Week 10 notes. Grey days and a Colour filled Easton Workshop

Last week was full with 3 days away, another great workshop with my group at Easton Walled Gardens and not very much drawing board time. The miserable weather and dark mornings made walks a bit more sporadic but I still managed a few, with related sketches. For the first few days of the week everything was grey and misty; land, water and sky merging into one. Trees, people and birds reduced to featureless darker shapes. Its quite beautiful really.

Monday: I walked up to the Visitor Centre to draw these trees. I will be teaching a “How to develop a sketch” workshop soon and this is a scene I have drawn and painted before.  It also means I can have a cup of tea while sketching!

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I wanted to look at outlines as well as tone.  The trees are losing their leaves fast now. A double spread with a thick pen.

Tuesday:  cold fishermen on a cold grey day


Wednesday: I had to go St Neots way and have always liked the power Little Barford  power station towers. A quick sketch on another grey day with low clouds


Thursday: A very hardy early fisherman on a very still grey misty morning. Even the ducks were motionless and looked glued to the water.


Later …..Joe’s pumpkins


Friday: Easton Workshop Day We had another great workshop all about recording material from the garden and colour. In preparation I had played around with some gelatine printing with leaves from the garden here. Many, many possibilities are revealed through playing and experimenting and allowing accidents to happen. Thanks to all for another inspirational day.


Sunday: Little Paxton walk. A chilly walk mid morning and a sketch of part of the nicely woven fence..with a living willow post. It reminded me of my time in Costa Rica where branches of the accommodating gumbo limbo tree can just be stuck in the ground to form wonderful living fences.

There was a gumbo limbo tree at Leu.

See my post Gumbo Limbo and Peeling Tourists.


My drawing of the gumbo limbo twiglet with leaves. Earlier this year I used a weigela pruning as a pea stick. It grew happily.. rather better than the peas in fact..


The living willow post Paxton Pits. All sketches pen and ink in an A5 cartridge sketchbook. ( I have run out of spiral bound ones so used a gummed block. The pages are already falling out…v annoying!) >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

If you are wondering why I am numbering the weeks it’s because I am on countdown to a small operation which will have me on crutches for quite a while.

I am dreading the confinement but will hopefully be skipping, rather than hobbling, round the countryside again. Week 16 will be my last walking week.
Meanwhile I am out as much as possible!

Jubilee Sunshine and Showers at Easton.

.. and howling gales and torrential rain! But were we put off?? No. Undaunted by the weather the Jubilee Meadow Days had many lovely, if soggy, visitors and fellow exhibitors.

As always I met some fascinating people and learnt more about honey bees from the bee keepers and much more about wildflowers, especially from Jackie who had  a “Flowers for Bugs” stand nearby and the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust whose  “Life on the Verge” leaflet about the flora of roadside verges was fascinating. They are conducting a huge survey and you can find out more on their website.  http://www.lifeontheverge.org.uk

We also had two excellent days of my Bugs, Beasts and Botanicals workshops and thanks to the three Janes, Jean, the two Sues, Elaine, Bo, Ian, Tony for not only turning out in such appalling weather but actually going outside to work in the rain and wind. I am eternally grateful to you all for coming and making the days such fun.

There will be more workshops at Easton Walled Gardens to come. I always mean to take photos of the classes but always forget.. but here at least are the awesome Allington Morris who, because of the driving rain were forced to dance indoors.
They squeezed into a tiny space in Coach House, my bees in the background.. It was wonderful! Happy Jubilee All!!!

“BUZZ” at Easton, “Art Plantae” Guest Artist and at last! ..a Grey Mining Bee.

I am busy getting ready to take my “Buzz” exhibition and 2 days of Workshops to the lovely Easton Walled Gardens next week. We are keeping our fingers crossed for dry weather :).

Easton Walled Gardens Jubilee Meadow Days; June 3rd & 4th
Celebrating the diversity of our traditional countryside and meadows.

meadow days

I am delighted to be part of their Jubilee Meadow Days Celebration which is running on Sunday 3rd and Monday 4th of June. T

here will be lots happening with plant stalls, an observation bee hive, moth spotting, an owl display, Morris dancing, and of course the beautiful gardens and the great cafe to enjoy.
I will be taking bee walks a couple of times a day and will be there to chat to people about bees, art and life. For full details check on the Easton Walled Gardens website HERE.


Nature Journal Workshops at Easton Walled Gardens, June 7th and 8th

Come and explore Bugs, Beasts and Botanicals with me from 10.00-4.00 on June 7th and 8th. £20 per day. For more details see HERE.
To book please contact Live and Learn on 01780 720714 Art Plantae Guest Artist for June … (thats me!)



