Sunday, 29 March 2015

A question of identity

On the day of the eclipse I opened an online account with a fictitious identity. I was pretty nervous doing it at the time. There was something in the back of my mind reminding me that over the past six months in Spain I have been trying to sew myself back together and become more whole and this latest course of action was seriously threatening the progress I had made. It made me feel more fractured. I considered the possibility that I might suddenly be feeling so confident with my persona that I was able to generate new virtual beings of myself. Obviously I soon realised that if I was that confident I'd own that facet of my identity and wear it like a badge of honour. 

My poppy red Dr. Martens on Brighton beach - my identity between 19 and 25 years of age.
Even before the eclipse, I'd started to question who I am as a person. When I moved to Spain I was still a fast paced, maniac with a broken heart and a fried head. Now, I am possibly more of a loon, just as broken, but less fried. Since being here I have regressed. Living with one's parents can make that happen, and so I feel like I have suddenly found an old version Jess. She's about five, pretty lonely, terribly shy and a big dreamer. I've not experienced this Jess since I lost my virginity (after that I became a bit bolshy). Like finding a lost teddy bear, it's comforting to have the five year old back.

So, after accepting this fact, which was pretty hard at first, as I saw it as a massive backwards step in my development, I began to think about what I wanted when I was a child. I remember I wanted to meet Queen Elizabeth I, see the dinosaurs (I would have made a great time lord) and visit heaven on a cheap day return ticket just to see what it was like up there. On a more serious note I did want to paint flowers, so, at least I have managed to integrate that into my older self.  I also wanted to improve the world and make it a gentler place... this one is going to take some time and even more love, but I am working on it. 

So after designing a series of logos and reading up on brands for this exhibition, I have begun to think more about my identity in definitive terms and have been busy translating my thoughts onto paper visually. There are of course many different facets and am representing each of these with slogans.

Here's the first. I am still working on it (need a gold pen and the shop is shut on a Sunday), but you get the general idea:

A little Chaos

Well, I love KW, I love gardening, I love history, I love a drama, I love kings and queens and I love France and I love a true story...

Looks good, lets hope it'll be shown in Kineapolis.

Review is in the Telegraph

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Cos is Complete!

 Back in October 2013...

Lettuce by Jessica Shepherd
Lettuce work in progress by Jessica Shepherd, Inky Leaves ©


Cos the Lettuce by Jessica Shepherd, 56 x 76 cm, Inky Leaves ©
Cos the Lettuce by Jessica Rosemary Shepherd (2015), 56 x 76 cm, Inky Leaves © £1200 unframed
So I reckon he's finished. I might revisit him later on for a couple of tweaks, but I am pretty much done. I feel I have got to that tipping point where every brush stroke I put on now is ruining it ever so slightly and I am overworking it. It's becoming too tight. Not so much of a Sainsbury's lettuce now... more of a Waitrose product!

So now it's onto the next thing in my brain. I will be working on Darth with any luck tomorrow, but I will also be sending out a lot of emails to people as I need to locate a very nice specimen of Juniperus communis in Andalucía (I know someone in the National Park here who might be able to help). 

So it's eyes down and... Nobiscum deus!!

These are rather nice

Emil Schildt is a self-taught photographer who has been taking pictures for more than 20 years. He is now working as a teacher in photography in the northern part of Denmark. His favourite techniques are cyanotypes, polymeregravure and liquid emulsions. Work like this makes me want to do a course in old fashioned photography...

Dried Leaf by Emil Schildt

Oilprint by Emil Schildt

Still Life with Skull by Emil Schildt

You can see more work here

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Trying to Finish Cos Amidst Curating

Cos the Lettuce - almost finished - almost

So just another manic Tuesday. Tuesday's are our manic days here as we have a full house of workers. We have deadlines for Browse Digital, deadlines for mum and deadlines for me. Plus Easter to contend with, which they take VERY seriously down here in Anduluciá. So its all hands on deck before everyone takes their holiday and starts walking around with tronos (or pasos) of the Virgin Mary balling their eyes out (Semana Santa). I myself can't wait - I love a ritual.

This morning I was very busy giving the Exploding Pomegranate some TLC, but then after a walk I nipped into the studio. It's been your average 11 hour day with an hours walk and an hours lunch. Anyway, on close observation, you'll notice that I have already signed the painting. I do this a lot, especially when I have been lazy to give me a kick up the jacksy and force me to finish it.

Since you saw Cos last, which was about a year ago if you weren't at any of the RHS shows last year, I have tried to do more on the bottom, the two stems and the far out leaves on with sides - just adding layers of colour really to make the whole thing less wishy-washy. I have also darkened the leaves at the back a lot. I was getting frightened at how dark I was going (it gets me every time), but I reckon I have just got away with it so far. Needs to go a bit darker still in the middle, but I need a sunny day to do that in and it's been pissing it down all day. As you probably have guessed, I am having to work from photographs in order to finish this one as I don't own a time machine (sadly) and as suspected, my lettuce from Sainsbury's in Whitechapel has long since been eaten and is in fact dead. 

