Saturday, 31 December 2011

Polly's Progress

Polly the Plymouth Strawberry

So after a four day Christmas break I am back on Polly. I did a lot of sewing over the holiday and it has to be said that I really enjoyed doing something different! However, with a deadline looming I have to get cracking on with this diploma portfolio. I started work in the morning, but it didn't go very well so I did a blogpost about what's happening in the Shirley Sherwood Gallery over Spring time instead. Then I returned to Polly - still the same problems - no flow. It always seems to take me hours to get back 'into' a painting and I have been so tired lately that my body feels like it would rather just sit down and watch a film. 

I had a long bath. Which was delightful. Then I picked up a brush and felt like I wasn't making much progress again!

I went to watch Jane Eyre on the television which is my favourite story of all time. That I enjoyed, with a nice pot of loose tea, and before it finished, at 3pm, I finally felt like I could paint. I cut the programe short and went upstairs. I did an intense two hours and then went back down to watch Downton Abbey's Christmas special when my neck began to hurt. Then I sat for another intense two hours painting Polly. 

Finally going to bed at about midnight!

Polly's roots

It is very frustrating when this happens. It isn't procastination, more like an emotional energy, which I need before I can tap into any creative thought. I need to be stirred by something. That certain something Jane Eyre and Downton Abbey had (Jane Eyre more so). I wish I could get up and just get on with it like I did with the 2011 Grapes and Sally, but it isn't working becuase I am currently very stressed about the looming deadline and how little time I have. I realise the deadline is in March, but I have counted that I have only 19 full days off between now and then. Madness.

You simply cannot rush these things. It usually takes me 10 days (of 8-12 hour days) to do one.

So, I will keep you informed, but I am really starting to feel the strain. I may call Pam this week to explain the situation. I also have to somehow 'create' a sketchbook as well. With time so short over the past two years, I just worked straight onto the paper with no sketchbook work. Risky, but I like a risk.

Friday, 30 December 2011

Dates for the exhibitions at the SSGOBA

  Herbarium Painting by Rachel Pedder-Smith ©

I thought, with a lot of you trying to organise your trips to London during the SBA exhibitions in April that it would be useful to point out what is on and what isn't in the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art this Spring. We are actually having a major re-refurbishment during that time, to prepare ourselves for the David Nash exhibition which starts in June. This is unfortunate, but there is the Marianne North Gallery and bits of the SSGOBA will be half open showing all sorts of work. This includes the extraordinary piece by Rachel Pedder-Smith. Rachel, for the past three years or so has been painting specimens from the herbarium at Kew for her PhD at the Royal College of Art, London. She has just finished it and the 533cm long piece will be on show from the 31st March until the 7th May. Yes, it's over 5m long! I think this is the best bet for all those travelling to the SBA exhibition 'Botanical Celebration' in April 2012. I have seen this painting in the flesh and it is something to marvel at. I am not keen on Rachel's work if I am honest. I didn't like the piece showing for the Watercolour exhibition at the Tate Britain. However I LOVE this herbarium painting. There is something very beautiful about it. It is less cluttered I think, and that is what I like.

  Herbarium Painting by Rachel Pedder-Smith ©

I realise the Kew website is not up to date yet and this is partly my fault, but I am waiting for some text and images. So, to give you a bit more info, I have copied and pasted the text that's going into the Kew Magazine. Please note that these dates can move if anything unexpected occurs and so it is good practise to phone the gallery on 020 8332 3622 before visiting.


Exhibitions at the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art
Open daily from 9.30, no extra charge

Galleries 5 & 6 until 9 April 2012
The last opportunity to see Plants in Peril  – paintings of endangered plants 

 Encephalartos woodii, Leslie Carol Berge ©. Extinct in the wild

Galleries 2, 3, 4 until 9 April 2012
Celebrating the life and work of Sir Joseph Hooker, Director of Kew from 1865 until 1885

Rhododendron hookeri by Joseph Dalton Hooker, RBG Kew ©

Gallery 1 from 31 March until 7 May 2012

   Herbarium Painting by Rachel Pedder-Smith ©

Gallery 6 from 5 May until 14 April 2013

 Leaves by Brigid Edwards ©

Galleries 1,2,3,4, 5 from 9 June until April 2013 ( NB there will be a re-fresh of this exhibition in October to include new work produced at Kew)
David Nash

David Nash ©
Open daily from 9.30 am, no extra charge
See all of Marianne North’s original paintings in their full glory, after two years of painstaking conservation work.

