Sunday, 23 December 2012

Christmas Rainbow

Colourful Hygrocybes, the jewels of autumn meadows.These are commonly called the waxcaps, a grassland species in the UK. Some are getting rarer due to loss of meadows and intensive farming practises ,like over-use of fertiliser.
 Still they can be found in garden lawns, commons or graveyards. If the ground is undisturbed, you may find the rarer species like the pink (H. calptriformis- like a dancing ballerina) or the crimson waxcap (H.punicea),these are the top 2 in the left hand corner of the painting. There is even a green one called the parrot waxcap, a white one called the snowy waxcap and one that turns black, the blackening waxcap (bottom left).
I recently went back to the site where I found the rare pink waxcaps and found that it has had houses built on it which was sad for me.
 This is a rework of earlier paintings and sketches and will be the last fungi one I do for a while.
 and so for now have a Merry Christmas everyone
 -Nadolig llawen -

Monday, 10 December 2012

Exhibition, 'Oaks and Orchids'

I now have dates for an autumn exhibition next year, from the 26th October for one week or so. 
It is being held in the beautiful Elan valley center in Powys,which is very nature orientated and so will suit my work really well. It is called 'Oaks and Orchids' and will represent the nature of the Elan valley and habitats of west Wales. I have plenty of time for working in the valley next summer to paint the orchids and other beauts I can find (hopefully). It's exciting as it's my first solo exhibition.

   Meanwhile I'm still painting mushrooms! These common ones I've found growing in conifer woodland near my home. They are from the left; Common yellow Russula - Russula ochreleuca, False Chaterelle -  Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca, and a slippery Jack - Suillus luteus,with 3 types of moss, a Scots pine cone and needles.

Friday, 30 November 2012


I am inspired by fungi at the moment, they are definitely one of my favourite subjects to paint. From the initial hunt;like finding treasure, then putting into 2D and creating all the different textures.
I found these beauties back in October in the Ystwyth valley woodlands; a mixture of conifer and broad leaved species grow here. They are Boletus chrysenteron or red cracking boletes, due to the cracked surface of the velvety cap which shows the soft pink and yellow flesh underneath. These boletes have yellow pores instead of gills. I have painted pine needles, a birch leaf and mosses as habitat indicators.

I wanted to show some of my inspirations for painting fungi.

Alexander Viazmensky, a wonderful fungi painter living in Russia. The link is already in my link list on the right here but I'll give it again.
I love the beautiful and intricate illustrations of Ray Cowell whose work is held in collections at Kew. Here is a link to Rays' Kew information.
Suzanne Lucas was the founder president of the SBA. She was an avid and prolific fungi painter and gained many gold medals with the RHS. I have one of her books called 'In Praise of Toadstools'.

Also there is Beatrix Potter, of course, a famous illustrator and mycologist. She has some of her fungi paintings in a book called 'Wayside and Woodland Fungi'. Now that's a book I'd love to find!

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Fungi finished

The finished piece. That's after fiddling around for a bit but I think I'm finally happy with it.
Added touches of quinacridone gold, quin. burnt scarlet and quin. deep gold. The green I used was serpentine genuine, from Dan Smiths,in fact all these paints are from Dan Smiths. The serpentine is a Primatek paint made with minerals, and has a brownish after glow perfect for these dying fronds.

Here's an interesting link about these paints.

Hmmm. what next?


Thursday, 15 November 2012

Autumn Work in Progress and ISBA

 Wood Blewitt, Parasol mushrooms and bracken, a work in progress.
This painting is a rework from an earlier one that went wrong! I have many paintings that are on the to do again pile, usually due to rushing the compostion stage to get out the paint brushes. Hopefully I'll learn one day - Botanical artists are supposed to be patient aren't they? just not me.