Starting on Friday I am honoured to be the guest artist for June on the excellent website Art Plantae.

I am giving a brief introductory interview on Friday and then later in June, when the USA celebrates National Pollinator Week June 18-24,

I will be answering questions about my work, both the paintings and my efforts to try to help people understand and appreciate more about our wild bees and pollinators through my paintings.

The header for the site will feature a detail from my painting of Bombus hortorum and honeysuckle. I chose this one because it illustrates
an interesting aspect of the bee/flower relationship.
This long tongued bee is able to access the nectar of deep flowers, while other short tongued bees must bite a hole in the base of the flower to access the nectar that way. “Nectar robbing” is good for bees but not so good for the flower as it does not get pollinated, but honeysuckle seems to manage to survive.

B hort blog

I have subscribed to Art Plantae since its first days and it is a really fabulous resource for all things botanical, education and artistic and covers a wide range of styles and interpretations.

I am so very pleased to be able to contribute and share my enthusiasm and to hopefully get the bee message out to even more people. I had to stress that I am not a botanical or scientific artist. The “Buzz” paintings and the show have just grown out my fascination with, and concern for our bees.

But I do know that paintings can engage peoples attention and fascination sometimes more than photographs. A painting can simplify and illuminate and hopefully in the bees case, charm. I also know from all the emails, visitor comments and general enthusiasm at the shows that I am in a small way successful!
I guarantee that after five minutes with me you will share my affection and admiration for our little winged friends and will be rushing back to your garden or window box to plant some more flowers for them!

The Grey Mining Bee At last!.. on a walk by the reservoir yesterday I spotted some beautiful Andrena cineraria, the glamorous Grey Mining Bees I was feeling bereft as it seemed as though every one, except me, had seen them and I was wondering if they were just not suited to this habitat. But hurrah!!…a couple were feeding on some marginal rape flowers,

And then further along the waterside path, on a sunny bank much loved by rabbits and other mining bees, I saw one female starting to dig a hole under a sprig of bramble.
I watched her for a short time, first scouting around for a suitable spot, then digging, then disappearing, then re-emerging. Such hard labour!.. but such a pretty bee with her ruff of silvery hair. I have painted her twice. Here she is digging.. you can just see her glossy blue black tail disappearing. In…and…………

out…showing the fine silvery hairs on her face and thorax.

Go to the excellently re-designed BWARS website HERE to learn more about this lovely bee. Join me at Easton Walled Gardens or on Art Plantae if you can!

Easton Workshops and a Painting!

It’s been a VERY busy week. The Empty Garden has been begging for attention, so seeds have been sown and plants lined up for planting and more lists made.
I held one of my “Bugs Beasts and Botanicals” painting workshops at Easton Walled Gardens with Judith, Michael, Sue, Elaine and Lucy. Thanks all for coming and for your fantastic input and enthusiasm. It was so enjoyable.

The workshops are all about looking..looking hard and looking again and appreciating and developing ones own abilities, aptitudes and enthusiasms.  I am going to write a post about them in more detail soon.
I have another full days workshop at Easton this coming week.
I would just like a little more sun if possible… but to be honest just to be up at Easton is so inspirational and such a delight, whatever the weather. And at last I got down to painting the gorgeous Buff Tailed Bumble bee.

She is surveying her prospects from a Mahonia leaf. It’s number one of my rather delayed commissions. I have not had time to scan this one and irritatingly it is too big to scan in one go so it involves lots of faffing about with Photoshop..so for now photos will have to do.

I particularly like the way bees pause on leaves to take a break .. I am also thankful because you can get a good look at them..and of course, them at you.

The garden has been full of solitary bees and the valiant mining bee from my last post was prospecting in the lawn again.

Thanks to my very knowledgeable bee mentor Alan Phillips, I think it is the lovely Andrena nitida, just one of the over 230 other British Bees I have yet to paint…!

So much to do, so little time!

Easton Bees, my first 2012 bee photos

My first 2012 bee photos! Hurrah.  After a great drawing workshop at Stamford Arts centre with my lovely students I went up to Easton Walled Gardens to catch their Snowdrop event.

I am so very fond of this beautiful tranquil place and the gleaming snowdrops were everywhere,  and so many  different varieties, some tall and stately and other low growing and shallow cupped.
Their beauty for me lies in their delicate little nodding heads and  that pure whiteness set against the dark background of winter trees. I may get down to a sketch or two next week. In the class today we were looking at working with pen and ink and this would be a perfect subject.


sn bg

And then I saw just two big fat glossy Buff Tailed Bumble bee queens, Bombus terrestis, both on the crocus flowers.

Here’s a short sequence of one bee as she moves from one flower to another, almost disappearing before backing out again.