Painted by Marianne North. RBG Kew ©

Please note that between the second half of March to June some areas of the gallery will be temporarily closed for exhibition installation. Please check the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art web pages, or tel: 020 8332 3622 for further details.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

A drawing of the Plymouth Strawberry from 1765 
in one of Duschene's books...

Not the most accurate of drawings, but you certainly get the idea of what this strawberry is all about!
Polly's Progress

I have started using my new watercolour paints for this painting... I am finding it rather tricky, as I am not used to them at all. However, I do feel that this paint does look a lot fresher using a tube rather than a pan. It's nice being able to mix lots of colour at once as well. When I had only pans I used to run-out of mixed colour all the time, which was very annoying as you can never really get exact mix again.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Introducing the Polly the Plymouth Strawberry!

This is the plant I am studying for my next piece. Polly, or Fragaria vesca var. muricata, is from the damp deciduous woodlands of Plymouth in Devon. The Plymouth area is home to many rare, local and unusual plant species (Pyrus cordata, Carduus pycnocephalus, Silene vulgaris ssp vulgaris to name a few), but the Plymouth Strawberry is the strangest. It's like a common wild strawberry, but not so tasty. It's flowers don't have any pure white petals and it's fruit isn't really a tasty summer treat. Due what I think is a naturally occurring genetic mutation, all of the floral parts have reverted to leaves (green leafy flowers) and the fruits are covered in green spines. Petals, anthers and sepals were after all leaves originally - before Angiosperms evolved. So I have come to the conclusion that certain genes have been switched off in this subspecies, making this plant revert to an archetype which unfortunately makes it infertile at the same time.

The Plymouth Strawberry

The original plant was found a few centuries back by the famous plantsman John Tradescant, who rescued it from the clutches of a child who wanted to burnt it, thinking it was the Devil's fruit. Tradescant subsequently placed its progeny in every botanical garden in Europe, where it slowly died out un-noticed. There are few publications which refer to this species, and a massive gap in the reference section after Linneaus and Duschene, until 1962 when it was published by a chap called Staudt as being extinct. Probably a result of it's sterility and massive habitat destruction in the city area.

If we fast forward a few hundred years, we come to 2007, when a couple of botany students at Plymouth University (one of which was me) wondered whatever became of the Plymouth Strawberry. The original site has long since succumbed to the sea of concrete and grey stone that is Plymouth city and no live plants could be found in any botanic gardens. Fortunately we found a few colonies which have survived the years in private gardens, mainly in the Plympton and Tavistock area. We managed to obtain some of the plants and propagated them...

Currently, myself and my friend are trying to increase the prevalence of this local variety in Plymouth. Back in October 2009, we planted 50 plants in eight secret sites throughout the city and its remaining wooded areas. It was surprisingly difficult to find suitable sites, but we were confident that at least some would thrive.

A quick sketch of mine


Prudence Leith Ross,
'The John Tradescants - Gardeners to the Rose and Lily Queen', Peter Owen Publishers, London, 1984

John Gilbert Baker,
'Flora of Plymouth', William Bredon and Son, 1880, London

G. Staudt, (1962),
'Revision of Fragaria', Candaian Journal of Botany, Vol. 40. No. 6. pages 864-886.

Herbal, ed. Johnson, op. cit. pg 998

John Parkinson, (1629), 'Paradisi in Sole Paradisus Terrestris'

Thursday, 15 December 2011

New paints means new colour cards...

All of my colour charts... mixture of paint brands

My new Winsor and Newton paints

Prussian Blue, Winsor Violet, Ultramarine Violet, Cobalt Violet, Rose Dore, Potter's Pink, Winsor Green, Coblat Turquoise, Davy's Gray, Green Gold and Transparent Yellow.
Boris is getting his flowers

 Close up of the flower head in bud

 The piece as a whole

Close up of the flowers

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Pen and Ink

This is simply an amazing video. In the world of botanical art, most scientists like their artists to draw plates in pen and ink using dots. Shading in dots reduces the confusion because a line in hatching could represent an outline or a gash rather than tonal variation. Stella Ross-Craig is one of the few botanical artists who got away with hatching (below). 