The wood blewitt or Lepista nuda is a great mushroom, with a bluey purple colour. The first wood blewitts I ever found were so purple, I couldn't believe the colour. I thought I must've been on magic mushrooms! The parasols are beautiful and elegant and can grow really large. Both types of fungi are edible but the blewitts have to be cooked.
I found them growing by the roadside while driving along (I do this a lot). They were with short grasses and  bracken which made a good backdrop; its drying fronds changing to autumn colours. Lots of umbers and raw sienna used here.
I hope to finish the painting very soon.

 I visited the botanical gardens in Dublin not long ago to meet up with everyone and we had a masterclass with Susan Sex, a fantastic Irish artist. She is truly an expert, and made painting look incredibly easy. Dublin is an amazing place and I met some really lovely people.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Autumn Oak leaves

I have been painting a study of vibrant autumn oak leaves all week. The method used was the wet in wet technique for the first 2 or 3 washes and then dry brush with the details. The dominant colours are new gamboge, raw and burnt umbers and some quinacridones. The paper is Fabriano artistico 140lb which is quite good for wet in wet work.
The dead tree is drawn in graphite and it stands in a field very close to my house. I love its shape and look at it every time I drive past. I have drawn it a few times over the years.
                                        Here it is painted in Unison pastels about 5 years ago.

And again in pen and wash; the sinuous bark is highly textured and has a multitude of strange shapes that can be picked out if you look. It has been bleached, eroded and battered by the weather over the years and its broken limbs lie around.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Abbey and Leaf

Here's some latest work. The leaf is from a beautiful specimen tulip tree Liriodendron tulipifera which grows along the lane where I live and is now getting its superb autumn colours.
This leaf was painted with some granulating Daniel Smiths watercolours; superb for this type of botanical. My favourite autumn colours are PY53(new gamboge by W/N),  PY110 (by M.Graham), PO49 which is Quin gold by Dan Smiths and PO48 & PY150 (Quin. deep gold by Dan Smiths). The pigments PO48 and PO49 are hard to get hold of now so if you can get them do! Quin.golds are now usually made with a mix of PY150 and other pigments.

The other picture shows the ruin of Strata Florida Abbey (in graphite pencil).It's a monument close to my hotel. I love old ruins and ancient buildings so I will be doing more of these from my area. Ystrad Fflur means 'the vale of Flowers' in Welsh, so hence the daisies (which are taken from an earlier sketch in the summer). I also added the floorplan of the abbey to fill the gap!!

Friday, 12 October 2012

Remnants of summer and old trees

This painting is called remnants of summer and is formed from old sketches and bits from the garden. It has lacy Hydrangea flowers, a dying rose called 'Happy Times' with a separate rose petal , a canary shouldered thorn moth, poppy seed heads, clematis seed heads and dandelion seeds. The last 3 things are in graphite. I'm not sure if its any good or not but its all practise!
It shows the changing of the seasons,summer to autumn; a time of year I love. The little moth I found, drew and released again (none the worst!),its bright yellow fluffy body caught my attention and I had to draw it. The poppy seedheads are from Dublin botanical gardens and will remind me of some lovely people I met there.

I love taking photos of old or veteran trees, they are an asset to our countryside and should be looked after as green monuments. These two above are an old chestnut and oaks in Dinefwr park near Llandeilo. Here is a link to the ancient tree forum, of the UKs woodland Trust if you're interested too.

 I took these today after scrambling over barbed wire! Its a huge hollowed out ash tree quite near my house. I am aiming to draw some of these old trees and other monuments in my area; a break from botanical art.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Orchid Photography

I found this photography website with beautiful photographs of British orchids; especially love the varieties of bee orchid. Check out his orchid photos from Cyprus and Italy too; I may have to book a holiday next year!!!

Friday, 17 August 2012

What's in a name

The next SBA exhibition has the theme of 'the Language of Flowers'. It's a term called floriography invented by the Victorians and used to send coded messages to express emotions and feelings using flowers.
 This beautiful daisy chain is the SBA 2013 logo and is by Susan Christopher Coulson; a superb coloured pencil artist.
The exhibition is in April next year so we all have some time to work on this theme. No real ideas yet though!

