Bees Back at Easton

Last week on a beautiful Spring afternoon we had the private view for the “Plants and Pollinators” show at Easton Walled Gardens. This week has been snowdrop week and the Gardens have brimmed over with sunshine and visitors. There are 19 of the bees on show with their explanatory labels, notes about bees, my technique and prints and postcards for sale.

The gorgeous black form of the Large Garden Bumblebee.. one of my all time favourites especially as I had first seen it in my father’s garden.

It has been a while since I have shown the bees and it was so SO lovely to see them back on the walls of the Coach House which was our Easton painting workshop home. It was also particularly lovely to see some of the old painting group! Thank you all for coming along.

The show will continue into March and  I shall be there on some of those days, talking about my lovely bees, what to grow to encourage them and how I go about painting and drawing them.
The new bee, the Tree Bumblebee was finished and framed in time and I now feel I want to continue filling in the gaps of my set of British bee paintings. I had seen a couple of bees in my garden last year that I have not yet painted..only about 230 species to go Val!

I am sharing the space with botanical artist  Dawn Wright whose beautiful painting of lilac was featured on the private view invite.

Big thanks to Ursula Cholmeley and her team of gardeners and organisers who have made it all possible!
The show continues until 17th March and I will be there on Thursday 7th. Thursday 14th and Sunday 21st.
Do come along to say hello if you are in the area.

Prints of the Buzz Paintings and sets of cards are available to buy from me. You can see the selection here at  you can see more about each bee by clicking on the image.

Snowdrops at Easton taken yesterday morning… beautiful!

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 Bee for Easton

It’s been a while since I have painted a bee but, in February 2019, I am delighted to say “Buzz” the Bee paintings will be returning to Easton Walled Gardens.  They will be part of a “Plants and Pollinators” exhibition. My work will be alongside the lovely botanical paintings of Dawn Wright see her website here.’s a few years since I painted a fact nearly 4 years. The last one was the lovely B ruderatus . bee and another favourite, the female woolcarder bee, have never been made into prints and for this show I will be making a few prints of these for sale, as well as a new watercolour. I have chosen the Tree Bumblebee, Bombus hypnorum, as Easton was the first place I saw this feisty little bee, collecting pollen from an early flowering espaliered cherry tree, in the spring of 2011. Back then it was  relative newcomer and so had not made it into my original British Bee exhibition. I have decided the painting will be of the little bee perching amongst the cherry blossom just as I had first seen her.

As usual my working method is this: Thumbnail sketch to think about layout: then build the body shape of the bee, then “flesh” it out.

First thumbnail rough for B hypnorum

Construction of the bee form.
sketch 2

Filling out the body.Then some colour notes:

hypcol1     hypcol2

hypcol4    hypcol3 
I am looking forward to making detailed painting again..I just hope I can do it!

More Easton Panels

Only a few days to go before we put the show up and there seem to be lots of last minute things to do. But the panels are done: The enjoyable things about this work, especially working from photo sections is that you don’t have to agonise about what to paint or draw. The three images below are my sections from the photo. It’s just the interpretation you have to worry about, which could have been anything from abstract to collage.

A flowery path through the Pickery.

bbird easton bg

The Towers of the main gate.


A Chestnut Tree and Birds

This tree section was perhaps the most unprepossessing. But it is a chestnut tree, so that made it easier. Some wind tossed candelabra flowers and I added some high flying red kites that I see so often soaring over the distant trees there. A rook sits on the stone wall.

tree and kites bg

Night on the River
This last one is a panel for the theme “Water and Flowers”. The small stream that runs through Easton is the fledgling River Witham. It rises a few miles away and wriggles its way through Easton and on to Lincoln and then to Boston where it is mighty and impressive with a such rich history of trade and travel. There is a pretty bridge to walk over at the Gardens. I have drawn the river at dusk with the strange and wonderful shapes of the primeval gunnera and some bats. In the end I added a bit of wildlife to all of the panels.


Images A4; watercolour and pen and ink

Blogbreak, Back to Basics and Dog Days…

My blog break has gone on a little longer than expected. So much to do, so many days spent in the garden, out walking by the water, being both on and off my bike. Being occasionally in, but mostly out of my workroom and away from the computer.

But I can never really switch off that nagging little work horse conscience and I have been going back to some basic colour work in preparation for some winter projects. My desk has looked a bit like this for the last week or two:

desk I

t’s excellent to do some very concentrated colour work, exploring new mixes and trying different papers.

