Looking ahead


Botanical Painting in Ireland
Workshop and Pre-workshop Southern Ireland Tour
July 8–19, 2019

Wildflowers in the Burren, Co. Clare, Ireland

Wildflowers in the Burren, Co. Clare, Ireland

My old friend and colleague Nancy Walsh, whom I have known since our days at Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD), now runs a very successful travel tour business in Canada, offering a wide variety of specialised group tours. For 2019, I am delighted that Nancy has invited me to play a part in her Irish tour: ‘Botanical Painting in Ireland’. The tour will begin with a six-day tour of Southern Ireland, visiting such popular destinations as Glendalough, Waterford Crystal, the ancient town of Kilkenny, Blarney Castle, Killarney, Cliffs of Moher and the Burren, ending up in Galway, the City of Tribes. For the following five days I will be conducting a botanical art workshop for the tour participants in the beautiful setting of Claregalway Castle. This is suitable for beginners and those who would like to improve their skills in botanical drawing and painting. Although Nancy is based in Canada, the tour is available worldwide, with participants meeting in Dublin on Monday 8 July. Full details, including prices, are available HERE. Anyone who would like more information or to book a place on the tour should contact Nancy via her website. She is a very experienced tour leader who will ensure that your trip is truly memorable. Book soon, because this is a popular tour. The deadline for registration is 31 January 2019.


Wiener Schule der Botanischen Illustration
Vienna School of Botanical Illustration
12–19 May 2019

Vienna Botanic Garden (Wiki Commons)

Vienna Botanic Garden (Wiki Commons)

I am delighted to have been invited to teach a one day workshop in my favourite city, Vienna. In a week filled with workshops and many other activities, my own workshop will be held on Friday 17 May, and will focus on Drawing Skills, with reference to the teaching of John Ruskin. The workshop is suitable for beginners and those who wish to improve existing skills.

‘GET TOGETHER 2019 is  where botanical artists can meet, exchange ideas, and work together over an entire week so that there is sufficient time for participants to participate in practical expert-led workshops, and to visit museums and archive collections. During a field trip to the Donau-auen National Park attendees will also have an opportunity to sketch.

Portfolio showcases will be given by botanical illustrators and the workshop instructors; these will last about one to two hours in the morning, and will be followed by a discussion. The emphasis of the meeting will be on the varying approaches of traditional scientific botanical illustration. all components of the programme are independent, so attendees can decide on their level of involvement themselves.

For further details and to download application form, please CLICK HERE


Classes and Workshops
at Áras Uilinn, Moycullen, County Galway

Ophrys apifera Bee orchid ©Jane Stark

Ophrys apifera Bee orchid ©Jane Stark

As we move towards a new year, all indications are that it will be a busy one! Before 2018 comes to a close, there will be one more Basic Drawing Workshop on Saturday 1 December – part of a series of day-long classes that concentrate on basic drawing techniques. Subject matter is not exclusively botanical, and the exercises featured in the workshops would be useful to anyone wishing to improve their drawing skills. Absolute beginners are very welcome.

The next 8 week botanical art course will take place at Áras Uilinn in Moycullen, Co Galway on Thursday 27 January. The class is almost fully booked, so if you are interested in joining us, please email me at laragan.hall@gmail.com as soon as possible. The class takes place on Thursday mornings from 10 to 12.30.

Another Basic Drawing Workshop will be held on Saturday 29 January – details to come.

Burren College of Art Summer Workshop

Dactylorhiza-fuchsii-fuchsii-0025The Burren in County Clare on the west coast of Ireland is a breathtakingly beautiful place in any season, but never more so than in May – the time of year when so many of the rare plants that make this landscape so special are in bloom. The starkness of the limestone pavement comes alive with the colours of orchids, gentians, burnet rose, mountain avens, bloody cranesbill and many more. The Burren College of Art is located in the heart of the Burren, just outside Ballyvaughan. Superb studio space, combined with a friendly, encouraging atmosphere, superb homemade food in the café, a well-stocked library, and a wide variety of accommodation – not to mention the stunning surroundings – make this a perfect spot for an intensive five day course in botanical art, without the interruptions of home and business. If you have never been to the Burren in springtime, this is an ideal opportunity to immerse yourself in a very special experience. For more details, visit: https://www.burrencollege.ie/programmes/summer-workshops/summer-workshops/ or ring Julia Long at +353 65 707 7200 (email: julia@burrencollege.ie) to sign up for this year’s course which runs from 14th–18th May. 


