 100% perfect!

Today I have had to re-do one of the pictures for colour matching in Photoshop. I discovered this morning (after I had spent all morning teaching), that one of the pictures was incorrectly colour matched. Why do I need this? I will be using segments of the pictures (as I have shown you in the blog) to provide further information about each each picture at the exhibition. Additionally, I will be able to get gicleé prints from these – although that is of lesser importance at the moment.

It is now dark, so I will have to wait until tomorrow to see if I have succeeded with this or not. In the meantime, I am getting as much information as possible about the crabapples I have chosen. And now, a glimpse of the next picture, the M. John Downey. Now these are very different to the M. Red Jade, M. Evereste and M. Red Sentinel that you have seen in earlier blogs – aren’t they?

Malus x sylvestris 'John Downey' blossom- in coloured pencil
Malus x sylvestris ‘John Downey’ blossom- in coloured pencil




Three weeks until the RHS botanical art exhibition

How am I doing? Will I be finished in time?

These of course are the questions I am asking myself and I imagine are the same questions for those who follow the blog.

Preparing for the RHS botanical art show which will happen in London 11 – 12 April, with preview on the evening of the 10th, has taken three years. The work is almost finished. Believe it or not.

I have finished painting each of the six pictures. I have only painted the necessary six and I haven’t painted a 7th as a reserve in case one wasn’t up to scratch ( I was advised to do this – in case). The frames are made and all that remains is working up the digital images for printing plus writing the information to hang with the pictures.

Matching the colours exactly is a hugely time consuming exercise. I prefer to do this myself unless the picture is too big for the equipment I have. As having the correct colours to reflect my subject is important for my painting, I am a perfectionist in matching the colours in Photoshop.

The last bit of work will be to research further the six Malus plants I have painted and write some information about each of them.

Three weeks is not long. The sun is shining, the garden and gardening await and May this year will be very busy with exhibitions. But, the RHS exhibition is the most important having taken three years to prepare.



Hellebores workshop success

We had a really enjoyable three- day botanical art workshop from Friday until Sunday. There may have been periods of dark clouds and rain outside, but inside we had plenty of colourful Hellebores and a lot of laughter. You will see shortly if the laughter was of detriment to the painting.

These are a couple of comments I have had already:

“Thank you a three lovely days, I had a great time and managed to paint something, progress indeed”

“Such a lovely 3 days ”

Hellebores are really beautiful flowers. A gardener once told me that they are very promiscuous. Often different coloured Hellebores are planted next to each other in a flower bed and are readily fertilised by each other. However, we still have a variety of different colours from white to very dark red/blue/black.

In the garden, Hellebores are often only seen standing statuesquely but with their heads hanging. In the workshop we had them floating in bowls of water with their lovely centres smiling up at us.

This is some of the work created at the workshop. Would you have liked to join us? The next workshop is at the end of this month. Either check it out on my website, or wait for the next blog.




RHS exhibition: twelve weeks to go!

I have my work cut out to get my six pictures ready for the RHS botanical art exhibition during the Orchid show in April.

The series of six crab apple trees is well on the way. The apples are painted in all six pictures. I have done all the sketches and colours for the blossom ( done two years ago); all the sketches for my dissections were done last year; all of the apple dissections are sketched and ready to go. It is now a matter of putting it altogether in the finest detail and with my best techniques.

I have just completed the first picture. It is the Malus ‘ gorgeous’. I will give you a little glimpse at the end, but to see the completed picture I will encourage you to come to the RHS exhibition itself.

I will ask for one bit of help though. I need to include the Latin names for each of my apples and I can’t find all of them. If you know them, please let me know. The pictures will be, M. Gorgeous, M. Golden hornet, M. Evereste, M. Red sentinel, M. Red jade, & M. John Downey.


I’m afraid that this photo is not too brilliant – a little dark. Even more reason to see it in real life. Just pray I get all the pictures finished and retaining a good standard.

Do you use photographs in botanical art?!!!!

Yes. Sort of.

Some of my paintings take around two years to complete especially if I am doing a series of paintings and they include; A year in the life of………

How do you complete a series of paintings if the series is from the same genus and they bloom and fruit at similar times?

This is how I do some of it. As an example I will use the picture that I have been working on this week. Malus Gorgeous.

In the spring last year I did some sketches, colour detail and size of the blossom. I had to do five other crab apple trees at the same time and, during a ten-day period. This year I did dissections of blooms from the same trees and preparation sketches of the dissections to include in the pictures.

Going back to the Malus Gorgeous specifically, this summer I planned the composition and sketched this out on my final paper. I used elements from various pictures I had taken of the small tree. Bearing in mind that the apples were not full size and far from ripe and the finished painting was to include ripe fruit. The photographs were and are only a rough guide. This is the photograph I used for the main bunch of fruit.


I had to enlarge the fruit slightly to the size they were likely to be when ripe, allowing for the fact that even this allowance might be slightly out. I had measured the ripe fruit the previous year so had a good idea of the size. I then started painting the leaves.

I picked the leaves I intended to paint, one at a time. None of them the ones in the photo. Some were more interesting than others, but I had to make sure that the leaves I picked were the ones arising from the fruit spur. These were the type I had included in my picture, and not those born on new shoots, as these are more leathery and differ quite a bit.


I positioned each leaf as I had sketched it in my composition and painted it into the picture until most of the leaves were in place.