Anyhow... Voilá!

Inky Leaves as Pinhole Cameras

Crescent shaped dappled shade - leaves as pinhole cameras
So it's been a funny old week. First of all the weather changed. It's cold and damp and quite frankly horrible. I used to like the damp, but I don't now - I have been spoilt by the Spanish sun! The lack of good quality day light as meant that I have struggled to paint, which is no bad thing. It's good to walk away sometimes and luckily for us, there was a break in the clouds during the eclipse. It wasn't as strong here, but it was noticeable and sadly it did sabotage the only chance I had of getting any sunlight! I have personally found this new moon to be particularly intense. Being away from the world of distraction, one really starts to feel subtle changes in day to day energy more acutely and I have been feeling something all week.

With all this turbulent energy I began working on other projects. I have been working on a logo for the Incredible Exploding Pomegranate Exhibition, which is easier said than done (I have since developed a whole new level of admiration for designers). This is the show I have been busy organising with my mum and Roberta Gordon-Smith. It's going to be a blast, so if you are interested, register to find out more...

Sadly this isn't my work, but that of my very talented step dad at Browse Digital.
Alongside this, I have also been designing some posters for Inky Leaves. Not quite sure what I am planning to do with these yet, but I felt I had to do them. They've focused me and given me some drive. Whilst colouring in the pretty pictures, I thought very deeply about what I am actually trying to achieve here on the Iberian Peninsula. I thought I might get some work together for the RHS, but that hasn't really happened. I seem to be marching away from all of this into something else entirely. I am struggling to get older paintings finished and am feeling frustrated that ideas are coming into my head faster than I can paint. That's annoying. 

So to cut a long story short whilst stealing the words of Mr. Lennon, 
I've worked out that I am basically trying to start a revolution from my bed.  
Yes, a botanical revolution and the good news is that it starts with you

First up - I am inviting all of my readers to write a blog post which I will post on Inky Leaves. It can be about anything you like within the remit of illustration, art, history and botany. It can feature your own paintings, a piece of creative writing, a poem, whatever - I don't mind, no one minds.

To join the collective email me:


I have also set up a new blog 'Pomona in Granada'... another blot of inspiration during the eclipse and another way of spreading myself even thinner. Never been much of a stiletto heel if I am honest - more of a Jack. Anyway... I am going to probably update that blog once a fortnight. It'll be a slow feed, but the first post is up and running.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Jan Hopkins - Fibre Artist

I really like the work of Jan Hopkins so I thought I'd share her work with you. Jan is a fibre artist who rather cleverly uses other botanical materials, such as grapefruit peel, lotus and lunaria pods and cantaloupe peels alongside the more traditional basket making materials to make these spectacular and rather ancient looking creations. 

'Essence', 2004, Materials: lotus pod tops, Alaskan yellow cedar and waxed linen, Image: Ken Rowe
When talking about her sculptures, Jan describes how nowadays there are often restrictions in place on how much traditional basket material one can harvest in order to protect the plants from from over collecting, so in order to do her work she combines traditional materials with alternative materials as well - ones that are not restricted and can be found in abundance. 

'Amphitrite',  2007, Materials: grapefruit peel, cantaloupe peel, waxed linen, lotus pod tops, ostrich shell beads, yellow cedar bark and paper | photo: Carie Stryka
"I am fascinated by natural materials and I love to find new materials to work with that aren't normally used in basketry/sculpture. Finding ways to process, preserve and use these alternative materials in an artform has become my passion for over 20 years. I am obsessed with pushing the boundaries with these materials and am working toward making large pieces set in environments”. 

'Figuratively Speaking',  2000, Materials: grapefruit peels, waxed linen and paper

I think it is really clever what she does. I know I wish I'd thought of doing it. You can see more of her work on her blog here

Materials: grapefruit peel, waxed linen, Alaskan yellow cedar bark and lotus pod tops and sharlyn melon peels

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Battle of the Jedis

Pineapple  - Ananas comosus - (a work in progress) - £1200 unframed

What a day in the studio today! It was the battle of the Jedis - Pineapple in the morning, Cabbage in the afternoon and in the middle I re-arranged the room and pinned all my work onto my walls. It now looks like a gallery! Super...

Ignoring the allure of Pinterest and Youtube videos, I managed to roll out of bed and enter the studio at a more reasonable hour this morning. First up - tackling the Pineapple leaves. Yesterday afternoon I started the process and well it made me rather depressed as I thought I was on the home stretch. When I looked at them though, I realised that I was actually a million miles from the finishing line. It was clear that the leaves needed many more layers of paint. Rather disappointed by this observation the rest of the afternoon felt like I was basically trudging on... I wasn't enjoying the process at all. This morning, however, was absolutely blooming brilliant - I was really enjoying the challenge. I am definitely finding the leaves MUCH harder to do. It's the colour of them and the silly (but purposeful) way I have lit the darn thing. There are lots of dark shadows and then there is this really weird turquoise blue which is often adjacent to these lurid green splodges which are scattered along the surface here and there... It's all very tricky. Give me the fruity bits any day.

