Tuesday, 31 December 2013

So with a bucket of Pakoras and a bottle of Champers

So we are almost at the end of 2013 and what a year it has been. If I remember correctly, I started the year in good spirits, and, I am glad to say, that against all odds I am ending it much the same way. However, it hasn't all been rosy.

Towards the end of 2012 I decided that I was going to get a drawing board and started clearing out my little room at Kew so I could accommodate one. No sooner had I embarked on this plan when my landlady decided to put my rent up. It was more than I could really afford. Simultaneously, a room came up at Henry's house on the other side of London. Being a great believer in serendipity, I took the room and moved in with Henry - about time, we had been dating for three years!

Along came February (please don't worry this isn't going to be a month by month review of 2013), and Henry, who had been getting steadily poorly was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. He had lost several stone in weight, his hair was falling out, he wasn't sleeping and he smelt of pear drops. As a biologist I should have twigged what was going on sooner. So to cut a long story short, this news gave way to a hellish Spring and Summer. Spring never spung - it was the winter that never ended. I had runner beans taking over my studio, eagerly awaiting to be planted out. If it wasn't for Drew my drawing board and the spectacular Rory McEwen Show, I probably would have pulled all my hair out with the drama that was turning out to be my life in 2013.

I made a decision towards the end of 2012, after a failed PhD application to Royal Holloway, that I would concentrate more on my artwork and paint bigger subjects. I like to think I achieved this in 2013. I was, however, tempted by another PhD that came up at Edinburgh University in July. I think I can safely say that this little sod of an application took the life out of me. I spent much of July's heatwave studying in the library at the Wellcome Trust, soaking up as much information as I could about the history of science. After my interview I had to make a dash to Germany for a wedding. Those 4 days were nuts. I didn't get offered the place and to this day I felt like the whole thing was an absolute waste of my time. It felt like they were only interviewing me to tick a box. The experience was not only exhausting but also very expensive.

So anyway, after a few more months I then hit rock bottom. I am sure many of you have noticed how scanty my posts have become of late. After I turned 29 I hit a force 9 wind which blew me miles away to a distant land. I felt lost and even more exhausted than I was in July. I had lost a stone and a half in weight and hadn't slept properly in days. Henry and I almost broke up and we are still teetering around the edge.

Life is tough, but I know that I am not alone in my battles. I have lots of friends who are very poorly at the moment, including Henry. Friends who are even more lost and I find myself finishing this year with the mindset that it is my duty to not only encourage and inspire the people around me but to do the things that I want to do and to not feel defeated in any shape or form.

So with a bucket of Pakoras and a bottle of Champers, Henry and I are off to the south coast for New Years Eve with my family. Let's draw a line under unlucky 2013 and learn from it. My lesson - that my health is the most important thing. This is what I take into 2014, that and another one of those PhD applications, my membership to the Chelsea Physic Garden Florilegium and of course Cosmo.

They say when times are tough the only way is up. I disagree - I am doing an awesome job of spreading. When times are tough it's good to lie down like a snow angel, arms out stretched, ready to give and ready to receive.

Wishing you all a very Happy New Year and a magical, stretchy 2014.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Exhibition 'Botanical Art in the 21st Century' opens 8 February 2014

Paintings of roses by Regine Hagedorn
The Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art will be kicking off 2014 with a new exhibition of paintings from the Shirley Sherwood Collection. There will be work from several Italian artists who have never exhibited in the UK before. There will also be a series of paintings from the new book 'Overleaf' by Susan Ogilvy.

This new exhibition, ‘Botanical Art in the 21st Century’, will celebrate the remarkable, worldwide renaissance of botanical art today. Recently acquired works in the Shirley Sherwood Collection will illustrate both traditional and new painting techniques. The exhibition will demonstrate the breadth and depth of botanical art, where fresh approaches and technical advances are changing the idea of what botanical art is about.

‘Botanical Art in the 21st Century’ is a modification of an exhibition mounted last year in Pisa, Italy, in the Museo della Grafica, called ‘Botanical Art into the Third Millennium’. Alongside the Shirley Sherwood Collection there will be a selection of recent works by Italian artists on display, some of which were painted specially for the Pisa show and many have never been exhibited in the UK before.

Many areas of botanical art are undergoing exciting changes and this new exhibition aims to showcase how exciting the future is for botanical art.

The other exhibition in the gallery, 'Overleaf' features a selection of paintings by award-winning botanical artist Susan Ogilvy. Each painting delicately depicts a range of leaves, selected from trees across the temperate regions of Europe and North America.. The display is designed to accompany the book of the same name, Overleaf, by Richard Ogilvy and Susan Ogilvy, which is published by Kew.

