Sunday, 30 December 2012

Where have the lino-prints gone ?

It is normally at this time of year that I am keenly cutting away at lino endeavouring to produce some designs.  Those of you that follow my blog know that my lino-cuts are often on the theme of birds.

This year, my time has been spent painting and planning further botanical paintings as I want to explore more exhibiting opportunities.  At the moment I am working on a very large painting of a Sacred Lotus.  Below is the sheet I compiled whilst  I was testing colours etc. 

Back to birds and lino-prints.  In 2011 I saw a link to an advert on the Arts Jobs website.  It was asking for artists to contribute images of birds of freshwater habitats for a forthcoming poetry anthology.  I hastily applied and thought it was an exciting opportunity to show case some of my
lino-prints.  There was an extensive list of birds to choose from and I chose to illustrate the Heron, Great-crested Grebe and Kingfisher.

Just before Christmas I heard that the book had been published, but unfortunately due to email address problems I had missed the launch party in London.  My disappointment was short-lived, as on Christmas Eve my best present arrived on the doorstep - 5 copies of the anthology !  Having not been involved in anything like this before I wasn't sure what the final result would be like, but I must say that I am absolutely thrilled.

Kirsten Irvine and Jon Stone at Sidekick books have done a wonderful job in compiling and publishing the book and Kirsten is also one of the contributing poets.  The artwork is all in monochrome and includes a variety of styles.  The book is very reasonable priced and futher information can be found at:


As another year comes to a close I wish everyone a happy, healthy and creative 2013. 
Thank you to everyone that follows my blog and it certainly inspires me when people show an interest in my artwork.  There are many artists out there that work away in their own homes, sometimes feeling quite isolated, they in turn get a lot of support from other artists that they may meet in art forums on Facebook or from other blogs, thank you to them too - you know who you are ! 

Thursday, 13 December 2012

A long awaited return to Staunton Country Park

The picture above was drawn a number of years ago now and it was fun to have a look at it again,  the sketch itself was completed in water-resistant pen with watercolour washes added afterwards.  But what does it have to do with visiting Staunton Country Park ?

As a younger artist and when I was very involved in a previous career, one of my favourite pastimes and forms of relaxation was to visit Staunton Country Park, which is located in Havant, Hampshire.  There are many areas to visit at Staunton - a walled garden, the country park, a farm and one of my favourite places a Victorian glasshouse.  There were many Sundays when I came and escaped there at all times of year and sat in the glasshouse sketching away and I am sure this is where my love of Orchids originated from.

My reason for visiting Staunton today was not to soley visit the glasshouse, but to view the rooms set aside for educational activities.  I met up with the lovely Kerry who is the Education and Community Manager for the park.  My friend Clare and I recieved a very warm welcome and a hot cup of tea on a cold but sunny winter's day.
Next year the Hampshire and IOW Wildlife Trust will be holding several of my art workshops at Staunton Country Park and the rooms we decided upon are light and airy with great character, in one of the buildings around the edge of the farmyard.
I am really looking forward to teaching at Staunton.  As like the HWT Nature Reserves where we normally hold workshops, there is so much to inspire artists interested in illustrating the natural world.  The first workshop held there will be on Saturday 23rd March 2013 and is entitled
 'A Brush with Nature'.  This workshop is always a popular one as it can cover a wide range of subject matter.  The places are filling up fast and it is only December !  If you are interested in coming along please book a place with the Hants & IOW Wildlife Trust by following this link:
Hopefully a further workshop will be taking place at Staunton in May 2013 on the theme of butterflies and moths - watch this space !
In the meantime, if you would like more information on Staunton Country Park why not visit their web page: or visit them on Facebook:
Back to our visit, after we finished the meeting we took the opportunity to re-explore the farm, walled garden and glasshouses. My mind is buzzing with ideas for artwork, but at the moment the following images will have to suffice and will give you a good idea of how wonderful this place is.
Piglets under a day old !

