NEW Botanical & Nature Watercolour Painting courses!

I’m excited to announce that I have launched 3 initial courses at Brackenwood Plant & Garden Centre, Leigh Court Estate, Pill Road, Abbots Leigh, Bristol BS8 3RA starting in March 2017. Courses are £35 per person per day. It’s an exciting adventure for me!

The first three courses are geared around important watercolour painting techniques which aim to improve your skills and give you the know-how to create beautiful botanical watercolours.

Course 1 : Watercolour Painting Techniques 1 – 18th March 10am-4pm

On the first course I will teach you the techniques necessary to achieve perfect Wet-in-Wet. Link to event on FB

Course 2 : Watercolour Painting Techniques 2 – 15th April 10am-4pm

On the second course I will teach you washing out, shading, dry brush, how to paint fine lines, erasing out and perfect fine detail. Link to event on FB

Course 3: Mixing Colour Accurately – 27th May 10am-4pm

On this course we will learn colour mixing and matching to plants making swatch records, learn how to create bright tones, learn how to get perfect neutral (natural) tones, other bits and pieces like overlaying tints to enhance colours and not quite 50 shades of grey! Link to event on FB

To book please contact me personally by email at and I will send you full details and material lists. Look out for more courses and future online tuition on my FB page Jackie Isard Botanicals


NEW Botanical & Nature Watercolour Painting courses!

I’m excited to announce that I have launched 3 initial courses at Brackenwood Plant & Garden Centre, Leigh Court Estate, Pill Road, Abbots Leigh, Bristol BS8 3RA starting in March 2017. Courses are £35 per person per day. It’s an exciting adventure for me!

The first three courses are geared around important watercolour painting techniques which aim to improve your skills and give you the know-how to create beautiful botanical watercolours.

Course 1 : Watercolour Painting Techniques 1 – 18th March 10am-4pm

On the first course I will teach you the techniques necessary to achieve perfect Wet-in-Wet. Link to event on FB

Course 2 : Watercolour Painting Techniques 2 – 15th April 10am-4pm

On the second course I will teach you washing out, shading, dry brush, how to paint fine lines, erasing out and perfect fine detail. Link to event on FB

Course 3: Mixing Colour Accurately – 27th May 10am-4pm

On this course we will learn colour mixing and matching to plants making swatch records, learn how to create bright tones, learn how to get perfect neutral (natural) tones, other bits and pieces like overlaying tints to enhance colours and not quite 50 shades of grey! Link to event on FB

To book please contact me personally by email at and I will send you full details and material lists. Look out for more courses and future online tuition on my FB page Jackie Isard Botanicals


Blog 8: Autumn Gold Beauties…

Whilst wandering around the garden in late autumn I discovered some rather gorgeous looking Magnolia leaves still hanging onto our tree. There was a golden carpet beneath too which caught my eye. I collected 3 leaves and decided to paint them. Thankfully there were still some on the tree if these ones started to fade.

The first thing to do was to try and protect them from drying up. I took reference photos and then into the fridge they went in a plastic bag! Sadly, overnight they had gone very brown and the lovely gold hues I wanted to paint had disappeared. Thank goodness there will still some on the tree for colour reference.

I started by drawing up my three leaves onto tracing paper then used a black fine liner to outline my drawings. From here I could then put them on my lightpad in position and trace them off carefully with an H pencil onto my watercolour paper.

Once transferred onto my watercolour paper I very carefully used a Faber Castell kneadable rubber to remove excess graphite. Take care not to rub, just press it onto the graphite and then lift it up as you go. If you rub you’ll ruin the surface of the paper. You can use Bluetac to do this too but beware some papers have less sizing than others. Bluetac may remove some of the surface. A Faber Castell kneadable rubber is far softer.


Mixing the colours

The next stage was to mix up my colours, the lovely golden hues and browns. For your reference all are W&N colours unless specified: Burnt Sienna (BS), Burnt Umber (BU), Indanthrene Blue (Ind), Quinacridone Gold (QG), Indigo (I), Transparent Yellow (Trans Y), Winsor Lemon (LY or WL), Permanent Rose (PR), Sennelier Rose Madder Lake (S.RML). Also 2 + QG (top row far right) equals Brown no. 2 plus QG. See photo of my swatches below. More recently (2020), since writing this blog, I would not use Indigo as this is an opaque pigment. Sennelier Rose Madder Lake is also very close to Permanent Rose in tone.

You may notice in the next photos that I have cut out the shape of my leaves on some tracing paper and laid it over the top of my painting. This is to protect it from splashes. It’s better to use layout paper as tracing paper curls up a little with the heat of your hand against it. I have also found you can catch your paintbrush on the curled edge!

The first wet-in-wet wash!

To begin with I added a pale transparent yellow wash all over to enhance the brightness of all that followed. This was allowed to dry thoroughly. On the next layer I used wet-in-wet technique and started to introduce some of the mixes from my palette. On the second layer I painted each section of the leaf individually and added in more colour to strengthen. After this a little of the shadowing was added on the leaf ridges. This highlighted the veins. There are some more videos later in this blog explaining these techniques. You can scroll down now if you want to know now!

Once I was happy with the intensity of the gold and tan tones over the leaf, I again worked to enhance the veining and add in small details; the smaller veins and dots. I gradually working my way across the leaf up to the curled edge. I added more of my gold/burnt sienna mix to strengthen up the background layers in places. These washes were softening out at the edges of the painted area to ensure no hard edge lines.

I then used my Eraser brush (Billy Showell Eradicator) to enhance the light veins. Here is a little video which explains how I approached this. Once this was done this the whole thing starts to appear more 3D. I used to use 2 types, Jacksons Icon 1/8th inch series 702 and a stiffer one which is white synthetic – ProArte sterling 201 oil acrylic short flat size 0 (this is a long handled brush so I cut the end off!). On reflection the Pro Arte brush is far too abrasive for the surface of the paper. Now, (2020), I use a Billy Showell Eradicator brush which is perfect for everything. It has a nice small stiff tip and is slightly shaped so you can erase really fine veins as well as bring out highlights with a very gentle circular motion. The image here shows a Rosemary & Co. Eradicator to the left and a Billy Showell Eradicator, right. The Rosemary & Co. Eradicator is much wider.

