Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Latest work - A New Sampler

This is my latest project - a sampler for my boyfriend. It is to celebrate our first year together. The anniversary is on the 29th January, so I have really got to get going with this to get it completed and framed in time. I started it as soon as I got back from India and have made pretty good progress, but alas Christmas celebrations have slowed me down this week... I hope he likes it!


Detail of the border


The writing


Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Embroidery by Inky Leaves

When I am not painting, I enjoy sewing. For me, sewing helps my mind - the ducking and diving of the needle can be very meditative and the freedom of expression rejuvenates me. Botanical art can be tight work. Planning out the composition and mainting a freshness of a piece does require some creative thought, but the art of depicting a specimen accurately in a three dimenional way is labour intensive. It is of course important that one keeps a fresh feeling to every botanical study, and I try to do this by having frequent breaks. If I am not walking, I fill my breaks with sewing.

A lot of my work is based on pattern. I like repetition - it helps with the meditation. However, each piece is not planned -all of my sewing is created in the spur of the moment and is made by what I call 'free-style sewing'. I draw on my imagination and sew what I am feeling. I find this to be extremely liberating.

 Squares and Triangles, 2010




 Meine Mandlebrot #1 - work in progress

   Meine Mandlebrot #1 - close up

Meine Mandlebrot is a project I started in early 2012 and I am still working on it. It is intended that at the end of the project I will have made a series of sets, each as highly patterned as the other but consisting different colours and shapes. When I began the project I was interested in exploring patterns and looking more deeply into nature's code. The piece I am currently working on looks more like a motherboard than the traditional Mandlebrot Set, but I like the way that in essence it looks mathematical  - like a crop circle or a computer chip.


The embroideries below are commissions and take on quite a different appearance:

 Yogi Lion 

Yogi Lion - close up



Till and Lini Wedding Sample, 2012



The Lion and the Tea-Leaf, 2011



Jessie and Jesse Wedding Sampler, 2010

 'London Love' Wedding Sampler, 2014 (a work in progress)

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Our New Exhibition is Now Open

Me next to James Sowerby's (b.1757) Tulipa species.

Although I pretty much love all the paintings on show from the Kew Collection, there are a few paintings which inevitably stand out. Most of the ones that I like were painted by the East India Company School. There is something incredibly quirky about these paintings, and they seem to serve their purpose much more - they describe a plant and to act as an identification aid. Most (but not all) contemporary botanical art seems to have walked away from the eccentric side of things and is far more interested in showing a plant precisely and with beauty, and although some of these paintings are outstanding in their execution, the modern paintings tend to leave me gawping at the skill of the artist, rather than to smile. The old paintings make me smile. There is a pleasing innocence to these images which allows me to feel like I am talking to the artist.

So this painting here is by James Sowerby (1757-1822), one of my heroes. His name popped up many times while I was studying Sir James St. Aubyn at Plymouth Museum. He is responsible for illustrating many natural history collections, including some minerals from Sir John's collection. His colourfully illustrated books made natural history interesting to everyone in his day, and this Tulip is no exception. It is utterly beautiful in my eyes, and is anomalous in being one of my favourites in this exhibition, and not from a company school.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Nymphaea - my first print


I have just started a course to learn how to print... thought it might speed me up as I am still rediculously slow at drawing (after effect of a broken finger)... I am absolutely loving it. It has revolutionised my way of thinking and creating!

Friday, 12 March 2010



Aeroplanes over Kew
The roar of the engine
Flaps up
This one is landing
Somewhere near Heathrow


The whooshing of the wind
Squeezed air
Pushed in all directions
Not sure where to go


Great big wings
Casting shadows
In my back garden
Like mythical creatures
From a world we don’t yet know


Their presence ever there
Most hardly notice them
They’re part of the scenery
Invisible to all senses
Like the smell of ones own home


Friday, 5 March 2010

The owl and the pussy cat – re-worked

The Lion and the Jessie-monster went to London,
In a beautiful white transit van,
They took the Fleetfoxes, and plenty of boxes,
Wrapped up as part of their plan.
The Lion looked up at the diversion ahead,
And sang to a steering wheel,
'O lovely Jessie! O Jessie my love,
Where in the hell are we,
Are we?!
Are we?!
Where in the hell are we?!'