Part of the farmyard

The Fern room in the glasshouse

The Water-lilly pool

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

The liking of all things odd - galls !

I'm afraid not much painting has been taking place lately.  My botanical art course at Peter Symonds ACE in Winchester is going well and until the end of term I am also covering for another tutor on two other days - Watercolour and drawing for beginners and intermediates.  So I have had to thnk outside of my 'botanical box', never the less themes from the natural world are creeping in!  Today will be Autumnal subjects and mixed media, using torn natural paper and leaf skeletons, as well as some artificial gold leaf !

As some of you know, I am inclined to paint brown, dried and battered natural objects.  I seem to get drawn to these (excuse the pun !). 

Whilst tidying up my laptop the other day I came across a folder of images that had supposedly been lost for two years.  It was very exciting to find them again and there were numerous photos that my husband and I had both taken.  Amongst the images were some of galls that I found on an Oak tree when I was completing a hedgerow survey in my days as an Ecologist.  The painting urge began to stir and now I cannot wait to get pencil and brush to paper.

Central middle - Hedgehog gall Andricus lucidus
Central top - Andricus aries
Right - Marble gall Andricus kollari

But what is a gall ?

The best definition I could find comes from the book British Plant Galls - Identification of galls on plants and fungi, published by the Field Studies Council.

'A gall involves an intimate association between two organisms which is largely parasitic, the gall causer being the paprasite and the organism whose tissues form the gall being the host.  Normally most advantage passes to the gall causer.  The following definition is generally accepted, though it is narrower than some:

A gall is an abnormal growth produced by a plant or other host under the influence of another organism.  It involves enlargement and/or proliferation of host cells and provides both shelter and food or nutrients for the invading organism'.

So when time allows hopefully a painting will start to evolve using these images for reference.  In the meantime, here is a painting I did of a Knopper gall Andricus quercuscalicis  growing on an acorn.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

A passion for flowers - 'Passion Flowers'

Being a botanical artist I obviously have a passion for flowers as well as other botanical subjects.  Over the last few years I have concentrated on native wild plants, fungi and 'scraps of nature' as I call them.

Recently, I have been thinking about painting more exotic plants.  This motivation has come from spending time at RBGE and being fascinated by the plants in their glasshouses.  When I was there in July two Passion flowers were in bloom, and when I returned for the graduation a couple of weeks ago, another beauty was also 'showing off'.

Passiflora vitifolia

Passiflora alata x caerulea
Passiflora sp

Passiflora caerulea
The last two images are of a Passion flower growing in our garden.  We have totally re-landscaped our small garden, and one of the plants that I have always wanted to have is a Passion Flower.
I bought a small straggly specimen in the Spring and nurtured it back to health and now we have a wall completely covered with it, buds and blooms galore with just one fruit.
Perhaps this will have to be my next painting ?
In the meantime, I have started teaching a course and workshops at Peter Symonds College ACE in Winchester.  11 students have enrolled which is great and our first session seemed to go very well on Monday.  Teaching for just two hours each week is very different to teaching day-long workshops, but I am looking forward to enjoying the student's progression as we travel through the next 9 weeks.
I had finished the Quail's Eggs painting.  Some of you may have seen it on the 'Natures Details' Facebook page, but here it is again for those of you that haven't.
I now have a Facebook page devoted totally to my artwork - why not have a look ?

Happy painting !

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Flower, fern and ............... eggs!

A couple of weeks ago we had a relative visiting and we went to Meon Shore, which is the local beach overlooking the Solent towards the Isle of Wight.

Yellow Horned Poppy
It is the beach I go to the most, it is less built up than Lee-on-the-Solent and has a sense of wildness about it, especially in the evening and in the cooler months when it is virtually deserted.  The other bonus is that on the other side of the road bordering the beach is Titchfield Haven Nature Reserve, so there are often delights to spot there too.

