Autumn newsletter 2017

Autumn has well and truly embedded itself as I write this from my studio.  We have been rewarded with beautiful clear skies on some days, but the morning frosts are beginning to bite, and the late and lovely snatches of Indian summer we've had are definitely over.

The trees have been stunning this year, their colours reflected richly in some gorgeous soft, sunny days.

It is pleasant to welcome autumn fruits, misty mornings, and a change in nature's pace after the frenetic days of summer. 

If I've prepared my sketches and colour mixes well while the plant subjects were still alive, the darker months provide the opportunity to continue on the various projects lined up for the easel, with the help of a good lamp. 

I hope you enjoy my autumn newsletter, with updates on events and exhibitions, and some lovely garden visits.  Perhaps you can curl up with a warm drink in your slippers... Or if you're in the southern hemisphere, a cool drink and a spot of shade in the garden will no doubt be more in order.

with best wishes,


Wiltshire, November 2017

Exhibitions & events

Postcards from Life

St Michael's Hospice, Hereford

Auction 10-12 November and earlier online

As foreshadowed in the summer newsletter, I painted a small, postcard-sized piece for the Postcards from Life exhibition to raise money for St Michael's Hospice, Hereford.  

I have always wanted to paint the delicious and beautiful fruit of the blackberry, with its variety of colours and different levels of development on one branch.  

I have one in the garden, and it's such a treat to eat from the canes directly, though one always pays a price in thorns.  

I very much wanted to paint a jewel-like small piece which would appeal to bidders, so I painted 'Rubus I'.  

There were 600 visitors to the exhibition at the Bisihop's Palace, Hereford, and 1200 bids.  The auction raised over £12 000.  (I was very happy to learn that my painting sold for the highest amount at the auction - which is terrific for St Michael's.)   

Society of Botanical Artists' 2017 exhibition

Central Hall Westminster, October 2017

'Changing Seasons'

From 13 to 21 October 2017, the halls of Central Hall in Storey's Gate, Westminster, in the middle of London, were transformed into a botanical art extravaganza.  

With hundreds of paintings representing thousands of hours of work, and some extraordinary efforts by a volunteer army of SBA Committee Members and helpers, the exhibition attracted the usual strong numbers of botanical art enthusiasts from the UK and around the world.  

I had several paintings in the exhibition, and have been accepted as an associate member of the SBA following my entry.  

Right: Helleborus 'Queen of the Night', now in a private collection

Address to the Australian Women's Club

Australian High Commission, November 2017

In November I was invited to address the Australian Women's Club about my transition towards botanical painting, and how it all began.  I very much enjoyed travelling virtually through this phase again, this time with a delightful audience.  

It's been a few years since I discovered the wonderful modern botanical painting at the Chelsea Flower Show (that was 2009) and set a course to learn how to draw plants and use watercolours.  I quickly became hooked...

I spoke to the Club a little about my technique and the history of botanical painting.  Perhaps next time a demonstration might be nice to do!  

I was rewarded with a lovely bunch of flowers. Thank you to the Club for extending the invitation. 

American Society of Botanical Artists

20th International Exhibition

New York Design Centre, New York

As you read this, my quince study is hanging at the New York Design Centre in the 20th annual Exhibition of the American Society of Botanical Artists.  This event is coordinated with The Horticultural Association of New York.  

This is a juried exhibition, and I am one of 49 artists chosen to exhibit a work. (And when I last looked, my quinces were on the NYDC home page advertising the exhibition!)

The exhibition runs from 9 November to 21 December 2017. 

From the NYDC website:

The 20th Annual International exhibition curated by the American Society of Botanical Artists showcases some of the most notable contemporary botanical artwork from emerging and well-known artists around the world. 
The jury team of jurors Susan Fraser, Director, Mertz Library, The New York Botanical Garden; David Horak, Curator of the Aquatic House, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, and Esther Klahne, Botanical Artist, met in May at The New York Botanical Garden to select forty-six works from a highly competitive field of over 200 submissions. 
We are happy to announce included artists are from the US, Australia, France, Germany, Japan, Slovenia, and the UK, and selected artworks feature flowers, fruits, trees, and edibles from all seasons.
A catalog will be published and available for purchase. The exhibition will be on view at the 1stdibs Gallery November 9 – December 21, 2017.

The Tradescant Exhibition concludes

London Garden Museum Summer 2017

I was thrilled to be a part of The London Garden Museum's Tradescant Exhibition from May to October this year.  The exhibition was extended for a few weeks into October.   

This botanical art exhibition marked the re-opening of the Museum, and focused on the work of the John Tradescants, the great father and son plant collectors, who are buried at the Museum.  

Fifty paintings by modern botanical artists were on display, including one of mine, "Pomegranates on a Branch". 

For more about the pomegranates painting, click here.  

The painting itself is now hanging on the wall of a private collector in Sydney. 

A spring thing

Plans for next year are forming.  

I'm working on a collaboration for a little pop-up show in London for a few days in May.  

It involves paintings of spring flowers and other lovelies.  There will be originals and prints for sale at this delightful Chelsea location. 

There will be many intense hours at the easel between now and then, so it's very much head down on this for now.  

But what fun it will be, and so delicious with this inspiring creative business. I'll let you know more soonest.

