Tag Archives: drawing

Getting to be an exhibition junky………..The Society of Botanical Artists Annual Exhibition 2014

P1010470I went by myself to a Botanical Art exhibition, ‘how sad’ you say, but no it was great, it was just what was needed.  I had no one to talk to, no distractions, no worrying about if someone else was bored, tired or hungry, needed the loo or just wanted to go home.  I just had myself to please and somehow that does not happen very often.

I was able to go around the show which ran to nearly 700 pieces and look at each one individually.  I treated my visit as a learning experience and decided to analyse the pictures I liked and to decide what it was in that image that ‘spoke’ to me, and then I took notes (nerdy or what?)  Still I was there by myself so I could please myself!

At the end of three and a half hours, these are my findings about the things that I liked:

  • images that were larger than life size
  • compositions that overflowed their own boundaries
  • images that were ‘arrangements’ of separate items
  • gouache compared to straight water colour
  • images that were a single item (e.g. leaf)
  • interesting cropping that filled the picture plane
  • the combo of graphite and colour

I also noticed that some subjects are just ‘done to death’ and however beautiful and clever the work there is really nothing much new to say about strawberries, peppers, conkers, aubergines, tulips, daffodils, onions, garlic, carrots, cherries, orchids, iris, violas………….. I could go on.  That said, I’m sure I’m going to have a go at all of these over the coming months.

Artists I liked:

Some amazing work in the exhibition and so many talented artists.

Back at my own drawing board, things are not so amazing………. This week I followed instructions from a book called ‘ Creating Radiant Flowers in Colored Pencil’, this had instructions about using solvents to dissolve and blend coloured pencil.

With and without solvent

With and without solvent

First petal is just blended/burnished pencil and second one has had solvent applied to blend the colours, not only is it bigger (not caused by solvent but by operator error) but it is brighter, so I guess that is one way of getting really intense colour.

Then I went onto my plant of the week, which this week is my flowering ‘Easter’ cactus, this flowers for me every year and survives on neglect.  Have not put much time into it but I did try to have a go at the flower, pale pink almost white in places, how do you draw white petals on white paper?  Another skill to learn – to be added to the list.

Easter Cactus drawing by Sue Hagley

Easter Cactus

Orange! A Marmite type of colour.

This week as I wandered around the garden wondering what to draw, mulling over my skills, I realised that I had been avoiding flowers with too many petals.  Too hard, too complicated – nah not for me, I can’t do that yet.  Despite my doubts I left the garden with a marigold in my hand, and decided to give it a go.  As I sat down and started drawing in dawned on me that it was not the shape or the number of petals that was going to be the problem but the colour.  What a bright orange, what a singeing eye popping colour, it really does not look like a natural colour – it is just way too bright.

Orange, is a strange colour, many people don’t like it and I can understand why, it is very fierce and in your face, it is a Marmite type colour, you either love it or hate it.  Maybe not quite like Marmite as I have converted from hate to love.  My conversion to orange came many years ago when I was still a quilter and a completely lurid piece of orange fabric came into my possession and dominated my stash.  I decided that instead of throwing the fabric away I would use it, and I pieced it into one of my very first ‘art’ quilts, and found to my surprise that it was the orange colour made the quilt sing.  The quilt was not brilliant but it opened my eyes to the magic of orange.  After that, most of my textile work had a sprinkle of orange sparkle and were all the better for it. (Apologies for the rubbish photo)

Orange Squares Quilt by Sue Hagley

First ‘art’ quilt made in 2002

Back at the drawing board, I was struggling with both the colour and the shape of the marigolds and now that I have finished a few and photographed them and looked with new eye I can see how wobbly they are and how very ‘off’ I am in places and how I have failed to match the orange.

Marigold flower in coloured pencil

Wonky flower

Marigold Bud in coloured pencil


So although not satisfied at all with my coloured pencil efforts, I really enjoyed the pencil drawing, a marigold when studied closely has a complicated and interesting shape, the leaves wrap around the stalk and they twist and spiral outwards.  The bud is tightly wrapped with a calyx with spikes that curl beautifully.  I found the structure fascinating and a real challenge to draw.

Graphite drawing of marigolds

Graphite drawing of marigolds

Graphite drawing of marigolds

Graphite drawing of marigolds

Graphite drawing of marigolds

Graphite drawing of marigolds




In which the author meets a virtual internet friend in real reality and spends the day in London.