Autumn / winter classes & more

autumn_fruitsThe summer is over and once again the woods and hedgerows are filled with nature’s colourful harvest. Berries seem particularly abundant this year – as I look out my kitchen window, I can see a holly tree some distance away laden down with large clusters of red berries. While the garden has lost its summer colours, this morning I managed to gather an armful of material for tomorrow’s class that included crabapples, some still flowering foxgloves, Michaelmas daisies and numerous types of leaves.

Autumn classes are now in full swing on Thursday mornings in Moycullen at our lovely new venue in Áras Uilinn. At last, we have room for more students, and a wonderful, bright room in which to work. Although we are three weeks into the present 8-week course, if anyone would like to join us, a pro rata fee can be arranged. Each student receives individual tutoring at their own level, and beginners are very welcome. A new term begins on Thursday 16 November and bookings are now being taken. A full schedule of classes up to May 2018 is now available. Please email me at laragan.hall@gmail.com for further details or to book a place.

In addition to the weekly classes in Moycullen, I also have two day-long workshops at Claregalway Castle on Saturday 14 and Saturday 21 October. Workshops are from 10am until 4pm, and the cost for a single workshop is €65, including lunch. Book and pay in advance for the two workshops and you save €10 (€120 for the two workshops, including lunch). There will be more workshops at the castle during the winter months – dates to be announced shortly.

Christmas Fairs may seem a long way off right now, but bookings begin early. This year, I am delighted that my botanical cards and prints have been accepted for the annual pre-Christmas Spiddal Gift Shop in the heart of Spiddal village in Co. Galway. The pop-up shop opens 23 November and closes 24 December. It is open seven days a week, 9-7 Monday to Saturday, 12-6 on Sunday. The shop features high quality local arts and crafts and is a really excellent spot for Christmas shopping.
I shall also have a stand at the NUIG Craft Fair on Wednesday 29 November, where proceeds are donated to animal charities in the Galway area, and of course, I shall be at the very festive Claregalway Castle Christmas Fair as usual in early December (date tba).

My cards and mounted prints are carried in Moycullen Book Shop, and my cards are also for sale at the National Botanic Gardens Visitor Centre in Glasnevin. You can also order directly from me at laragan.hall@gmail.com. Limited edition archival pigment ink prints are also available. 



Recent paintings


Iris ‘Killiney’ – Copyright 2017 Jane Stark

This watercolour on Fabriano Artistic 640gsm was painted for Heritage Irish Plants – Plandaí Oidhreachta, a joint project between the Irish Garden Plant Society (IGPS) and the Irish Society of Botanical Artists (ISBA). Fifty-nine botanical artists painted Irish heritage garden plants in eight categories: snowdrops, iris, sweet peas, dahlias, plants bred from native Irish species, daffodils, primroses and woody plants. Members of the IGPS and other Irish plantsmen wrote the text to accompany this selection of cultivars, most of which have been bred since 2000. Iris ‘Killiney’, along with two other bearded iris (‘War and Peace’ and ‘High Command’) were exceptions, having been bred and named by Bertram Long: ‘Kilkenny’ was first exhibited in 1939, whilst ‘War and Peace’ and ‘High Command’ were introduced in 1943 and 1945 respectively. All the paintings featuring in the book were exhibited at the National Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin, Dublin, in November 2016. The exhibition was opened by Martyn Rix, editor of Curtis’s Botanical Magazine.
The original painting of Iris ‘Killiney’ has been sold to a private collector, but a limited edition of 20 full-size, mounted, archival pigment prints are available for sale at €120 each, plus postage and packing. For further details, please email me at janestarkbotanicals@gmail.com.


Eriophorum angustifolium ‘Bog cotton’ Copyright 2017 Jane Stark

Anyone who has visited the west of Ireland in the summer has almost certainly seen large drifts of this beautiful, delicate member of the sedge family covering tracts of bogland, the fluffy white seed heads standing out against the surrounding earthy tones. ‘Bog cotton’ or ‘cottongrass’ is native to Ireland, but is found throughout the Northern hemisphere in areas of peatland and heath, as far north as Alaska and Greenland.

After painting the magnificent and stately Iris ‘Killiney’, I decided to paint something much less showy and decided on this modest little plant. It seemed in keeping with receiving the news that my parents, after nearly 75 years of marriage, were both experiencing the effects of their impressive ages (95 and 97) and had to give up their independence to be cared for in a nursing home. As I painted the bog cotton, my Dad’s condition deteriorated following a bout of pneumonia. On Friday, 23rd June, around 1.30pm Irish time, I put the finishing touches to the painting. Shortly afterwards, I learned that he had passed away very peacefully in Canada at about the same time. I decided to keep the painting in my own collection as a special reminder and tribute to my Dad, who had encouraged me to develop my gifts as an artist from the time I was a little girl. A limited edition of 20 full-size, mounted, archival pigment prints are available for sale at €95 each, plus postage and packing.


