George Du Noyer at the Crawford Art Gallery, Cork

Stones, Slabs and Seascapes: George Du Noyer’s Images of Ireland

17 November 2017–24 February 2018

An artist imbued with a keen appreciation of the sciences—particularly geology, botany and zoology, George Victor Du Noyer was born into a Huguenot family in Dublin in 1817.

Over the course of a half century, he travelled the length and breadth of Ireland, sketching and recording as he went. Thousands of drawings and sketches by him are preserved in the libraries and archives of institutions such as the Royal Irish Academy and the Royal Society of Antiquaries in Ireland. In the National Botanic Gardens are exquisite watercolours of Irish
apple varieties, roses and other botanical specimens.

Apples painted by Georges Du Noyer in 1837.

Apples painted by Georges Du Noyer in 1837. Picture courtesy of National Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin

In celebration of Du Noyer’s extraordinary achievements, and to commemorate the bi-centenary of his birth, the Crawford Art Gallery will host a major survey exhibition, featuring over one hundred and fifty watercolours and drawings. Opening in November 2017 and continuing until the end of February, 2018, the exhibition will be curated by Peter Murray, former Director of the Crawford Art Gallery, in collaboration with Petra Coffey and the Geological Survey of Ireland.

Although best known as a geologist, Du Noyer called himself ‘a labourer in the field of science’, and from an early age he laboured well: the two beautiful botanical paintings shown here are dated 1837, and so were painted when he was only twenty years old.

Fungi painted by Georges Du Noyer in 1837.

Fungi painted by Georges Du Noyer in 1837. Picture courtesy of National Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin

As the name of the exhibition implies, the works on display will focus primarily on landscape, rocks and the sea, and it promises to be an exhibition of interest to many of us with an interest in the natural history and a wonderful opportunity to see a slice of Irish art and science history.

To find out more, visit the Crawford Gallery description of the exhibition.

A Grand Day Out: ISBA visit to Burtown House

The inaugural outing of the ISBA was a visit to Burtown House in May 2013, where we were privileged and delighted to meet Wendy Walsh, and were welcomed to Burtown by Wendy’s daughter Lesley Fennell. A group of ISBA artists returned to Burtown House on 13 May 2017 where Lesley made them very welcome and a tour of the garden and studios was enhanced by lunch in the newly opened Green Barn. Here, ISBA member and the Society’s Hon. Secretary Elaine Moore Mackey gives a brief overview of the lovely visit.

A small group of members were lucky enough to visit Burtown on Saturday 13 May and, while the weather wasn’t great, we made the most of the beautiful setting in which we could admire and learn about the work of Wendy Walsh, who lived at Burtown for the last years of her life.

exterior picture of studio

The exterior of the studios where Lesley Fennell works, and where her mother, Wendy Walsh, painted right up to the end of her long life.

Lesley Fennell, Wendy’s daughter and an artist herself, took time to show us the gardens–which she manages with enormous talent and committment–as well as Wendy’s paintings which are exhibited in the Gallery at the Green Barn.

interior of the gallery

Some of Lesley Fennell’s portraits of her mother Wendy Walsh are on display in the gallery

interior of studio, Burtown

A glimpse of the studio where Lesley works

stream and woodland in Burtown

Part of the woodland garden in Burtown

Lesley’s generosity and intimate knowledge of Burtown, her home for many years, allowed our group to experience this lovely place on an intimate level.  Lesley knows every plant, every corner of the garden, and her enthusiasm for plants and of course, for painting, is infectious.

We were so grateful to her for making us welcome, and to see Wendy’s work up close was a real privilege.  The unexpected gift of the visit was to understand and appreciate the long association of Burtown with painting.  Lesley’s own studio, formerly that of her mother, is a living workplace and she extended a genuine invitation to our members to paint in the gardens.


I was personally touched by Lesley’s sensitive portraits of Wendy and her own work which celebrates Burtown, her passion for plants, and her home.

irises outside the Green Barn, Burtown

Irises outside the Green Barn

The carrot cake was also decidedly memorable!

