Blog 12a: RHS working on the wild side!

It’s been one long amazing adventure since I first wrote about my RHS Sketching Adventures in 2016 and it’s not over yet! This was the year I was accepted to exhibit with the RHS (Royal Horticultural Society). My journey has been of new learning and a great deal of research so far. This Blog is about my continuing journey and the progress I’ve made so far. Up to now it’s been hugely interesting and at times very intensive but most of all a rewarding and enjoyable journey!

You’re most likely wondering why this is Blog 12a. Well, I’m not usually superstitious but today I am. So it’s 12a, not 13!

My journey began by selecting a subject matter to paint for the RHS. A theme which would be interesting as well as something I was passionate about. After all, it involves 6 paintings which need to be absolutely spot on and perfect, so I had to be excited and inspired by my theme. Just before I was accepted, I had become very interested in the importance of meadows which have been declining rapidly from our countryside. This is affecting our very important pollinators and may eventually lead to food and fruit crops failing. I also became very interested in pollinating insects, bees and butterflies. So I had to include them somehow!

My garden, over this time, has become a haven for pollinators. I selected a few areas of my garden to grow wild and planted meadow wildflowers in the grass. I purchased solitary bee homes, planted bee friendly plants, painted butterflies and bees too…I was smitten!

Just a few real facts…
97% of our UK Meadows have been lost since the 1930s, taken away by intensive farming, affecting pollinators and wildlife in a staggering way. I became very interested in this subject matter and much to my pleasure I discovered a wealth of organisations all working hard to change things. A few are listed below:

Plantlife (campaigning, sharing knowledge and working with partners for the protection of meadows and introduction of wild road verges);
Magnificent Meadows (taking emergency action to prevent the disappearance of meadows and sharing knowledge);
Coronation Meadows (initiated by HRH The Prince of Wales to create meadow in every county to mark the anniversary of The Queen’s coronation) and of course The Wildlife Trusts, the National Plant Monitoring Scheme and so on… I joined the NPMS (National Plant Monitoring Scheme) to help with their research in my area, around the Severn valley. You can volunteer to record species growing in an area near you. Sadly, the fields they allocated to me for recording species had been ploughed over. Not what we like to see!

My journey took me to many meadows and open spaces where our beautiful native wildflowers still grow.  Seeing again the many wildflowers I took for granted as a child, was like coming home after a long time away. I remember as a child sipping nectar from white nettle flowers. Everyone thought I was weird! The wildflower plants were there but I didn’t really pay attention to them much as a young adult, although I’ve always loved long nature walks. Now, I admire them each and every day and through learning recognise many species. I’m always in awe when I see one I recognise!

I even made friends along the way. Thank you Jeni Burton (pictured above) for taking me to Eades Meadow, a truly sacred place. I saw my first Bee orchid with Jeni, we were so excited! (it’s the first photo below).

I take a lot of photos of these wondrous wild flowers. Their beauty really comes to life in a close up. You could quite easily walk right past them!


The places I went to all had different habitats. Some were grassland, some damp meadows and some just road verges. I started to learn about which plants favoured particular habitats and decided that this would be my ‘theme’ for the RHS. To study a set of species which favour certain environments. Also included in my ‘theme’ would be relevant pollinators to these habitats and plants as I feel they are just as important. I went through many wildflower plant choices before I finally decided my final 6 earlier this year. I even started sketching some of them which I have now excluded. My final 6 are wet meadow plants.

My first choice was Cardamine pratensis (Cuckoo flower). It grows in the field behind my house. I like to call this field a ‘meadow’ as over the last two years more wildflower species have arrived. The local farmer looks after it. The area where I live is damp so the fields surrounding the house and garden favour wet meadow species. Nice bonus!


Here my research and preparations began. I have watched all of my chosen plants grow through their lifecycle. I decided to plant some Cardamine pratensis plants in my garden which grew beautifully. One day, I was studying the plants and discovered a butterfly egg on one of them. Soon there were more eggs. I was delighted as I knew it was most likely an Orange Tip Butterfly as they use this plant as their larval food plant. Of course, the pollinator I would link to this painting would be the Orange Tip! ….and guess what it’s latin name is? Anthocharis cardamines! 


I watched the caterpillars grow over a few weeks until they were quite large. What I didn’t realise was that they would devour the whole plant all the way down to the basal leaves. Every little bit…. so to finish off my studies I went out into our back meadow and thankfully some of those plants were still intact! One cold night this year an Orange tip butterfly rested overnight on my garden plants near one of the eggs (photo above). It was there for 39 hours!