After this I started to work on the twisted broken part of the leaf. This was a challenge as I needed to show the curves and twists to clearly get a good effect. Accurate shading and highlights will ensure this looks realistic. I painted the brown in first leaving a nice highlight of paler colour where the light hit the subject. Other colours were also added, a grey/brown, warm golden brown and .a beige mix Finally, I carefully used the tip of my eraser brush to lift out lighter parts to create the veined areas. You need to look carefully for the deepest shadows and darken the colour in those areas.


To get the papery effect on the little bits sticking out at the base of the leaf I used a very pale beige tone and dotted a grey mix into it. I also painted a darker grey very occasionally along the very edge on the smaller bits. It is best not to paint the whole edge or it will look too heavy.


Lastly, I strengthened up the golden areas of the leaf with a thin glaze of my gold mix. I finished the right side of the leaf using the same techniques! Once both sides were done, I noticed a little green tinges over some of the leaf. I added my green mix in a very thin glaze to those areas. Leaf no. 1 is now finished!


Leaf no. 2 – lots of videos here!

As this leaf was quite large I used wet-in-wet technique on each section between the side veins rather than paint the whole thing at once. A smaller area would allow me to work longer and get more done on the first wet layer. It was easier to make sections as there were a lot of different tones. Painting each section alternately also ensures that they do not bleed into one another. Firstly, I laid a thin layer of Transparent yellow down to keep the overlying layers nice a bright. This was left to dry thoroughly. Here’s a video to explain the process.

Once I’d completed three sections I continued into the bottom right part of the leaf. Here’s a little video explaining how I did this part.

Now for the top part, an area which thins and is very intricate. You need to be very careful to not go over the edges when wetting the paper. Very small areas are best painted in the normal way rather than wet-in-wet. At this stage, once the painting was thoroughly dry, I erased some of the graphite drawing with a soft rubber. The graphite will erase at this stage but not after the next layer. If you use too much pressure when drawing these lines will be harder to erase. Softer lead pencils will also be very dark and leave graphite dust on the paper. This will interfere with your painting. Here’s a video explaining.

Below shows both sides of the the wet-in-wet layers completed and dry. Now I just need to apply all the fine detail and shadowing. Notice on the picture below I have left out a very small area half way down on the left. This part of the leaf is far too small and intricate for wet-in-wet so I will fill this in later with glazing and dry brush. By the way, you can if you prefer, start with the left side, I just happen to prefer working from right to left.

I got carried away and started doing some of the dry brush work at the top of the leaf, my favourite part! It’s starting to come to life. The papery grey area will be challenging and make for very interesting painting!


Well that’s it for now. I hope this blog and videos have helped you and I’ll be back soon with another Blog.

Until next time happy painting!

*All photos, content, text and videos are subject to copyright – Jackie Isard Botanicals 2017

Blog 7: Pretty Flamingo!…

After a visit to Slimbridge Wildlife Park I was keen to paint Flamingo feathers. It was hard work trying to source some moulted feathers but eventually Birdland Park & Gardens in Bourton on the Water came up with the goods, thank you Simon at Birdland!

I selected three feathers from the bundle posted to me. I chose these three for their wonderful shapes and thought they made a lovely composition together.


A bit about Flamingos…

These tall wading birds are called Phoenicopterus and the feathers that were sent to me are from the Greater Flamingo species Phoenicopterus roseus. Flamingos have been know to man for thousands of years. They feature in cave paintings in Spain (5000BC) and the Egyptians used them as a symbol to indicate the colour red and even regarded it as the living embodiment of the sun-god Ra. The red/pink feather colour comes from a diet of crustacea and algae. Here are the Flamingos at Birdland in Bourton on the Water, Cotswolds. My feathers are from the paler birds.


Mixing the pink!

To begin my painting I had to match the beautiful pink of these feathers. After a few trials I found that Winsor & Newton Opera Rose (OR) and Cadmium Yellow Deep (CYD) gave me the rich bright orangey/pink I needed. Please note: I would not use these pigments now as they are both opaque. I would most likely use Quinacridone Magenta and Indian Yellow.

Other colours I mixed were various pale greys, some pink/grey, a cooler grey and a very pale yellow using Transparent Yellow (TY) mixed with a tiny bit of the Flamingo Pink I had mixed previously. I also use some of this pink to make my pink/grey. You’ll notice on my swatch that there is a slightly duller looking pink which I used for shadows and stronger details, this was mixed using Sennelier Rose Madder Lake (SMRL – Permanent Rose could be used instead), Winsor Orange (W.O) and Cadmium Yellow Deep. When re-mixing the Flamingo pink I had to test it a few times as the mix would look different with the slightest change in quantities.

Painting the curved feather

The curved feather had awkward angles and so I had to make sure the drawing was absolutely spot on. I started by adding pale washes and then built up the colour gradually. There were some deep shadows where it twisted and for this I used stronger versions of my pale cool grey and beige/grey. A very pale glaze of Transparent yellow too. I created these deeper shadows by working in between the whiter wisps, negative painting.


Painting the oval feather

The oval feather was a lovely shape but much paler that the others. It would be hard to keep the subtlety of this one without over painting it. I built up the layers slowly and kept it as light as I could throughout painting. There were more highlights on this one which helped to keep it from looking flat. Also notice the subtle shadow grey areas along the right side and the left side of the rachis (mid vein), this enhances the curved appearance.


Painting the large feather

I saved painting this feather until last as it was my favourite one and the most striking in my composition. The top part has lots of furls and creases and the colour faded gradually down to almost white at the bottom. Plus, I thought to myself, how am I going to paint those tiny little veins!

I started with a very pale wash of my flamingo pink mix leaving the paler areas free of paint. I used a watery mix of the cooler grey and pink/grey to indicate shadows on the paler part of the feather. It took 3 layers to get it the pigment up to the right strength at the top. I was now ready to add in the darker pink shadows on the folds and furls. To get the appearance of the tiny veins I used the same technique that I used in my Feathery Pursuits blog. I used the duller Flamingo pink to create the overlaps and shadow areas. The pink/grey and cool grey were used further down on the lighter areas. A little thin glaze of transparent yellow was also added along the right side near the rachis (midrib). Blog 5 contains a video showing you how to do this dry brush technique. See this link:


Painting the shiny white highlights

My paper was not white enough to show the shine on the rachis (midrib) and feathers so I turned to my Daniel Smith iridescent paints. Pearlescent White did the trick. If you shine a light onto the painting or turn it sideways you can see the glow of the pearlescent paint. I have yet to find a pure white that has such a good effect. The only time I use white or iridescent pigments is when it is absolutely necessary. On plants there are sometimes very fine hairs which need a little white pigment to make them show up. White pigment is also opaque. I usually mix white pigment with a little colour as the hairs on a plant are never true white. Well, I’ll just have to have a spotlight pointing down onto it if it’s ever framed and hung on a wall! This year, 2020, a good friend from USA purchased this painting and it is now framed and lit at her home.


