Tag Archives: plants

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


Draws Shoots and Leaves finds out the meaning of the word ‘Cauliflory’

Who knew there even was a word called ‘cauliflory’ – ah ha! something to do with cauliflowers I guessed.  Wrong………my new book defines it as “The production of flowers on the trunk and branches of trees rather than at the ends of twigs” so now you know.  I wonder if the Brazil Nut tree is cauliflorus?

Brazil Nuts growing on trunk

Brazil Nuts growing on trunk

The book is called ‘The Cambridge Illustrated Glossary of Botanical Terms’  by Michael Hickey and Clive King.  What a brilliant book and some amazing words. I wonder what the word really is to describe a cauliflower…………………..

Draws Shoots and Leaves learns another lesson……..always use a big piece of paper

Today’s lesson I want to share with you is so basic that I am ashamed I made the mistake……..try and choose the right size paper for your subject matter.

My subject for the day was a branch of variegated ivy from the garden and although I am not a great fan of the plant, the leaves had wonderful twisty shapes and it was in full flower and I thought it looked a challenge. 

So here I am merrily drawing my quick sketches, (I start off an art day doing ten minute sketches to get me warmed up and to get me over my inhibitions and I use a kitchen timer to keep me on track), when I realised that the timer had not gone off and some considerable time had passed.  It is wonderful how engrossing and absorbing art can be when you get in the zone.  Well in the time that had passed, my drawing had grown; I had started with one of the flowers and now I almost had the whole branch, but I was running out of space on the paper.

‘It’s only a sketch, so no need to be precious’, I told myself so I stuck a strip of paper to the bottom and kept on drawing.

Draft pencil drawing of ivy by Sue Hagley

Extra paper stuck to bottom edge

By now I was getting quite attached to the ivy so I decided to work it up into a finished piece.  Using the tracing paper method, I transferred the image to good paper and completed it using coloured pencils.  This picture will always remind me of ‘The Voyage of the Dawn Treader’ which I was listening to on an audio book.

Coloured pencil drawing of Ivy by Sue Hagley

Home again………

Well the excitement is over.  The trip to Brazil has happened and is now in the past.  The drawing kit so laboriously assembled was used only once!  However, in my defence, the time was so action packed that I rarely had time to sit down for any length of time to do any drawing.  My eyes were in constant action though, as was my camera, I filled my memory card (note to self: next time take two) and ran down the batteries twice.  What a magnificent country for plant lovers, and I only visited the states of Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Parana & Rio Grande de Sul (please excuse spelling errors).

Highlights of the plants seen:

A Brazil Nut tree – the nuts grow on the trunk (I did not know that).

A Cashew Nut fruit – the nuts grow in the top of the fruit and the fruit smells exquisite and tastes rubbish.

Auricaria Angustifolia (Pinheiro Brasiileiro) – the trees reach the sky and look like lollipops.

Orchids – saw some in Rio Botanical Garden, they had sort of left me cold before, but there were some stonkers here.

A row of Imperial Palms (Roystonea oleracea) in the Botanical Gardens of Rio de Janeiro

Imperial or Royal Palms

Imperial or Royal Palms

I visited the botanical gardens of Rio de Janeiro and Curitiba and have made the resolution in all future travels to always track down and visit the local botanical garden.  In fact, my travels in future might be driven by the desire to visit the botanical garden.

Also visited the magical garden of Roberto Burle Marx wonderful garden and house full of beauty.

Translated from 16th century Persian and sent to me by a friend so I am unable to credit it fully

“If of all wealth you are bereft
And of all worldly goods have but two loaves left.
Sell one, and with the dole
Buy hyacinths to feed your soul.”


Fear of the wide open expanse of a sheet of A4 paper

So there I sat one year ago with a blank sheet of paper in front of me and a pencil in my hand, I had delayed this point as long as possible.  I had fiddled with the specimen; should it be nearer or further away, was this view better than that view?  I had adjusted the lighting; from the left side, from the right side, was top lit better or worse. But finally the moment arrived when there was nothing more that I could do so there I was, me and a blank sheet of A4 paper, on the face of it that does not sound too terrifying, but there is something so daunting about the pristine surface and the knowledge of the ugly mark about to be inflicted.

Why should that be?  It’s only a piece of disposable paper, the world is not going to end, nothing is going to change, it’s only making a mark on a piece of paper.  As I reflect on that angst it seems to be based in a fear of failure, of not creating the perfect image, of knowledge of what the image will look like before it is made and of not achieving – not achieving what exactly? Not achieving perfection, and why should perfection be achieved with the first drawing anyway?  It’s a ludicrous idea.  

My pencil touched the paper, and I was off………  The images were as I expected – inexpert and poor, but I was doing it, I was drawing, I was looking at a flower very very hard and trying to capture the essence of what that flower was and what that meant to me.

Over the next few weeks I continued to draw and gradually the fear diminished and to be honest it has never truly gone away, the first mark is the scariest.  My confidence started to grow and with confidence came motivation, a positive feedback loop!

I have added information about snowdrops, aconites and hellebores to my Plants page.