Floriography is interesting but I'm also interested in the actual Latin or Greek name given to a plant species.
This is the 2 named system using genus and species names, called ' the binomial system of nomenclature ' invented by Carl Linnaeus in 1753.
It's an international way of recognising species; the genus is a family name of related species like 'Veronica' and the specific name can be anything from a species trait like 'hederifolia' - ivy-leaved, to a place name like 'americana'.

My latest sketches are of the wildflowers Centaurea nigra and Centaurium erythraea.
 The history of the genus names Centaurea and Centaurium are from classical Greek legends about the centaur Chiron,  who was an ancient herbalist who used these herbs to cure and treat disease.
Also nigra means black and erythraea means red, for the pink flowers?
Centaurium is used medicinally today, in liver and digestives aids, for arthritis and even a treatment for anorexia.

Other than this not much time for painting at the moment with work pressures but have taken a few insect photos.

 Common blues mating at Ynyslas, making the most of the rare August sunshine.

And a female Beautiful Demoiselle looking gorgeous!

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Orchids and Restharrow

Here are the latest pieces of my Ynyslas painting. The Pyramidal orchids and six spot burnet moth are now completed with some graphite grasses.
The common restharrow -Ononsis repens is a member of the pea/legume family that can be found sprawling through the dune slacks. The underground stems are so tough that they used to delay the passage of horse-drawn ploughs or harrows, hence the name.
Apparently cattle which eat the sticky,hairy leaves give milk tainted with an unpleasant ,goat-like smell. The leaves do have a harsh sweaty smell when crushed.
I painted the little hairs in with white gouache over the darker colours and definitely did not crush the leaves!

Saturday, 28 July 2012

July sketches

Work is so busy at the moment,but I've grabbed moments here and there to go out sketching. Fortunately the weather has been much better recently and its been wonderful to sit in the sun and sketch. After another 3 trips to Ynyslas I now have enough information and sketches to start another study, similar to the last but this time with plants found in the dune slacks from late June to August.

Here we have a selection of sketches of Pyramidal orchids, cinnabar moth, six spot burnet moth, birds foot trefoil, Euphrasia and milkwort. I only saw the 1 cinnabar moth but loads of the six spot burnets.

 The pyramidal orchids I have previously studied in detail, so felt familiar with ; the best colour for the tiny flowers I found was quinacridone magenta, with a hint of cobalt blue. They remind me of little pink pigs or well endowed ladies with bonnets!
The moths both look black but when viewed close up are a glistening irridesent yellow, blue, dark green, and interesting to paint.
The other flowers are all small, maybe a little fiddly on the painting but I'll do them anyway as this painting is about the species I have found here in this habitat.

It seems I did not have to travel far to find my next orchid species as I have found some growing in my garden underneath birch trees.

These are broad leaved Helleborines. They like shady woodlands and are the most common of the helleborines.Apparently they are pollinated by certain wasp species which lap the nectar and seem to get sleepy or drunk and have even been seen falling out of the flowers. Wonderful!

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Orchid Hunting

Over the past 3 weeks I have been to a few plant rich sites, including Kenfig NNR, Cae Blaen Dyffryn meadow and Elan Valley meadow- an SSSI. They are like oasis's of life amidst mostly barren farmland.
 Kenfig NNR is a large sand dune system with lake in south Wales. I found bee orchids, all the marsh orchids, twayblades and Pyramidal orchids. I also met a couple there who were looking for the rare fen orchid so I went along but I gave up eventually as I had to get back to work for the evening.

I quickly sketched the bees in situ to get the dimensions right and painted them and added dunes and sea in the background at home in graphite pencil. This adds another dimension and shows the habitat where they grow. The footprints in the sand tell a story; could be an intrepid orchid hunter or just a sole walker.
I have plenty of colour notes on bee orchids at home from previous works.

Cae Blaen Dyffryn is a 9 acre, traditionally grazed, neutral to acidic grassland. It is full of
butterfly orchids,heath spotted and common spotted orchids.

My sketches of greater butterfly and common spotted orchids.

Beautiful beech trees enclose the meadow on one side.

