Progress on the Tree Bee

The bee is coming along. I decided to break out a bit and paint this one slightly larger than the Buzz set. It’s been a couple of years since I painted a bee but, as I still have a habit of collecting dead bees I found I had 6 very good little Tree Bumblebees in a pot. It is very helpful to have a specimen to work with.

The tree bumblebee is by nature quite feisty and will sting when it thinks its nest is under threat. I first saw one of these very attractive ginger black and white bees at Easton Walled Gardens back in 2011. It was foraging amongst the glorious blossom of a cherry tree. A few years later,again at Easton, they had made a nest in one of the lovely old stone walls which surround the Gardens. Most recently, apart from seeing them every year in my garden, a colony has set up home in a tree stump in the Spinney. Unfortunately the stump was also the home to a geocache box, so whoever wanted to record their presence would have to contend with some rather angry bumblebees. They have a reputation for taking over old birdboxes and are definitely a bee that likes to site its home up and off the ground.


The rough tracing of the cherry, which I changed in the end to simplify the pencil work.


About 3/4 finished… and on the right preparing to paint the wings… always a bit tricky!

Am I pleased so far???  Hmmm, normally I have to put things away for a year at least to be able to answer that. 🙂

A New Year

Happy New Year to you all. Mine begins today.
Project handed in yesterday and so now it’s on with some research for the dissertation. At the moment I don’t have a subject but I guess it will be something to do with plants, animals, us and…them. I am not looking forward to the dreary writing but I am looking forward to the research.

This year sees the end of the MA with a final project to be completed by the end of September. This is the time to draw together all the thoughts and experiments and get, at last, something finished. But happily, for the eternal experimenter, September is still a long way off! And here a trial print from the last project.
A verse from the strange and lovely Anglo Saxon Bee Charm. “Wid Ymbe”

Back soon…

The Fenland Black Bee, almost done.

The bee is almost done. I have added the foliage, a suggestion of the Holme Fen birch trees and a view of the distant bird hide. I am dithering about adding a Highland Cow.
The hide is known as“Jon’s Hide” an eco friendly straw bale hide created by Jon Smith one of the restoration officers at the Great Fen project. You can see how the building of the hide progressed here.

The Highland Cattle are there to help manage the land. I included them in my first sketches at the beginning of April. They are good grazers for wet lands and will eat tough weedy plants, keep the vegetation down, break up the ground and so encourage more marsh loving wild flowers.


Pencil and Watercolour on Arches 300 HP, 10 x 11 inches approx.

As I quoted in an earlier post, “artwork is never finished…just abandoned”. At this stage I usually put a picture away for a week or so, out of sight. Then have another look and see if what is bothering me now is still bothering me then.
But for now I am done, especially as I have to get organised for a short break.

London and Amsterdam for 6 days. I am hoping to get a quick conker sketch done before I go……

Looking Forward: Dragons, Pigs, Black Dogs, Puppets and more

In a weeks’ time the year will be on the turn and we will be going forward to light and spring. Wonderful! And there will be much to do in this coming year because behind the serenity of my occasional blog posts there is lots of frantic paddling.  As always, so much more is happening than my limited typing and blogging skills can keep up with. I am very excited about a couple of collaborative projects, an online shop and a contribution to an online puppet making challenge.

Project One: I am getting together with another artist friend to start a year of “Beautiful Beasts”, drawings paintings and prints with some poetry thrown in. Lovely bees will be there of course.

Project Two: Is a Transatlantic ideas exchange with another artist friend. A wonderful opportunity to make some work in response to the same inspirational source. We come to this from different perspectives so the results will be fascinating.

Puppets? Hmmm… it will be my first attempt at making a puppet and I am thinking simple… very simple! But it ties in with both of my collaborative projects, things I have done in the past and will be something different. So I am joining Clive Hicks Jenkins and Peter Slight for their Puppet Challenge. The theme is Myth and Legend and so I have decided on a series of simple animal puppets, starting with a dragon continuing to black dogs and other wonderful creatures. A dragon may seem a bit obvious but dragons have been on my mind recently see “Small Dragon” and I have a dragon print on the drawing board right now. And if I needed further justification my Chinese Birth sign is the Dragon.  More of the Dragon Project. Its whys and wherefores  tomorrow.

Pigs:  Salute the Pig drawings continue…it’s Saddlebacks next! Busy, busy….just how I like things to be.

The White of Blackthorn

Things are beginning to blossom. White magnolia in the garden, white wild cherry blossom and in the hedges the white splashes of Blackthorn. It has to be one of the most beautiful sights of English spring country lanes. Dark leafless hedges decorated with a froth of white blossom. The leaves will come later. I walked by the reservoir today and along with pussy willows and first green shoots was a patch of blackthorn, one ball of white flowers against dark spiny branches.


Monday …White blackthorn flowers.. Watercolour 6” x 6”

Further along the track is a big oak tree.. leafless so far but lovely in its skeletal form. There is a large nest box. I have yet to find out what it is for!


And back in the Empty Garden good wildlife news, the hedgehog has reappeared, along with 4 different butterflies, yellow, white, a peacock and a comma, more  redtailed bees and the lovely black female hairyfooted flower bee.

Life at Last: Bees, birds and frogs

It was actually warm on Saturday ..yes warm! There was real sun and there were real shadows and at last… Hurrahhh … bees. I was beginning to wonder if any of my local bees had made it through.  First a huge Buff Tailed Bumble Bee queen finding what she could in the bare garden. I have a few crocus but not much else for such a big bee. I hope she is finding more elsewhere. Then in the conservatory window my first little solitary bee. My bee guru Alan has said possibly Andrena bicolor or  Andrena nigroaenea. Whatever he was, I was very pleased to see him.

