Recontextualising botanical art through sound, publishing and painting. We welcome guest writers and editors for both this blog and our new newspaper called INKQ. If you have an idea you can connect with Inky Leaves by following the links in the banner below.
What a morning it has been! I have not stopped... First I enter a discussion with NASA after I ask Tim Peakes what he is growing in his Space Station Greenhouse - apparently it is Zinnia flowers. Then there's a chat with Emelia Fox about her role as Marianne North - thanks for that one Jarnie. Then I am in communication with a kindred spirit about mural painting (hoping to paint a massive mural this summer) and then I am the luckiest girl in the world as I get a copy of one of Rory's letters. Pinching myself that this morning really did happen, I then spot that Ann-Marie Evans got an MBE - thanks Katherine for notifying me of this one!
Her's and my paths have crossed twice so far
in our lives. This is a good story, one of those magical time loops, so if you
have the time, do read on it isn't long. It all started on a cold Autumnal day in
October when my dear friend and expert botanist, Alex
Prendergast and I met up in London.
He was on his way to Plymouth from Norwich to see me. We had
sceduled a weekend to plant Plymouth Strawberries together and
I decided to meet him half way in London (his blog post on the day is here). We usually hit the museums or a garden when we are in the Big Smoke and
I remember that usually this time the two of us didn't know what to
do because I wanted to see the Mary Delany exhibition in the city
centre and he wanted to go to Kew (he always does). In the end I backed
down on the condition that we would pop into the
Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art as it has just opened and I
hadn't been before. A massive fan of botanical art, and an artist himself, he agreed.
SBA coursework Plymouth Strawberry - work in progress shot
As the clouds started to hide the tired sun we made a move to Paddington and hopped onto a noisy train to Plymouth. To my relief it was warm inside. Alex then started reading something on botany and I got my embroidery out. After about 30 minutes into the journey I found myself eavesdropping on a conservation ahead of us further into the carriage. There were three ladies gathered around a table - two with their back to me and one facing me. I recognised the lady facing me instantly, but couldn't for the life of me work out why. She had a book from the Mary Delany exhibition with her and was talking about the artwork - she certainly knew her stuff. I was instantly struck with intrigue and began to wish I had forced Alex to go to the exhibition. I continued to listen in and nudged Alex, saying 'you see that lady - who is she'?! Disgruntled that I had interrupted his reading flow with something as trivial as this, creases starting forming in his brow. I wasn't sure if they were there from the thoughts of working out who this lady was or from anger at me or both. He then looked at me like I had lost the plot and went back to scanning the pages of his book to find his place. Annoyed at this treatment, I then nudged him again and instructed him to get his i-phone out and Google her. Realising that I wasn't going to let this go until I had an answer, he dutifully did want he was told. I then went to the loo and on the way back say that one of the ladies with her back to me was knitting and the other crocheting. I was now completely entranced by this group of ladies and wanted to join them, but shyness got the better of me and I sat back in my place next to Alex.
Mrs Delany's paper cut outs
Then the knitter got up and went to the loo and on her way back, saw that I was sewing and commented. Within minutes we were all having a jolly between the chairs, but the lady facing me didn't move or speak to me. Alex was still Goggling her, she probably knew. At last I heard a name and when the conversation died down I said Alex - "Google 'Ann-Marie' with the word 'illustrator' as that must be how I recognise her and she knows her stuff about botanical art". Sure enough, it was her. I was stunned and took it as an omen. I was stunned because I didn't ever remember having seen or heard of her before. I didn't know what I recognised and took it that I recognised a kindred spirit. A few weeks before all this I had decided to start taking botanical art more seriously and felt that if I couldn't get a contract after my job at Plymouth Museum had ended, that I would just paint full time and be saved by the grace of adopting such faith in my art. I signed up to the SBA after seeing Ann Marie (I never introduced myself), and embarked on the course. I then left Plymouth when my time had come to an end, broke my right index finger, met Henry and got a job in the very gallery I saw on that fateful day.
Four years had passed and on a unusually warm Spring day a very well dressed, small grey haired lady walked into the gallery - we clocked each other straight away at the entrance and she walked in. After an hour my colleague went up for lunch and I was left alone. The lady came over to write in the comments book and I said finally felt after all this time that I could say "hello", so I did, and went on to explain about the fateful train journey. She seemed very kind and talked about the colour green for about 20 minutes. Apparently, according to Ann-Marie, no one has got it right. It was after this moment in time when I made it my mission to capture the colour green and, two years on I am still trying...