Monday, 29 September 2014

La Fabula at la Finca 28 September 2014

On Wednesday it was time for me to wave a jolly good farewell to English shores. As I watched the docks at Portsmouth and HMS Victory disappear from view, I was filled with a good feeling. There was no sadness, just a strange type of openness which filled my heart. I have been living out of rucksacks for so long now, I have become accustomed to the life of a nomad and nothing appears to frighten me or make me feel unstable. I seemed to have learnt how to ground oneself without using the ground. 
View from our cabin on Brittany Ferries. Farewell Pompey!

So much of Wednesday was rather unproductive and I decided to catch up on much needed sleep whilst indulging in Leonard Cohen songs and some delicious vintage wine. I got the top bunk in what was a rather roomy cabin.

The sea was a millpond and we all slept rather well that night. There certainly is nothing better than being gently rocked to sleep in an air of delicious scent (I went a bit mad at the perfume counter before bed). Breakfast was fantastic (thank you Brittany Ferries) and fuelled with a full English breakfast, half a dozen chocolate croissants and a pot of tea we drove down from Bilbao to Granada in a day (well actually Andrew did. Mum was in charge of regular CD changes and I did sweet FA). We disembarked the ferry at Bilbao with a flock of Hells Angels at around 1pm and arrived in Granada at 11pm. Granada greeted us with an electrical storm of epic proportions. It was very dramatic and terribly exciting. In fact, one could almost describe the experience as Biblical, as by this time we were all indulging in a bit of Leonard Cohen and he was belting out the many verses of Hallelujah during this part of the journey in the middle of the night. God it gets dark here.

After dropping off all of our things in the new office on Friday, my mum and Andrew had to deliver the van back to its depo in Malaga, while I hitched a ride to our house in the mountains with all of the things we needed for our exhibition on Sunday. I'd just like to say a quick thing on van hire here, as its the only appropriate place. If you are planning a move similar to this one, I can say that we all think that using Way to Go van hire is a very good way of doing the move. It is much cheaper (£550.00 for 5 days) and the company was very helpful throughout. 

The entrance leading to the new 'Browse' office and the studios of both Kitty Shepherd and Inky Leaves. Santa Fe, Granada

My new place of work has the most amazing garden complete with an Indian Bean Tree (one if my favourite trees), a Magnolia grandiflora, a Horse Chestnut laden with conkers, two intact Canary Palms, Dahlias, Roses, Jasmine, Wisteria, Cycad and LAWN (as rare as hen's teeth down here) etc. The list of plants is endless...

Saturday was a bit of a nightmare... Prepping for an exhibition always is rather mad isn't it? And let me tell you, it's even worse when moving house... Word of practical advice, don't exhibit if moving house. So, with our labels printed and mounted onto foam board, our plinths primed and statements written we hiked over to the Finca del Castillo Arabe in the Valle de Lecrín on Sunday and set up. Yes, we are totally bonkers. Mum and I were going to hang our work on Saturday afternoon in preparation, but we had another storm and there was too much fog over the National Park for us to actually get through. We also experienced 6 power cuts. I think this is how we have to roll here in Spain...

Tables set up for lunch, art work on the walls. La Fabula at la Finca, La Finca del Castillo Arabe, September 2014

It was a fabulous day in the valley and an experience I will never forget. We had an eight course lunch by a top Granadian chef, Ismael Delagado Lopez, from La Fabula, which was utterly delicious and satisfied (what has recently become) my overwhelming need for posh nosh (London appears to have turned me into a food snob). 

Posh nosh, and VERY tasty too!
Throughout the day, Ophelia got to show off in her new frame which was very carefully constructed by the brilliant firm Bond-a-Frame in Chichester. I'm very grateful to them for not only mounting her in record time, but for exploring such bizarre framing options on my behalf. I am very much aware of what an unreasonable, picky customer I can be in framing shops and they were so tolerant of my demands! Thank you Bond-a-Frame, you did a superb job. I opted for the magic glass with Ophelia too, which is non reflective, UV filtered and is very special in that it doesn't alter the light and colours of the piece in the way normal glass does. Something to do with the composition or ratio of the silicon in it I think... Anyway, Ophelia is delighted with her special, slip mounted, box frame. 

