ABBA and busy bees!

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You might very well wonder what the connection is particularly if you didn’t read my last blog a month ago! ABBA stands for Association of British Botanical Artists. For some of us working with ABBA during the last year, at times we have been so busy that we felt as though we could buzzzzzzzzz away to something more relaxing. But we stuck with it and had a lovely exhibition at the Peter Scott Gallery, Lancaster University.

That was the start of ABBA, formed to take part in the Botanical Art Worldwide Exhibition where we were one of 25 countries taking part. For my part, I co-ordinated the UK offering.

But, whilst doing this it became very clear that there was a wish for ABBA to develop into an organisation that catered for everyone interested in botanical art. We are now putting things together to develop ABBA. Do come to the RHS Art & Plant Fair at the RHS Lindley & Lawrence Halls in London 11-12th July where we have a stand. You will be able to talk with me and my colleagues about our plans for ABBA’s future. Hopefully we can encourage you to join.

If I get time, I will be having some work there to demonstrate on, but I haven’t decided in which medium. That can be a surprise!

So what has been going on with me since my last blog?

I had a very interesting workshop at the end of May, where we concentrated on colour mixing. This is the sort of workshop that everyone says they want to do, but when it actually happens, life has taken over. But some people did sign up with an attendee from a loooooooong way away.

Although there was the opportunity to work in watercolour, people chose colour pencil. The results were amazing and there were pencils everywhere! In fact, it became so thoroughly interesting that I continued with my weekly class on one colour found to be a real challenge.

See if you can find a solution. I have to say it was slightly easier in watercolour than colour pencil. But a lot of layers are necessary no matter what medium you choose.

Following on from that was the event at the Stansted Park Garden show. We again had a really super show and met a lot of lovely people and the weather was perfect.

I notice that I am listing up events, which is not what my blog has normally been about. I want to show you work that I have been doing, but everything has been done in small bites as we race around the country setting up, taking down and planning.

But I did work some more on my Indian Corn in colour pencil. Luckily the fruit part of the corn doesn’t change too much over time as long as you look after it and keep it away from the light and gnawing bugs. But it is different with the leaves. I do need fresh supplies of those if the colour is to remain vibrant. 

I hope to see you at the RHS in a couple of weeks time. Do let me know if you have read my blog!

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Mountain gold!

This is a plant found amongst other places, in the mountains in Norway. It is one of the reasons For my next RHS exhibit – probably in 2019, I decided to paint Norwegian mountain plants that provide food for us mere mortals. Its scientific name is Rubys chamaemorus, but the common name in Norwegians is ‘Multe’, and in English, ‘Cloudberrry’.

Unripe Cloudberry

Why is it called ‘mountain gold’? Apart from its very special taste, it is not always easy to find. It likes boggy areas and generally you will find that Norwegians will not tell anyone else where ‘their’ patch can be found. I know one or two places because I used to live in the mountains in Norway. I also found some whilst staying in a friend’s cottage this summer (Tusen takk Eva og Jon for låne av din nydelig hytte Thank you Eva and Jon for lending us your beautiful cottage). I was in the mountains specifically to sketch these and other plants I had decided to include in my exhibit.

If you travel to Norway and ask someone where cloudberries can be found, unless you know your host well, it is unlikely that you will be told.

The picture on the right is an unripe Cloudberry. There are very strict laws governing this plant, therefore it is illegal to pick them before they are fully ripe. At that stage they are a beautiful golden orange colour. Unfortunately I have no pictures of a ripe fruit as this happens in the autumn, that is why I need to travel back again next year to sketch the ripe fruit.

Over the years I have picked a lot of Cloudberries and thought I knew them! I also found that Norwegians are as un-knowledgeable as I am. Because I am now studying the plants to paint I decided to delve deeper. But I also needed to find the flowers and the unripe fruit to draw. This year, there were few fruit ripening, but an awful lot of flowers. On closer examination and with the help of a very good series of old botanical books borrowed from the Eggedal Library (Tusen takk Jorunn. Thank you Jorunn), I discovered that Cloudberries are dioecious, either male or female plants. Each plant has a huge underground root system travelling for some distance and that is why I found difficulty when looking for the unripe fruit.

Patch of male cloudberries.
Patch of female cloudberries.

The large patches of flowers were mostly all male, but we were soon able to distinguish these patches at a distance. They had a lot of beautiful white flowers, but also  many red sepals where the petals had fallen off.

The female plants seemed to be few and far between – less than last year. The flowers were  fewer and smaller, but with several immature fruits at different stages of development.

Like so many of the plants I have painted, I study them first then become completely intrigued by them. This of course helps me portray them as best I can.

Before I show you the sketches, this is a picture of a small female cloudberry patch in quite a boggy/Sphagnum moss area, together with nearly all of the plants I had chosen to do and which I will talk about in other blogs.The picture also includes Robin’s boots, Vaccinium oxycoccus(which I didn’t think I would find as its so tiny),Vaccinium myrtillus (small blueberry),Empetrum nigrum (crowberry),Vaccinium uliginosum (bog blueberry) and Andromeda pilifolia (a heather I won’t be including in the series).

Robin’s foot and a mix of plants.

So what is the difference between male and female flowers? It should be obvious, but I’m afraid I never looked and saw previously. I just took things for granted.

Male Cloudberry flower – larger than female.
Longitudinal section of Male Cloudberry flower.

The male flower contains stamens in a ring round the inside of the outer whorl.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Smaller female cloudberry flower.
Longitudinal section of female cloudberry flower.

The female flower is slightly smaller than the male flower, has several styles and stigma in the centre – one to each ovary, but round the edge is a ring of white, sterile stamens.

 

Cloudberry plant with developing fruit.
Sketch page of Cloudberries.

UK native plants packed for RHS botanical art exhibition

Packed and ready to go.

Tomorrow two of us are travelling up to London to set up the ABBA table in the RHS Lindley Hall, Vincent Square near Victoria Station. It will be the RHS botanical art show with the best of International botanical artists showing their work. Neither of us are exhibiting our own work this time, but we will be demonstrating different techniques.

The main reason for having the table at the exhibition is to talk about the plans for the Worldwide Botanical art day in May 2018 and to encourage British botanical artists to take part. A new Association of British Botanical Artists (ABBA) formed to do this has put an initial ‘call for entries’ on it

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On  Friday and Saturday this week, I have chosen to demonstrate a sketch book or study page in graphite and watercolour from  one of the native plants I have packed to take with me. Come along and see how I do this.

Apart from the Primrose, do you know what these plants are called?

The one on the right, with hardly any leaves just yet, is a Bilberry. This is a small wild blue berry. It doesn’ look very interesting at the moment, but if you are going to paint the portrait of a plant, including something from various stages in its life cycle, makes the resulting picture more interesting.

The plant above  the Bilberry with the small oval leaves is Cowberry and has small red berries. You might know it as Lignonberry and has smaller and sharper tasting berries than cranberries. This plant has the beginnings of tiny flower buds.

The one above the Primrose is a Crowberry and will eventually have small, almost black berries. Again the plant doesn’t seem so interesting in this stage of its life, but I think might offer some challenges whilst painting its portrait.

Common for for all three species ( not the Primrose) is that they all produce fruit that is edible.

I am lucky enough to be able to do some sketches now, while the plants are only just coming out of their winter state. This will be particularly useful for me and for future work I have planned.

Do come and see us at the RHS, Lindley Hall, Vincent Square, Friday and Saturday.

A very good three-day botanical art workshop.

What a week it has been!

Following loads of preparation, ABBA (the new Association of British Botanical Artists) launched its new website on Wednesday and I had one of my workshops on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

The steering group for the new organisation put in a lot of work up until the launch of information about the Worldwide Botanical Art day in May 2018. For more information look at the website: Www.abba2018.wordpress.com. We have had a lot of very positive feedback and quite a few botanical artists have already started thinking about a species of plant they want to paint.

The botanical art workshop concentrated on painting pale flowers on white paper. My students were extremely brave and worked on the sort of thing a lot of people fear doing – painting white flowers on white paper. They actually chose to do this, although I suggested they could work with any pale flower.

Here are a couple of the results. One in watercolour and one in coloured pencil.img_0214

Hellebore in watercolour
Hellebore in watercolour
Hellebore in coloured pencil
Hellebore in coloured pencil

 

 

 

 

 

 

The trick is to try and paint your pale flower with a background of darker colour – leaves or a dark flower.

I was extremely pleased with the results, as were they.

Tomorrow we are going for our long walk to build up for long days at the end of the week when we will be at the RHS exhibition in London.

Sarah Morrish and I will be there for both Friday and Saturday, demonstrating and giving out information about the Worldwide botanical art day. Lucy Smith will be joining us for one of the days and the intention is for us to use different methods of drawing or painting native plants.

Hope to see you then

Chichester Art Trail

The Chichester Art Trail happens every May and generally includes Bank holiday Monday in the first weekend. That is what has happened this year too and we are again open to the public.

Essentially the criteria for this art trail is that you open your studio to the public so that everyone can see you at work. Unfortunately this doesn’t always happen. And, in fact I am told that very few people are actually working at their art. Therefore , it seems that people are very pleased when they arrive at our ‘venue’ (sounds a pretentious word doesn’t it?). That’s why I call the shed the shed – because it is and was a shed. Actually, it was a loose box, so a shed is an upgrade. But as ever I am off on a tangent.

