Friday, May 31, 2019


This Blog is now on its summer holiday, whilst I follow some commissioned work into the wild blue yonder. Wishing you all, especially my lovely and highly valued group of followers, a wonderful summer of flower power and sunshine.

POST SCRIPT - Some thoughts on travelling

'Artist and Traveller are two of the various and closely connected titles with which I have identified. I refer to these as an interlock, which I sometimes term a filigree of places, plants and landscapes, which have both thrilled and encouraged my exploratory spirit and my innate romantic nature. Artist and Traveller sounds glamorous doesn't it? Well actually the association of art with travel is something that I have rethought and redefined to myself, simply out of necessity'

My botanic website has the unusual addition of a time line page, which I have entitled Chronos. This is a gradual accumulation of small written icons of my development as both artist and traveller. It includes a lot of airline travel, in earlier years.

As a four year old, my maternal grandparents accompanied me on my first visit to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, on the Easter Bank Holiday of 1960. In so doing, they ignited a spark of creative imagination that has burned as a beacon throughout my life. My first experience of the Palm House containing hot house plants with huge leaves, and a fantasy tall tower known as a Pagoda, were features we passed on our first circular walk in the gardens before arriving at a small plain building that is now adjacent to the Shirley Sherwood Gallery. This unassuming gallery house was and still is, the Marianne North Gallery.

This building was inviting to me as a four year old because it seemed from the outside to be akin to the open verandas of the south coast English hotels, where my family would meet to have tea and stare out to sea. However, when the doors to this building at Kew were opened, a revelation of flora and landscape in psychedelic measures flew out from all corners. What made my head reel and my feet feel as if they were floating above the tiled floor, were the omnipresent paintings contained therein.

This post is not actually about the unique and exceptional national treasure whom we know as Marianne North, rather it is to highlight that what she could and did do was achieved at a time when the issues of climate change and planetary damage through global warming were not on the political agenda. 

Much of her work shows the purity of landscape and the untouched elements of plant life before the many aspects of  destruction and change occurred in later generations. Much of Marianne's work can show us what we have lost.

Marianne, as an artist explorer, paved the way for many lone women travellers to follow in her footsteps and paint the world's plants. However, what we now carry as a thorny knowledge as well as the subtext of a message - or as many now view it, the ever growing elephant filling the room - is that global warming and climate change is seriously exacerbated by the ubiquitous use of the car and the aeroplane, which many artists use to get from A to B.

2002 was the last time that I travelled on a long haul flight. 2017 was the last time I took a short two hour flight. Since then, I have changed my mode of transport to boat and train and bus and low emission car. I have further developed more of my of my work in the UK, specifically focusing around the plants I have grown myself in our home garden. I shall travel again by plane, but when I see it as a necessity and only because I feel I have balanced this with years of conscious restraint.

This has not compromised my career, and I have not used this as means to gain points. It is only now that I have begun to talk about what is possible, because I have been practicing for some time. Its a personal choice, and I don't prescribe to others. It's simply that I could not justify working on projects that depended on the use of continuous short and long haul flights around the globe. I am concerned with common sense, and the people who look at my work expect this kind of glamour-free approach from me. 

If I had not experimented in this way, I would probably not have engaged in the whole issue of Phenology and would not have seen how it extended and expanded my botanic work when I began to keep data on the reaction of my cultivated hybrid peonies to both subtle and extreme differences in climate from year to year in the UK. 

In earlier years, many unexpected and positive results came from teaching literally hundreds of people globally how to paint flowers at both Kew and in the Master Classes for Dr Sherwood, from 1997 to 2002. My teaching facilitated the coming together of many new artists from around the globe. The teaching was something that artists took back with them, to help establish a system of working knowledge in their own countries.

But I am by no means the only artist concerned, as there is a building wave of artists exploring an engagement with their own indigenous flora that is unique and specialised. They recognise that as artists, they are the honourable custodians of their indigenous and unique botanical environment.

The overwhelmingly fabulous success of the Worldwide Botanical Art Day in 2018 is evidence of this culture of creative independence. Paintings and Illustrations of indigenous plants became an expression of artistic self reliance by artists globally co-creating a spectacular event of sharing. It was nothing short of a revelation, as each country's artists observed and virtually marvelled at what each other had produced. 

This was an extraordinarily balancing act of self sustaining creativity. They got it absolutely right. These artists recognise that there is no need to increase their carbon footprint by travelling to the places that are far and away, because they have so much of value and importance in their own country.

Thank you to everyone who reads this blog and has asked me where I am going to be travelling to this summer. This year, I shall be quietly working away in the UK and will ponder during the long evenings on other favoured places, as I dream of possibilities.

Monet's Garden at Giverny taken in 1994.
During a teaching course organised by The Artist Magazine.