Guests enjoying their Spanish nosh
Mum had a good show and managed to raise €210 for the local charity Acompalia through the sale of her mugs. I was sad to say farewell to this little tree, which also found a new home on that day. It's called The Magic Tree and it's magic.

Mum's magic tree

Systematics and Botanical Illustration

Day Meeting at the Linnean Society of London

Organised jointly by the Systematics Association and The Linnean Society of London
09:30 - 17:00 Thursday 29th January 2015
150129 Pic 1This is most certainly a date for your diary! A one day meeting at the Linnean Society which brings together a number of scientists with a broad range of contemporary research interests to discuss the inter-disciplinary relationships between monography, floristics, conservation, biogeography and botanical illustration. The meeting is held during the month in which botanical artist, Rosemary Wise, celebrates her 50th year as a working botanical artist. Consequently, the diverse range of speakers attending this event have been carefully chosen to reflect this special anniversary:
You can find out more here.
Registration is essential and costs £30 (this includes lunch and a drinks reception).

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Coronas and Cacaos

'Corona del Espinas', a work in progress. 

Close ups on the 'Corona del Espinas', (endive lettuce), J R Shepherd
So as you can see I've been keeping myself busy painting,  trying to get things completed before I leave the UK... I'm rather getting into the curly lettuce now, which is brilliant news as it was taking a long time to do and I beginning to regret ever starting it. Just goes to show you have to stick with something. I rather like all the sharp points now, viscous though they are, there's something rather therapeutic about facing up to them. It is so efffective I've even stopped listening to power ballads and classical music and am now back onto my more uplifting tracks, such as ''Laisse tomber me filles" by French Gall. Nice.

Alongside translating the lurid green leaves (almost glow in the dark shade) of this particular lettuce I've been tackling the strange and peculiar shades of Coco the chocolate sapling. Her greens change from a Cadmiumy Yellow to 'normal' green to Lemon yellow and then a peachy brown right at the top. I love the fact the upper young leaves come out so tanned and then change colour. It's all so very backwards! I wonder if its a tactic against herbivores? It's drooping leaves that give it an appearance of permenant wilting are certainly a put off. 

Close up on Coco the Chocolate Plant, J R Shepherd (Cocoa theobroma)

Coco the Chocolate Plant, J R Shepherd (Cocoa theobroma)

Coco the Chocolate Plant, J R Shepherd (Cocoa theobroma)
So Coco will be going up to London soon to be scanned in before she gets handed in to the Chelsea Physic Garden Florilegium Society. I'll be sad to see her go, which is why I thought I'd scan her in. I hope to use her as a refence piece for a bigger, better chocolate too.

Right, now it's time to cycle into town to get my eyes tested at Specsavers (always a worry with the work I do that they've got worse) and to have a celebratory lunch time beer if they are ok.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Upcoming botanical art exhibitions

18th September – 18th December, 2014
The Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA

'Dangerous Beauty: Thorns, Spines and Prickles'

30th August - 30th September 2014
Gill Jelley and Kate Steel
The Savill Garden, Egham, 
10am-6pm daily

23rd October to 29th October, 2014
Aldeburgh Gallery, Suffolk
The Aldeburgh Gallery,
143 High Street, Aldeburgh, Suffolk IP15 5AN

'Guy Williams Eves – Solo Exhibition'

Fir by Guy Williams Eves

23rd October – 23rd November, 2014
Society of Botanical Artists
Exhibition at Palmengarten Botanical Gardens, Frankfurt, Germany

'Medicinal and Poisonous Plants'

Rotations of this exhibition run until February, 2015 Natural History Museum
Blue Zone
'Artworks by Women – Images of Nature'

ESBA Annual Exhibition September 2014

The annual exhibition of the Edinburgh Botanical Art Society opens on the 5th September and will feature the work of 15 artists. Its well worth a visit as I've seen the work they do and it's spectacular. The Society was formed as an Alumni Association for the graduates of the Rotal Botanic Garden Edinburgh's botanical illustration course. 