Jessie said to the feline, 'You are so fine!
How brilliantly you drive this vehicle!
O I’m sure we are near, your parents must be somewhere here,
So I hear you’re rather good on a cycle?'
They drove on and on, until they reached Barbara and John,
To the land where a big-tree grows
And there made out of wood, a viewing platform stood
Where the wind does gather and blows,
And blows,
And blows,
Where the wind does gather and blows.

Dear lion, are you keen, now you have had your caffeine
To drive?' Said the lion, 'I will.'
So they drove to Kew, under a sky not so blue,
Which gave them both such a huge thrill.
They drank cups of tea, and were very happy,
As they stirred their cups with a spoon;
And with her left hand, in her new land,
She unpacked in the light of the full moon,
Full moon,
Full moon,
She unpacked in the light of the full moon.

Poem about my move to Kew last weekend. It was a full moon, the A303 to Salisbury was closed and I still cannot use my right forefinger... Oh and the lion, well that's a long story involving the blue moon at New Years, the full moon last month and a lot of dancing - in the light of all these ripened moons!

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Mrs Delany and her Circle


Mary Delany

So, hidden in the back of the building were two rooms - one filled with beautiful potted plants and another which was so cleverly designed (from a exhibitions/museum-point-of-view) that I was rather impressed. The museum is a small space you see, so to get an exhibition inside it would have required a lot of planning, and I admire the amount of careful thinking that has obviously gone into this exhibition.

I am not going to tell you what it is all about, as that would spoil the trip. However, it is a marvellous sight. There is a fascinating balance between text and object all around the room so that one could never get bored. There are 18th century tools, a large selection of Mrs. Delany's embroidery's (which are stunningly beautiful) and a series of her sketches, paper collages and letters.

She was born at Coulston, Wiltshire, a niece of the 1st Lord Lansdowne. In February 1718 she was unhappily married to Alexander Pendarves, a wealthy Cornish landowner considerably her senior, who died in 1724. Interestingly, Pendarves was good friends with Sir Jon St. Aubyn, and so it is very likely that the two families would have known eachother very well indeed.

Anyway, during a visit to Ireland she met Jonathan Swift and his close friend, the Irish cleric, Patrick Delany, whom she married in 1743. After his death in 1768 she passed all her summers with her intimate friend the Dowager Duchess of Portland, who introduced her to George III and Queen Charlotte.

In 1771, Delany began to create cut out paper artworks (decoupage) as was the fashion for ladies of the court. Her works were exceptionally detailed and botanically accurate depictions of plants. She used tissue paper and hand colouration to produce these pieces. She created 1,700 of these works, calling them her "Paper Mosaiks".





This is a fabulous exhibition which has been put together by Sir John Soane's Musuem and the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven. It is even accompanied by a major publication Mary Delany and her Circle published by the Soane and the Yale Center for British Art. I ended up purchasing the book... I couldn't help it. I am supposed to be cutting down on the book-front after moving them all for a billionth time and realising that I have far too many (they actually reach the ceiling in my new room).


The exhibition runs until the 1st May...

Sunday, 28 February 2010

Moving House...

Today I woke up to an empty room... great big white walls all around me. Everything new. I am moving house today, from Plymouth to Kew. All my things are in their designated boxes in the back of a transit van waiting to be driven along the yellow brick road to the Emerald City. I am very very excited, but also rather apprehensive.


So, in case you don't know why I am moving house with a broken finger (yes, it still has not healed, although the wire was removed on Wednesday), it is because I was fortunate enough to be offered a job to work in the Shirley Sherwood and Marianne North Galleries at the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew! I was interviewed last month and was lucky enough to be offered the job. Which means for the foreseeable future I will be working as an attendant in the gallery spaces, helping to keep the galleries safe, clean, accessible and friendly. Hopefully, every now and then I will also be involved in planning new botanical illustration exhibitions and in setting them up. What fun!