Nymphaea sp. by Stella Ross-Craig

Primula sp. by Stella Ross-Craig

Here is a dotted example by Lesley Randall (below). This is what is deemed as a more acceptable representation, but it is a real pain to do! I remember drawing 19 plates of Araucaria species for the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh and all those dots nearly drove me crazy!

Aristolochia gigantea by Lesley Randall
(Margaret Flockton Award First Prize 2007)

Margaret Flockton, Botanical Illustrator  For the National Herbarium at Sydney’s Botanic Gardens

Which reminds me that the Margaret Flockton Award is ack on! Deadline is the 6th February 2012 for all those interested in submitting...

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Marianne North prints are now available 
for sale online

After a much anticipated wait, I can now say that a selection of Marianne North Prints are now available online. They aren't on the Kew website yet, but can be ordered from Magnolia Box directly. Magnolia Box do prints for a lot of institutions, including the Natural History Museum and the National Portrait Gallery. Happy shopping!

They start on page 4... flick through the pages to find more.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Boris the Brocolli 
He's a pretty little thing with primrose-coloured yellow flowers

Friday, 2 December 2011

Boris the Broccolli

Otherwise known as: Brassica oleracea L. convar. botrytis (L.) Alef. var. cymosa Duch. 

So this is what I have done so far on Boris. He is very tricky. This is just a trial run really because I felt I had the time, but maybe I don't?! The leaves are so dark, I think many layers of paint are required for Boris, which means time. I do love doing Brassica leaves. Maybe if this isn't to my satisfaction I can quickly do a pencil study last minute.

The greens need a lot of purple in them. As I have a limited palette of 25 Daler Rowney colours, I am using Mauve. The rest of the green is made of Gamhodge Yellow, Phathlo Blue and in places there is Lamp Black and Ultra Marine. I have used a limited palette all my life, and though out the course, but I hope to get a few new watercolours for my birthday from my daddy, who I am seeing this weekend. Ideally I want colours that you can't really achieve in a mix. I'd be really grateful if anyone could let me know of which colours would be best in the comments box, as I have never bought my own watercolours (I inherit them). I am guessing Windsor and Newton are the most preferred as they are easily available.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

 My New Skin for Jess-Pod

I got a fabulous birthday present from my mum and step-dad Andrew... yep, an i-pod! It is officially amazing. I have wanted an MP3 player for a long, long time. I am slowly going through my CD collection and loading everything up onto i-tunes. Last night Henry understood why I had wanted an MP3 player for so long, becuase I think he thought I was getting to the end of loading up all my CD's after 3 boxes of them, but alas, another box from on top of my wardrobe came down for entry... It's a never ending task!

So here is my gelaskin... I have loaded it up here becuase you may recognise the pattern - Yep, it has been made using one of my paintings (number 2)... I am so pleased with it. Sadly, it isn't a great photograph, but it's really green and lush. I almost loaded the grapes, which looked very cool, but the Ginkgo is far more me. 

Anyone who has artwork, and a device, be it a kindle or a touch or a pod, I highly recommend 'making your own' - there is an option to do this.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Beautiful gift cards and prints from 
Flat Flower Cards

I really like these. I used to make a lot of pressed flower cards, but wish I came up with the idea of scanning them in first!

Thursday, 17 November 2011

I was burning the midnight oil last night

SBA Assignment 12 (Climbing Plants): 9.00/10

So I went to bed at 1am this morning... still not finished! I will be working on this little beast of a project tonight, so it will have to be sent by recorded delivery tomorrow morning. I have been working on getting the two bottom passion flowers - trying to get them to leap off the page (REALLY DIFFICULT!). With them being so pale, they naturally recede into the paper. I am really happy with the shadow on the left flower around the right below the stigmas. It seems to work well.

This bit above needs more work - the last touches

I can't even begin to describe to you how tired from working. Keeping a full time job on the go as well is now becoming very tricky indeed. It was not bad to begin with, but I am beginning to become concerned with regard to my portfolio pieces ... I have to do one a month on average.