We have had a steady trickle of people since Friday evening. We, and the other artists in Bosham, had a Pimms preview evening for people who live in Bosham.  It was quite tough getting everything ready in time, but it was fun once we got there. The people of Bosham did as requested and either turned up on their bikes or ‘Shank’s pony’. For those who are not English, this means ones own two legs.

The first day – Saturday- went well enough once everyone had got their weekend shopping out of the way. The weather has been absolutely supper. The sun has been shining and it is very pleasant. This means I have been able to sit working in the shed with the door open ready for visitors. Yesterday went very well. In fact the first Sunday is usually the best day of the two weekends. With any luck, in writing this the statement will prove me wrong.

In Bosham there are 15 artists in 11 locations – which tells you that those who share are not able to show their own working environment. As one can’t go any further than the sea when getting to see us (we are about 200 metres from the inlet), we are the last one on the Bosham part of the trail.  This means that many drop off the trail before getting to us as there is so much of interest on the way – that is unless they have specifically chosen our place.  However, we still get a few who want to see as many artists as they can and that gives me a real opportunity to get people interested in botanical art.

Our set-up is that we have a gallery of my pictures in the conservatory (where I normally have workshops). My husband mans this area as he loves talking to the people that come. I am working in the shed so that people can see what I do and ask as many questions as they want to. Mulling over the questions I have had, perhaps I have chosen the wrong medium that I am using in the shed. I chose to do some purple irises in watercolour as I haven’t used that medium in a whole painting for some time.

The conservatory (Gallery for the day)contains the RHS Silver Gilt medal Crab apple series, which is in coloured pencil and attracts a lot of attention, but also some of the Magnolia x soulangeana series in watercolour that I did as an RHS exhibit in 2011. Visitors are astounded when my husband tells them that the crab apple series is in coloured pencil and therefore they are asking about the coloured pencils all the time. There seems to be less of a thrill about watercolour, although a fair amount of interest as to how I achieved the iridescent purple of the Irises.

Visitors do love to see the artists working environment and ask questions about how they do things. That is why it is a shame to hear that very few make themselves available to do this.

Before I finish this blog, there are two things I must mention. The open studios art trail is open next Saturday and Sunday between 10:30 and 17:30. You can find my address on my website: http://www.gaynorsflora.com . Additionally, I have places on my next workshop ‘A page of flower heads from the garden’ – May 29th – 31st. Now I am going to show one or two pictures of my working environment and on another occasion I will show you what I have been working on this weekend and the ‘gallery’ in the conservatory where

My workspace - in the 'shed'
My workspace – in the ‘shed’
The shed!
The shed!
At work.
At work.

I have the workshops.

Catching up!

How many things to catch up on. Made much worse by problems on my website.

Yesterday, I spent as much time as I could preparing the Crab apple series for getting some notelets printed. But everything always takes much longer than you think. I took time out In the evening to go to the Maundy Thursday service as it is an important preparation for this coming weekend. On my return I sorted my to-do list ready for today.

Just before the RHS exhibition, I had said that i would post each picture properly on my website. I had done most of the preparation for it with only some minor adjustments to be made. So I thought!

I went into the back of the website only to find that most of what I had done, was no longer there. I looked on other pages and all my pictures were gone. I expect one or two of you may already be aware of this, but when I went into the front of the website, there was none. It told the world that I hadn’t paid my dues!

I was very upset as anyone can imagine. I had actually paid my subscription a month ago to avoid any problems in this very busy period. Eventually I was able to do an online chat with the company who sells the services for this website package. They sorted it out, but said I had to wait a few hours for it to go live. But there was absolutely no apology – even when I suggested it was appropriate.

I didn’t have to wait a few hours, but all of this did take a rather long time. Since then I have been even further behind and I’m still trying to catch my tail. The Crab apple explored page is now on the website – but I’m not a happy bunny.

Just so there is no confusion, the website package is not WordPress. WordPress seems to work remarkably well and might be worth considering for the main website.

My next workshop is 29 – 31 May, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The topic is flowers from the garden. Have you seen flower heads floating upturned in a bowl of water? Well this is the suggestion.

Have you also noticed that all flowers, no matter what their colour – go together? Nature is so fantastic that there are no colour clashes in our gardens. Don’t you find that amazing? Hopefully those who come to the workshop can replicate this.

This time you should be able to look at my website page http://www.gaynorsflora.com/page9.htm to get the details. You know how to get in touch with me if you are interested.