The Overleaf display will also open on 8 February 2014 and run until 10 August 2014.

Exhibition 'Magnolias' at the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art, Kew

This selling exhibition will provide visitors to Kew with the rare opportunity to see the extraordinary paintings of Magnolias by Barbara Oozeerally.

Magnolia sieboldii subsp. by Barbara Oozeerally

In 2005 Barbara embarked on a nine year project to produce over 150 paintings of magnolias, both species and hybrids. She travelled widely in England and Europe, working closely with owners of gardens, head gardeners and magnolia experts. All the paintings are life size: every bud, flower, branch, leaf and seed head measured, sketched and colour sample taken in situ with many paintings requiring long research and many weeks to finish. Dr Shirley Sherwood describes them as ‘an extraordinary series of important and beautiful plants’.

Magnolia glabosa by Barbara Oozeerally

Magnolia x soulangeana “Brozzonii” by Barbara Oozeerally

These paintings will also be published in an extensively illustrated book, entitled Magnolias in Art and Cultivation, authored by Barbara, Jim Gardiner and Stephen A. Spongberg. The book will be published by Kew Publishing in association with the Royal Horticultural Society and will contain not only well-known and loved magnolias, but also some that are very unusual and less familiar.

Seedhead of Magnolia 'Pegasus' by Barbara Oozeerally
For more information, such as opening times, please visit the Kew website.

The price list for Barbara's paintings can be seen here

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Fcuking Fecundus

Work in progress... Pinus ponderosa cone in sepia ink.

Thinking of adding some zing on this 22 incher, but need to sleep on it before I act. It's either going to have some gold, or blood red, or lapis blue. Or all three. Currently toying with the idea of finger prints. Whatever happens, this cone is not just a cone, it's a fertility bomb brimming with power.

n.b. Spelling error has been put in place in title so that Google doesn't through me out.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

At the Seaside, by the Sea

On Sunday, I decided to run away from the Big Smoke and spend some of my holiday at the seaside - in true British style! It is so lovely down here... The pace of life is so much slower and its quiet. The sun has been out nearly everyday and it's very beautiful. The sun glistening on the lapping waves, no wind and all that fresh air. On Monday night we had a storm and the following day I decided to have a walk along the tide mark and go for a paddle. There were so many beautiful seaweeds there, covering nearly every colour of the spectrum in an array of shapes and sizes. They'd make such beautiful subjects to paint, especially when wet and shiny. The way the light dances on them is really rather beautiful and I felt that it would be a good challenge to this depict accurately. Just think of all those reflections!

Anyway, I had a look online and found this lovely collection of seaweeds which I felt accurately portrayed the diversity of form found in this group of 'mystical' flora. I rather like them all as a collection and thought I'd share them with you.


Thursday, 7 November 2013

The Pop-up Botanical Art Studio

So nowadays we get pop-up cafes, pop-up galleries and pop-up shops or pop-up anything really. Life has become nomadic, ever 'on the move'. Forget your diary? No worries, we have an app for that. Forget your i-pod? No worries, everything is synced.  Businesses take advantage of niches, of disused spaces and holes. With this in mind, I have jumped on the band waggon and am calling my Kew studio my 'pop-up studio'. So what's been happening in the pop-up studio I hear you ask? Well I am still busy painting the third Tulip painting in a collection I have made of Tulips. Why are you doing this? - I hear you ponder... Well, I am doing this mainly to practice my techniques. I am trying to master my watercolours and these Tulips are so very different from leaves, and from Cos, that they are a welcome break from what happens in 'The Studio'... I also find them technically challenging with all their changes in colour, their highlights, reflected light and their shadows.

Tulip 'Reduced to Clear' - work in progress
Oddly, when I stared this collection of paintings I just jumped in and did them, because they were something I found to be rather beautiful on that sunny day I spent in Chelsea Physic Garden in May 2012. And it wasn't until after getting under way with two of the pieces that I noticed I had made a bit of a mistake on them. The first one - 'Buy One Get One Free' I really didn't think about the composition and dived in. Only to notice that I had painted two flowers on one stem. Putting the other stem in would have ruined it and I rather liked the oddness of it. Botanical surrealism - or call it what you will. I have therefore titled it 'Buy One Get One Free' because I love supermarket gimmicks.

Close up on 'Buy One Get One Free' - place where the two flowers meet
The second painting 'Buy Three for the Price of Two', where there are three in a row, is still not finished... this doesn't have any mistakes (yet).