I have been doing the same with the apples. These are this years ripe apples. They have started falling off the branches, therefore I had to get on and paint them whilst I could – particularly if I wanted the series finished to exhibit at the RHS next year. That is if I get exhibition space.


Funnily enough and, luckily, the apples seem to last different lengths of time on the trees. But there isn’t much in it, so I have to plough on until all the apples are finished.

Some of the pictures of the apples being painted – with coloured pencil used dry in case anyone was wondering.





Today I managed to do all the apples. I have a couple more leaves to do and then have the dissections and branches to put in the picture. But that won’t happen yet as I have to catch up on all six pictures. The sketches Of the dissections that I have in my sketchbook will give me enough information to do this at a later time. Don’t forget that once everything is in place it has to be tied together with shadows etc in the right places.

As you see I do use photographs in botanical art, but every element in my pictures are painted from life.

By the way, comments or queries are very welcome.

My sketchbook page.


Back home to crab apples

So far this week I have been catching up – or trying to, after our time in the US.

I mentioned that everything was green and therefore a shock after seeing the intense fall colours in America. This was the first sight of our back garden and one of our cats.


It was still reasonably warm on our return, but I kept on my full length jeans.

Monday and Tuesday afternoon I did a lot of paperwork to catch up, but Tuesday and Wednesday morning I had my normal weekly botanical art classes. Everyone was very interested in the trip we had taken and most particularly in the catalogue from the Hunt Exhibition. Hopefully the catalogue will be motivational for some of the students.

At last on Wednesday I was able to get back to painting my crab apple series. Whilst we had been away, the Malus Golden Hornet crab apples had swelled up (luckily it has rained a little since we were away) and turned yellow. The apples are not fully ripe yet, but as this was the only painting where I had done no apples at all and very little preparatory sketches, it was the one picture I was most concerned about.

I had in fact actually started the painting before we went away. I had done a composition and finished most of the leaves, placing the apples roughly in accordance with measurements taken two years ago when starting the series. However, this year there has been little rain during the summer months and the fruit were not as big as originally allowed for. That aspect of the painting had to be sketched anew. A photo from the Malus Golden Hornet.


On Thursday morning it started getting really cold here (relatively speaking) and a wind was building up. The Malus Gorgeous, a lovely little tree near our front door, has quite big deep red crab apples. They were beginning to fall off the tree. Although I have painted a composition with this apple several times, I had started a different composition. I again have done most of the leaves, but need to paint the apples. The Malus Gorgeous.


I felt it was now important to do a list of the pictures, detailing what was missing on each one and the urgency of each element. I don’t want to miss an important phase in the development of each apple because I was concentrating too much on one of the..

My Malus John Downey tree now has only three apples left on it. It didn’t do too well this year. I still had five apples to paint in the picture! I decided this was a priority. I can wax lyrical about the beauty of this tree, but I will save this for another time.

So, now I have been rescuing crab apples to paint their portraits in the relevant picture and yesterday managed nine hours on John Downey. My husband went out in the evening, so I could do what I enjoyed best – paint.

I haven’t got new pictures of this painting, but here you can see the notes from my flower dissections in my sketch book. Peeking out from under the sketchbook you can just see some completed leaves on a branch contain gripe crab apples.


Today, Friday, I have only had a couple of hours painting as we had to travel to Bristol for a meeting with other tutors from London Art College (LAC). I am the Botanical Art Tutor for LAC which is a distant learning course. If you are interested in this, have a look at their website. It is a good course.

Tracing to art paper

I have done some art tutorials with and they are now live via my website. Look at the page on tutorials and follow the links to download the E-book showing you how to paint a Crab apple picture with coloured pencils. You can also link into one of the tutorials as a taster.

I have had some very positive feedback and essentially this blog is in response to one of these which asked how I transferred my image onto the final art paper.

An image can be transferred in so many ways depending upon how refined you need the transfer to be. The more you rub out on your art paper, the more you damage it’s surface no matter how careful you are. You can use tracing paper, a light-box, your window as a light box, or this way:

I compose a picture using various thumbnails. This leads to a general rough design which forms the basis of the final line drawing.

This is part of the line drawing of the picture I am in the process of doing now:


I trace the line drawing onto tracing paper, using a 0.3 clutch pencil.


I turn the tracing paper over and draw the line again on the reverse side, being very careful to trace accurately.


I then place the traced image right side up, on my art paper ( normally Fabriano HP) and, using a Decoupage tool, I rub across the lines. This transfers the graphite from the back side of the tracing paper to the art paper.



The image left on the paper can then easily be lightened with a putty rubber, without leaving any indentations on the paper.



I hope this helps those who wonder how best to transfer an image without damaging the art paper or leaving any indentations to get in the way.

Trying to set up this Blog

A kind friend showed me how easy it was to set up this blog the other day. I have now spent all day trying  to replicate what he told me. Unfortunately, I must be a little slow on the uptake, as it hasn’t gone quite as smoothly as I imagined. But I will get there and I will have this blog linked to my website at

I spent ages reading the instructions for my website; If all else fails read the instructions! After that I think I understood the terminology a little better.

As I am a botanical artist and the work I do is very time consuming for each picture, I inevitably feel that the time I used here was used in painting. Also the sun shone brilliantly today and the garden weeds called.