I've always been fascinated by the forms and differing shapes of flowers, and especially their colours. When I was a child I would lie on the grass to look at them from different angles, and I also used to take them apart gently to look closely at them and see how they are made, and imagine the view that bees and other insects get when they climb inside them.
In the absence of Google, these were my favourite reference books and I used to sit and pore over the pictures (they cost me 65p each in the late 1970s - that dates me!)
I loved the illustrations.
My favourite pages were the pages with diagrams and labels.
I'm no scientist but I remember a biology lesson in which we used scalpels and tweezers to take buttercups apart, and then draw and label them. I so enjoyed that lesson! At school and college I usually managed to incorporate flowers into my O and A Level Art compositions.
A few years ago I decided to try my hand at painting and drawing my favourite subject, and signed myself onto a couple of short Botanical Illustration courses at my local college. Botanical Illustration is the art of making a watercolour picture of a plant which depicts its species in great detail and is usually accompanied by a scientific description . The paintings have featured in herbals for centuries, and despite the advent of photography they are still beautiful and useful in their own right.Our teacher was fantastic, and I had the best time looking closely at plants and their construction, as well as learning new painting techniques, learning how to mix colours
and fill in shapes
as well as trickier stuff like layering tones.
We looked at how plants are put together
and then at the myriad of colours found in each petal. This is my attempt at breaking down the colours found in a wild bluebell.
Here's the finished picture. These photographs are much bigger than my original paintings.
We didn't forget roots and bulbs. Here's my snowdrop from top to bottom.
We had a go at leaves too. This laurel leaf took me a day to do, and it's a long way from finished.
Finally I was ready to have a go at some of my favourite flowers. Here's a very quick painting of a sweet pea.
Feeling a bit more confident, I tried a nasturtium. I really enjoyed mixing that delicious orange colour.
Last summer I painted a fuchsia. This one took me an afternoon. I really enjoyed painting the stamens with a very thin brush.
Having only scraped the surface of this art I am in awe of the professional botanical artists who produce exquisitely detailed, pain-staking paintings that take weeks to complete. The attention to detail is breath-taking and the patience required amazing. Imagine how long it must take to paint a rose, peony or passion flower! You can see some wonderful botanical illustrations here. Now that I'm feeling inspired, perhaps I'll pick up my paintbrushes and paint some more of my favourite flowers this summer.