Botanical art workshop – Autumn colours – in Bosham

Well, I mentioned that I was due to have a botanical art workshop from Friday until today. Are interested in how it went?

I have been allowed to take the following pictures and you can judge from these how it went. I and the people who came, would obviously be very interested in your feedback, so please comment.





Some of the subjects.
As usual, we took a photo once the position of the subjects had been arrived at. As I have suggested previously, it is worth doing this as we are painting from living things and they change over time. If something wilts, we can replace that element and if we knock something out of position, we can re-arrange. We still paint from living subjects.


Enjoying the company and the opportunity to paint.

Glory tree – Coloured pencil

Malus Gorgeous – coloured pencil

Fallen leaves – Watercolour

A pear plus Malus Gorgeous and Golden Hornet crab apples – Coloured pencils.

I think that you will agree that these are lovely pictures that are well on their way to completion. But, what is even more amazing is that some of the students had not done much in the way of their chosen medium previously and they accomplished so much in this one workshop. It was exciting to watch them develop. No wonder I enjoy teaching!

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.

Busy, busy two.

We have just had two very successful weekends with the Summer exhibition and open studio.

As this is not part of an overall open studio event, just something we have decided to do for the last four years during the summer break(!), we don’t expect loads of visitors – only those particularly interested in botanical art. Our expectations were met on that score, but exceeded in other ways.

I like everyone else has had to keep a tight reign on finances during the downturn and many times I wondered if if I was silly either having an exhibition or keeping one or two classes going. However, people have been faithful, students have continued and customers have kept on coming. I noticed during the last two weekends that things are definitely picking up. We were told so on the news and this was enforced through my customers.

Thank you to all those who came and showed such Interest.

I am now working my socks off to prepare for a fair this coming weekend. It will be at Folkington Manor, on the A27 between Lewes and Eastbourne. Just follow this link to get information about what it is and where: Folkington Manor Antiques & Fine art Fair. There seems a lot of interesting things going on there, so that it should be a fun family day out. I hope to see you there. Please make yourself known to me when passing. I am in the Flint barns where the Auctioneer Michael Hogben will be giving free evaluations.

Next week we are taking some pictures up to Patchings for the UK Coloured Pencil Society annual exhibition. If you are interested in coloured pencils, then go and have a look at the exhibition between 1 September and 6 October. I hope you are interested as I have done a lot of things on this blog in relation to coloured pencil.

3 September I will be doing a demonstration in using coloured pencil with botanical art, for the Midhurst Art Society. It would be fantastic to get more people interested in both using coloured pencil as an art medium and botanical art and illustration in particular.

I love what I do and I feel so blessed that I have been given this gift and that I can practice it and have the ability to teach and enthuse others (or so it seems).

However, where is the painting?

I am also writing some tutorials (again coloured pencil in botanical art), for the London Art College where I am a tutor. Up until now they have only used watercolour for botanical art, but once I have got the tutorials finished this opens up the opportunity for those who want to use CP. Yes, I also have assignments to mark and I find this fascinating. People put such a lot of effort into improving their skills. it’s amazing being part of it.

So where is the painting?

Not long until I go to the US for the opening of the 14th international exhibition of Botanical art and illustration at the Hunt Institute of botanical documentation, Pittsburgh. My picture Magnolia x soulangeana: Maturing Blooms is part of the exhibition until December, when it will go on a three-year tour of the US until the next International exhibition.

Whilst in America, the American SBA has their conference at the same time, so I will be taking part in that too. The Hunt and the ASBA paper toy work together on coinciding this event so that participants in either the exhibition or the conference benefit from both. During this, I will be on a panel discussing botanical art and how I do it!

So the painting. Burning the candle at all of its ends, I am now working on the Malus ‘Gorgeous’ for about the fourth time! But, I am doing an entirely new composition. I have decided that the ‘Gorgeous’ ones I had already done, didn’t go with the other ones as a series. Hopefully I will get the series finished so that I can exhibit with the RHS next year.

I think this is enough for now. I’m sorry that there is so much reading and no pretty pictures this time. I’m afraid I had too much to say.