Painting the after feathers – pale wispy bits

You have to approach this part with great care and start with a very, very pale colour. You can always add but you cannot take away! Pale watery mixes can be hard to work with but as long as you remove a little of the excess on your brush by wiping it on a cloth, you’ll be ok. The grey and pink/greys are made with very strong pigments and would be almost impossible to erase out without damaging the papers surface. Using the cooler grey with a flicking motion, you can interpret the wispy feathers. Afterwards I added a little of the pink/grey and very pale pink (see below) to define the thicker areas. Once I was happy with the result I added a few slightly darker strokes to imitate the shadows. It’s also good to add a few very fine chevron side hairs to some of the larger wisps. Not all of them or it would look to contrived. It’s hard to see on the image below but hopefully you’ll see what I mean!


Now my painting was complete! Please excuse the greyness of the photos but these winter days are so dark and dreary!


I must apologise for no videos on this blog, however, I will be doing a blog in a few weeks about my Faded Magnolia Leaves painting and will try to video some things which will be of interest to you. I hope you enjoyed this blog and thank you for reading.

Until then happy painting and a very Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!


*All photos, content, text and videos are subject to copyright – Jackie Isard Botanicals 2017

Blog 6 – Conquering the Conker!…

I’m sad to say that some of our native trees are being attacked and damaged by moths and beetles as well as the fungal diseases they already suffer from. For this reason I’ve chosen to keep a painted record of them. The first tree I’ve chosen is the Horse Chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum).

The Horse Chestnut tree was introduced to the UK in the 1600s and gets it’s name from the horseshoe nail pattern left behind when a leaf falls of a twig. The conker fruits were also ground up and given to horses as a cure for a cough. Here is a diagram showing the details of the leaves.
This majestic tree is a rich source of pollen in the Spring when it it is covered in upright conical clusters of white, pink, or red flowers. The Horse Chestnut tree is a favourite of the Leaf Miner Moth (Cameraria ohridella) which lays it’s egg inside the leaves. The larva bore through the flesh of the leaves and eat it away from inside, creating brown streaks where parts of the leaf die. In recent years there have been huge numbers of them and our Horse Chestnut tree is now suffering and dropping it’s leaves early. You’ve most likely seen the effect which seems particularly bad this year. Incredible to think that such a small creature, only 5mm in size, can cause such devastation!

We all love and know the ‘Conker Tree’. I remember as a child making what I called fish bones out of the leaves too, by tearing out the green parts between the veins and of course, we all have fond memories of playing the game ‘conkers’ on a string!

I’ve spent the last week finishing my Horse Chestnut painting which has taken me over 4 weeks from start to finish. It’s been a real journey of extremely detailed painting. It really makes you look deeply at your subject matter discovering the world within!  Unfortunately, towards the end of my painting I came into paper problems and had to do some repairs at the last minute. I almost thought I would have to paint the last section all over again but in the end I managed to ‘conquer the conker’!

I started to play with composition and after a few hours decided to make this a 3 part study, triptych painting, of close up detailed parts of the leaves and fruits. The paintings are more or less actual size so it’s been a real challenge!

For the first painting I wanted to do the leaves. Due to the Leaf Miner moth, the leaves have browny golden patches all over them but this creates some very interesting and beautiful colours to paint, even though it’s not good for the Horse Chestnut Tree!

I went out to pick some horse chestnut leaves and fruits for the first two paintings. I left the fruits to one side and got on with drawing up the leaf section focussing on the part where the leaves fan out from the petiole. For the second drawing I decided to draw up some of the varying sized fruits and then cut one open to show the inside. The conkers inside were white and I realised then that I would have to go back in a few weeks to get ripe conkers for my last painting. Strangely after a few hours the white conkers started to turn brown in places, creating a patch effect. It seems exposure to the air makes them turn shiny and brown! By the next day the cut shell had started to dry out and developed a beautiful patterning which delighted me as it made it more interesting to paint.

Mixing my colours…

I began to mix my colours up ready to start painting the leaf. I’ve noted here my ‘short forms’ after each colour so that you can hopefully understand my swatch book photos below. I used Indanthrene Blue (Ind. B), Quinacridone Gold (QG), Winsor Lemon (WL), Permanent Rose(PR), Transparent Yellow (TY) for the green areas and Burnt Sienna (BS), Burnt Umber (BU), Quinacriodone Gold (QG), Winsor Violet (V), Trans Yellow (TY), Winsor Lemon (WL) and Indanthrene Blue (Ind.B) to mix the array of beige, golden, nutty brown colours on the damaged areas. The Transparent yellow was also used as an overlay to enhance the green and brown areas. A thinly mixed fine wash can really bring up the colour brightness. Quinacridone Gold can be used in the same way if you want a warmer more muting tone.

I used my usual brushes for this detailed work, a No.2 & 6 Billy Showell brushes, Renaissance Sable Rigger size 0 (for the finest veins), Jacksons’s Icon Flat 1/8” Series 702 (eraser brush) and the Blue handled brush is a cheaper synthetic brush which is used for mixing paint only. You should never use your painting brushes to mix paint as it ruins the tips!

Painting the Leaves

To paint the leaves I concentrated on each section between the lateral veins separately after laying down a couple of pale wash layers. I did not use wet-in-wet for the leaves as the green/brown areas were quite small. For the midrib and some of the lateral veins I managed to leave the white paper showing through without masking by carefully painting the washes alongside each of them. For the small tiny veins I use white gouache mixed with a little yellow or green depending on their appearance. To accentuate the highlights on the leaves and veins I carefully used my eraser brush at the end. This allows you to exaggerate the peaks and troughs of the leaf between the veins. If you’re unsure how to do this then please ask me. One of the videos later in this blog shows you how to do this. More recently (2019) I have discovered the Billy Showell Eradicator brush which is far better than the one I was using. It is a stiffer synthetic brush and has a tapered end which is excellent for erasing small areas. Scroll through the images below to see progress shots.