So after a few hours of that, it was then time for a feed and for walkies...

 Here's a bit of Darth... (a work in progress - he's still learning the ways of the force...)

Enter 3pm and suddenly something shifted. I am not sure if was the fact that Uranus was making its last square to Pluto today or what, but I felt it and I felt mad. I felt bonkers (more than usual) and put Obi One to one side. Then I got all of my work out and pinned it on the walls (I recommend doing this). I even got the Mork out. I contemplated working on him, but decided not too. I almost cried as I felt rather overwhelmed by how much work I'd done, but also annoyed as none of it was how I wanted it to be. Feeling black I got Darth out and worked on making him darker. He is indeed learning the ways of the dark force.

So there's today's story and I reckon that makes it time for a beer. Tomorrow, more Darth, but who knows as I am all over the place right now, busy riding this epic wave of Uranic madness. 

Monday, 16 March 2015

Natalia Grzybowski

I woke up at 7am today, eager to get the drawing board, but then stupidly logged onto my PC to do some proofing work and voilà - before you know it I am looking at pin boards on Pinterest and watching YouTube videos. Oh well! Never mind - it's all feeding into the bigger picture and I feel that looking at pictures is an incredibly important part of a creative life. It's inspiring.

So... thought I'd share some of it with you. Here is the work of Natalia Grzybowski. It's stunning - you know how I love my textiles and fashion! As I am already uber late for work in the studio (it is now 11.30am), I am going to point you in the direction of other blogs in case you want to ready more about it.  All Big Trees is a fab blog (I think she and I are online soul mates as she works in a museum) and she's done a lovely pictorial post with botanical paintings alongside the dresses. There is also The Herring Bone Bindery, who have given more context to the collection and of course Natalia's own blog. I feel that this collection really empowers the botanical art and its applications. All good stuff.

Spring/Summer 2012 collection Hybrid: 

*Seriously want this on my wedding dress...

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Bit by bit, inch by inch

Obi One the Pineapple - a work in progress
A little update for you all. Blogging has waned a bit (apologies) as I am really trying to get this Pineapple finished. Working against the clock again! This beauty really is a bit more complicated than I had originally thought - it's facets and technicolour palette are giving me a serious work out. It's the palette more than anything, because I find I actually need day light to paint this. Spot lights are just not doing it for me, so my hours are restricted by the suns movement. Brushes are now starting to moult under the strain, which is a bit annoying, but I know how they feel. It's hotting up outside. It's now hotter outside the house at night.

Other from this, there is no other news... I am just gearing up for that solar eclipse a week tomorrow. Exciting times. It's time to make some wishes and be in awe.

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Half way through Ananas comosus

Pineapple (Ananus comosus)

It's been a pretty focused week this week. There is a quiet retrospective energy going on which has encouraged me to hide in the studio for long periods of time. The full moon has slowed my thoughts down a bit, which has meant that I am not doing a rush-job on this pineapple and instead am taking the time to enjoy the process. 

Pineapple (Ananus comosus)

The left side is very different to the right side. I am using more washes on the right and almost a different palette. I am not sure if you can tell, but the Pineapple has been lit from the bottom-left in this piece, so the base won't be that dark once it is finished. Which will hopefully be by the end of March. I need to get everything done by then so I can focus on helping to curate this exhibition we have holding in Granada (next post). I also have a commission to be getting on with - but it isn't out in flower yet. Interestingly, Gaynor Dickeson is also busy painting a Pineapple. You can read more about her journey on her blog.

A close up on the left side of the Pineapple (Ananus comosus)
On the other hand, things are still hotting up outside. Yesterday I spotted six different butterflies. The farmers are clearing out the irrigation channels and the Shepherds have taken to bringing their goat herds into the shady Poplar woods. You have never heard so much noise, as the sound of their bells clanging and echoing off of the trunks. I could hear them from a mile off. The 'whilstling cyclist' cycled past me yesterday with a basket full of laurel - I guess he's going to be using it in the kitchen?! I've not seen the peacock for a while, and I ask myself if this was some freak sighting.

Sierra Nevada in March
Egrets in the fields

Goats in the woods

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

This is a seriously intense fruit

Pineapple (Ananus comosus) - work in progress

So I am seriously getting my teeth into this piece now. I am enjoying it so much because is it so VERY tricky. It is by far the hardest thing I have ever done (not including white and yellow flowers) and therefore focusing on it transports me into another world - a microscopic one filled with technicolour and weird surfaces (the textures on this thing are a nightmare to capture).  My palette is a rainbow and my brushes are wearing out. There is a lot of dry brush going on this week, as the fruity bits require absolute control. 

Other from that not much else to report on. Wall to wall sunshine here and temperatures of roughly 23 degrees which is rather nice. All change from Thursday though apparently, so summer isn't quite here yet despite me seeing a large number of butterflies and wasps today. I even heard two woodpeckers on my walk. Fancy that?!

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Spot the difference

It's getting there - slowly! Absolutely love these leaves now - they are truly amazing to look at and paint.