I used to watch these students paint in the big old fashioned classroom when I was studying for my Masters in Botanical Taxonony. Its a great room and remibded me of something you might find in a Harry Potter film. Anyway, at the time I renenber being completely dumbfounded by their ability to paint something so beautiful and accurate. It was then when I first began to question my path as a botanist/scientist and wondered if I should be doing something similar... So if you are in the area why not pop in? Or make a weekend of it... Edinburgh's a super city.

The exhibition is at Gallery 17 on Sunday Street from Friday 5th to Sunday 14th and is open from 10am - 5pm daily.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Anon's Progress

Its reckon this will be a pretty bad image for most of you, so I'll keep it short. This is what I'm working on now - a bit different to Ophelia! It's a curly lettuce, A1 in size to sit with Cos.

I've been calling this one 'Anon' because I couldn't find an appropriate name for it... It is also still very much an 'it' this piece, more if a feeling / experience, but I think I've finally rrived at a title: 'Corona de Espinas'. I think what took me so long was facing up to the fear. It's also what is making this one so hard to paint. Its a bit of a scary lettuce.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Ophelia and I have moved on

So Philly and I have moved on from Chopin, Beethoven and Tchaikovsky to good old 1980s Power Ballads. It's great and we really are getting to grips with things. So here's an updated photo. Not sure on the overall quality of this photograph as I haven't a PC to check it on (it is currently packed in a box heading for Spain) and I only have my tablet...

She's still not finished, but we are most definitely on the home straight now. For those of you who didn't see me start this piece back in April at the RHS botanical art show in London, its pretty large - roughly A1 in size.

I will be taking limited edition (20) prints of this piece at the same size. If you are interested I'd love to hear from you. Please email me (

Friday, 29 August 2014

Listening to everything in a minor key

So it's been a while hasn't it?! Thought it was probably time to check in and write a little update. Since I last wrote quite a lot has happened... I had a lovely little trip to Galacia at the beginning of August and then I had two days in London where I tied up all loose ends before catching the train to Bognor Regis - my hometown. For the next two days I caught up with my dad and started my intensive driving course. On the Saturday night I then zoomed back up to London and I came back down to Worthing on the Sunday with all of my things and dearest Henry. Then I went back to Boggers to finish my driving course. I passed... phew! So that was a mega week. My brain was fried with everything that's been going on in my personal life, and learning to drive on top of all of that in such a short space of time was hard going. I am really glad that I passed though as it is really going to help me with pretty much every endeavour in the future.

I passed! Thank you Bank Holiday/Goodwood Racing/Arundel Festival traffic!
So, since passing and having a fun day out with dad and his crowd from The Alex to the Arundel Festival* I have moved to my mum and step dad's flat in Worthing. This is great as I can now paint and heal. This no longer involves indulgent foods and alcohol. The process has developed and I am now in my 'music phase'. There is rarely a moment when my headphones aren't in my ears. This must really annoy the people around me, but it's essential. 

So, alongside indulging in music I have been busy trying to finish Ophelia. I have found completing this piece very restorative and I am glad that I hadn't finished it earlier on the year as I had originally hoped. For me, this piece is about the power of femininity, creativity and transformation. Calling her Ophelia is a bit of name-play.

