Sunday, 24 May 2015

This leaf was so big in fact, that it was classified as dangerous...

Artichoke Leaf - still a work in progress and probably will be for ages. 

Artichoke Field with homemade 'Cuidado Veneno! Peligroso!' (Care, Poison! Dangerous!) signs

A more professional sign.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Even Artichokes Have Hearts

Been keeping myself occupied with an Artichoke leaf this week after having a long weekend off with my best friend Bambi. It was really good to take some time out and I feel completely rejuvenated. Even went for a dip in the sea on Saturday! 

Dip in the sea - me flailing my arms about like a lunatic

Artichoke Leaf (Cynara cardunculus var. scolymus)
Artichoke Leaf (Cynara cardunculus var. scolymus) - close up

Seriously enjoying this piece. I am enjoying it in the same way I enjoyed painting the Pineapple. I had hoped to get this completed for the RHS submission, but I don't think I will as I have just received another commission. Can't complain. I also have lots of source material in the nearby field, so that's not a problem either. I can revisit this one as at least they only cut the flower buds off.

Artichoke Leaf (Cynara cardunculus var. scolymus) -  work in progress

Painting this one with just two brushes and not the usual five that I have on the go, which is probably why I am finding this piece so rewarding. It is intense, but on the eyes and not on the fingers. I might do a series of leaves like this one, just seeing how it goes first. It's all about getting the right leaf and this one is utterly fabulous. Let's hope I do it justice!

Artichoke Leaf (Cynara cardunculus var. scolymus) - on the board with Wilma

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Wilma the Wisteria

Wisteria sinensis was formally introduced from China to Europe in 1816 by an English gentleman named Captain Welbank and has has since secured a place as one of the most popular flowering vines in gardens. Apparently, it was discovered when one evening, in May 1816 (almost 200 years ago this month), Welbank was invited for dinner by a rich Chinese merchant from Guangzhou. The party was held underneath a pergola covered in flowering Wisteria, which the Chinese called Zi Teng (blue vine).

Wilma - a work in progress
Not many people had at this time ever seen such thing and consequently Captain Welbank worked hard to convince the merchant to give him seedlings which he then took back to England as a present for his friend C. H. Turner. Three years later, in 1819, the Wisteria bloomed for the first time and from there on rapidly spread into many gardens, including my father's in sunny Bognor and our garden here in Belicena.

Here in Spain, Wisteria is called Glycine, which is from the Greek, 'glicine, meaning 'sweet plant'. This name stems from a plant that had been introduced from America and was in fact the first assigned to the plant. It was a whole century later, when Captain Welbank brought the plant to England, when the plant received its synonym by the botanist Nuttal, who didn't realise that the plant had already been described. Nuttal called the plant 'Wisteria' in honour of the German anatomist Kaspar Wistar. and despite it being a synonym, this is the name that is now recognised. 

Something of interest... 

Wisteria sinensis winds counter clockwise and Wisteria floribunda winds clockwise. This is great for us, as it helps to tell them apart, but it's a very odd phenomenon. Some people originally thought that this was a result of the fact that plants that are from the northern hemisphere always twist anti-clockwise, and those from the southern hemisphere twist clockwise. Of course, Japan is in the northern hemisphere, so this doesn't correlate. The theory was then further expanded upon to include the tectonic plate movements of Japan, as it was originally in the Southern hemisphere millions of years ago. 

Sadly though, this entire theory has been disproved. Plants are not effected at all by the Coriolis effect. Apparently, 92% of all vines in the world grow in a counter clockwise direction. Most botanists now wonder if this direction of twisting is caused by the left-handed bias of all biological molecules in nature, but we still don't really know...

Friday, 8 May 2015

Cotton Commission for Sunspel Finished

I was burning the midnight oil last night as I tried to get the cotton commission for Memorandum Journal finished. It fell into two parts - the first was the botanical side of things and I managed to finish that a few weeks ago, but the second part was delayed because the materials I needed to work from got lost in the post.  C'est la vie!

Sunspel Garments in the post - this is the nightgown that I really wanted to keep!

Thankfully they arrived on Tuesday afternoon and the design company (A Practice For Everyday Life) moved the deadline for me to compensate for lost time - thank you APFEL! As I opened the box, I found some sheets of archival cotton samples along with four beautifully made garments by Sunspel. They were so soft and divine to touch. I thought about the queen and decided that she must have a night dress made of this material. 

Processing of cotton

Anyway, I had planned to get cracking on with it on Wednesday and Thursday, only a lot of Wednesday was filled with trying to get an identity number in Spain. In Spain most people need an NIE. As I understand it, it is a personal number that is used for pretty much every legal transaction in the country. Therefore, you'd need it to open a bank account or to buy a car for example. I know this, because these are the things I am trying to do. So in order to have an NIE you need a letter from the bank saying that they are happy to open a bank account for you once you have the NIE. Problem is, Santander (and probably most banks in the city) didn't want to give me this letter because: 

a) I didn't have an NIE  
b) I am self employed 
c) I am a non-resident. 

So bit of a catch 22 there... Luckily the bank in the village was more amenable than the city banks and I now have a non-resident bank account, which means I can now get my NIE.

Illustrations of their cotton samples magnified 

Illustrations of their cotton samples magnified 

Illustrations of the gown at different levels of magnification 

Illustrations of the gown at different levels of magnification 

A few words on cotton

So with all this kerfuffle, I had little time left to complete the second half of the job, which was to illustrate the weave of thread in the samples. Tricky work indeed, but I managed to complete it at around midnight. Right, time for a beer!

