Bringing you up to date with Gaynor’s Flora

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.

Cloudberry, Cowberry and the tiniest plant is Cranberry.

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.

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The day after the night before (RHS botanical art exhibition)

Last night I slept like a log. I stayed in bed this morning and even had breakfast there. Lazy! My face is a little less swollen, but more purple!

Today has obviously been used to clear up a bit. I tried to stay out of the shed but had to prepare a couple of paintings to be exhibited at the Oxmarket Centre of Arts in Chichester for the next couple of weeks. This is a sort of preview to the Chichester Art trail at the beginning of May in which I am taking part. If you are able do visit the Oxmarket, do. But even better if you are able to come to my Open studios the first two weekends in May.

But, there is no peace for the wicked and I will be having a workshop on Tuesday and Wednesday this week. I went to the garden centre to pick up some plants in preparation for this. What an incredible assortment at the moment. I am sure everyone will find something that they will be thrilled to paint.

Anyway, I am going to show you one or two of the RHS exhibits over the next few blogs – except for when I send pictures of the workshop. I won’t be able to show you something of every exhibit as not everyone gave permission for me to show their picture on the blog.

I expect that you are wondering whose exhibit I am going to show now. It is Bee orchids by Louise Lane. Louise got a Gold for her exhibit. In addition to her final pictures she also included her initial sketches showing exactly where they were done.

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Day 1 of the RHS Botanical Art Exhibition

It has been a strange day with quite a few disappointed botanical artists. But, the artists seem to be a lovely group of people and are going with the flow.

Our pictures were judged this morning and it seems they took longer than usual. We (the artists) waited patiently outside until they were finished. Whilst we waited, it transpires that the majority thought we would be going into the hall to find out how we had done. Few had been told that we wouldn’t find out until tomorrow. Unfortunately again, the artists think that ‘tomorrow morning’ means first thing in the morning – not midday when we I have been told we will get the results!

When we went into the hall we were asked to man our exhibits as the guests for the annual awards lunch arrived for drinks. Once they had sat to lunch we were then free for the afternoon until the preview evening. This started with a reception to welcome the artists, whilst willing friends and family manned our exhibits.

Unbeknown to us, whilst in the reception a Japanese drumming group entertained the first guests to see the exhibition preview. However, we soon heard about it when they started up their performance again shortly after our arrival back in the Lindley Hall. I expect they were a very good group, but unfortunately not in an enclosed building. It was a huge amount of noise and I’m afraid many people left – both exhibitors and people visiting the preview. I don’t think the evening picked up fully again after this – unfortunately.

Eventually the drumming was stopped and were able to talk to a few visiting the show. Additionally we got to know our botanical artist colleagues a lot better.

I don’t think that there will be any musical accompaniment tomorrow, and I am glad to say we should be able to actually talk to those interested in our art.

Rather than show what I have done this time, I will show you what a couple of other artists have done. I have asked their permission to share this with you.

The first is from Sharon Tingey with a picture from her series of Sunflowers. I’m afraid that my photo doesn’t really do it justice as my phone was running out of puff.

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The second picture is of Jane Fisher and her series of graphite pictures showing corn in a very contemporary manner. Jane is from the USA and I met her when exhibiting at the Hunt Institute of Botanical documentation. It is nice to see her again here in London at the RHS.

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As you might understand a lot is going on here and as you can see there is a lot of interesting work. Do come!

Tomorrow, around lunchtime we get the results of the judging.