The easel queue

The easel queue is looking a bit long at the moment.  Some work is underway for the Chelsea Physic Garden Florilegium Society and the Royal College of Physicians.  

I'm planning  the painting schedule for the spring event in London.  

I've started early planning and arrangements for access to the garden from which I will be painting my subjects for the RHS Botanical Art Show in 2019 (or 2020 if the workload proves unmanageable!).  

This show is the pinnacle of achievement for a botanical artist in the UK, and I've been thinking about my theme for the set of 6-8 paintings since I was accepted as a candidate by the RHS pictures committee in 2016. 

I've decided on a notable garden as a theme as this will give me more flexibility than choosing a single species of plant, and will also provide opportunities to use different techniques for the fruit, flowers and plants I'm considering.  A veritable cornucopia from which to select!

I've also had some new commissions involving some mediterranean plants and an iris, alongside those commissions already in the preparation or execution stages.

Overwhelmed but undaunted, I shall press on!

Garden visits

The Courts Garden, Holt, Wiltshire

National Trust

The Courts Garden is the most well-presented and exuberant National Trust garden I have seen.  From the formal lawns and yew hedges to the apple and pear arch (one to emulate at home one day!) and the arboretum, it is a thorough delight.  

The presentation was of a sublime standard, which must be a  challenge to sustain, and requires an army of talented volunteers.  

The highlights included the variety of garden rooms and the contrasts in ambience in each of them.  The strong sense of order was very satisfying and provided form and backdrop for the generous planting.  

The rooms opened out organically from one another, and there were many delightful nooks.  

The Courts is a divine garden.  Definitely my new favourite. 

Hazelbury Manor House gardens, Wiltshire

National Gardens Scheme

What a stunning garden is Hazelbury Manor in Box, Wiltshire. It is a National Gardens Scheme garden open several times during the season, and it's a treasure.  It has 8 acres of Grade II listed landscaped organic gardens.  

It is grand and spectacular, with extravagant plantings and open spaces, 100m pleached hornbeam avenues and a cacophony of topiaried yews.  There are beech stilt hedges, a laburnum tunnel and a pleached lime avenue.

There is also an ancient mulberry tree and a medlar of generous proportions in the smaller gardens next to the 15th century fortified manor house.  

The variety of plants and shrubs is overwhelming. 

This was an outstanding, surprisingly moving visit and I will be back for more in the years to come.

Barnsley House, Gloucestershire

Barnsley House Hotel

I was very fortunate to visit Rosemary Verey's former garden again in the early autumn, following my first visit earlier in the year.  

The garden has been cleverly designed around the house, with vistas back towards it from several angles.  The plantings are interesting and varied.  

The potager has been built to a clean, geometric design which is very satisfying where it becomes obvious around the plantings.  Low hedges abound in diagonal designs and squares, which provide a neat framework for seasonal planting, and I imagine it looks quite interesting in winter too.  It's given me a few ideas for the vegetable garden design (of which more in the distant future!). 

It was interesting to observe that the logo for the hotel is based on the potager design.

Access to the garden is for guests of Barnsley House Hotel, but this includes those who have afternoon tea! 

I did fall in love with a stately black mulberry tree, and confess that I have now bought and planted one in a prominent place in the garden.  That's what garden visits are for - gathering botanical painting and garden ideas to translate to home.

Priory garden renovations

Having slid almost unconsciously into what's turned out to be major renovations to the garden earlier in the year, we've kept up the energetic pace since.

Though it's been an effort, the results are evident, and lovely.  And somehow - despite the personal effort invested - a daily surprise.  

After the removal of overgrown or damaged trees and shrubs, the lawn seeding went exceptionally well in early autumn, and seems as if it's always been there (perhaps less so on close inspection!).  These areas of new lawn are so beautifully green and lovely.  The very essence of transformation.

I've done a further heavy renovating cut on the box (buxus microphylla) parterre, to reshape it more cleanly.  And heavily cut back the yew obelisks, again to create a tighter silhouette. Kneeling over the low box hedges for the 15 hours of this task means a few uncomfortable days following!

And as mentioned, I've planted a black mulberry - this grand tree will dominate the front lawn in due course.  They are so wonderful, and evocative of the work done by plants collectors in centuries past.  

I've also planted a medlar - such a mediaeval feeling that fascinating fruit tree has.  And a tulip tree - the Liriodendron tulipifera.  They are such gracious trees and come originally from North America.  But they take up to 20 years to flower, so this one involves more patience than most botanical painting projects.  It will be worth it though - a spectacular flower, and a lovely well-formed tree in the meantime.

The overall garden effort this year has already been worth it, with the beds producing a beautiful array of flowers over a long period. Lots of lovely things to paint in this and coming years. We are still not finished for the year, with a digger being used to trench for a new yew hedge to go in shortly.

And still some heavy garden work left for the next few years too, which is great to look forward to.  The abandoned vegetable plot will one day be a charming potager and the piles of tree clippings will not always be the visual distraction they are at the moment.

Here are a few photos from early to late autumn in the garden, on some lovely days... headlined by the hedgehog who camped under the large box hedge.

Autumnal photographs from Wiltshire

Something to leave you with... a few portraits of the surrounding countryside in Wiltshire as autumn set in this year.  Big skies, turning leaves and the clear soft light of autumn.