The beach itself is shingle in nature and becomes more sandy when the tide is out.  I have often looked at the plants that occur along the beach and recognise some of the common species such as Sea Beet.  I have often wished that I would see one of my favourite plants - Yellow Horned Poppy.  I had seen it previously in Devon and I know it occurs further along the South coast towards Lepe.

As my cousin and I ambled along the beach at Meon there at my feet were a couple of plants of Yellow Horned Poppy.  I was thrilled to see them and to me the plant has such character, with elongated seed pods, bright yellow flowers and pale bristly leaves.  I didn't have my camera on me but above is a photograph of the said plant that I took at Slapton Sands in Devon.

Last week I spent some time at my friend's farm in Devon, near Tiverton.  When I got down there I realised how much wetter the weather had been in that part of the country.  A lot of the farmers have been affected in terms of crops and the quality of grazing for farm animals.  The vegetable garden on the farm has been affected too, with some crops not doing so well because of the damp conditions.

As usual, I went off exploring the lane next to the farm with the high hedgebanks and they were dense with foliage.  There were still a few Red campion in bloom and the Harts Tongue Ferms were pushing their way out between the other plants.  My attention was drawn to a frond that was deep under the other foliage and as I pulled it out I realised how long it was.  It was slightly darker too and not so yellowy green in colour, I presume because of the lack of light.

I decided that this was going to be my challenge for the week and I set to portraying this fine specimen onto paper.  The main colours that I used were Indanthrene blue and New Gamboge.  The left side of the frond had the sunlight shining through it and you could see the spore producing bodies through the leaf from the underside.  There were also small areas of decay that added to the character of the frond.

The finished painting
My punishment for sitting so long painting the fern, was a worsening of my neck condition, so much so that I couldn't drive myself home at the end of the week - husband to the rescue !

Now I am painting a much more manageable subject - Quail's eggs.  To me they are like little jewels, each one so different in colour and pattern.  A lovely friend who understands my need to paint 'quirky' natural subjects, gave me about 60, so I have now set to on the painting below.  The image shows the painting with the second washes on, next will be the fine details. 

Hopefully I will be able to keep the eggs intact and can create some more pictures from them.  Watch this space for progress on the painting above.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Fun with Vegetables and my Palette

Since coming home from Edinburgh I have felt really inspired and refreshed in my approach to watercolours.  I have been reviewing my palette even more (I started a few months ago) and as well as continuing to look at the transparency levels of the paints I use, I have also returned to using a restricted palette.

There were colours in the palette from the RBGE course that I liked, but there were a couple I wasn't so sure of.  Indigo (Winsor and Newton) I found particularly opaque and also very staining (Old Holland Indigo is transparent), whilst Permanent Alizarin Crimson is ok, but I really wanted to add a 'warm' red to the palette.  New Gamboge was a colour that I have liked from the course and it is a fantastic alternative to the cadmium yellows, as it is not opaque.  It is classed as a 'warm' yellow, but wasn't quite warm enough for me, so I have chosen one of my favourites, Quinacridone Gold.

So the colours that I have ended up with are all Winsor and Newton:

Permanent Rose - Cool
Perylene Maroon - Warm
Quinacridone Gold - Warm
Winsor Lemon - Cool
Indanthrene blue - Cool
French Ultramarine - Warm

I expect some of my Old Holland colours will creep in now and again, but for the moment I am really enjoying using these colours and feel that I am creating much 'fresher' washes with my new found awareness of transparency and colour temperature qualities.  Also, I will be using the colours once I start teaching again in September.  Below are the two colour wheels I created using these. 

My painting has been a bit restricted since I returned as I seem to have an ongoing neck problem, so can't sit in the same position painting for very long.  This has unfortunately meant that I have had to step away from the Seashore Life Illustration project that I was working on for the Wildlife Trust.  I really do hope that I can return to it in the future, but any comfortable painting time needs to be devoted to botanical art, as that is the main subject I will be teaching from September.

