My daughter, husband and I ready to battle the elements on our first hike together this working holiday. We managed 3 km in 4 hours!
It was bitter cold and hailing when we started out, with a temperature of only 2º, and the wind coming from the north! It felt quite a tough climb particularly as I wasn’t in as good shape as I used to be. But the views were worth it, as were seeing the variety of plants.
On the way up we saw quite a lot of wild flowers from Wood Cranesbill, Bilberry, Bog Bilbury or Blueberry, Cowberry (or for Ikea addicts – Lignon berry), Bog Rosemary, and loads of Chickweed Wintergreen everywhere we looked.
Its funny, but this last plant really livened up the steep slopes and the Norwegian translation of its name felt more like the experience we had of it – Star of the Woods!
We rapidly got above the tree line with lots of heathers (most of the plants I have mentioned come from that family) and low lying Mountain Birch.
The small plateau on which we arrived had a lake and a further track leading over the mountain top. Patches of winter snow still lay there.
On a patch of rock clung another plant carrying its immature fruit – The Artic Bearberry. I have heard of it, but hadn’t really made particular note of it before. Perhaps the redness of its autumn colour confused me with the red of the prostrate Mountain Birch.
This is the other plant I managed to colour match on vellum whilst up in the mountains. But I will update about that one in a later blog.
Whilst everyone else is suffering extremely high temperatures in Europe, we are experiencing +4 high in the mountains of southern Norway! I believe it is warmer at the North Cape.
However, as there is now no longer a direct ferry from the UK to Norway, we drive here over several days, with our cargo of painting equipment. A necessity for the job I am going to do whilst here.
On the way we stopped off in Amsterdam to visit my son and partner and had a cycle ride to the coast in 37 degrees. It was almost a relief to eventually get to a cooler climate, although the day we arrived it was in the high twenties lower down in the valley.
Since then, the temperature has gradually sunk even lower. Today we are awaiting my daughter who lives on the Norwegian coast, advising her to bring winter woollies. I didn’t dare tell her that it has been snowing today – although it hasn’t settled.
So why am I subjecting my sun loving and warmth seeking husband to todays chill in the Norwegian mountains? It’s the plants of course. I am now back to getting all the plant information to paint my pictures for my next RHS exhibit. I know I have spoken about this for a couple of years or so, but my involvement in the Worldwide Botanical art exhibition last year and continuance with setting up the Association of British Botanical Artists (ABBA), rather delayed things.
Because of the delay, I also lost my right to exhibit at the RHS – this year being five years since I last exhibited. I therefore had to apply again. Luckily, my work in general was again accepted as potentially worthy of a medal place, so now I am going to work through my subjects properly and, rather than rushing it, plan to exhibit in 2021.
This year I am focusing on three of the plants I have chosen and plan to get information I feel is lacking to complete a picture. My first is Vaccinium microcarpum – or Small cranberry. Last year I was able to find ripe fruit and was able to get all the information from that. Previously I had only drawn one flower, so I am concentrating on these now.
I thought you might be interested in my already messy workplace setup at 910 metres over sea level!
If Denise Walser-Kolar sees this blog, I hope she will notice I have taken on board her teaching. As long as I practice what she taught in Vienna, painting on vellum is going much better – even with the tiny leaves! Thank you Denise.
The other two plants I hope to get some more information on is the Vaccinium uliginosum (Bog Blueberry) and a little from the Rubus chamaemorus (Cloudberry). In both instances, it is only small details I need. I have already noticed that the leaf colour of the Bog blueberry seems to change in the sun. New leaves have a red tinge to the edge of the leaves, older leaves don’t, but in the sun they become red to almost a Perylene Violet (for watercolour artists) colour. I didn’t realise that before.
The Cloudberry fruit is only to be found on female plants. Each plant can be quite huge and spread many metres. Around the cottage I have only seen the male flowers of the Cloudberry – no female ones at all. it might be because it hasn’t warmed up very much yet where we are. The temperatures are set to improve, but I doubt we will be here long enough to benefit from it.
Please don’t get the wrong impression of Norway. The summers can be hot and the winters cold. It is a fantastically beautiful country and every area has its own attraction. I like it in the area we are staying as I lived in the valley for several years. Lastly, a picture of the sun rise a couple of days ago. It doesn’t get totally black at night at this time of year, but this was taken at 03:30.
It is an awfully long time since I last wrote a blog! It isn’t because I didn’t want to – it was just the usual problem – Time!