To read about our first visit to Burtown in 2013, see this post: Wendy Walsh.

A busy autumn for ISBA artists

It has been a busy autumn for some of our members! Here’s a quick round-up of what’s been happening:

Botanical artists from around the world gathered in Pittsburgh in October for the Annual Meeting and Conference of the American Society of Botanical Artists. The event coincides this year with the 15th International Exhibition of Botanical Art & Illustration at the prestigious Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation. We are delighted and proud that Ligularia dentata by ISBA artist and committee member Siobhán Larkin was selected for this important exhibition and we congratulate her.

Ligularia dentata by Siobhan Larkin

Ligularia dentata by Siobhán Larkin. (Photo: Shevaun Doherty)

Siobhán works in coloured pencil and watercolour, and recently won an award at the Irish Watercolour Society exhibition in Dublin.  Another ISBA artist, Shevaun Doherty, is among the artists invited to the ASBA Conference to demonstrate ‘Mastering Beautiful Bloom on Fruit in Watercolour’. Mary Dillon is also attending and spreading the word about botanical art in Ireland. Thanks to Shevaun and Mary for sending us photos.


Siobhan’s work on display at the Hunt Exhibition. (Photo: Mary Dillon)


Teasel for finches, November by Yanny Petters

Congratulations also to ISBA member Yanny Petters whose Teasel for finches, November will join the prestigious art collection of Dr Shirley Sherwood at the Gallery of Botanical Art at Kew, London. The Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art is the first gallery in the world dedicated solely to botanical art. This painting is part of Yanny’s very successful solo exhibition–“Come with me, I’ll show you something beautiful” / “Komm mit mir, Ich zeig’ Dir ‘was Schönes”–at the Olivier Cornet Gallery in Dublin, featuring her exquisite Verre Églomisé paintings. The exhibition continues until 6 November, so if you are in Dublin, do make a point of viewing the exhibition. You can see photos from the exhibition opening on Yanny’s Facebook page @YannyPettersBotanicalArtist

Another ISBA member, Ida Mitrani, is one of the artists whose work features in the Lines of Negotiation exhibition in the Lexicon in Dún Laoghaire Rathdown, running until 05 November. Congratulations to Ida, whose work Totality was bought by Dún Laoghaire Rathdown Arts Office for their public collection.

Totality by Ida Mitrani

Totality by Ida Mitrani

The second Art in the Garden exhibition took place in October (9th to 16th) in Tourin House, Co. Waterford (the first of these exhibitions was held in the National Botanic Gardens in 2014, featuring art work based on the Kilmacurragh Gardens).  Close to thirty artists had work in the exhibition, in various media; almost a third of the artists were ISBA members. The exhibition was opened by Patricia Butler, Art Historian (who wrote the forward for our own Aibítir catalogue). Well done to all!

Despatches from Derry

Over the weekend, members of the Aibítir team arrived in Derry~Londonderry~Doire to hang Aibítir: The Irish Alphabet in Botanical Art exhibition at The Playhouse. The preparations and the opening of the exhibition coincide with the annual Apprentice Boys’ parades in the ancient walled city. In order that we can all get a flavour of the atmosphere, Colette Roberts and Oonagh Phillips are providing us with ‘despatches from Derry’:


Colette Roberts, Mary McInerney, Megan and Liz Prendergast enjoying some sightseeing on the city walls of Derry~Londonderry~Doire


Liz Prendergast and her daughter, Megan, pose for a photo with some of the friendly Apprentice Boys

The Apprentice Boys march commenced just outside The Playhouse, as we worked inside.   The grey smoke of the dying embers of the previous night’s bonfire drifted over the ancient city walls in the direction of Artillery Street, the Lambeg drums pounding out their relentless annual message, and the boys marched past with ‘No surrender’ on their black tee shirts. The girls had never seen anything quite like it before, and we have a great photograph to prove it, all good fun. There was no trouble and although celebrations went on into the night it didn’t affect us in any way.