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Broad beans pretty much finished

Broad Bean - Vicia faba
Broad Bean - Vicia faba - 56 x 76cm by J R Shepherd 2015

Just a few more tweaks required, but I am starting to mess it up, so I reckon it's time to move onto something else, pin it by my door, spot all the glaringly obvious mistakes over the next week and revisit before I drop it off to it's new owner. PS. She's called Brenda.

Monday, 4 May 2015

This has blown my mind, completely and utterly

These paintings were published in This is Colossal today. The amazing work of Kwang-Ho Lee, of which you can see more at Johyun Gallery and Artsy online. 

Cactus No.73, oil on canvas 193.9×130.3cm 2011, courtesy Atelier Aki
I guess seeing work like this could make you want to give up the brush. I for one couldn't help but ask myself this evening 'what is the point of painting - I'll never be as good as this?!' I have to admit, that really was my second thought (the first thought was trying to work out how on earth these had been painted). Feelings of such foolish cowardice fluttered into my brain like a butterfly, but exited like a bullet. No way - can't even begin to think such depressing, silly thoughts. So what?! Yes, this artist is seriously good, in fact, mindbogglingly so, and that's great. This is something to be celebrated - it means it is possible. It's possible to make something look this real with a brush, some paint, a lot of patience, quite a lot of perfectionism and a whopping great big dose of devotion. Well done Lee - superb work - you are inspiring. I will never look at a cactus in the same way again.

Cactus No.69, 2011, Oil on canvas, 162.1×130.3cm, courtesy Johyun Gallery.

Cactus No.51,2010,Oil on Canvas,194x200cm, courtesy Johyun Gallery

Via Artsy

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Vicia Faba to Julius Caesar or just haba if you're over here

Been quiet. No reason for it. Just a time for working a lot, playing with the cat, admiring the garden, starting a book, whilst trying not to think too much.  Had a day of getting to grips with the Spanish roads today which has left me rather exhausted.. I might have to put the kettle on despite it being 35 degrees and possibly a bit too hot for a pot.

Broad Bean
Broad Bean - Vicia faba - a work in progress £500 - SOLD

Here's the latest and I hope to complete it next week - Broadbeans from our local field! I decided not to put the beans in, as they made the composition look really weird. They do grow at a funny angle it has to be said. For me, it was all about the flowers - black spiders sitting on pumped up white pillows - so dramatic! They just completely take you by surprise. This is a commission for someone - I hope they like it. I still have a fair amount of work to do on it, but it's getting there. So far I have worked on it for 30 hours - I predicted 50. The painting measures 76cm tall x 56cm wide. 

Broad bean field
Me looking bloody serious working in the field (not sure why I am so serious)...
Yep, that's the Sierra Nevada behind.
Oh and here's paradise... It does exist - it moves around. I am lucky in that a certain form of it has popped up in our back garden. Sometimes one just can't paint fast enough...

I always think of Alice in wonderland in this Rose Garden and consequently I
like to sing 'We're Painting the Roses Red' when I am in it

Our front door now has our Agapanthus on either side.
I forced mum to bring them back from the other house as we both love them so much.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Propaganda Posters

I have got a bit carried away (as usual) and have been making these propaganda* posters for Inky Leaves. To be honest, I am really not sure what I am trying to do here - possibly too much at once: trying to work out who I am, trying to work out what Inky Leaves is and lastly, trying to integrate them into a tangible concept. It was during this time when I came up with the collective... I am still welcoming contributions by the way... 


*the word propaganda comes the Latin gerund form of propagare, meaning to propagate, thus propaganda means that which is to be propagated. I rather like the horticultural connotations despite the negative associations we have with the word today.

"The popularity with artists masquerading in self-portraiture may be attributed to our inability to be content playing only one role in art, and in life.  As complex being with rich, inner lives, one role is hardly satisfying.  We are not easily defined by a single identity.  The self-portrait enables us to create a realm where we can express our past-selves, repressed selves, desires, maladies of the mind, intellectual interests or to fantasize about being someone altogether different than ourselves.  The masqueraded self-portrait can be an escape into a world where we have full creative control – not surprising in a reality where we can often feel that we have little control over.  We crave the world where we are free to be anyone that we chose to be." Nicely put Holly Marie Armishaw.

Friday, 24 April 2015


I should be getting on with commissions, but I needed a little light relief. Home alone this week, so I am working very long days to non-stop trance to whistle the time away. Plus I have been waiting for a parcel to arrive, which has made me rather house bound. I've missed my mid-day walks.

So this, along with my Propaganda Posters, is what I have been working on this week. This rather enormous piece isn't my usual it has to be said... but something I have wanted to do for a couple of months. It's a spin off from the exhibition we are holding here in Spain this summer (see below). The painting is not finished yet, but I need a break from it (as usual). Two 11 hour days have taken their toll. I might re-visit it towards the end of the week. Work for Kew is planned for this weekend and then hopefully this courier will arrive so I can finish this cotton job. Oh it's good to be busy. Then of course, there's Mork... the Artichoke... etc etc. There never seems to be enough time in the day, especially when you have a cat.

Pomegranate Work in Progress
'Persephone' a work in progress, Gouache, 841mm x 1189mm
Thinking of re-naming this 'No tits, No nostrils'...

Sense of scale

The Incredible Exploding Pomegranate

If you are an artist or a maker you might be interested in an exhibition I am organising with Roberta Gordon-Smith and Kitty Shepherd. We are still welcoming submissions to participate - the closing date is at the end of the month. If you are interested please follow the links below. We have Alexei Sayle, Andrew Birch, Gillian Singer and Peter Capaldi (Dr. Who) on the selection team so you will be in good company! There will be a van for UK artists, which will leave London at the end of the May. If you want to use the van, we will need a small contribution to fuel and the crossing. Please see our terms and conditions.