The Worldwide Botanical Art Exhibition held in May 2018 took over my life virtually from the latter part of 2016. Initially it was to put on the UK arm of the exhibition, but this evolved with the development of ABBA.
My last blog post was following the London RHS exhibition in July 2018 when I, as part of ABBA (Association of British Botanical Artists), helped man its stand. We had a great response to the formation of the organisation and found that there was a huge expectation and need for us to continue. That is where all my time has gone!
With a fantastic new team and a lot of hard work, especially from the other members, we have come a long way since then. A new ABBA website, which also opens up to membership, is planned for 21 March. As I write this it is only 18 days away. Read about what ABBA is all about and watch for when the new website is launched by following this link: ABBA
After the RHS exhibition I realised that I had to get my own botanical art life back on track. I knew this would take time as work would continue with the development of ABBA.
I have previously mentioned the preparation I was doing for my own next RHS exhibit. It is a series of plants from the Norwegian mountains. Robin and I travelled to the beautiful Norwegian mountains in early August, where I continued to sketch my chosen subjects. In 2017 I had sketched my subjects in flowers this time I hoped to catch all of them with fruit. As we all know, the climate changes from year to year, so it is difficult to judge when is the absolute best time foreach of the plants. Heat and drought had also struck Norway, but luckily enough after much hunting we managed to find examples of everything. Whew!
Initially I had planned to get the series of paintings ready to exhibit this year, five years since my last exhibit and the last year I am allowed to do so without being re-assessed by the RHS. One has to be able to produce botanical art at a consistent set standard before being allowed to exhibit. The standard is rising year on year! But because of all the commitments already mentioned, I was unable to start on my final paintings and they will not be ready in time. I will not rush them. This means I have to go through the RHS application process again.
Here’s hoping they don’t refuse me! The sketches below were done in 2018 and are fruit, leaves and roots from three of the plants. In actual fact, I could write about my time sketching in the mountains and about each of the plants in detail. Perhaps one day I will. The more I learn about them the more fascinating they become.
There was a heatwave in the UK whilst we enjoyed cooler conditions at 900 metres in Norway. When we returned home for a short period the weather cooled down. In October we travelled to experience Spring in Western Australia with my sister. Again there was a heatwave in the UK whilst initially in WA we were dressing warmly with anoraks, jumpers and boots. My husband loves the warmth, I like it in between!
It was cooler in the southern part of the state, but quite warm by the time we went north. Whilst in WA we saw the most amazing varieties of spring flowers and took nearly 3000 pictures. Imagine if we had done this on the old 35mm cameras! I perspire (as I am a woman) at the thought of getting them all processed.
These pictures are from the northern part of the state near the Pinnacles in WA. It was apparently the worst period for flies. Although we laughed at the idea of wearing fly nets over our hats, it didn’t take many minutes to change our minds. But the flies still managed to get in many nooks and crannies you didn’t know existed.
Since we got back at the beginning of November I have been trying to catch up. Nothing has been straight forward, but I now see this blog as the beginning of getting back to some state of normality – even if the ABBA website launch and membership is only a few days away.
I have decided that my next blog will show you how I have changed the ergonomics of my workplace in the shed. Hopefully it will be of interest as a well adjusted workplace is the best way to keep one healthy enough to keep on painting for many years.
What have I been doing of late? You probably think that I haven’t been doing anything at all – but I have been working on my new online botanical art course. Poor Robin, he hardly sees me these days!
For those of you living in the UK you know that the weather has been very mild – and very wet. I live on the south coast and although we haven’t suffered the same floods as further north, it has been wet. All the plants in the garden are in turmoil. Everything is sodden and the cats leave muddy paw prints everywhere – they get the blame as they can’t answer back! A lot of the daffodils have finished flowering and if we get some cold weather now, goodness knows what will happen to those in bud.
We spent Christmas in Norway and had a really super time with my daughter (the hostess) and my son. We even got some lovely snow there – which was refreshing. we enjoyed some very special Norwegian food such as Lutefisk, had a Norwegian Christmas Eve supper of delicious cod and an English Christmas Day meal of Roast pork with all the trimmings. My children are fantastic cooks; they obviously felt they had to learn as I am such a bad cook.
We came back home before the new year to see the Hellebores, Daffodils and Snowdrops in full flower! Starting on the watercolour module of my online botanical art course, I therefore had plenty of subjects to paint from. I chose the Hellebore after picking off a live caterpillar! Several of the flowers had their stamens chewed right off. I’ve pulled this picture off the video, so it isn’t too clear. I wish I had taken a picture of the caterpillar too.