The exhibition looks great, I took photographs of the work in progress, and the completed display.  In the main entrance area we hung the alphabet starting with Liz Prendergast’s Aiteann gallda (gorse), and in the main room, which looks great, the other two alphabets were hung, starting with two ‘As’ one top and bottom with about two inches between each painting, name ID to the side and about 4 inches from the base. Each painting was cleaned and checked to make sure they were all at same height and spacing, and that we had the correct artist’s name on each.

The ‘five extras’ were hung, three top and two bottom on a separate wall, and also look good. All the signage was hung on the wall to the back of the sales table, with pride of place going to the huge information poster with the photo of Wendy Walsh and Raymond Piper. We are ready for the preview on Monday.  Many, many thanks to Liz Prendergast and her daughter, Megan, for the professional way in which they hung the paintings.   

Photographs will be taken again once we set up this afternoon (Monday), and Oonagh has arranged a photographer for the evening. Publicity is good  (thank you Betty Christie), and Oonagh did an interview on Radio Foyle about the ‘Aibitir’ exhibition last Friday. Much appreciation also goes to Keith at The Playhouse, who was tremendous help, and provided us with storage for all our bits and pieces. 

Everyone worked hard and it took us every minute from 10am to 4pm to set up, though we did have an hour for lunch.  The weather was glorious, the B&B good, and we had a hilarious meal later that evening. 


The Apprentice Boys’ parade near The Playhouse

Watch this space for more news about the exhibition, and if you happen to be in the Derry~Londonderry~Doire area between the 11 and 24 August, do drop by The Playhouse and view this wonderful visual celebration of Ireland’s native language and some of our indigenous plant species.

Opening night


Some of the Alphabet team with Dr Shirley Sherwood and her husband, James Sherwood. L to R: Mary McInerney, Oonagh Phillips, Susan Sex, Mary Dillon, NBG Assistant Librarian Colette Edwards, James Sherwood, Marie Stamp, Dr Shirley Sherwood, NBG Glasshouse Foreman Brendan Sayers, Yanny Petters, NBG Librarian Alex Caccamo and Siobhan Larkin.

Irish Artists Painting Irish Plants


The Irish Alphabet in Botanical Art –

Aibítir Éireannach i Ealaíon Luibheolaíoch



National Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin

The Irish Society of Botanical Artists will present their inaugural exhibition at the National Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin in May 2014.  The exhibition entitled The Irish Alphabet in Botanical Art marries native plant species with the capital letters of their names in Irish.

There are over 60 artists producing distinctive paintings, which will be exhibited as complete eighteen-letter Irish alphabets. Tim O’Neill, renowned calligrapher, has created a unique font for the project.  Artists from the thirty-two counties of Ireland will be taking part, along with Irish artists living in Britain, France and Austria, Newfoundland and the American state of Oregon.

This unified collection of paintings will be a celebration of the Irish language, native Irish plants and botanical art.  Each work depicts one of a wide selection of native plants chosen by the National Botanic Gardens, to illustrate the variety of plant forms and habitats on the island of Ireland.


The Irish Society of Botanical Artists is a group of botanical artists and people interested in botanical art. Our mission is

‘To facilitate interaction amongst botanical artists in Ireland,
and to foster and inspire their creative development.’

Irish botanical artists are fortunate to have an extraordinarily rich heritage of botanical art to draw upon, including artists such as, Lydia Shackleton, Lady Charlotte Wheeler Cuffe, Wendy Walsh and Raymond Piper. Botanical artists working in Ireland today are maintaining these standards of excellence and are being acknowledged internationally for their work.

The exhibition will take place, opening for public viewing on 2 May 2014
in the Visitor Centre of the National Botanic Gardens. 
For additional information please contact:

Hip Operation

So, the nights are drawing in … next week the ISBA will meet to see how the ‘Hot Petals’ challenge (set by Holly Somerville earlier in the summer) worked out and also to set a new challenge for the coming months. But as the weather cools and the evenings close in, what’s a botanical artist to do for inspiration?