Sarracenia leucophylla ‘White-topped pitcher plant’ – Copyright 2017 Jane Stark

Carnivorous plants hold a huge fascination for me after painting the South American sun pitcher Heliamphora heterodoxa a couple years ago. Sarracenia leucophylla is a native North American pitcher plant belonging to the same family Sarraceniaceae. It’s a fairly large painting, as I was working at the actual plant size. I was under time pressure to finish the painting in time for the Botanical and Floral Art in Bloom exhibition at Phoenix Park at the beginning of June 2017, and found the number of pitchers I had decided to paint quite challenging, particularly since I had to work with the painting upside down when I was doing the flowers and tops of the pitchers. Fortunately, I managed to finish it in time for the exhibition and was delighted when it was a awarded a bronze medal. The original mounted and framed painting is for sale for €1250.

Some Goals for the Coming Year


No matter how experienced and skilled we are as artists, there is always room for improvement. Most of us, at sometime or other, feel that we could do better, and the beginning of a new year is a good time to look at some ways in which one might make a few changes.

Being realistic . . .

As with any other new year’s resolutions, it’s important from the outset to not take on more than you can realistically manage. Even the smallest of steps, taken often enough, will eventually lead to improvement.

Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.”

Vincent Van Gogh

Finding time . . .

Without doubt, one of the most widespread complaints from artists is that they never seem to have enough time. Other commitments so easily get in the way of artistic endeavour, often to the point where we simply give up and put away our brushes, pencils, paper, paints etc. In reality, almost everyone can find some amount of time to draw and/or paint, but if it isn’t already part of your daily routine, it may require some effort and adjustment.

Some suggestions . . .

Painting regularly will only happen if you set aside time specifically for that purpose. Saying you will use your leisure time means that you will only draw or paint when everything else is taken care of . . . and by then you are too tired!

Decide on how much time you can realistically set aside – 15 minutes, an hour, a morning or afternoon . . . and make a commitment to include that in your regular routine. For me, it works well to set aside time in the morning, before I work on more mundane tasks. Ideally, I like to paint/draw for several hours, but sometimes that isn’t possible, so I spend as long as I can. Even 15-20 minutes spent on work in progress will bring me a little closer to my goal. As far as possible during that time, I avoid telephone calls, emails etc.

“Do not wait: the time will never be ‘just right’. Start where you stand, and work whatever tools you may have at your command and better tools will be found as you go along.”

Napoleon Hill

If you can only manage a very short time each day, set aside a ‘painting day’ now and then. It can relieve some of the frustration caused by lack of time if you can look forward to an extended painting/drawing session every now and then. Write it down in your diary and stick to it as you would any other appointment.

Make sure that you have a spot set aside where you can leave your work in progress, so that you don’t have to waste precious time setting up. At the very least have a box/bag/drawer where you can keep all your art materials together. Using fold-over palettes or palettes with lids will allow you to have colours already mixed from one session to another.


Choose your subject matter according to the amount of time you can afford to spend on a daily basis. If your time is very limited, look for small subjects – seedpods, a single flower, a leaf etc – or something that will not wilt or decay in a hurry.

Finding inspiration . . .

Sometimes it is hard to feel inspired, and lack of motivation can result in just not bothering to get out your art materials. Some days we feel more motivated and creative than at other times, so a little forethought can help on those days when the muse just doesn’t seem to be with us.


If you use a computer, keep a folder of images that inspire you – it might contain a mixture of work by other artists, stunning photos you come across on-line, photos that you have taken yourself etc. You might find it useful to join www.pinterest.com, where you can find endless inspiration and also store your own images. Boards on Pinterest don’t have to be ‘public’ – you can set them up so that only you can access them.

If you feel more at home with ‘hard copies’, consider setting up a scrap book or a series of folders that can hold your own photos, images that you find in magazines or that you have printed out from the internet.


Other sources of inspiration . . .


Books about art can be very helpful in stimulating creative juices. Read about some of the great botanical artists of the past and present – Marianne North, Margaret Mee, Maria Sybilla Merian, Mary Delany, Franz Bauer, Rory McEwen etc – or spend time reading one of the many excellent ‘how-to’ books that are available. But don’t limit yourself to botanical art – read about Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, the Impressionists, John Ruskin, David Hockney . . . the possibilities are endless.

Inspiration can be found in many places – art galleries, botanical gardens, garden centres, woodland walks, a visit to the seashore. Do make sure when you are out and about to keep a little notebook or sketchbook for recording ideas. Even if you don’t have the opportunity to do some sketching, take photos and make note of any ideas that may come to you. It is amazing how easily these are forgotten once you get home if you have no written or photographic record!

“If you hear a voice within you say you cannot paint, then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.”

Vincent Van Gogh


‘Jewels of Autumn’ Botanical Art Workshops

A few places are still available for these two botanical art workshops being held in Moycullen, County Galway on Saturday 26 September and Saturday 24 October 2015. Even if you are a complete beginner, you are very welcome to come along and spend the day (10.00am – 4.00pm) painting some special autumnal subjects, such as chestnuts, blackberries, coloured leaves etc. Cost for one workshop is €40 per person, or €75 for both workshops.

Botanical Art Workshops Autumn 2015


September is almost here and botanical artists look forward to the wonderful autumn foliage, fruits and seed pods that provide endless possibilities for new paintings and drawings. It’s also the time of year when classes begin again after the summer break. I am looking forward to meeting new students as well as ‘veterans’ of previous courses.

Thursday morning classes begin again on 10 September in An Fuaran, Moycullen, Co Galway, with the first course running until Thursday 29 October, inclusive. Another eight-week course will begin in mid-November. Details are on the poster, but if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me by phone or email. An eight-week course costs €140, but a €20 voucher towards the next course will be given to all students at the end of the course.

Saturday workshops will also begin in September and will be scheduled roughly once a month. These have been extended by one hour and will run from 10am to 4pm with a short break for lunch. The price, however, remains the same as before: €40 for the day.

Do remember to book early as places are limited.

Plans are also underway for a number of informal workshops at Claregalway Castle during the autumn and winter, so watch this space for further information on those.


Botanical Painting Course

For anyone in the Galway/Moycullen/Barna/Oughterard area, I am starting botanical art classes on 23 October. The first eight week course will take place on Thurssday mornings from 10–12.30 (see image for details). Beginners are very welcome. Even if you are not sure whether this is for you, come along on the 15th to learn more. Please pass this on if you know anyone who might be interested. Only eight places per class are available so that students receive plenty of individual attention. There are just two places left for this module, but further classes and/or workshops at other times may become available if there is a demand for them. Please contact me at laragan.hall@gmail.com for further information.poster_web

Learning curves

Finally, after a winter of slogging away at freelance design work, I have managed to organise my time a little better to allow regular painting time. I have always felt that I should do freelance work first, and painting second (after all, it’s the freelance work that pays the bills at the moment!). As a result, I got very little painting done because by the time I found some free time, I was too tired, the light was gone, and it just seemed too late in the day to set up my drawing board. Having become thoroughly depressed by my lack of progress, I decided to make drastic changes to my daily routine, with painting my priority for the morning hours. Sounds like a simple solution, but it’s not so easy to change long-established habits! There is nothing like a little pressure to push one into making those long-overdue changes, and when the opportunity arose to submit a painting for exhibition, it gave me the impetus I needed to change.

This watercolour of freesias is the result of my new work habits. Painting in the morning when the light is good, before I get caught up in all the other daily happenings and demands, has made all the difference in the world! I have found that most days – even when I have deadlines looming in my freelance work – I can manage four or five hours to draw and paint. As a rule, any more than that becomes counter-productive because I start to miss details or get sloppy. The great side benefit of this new routine is that painting relaxes me and actually helps freelance design work progress faster and better – the creative juices flow so much better! I just wish I had done this ages ago!

Painting the freesias resulted in a big learning curve for me. To begin with, it is the first large piece that I have painted on hot press watercolour paper – 300lb Fabriano Artistico. Before that I used NOT watercolour paper, because I felt more confident working on a paper with a texture. However, I knew that I would never get the really crisp finish that can be achieved on hot press paper. After a few practice pieces, and more than a few mistakes and false starts, I started to feel more at home with this wonderful paper, and found that it isn’t quite as daunting as I had feared. I found it more difficult to lay down washes on the smoother surface, but detail was so much easier to paint. I found the granulation of the purples a little frustrating, and I have become aware that I need lots more practice in laying down washes with confidence. On the other hand, I am quite pleased with the colour and the composition. I sent off my entry for the art exhibition today, and now I have to wait until the end of April to find out whether the painting has been accepted. Whether it is or not, I feel that I learned a great deal from this painting, and I had fun doing it. Now I can’t wait to get on with my next painting!