Ophelia the Orchid (Phalaenopsis sp.) Started at the RHS' Botanical Art Show Pop-up Studio
It does seem to be taking a long time to complete this piece. I think this is because I have become rather too accustomed to painting leaves and I'm just not used to working with so much pink! These petals are very different - very whole with little interruption along the surfaces. Big washes are needed and lots of time for drying. The amazing thing about this big beauty is how much yellow she has in her layers. I am mainly using my very old Daler Rowney paints for this one... Permanent Rose, Rose Madder, Phtalo Blue, Ultramarine, and W&N Transparent Yellow. In the green places I have the same colours, but in different proportions. I try not to add too many colours on one piece and stick to a limited palette. It's bad enough having five brushes in one hand, let alone tons of colour mixes! Well that's what I think anyway... The really funny thing is I have got a really big brush for these big washes and I can't really get it in my mouth when I am using the smaller brushes. I tend to bite on my brushes a lot you see, like a dog with a bone. It's useful as an extra hand, but sadly I am struggling with the 5-brush tactic this time around...

Close up on the Orchid
Right-e-o, I think that's enough of an update from moi. I hope to update again a few times before my move to Spain on the 24th September. Don't forget that Inspiring Kew opens tomorrow!! I probably won't be going up to London as originally hoped, so I eagerly await to hear all about it from you...

* I highly recommend visiting the Arundel Festival. It's a brilliant arts-based trail and features some of the best artists in the area. Arundel itself is a beautiful town and over the weekend you also get to see musicians, performance artists and taste some very tasty food!

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Coco's progress

It's Tuesday and I am getting ready to go to Spain on a little trip. This isn't the big move, more of a 'toe dip'. I am seeing my house mate Catuxa who kindly bought me a ticket to go and see her as a thank you for helping her with her PGCE and QTS work. Isn't that a lovely thing to do?! So, in between trying to cram in as much as possible into a teeny hand luggage bag and decanting all of my Green People sun cream into 100/50ml bottles, I am slowly getting Coco completed.

Leaves close up - apologies for bad photograph, light in my bedroom isn't as good as the studio and I have a very old camera as my new one broke.
It appears I have at last worked out why I couldn't paint on the Fabriano Artistico paper - it was not only because I insisted on working on a drawing board rather than flat, but also because I am very naughty (tight) when it comes to buying new brushes. Knowing I am going to move to Spain, I decided to splash out on a load of brushes the other day. I was going to save them, but on my return from the shop I couldn't paint using the older brushes with the shiny new ones staring straight at me with their pointy heads and clean bristles! I succumbed to temptation and broke four new brushes in. WOW! It was amazing and I can now say that Artistico isn't that bad after all. I can also say that I am now promising myself to buy new brushes more regularly than before. A lesson learnt!

A close up on the leaf with the sun shining through it.
So here is Coco - I managed to get quite a bit done at the RHS on Sunday which is good and then again yesterday and today. Actually yesterday was a pretty non-productive day as I was too busy house-packing, emailing and getting my Euros sorted out, but anyway - you get the idea.

Again - rubbish photo - I blame the camera and my dimly lit room... 
I am going to work late tonight with the hope I can sleep on the plane. Might try and get that other leaf on the left done now I appear to be in the groove of working with these lighter more lurid shades of green. The types of green you get with the sun shines through leaves. It's a really tricky green to get right and I know I still haven't got it right, but I think it's better than the green I used on the The Green Giant, so I am getting there... if a little slowly.

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Florum Exhibition September 2014

an annual exhibition inspired by plant life

Detail on Araucaria by Julie Small ©

6th - 13th Septmeber 2014
10-5 daily

Kent Wildlife Trust Sevenoaks Reserve
Bradbourne Vale Road

More than 60 invited artists will be showing their work in this botanically-themed exhibition. All of the works will be for sale including prints and cards. Admission to the show is free, so why not have a nice day out in the glorious Autumnal weather and maybe do a spot of blackberry picking on the way?

"Florum was the inspiration of Elizabeth Smail FLS FSBA. Together with Guy Harrison she had successfully run The 'Flora' Botanical and Flower Exhibition at the Sevenoaks Wildfowl Reserve. When the Reserve passed to Kent Wildlife Trust Elizabeth proposed a similar exhibition there for 2003 and 'Florum' was born. Elizabeth's death in 2012 left everyone sad but determined to continue the exhibition in her name."