Painting the conker shells

For the second part of my painting I composed a drawing of the green conker shells and a cut one in half. The inside of shell had formed an intricate patterned and to represent this I used a lot of dots! I used the tip of the Billy Showell no. 2 brush to do this. Dots in various tones of colour and subtle shadows using a very pale shade of warm grey for the shadow area. On the large green shell I added two washes leaving areas free of paint where the small prickles were. Again I used fine dark dots to indicate the pattern on the surface of the shell. There were also hints of beige here and there on the surface. A little shading with a green/grey mix helped give the shells a rounder shape. Finally, I accentuated the tips of the prickles around the outer edge with very pale yellow fading it up to the tip from the green below. The tips of these spikes were painted a reddish brown merging into very dark brown at the point. This stage really finishes the job off! Scroll the images for progress shots.

Now with two paintings completed it was time to paint the conkers! Here is the painting so far.

Painting the conkers

For the third painting I decided to paint dried conkers. I selected lots of conkers first and arranged them to fill this section but I wasn’t convinced by this composition so it was changed later on. Some time went by and my collection of conkers started to lose their shine and shrivel up. During the next week I noticed that the green fruits on my desk had dried naturally. Much to my pleasure they had turned a lovely deep reddish brown and split open to reveal shiny conkers! I decided to paint the conkers first before the lovely dried shells.  ….and this is why the last painting included the shells too, much more interesting to paint than just conkers!

Once I had drawn these up I mixed up my colours. I used a vast array of tones and shades for this part of my painting. Winsor Violet was used as a first on the deeper shadows of the conkers to enhance the deep shadows. This is a great way to get richer deep tones on strongly coloured subjects. Again I painted a great deal of dots on the textured area of the outer shells using different colours and shades. To achieve the shading at the edges I used darker dots and a little wash of pale grey.

Here are some pictures of the stages I went through to paint the conker shells and conkers. In the last three you can see how the Winsor Violet creates a dark shadow from under the conker red/brown mixes. Scroll to see seven images.

I’ve made a few videos which explain how I painted the final conker. I used an extra colour here, Sennelier Rose Madder Lake (S.RML – you could use Permanent Rose instead), to enhance the rich colour of the conkers. It works a treat when added to Burnt Sienna and Quinacridone Gold. My conker shades also include a tiny little extra Indanthrene Blue to darken them. My last conker went horribly wrong due to a paper problem and I spent a long time the next day trying to rectify it. I will explain how I did this after you’ve watched the videos.


When it came to the last few layers of the conker on the bottom half of my painting, I found the wet-in-wet layers were merging into my highlights and the whole area looking messy instead of smooth and shiny! It’s not so obvious here in the photo as in real life but this part of my sheet must have been too porous or lacking sizing.

I ran my finger across the paper and discovered it to be very rough. It seems the paper was inferior on just this section of the sheet! I burnished my paper for about half an hour that evening in the hope that I could paint on it the next day. I used a smooth pebble and kitchen roll to do this. To burnish paper put kitchen roll over the painting and rub over the area quite firmly in circles. Make sure you keep changing the place on the kitchen which you are rubbing or it may form a hole and you’ll ruin your painting! It took many hours the following day erasing with my brush and magic eraser followed by some dry brushing to achieve a half decent looking conker.

These are the tools I used to repair my conker

Whilst waiting for each new area on the bad conker to dry, I carried on with the conker shell behind. This was tricky as it was not just convex but had a rise in it too.  It needed to be shaded carefully to achieve form. Once I had painted this, I used the eraser brush to bring out the highlight at the top  of the higher area and this made it work. I had the same situation with the two half shells on this painting two, shadows were important to make them look concave. Sometimes the eye see things differently. You can be looking at a concave object and it will look convex unless you keep staring at it. It’s crucial to get the shadows in the right places and having a very good light source helps with this. M C Esher made many paintings which confuse the eye, optical illusions! Anyway, I achieved the right look with careful shading and highlights.

Finally I finished off the spikes around the edge by painting them in varying tones of brown, golden yellow and pale yellow at the tips. To the shadow side of each point I added a fine line of shadow grey/beige to accentuate each tip and give a more rounded effect.

Hey presto! ……conker painting finished. I hope you enjoyed this blog and if there is anything you’d like to ask please don’t hesitate to contact me here or on FB.

Thank you for reading and I’ll be back soon!

*All photos, content, text and videos are subject to copyright – Jackie Isard Botanicals 2017

Blog 5 : Feathery pursuits…

A couple of weeks ago I took a little rest from my Horse Chestnut painting and decided to try and paint some  colourful Cockerel/Rooster feathers. I had never painted a feather before and admire the work of Elizabeth Romanini ( and Sarah Morrish of Natures Details ( and thought I would like to try it one day.

I chose three Cockerel/Rooster feathers from my collection, which are very colourful. I thought they would be easier to paint than my Owl feathers to start off with as they are not so pale in colour.

To begin with I drew up the red feather on my watercolour paper. Making sure I drew it on very lightly so that it would be easy to erase on the paler areas. The colours of this feather really appealed to me. I decided to slant my drawing to the right rather than have it positioned straight up as this seemed a more interesting composition.

Next I made my swatches mixing up my colours and painting them onto a piece of watercolour paper to keep as a reference should I need to mix more of the same colour. I also note down the colours I used to mix each shade. For the brightest red I used Sennelier Rose Madder Lake, Winsor Red and a little Quinacridone Gold. This makes a really bright red and the S.Rose Madder Lake just knocks it back a little without losing the vibrance. I then mixed up a selection of warm orangey/tan tones for the middle section and a darker red for the shadow areas by adding Perylene Maroon to my original bright red mix. I then mixed some beigey browns and greys for the bottom section of the feather. Now I was ready to start painting!

See my swatch sheet below for my colour mixes.