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Crocus are a very important early food source for all early bees and so are snowdrops.. but in all those acres of snowdrops I saw only one bee, yet two bees on the relatively few crocus.

I am wondering if, when a choice is available, they prefer a crocus? It seems particularly appropriate and auspicious that I should photograph my first bees at Easton where, in June, I will be showing my hopefully expanded “Buzz” show, as part of their Meadow Days Celebrations,  and this time with a two day workshop. It is a week I am looking forward to immensely.

What Do I Do All Day ?

I sometimes worry that I am not working hard enough or, I should really say, I am not achieving enough.

Sometimes the day slips away and I have achieved very little, but I have been very busy.

At the moment I seem to spend a large amount of time on the computer, answering emails, fulfilling book and print orders, reading about art/bees/interesting people/looking for opportunities and thinking about commissions and planning new projects.

This is all fine but the one thing I should be doing…painting and drawing, seems to be done in the last hour of the day when I am far from my best.

So I thought I would record a typical day and see where it all goes wrong! Yesterday I recorded my day, I knew today would be mostly spent in the car.

It turned out to be quite productive, I think because as I had committed to writing it down. It’s quite hard to admit to an hour in the day where you  “did nothing but stare out of the window”.

My Day
5.30.. UP …I LOVE the early mornings. Cup of tea answer 2 emails.
Out for walk at 6, thought about where I might sketch later. Optimistic about my decision to record the day.

Back at 6.45. Tea, read emails and discover 2 fascinating articles**** one about taxidermy and the other about the perils of doing a PHD… (always on my mind). Shared these observations with a couple of friends who might be interested.  **** terrible danger here of being sidetracked into lots of internet browsing on fascinating subjects,

7.45 Decide to make a list of things to do. The list is long and includes shouting at the Post Office, roughing out 3 more paintings, parceling up 3 books to send out, sorting out paintings and blurb for Nature in Art ,worrying about what to do about Dad, try to make appointments to see doc, lawyer, dentist(hopeless)… go for cycle, do some sketching, remember to feed guinea pig (easy)…do more sketching.

8 to 8 30 Guinea Pig time. He likes cucumber.

8.30 to 9 Email gallery re prints. Put on washing. Take irritating dead light bulbs out of ceiling fitting. Have put this off because involves having to stand on chair. Make another cup of tea.
Reluctantly turned on Tweetdeck.
Wrestle with Tweetdeck

9-9.15  Speak to lawyer re Dad.

9.15 to 9.30 try to process what lawyer had said… Fail and worry.

9.30 –10.30 Read, reply to and initiate emails, some re Nature in Art residency, trying to make the most of being over the other side of the country and meet up with some bee people… logistically tricky. Put washing out… damn pegs keep breaking … sigh.

10.30 Radio on to calm down as have been up for ages but seem to be doing nothing! Start research and roughs.

11.00 Call from nurse re Dad 20 mins. Now worry about not being up there. Back to roughs but have lost thread.

12.00 Call from Nathan re wine/bee festival. Great, but needs some thought and more emails. Involves measuring things and getting prices.. do I do that now or later?  Hmmm .. no, must do roughs.

12.30 Made soup and more tea, glanced quickly at emails.

1 to 4.15 Work on roughs and ideas. GOOD!

4.15 Tea and looked at emails ( fatal, as I feel I should answer them)

4.45  Prise self away from unanswered emails to go out to walk and sketch.

6.00  Back … cold, grey and spooky out there tonight. Start to write blog post. Try not to look at emails… but do. Answer a couple of really nice ones.

7.15 Almost finished blog post…they take me ages as my typing skills are non existent and scanner is cheap and takes ages.

8.00 Eat. Thank God Chris can cook! Press “go” button on blog and I am finished.

Conclusions .. well I am not sure.. the emails are definitely a problem.  Writing it all down does make you face up to what you do or don’t do all day!  However I think that a couple of hours staring out of the window every day is a very valid creative activity!

My next bit of self examination is into how long I really spend on each commission and how many real billable hours a week I do. Not enough I know.

It’s just one of the many pitfalls of being a freelancer! Today though I did manage a lovely hour at Easton Walled Gardens. The Gardens are looking beautiful, full of bees. No chance to sketch but a quick gallop round with camera..

Nectar Robbing Bee on Honeysuckle

nectar robbing

Megachile on sweet pea.

megachile on sweet pea

Tomorrow, back to the drawing board. 🙂

Wild about bees: The “Buzz” at Easton.. what a Great Weekend!

My wild bees and me; we are just back from our weekend show at Easton Walled Gardens.