Arum maculatum berries by Jane Stark

Arum maculatum berries by Jane Stark

The flowers of summer may be gone, but the Anemones and Michaelmas daisies are blooming still in our gardens, providing plenty of challenge for those who want to try their hand at the paler end of the spectrum or especially the  whites and botanical greys (if you choose Anemone japonica ‘Honorine Jobert’ for example).

The flowering heads of the ornamental grasses (Miscanthus spp., Molinia caerula and lots more) are shimmering in the autumn light – not easy, but very graceful subjects.

But if working in colour is your thing, or the ‘Hot Petals’ challenge has left you wanting to do more with intense colours, then remember that Autumn is harvest time! And so many of the hips and haws and seeds ripening now will provide plenty of delightful subjects for those with a need to wield paint or pencil as the season changes. So get out there with eyes wide open and your sketchbook at the ready.

You might discover the bright orange berries of Arum maculatum (Cuckoo pint) under the trees of your local woodland as Jane Stark did earlier this month.

Or if you’re in the mood for some foraging, you’ll be checking the hedgerows for brambles: you can always paint the blackberries at all stages of ripeness before you go on to eat them in delicious crumbles or jams. Here’s what Yanny Petters did with hers:


Bramble/Blackberry/Rubus fruticosa by Yanny Petters


‘Conker’ (Aesculus hippocastanum) sketch by Fionnuala Broughan

You could always head out with your children (or borrow someone else’s!) to collect conkers and practise textures: the spiny, sometimes mottled case providing one challenge, the shiny chestnut inside another. This year seems to a be a great one for beech masts and again the spiny cases with their contrasting velvety lining are a good textural challenge! You can always reward yourself after a good drawing with the little triangular nuts inside.

But what artist wouldn’t love to get their hands on the rose hips, the haws and the rowan berries that make our hedgerows glow with vermilion and scarlet and garnet.


The intense red hips of Rosa glauca contrast nicely with the glaucous foliage. (Photo by Bernard van Giessen)



There probably aren’t too many practising artists reading this who haven’t taken up their brushes to capture the intense reds, satiny textures and gorgeous shapes of rose hips. But some of you might like to try rendering them in a medium you haven’t tried for a while. For those of you who work in watercolour who’d like a change in pace, or for those (like me)  just starting out, here’s a tutorial (in English) by Dutch artist Sigrid Frensen on how to draw rose hips in coloured pencil.



And finally–and always–there’s composition, when you move from the freedom of your sketch book to the rigour (and terror, for some) of the Blank White Page. Here’s an exquisite and inspiring gathering of rose hips, holly berries, sloes and haws by Holly Somerville:

Autumn fruits by Holly Somerville

An autumnal gathering – hips, haws, holly berries and sloes – by Holly Somerville

Whatever challenge you set yourself–colour, texture, new medium, composition–enjoy the work, and who knows, it might well tie in with the next ISBA project: you’ll hear more about this at next Thursday’s meeting if you’re there, or afterwards by email. Do tell us in the Comments section below how you’re getting on. Comments have to be approved (trying to keep the spammers at bay) so don’t worry if your comment doesn’t show up straight away.

Thanks to Jane Stark, Yanny Petters, Bernard van Giessen and Holly Somerville for their contributions, and to Sigrid Frensen for the link to her tutorial.

Plant photography tips for botanical artists

The author of this post is Bernard van Giessen ( Bernard is a professional photographer with over 30 years’ experience both in his native Holland and here in Ireland where he has lived for 13 years. In this post he provides hints and tips on macro photography, a useful tool for botanical artists who wish to record details for later reference.

Macro photography–for example, close-ups of flowers and insects–requires the right combination of patience, favourable weather conditions, suitable backgrounds and some basic knowledge of your camera equipment and specific techniques.

More important still is an awareness how we perceive the world around us. Just look at your subject for a little while before you whip out the camera. As you focus on your subject you may well discover details you would have missed if you had started to take pictures straight away.