Elan Valley meadow is packed full of many species of plants some rare like the wood bitter vetch. I found my first Fragrant orchid here; it has a beautiful, sweet scent.

I will have to revisit this site to do some sketching, if the weather allows.

I am definitely hooked on orchid hunting now and may have to travel further afield to find other species!!

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Mid Summer

I've had very busy times lately at work and visiting family so not much time to blog or paint but I have finished my 'Ynyslas in early summer' painting; adding the blue butterfly and marsh orchid. I will put in the names of each species underneath in pencil eventually. I shall start another one for mid summer too and also one from Elan Valley and other meadows so I can build up a collection of these habitat paintings.

Here are some ox eye daisies I sketched yesterday; these are one of my favorite flowers ,
 Leucanthemum vulgare. They make great compositions and are good for practising fore-shortening and painting white flowers on white paper.
When we get some nice weather I'm going orchid hunting; looking for bee and butterfly orchids especially to sketch in the field.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012


Heres an update on my newest study ; Ynyslas in the early summer.

I've visited Ynyslas dunes a few times in the rain, dodging the terrible floods and collected a few plants to study.
They include the Burnet Rose, heath speedwell, birds foot trefoil, marsh orchid (I think its a northern- Dactylorhiza purpurella) and some grasses & sedges. In the case of the orchid I collected a leaf and a single flower from one plant and also found a broken tipped plant so I collected this too. I would never pick or dig up any wild orchids.
I am going to add a marsh orchid with enlarged flower heads and also a common blue butterfly which is here in large numbers when the sun eventually comes out.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Ynyslas Dune Slacks

During a busy week and bank holiday weekend I managed to visit Aberglasney gardens with a friend and see Marilyn Wheelers botanical art exhibition. Her beautiful work has won many awards and is very inspiring as she paints native British wild flowers and butterflies. The exhibition closes on Thursday 7th June so there's a bit of time left if you are in Wales this week.

I have also visited Ynyslas dunes twice. The orchids are slightly later this year due to the cold spring but are catching up nicely. I saw many common blue butterflies, always good.

 Above is a watercolour study and a photograph of a sub species of Early Marsh orchid ,
Dactylorhiza incarnata ssp coccinea. It has gorgeous carmine, red flowers.

Above is a gorgeous variety of the Southern marsh orchid called the Leopard, due to the amazing patterns on the leaves. I really want to start painting this one but have not had time for sketches yet. Its latin name is Dactylorhiza praetermissa var. junialis.

Above is a little plant called Adder's tongue fern; not looking like a usual fern at all.
It was believed that it could cure snake bites because of its similarity to a snake’s tongue and so got its name. This is in pen with watercolour wash.

Friday, 18 May 2012

I love Azaleas and Rhododendrons and they grow well in my garden on the acid soil. 
Here is a study of Rhododendron ponticum. It has lovely orange marks on the upper petals.

 The ferns are irresistible to sketch at the moment, unfurling in every hedgerow. I'm hoping to do a fern painting when I get time. These harts tongue ferns have shiny highlights and lots of scales and hairs to convey.

I bought 2 new paintbrushes from Rosemary and co. ( , on a recommendation from a friend. They are superb and now my favourites. I highly recommend them too.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Sketching Spring

After a hectic weekend at work, I have begun sketching spring subjects in earnest. I wandered up to Trawscoed lake and sketched some Wood Sorrel there in the evening sunlight. (Rare at the moment!!)

Ladies Smock or Cuckoo flower, Cardamine pratensis; a favourite wild flower of mine. It is very common around here growing in damp meadows (and on the garden lawn at work).
 -and Pratensis means 'of a meadow'.
The orange tip butterfly usually lays its eggs on this plant among other crucifers.
 Like the wood Sorrel ,this flower has delicate mauve veins, nice to paint.

I found this Columbine at the roadside, a beautiful pale blue. I've never seen one this colour before,usually dark blue,purple or pink. Had to sketch it.

The beautiful Azalea luteum has the most divine scent. A pleasure to draw by.