Also up and coming is our group exhibition at Easton Walled Gardens in a couple of weeks time. We are putting together two large collaborative panels of 48 different images which will be fascinating to see when finally put together.
We have been working on themes of Easton, architecture, flowers, trees, fruit veg… etc etc. I made one preliminary sketch of one of the elegant, but to me, rather mysterious, towers in the orchard across the river. This is the Apple Store glimpsed through the Yew walk. I included Spot ( Easton’s resident spaniel) just in the frame at the bottom and three loose apples.


Spot and the Apple Store, ink and wash sketch A4

Easton Dog Days Coincidentally, dogs are not usually allowed at Easton, but in August, Sundays 4-6 pm, well behaved and socialised dogs are welcome for an evening stroll. See WHAT’S ON at Easton Walled Gardens which also includes our exhibition!!

Back to the blog more regularly very soon….when the sloth of sloth has left 🙂


Catching up.. Easton Sketches

It’s definitely time that regular posting resumed. I have a backlog of stuff on my desk and so today I’ll thought I would start with two weeks of sketches from Easton Walled Gardens.

A couple of weeks ago I gave my very excellent painting group a challenge.  To try to do a drawing every day, based on their own sketches or photos of Easton.

We all have such busy lives that sadly we don’t have the luxury of visiting everyday or even every week. So this is a good exercise to make quick decisions from photos, do your daily practise and then get on with your life.
The rules are simple. A quick drawing everyday which should take no longer than half an hour.
The aim is to make drawing and sketching as simple and everyday as brushing your teeth. It would be ungallant if I did not participate: so here are my 15…of variable quality.
I  have banned the use of the words “good” and “bad”.  Sketches should be explorations and practice and are always useful.

I use these for all sorts of reason, exploring ideas, brushing up on colour, drawing and perspective or just recording a moment.

b archb glasshouse b easton 9 b easton10 bench  b easton sketch 8 b easton 4th b 2 of the towers b apple tower b greenhouse window urn july 1 bg copy b ba  b easton2 b gunnera s b the wheatsheaf

Easton Sketches 5 x7” sketchbook: pen and ink or watercolour or both!

A couple of these were done on site on a gloriously sunny day last week when the air was heady with scent, roses tumbled over trellises and swallows dipped over the stream.
As Ian, one of our group described it, simply “intoxicating”.

Summer Sketching at Easton Walled Gardens

Recently I have managed to catch a sunny hour or two to sketch at Easton.

The Gardens are looking particularly lovely there at the moment. I take minimum stuff: sketchbook, board, a paintbrush, paints and water. It’s such a pleasure to just sit in the sun and draw.


geraniums bg


allium bg


lupins bg


I had in the back of my mind that we needed a flyer for our group display of work in the summer so I have combined the sketches, played around with type and Photoshop and added a sketch of the Easton Towers to make the image.

Inspired by Easton;

Our summer display of  artwork from our workshop group. There will be paintings,drawings, prints, 3D work and more. In our meetings the emphasis is on finding inspiration for creative work of all kinds.
It is all about being in a beautiful ever changing place. It’s about the pleasure of working together, of experimenting with new ideas and techniques.
Mostly it is work in progress, sketchbooks, notes and photographs, prints, jottings and drawings all made in response to the Gardens, the architecture and the wild life.
I can’t wait to see what everyone brings on set up day.
That is just 8 weeks away…. and counting….

easton 8

Update, Artist in Residence Blog, Exciting Things and a Favicon

I realised on Friday that a whole week had gone by without much drawing at all. But I did have a day in the garden and then my creative energies had to be channelled into writing, letters, adverts, proposals, workshop notes and updating my blog, adding some extra pages for workshops and creating a quick new blog for the Residency.

We also had two busy workshop days Workshops We had the most beautiful day at Barnesdale Gardens for the first Illustrated Garden Workshop and the most horrible freezing and foggy day for our first Easton Walled Gardens Workshop day. Luckily the Easton Painters are a sturdy and resolute group who turn out, have a laugh, produce great work and always make my day a real pleasure. Thank you to all participants.


Artist in Residence Grafham Water


A small pen illustration to accompany a piece about the residency

and adjusted to B/W for our village newsletter .

Meanwhile I have started my research and planning for the Artist in Residence year.

There are many different kinds of residency. Some you pay for (I have seen some lovely but very expensive ones recently), some will pay you (not many). I am self funding and wanted the local community and Anglian Water’s customers to rest easy, knowing that the company are not frittering away money on something so frivolous as Art!  So why do this you may ask? Mainly because we don’t have very much going on in the arts locally and I thought it was time there was more! Jackie has done a wonderful job in getting the Village Art group going, but we have no local art spaces, no wonderful barn workshop conversions, no galleries, no art shops or studio spaces. We are neither underprivileged enough to get funding or sufficiently privileged to have huge amounts of spare money around.  We are on the edge of 3 counties, just in Cambridgeshire but quite a long way from its artsy centre.