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Taxus Baccata

A Yew tree (Taxus baccata) - acrylic on canvas, for my landlord and good friend Rik Faris, as I prepare to move to Kew...

More on why I am moving to Kew tomorrow...

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Chrysanthemums for Isabella

Here's the latest... Chrysanthemums for baby Isabella. Not yet finished, but slowly getting there... This is my first try at a water colour since 'the incident'. Water colour paints are very difficult to use without the finger, it has to be said!

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Lion Tulips


Just finished another drawing... this is for a friend of mine in Edinburgh who asked me to do a pen and ink before Christmas. Seriously delayed commission, which was not helped by the finger incident. I recieved these tulips last weekend :-) - they are a lovely yellow and slightly ragged round the edges, like little lion manes on green stalks.
I found this drawing especially difficult, as I discovered soon after starting it that my finger incident prevents me from doing long sweeping lines, which is rather necessary for the leaves of a Tulip. This problem was solved by rotating the paper, but this is something I hate doing. One can loose perspective on what they are actually drawing and then you start to niggle on the smaller details rather than on the whole composition. This is a constant battle for botanical illustrators, but as this piece was never meant to be an accurate one, I knew I shouldn't concentrate too much on the detail. I was commissioned to draw something that I liked, that meant something to me and to draw it in the way I like to - which is to use a lot of hatching and to be free on the paper. Hope my friends like it...

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Illustration Career on Hold


Had a bit of an accident on Friday 15th whilst setting up my St. Aubyn exhibition... long story involving a fire door, its hinge and my right forefinger. After much drama, my finger now looks like this (above) with a piece of wire sticking out of it. Over the past few days I have certainly learnt why pulling finger nails can be used as an effective torture technique - its agony! Anyway, my mother knew how bad this was all going to be for me this week, as she too has had a finger injury involving a 6cm splinter, her nail and her ring finger. So luckily for me, she dropped everything in Sussex and went to look after me in Plymouth.
Full accounts of this weeks story are on my mums blog. Guess the painting is on hold for now...!

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Ta Ta For Now Sir John

Sir John St. Aubyn © St. Michael's Mount Collection

It is my last day at Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery on Thursday, and I am getting ready to leave all my 18th Century friends behind in the museum stores. It's a sad time, but it has been an amazing two years worth of work. I cleared my desk today, and filed the last pieces of paper. I have managed to accumulate 10 fat lever-arch files with all my research - you should have seen my managers face when I had to pass everything onto him. I know how he feels - rather how I felt two years ago - overwhelmed!

Anyway, its bye bye Sir John, bye bye Juliana Vinicombe, and bye bye to Count Jacques Louis de Bournon curator of King Louis XVIII's cabinet de mineraux, Dr. William Babington of Guy's Hospital, Dr. James Edward Smith founder and president of the Linnean Society, John Stackhouse of Cornwall, James Dickson of Kennedy and Lee's Nursery in London, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles Greville of Paddington Green, Emma Lyon, Napoleon Boneparte, John Stuart the 3rd Earl of Bute and Prime Minister of Great Britain, Sir Abraham Hume of Wormley Bury, James Hutton of Edinburgh, Sir Joshua Reynolds of Plympton in Devon, Dr. John MacCulloch of Edinburgh who died tragically during his honeymoon after being draged by the wheel of his cart, James Hutton Balfour Keeper of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, Martha Nicholls of Ludgvan and Sir John's mistress, Dr. William Hunter the physian to Queen Charlotte, John Opie of Trevellas in Cornwall and John Prideaux of East Street in Plymouth...

... who all had a part to play in this epic story.

Monday, 4 January 2010

My Ginkgo Girl Present

Here is my Christmas present from my mother - isn't it great?! Look it fits perfectly! The gun box is one of my salvages from a museum store a few years back. Not sure what I am going to use the box for yet - ideas are welcome. It is a bit smelly though, because it used to contain butterflies and the collector put naphthalene inside. The naphthalene stops other 'pest' insects eating the pretty insects which collectors want to keep.