For colours listed on all my swatches – the codes are as follows: QG – Quin Gold, WR – Winsor Red, Azil – Alizarin Red, BS – Burnt Sienna, S.RML – Sennelier Rose Madder Lake, Pery M or PM – Perylene Maroon, WO (R) – Winsor Orange (Red Shade), PR – Permanent Rose, Trans Y – Transparent Yellow, WL – Winsor Lemon (not Lemon yellow, V – Winsor Violet, Vi – Viridian, Ind B – Indanthrene Blue, H20 – added water,

One other colour I used was Daniel Smith Interference Red (an iridescent colour) and I used this on the red part of the feather at the end to make it glisten a little.


Painting stage 
I began to lay down my first wash. I use a Billy Showell no. 2 brush and a Sable Rigger size 0 for the fine detail. Red can be tricky colour to build up in layers and if you’re not careful it will go muddy and thick, laying on top of the paper rather than seeping in. For the first wash I used the wet-in-wet method, this was to allow for more layers to be added safely allowing the colour to increase in density without becoming thick, you must make sure each layer is thoroughly dry before adding the next! Whilst adding the red I also added a little of the orangy/tan colour under the red area and a little pale grey to the bottom, being careful to keep the edges at the bottom very, very pale. Once this was dry I added another wet-in-wet layer of the colours to strengthen it all up. I was careful not to go over the rachis (stalk/vane through centre) as I would paint this in last. There was however, a small area of orangy tone on the top half of the rachis so I added that in.

I don’t add the fine detail and ‘after feather’ (wispy bits towards the bottom of the feather), until the end.

Now my feather was starting to look nice and bright, I started to add in the pattern detail on the right hand side orangey/tan area with a watered down grey and then a few of the ‘after feather’ parts- very pale to start with! There is a very pale hint of the orangey/tan in the ‘after feather’ area too, so I used a little of that colour with the grey to build up this area.

Some of the after feathers were a little thicker and you could see the pinnate appearance like the veins on a pinnate leaf. If you look closely you will see this. Use a magnifying glass if necessary. You can add some of this with a very fine brush and light pale strokes. Don’t worry about doing all of them, an indication on a few will suffice. This again needs to be done in layering as you’ll need to have different strengths of ‘after feathers’ to give it depth. The bottom of the feather is quite dark grey so you will need a few layers to achieve this. Try not to go over all of the ‘after feathers’ and you’ll get a nice variation of shades. 

Now for the detail stage. On the red part I needed to add some very fine darker red lines and some shadowing to the right side. This looked difficult to paint as the lines go straight up from bottom the top. If painting fine lines seems almost impossible you can use a dry brush method to achieve this. Use a number 4 brush, I use a Billy Showell brush for this as it is very versatile and holds water well. You can buy them via her website at In fact I use her no. 2 brush for almost everything! Wet your paint and brush. Take a little paint into the brush making it flat rather than pointed and then rub a bit of the excess onto your cloth/kitchen roll. Test it first! Making the brush as flat as possible then run it in a line across a scrap piece of paper, holding the brush more upright for thinner lines. You should get multiple lines appearing. You can also use a Pro Arte Sable Rigger size 0 brush (Jacksons Art sell them) to do fine individual lines if you have a very steady hand! Here’s are two little videos to explain. You need to hold the brush almost upright to achieve fine lines!

Once this was done I started to build up the grey area at the bottom and add the finer details. Having finished the detailing I then painted the main rachis (stalk/vane through centre) and was careful to retain the light on either side of it. Lastly I ran a thin darker grey line along the right side of the rachis to give it depth.


For the next feather I chose a lovely fluffy one with a chevron design in beautiful tan colours. I applied the same principle as above to this feather but at then end I notice the light catching the after feathers and they were glistening. To achieve this effect I mixed a little white gouache and a little  Daniel Smith Pearlescent White (iridescent paint). You don’t need to buy a tube of this, you can buy a ‘Dot Card’ online which is enough. You need such a small amount so don’t waste your money on tubes unless you start using it all the time of course!


Again the after feathers I used the same treatment on the after feathers. This is the finished feather with a close up of the iridescent part.

Lastly I chose a beautiful iridescent emerald green and tan feather. A very flamboyant one with a beautiful curved shape to it. Again I used the same process to paint the feather and because of it’s beautiful iridescence I used Daniel Smith Iridescent Jade and Topaz to create this at the final stage. To achieve a strong emerald green colour I used Winsor Blue (Green Shade), a fabulously rich electric blue, mixed with a little Indigo, Winsor Lemon (not Lemon yellow) and Quinacridone Gold. I mixed a darker greyish green for the areas that were darker and shadows, taking great care not to lose my highlights.


Here is the finished feather and iridescent detail.

Well that’s the end of my feathery pursuits for now. I’ll be painting some more owl and flamingo feathers next year, so look out for that blog too!

*All photos, content, text and videos are subject to copyright – Jackie Isard Botanicals 2017

Blog 4 – Sketching adventures continued…

Next in my sketch book are two more beautiful wild flowers, Devil’s-bit scabious (Succisa pratensis) and Greater Knapweed (Centaurea scabiosa). Devil’s-bit scabious is a cute little plant with leggy stems ending in a pretty little button shaped lilac/blue flowers. Greater Knapweed is a grander and more flamboyant version of Common Knapweed (Centaurea nigra). The flower head forms in a thistle-like fashion opening into a beautiful cluster of purple petals with flowing delicate petals beneath which float outwards like exaggerated  ladies’ fingers. (See header picture, taken at Box Farm Meadow)

I chose Devil’s-bit scabious as it is the food plant of the declining Marsh Fritillary butterfly and Greater Knapweed as it is particularly appealing to insect wildlife. Insects including bees and butterflies are very fond of this plant, notably the Marbled White butterfly.

In the spring I planted some of the plants I am studying in my garden with the intention of using them for botanical reference and colour studies. The slugs seemed to love it much to my displeasure! But they grew and I was able to study and dissect them as needed. Later in the Spring I also scattered some wildflower seeds which included Greater Knapweed and to my surprise one healthy plant grew tall and strong. This year I have sown seeds for all 8 plants I want to study for my RHS entry, so let’s hope they all grow for next years additions to my sketch book!

Devil’s-bit scabious Succisa pratensis

The flower head of the Devil’s-bit scabious if a perfect bundle of small flowers packed into a ball shape. The pattern formed by these florets is a fibonacci series, spiralled.