I obviously don’t get out much! But this has been an exciting and encouraging week, in which I have seen some quality botanical art, met a great teacher and met some new people.  I am a member of the FaceBook page Botanical Art for Beginners, and I found out that a fellow member would also be at the RHS Botanical Art Exhibition in London.  We arranged to meet and amazingly we found each other, in that great crowded hall.  She introduced me to Ann Swan a pencil art teacher and author, who was coming to Dedham Hall (just down the road from me) to teach for a week, she was kind enough to let me gatecrash one of her classes so I did.  Some wonderful work was going on, and Ann is a supportive and knowledgable teacher, everyone was really friendly and I have made contact now with a local group which meets monthly.  The quality of the artwork at the RHS show was amazing, very inspiring and very varied, something to aspire to one day (in my next lifetime!)

Clematis Montana drawing

Clematis Montana drawing


















Even with all the excitement of London and Dedham I did get some drawing done, and this week what interested me was our Clematis Montana coming out, it seems to be best ever this year, maybe all the rain last year helped.  Petals again, oh dear, but practice makes perfect so I had another go.

Two clematis flowers

Two clematis flowers

Rough drawings

Rough drawings

So it is all very well being able to draw a plant fairly accurately, but what I realised at the exhibition this week is that accuracy does not an ‘artwork’ make.  Well, that’s obvious, obviously but it had not really sunk in; but visiting this class I could see that although the plant material was there the students were using it as inspiration rather than a guide.  So having done my preparatory drawings and photos of the clematis I thought I would have a go at ‘composition’.  I therefore spent a happy few hours with tracing paper, IPad, drawings, scissors and eraser laying out my first composition.

Clematis composition

Clematis composition

What I had noticed when I photographed the plant was that all the buds looked like little faces searching for the sunshine, so I tried to get the feeling in my picture of the buds and opening blossoms straining towards the warmth.  Not sure if it has worked but I am going to go with it, it is only small (a finished size of 6 inches square).




Draws Shoots and Leaves but how to decide which Shoots and Leaves to Draw

Euphorbia Lathyris

Euphorbia Lathyris

My most recent drawing (Euphorbia Lathyris), a plant picked from my own garden; a plant not planted, a volunteer plant of a type that pops up on and off in the garden.  A plant usually called a weed and ruthlessly pulled up.   But I am looking at plants differently now, with new eyes, not seeing weeds or choice specimens but seeing and noticing shape and colour and if it is not too strange a ‘personality’.

I have been thinking about ‘style’ and looking at my work.  I know that a ‘style’ develops and grows and it will appear (hopefully) of it’s own free will but I can’t help thinking about what will be the best way to nurture and encourage it.  From my previous life as an artist in other fields I know that following my own interests and concerns brought me most satisfaction and ultimately led to a fruitful way of working. So I suppose this is how I will develop my botanical ‘style’; it will come out in the sort of plants that attract my interest, the sort of plants that make me want to engage with them the sort of plants that I choose to draw.

I am already feeling my way towards this, as I am attracted by the slightly strange, the little bit ugly and the oddly shaped, and I suspect the easy to draw……..




Going crazeeeeeee – GIMP, scanning and photography

I never thought that botanical art would lead me down the dark and tortuous road of photography, but it has, and let me be up front about photography – I don’t like it.  The camera does not see as I do and I am always disappointed by the results.

So I finished my drawing of the Photinia and of course I needed to photograph it – why? 1. to put in the blog of course and 2. as a record.

Photinia drawing by Sue Hagley

Finished Photinia coloured pencil drawing.


Arghhh!  Lighting, getting it right is sooooo hard, lots of research on the internet and it all seems so time intensive and boring and even more nit-picking than even I can cope with.  My research lead me to consider scanning – ah ha! much easier, the darn thing lights itself and I will just get some software to do a little colour correction. What a blind alley that turned into.  Most of my images are bigger than scanner plate, so software would also need to ‘stitch’ several images together as well as adjust colour.  More research and the dread word GIMP came into my life.  Anyway – this is all way too boring but I have just wasted two of my precious days on this earth wrestling with GIMP and some esoteric things called layers – it’s all been too horrible and I’m done with it!   The solution came to me when I was meditating – surprising what a little bit of stillness and silence can do, and it seems glaringly obvious now.  My room has been rearranged, and in that rearrangement new lights were installed, which means the room is evenly lit enough for photography (at least for the standard I need).  So I tested it out, and it works, YAY!  Only problem was a support to hold the artwork, so a request to my resident woodworker resulted in a lovely new stand, with the addition of two elastic bands my Heath Robinson ensemble is good to go.