I have enjoyed working on a couple of small studies of vegetables.  I am down in Devon again on my friend's farm giving her some tuition time and have been exploring her polytunnel for little treasures to paint ! 

I painted the chilli first and tried desperately to maintain the highlights.  I persevered with it and didn't seem to lose them too much.  When I first put on the washes the white spaces for the highlights seem so severe and stark, it takes time to develop the painting and stepping away from it is always a good idea - bad neck or not !

The Borlotti beans were great fun to do.  I had always wanted to paint these beans after seeing them in Billy Showell's book (Fruit and Vegetable Portraits).  These specimens were not yet fully grown, but they still had the familiar variegated pattern over the green.  I used a lovely blue that I find creates some great realistic greens - Indanthrene blue and Winsor lemon for the green and used Permanent Rose for the patterning.

Base washes to add tone and form

The finished painting

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Home from Edinburgh and garden bat-watching !

The RBGE Cert in Botanical Illustration finished last Friday and I got back to good old Southampton on Saturday.

I would be lying if I said that I did not miss Edinburgh, or rather studying at the Botanics.  I gained so much from being with other artists (whatever level of experience) and just to be somewhere with so much history and opportunity for inspiration and reference was really valuable.
A florilegium from 1630
One of the highlights for me at the end of the first week was to see two Florilegiums.  One dating from the early 1600's and the other one from the present day - The Highgrove Florilegium.  The latter consisted of two volumes that included illustrations of the plants and flowers found growing in the garden of Prince Charles' home in Gloucestershire.  I had previously heard so much about this and had been longing to see some of the work in one form or another, and I certainly was not disappointed.  The reproduction and print quality  of the artwork was excellent. 

Viewing a volume of the Highgrove Florilegium
Back to the course.  At the end of our first week we were given our plant to look after during the weekend and if we wanted to, to start making some preparatory measured drawings.  We had 1 week to work on the final assessment piece, with the main composition being decided on the Monday. 

I must admit when I heard that the plant species we were all going to have was Cyclamen Persicum, my heart sank - it is not one of my favourite plants!  After the initial negative feelings I realised that we needed a plant that had plenty of subject matter, was not going to die on us during the week and also a plant that artists of any level of experience could illustrate.

We used all of the skills that we had practised and gained during the first week to complete this picture and we had a criteria to adhere to.  We had to illustrate a flower and the front and back of leaves.  Anything in addition was up to us.  The part of the planning process that I really did enjoy was making individual drawings, tracing them and then using the tracings on the lightbox to come up with an effective and viable composition.
I have not been a fan of tracing in the past as I feel you can sometimes lose the 'crispness' of the drawing.   I am an artist that likes to live dangerously and nine times out of ten I do draw my subject directly on to the watercolour paper !

I am including a few photos below, I'm afriad that there are too many to show them all, but I hope this will give you some idea of how the painting progressed.

Making a start
Stems completed - now onto the leaves
The leaves finished

Cross-section and fruit
Close-up of bud

The finished painting - Cyclamen Persicum
As I speak the portfolio and painting are being marked in Edinburgh, so hopefully by next week I should know how I did.

And now for bat news !

I had noticed that when I returned home we had some bat droppings on patio in a small area.  I wondered whether there were any bats roosting between the guttering and fascia board.  There was only one thing to do - get the bat detector out !

The droppings looked like Pipistrelle droppings, so we sat out just after sunset last night with the bat detector set at around the right frequency for Common Pipistrelles.  We had a few quiet passes of this species following the tree line behind our house, and then we had a really strong sound of Common Pipistrelle that must have emerged from near the place that I had originally thought they or it may have been roosting. 

This morning there were not any fresh bat droppings, but as the males can be quite transient in the summer months, we may only be providing a temporary roost.

There is something quite comforting about sitting out in your own back garden under a blanket and eating chocolate whilst listening for bats - a bit different from the bat surveys I used to do !