As the flowers open into their beautiful lilac blossoms the pollen bearing anthers protrude further than the flower forming a little halo of darker pink around the flower head with puffs of yellow/white pollen at their tips. When the plant was young  and partly opened it reminded me of a baby in a pretty lace bonnet! As the flowers fade the petals fall and we are left with a green ball of empty sepals which will then develop and produce the seeds. At this stage I took colour references from my plant and painted them into my sketchbook for future reference.

In my studies I dissected the very small flowers and illustrated the parts of the plant. The seed head has not yet matured so I will need to add this at a later date. I wanted to show the plants structure by breaking it into sections as a memory aid. I selected sections of the plant to show how it changes up the stem as the plant is quite tall.

I used a specimen Marsh Fritillary butterfly to take colour reference and pattern form and added it to my drawing of the opening flower head. As my specimen is set in an open position it is great to work from as all detail can be seen and added to the painting. Little error on my part…..I should have turned the butterfly specimen upsidedown as the potion shows the underside of the wings! I wanted to make the butterfly look like it was landing on the flower so used a photo from the internet as reference for positioning.

To plan out my sketch book page I wanted to include as many features of the plants as possible together with my colour references. I spent time drawing up my composition on tracing paper and then cut it up  to arrange it on my page. Once I was satisfied I had the best arrangement I traced it all off into my sketch book.

This is my final sketch using watercolour paint and fine liner. It will serve as a good reminder for when I paint the final painting.


Where does the plants name come from? The history behind this flowers name is quite interesting. “Scabious flowers were used to treat scabies, and other afflictions of the skin including sores by the Bubonic Plague. The work ‘scabies’ comes from the Latin word ‘Scratch’ (scabere). The short black root was in folk tales bitten off by the devil, angry at the plant’s ability to cure these ailments.” Hence the name Succisa which means cut short in Latin and pratensis means ‘of a meadow’.

Greater Knapweed Centaurea scabiosa

The late flowering Greater Knapweed is the only food plant of the Coleophoridae case bearer moth (Coleophora didymella). Insects including bees and butterflies are very fond of this plant, notably the Marbled White butterfly.

I started by studying the flower head and whole plant as it developed. The flower head resembled Common Knapweed, thistle-like in structure but it is not thorny. The bracts form a fibonacci series pattern on the involucre and have a spidery look to their edges. This involucre encases the seeds which are similar to dandelion seeds. When mature the bracts spring open flat to let the seeds be carried out by the wind. This is as beautiful as the flower head. My plant has not yet matured to reveal this so I have taken my reference from a photograph for the time being.

I began my sketch by breaking the plant into sections and dissecting a flower head, again because it is a very tall plant. The leaves are deeply pinnately lobed and the stems quite hairy. Some areas on the main stems resemble cobwebs. The leaves reduce in size as they go up the plant.

Again I wanted to include as many features of the plants as possible together with my colour references. I spent time drawing up my composition on tracing paper and then cut it up to arrange it on my page as before with the Devil’s-bit scabious then I traced it into my sketch book.

This is the finished sketch ready to trace into my sketch book. I now took colour references and noted them in my sketchbook.

I really wanted to add the Marble White butterfly to the main flower head but in a different position to the Marsh Fritillary on the previous sketch. I found an image of one looking like it is coming across the top of a flower and decided this was the position I wanted to use. Again I used my specimen to take the colour reference and patterns from.

This is the finished piece. Some painted and some outlined in fineliner pen.

Where does the plants name come from? Centaurea, the genus name, comes from the Centaur Chiron, who used flowers of this genus as a poultice to cover a festering wound made by an arrow dipped in Hydra’s blood. The wound was cured and so, the story goes, cornflowers and knapweeds were given the name Centaurea. Greater knapweed was also used to treat skin conditions and scabies, hence the species name scabiosa.

I’ve now also added ‘Habit’ drawings to my sketchbook of all four sketches done so far. A helpful illustration of the whole plant in reduced scale.

Left to right clockwise – Greater Knapweed, Devil’s-bit scabious, Ragged Robin, Horseshoe Vetch

I’ve decided I’d like to buy a flower press! Any suggestions for a good quality one gratefully accepted. These I tried to press in a heavy book. I would love to do it properly next year with all my chosen wildflower plants.

Well until next time, I hope you enjoyed this part of my Sketching adventures!

*All photos, content, text and videos are subject to copyright – Jackie Isard Botanicals 2017

Blog 3: RHS sketching adventures…

I decided to use a sketchbook to learn about and paint the plants I may choose to paint for the RHS in 2019.  Firstly I researched wildflower plants which are under threat or declining as I wanted to relate them to my concern for our wildlife and the importance of reinstating meadowland. I discovered that some of the wildflower species were quite well known and many rare insect pollinators really depend on them.

Horseshoe vetch – Hippocrepis comosa

The first wildflower I began to study was Hippocrepis comosa (Horseshoe vetch). To my delight I found it growing in the meadow behind my house. Excitedly I looked it up in my Wildlife Key book only to find that there are many similar vetches and that this one was not Horseshoe vetch! I had found Lotus corniculatus  (Bird’s-foot trefoil).  The differences are quite obvious when you know what you’re looking at and it’s always wise to check your species carefully in a good wildflower book first.

‘The Wildflower Key’ was recommended to me as a good resource book. I also own the ‘Collins Wild Flower Guide’ which has lovely illustrations.

I went walking again in the meadow and discovered another vetch, again excited I checked it in my book but now I had found another vetch called Lotus tenuis (Narrow leaved Bird’s-foot trefoil – picture 4 below). I searched on holiday in Scotland, at other meadows in Bannerdown and Box Farm. Still I could not find Horseshoe vetch! Notice the beautiful red colour in the young flowers in picture 2. I will look again next year but have also planted some seeds in my garden and the back meadow in the hope that one will grow for me to paint.

With a little more research and the help of existing botanical paintings, photographs online and my wildflower key book, I began to compose my page dedicated to Horseshoe vetch. I did not rely on photographs, as they can enhance colours incorrectly, to make my colour swatches but picked a piece of the two vetches I found in our meadow and took references from those. All 3 vetches have very similar colouring.

I included an Polyommatus bellargus (Adonis Blue) in my sketch as this butterfly is in major decline and Horseshoe vetch is an essential plant for both the Chalkhill and Adonis blue butterflies as their caterpillars feed solely on it. I used a set specimen I had bought and photo reference for positioning.

