Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Ann-Marie Evans, a train and the colour green

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!  

Ann-Marie Evans
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...


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks, was just one of those serendipitous moments that I was lucky enough to experience. Glad yo enjoyed it.

  2. Thanks for sharing your beautiful story...

    1. Thanks Manon, delighted that you enjoyed reading it.