The Wild Bird Cherry is in blossom and I am sure that’s where he was heading.

bird cherry

Yes real blue sky! Then in the pond, amazingly, 4 frogs who serenaded us all day.

These are our first ever spring frogs. Last year we created the pond, which we populated with tadpoles from my sister’s pond in Lincoln. Then we had many tiny froglets and now the returning adults. How delightful!

Lincolnshire frogs doing well in Cambs…
There is also some very VERY pretty singing from the blackbirds.
You might almost believe that Spring has arrived!

A Bee for Gardening for the Disabled

It seems to be a year for charity postcards. I was asked by Gardening for the Disabled to submit one for their silent auction in June.  Again I am pleased to do it. I have been rather disabled just recently and the little bit of gardening I have been able to do has been a joy.


“Our Lovely Leafcutter Bee, Can opener of the Bee World: LOVE YOUR BEES’
4 x 6 inch postcard:  pen and ink sketch.

I am determined that I get the bee conservation message across on these charity postcards. So on the back I write my “Bees need us and we need Bees” slogan which I also have printed on the back of my postcards,

Gardening for the Disabled Trust

The Trust is an entirely voluntary organisation, which gives grants to physically and mentally disabled people all over the UK to help them to continue to garden.  The money raised will go towards grants for individuals at home and also for special gardens in hospitals, community projects and schools.  These grants go towards raised beds, ramps, greenhouses, access, paving and tools which act as a source of motivation and therapy, and though simple, they really change lives.

Baden-Powell House Conference Centre
65-67 Queen’s Gate, London SW7 5JS on 8th at 6.30-8.30pm and 9th June at 9am-5pm 2013 e for disabled

A Bee for “Nature in Art”: Early Bees love Early Willows

One of my very favourite places, Nature in Art in Gloucestershire has asked artists who have been associated with the Gallery to contribute a postcard for their fundraising efforts.
I am delighted both to be asked and to help, because as one of their Artists in Residence over the last two years, I have spent many, very happy, hours there.

“May 2013 marks the 25th anniversary since Nature in Art opened its doors to the public and to coincide with it we are holding a special fundraising exhibition called ‘Postcard Portraits’ The postcards will be reproduced on a series of specially prepared display panels. A commentary will accompany the panels and the artist of each card identified. The exhibition will be May 7th – June 2nd.
Each card will be allocated a secret number and the numbered tickets will be available for the public to buy for £20 each.”

They hope there will be approximately 300 cards! For my contribution it just had to be a bee. What a surprise. I have not seen one bee yet this year and as I am typing it is snowing again.
But last year, by this time, the bees were out and busy. I remember finding a bumble bee having a rest on a willow twig so I thought, for my card, a sketch of an optimistic early bee would be appropriate. Delicate catkins are springing out all over the willow twigs I brought in. Surely Spring is nearly here?

early willow bg      image

My Postcard Portrait for Nature in Art: “Early Bees love Early Willows’
watercolour and pencil. A5

Nature in Art is the world’s first museum dedicated exclusively to fine, decorative and applied art inspired by nature. It has wonderful exhibitions and courses I only wish it was just around the corner! I will be back from 24th to 29th September this year, for another Artist In Residence week. I am so looking forward to it.

———————————————————————————————————————–leonardo foot s


Footnote….hopefully the last one. The offending pin is out ..hurrahh…I guess the injection trauma will fade with time.
The Foot is happier and so am I!

The Tawny Mining Bee again..and some painterly anxieties.

In between other work I have also been working on two more bee commissions. It has been a chance to paint again the beautiful Tawny Mining bee Andrena fulva and the Common Carder bee Bombus pascuorum.

I often work on several pieces at once and have learnt, the hard way, that it’s good to put things aside for a while.
Unsatisfactory things can be forgotten but glaring inadequacies may be illuminated. So it’s a double edged sword. I put them away, completely out of sight, hidden away in a folder and always get them out again with some trepidation.

Years ago I used to work late into the night, worrying away at some problem detail. I would go to bed in a happy self deluded state, only to realise next morning how completely dreadful it all was.
Now I don’t do that. I put the work away for a while and try to forget about it and then reassess with a fresh eye.

So it’s been about a week since I saw these two paintings and mercifully they seemed just fine.
But of course there is always another half a day of faffing about, primping and adjusting, after which you will be MUCH more satisfied and the casual observer (aka long suffering partner) will see no difference at all..

Well?  How does that look now??”  “Fine , just fine..” “Oh only fine? what about the bit I changed?” “What bit?”  “Well the hairs on the left tibia of course..” “Ahhh.. That bit. Well that looks fine too”. “You think it’s Ok then?” “Yes” “I mean, better than before?” “Yes” “Was it not very good then?” “It was and is just fine “…….

and so it goes on..
But inevitably, at some uncertain point,  even when racked with indecision and doubt, you have to say….”That’s it!..Finished!”

Actually  I do really like these two.. 🙂 So here is my “Foxy Lady of the Bee World” again. I saw her in the spring, taking a break on the clematis which is twining around the trellis on the shed. She was basking in the sun, a little spot of fiery foxy two tone red…just gorgeous! first rough…


and the (maybe….almost) finished  painting..


but I still have a day to go before delivery….