The technical bits
Most compact cameras are equipped with a built-in Macro setting (often displayed as a little flower icon) that will allow you to get pretty close to your subject. If you own a digital SLR (Single Lens Reflex) you can increase your potential for great shots but at a cost. With compact cameras you can get away with using automatic settings and still get pretty decent images. With an SLR you may need to learn a bit more about Exposure, Aperture, Depth of Field etc. There are very useful websites that explain technical issues these very well;  one I’d particularly recommend is
Briefly though:
  • For Macros and Close-ups, the lens-opening should ideally be small, this means the aperture setting, or F-number, should be high. Remember, the bigger the F-number, the smaller the lens opening and so the greater the depth of field.
  • Shutter-time is important too and is directly related to Aperture; if you change either, the other will change too.
  • Sensitivity (ISO) directly influences Aperture and Time. Higher ISO values give you more room to move, but increase the risk of ‘noise’ which is the digital equivalent of grain and unsharpness in traditional film.
JPEG, TIFF and RAW are file formats and vary in quality and size. JPEG files are heavily compressed and ‘throw away’ information at the start. Most compact cameras shoot in JPEG. They are a bit like the Kodachrome images of the day, suitable for average print quality and size. Most photographers shoot in RAW which is the equivalent of a digital negative; the image still has to be ‘cooked’ with a software program.
En plein air
Keep the following suggestions in mind when you’re out and about.
  1. The closer you get to the subject, the more you also magnify movement caused by wind, camera shake etc. A tripod will help to suppress camera shake but the downside is that you become less flexible and unable to move quickly.
  2. The area that will appear in focus on your screen/photo will decrease as you get closer. This relates directly to the severely reduced Depth of Field which can be as little as 1mm, even at very small lens openings of F16, F22 etc.
  3. Direct sunlight can cast deep shadows and/or can cause parts of an image to appear ‘washed out’. Most garden and plant photographers will prefer overcast weather because of this. The saturation of colours remains limited and there are virtually no shadows. If it’s sunny you can try to shield the light with your body or buy a cloth diffusor which you will need to place/hold between the sun and the object.
  4. Be conscious of a background that will make your subject stand out and avoid clutter. Because you are very close to your subject it will be important to choose an angle that will limit a distracting background.
  5. As you know from your painting work, with flower portraits you can try different compositions. Sometimes an off-centre image creates a bit more tension and interest. This matters even more when you are showing a section of a garden. You may want to use ‘leading lines’ to guide the viewer and give a sense of a three dimensional space. Background, middle ground and foreground need to be in harmony and allow the viewer to briefly rest their eye on each part of an image before returning to the main subject.
  6. In photography you ideally want to have an image in your head of what the actual photo will look like when you’re done.
The Digital Darkroom
Last but not least, the digital darkroom: photographers use powerful software that enables them to improve an image. It may be worth investing in such software if you want to do more than crop an image and/or use the auto-enhance option with the software that came with your camera. Popular photography sites like Picasa allow some minor enhancements too. Such enhancements can however produce very saturated images.
Here are some photographs I’ve taken with a brief explanation of settings and conditions:
Welsh Poppy: Aperture F16 – Time 1/500 – Sensitivity iSO 800 – 105MM Macro lens, handheld in bright sunny conditions. I photographed this poppy at ground level to achieve minimal distraction in the background and a background colour that enhances the yellow of the poppy.
Welsh poppy bud

Welsh Poppy; copyright 2013 Bernard van Giessen

Dandelion seed: Aperture F18 – Time 1/50 – Sensitivity ISO 200 – 105 MM Macro lens, Tripod in the Greenhouse, with black canvas background, sunny conditions. I also used a reflector to cast light on the seed, a diffusor to shield excessive light and a few props to hold the Dandelion in place.
Dandelion seed

Dandelion seed; copyright 2013 Bernard van Giessen

Ladybird: Aperture F8 – Time 1/640 – Sensitivity ISO 800 – 105MM Macro lens, handheld in sunny conditions at grassroots level. With insects you have move quickly because they never sit still and this little creature just tumbled down from a blade of grass when I pressed the shutter release. In Macro photography you have to decide what it is that you want be in focus. In the case of insects the focus almost always has to be on the eyes of a beastie.