Tulips 'Buy Three for the Price of Two' - work in progress

The one I am currently working on is called 'Reduced to Clear'. Again - getting way too enthralled in the heat of the sun I didn't realise that what I was sketching was a mutant... too many petals on this bad boy! So yes - bad stock and thus it is 'Reduced to Clear'.

'Tulip 'Reduced to Clear' - work in progress

Whilst painting the Tulips and the Lettuce there is one question that has really stuck in my mind and that is how I much am I consciously painting in the reflected light? With the lettuce it isn't too tricky, but with the Tulips it is. A lot of the reflected light is blue, green or pale indigo. Quite remarkable really - it makes the whole thing almost look like a rainbow when you add it in with the predominant colours of yellow, orange and red. I have been doing a bit of reading on reflected light and I found these articles in case any one is interested. I don't subscribe to any magazines or own any how to books, so I am really learning as I am going...
Subtleties of Light by Jane Jones
Understanding how Reflected light works by Christopher Schink 

On another note - a nice bit of reading about some rare watercolours depicting English varieties of fruit trees at the Ashmolean Museum can be found here.  I particularly like the bit about the astrological signs on the sheets - very unusual and something I'd love to do with my own work being an advocate of astrology. 

 Painting of the Great Roman Hazel Nut with a red squirrel and frog below

"Little astrological signs can be detected on some of the pictures. A cherry which ripened on June 10 has the sign for Gemini beside it. A Morocco plum which ripened on July 15 is accompanied by the sign of Mercury. Astrology was important to the pictures’ owner."

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Little Gem Lettuce

Little Gem Lettuce - work in progress - watercolour on paper
So here is the lettuce... It's definitely coming along (although it often feels like it isn't) and all those wintry days indoors appear to be paying off. 

Yesterday, I was working on the paler bits at the bottom. I find that the white bits are the hardest to paint because it is tricky to show the highlights when you have hardly any colour on the rest of the bump if you get my drift. Shiny white things are a nightmare. Still, it seems to be going well considering! This is still probably one of the most technically challenging paintings I have done and I am no where near completion. So many greens and whites and yellows and pinks with all the undulations and changing textures. The veins are pretty difficult too - they look translucent and watery on the real lettuce and it's really hard to capture that. Interestingly, I am finding  that I am bringing more of the things that I learnt after painting 2011 Grapes to this particular piece than I am from what I learnt on Sally the Savoy. I think it's because of the translucency of this particular subject, the displaced highlights and all the bumps and shadows. Who would have thought that a lettuce would have more in common with a bunch of grapes than a cabbage? Well there you go... you learn something everyday!

The Romance of Kew

Wondering around the bookshelves of our house I stumbled upon this little gem: 'The Romance of Kew'...

Map of Kew Gardens
Map of Kew Gardens

Lotus Flower
Wood cut of a Lotus Flower growing at Kew Gardens

Wood cut of Kew Gardens by Lalande Patteson

Ginkgo biloba leaves

Maidenhair Tree at Kew Gardens

Friday, 1 November 2013

Form and Process at The Gallery

An exhibition of new paintings by Piers Ottey
at The Gallery, Redchurch Street, London, E2
from 29 October to 10 November


Family friend, Piers Ottey, is currently exhibiting his new work in conjunction with Zimmer Stewart Gallery at 50 Redchurch Street, London, E2 - in the heart of Shoreditch's edgy art scene.

 Ghurka Bridge

If you are in the area, or fancy a night out with a difference, I can strongly recommend popping into The Gallery to see Piers' latest work. As the title of the exhibition suggests, the artworks to be shown will demonstrate the artist's view on both form and process in art. He has painted several entrancing views of London, including pieces that demonstrate the awesome power of Battersea Power Station as a landmark to more humble view points of view which capture the drama and querkiness that is London. He also has some brilliant pieces showing scenes from his travels.

So when I say 'a night out with a difference' what I mean is that on Thursday nights the galleries in the east end open up their doors as part of a semi-permanent' gallery trail. It makes for an entertaining evening. Every month I try to see something on the Thursday lates - I often stop into The Whitechapel Gallery (for First Thursdays), or at least end up there for dinner at their amazing restaurant who's menu has been carefully created by the talented Angela Hartnett

The catalogue of Piers' show can be found here

You can watch Piers in action here

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Forbidden Root

A brewing company called Forbidden Fruit is soon to market a line of all-natural, botanic craft beer, brewed with roots, barks, flowers, spices, herbs, and other natural ingredients. They are looking to partner with botanical artists to incorporate their work into their packaging, as a means of spreading awareness of the botanical art community as well as plants. 

At the moment they are looking for pictures of 

Licorice Root 
Yerba Santa 
Key Lime 

Interested in getting involved? Email Emily...


Deadline - 1st November 2013