Pittsburgh ASBA conference and beyond

My hats off to the ASBA who managed the biggest annual conference ever. It was big, but didn’t feel it. I got to meet a lot of people from around the world, many of whom had been Facebook ‘friends’ – and of course still are. But now, having met some of them it helps to have even better communication.

Apart from going to the conference to meet a lot of like-minded botanical artists, and as well as teaching, I also wanted to learn. The more I learn, the less I know and the more I want to learn. I tutored at one workshop, demonstrated once, saw three others demonstrating, went to two amazing workshops and an additional conference at the end of the main one. It was busy.

The first of the two workshops I attended was with Carol Woodin on juror training. Carol is responsible for planning the exhibitions and getting the relevant people together. She has an incredible amount of experience in the area and was able to impart some of her knowledge to us. We also did a practice run on putting an exhibition together from a lot of submitted pictures. The results and reasoning behind the results were very interesting and funnily enough quite similar.

The other workshop was with Jean Emmons. I met Jean and Denise Walser-Kolar (who organised the teaching at the conference) in 2010 when we all three had exhibits in the RHS. Since then I have remained in touch with both. They work mostly on vellum and have encouraged me to learn to paint on vellum.

As a teacher, Jean too has such a lot of knowledge to impart and she also does this in a lovely way. I struggled a little as I suddenly realised that my subject would not be available to me when I returned home to England. Therefore I started doing the opposite of what we were being taught – I tried to rush. Stupid! The four main things we learnt apart from actual techniques was, slow, light, very little water and don’t go back over anything until completely dry. I did the opposite of all that when I started worrying about time. But at least I learnt.

There are no pictures to show from the above workshops, but I do have one from the Hunt exhibition opening. The UK were well represented this year but with only one artist present – Robert McNeill. However, several of the UK tutors had work in the Hunt collection from previous years.

The Hunt 15th International Exhibition of Botanical Art and Illustration
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The British, Irish, Australian and American table
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Martin Allen & me
Christie Bruzenak & me
Christie Bruzenak








On Saturday evening there was a banquet with some sad farewells and happy prize and sponsor giving.

We left Pittsburgh after staying for the International Congress of Botanical art, and spent our first night in Erie, a town on the edge of the lake.

Yesterday we went through some incredible landscape and increasingly strong leaf colour until we reached our present destination Old Forge in the Adirondacks. On arrival, the heavens opened with the additional huge flashes of light every now and again. Today its beautiful with a forecast due to be 25 degrees. At the end of the week, snow is forecast, so I have to get out there.

Here are some colours from the journey.


Pittsburgh and ASBA 2016

What a wonderful event!

I was in Pittsburgh for the ASBA conference, three years ago when I had a picture included in the Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation. Robin, felt that as the ASBA was again in Pittsburgh for the opening of the new Hunt exhibition (it is every three years), that it was time we came again.

When we arrived on Tuesday afternoon it was really good to meet up with old friends from the last time we were here, and new friends made on Facebook. It was quite strange meeting up with some of the latter, as they had become ‘friends’ on the net and we never met in person. But now we had the opportunity to get to know these familiar faces.

The Facebook phenomenon is a really interesting as it has opened up connections in the botanical art world allowing us to communicate worldwide across borders. We are now learning from each other without restriction – something we never could have imagined only a few years ago.

What have we done since being in Pittsburgh?

The first morning started off with a Portfolio sharing session. Anyone who wanted to could take part in this and I too had a table. The response for me was brilliant and was quite a surprise.

Version 2

There were several workshops and during one of them a cry went up that Barack Obama was leaving the building next door to us. We had been told that he was due to give a talk in the University and we knew that many of the streets had been closed off round our hotel. But we had no idea that he was so close.

I get the impression that in America, Obama is a president much loved and respected.

Obama leaving
Obama leaving

Last night, after the opening of the new Hunt exhibition, we met an ‘old’ friend from my nurses training days in Birmingham, fifty one years ago! It was a treat we thoroughly enjoyed.

Today has been particularly busy for me, starting at 09:00 doing a coloured pencil demonstration. Apparently the ASBA hasn’t done ongoing demonstrations from the tutors before this. As far as I can judge it was received extremely well. A lot of people turned up early to watch the demonstrations and once I had finished I was able to watch John Pastoriza-Pinol from Australia take over from me, followed by another highly regarded American botanical artist Robin Jess.

Interestingly enough, I was able to use a couple of comments I heard during these two demonstrations, in my own workshop also held today. Yes, it has been an extremely busy day.

These are some of the pictures from my own workshop.

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I was amazed at how quickly people started picking up the technique. It was a thorough enjoyable class with a lot of very nice people.

I think I have commented before about how much pleasure I get from working with such lovely people. Botanical artists seem to have a lot of joy in what they do.


On the way to Pittsburgh!

We have been welcomed to the USA with open arms – except for the people at border control who were extremely serious about their roles!

Our first few days were with some marvellous friends of ours who live just south of Boston. Apart from being taken to beautiful beaches, the oldest Tavern in the US at Newport, Rhode Island, a children’s party right on the water’s edge at Buzzards Bay, and an end of season evening at a local tennis club, we also went to see Cranberry Harvesting.

Did you know that Ocean Spray, the company whose name we might be aware of if we drink Cranberry juice, harvest their cranberries in at least two different ways.

Mass production of the large cranberries used for their drinks means that they are grown in ‘fields’ of bogs. I have normally seen them grow relatively sparsely in the wild in the mountains of Norway, but here the bogs are just carpets of the plants. They are lovingly tended all year round and at harvest time the bogs are flooded, a machine gently disturbs the growth of submerged plants and the fruit floats to the surface. The fruit is then manually lensed towards a suction pump which draws the fruit up into a washing facility and then transferred to a waiting truck. The trailer was about 60 feet long!

The process certainly made me think and we only saw a minute section of this vast production.

Although we didn’t see it, apparently fruit that is sold as fresh, frozen or dried fruit is picked dry by hand. In this instance the fruit appears riper than that seen in the pictures below.

I was told that there are quite a few varieties used for in their production and the ones in the wet bog are called Early Blacks.

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Today we have had a really long day. We started driving at 10:00 and arrived at our overnight destination of State College, at 19:30. But we had some amazing views of the changing colour of the leaves. We are due to arrive in Pittsburgh tomorrow afternoon, but this time it is a very few hours travelling in comparison to today.

Autumn colour
Autumn colour

Bad news and good news.

A few days ago we were walking round the garden and noticed that one of the Fuchsias seemed to have real problems with flowering. On closer examination the growing tips were curled up with the new flower buds curled into them. We then checked out another fuchsia in the front garden which had flowered. It was the only one we had with variegated leaves. But that too seemed to be infected. We had no idea what this was, so Robin had a look on the net.

Distorted growing tip of a Fuchsia plant
Distorted growing tip of a Fuchsia plant

Apparently it is the Fuchsia gall mite and has been written about by the RHS. It had first been seen in Brazil in the late 1970’s and has since spread to areas with warm climates, reaching Fareham on the south coast of England only a short time ago.

The only thing to do with it is remove it completely as removing the distortions doesn’t get rid of the mite and neither do pesticides – which we wouldn’t want to use unless there was no other way. When removing the plant, it either has to be burnt or got rid of safely – not on the compost heap. The mode of transportation is you and I, birds and the wind. Therefore we have to be careful that we clean tools, change clothes and wash hands after handling it.

I have just found it in the back garden too, but so far it has only affected one of the fuchsias (all hardy). Therefore we have to get rid of it as soon as possible. However, before doing so I thought I would take some pictures. The mite is 0.25 mm long, therefore too small to be seen with the naked eye. But I have one or two microscopes and have taken some stills and a short video.

First, two stills so that you know what to look for:

Fuchsia gall mite still_1 copy


The same gall mites taken within seconds of the first picture.
The same gall mites taken within seconds of the first picture.

I had hoped to show you a short video I took of a mite moving along a stem, but unfortunately I haven’t found a way to include it on a WordPress page. But needless to say, the mite is very bad news for those with Fuchsias at least living in the south of the UK . But perhaps this will be a warning to have a look at your Fuchsias and remove those infected as soon as you can.  This could minimise spreading.

Now the good news. The American Society of Botanical artist (ASBA) has its annual conference in Pittsburgh in October. I know I have mentioned this before. I was asked to teach and the online registration was opened on 23 July. I booked the workshops that I wanted to attend, but also checked out my own workshop.

I couldn’t believe it and I thought there was a difference between the meaning of the American and UK English words ‘waiting list’. I picked up the courage to ask and found that they meant the same thing. Already on the first day of registration, my workshop was fully booked with a waiting list! I have to keep my fingers crossed now that I can still get crab apples as subjects for the conference. At the moment, I have loads of different ones ripening here, but how they are ‘over there’ is another matter. Perhaps someone could tell me if they are likely to have any left at the time of the conference?

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Third Gaynor’s Flora update

Earlier in the year I was contacted by the ASBA and asked if I would teach at the next Annual conference in Pittsburgh. I of course said yes. I was then contacted once again and asked if they could publish one of my botanical art pieces on the front page of their quarterly magazine, with an article about me on the inside. This edition coincided with the program for the annual conference in October where, of course, I was due to teach. How could I say no!

ASBA Botanical Artist quarterly magazine

Registration for the conference was opened 23 July. But more about this later.

In my blog of May 17th (Norway’s National day), I was conducting a workshop in Bosham and showed pictures of a pair of ducks in the pond. They became regular visitors for a while, but luckily they decided that our pond was not actually the safest bet for a couple of birds to make their home. We have cats, although the ducks were left alone, they were wary.

Ducks are apparently notorious at damaging garden ponds. But towards the end of May, beginning of June, we still had a lot of yellow Irises in the pond – Iris pseudacorus. I was busy trying out different papers to be able to give advice to coloured pencil artists, so decided to start painting one of the Irises.  We have had problems with Fabriano hot pressed papers – my paper of choice, therefore finding an alternative paper until they make a new batch in 18 months time, is a priority.

This coloured pencil drawing is done on Strathmore 500, Bristol plate. What do you think?

© 09.Iris pseudacorus


Tuesday on the way to Pittsburgh

We were so sorry to leave our lovely hosts near New Bedford. They have been so generous in inviting us to stay and then to show us round. We will miss them.

We started out on our long drive to Pittsburgh when the sun was shining again from a crystal clear blue sky. It was very chilly, but felt beautifully fresh. The trees obviously felt the same. They had changed noticeably from the previous day. We had noticed patches of gold and rich red appearing, but today some of the trees appeared to be on fire. So beautiful.

We travelled along the coast for quite a while before turning away to avoid New York. I’m sorry, Americans who read this blog, but I’m not very much of a city girl and you have so much to see in your huge country. We didn’t really want to spend all the time looking at your fantastic architecture, museums and art galleries. Hopefully, we will have the rest of our lives to get a bit in here and there. This time it is to be Pittsburgh and your beautiful changing season.

Our journey departed the coast at Newhaven and we drove up to join the 84. That was a really beautiful run along the banks of a river. It made such a change to the a Freeway. But once we got back onto the 84 we stayed on it (except for one or two stops) until we got to Scranton. We crossed well known rivers with names such as the Falls River, the Hudson and the Delaware. To me just those names sound exciting.

All the time we were seeing broad vistas of forest, hills, mountains and ever changing colours. In some areas the reds were so intense. One tree I saw looked as though the sun was emerging from the tree itself. Just the flash of it as we passed gave me the impression of lime green leaves at its centre, changing to gold and bright red to towards its extremities. Amazing.

The temperature was crisp a lot of the way, but during the afternoon it warmed up a little.

Once we reached Scranton we decided to go ‘off list’ again, this time following the 11 down. Sorry, I realise I haven’t said whether the roads are interstate or what they are. I have just map read numbers – note, we aren’t using SatNav! This road brought us down different types of town, suburb and country road. It was quite interesting. But by now we were gently looking for somewhere to stay. We eventually found it just outside Bloomsburg. We arrived in time for supper, but my poor husband is now exhaustingly fast asleep in bed. He has driven all the way and is now out like a light. I hope he won’t be too exhausted to enjoy his freedom in Pittsburgh whilst I am otherwise engaged.

I hope that I have taken a few good enough pictures with my iPad to add to this blog.



Although nice pictures, I’m afraid they don’t quite convey what we saw. Hopefully once I am able to download pictures from my camera, these will be better.

Arrival in USA today (or yesterday)

What an eventful day, it is now 23:24 USA time and 04:24 UK time.

We got up early, took an early train to Gatwick because of work on the line, then sat on the plane for over an hour because of IT problems in Ireland. We thought we would miss the connection in Dublin, but after running through immigration with another couple, we just got to the delayed connection in time.

Once we arrived in Boston, we hired a car and drove down to our friends in Mattapoisett. They live on the waters edge, but unfortunately we will have to wait until the morning to actually see the area.

We have been made most welcome, were fed and watered deliciously when a suggestion was made to go swimming before we went to bed. They have a pool , but I had not come prepared – no costume! That didn’t matter. Lights were turned off and we had a refreshing (grhhhhh) swim. Once I the wimp got in, it was fantastic and the water was perfect.

I will now sleep well.

Prep Thursday before travelling to Pittsburgh

Today has been very busy. We have been trying to get things sorted and finished ready for leaving the day after tomorrow.

My husband has been very busy with something called ‘The Gift’. It is like an art trail, but goes from church to church locally. Practising Christians who feel that they have a God given gift in relation to their art, take part. I have previously done this, but I’m afraid that this time the trip to the States has rather got in the way. It is normally very good with a lot of interesting artwork . Our church in Bosham normally gets a lot of visitors as tourists want to see the church mentioned in the Bayeux Tapestry, so this also helps the artists showing their work.

We have exceptionally lovely neighbours. Today, whilst shopping for her supper, she suddenly thought we might not take the time out to eat properly today, so sorted it for us too (not without ringing me from the shop when the thought struck). How many people have such thoughtful friends?

The pen & ink picture. I had an extremely tight deadline in that it had to be finished before we go on Saturday. It is now finished and in a mount ready to go. But you can have a brief look at it now. I hope you like it?