Of course one of the things  I love about this area is the very fact of its curious isolation, bypassed and tucked away as it is, but I also think it is such a beautiful area with so much potential that it could be used and enjoyed by more creative people.  So we have 5 workshops planned, exhibitions and a possible celebration for next Easter time which will combine my end of residency show and a project I am in the middle of developing which will be great if I can make it work! I have written a little about the Residency HERE at the other blog. I hope you will join me there to see what is happening.

The Exciting Things
..are the opportunities that are beginning to arise.

As part of the residency I will be able to learn so much more about what goes on at the Nature Reserve over at the West side of the Reservoir, where we will hold the workshops. It is managed by the Wildlife Trusts the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire branch who also look after the nearby Brampton Woods. They organise some great activities and there are some fascinating species hidden away.

Here is a link to a PDF about the Reserve

And our Easton Group show will be happening over August Bank Holiday from 21st to the 25th of August at Easton Walled Gardens. It’s a great opportunity to show our work at this lovely venue. …

and yes Pencil and Leaf Blog has a little bee  favicon (what else!) took a lot of time and bad language to make this tiny thing but it is rather sweet. So if you lose me in your tabs  look for the bee!


leonardo foot
Meanwhile the Foot is back under the knife tomorrow, the pin has slipped and is sticking into the joint. Yes, excruciating, but hopefully recovery not too long this time. This is not my foot but Leonardo’s drawing. I think mine is nicer.
Reading is lined up:  “Fludd”  ( more Hilary Mantel bliss) and “Edge of the Orison” by Iain Sinclair about the poet John Clare’s eighty mile trudge home after escaping from the Asylum. Sinclair will be describing a part of the UK I know well. His insights will be interesting.

Colour Sketches

Not much on the drawing board this week but lots of plotting and planning, ideas and inspirations for the next couple of months. I have only managed  three walks and was thinking mostly about the next workshop at Easton which is next Sunday 25th and our last meeting this year.

Three-Colour Landscapes We will be talking about limited palettes and how to create a simple painting from sketch. So I walked up to the Visitor Centre again and made this quick three colour note of the spinney.


This sketch is 5 x 8 inches.

It’s just 3 primaries winsor blue (green shade), winsor red and winsor yellow. I added some rooks who love to hang around the VC at this time of year, hopeful for scraps.

There is not much green around now so I was careful not to lay the blue over the yellow too much. It was very cold and the paint took a long time to dry which always means I worked over too soon and got duller colours. My numb fingers also dropped the brush onto it …sigh.
I do struggle with watercolour drying times for quick sketching.

I should have taken the gouache. I have made quite a few sketches and notes of this spinney, only because it’s a nice place to sit with a cup of tea. (see previous notes) but it makes a good subject for a simple painting.

1 bg      2 bg

These are from earlier in the summer when there were more leaves, a picnic and a strong wind.

Vc bg

This one from a couple of weeks ago.. less leaves.. and fisherman. Back home I took a slightly bigger sketchbook (10 x 7 inches) and made a small painting.  Again with the same colours but the blue is w. blue (red shade), to get a nicer purple mix.
I did wait for the paint to dry this time.

VC trees stage 1 bg

Stage 1: first washes.

VC trees cp bg

Stage 2: adding the darker tones.

I have just realised I forgot the rooks!


Its easy to forget how effective just these three colours can be.


Later in the week, a few more limited palette notes (just 3 colours in each case) from the other few chilly walks this week.

image image    image  image

Its a great exercise for playing with just a few colours and seeing what happens…. hopefully more next week.

Week 12.. and counting

This weeks sketches were done in a slightly bigger sketchbook, A4.. Wednesday afternoon: Easton, cold wind and sunny spells. By the time I arrived the sun was already quite low, casting long shadows, but it was very cold in the wind.

image      bridge and yews bg

image       image


Friday: Cold and windy. A local building.

image image

Saturday: blustery and grey


The view over to Ellington


Sam’s Sheds

Sunday: Sunny and cold.
In the morning we cycled round the reservoir, and returned caked with mud. I walked out later at dusk. The sunset was beautiful. Far too magnificent for my slender skills.


I walked up to the old railway bridge and looked down at the muddy path, a string of sky-lit puddles and a man with his dog. I only made a few lines and notes while I was there,  then added some more tones and the little sketch to the right at home. I liked the portrait format for this image. Next week…..colour…..