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 26 September 2013

Rory McEwen lives on

Tuesday was a sad day - I wasn't in the gallery on Monday when the rest of the team began to take down Rory McEwen The Colours of Reality, which closed on Sunday. On Monday I was busy celebrating Henry's birthday, decorating the house with bunting and balloons, tending to the garden and cooking, so I missed out on the de-installation.

It can be fair to say that Monday was a day of merriment and celebration, but Tuesday? Well I was gobsmacked by how much work my team had done in a day - when I came in, most of the paintings were no longer on the wall and were instead standing on foam blocks ready for wrapping. This really marks the end of a show for me, seeing all those paintings on blocks. It's a sad moment at the best of times.

I think this show has been one of our most successful at the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art and all of us in the gallery are very grateful to everyone for their support in buying the catalogue, coming to the show and talking about it with their friends. An exhibition is nothing without it's audience.

Tulips are down and ready to go back to their owners
This exhibition changed my life. It did this in so many different ways, from seeing the paintings for the first time in the flesh, to the people I met along the way. It seems like a long time ago when I saw the paintings for the first time in the form of a digital file whilst was designing the website. I remember being bowled over even then! Something inside me has been moved by these paintings and I think it has for us all. How wondrous to be the person responsible for touching so many souls after so many years after passing away. Miraculous really.

One of my favourite little sketches by Rory McEwen - so much energy
Rory's two daughters visited the gallery on Tuesday afternoon to pack up the show cases. I took some photographs for our archives as there was so much information packed into those cases. One of my favourite things to do at the end of the day is to see how many hand prints are on the cases. Sometimes it's a good measure of how busy we have been, or how sunny it was outside (suncream always leaves marks) or if we had school groups in (they leave small hand prints and children tend to have the stickiest of mits).

In the case of Rory though, I rather liked seeing which cases caused people to stop and stare more. In this exhibition, it was the music display case that got more handprints on than any other - the one with his guitar and records inside. The next most 'touched' was the one with his painting schedule written out on loose sheets of paper with the 'Is that you Rory?' postcards running along the top. I think a lot of people found this display to be very informative as it showed how fast he was at painting and how he worked on several paintings at once. Lastly, the Karl Blossfeldt show case in Dr. Sherwood's part of the show proved to be a popular gazing ground too. 

The showcase with Rory McEwen's paints inside, Kew Gardens
As the show cases got packed up it was my job to open them up. The highlight of the day was opening up the case with his apron, tools and paints inside. As I opened it the most exquisite smell of paint and old paper seeped out. I stood there wondering if that was the smell of Rory's studio, trying to memorize it as it diffused across the room. 

Rory McEwen's tools including a very fine scratching tool for sharp, defined highlights.
So I guess, like summer, the show is over and it's time to embrace something new... As the leaves on the trees start to change colour in a rather 'Rory' way, we are busy sanding and peeling sentences of vinyl off our walls... I tell you something - I won't be forgetting the glorious summer of 2013 in a hurry!

In case anyone is interested, the Estate of Rory McEwen have got a website. 

Also, the remarkable botanical artist, Martin J Allen, has written a very in depth post on his website pointing to all things Rory, from exhibition reviews and blog posts such as those by Coral Guest, to books and memoirs. I recommend scouring through every link, as each author's take on Rory's work demonstrates very well how people interpret things differently. Yet also at the same time, I find it extraordinary that by reading each review one can see very clearly that, as human beings, we are all affected by Rory's work on a spiritual level. I personally think it's something about the condition of being alive.

Thursday 19 September 2013

Making a start

So I have made a start on Cosmo... I think I can officially say it's one of the hardest things I have ever done. There are so many bumps and colour changes - it's really tricky to keep up the good ol' observation skills. I am trying to do this piece as fast as I can too, which is not helping matters I guess, but at the same time it is. I am trying to get to a level where I can just get on with painting rather than to fuss too much about where I place my line. I often find that when one paints quickly, they are painting more from the heart and that subsequently comes across in the piece. Well that's the hope anyway! I guess it's a test to see how fast I can get. The interesting thing is that the Green Giant actually only took just over double the time of Sally the Savoy, despite being sustainably larger. Practice makes perfect, as Dianne Sutherland is finding with her amazing 30 day challenge.

Cos Lettuce - work in progress

I have put this picture in so you can get a sense of scale. There is no 'little' with 'little gem'!

Me and Cos - work in progress

Wednesday 4 September 2013

The Green Giant has been scanned

'The Green Giant', 2013, J R Shepherd © (Coffea arabica - The Coffee Plant)

Plus, if you were intersted in the coffee thing, there is a delightful little blog post about a book called 'The Berry That Changed World', which was published in 1898 and is all about the history of Coffee. You can read the book online too which is pretty cool. It has loads of illustrations in it, which I actually find rather interesting to look at from a sociological point of view.

Title page of 'The Berry That Changed the World' - A book on coffee

Tuesday 20 August 2013

Exhibition: Botanicals - Environmental Expressions in Art

Beverley Allen
Musa paradisiaca, Banana flower and fruit, 2002
Watercolour on paper
This exhibition represents one of the finest private collections of contemporary botanical art in North America. Previously exhibited in the US, these fifty-four artworks beautifully document both common and rare and endangered plants with scientific accuracy to highlight the importance of the planet’s biodiversity. The exhibition and accompanying catalogue includes artworks by forty contemporary artists from around the world.  

Regine Hagedorn
Rosa roxburghii 'Plena" (China), 2005, 
Watercolor on paper

 Click here for more information.

For opening times and ticket prices please visit 
or email the gallery at

Damodar Lal Gurjar
Opium poppy bunch, 1997
Tempera on paper burnished by the artist