I studied the flower heads and seed pods too. My composition seemed like it was blowing in a summer breeze so I put a couple of meadow grasses in the background to add to this movement.

Now it was painting time! As you know I had taken my colour swatches from some suitable live subjects and so I began to mix up my colours . I placed them on the page together with a note of the colours I had used, this I will use for reference when the time comes to paint the final painting. The wings of an Adonis Blue have an iridescence to them and for this I laid a layer of Daniel Smith Iridescent Lilac over the blue part of the wing. You can just about see it in the photo below.

The final sketch included some pencil and black fine liner pen work as well as watercolour painting.

Where does the plants name come from? The name Horseshoe vetch is derived from the pea like flowers which are arranged is a horseshoe shape. The seed pods have also been described as resembling a horseshoe shape. In folk law it was said that if a horse trod on it, it would be unshod.

Ragged Robin – Lychnis flos-cuculi

The second plant I chose to study was Lychnis flos-cuculi (Ragged Robin). I chose this plant as it is declining in numbers and for the insect pollinator I chose a Bombus sylvarum (Shrill Carder Bee) which is also becoming rare. For this plant I studied a live specimen because luckily one had grown in my garden this year from seeds planted in the Spring. I was able to study it fully and dissect parts too. (*The photo of Bombus sylvarum was borrowed from Wikipedia as I did not have a specimen. They are slightly darker than this image and 10-15mm in size)

Mixing the pink was very tricky as it is a beautiful pale pink but bright as well. I tried a few mixes and found that Daniel Smith Opera Rose, W&N Permanent Rose and a little bit of Aureolin made the perfect pink. I then took more colour references and placed them onto my sketch page. The composition began to develop showing some of the inner flower detail, seed head and a close up of the hairy stem.

Later in the sketch I decided to study the flower’s internal structure more carefully and did a few diagram style illustrations to show this. This was my final sketch page.


Where does the plants name come from? Apparently this flower was used as a remedy for jaundice, stomach aches, toothache, headaches and muscular strains. The latin name ‘Lychnis’ comes for the greek work for ‘Lamp’. Flos-cuculi means ‘Cuckoo flower’. This is because it comes into flower when  the cuckoo first starts to call. It has a rather straggly and messy in appearance but don’t get it wrong as it is the food plant of long tongued bees, butterflies love it and several species of moth.

Devil’s-bit Scabious – Succisa pratensis

The next wildflower I plan to study is a Succisa pratensis (Devil’s-bit Scabious) and there’s one in my garden just about to open! I’m really looking forward to studying this beautiful little plant.
Where does the plants name come from? The history behind this flowers name is quite interesting. “Scabious flowers were used to treat scabies, and other affictions of the skin including sores by the Bubonic Plague. The work ‘scabies’ comes from the Latin word ‘Scratch’ (scabere). The short black root was in folk tales bitten off by the devil, angry at the plant’s ability to cure these ailments.” Hence the name Devil’s-bit Scabious.

Yesterday our beautiful meadow was cut, so until next year I will have to await possible new species growing there, let’s cross our fingers!!

I hope you enjoyed this Blog and look forward to sharing my next one with you very soon!

*All photos, content, text and videos are subject to copyright – Jackie Isard Botanicals 2017

Blog 2: Insect adventures…

Alongside my Meadow wildflower studies I am also studying and painting insect pollinators. Pollinating insects are crucial to the environment. Some meadow plants rely on only one type of insect for pollination and some insects need one type of plant to lay their eggs on. If these plants or insects die out, we not only lose the plant but the insect pollinators too!

This is the reason why I feel so strongly about this subject and have chosen to highlight it for my RHS project…..

Plantlife International’s ‘Save our Magnificent Meadows’ project:

“There were once natural wild flower meadows in every parish – today only 2% of the meadows that existed in the 1930’s remain. Nearly 7.5 million acres of wildflower meadow have been lost so far and they are still being destroyed……… The Save our Magnificent Meadows project will protect, conserve and restore wildflower meadows and other grasslands across the UK, and will focus on the Fermanagh grasslands of Northern Ireland, the pastures of west Wales, Scottish grasslands from Edinburgh to Aberdeenshire, the calaminarian and whin grasslands of Northumberland and traditional meadows and pastures in Southern England.”

Rosie Maple of Avon Wildlife Trust:

“The B-lines (Biodiversity lines) project’s main focus is connectivity of high quality pollinator habitat. Wildflower grasslands and meadows are one of the most biodiverse habitats you can find in the UK. We have lost over 97% of them in the UK since the 1950’s. It’s a pretty staggering figure. Part of the main problem of conserving pollinating insects is that many species are not highly mobile. Many species of bees, butterflies, flies and beetles expend huge amounts of energy on flight and need to have a very efficient foraging strategy in order to ingest enough nectar/pollen to maintain this. So in effect they need to ‘know’ that any journey they make will be rewarded by access to a food source. (I recently learned that a distance between 0.5 – 1km between habitat is about what is required for most insects to disperse). A landscape dominated by arable monocultures and human development does not give them this guarantee. So the aim of B-lines is to restore the bits in between, by connecting up our existing, high quality wildflower habitats, creating green corridors and stepping stones that allow the wildflower and associated invertebrate populations to move freely between areas.”

Studying the insects…

I began by going on a Honey Bee painting course with Cath Hodsman and learned a great deal about the insect, it’s behaviour and how a hive works.  I also studied them under a microscope. My painting of a honey bee is unfinished as yet but here it is so far.

I then decided to go on Natures Details Butterfly course at the Kingcombe Centre, Dorset, run by Sarah Morrish. I chose to paint a Bedstraw Hawk Moth as it has rather beautiful colours that appeal to me. I have been asked by a couple of facebook followers to describe how I painted it. So, here goes!

I highly recommend the course to any interested in these beautiful insects. You will find details of Sarah’s courses on her website is : or on facebook at:


Painting a Bedstraw Hawk Moth

Firstly I drew up some illustrations in my sketchbook. To draw up the main moth on my composition, I drew up one half as accurately as I could with an H pencil. At this point I wanted to enlarge it slightly so I used proportional dividers to do this. My final drawing was x 1.5. I then traced this half and flipped it over to trace the other half of my moth. It’s not cheating! It just makes life easier and the drawing more accurately.

  Watch the curves, it may take a few attempts to get it just right!