I had such a wonderful time and talked bees non stop to so many very nice people. (I haven’t met a bad bee lover ever!!). I have never thought of myself as much of a campaigner but, as was pointed out to me several times, I have, perhaps, found my “cause”.
I try not to slip into “bee bore” mode and try to stop before people glaze over .. but  “Thank you, I have really learnt so much today” was the best feedback I could hope for.

So many people said they would now think more about our bees when they plant the gardens, all my leaflets on bee flowers went and so did my small stock of BUZZ books and I’m printing prints for orders on the day and re-ordering the postcards.

People reading the flowers notes were either congratulating themselves or making notes for future planting but were also telling me all about their own observations. One of the first ladies who came into the show brought a photo, on her mobile phone, of a bee nesting in a bird-box on her wall… I was able, very confidently, to tell her she has a little colony of the lovely Tree Bumble Bee, Bombus hypnorum. She was delighted!

Many people also have humming houses like our cottage, full of mason bees. People were surprisingly fascinated by the pinned specimens and my small collection of deceased bees and stroking a tiny velvety bee proved popular with both the kids and their parents.

There were lots of “Ahhhs”. So it’s thanks to all who came, those who braved the rain on Monday and those who said such very kind things about the paintings and the bees.

And a specially big thanks to bee fan Ursula, Lady Cholmeley and all the staff at Easton for not only making the show happen but also for creating a fabulous bee friendly garden with many bee favourites and gorgeous drifts of wildflowers and natural planting.  We got a mention in The Times, Country Life, Woman and Home and Radio Lincs…

Hurrah.. let’s hear it for our wild bees!!!

We are considering something bigger and better next year.. watch this blog! Currently the Easton bees are particularly enjoying the huge exuberant border of catmint and the self seeded phacelia! So just a few more of the bees that you will be able to see right now: Lovely lapidarius, with her glorious red tail,  such a favourite bee with everyone, on the catmint.


Pretty Phacelia is one of the top 20 honey-producing flowers for honeybees! Check out its amazing blue/black pollen on this bees legs!

black pollen
Pascuorum on lupin


also on the drifts of pretty little speedwell…

Little HHFB,  the hairy footed flower bee on this beautiful blue green plant that I can never remember the name of…


and a late and hopeful male osmia.. I think..


Do visit this beautiful garden if you have a chance.. it’s wonderful.. and my favourite lunch there is the pea green soup.. its like eating all the goodness of the earth whizzed up together and served with gorgeous locally baked warm bread..




*******  BLOG UPDATE 2nd June… Blackbird has come to my rescue..and not for the first time .  The beautiful plant I could not remember the name of is Cerinthe Blackbird has the really excellent BUGBLOG check out her fascinating post on the lovely hypnorum!  http://abugblog.blogspot.com/

The Tool Tower (and Bee Home)

The small towers which are built into the walls of the Walled Garden at Easton are fascinating and very appealing little constructions. I wonder what they were first designed to be? They do have names. One is called the Apple Store and this one is the Tool Tower. It is also a tower of bees because, just like the humming cottage here, the Osmia rufa have taken advantage of the holes in the decorative brickwork and made it their home, lots of them!

tool towerside sm      tool tower detail sm


A couple of sketches of the tower with its decorative brickwork.

brick notessm

There are different colours and sizes of brick and stone and quite an elaborate roof structure. The roofs have rather nice fishscale tiles which I should have made better notes of.

Nice home for bees!

Easton Sketches

Since March, when I have had a free day I have visited Easton, to look for bees and to sketch. It is the most beautiful place where architectural remains blend with magnificent trees, and structured planting is softened by informal swathes of wild flowers. I have made a few sketches which I will be posting over the next few days These first ones were done early in the year when the trees were still bare.

sweet pea sticks 2

Neat tied sticks ready for the twining sweet peas, for which Easton is well known.


The stone wheatsheaf which is the crest of the Gardens can be found  in various locations. This one is above the door of one of the store buildings built into the walls of the big walled Garden.

bird on parapet

This is the decorative top to the wall of the out buildings in the main garden.

Below it the early plum trees are now setting fruit!
There was a little robin on the top, his red breast has got a bit bleached out in the scanning..
More tomorrow….

“Buzz” at Easton Walled Gardens at Bank Holiday …and thanks to Woman & Home!

And thanks to my friend Ruth for the heads up that Woman & Home Magazine have kindly given Easton Walled Gardens and “Buzz” a mention in their June edition.

It’s a small but beautiful mention and I think it’s the only time in my life that I will be in print on the same page as Johnny Depp.

I have customised the page a bit!

w and h 2

But yes, the Bees and I will be there along with the “Unusual Plant Fair”  on 29th and 30th May, 11am to 4pm.

I will be fascinated to see what the plantsmen and nurseries have to offer. I can’t think of nicer companion planting than Buzz and Unusual plants :).