Looking ahead as the days have been getting a little warmer and brighter, I have been reminded of the summer workshop holiday 29 June to 6 July in Norway. Luckily the cost of taking a flight to the small airport not far from where the hotel is, is in fact very reasonable. I daren’t say cheap In case they put the prices up. – but ………

Norway is an absolutely beautiful country, so if you love botanical art. – or want to learn how to do it and, you want to visit Norway during their warm summer season, then join us. The places have been filling and I have but a few left. http://www.gaynorsflora.com/page10.htm

In the meantime, another botanical artist from the RHS exhibition. Nikki Marks who was awarded a Gold medal for her work on the Arisaema Genus.

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Congratulations Nikki!

Botanical Art workshop

Now I am back into the swing of things with a two- day botanical art workshop. The title was based on pictures I took at this time last year; spring bulbs! Bad mistake. Most spring bulbs are finished now.

I trawled through the local garden centre and found some worn out tulips, fading well in their pots, and some Fritillary. I therefore bought the latter, and some Osteospermum. One student found some Lily of the Valley and another brought some more Fritillary from the garden. Challenges galore.

I think that the greatest challenge was the pattern on the Fritillary and this was tried both in watercolour and coloured pencil. Thank goodness for a little knowledge about Fibonacci. It certainly helps in knowing about the spiral when planning the pattern.

For those who might not know, Fibonacci was an Italian mathematician and he worked out the mathematical process behind the spiral which we basically find in nature and in good design. For example, the spiral of segments in a pineapple and it’s leaves, a pine cone, the centre of a sunflower – and of course the pattern on a Fritillary petal.

Hopefully I will be back with some pictures from the workshop tomorrow. Things look promising, but I have students who have not painted since they were at school, and those who are very experienced. Believe it or not, it is those with experience who feel most challenged as it is generally very specific problems that they want to overcome.

I think it fitting that I show you Diane Sutherland’s exhibit for the RHS. She painted these Fritillary on vellum. In fact, the largest piece of vellum in this series is from Rory McEwen’s vellum left to the Hunt Institute of Botanical Art in Pittsburgh.

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Monday after the RHS botanical art exhibition

I expect that my day has been very similar to the other artists who took part in the RHS exhibition. Beginning to clear up after our last massive input into the exhibition.

For me, I have a lot of paperwork to clear up and finish off. But the shed looks an absolute mess. And, tomorrow I am starting a two- day workshop. I know that some will be using watercolour and some coloured pencils. It will be lovely to get into it again.

We have re-arranged the conservatory cum sitting room so that the work table is as big as possible. Two extra tables are brought up to the house from the shed and everything is in place for arrivals tomorrow. We also ordered good weather with good light, so what more do we want? Good humour!

What you really want to see are some more pictures from the exhibition. I know that some of the same or similar ones will be found in other places on the net too, but I don’t think you will see one of these. It is of all the artists who took part in the RHS exhibition this year. As I have already said , they are. Lovely lot of people.

The second picture is of Isik Guner. She is a fantastic botanical artist and also a very bubbly person. The picture she is standing beside is the one that was best in show. But each of her pictures were very beautifully done.

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Last day of RHS botanical art exhibition in London

This is a very short blog as I am finished. I intend to write a little more tomorrow.

Normally at the end of an exhibition you are tired but exhilarated. I am exhausted and although it is a happy culmination of three years work, as you who have read my recent blogs will know, it has been eventful for me.

I met so many people today. Many who were so immersed in the paintings that they didn’t notice my face, others who were embarrassed and didn’t know what to say, and a few who either asked outright or commented that I had Been clever at matching my jacket to the colour of my face. It didn’t look good. In fact the bruising is now even under my chin. But my face only looks bad unless I touch it. My arm feels bad.

It was so good to meet so many interested people today at the RHS exhibition. It really helped to take my mind off things for a while. Quite a few people were very surprised to find out that my Crab apple pictures were in coloured pencil and not watercolour. Hopefully I can encourage more people to start using it as a serious medium.

It was lovely having the opportunity to meet so many other botanical artists from all over the world. The whole botanical art environment seems like one big family. People I met at the RHS when I exhibited in 2011, I met up with again in Pittsburgh at the opening of the Hunt Institute exhibition; who in turn introduced me to new faces (British and American) that I met again here at the RHS in the last few days. I had been introduced to the idea of the Hunt(Pittsburgh, USA) by an Italian artist when I exhibited in Lucca, Italy.

It is a very small world and I am very lucky – and happy.

This picture was sent to me by Alena Lang Phillips, who I met for the first time today – but have corresponded with via this blog. Thank you Alena. You have done a good job of making me look almost normal!

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