From painting the Hellebore I have done a whole series of videos for the course right from : Stretching light to medium weight watercolour paper (I hope you find it useful), sketch to line drawing, colour matching, tracing over to art paper, tonal value reference study to actually painting the picture. All of the videos are on Youtube, but only the one about stretching paper is available to the public. The rest will only be available to students doing the course, although I am considering doing a very fast one showing the painting. I still have a load of writing to do yet, so I will see how it goes.
I may not be keeping up too well with my own artwork, but I am keeping my hand in when doing the videos.
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.
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.
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.
It is now the Thursday following the Stansted Park Garden Show. I can’t understand it, but everytime I write Stansted, it auto corrects to ‘stagnated’. That just is not what I want to say and definitely not what the show was like!
There was a lot of preparation for the show, in addition to everything else going on. Soon I am going to start having to say ‘no’. But it is difficult when you get asked; 1) Because others want you to take part and 2), because they like your work or your teaching.
The weather forecast for the weekend was mixed. We expected thunderstorms and rain. In actual fact, it was sunny but windy for most of the time and the rain came at night or early in the morning. Anyway, the car got packed up – thanks to Robin. But he wasn’t happy with all that had to go into it.
Luckily we don’t live too far away from Stansted and a few hours later we made our way home leaving the stand covered in case of storms (but not floods).
The rest of the pictures tell a tale of three lovely days spent at the show, meeting lots of new people visiting the show and, of course reuniting with the stand holders who returned from last year.
We got home fairly late in the evening of Sunday having packed everything up again. But, although we unpacked the car, the sorting waited until Monday.
Now I am catching up with London Art College assignments and the next important event on the Calendar – Norway.
And the work during the Show? I have to be honest, I started the Indian Corn a long time ago and pick it up now and again. The corn doesn’t change you see, although I will need new leaves when I get that far.
The SBA botanical art exhibition in Palmengarten, Frankfurt, has almost left my to-do list for this year! Our SBA member Sue Henon and Palmengarten have already started having meetings about the next exhibition in 2016, but I will now have nearly a year free to decide about any involvement I might or might not have.
The pictures that came back are nearly all out of the house and there is only one last collection due. The house almost looks empty – so much so, that I can now see all the dust that quickly collected when so many people were in and out of the house collecting pictures. We will have exactly six days to clear up before our Christmas guests arrive!
As so many people were coming and going, I decided it was best to leave the Acanthus work in the house so that I could do a little of it whilst waiting for people to arrive. This is where I have got to with the picture. It is taking its time.
More importantly for me – and hopefully for a few of you out there, I now have all the details for the next Botanical Art workshop holiday in Norway. By clicking on the image below you will be linked to my website to download further information including the booking forms.
Everyone is getting into the thick of their botanical art pictures. Some have chosen quite small plants which is quite difficult to do. Others are learning new techniques and have been so patient in practising them.
It isn’t often that one gets a whole week to go into such detail and I am very pleased to see such improvement. Some have practiced getting smooth washes, others intricate detail and some have not done botanical art before. I think and hope they might have become smitten.
Today the sun was shining all day and those new to Norway understood about the very special clear light here. Both sea and sky seem extra blue and nature in general seems more sparkling than we are used to in the UK at least.
This afternoon we visited a lady’s garden. We had seen some lovely and unusual specimens in her garden and one student was brave enough to ask to visit her. The lady had a beautiful pink Cornus (Dogwood) in her garden. She promptly cut off a piece and kindly gave it to us to paint.
At last we have arrived. I met up with seven students later on this afternoon. Unfortunately the eighth student was unable to come as planned and will be missed.
People haven’t come all the way to Norway only to have a holiday, but they have also come because of the workshop in botanical art. The weather for them is improving and that helps. Each of the ‘foreign’ students has commented on the beauty of Åsgårdstrand and the surrounding countryside, so I hope they will become almost as fond of Norway as I am.
During the day I have selected potential subjects from a nearby garden centre, but best of all are the plants collected in Telemark for the course. Hopefully you will see a little of them during the week, but I am very grateful to the lady who collected them for us. Takk skal du har Dagny!
These are a couple of pictures taken from my bedroom at 22:30 this evening. Sorry they are slightly unclear, I obviously didn’t keep still enough.