year one part nine: florum and five leaves

The first part of September was taken up with Florum and it was our most successful exhibition yet. Everyone had really excelled themselves. We had some impressive large pieces which added greatly to the impact of the whole thing but it was the year of the “little gems”. We sold mainly small, affordable jewel-like pictures, but enough of them to raise over £23,000.

In the meantime, I had googled Botanical Artists in Kent and come up with Hazel West-Sherring in Ash, a few miles away. I enrolled myself for a three day course painting autumn leaves. Here was yet another approach and another excellent teacher. Hazel works on a one-to-one basis with her students, resulting in pieces that were all different but brought out the best in us. Rather than building up multiple pale layers, she adopts a kaleidoscopic approach to colour building, blending it with occasional glazes into a rich patchwork. Rather than obediently following teacher through every stage, we had to do some independent thinking, but Hazel paved the way with good individually-tailored advice. Each day we came in to find that she had looked carefully at our efforts and left a few well-chosen words of wisdom!

I should probably have chosen one modest specimen but instead picked a spray of cherry leaves at various stages of colour change, ranging from deep aubergine to greyish green. They were arranged in an elegant semi-circle with beautiful negative spaces, so it took me the best part of the first day to get an acceptable drawing. I’d never used a light box before to transfer an image – what a neat device! On day two I tottered home exhausted. When my neighbour chatted to me and said I looked tired I had to admit that I had spent the day painting one leaf. The next day I managed another.


cherry leaves (watercolour on fabriano hot pressed grana fina)

Of course my specimen was twisting and turning by that time but I took it home in my sandwich box and persevered, averaging a leaf a day until the end of the week.My goal was to do things to the best of my ability at the time and not expect more. I'd really enjoyed the processes and learned the value of negative spaces.

At the end of the month I showed my etchings with Kent Painters and chatted to Will Taylor, who had bought my etching press. It seems they are very happy together. Did I want to go over and use it sometime? Not a chance. It scares me sometimes how effectively I can turn my back on things. I suspect it’s usually because I’ve hung around for too long before making the break.That pretty much wound up September. Two exhibitions, five leaves and a possible new direction.

next month: crab apples, spindle and the pomegranate from hell...