My studies continued and involved some dissection and learning a little botany. It was important to study the whole plant, including a little botany, so that I could understand all its details. Even a study under the microscope to see what’s inside the flowers and how its reproduction works. This would make it a lot easier to draw accurately. By happy accident along the way I discovered that reproduction was not only via seedpods but also from the plants basal leaves. Left in a dish of water for a few days, my basal leaf specimen started to sprout babies! The botanical term for this is viviparous (see photo below). My composition started to form but it changed again this year to the left side composition in the last photo. I felt the arrangement and story made more sense in the second composition idea.


I have started my final 6 this year and completed research and sketchbook notes for 3 of my choice wildflowers. I approached each one with the same detailed research. The ones I have finished researching and almost done compositions for are Cardamine pratensis, Lychnis flos-cuculi (Ragged Robin) and Lotus pedunculatus (Greater Bird’s-foot trefoil).

We’re having a really hot Summer this year which means everything is going over and seeding too early. This is the same in the meadows. The Greater bird’s-foot trefoil growing in my garden didn’t grow to full height and started to seed almost as soon as the flowers opened. This made measuring very tricky! A very kind friend, from a little further north than where I live, offered to pick a few pieces near her house and send it to me. The amazing thing was, she was going on holiday and just happened to be passing my house that day! The pieces of plant were quickly measured and placed in the fridge minutes after they were delivered. These wildflowers are very fragile and fade very quickly once picked. Thank you Paula Golding, you were a life saver!


I still have 3 more wildflowers to study and make compositions of this year and early next year.  After that I’ll be painting my final compositions for the rest of the year when the plants are in flower. Here are my final sketchbook notes which will include some dried pieces of each plant on the right side page gap.

My advice to anyone thinking of applying to exhibit with the RHS is to look at Katherine Tyrell’s pages on the Botanical Art and Artists website. There she explains the procedure, rules and how to plan your exhibit. If you are accepted spend at least a couple of years watching and studying your subjects. Preparation and research for the final paintings is essential.

I will return with more about my journey next year. I plan to exhibit, if all goes well, in 2020.

I hope you enjoyed my Blog!

Online Mixing Colour Accurately for Watercolour Course

Jackie Isard Botanicals – Mixing Colour Accurately for Watercolour Course (Launches every 3 months, next course September 2018)

I’ve been busy preparing my new online colour course! I’ve developed and planned a course which will help you to ‘See’ colour with a better ‘eye’. It has been very successful so far and students have found they mix colours far more easily than they used to.

The course involves comprehensive notes, video clips together with a series of exercises which can be done in your own time. We cover mixing with primaries, those difficult greens, botanical greys (we touch on this, an advanced course will cover this in more detail at a later stage) and neutral beige/brown tones for those beautiful Autumn colours. There are tutorial videos for some of the exercises as well as videos for beginners. Exercises include making a few small reference charts, matching swatch colours and many other useful tips/exercises. The course also involves some important exercises which are posted to you and your final work will be assessed by post too. Part of the course has to be done by post because this is all about mixing colour accurately. A computer screen or scan/photo/colour copy will not show true colour! There is a Secret student group page for posting work and discussion. I am available on Facebook Private Messenger, Whatsapp or Email to answer any questions you have during the course. Please bear in mind the time difference if you are overseas! I appraise your work as you complete each of the Lesson exercises via Private Messenger and give a personalised final appraisal by letter at the end of the course.

Some student reviews:
“Mixing watercolour accurately is exactly what this fantastic course has taught me and a most enjoyable process too. Very much a novice, the notes and exercises are clear and easy to follow. The feedback was prompt and very helpful. All in all – BRILLIANT! Thanks Jackie.” Sylvia

“I’m very satisfied of improvements obtained. Before my paintings were a bit ‘childish’. Now they are more realistic. I learned to recognize the subtle shades of color, to mix them and to obtain more natural colours. And I understood how much I still have to learn by looking carefully at my surroundings.” Simona

“At last!! I now approach colour mixing in a more organised and knowledgable way. I now search for ‘many’ colours within a plant and have gained the confidence to closely match them. This course should be compulsory for all botanical painters. Jackie is a knowledgable and encouraging tutor who responds quickly to our questions and posts on the ‘Secret’ Student Facebook page. Wish I had taken this course before I started my Certificate! Thank yo Jackie” Catherine

I am very pleased with this course! After all the exercises and tasks, I finally began to see the colour and understood how to mix it. I liked the fact that I had not only charts of colours but even in the end had practical tasks for a better understanding of colour on real leaves and flowers. Separately, I will highlight the fact that Jackie responded very quickly to questions and supported throughout the course. I highly recommend this course to anyone who wants to learn how to mix watercolour accurately for Botanical painting” Svitlana

Payment can be made via PayPal, details will be sent on Registration. If you do not have PayPal, it’s really simple to set up online. Just visit www.paypal.com. Bank transfer is only available using a UK bank account. Please request bank details if required.