Photography Stand

Heath Robinson ensemble

Seems to  work alright, see photo of Photinia above (although I have not cropped it properly); I will experiment some more with a tripod and a better (bigger) camera, but not today……………………..

P.S. ………if you are still with me, dear reader, I did go back to it, like an itch you can’t help scratching.  My later experiments came out really well and I am now HAPPY!  I found out how to set the white balance on my camera, lower the ISO and use a tripod.  I also used up about 500 calories going up stairs to take the photo and down again to put it on the computer, so I have had my exercise for today, which can’t be bad.  Didn’t do any drawing though………..


Chaenomeles disappointment, Photinia progress

Botanic art is not an easy discipline.  Last week I was very disappointed with my efforts with a Chaenomeles blossom which was only slightly alleviated by the excitement of reorganising my workroom.  I will share only one of my drawings as it illustrates how difficult it was for me to draw petals (and I am too ashamed of the other drawings).  A petal is delicate, light and ephemeral and flutters lightly in the breeze.

Chaenomeles blossom

Chaenomeles blossom

Not under my heavy handed pencil work; my efforts do not do it justice in any shape or form.

My effort

My effort

So thoroughly discouraged I have put petals to one side for the moment, when I am more skilful I will revisit the lovely Chaenomeles and try again.

Thinking I need something a bit more solid to get my teeth into, my eye landed on Photinia Red Robin growing in the garden. Ah ha! tough, bold, good angles, shape and colour and not a petal in site – my next subject.

Photinia Red Robin

Ready to go

The outline drawing was accomplished fairly painlessly, and by the end of the day I had the outline ready on good paper ready to start the colour work.  I think I am going to start drawing stones and rocks, why! Because plants move! They shift, they sag, they droop, they twist, bits fall off, they just change – moment by moment they are not the same.  So the next morning all was different, so that is another skill that I need to acquire; the ability to be flexible and the ability to adapt.


Photinia set up

Photinia set up

I am still working on this image, the colours are fun to work with, each leaf is different and I am enjoying the process.  I have been listening an unabridged version audio book of Les Miserables, in all the time the musical has been running I have never seen it, and I still have not seen the film – well at least I know the story now.

Photinia work in progress

Photinia work in progress


Procrastination and the art of hiding it behind activity

I have not picked up a pencil to do a drawing for at least a week but I have been really busy, and now I am sitting down in front of the computer procrastinating again.

I decided my problem was that I did not have the proper working space in my room; this is true because I have to clear all one activity away before starting on another.  I like to draw and I like to sew, but I also like to leave things out and not tidy them away immediately.

So I needed to remove the double bed from the middle of the room to create space for another table and I found the exact bed I needed in a charity shop in Felixstowe.  A single bed with an under bed for the second mattress – perfect.  The bed was bought and brought home and then the house disintegrated into chaos…………  Well I won’t go into the gory details but by the end of the afternoon, almost every room in the house had been affected what with clearing out underneath the bed, finding new bedding, rearranging furniture and generally having a good spring clean.

I had to do some hard thinking about some of the stuff I found and I found myself side tracked several times especially when I found some photos and slides.  It is hard to put things to one side and to decide to let them go, I find myself clinging – clinging to old balls of wool and the person I once was.


  • I am giving away all (and I mean all) the yarn that I have decided I will never knit – Swish your Stash coming up on Sunday and I AM GOING.  I am keeping sock yarn and hat yarn.
  • All the yarn that will never be knitted by me.  Good bye yarn, have a happy life.

    All the yarn that will never be knitted by me. Good bye yarn, have a happy life.

  • I have found all the photos of the quilts I have made and I am going to scan them and make a book for myself of the time in my life when I made quilts.
  • I have a lovely open space in the middle of my room.
  • The wide open space - shame about the shabby carpet.

    The wide open space – shame about the shabby carpet.

  • I have a table for sewing and writing and a table for art.
  • Yay!!! Two tables, what luxury, no excuses now........

    Yay!!! Two tables, what luxury, no excuses now……..

  • I still have a huge mess to clear up on the landing and in other parts of the house but I will do that later (uh oh! procrastinating again)
  • I feel better.

Anyone else been procrastinating? Springcleaning (arghhhh)? Letting things go?