  Take care to draw on details such as patterns, hairy parts, veins, eyes

  Check your drawing against the real sample regularly and adjust it as required

  Ensure both sides look as similar as you can get them, nature is not perfect but symmetry is very apparent in Moths and Butterflies

Using a microscope (x30) can help you to view moths/butterflies/bees more closely. When you look at them under a microscope it’s like another world! I saw the scales and hairs clearly and this helped me with my final paintings. I did the same on my honey bee painting above. It’s a great way to get all the information you need to make your painting more realistic. If you don’t have access to a microscope try using a very strong magnifying glass (x20)


  Look all over the moth/butterfly, it’s very interesting and fascinating to see what the naked eye cannot see

  Look at the eyes and antenna, notice the way the eye is formed, the antenna can be patterned or they may have scales and hairs

I then looked at some books Sarah had left out for us and was particularly drawn to the Beatrix Potter wildlife one. She had painted small microscopic drawings of butterfly scales in her studies and this prompted me to do a series of illustrations showing the chrysalis, caterpillar, closed wing position, open (set) wing position and a microscope close up of the antenna. I took a look at the moths antenna under the microscope, it looked so interesting and completely different to what I had imagined. It reminded me of a hoover brush on one side and it was scaly on the other.


Using a light pad/box to save time with tracings

Once the drawings were completed and as perfect as I could get them, I began to trace them off carefully with tracing paper using an F pencil (it needs to be a little darker to see the image on the light pad through the watercolour paper). I then cut up the tracings and played with composition arrangements for a little while until deciding on a more scientific arrangement. The microscopic view of the antenna determined this in my mind as I felt a scientific arrangement suited it better. I then stuck the illustrations into position on the light pad with masking tape being careful to watch the size of the gaps between each one. As my illustrations were forming a line vertically I used a long ruler to mark my centre line first. The gaps need to look comfortable and almost the same in size. I then placed my watercolour paper (HP 140lb (not heavier than this) quality watercolour paper) over the tracings on the light pad. I taped the watercolour paper into position so it didn’t move around and began to draw it very carefully with a 2H pencil. It’s good to use a very light pencil as you don’t want it to spoil your painting. This is especially important if you are painting light coloured plants or insects.

Now I’m ready to start mixing my colours and start painting! I always mix up my colours and tones and do test strips, checking the colours as I go. After that I copy them into my sketchbook and make a note of how I mixed the shades. I try to mix enough paint to use for the whole painting where possible. As you paint you may discover other tones that you need and mix them, make sure you put a dab of those in your book too. If you run out then you have a good idea of what colours you used to make them in the first place.

  Mix your colours carefully, match them against your subject

  Always make a note of the colours you’ve used to mix them with

  Use professional quality water colour paints


I used a mix of warm colours to make up the colours for the Bedstraw Hawk Moth. You will have heard of warm and cool hues I’m sure. You can mix everything from just 3 colours, a red, a blue and a yellow. The colours will vary between warm and cool hues. You can make colour charts too if needed to help you. Many Botanical Artists have blogs explaining how to do this. For some very good examples and help with colour see Dianne Sutherland Ball SBA blogspot at:

  Try out different mixes of colours so you have a good idea of what mixes what

  These are the colours I used to create my Bedstraw Hawk Moth: French Ultramarine, Indigo, Indanthrene Blue,Alizarin Crimson, Perylene Maroon, Permanent Rose,Violet, Quinacridone Gold, Windsor Lemon Yellow, Aureolin, Burnt Sienna

So now I have all my colours mixed up and I’m ready to start painting. I chose to do the wings first. I painted one part on both sides as I went, don’t be tempted to finish one side first! A few things to remember whilst you’re painting:

  Look at the different textures, some may be dotty, some hairy, some smooth

  Use a fine brush to do the stippling of dotty areas; a cats tongue brush, a spotter brush or I use a No. ‘0’ renaissance sable rigger

  Use a medium sized brush to do the washes, I use a Billy Showell No. 2 brush (there are other types but you need one which will hold the water well and has a fine pointed tip)


  Build your painting up in thin layers, never put thick colour on to begin with. The colour should increase in strength as you go, building it up layers. At times my brown didn’t look warm enough so I laid a very watered down layer of Quinacridone Gold on top of it to warm it up

  Notice how the colours vary across the insect and try to imitate it, study it well before you start

I decided to look at the eyes more carefully towards the end of my painting and found that they were iridescent. The Bedstraw Hawk Moth has coppery iridescence in its eyes. You can use a little iridescent paint to bring this out. Daniel Smith have a number of these available. Butterflies often have an iridescence on their wings too. My moth antenna close up has iridescence in blues and greens as well as creamy golds!

  Look at the hairyness and where it features on your insect. I found some eyelashes!


Always take time to paint your Moth or Butterfly as there is so much detail within. The closer you get to the original, the more realistic your painting will look. If you need any further advice please don’t hesitate to contact me at Jackie Isard Botanicals on facebook.

Good luck and I hope this has been useful!

*All photos, content, text and videos are subject to copyright – Jackie Isard Botanicals 2017

First blog post

This is my first blog! … and one of many more to come

This year I have been accepted to exhibit with the RHS. Very exciting for me! I am making a sketchbook specially dedicated to wildflowers and pollinators using it to study for my RHS entry in 2019. This blog will show how I develop the ideas and show my progress as I go along. I hope you enjoy it.

Recently I have become very passionate about wildlife and meadow wildflowers, as well as important pollinators. I’ve also been following Plantlife and their project to preserve our declining meadowland. This affects our Bees and wildlife and is of great concern. They are working very hard to ensure our wildlife and wildflowers are protected and I feel very strongly about this, so much so that I decided to choose this as my theme for my RHS project.

I’ve been visiting meadows these last few months to find plants of interest to my studies. It has opened up a whole new world to me. It’s like when you buy a new car, you suddenly notice loads of them on the road! I’ve seen wildflowers I’ve never seen before and wow! they are beautiful. As a botanical artist I’ve been studying them very closely and seen so much beauty in what many would call ‘weeds’. I’ve noticed insects I’ve never met and they’ve bitten me sometimes!

I’m looking forward to visiting Kingcombe meadow next week whist on a course with Sarah Morrish painting butterflies. A very knowledgable lady who I admire so much. She has been an inspiration to me.

Well, I’ll be back soon with my next blog soon. Enjoy!