Contact me for more details!

Blog 12: Painting a Portuguese Shell…

I was given this shell at my Daughter-in-laws wedding last year in Portugal which has their wedding date inscribed underneath it. It has a special meaning to me as you will no doubt understand. So, I had to paint it for the couple to enjoy in their home!

To begin with, shells are rather difficult shapes to draw. Full of spirals or curved lines and beautiful patterns. This shell has lines going both vertically and horizontally over a curved surface. We really need to get those right first! I started by doing the outline of it’s total shape and then worked from the top/middle of the drawing putting in the curves carefully as they go from left to right. As they go round to the edges the space between them reduces almost to a vanishing point. Once these were completed and the little cracks across it’s surface drawn on, I then worked from the centre/top, putting in the vertical lines, across to the left and then across to right. These also curve across the surface subtly….quite tricky!

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My shell has a number of interesting colours and I studied them carefully before I started to make my swatches. A lovely slate blue grey at the top and warm tan colours at the bottom intermingled with beige tones and yellows. I now had a good idea of what colour mixes I would use and created my swatch of colours.
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For the slate blue/grey I used W&N Ultramarine Green Shade (U(GS), Transparent Yellow (TY) and Permanent Rose (PR). Mix it like you’re making black (70% blue, 20% red and 10% yellow) but add in a little bit more of the blue. For the Tan colour I used Burnt Sienna (BS), Quinacridone Gold (QG), a tiny little Indanthrine Blue (IB) and a tiny bit of Sennelier Rose Madder Lake (SRML). I used the SRML to just add a little brightness to the mix. For the second tan colour which is paler and more orangey, I used QG and BS, more of the QG. I also mixed up a black using IB, TY and QM with a little of the U(GS) added for a darker slate grey used at the top of the shell.
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The first step was to add a wet in wet layer using the base colours, grey, beige, warm yellow and rusty browns. When the wet in wet layer was totally dry, I started to add in some of the details with a watered down mix. Step 1: starting to add in some of the vertical and horizontal patterning. Step 2 shows me adding a little more shadowing and some of the cracks in. It’s best not to work with to thick mixes at this stage or your painting will start to look smudgy. Now it’s starting to look more interesting!

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Step 2

From here I now added in more of the background colours to give my shell some form. These were very watered down versions of my original colours plus a slightly bluer version of my slate grey/blue. I applied these individually as a thin wash and then quickly rinse/dry off my brush before softening the edges. It’s important to soften the edges of these washes with a damp brush. It gives a lovely smooth finish.

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See how it’s starting to take shape! On some areas I used a Billy Showell technique to apply rough lose lines, a dry brush method. This gives a little more interest to the patterning, which are not always just curved lines. To do this, I load my brush and splay it into a fan in my palette. Then I slide the brush away from the palette until it forms little points instead of one point. Holding the brush as a 45° angle I then brush lightly across the area. For thinner lines hold the brush more upright. (There is a video demo of this technique on my Feathery Pursuits blog) This takes a bit of practice, so try it out on a separate piece of paper first!20180212_113038
To add in the spots onto the surface I used another technique. These are not just spots you see. Some are blurred and others have a line coming down from them. To achieve a blurred effect the paper needs to be damp. But rather than dampen the paper first, it’s best to do this with the brush afterwards. You have to be quick and patient! Here’s how it’s done:

Some of these dots were paler than others so I used a watered down mix for those but the same method to apply them.
20180212_171931Once the dots were finished I worked on the top of the shell. This area is not solid colour so I’ve dampened the paper first to get a more mottled effect. It looks pretty messy at this stage but once I add the fine detail it comes together. To get a stronger mix this time I’ve used Indanthrine Blue (IB), TY and PR with only a little of the U(GS) in my mix. This part of the shell is quite dark and U(GS) is a weaker pigment. It’s make the same shade of slate grey/blue though.

From here I worked at the fine detailing on the top part of my shell, even the vertical lines show up on parts of it as they go down into the striped part. To the right side there is a slight halo of light where the slate grey disappears over the edge of the shell. I left this part a little lighter and graduated it away. It’s a little like the reflected light from the surface which you get when painting pears and apples** see below for better photo!

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Now to join bottom and top together. There were lots of lines to do here so I had to be very careful! Firstly, to guide me I added in the lighter blue/grey section between the darker lines. Then I carefully added in the vertical lines and horizontal curves. **You can see the slightly highlighted edges at the top of the shell better in this photo below middle.

Next, I worked on the cracks to enhance their depth. I added a darker mix into the top areas of these cracks with a thin wavy line, softened this a little with a damp brush and at the same time pushed the paint back into the top part of each wavy line. This creates backup which is perfect for this type of detail. It gives a nice sharp edge with a thin graduation in front of it. Lastly, a little extra shading around the sides and bottom to make it pop off the page!

I hope you enjoyed this Blog and that you are encouraged to have a go at a shell. Happy painting!

Blog 10: SBA awards – ‘Vessels of Life’

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I was thrilled last week to receive a phone call from the SBA (Society of Botanical Artists) announcing that I had been presented with a CBM (Certificate of Botanical Merit) award for my seed head painting ‘Vessels of Life’. This award was created by the SBA to give credit to artists whose paintings/drawings are created in true botanical style and who may at some time in the future be awarded medals at the RHS (Royal Horticultural Society) Botanical Exhibition. I am now very privileged to use the letters CBM after my name. So you can see why I am so excited!

For more about the awards see: https://www.botanicalartandartists.com/news/society-of-botanical-art-2017-certificates-of-botanical-merit

This was one of three paintings which were chosen to be hung at the SBA exhibition The other two are featured below –

The exhibition this year is outstanding and I will now be seeing it twice when I go again on the 21st! My award was presented to my by Jekka of Jekka’s Herb Farm . Her speech was really interesting, informative and funny. It is sad to see Sarah Wall-Armitage retire as president but welcome Billy Showell as the new one!

For more about the painting of the painting and video tips, see Blog 9

Cards, small prints and Limited Edition unmounted or mounted prints available. Contact me on Facebook or here.
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Thank you for reading!
All photos and images on this blog are copyright of Jackie Isard Botanicals, all rights reserved

 

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 jackieisard@googlemail.com 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

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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 jackieisard@googlemail.com 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

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Blog 7: Pretty Flamingo!…

After a visit to Slimbridge Wildlife Park I was keen to paint Flamingo feathers. It took a bit of 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! www.birdland.co.uk

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

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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.

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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. Other colours I mixed were variations of pale greys, some pinky, a cooler grey and a very pale yellow using Trans Yellow (TY) mixed with a tiny bit of the Flamingo Pink I had mixed previously. I also mixed some of this pink to make my pinky grey. You’ll notice on my swatch that there is a duller looking pink which I used for shadows and stronger details, this was mixed using Sennelier Rose Madder Lake (SMRL), 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 doing my pale washes and then built up the colour gradually. There were some deep shadows where it turned and for this I used stronger versions of my pale greys and the flamingo pink. I created these deep shadows  by working in between the whiter wisps. In this way you get the white wisps overlaying it.

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Painting the oval feather

The oval feather was a lovely shape but much paler that the others. It was hard to keep the subtlety of this one without over painting it. For this feather I built up the layers slowly and left it lighter than the others. There were more highlights on this one which helped to keep it from looking flat. Also notice the darker areas along the right side and the left side of the rachis (mid vein), this enhances it’s curved appearance.

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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 had 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 to paint those tiny little veins!

I started with a very pale wash leaving the paler areas free of paint. I used a watery mix of the cooler grey and pinky grey to indicate shadows on the paler part of the feather. It took 3 layers to get it up to the right strength of pink 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 a the same technique that I used in my Feathery Pursuits blog. I used the Flamingo pink on the top part of the feather and the pinky grey and cool grey further down on the lighter areas. Blog 5 contains a video showing you how to do this dry brush technique. See this link: https://jibotanicals.com/2016/10/01/blog-5-feathery-pursuits/

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Painting the shiny white highlights

My paper was not white enough to show the shine on the rachis (mid vein) 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. Well, I’ll just have to have a spotlight pointing down onto it if it’s ever framed and hung on a wall!

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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! The greys and pinky greys are made with very strong pigments and 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 add occasionally add some of the pinky grey and very pale pink. Once you’re happy with the result you can then add a few darker bits to show the shadows. It’s also good to add a few very fine chevron side hairs to some of the larger wisps. It’s hard to see on the image below but hopefully you’ll see what I mean.

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

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I must apologise for no videos on this blog, however, I will be doing a blog in a few weeks about my Dying 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
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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!