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




Seventeen days before RHS botanical art exhibition set up.

I set to work again as soon as we got home from church today. Although there is plenty of light in the shed I don’t know if it rains or shines. But I do know that on going up to the house for tea refills etc. it was very cold today.

This is a small glimpse of my working environment at the moment – concentrated computering; but with the odd intrusion.


It is not what I enjoy the most. I much prefer coloured pencil painting. But it is one step nearer getting the pictures finished for exhibition at the RHS. Don’t forget the date at the RHS Lindley Hall in London, 11 – 12 April, but with the awards given on the 10th. I hope people are either praying or keeping their fingers crossed for me.

A couple of days ago I showed the blossom for the Malus Evereste. These are the crab apples.

I first saw them during a workshop about three years ago, when a student brought them along to paint. I was very taken with their stripey look, but also that a few of them had an extra ‘lumpy’ skirt on them. They reminded me of a ‘cottage loaf’.


Another Botanical picture ready for the RHS exhibition

I seem to be spending every free minute on the Photoshop colour matching of the Crab apple botanical art series. But tomorrow I will be doing something else.

The Society of Floral Painters has asked me to do a coloured pencil demonstration at one of their meetings that is open to members and artists hoping to attain full membership in the society. It will be at Pitton Village Hall near. Salisbury, tomorrow between 10:00 – 14:00.

As the Magnolia x soulangeana is still in full flower, I have prepared a drawing to demonstrate this. It will be good to take my head away from the computer for a day.

Would you like to see part of the next picture finished? It is blossom on the Malus Evereste. Note how it differs from Malus Red Jade. The flower is slightly smaller than for the Red Jade, doesn’t have the stripey red on the petals and seems to have regular wrinkles along each petal. Although the Malus Red Jade apple is very small, the flowers are not so small.

It is amazing how different each Malus sort is.


Crab apple blooming delayed by cold!

Well, we all want warm weather as soon as possible. We are tired of the cold and want to see normal signs of spring. But, at the moment I am grateful for the slight delay the weather affords me in relation to crab apple as blooming!

A positive. The sun is shining and although cold, it is dry. The world still looks good out there.

Why do I want a delay?

As you know, in doing the crab apple series of pictures, I intend to also include a dissection of each of the flowers. The flowers for each of the crab apples are so different. Some petit and strictly formed, whilst some are big and blowsy. If you have looked at the crab apple variety, you might have some idea as to what the flower might look like having seen the apple – but it takes me by surprise every time. An apple blossom is not the same from one variety to another. Have a look when you get the chance. Which is my favourite? I don’t know!

Anyway, during the coming crab apple blossoming period of normally about ten days, I will need to dissect a flower from each of my chosen varieties to examine, measure and sketch in preparation for the final pictures. I need to get this done If I am to succeed in even getting a chance at finishing the series this year. Getting a space at next years RHS exhibition is another issue!

Please keep your fingers crossed for me that I will get done all the dissections in time as my sister and her family will be staying with us from this coming Saturday out April. My sister and family are coming from Australia, from the hottest summer ever recorded! I don’t see her too often and therefore want to spend as much time with her as possible. I have a plan.

At the moment, each of the crab apple trees have buds with the green leaves peeping out, except for the John Downie that only has pregnant buds. Hopefully the actual blossoming time will be a little delayed and maybe even be longer than the normal ten days. But, I will be getting up extra early to get at least a couple of hours work in before anyone gets up. But as one of my nieces has a 5 month old baby, maybe this is wishful thinking?

The following pictures are from the Malus Red Jade. This is how they are today 1April. Last year they were like this 18 March! Except for a sudden heat wave, it looks as though I might get a bit of the delay I had hoped for. Sorry I am so selfish!




Starting last picture again!

Well. I guess that any artist feels in a quandary when they feel a picture isn’t going as well as they want it to. But, starting a botanical art picture again, and at that, one in coloured pencil, needs some determination.

After starting the most recent Crab apple picture, nothing seemed straight forward with it. Each leaf was an effort and heavy going and I felt that its expression of lightness was compromised. Each one seemed to take forever and didn’t seem quite right. After I took breaks, going back with fresh eyes helped, but I still had the overall feeling that it wasn’t the best picture I had done to date.

Unfortunately I am a perfectionist and if what I am doing isn’t the best I can do, I’m not happy!

Anyway, I made the decision to start it again. This time the leaves seem to be developing much better and I am happy with the result so far. I just have to make sure I don’t mess it up over the rest of the picture. I have a long way to go, so anything can happen.

By the way, I have decided to say which crab apple I am doing at the moment. It is Malus Evereste. A beautiful stripy little apple. Some of them have double ‘bums’ underneath!

I decided on this one a couple of years ago as someone brought some branches to one of my workshops. I ended up doing sketches from the ones left behind after the workshop. Since then I have also found a source for a tree to paint in the village. But, as with the other five pictures in the series, I can only include the information I have already received.

Attached is the part of the painting completed before I ditched it!