It's been really lovely seeing more comments on my blog recently. It's always good to hear what people have to say - good or bad. Thank you!

I hope my next post will be about this beauty being put in the post!

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

A nice little piece I saw in the Stylist Magazine today

I love the detail, the relief work and of course the fact that it is in pen and ink - my favourite!

Monday, 14 November 2011

A bit more work - almost complete!

Another day in my bedroom studio and a few more layter sof paint have been added. I have no idea why this painting is taking so long.. I am guessing it is beucase of all the different shapes and colours which are slowing me down. I am desperate to get my tonal variation right this time around, so am trying to get the layers really deep as well. Just got Thursday night left on this and then I'll post it on Friday morning... Missed yoga tonight, and am feeling pretty ill with a nasty bug, so I hope I get a good mark!

Friday, 11 November 2011

And another 12 hours, although you wouldn't think it... 

... you have to look carefully for the changes. It is like 'spot the difference'!

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Phaseolus and Lonicera being painted in...

On Thursday, my last day in Spain, I managed to squeeze in a few more hours of painting and put down the first layers of paint for my runner bean and honeysuckle flowers. I have a lot of work to do though and only 2 days off to do them in, so I will be working in the evenings to get this completed in time. I am enjoying it though.

Back in London this weekend, and straight into work in the gallery. They have just finished putting all the Joseph Hooker paintings on the walls, so we are now only waiting for the lighting to be done and the vinyl text and labels. The exhibition opens on the 12th - can't wait. It's an interesting exhibtion because it is biographical, and we haven't had one like that yet. Lots of photographs and examples of Walter Hood Fitch's work.

Off to Hattie's tonight in Manor House, London. She is designing a set stage for her party next week and the theme is 'The Botanical Garden and the Mad Scientist'. I think I will be painting some more plants - but in a rather different way - I am thinking BIG here. She lives in a type of communal warehouse - very cool. It's a big open space with hand crafted furniture and circular doors made by her house mate, Aidy.

Will post some images when it's all done!

I hope these images look ok. I am currently getting to grips with a new camera which I have called Io, and in using photoshop...

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Not sure how many hours into this I am now...!

Another day in and I feel like I am making good progress. I am very pleased now that I have chosen to compose this differently, and stayed away from doing a portrait view with all the stems meeting at the bottom. With the climbing plants coming from the side I feel a little more 'free'. I have completed the unfurling bud on the far right which was pretty tricky! Being in Spain has really helped me relax and get into the zone! I am a little anxious about how I may be when back in London this weekend... It's time to start getting a bit more real and serious until March, when I complete the course, and I am concerned how well it is going to go with my full time job.

Eyes down look in...!

Monday, 31 October 2011

Working from Spain

So I am currently in Spain! Seeing my mum and step dad for a little break. It was my birthday not long ago too, so I had a really great time! My mum had baked me a chocolate birthday cake!

Just been on a walk and saw some beautiful alpine plants up in the resinera close to mum's village. It's very beautiful here.  All the Poplars have just turned the most golden yellow and the people here have just made a new botanically themed walk with lots of plant labels. What's so odd is there isn't a soul in sight - so quiet.

I am finding it tricky doing this illustration, only becuase I am worried that it isn't what the assessors are looking for. But I am going to have to carry on with it now. The leaves are such hard work! Even at this stage of the course. I am really trying to get my tones right though, as i am still loosing marks with this aspect of my painting style... and this is an ideal subject to get my tones sorted out. 

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Climbing Plants

Here is a glimpse of my latest piece of work  - an array of climbing plants (Passiflora, Phaseolus, Lonicera and Hedera.  I wanted to paint something with tendrils this season and the Passionflower just spoke out to me when I walked past it a few weeks back. I had been on a long walk, 'ransacking' florists and gardens to little avail, and then I found Perdita on my return leg, scrambling over a wall only a few minutes from my house. I thought: 'what luck'! 

What I really wanted to do with this painting is to she if I can have a composition like this one, and get away with it. I like the way it looks like a herbarium specimen - but I am also conscious of the fact that I don't want it to look too flat. 

So here are my first washes: