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!

  The opening…



The opening and first two days of the Botanical Art Expo at Claregalway Castle were very successful, with a huge attendance. Holding an art exhibition at the immensely popular Galway Garden Festival at Claregalway Castle gave us the advantage of a very large footfall at the beginning of the exhibition. The weather was better than recent days – a little showery on Saturday, but plenty of sunshine on Sunday. The crowds at the festival were even bigger than last year and there was a wonderful atmosphere, with music, superb speakers, delicious food and lots more, all against the colourful backdrop of all the plant stands on one side and the beautifully restored castle on the other. Late on Sunday, I had the pleasure of showing TV gardening personality, designer and author, Diarmuid Gavin, and his lovely wife and daughter around the art exhibition. Diarmuid was one of the speakers at the Garden Festival.

On Saturday, I once more had the opportunity to listen to a talk by Dr Matthew Jebb, Director of the Botanical Garden at Glasnevin in Dublin. Dr Jebb is a superb speaker and one is always sorry when his talk comes to an end. He spoke about ‘hardwoods’ and ‘softwoods’, which perhaps doesn’t sound particularly scintillating, but Dr Jebb made it fascinating and very informative.

I also managed to get to the talk by Joy Larkcom, and how glad I am that I had the chance to listen to her talk about her life and the amazing work she has done in bringing so many new vegetables into common usage in Britain and Ireland. She is a most charming and unassuming lady, full of sparkle and enthusiasm, and I felt very honoured to be able to meet her. She and her equally charming husband, Don, now live in West Cork, where they have developed a marvellous garden despite the exposed coastal environment in which they live. Her latest book, ‘Just Vegetating, A Memoir‘ is a fantastic read – I bought a copy and then found myself staying up till the early hours reading it.

Getting back to the opening of the art exhibition, the speaker at the opening was author and art critic, Vera Ryan. She spoke so eloquently and with such feeling about the place of botanical art in the context of the art world in general, and graciously mentioned all the artists and their work in detail. It was a great pleasure to meet her and to listen to her – can’t help wishing that I could have had some one like her as my art history instructor in art college!

The standard of work in the exhibition is very high – with a wonderful variety of styles and media. The exhibition is divided between two rooms, with the larger focusing on botanical art illustration – ‘the area in which art and science meet’ – with the work of artists Grania Langrishe, Yanny Petter, Susan Sex, Sabine Springer, Lynne Stringer and myself. The other room featured the much-admired pastel artwork of Gordon D’Arcy and the stunning tree ‘portraits’ of Anne Towers, both of whom are residents of the west of Ireland. The entire exhibition is, we believe, is a new departure for Galway, where one seldom has the opportunity to view an exhibition devoted to botanical art. Hopefully this will start a new tradition, with the Botanical Art Expo becoming a regular feature of the annual Galway Garden Festival.



This painting of a Clematis ‘Nellie Moser’ is another of my own being exhibited at Claregalway Castle. A castle that is around 1000 years old is a wonderful setting for an exhibition of botanical art, particularly when held in conjunction with a Garden Festival.

We managed to hang most of the exhibition today – so exciting to see the work of the other participating artists, all of a very high standard. Hopefully the exhibition will attract lots of interest (and buyers)! The weather is looking a bit doubtful so far – glorious sunshine early this morning, but it’s now back to more rain. Bright, sunny weather would make such a difference for the Garden Festival.



Five of my recent watercolour paintings are being exhibited at the Botanical Art Expo at Claregalway Castle. The exhibition will be opened by Vera Ryan, art critic and author, on Saturday, 14 July, in conjunction with the Third Annual Galway Garden Festival. The painting above is a Paphiopedilum sp. (Lady’s Slipper Orchid). This plant belongs to my husband, a horticulturist, who recently branched out from his primary interest in cacti and other succulents, to include orchids.

Hello world!

Welcome to my blog! I plan to use this as a place to share news about the paintings that I create. My primary field of interest is botanical painting, although I enjoy painting other natural history subjects as well. I work mainly in watercolour, but occasionally in acrylics or coloured pencil.