Ladybird (c) 2013 Bernard van Giessen

Equisetum: Aperture F14 – Time 1/40 – Sensitivity ISO 400 – 105MM Macro lens, handheld in bright sunny conditions.

Equisetum; Copyright 2013 Bernard van Giessen

Good luck and happy shooting!

Getting your work out there (PR by another name)

This week’s blog is written by Yanny Petters, who has just heard that two of her works (Wild Strawberry and Floral Alchemy) have been selected for the Art of the State Exhibition 2013 ‘Encounters’,  the latest in a series of annual joint art exhibitions organised by the Department of Finance and Personnel (DFP) in Northern Ireland and the OPW in the Republic of Ireland.  The exhibition will tour Ireland by travelling to four destinations, two in Northern Ireland and two in the Republic. Destinations this year will be Derry, (City of Culture 2013), Lisburn, Cork and Limerick.

I was asked to write a blog on the subject of PR, and I’ve been trying to gather my thoughts on the subject to cover a time when the methods of getting our art work noticed are changing almost by the day.

Really what I can offer is just my experience from my starting out as an artist in the early 1990s when everything still went by ‘snail mail’, to the present day when facebook and twitter are the norm.

Starting out
When I realised that I wanted to work as a professional artist I was working on a Community Employment (CE) scheme at Signal Arts Centre in Bray where I learnt a lot about PR in the sense that I had to deal directly with people visiting the gallery as well as doing community work.
Presentation was all-important, as it still is of course, so having a striking image was essential, but there were other elements which continue to be vital, and one of most important of these is: making connections.

The press
Firstly, to get the press to take notice you need to think about what the various newspapers or magazines are looking for. This usually includes the mention of ‘local celebrities’, politicians and photo opportunities. A carefully drafted press release is vital and should include lots of catchy words, describing the ‘not to be missed’ event. There are good guidelines on the web for press releases. It’s also useful to be able to drop a few ‘important’ names, mention awards, celebrities, sex if possible … in other words all the things that sell papers! And remember: personal stories are popular.

The publication dates of the papers/media outlets you’re targeting need to be established as well as a contact person. Many’s the beautiful press package was sent to The Editor only to be ‘lost’ because it wasn’t sent to the right name. So, the research is important, as is following up after you’ve sent the information (by whatever media) with a phone call: this is key to getting things noticed.

All media are constantly being bombarded with information, all clamouring to get published, and my experience is that it takes time to build a relationship with a publication to get a look in.
Some will only give you editorial space if you also advertise for instance!

The images
At all times the image supplied is vital, that it is strong in colour and structure. Local papers prefer pictures of people, so the artist hanging the exhibition would be more likely to be published than a painting. Asking them to send their photographer sometimes works. And with newer media now, perhaps we need to design ways of being visually irresistible even when seen on the little smartphone screen.

Stay connected!
More than the published media I found that collecting names of people interested in my work over the past 18 years has been extremely important. While they support my exhibitions and buy my work they also spread the word. I have found too that by printing greetings cards and calendars and by teaching I have been able to extend the list and also keep my name out there.
I think it is still very important to keep personal contact with the publications: if you have a friend or family member who works in the Irish Times or the Irish Arts Review, don’t fall out with them, whatever you do!

Newer media such as facebook and the web have of course helped hugely. While the artist is competing all the time for attention, if you’re inventive with how you use the web, the information can circulate rapidly. I am lucky enough to have an agent who is very good at all that stuff which frees me up to paint! I also have a media-savvy husband who is in charge of my web site and facebook page (lucky me!).

I expect the way forward is mainly through the internet so the thing is to find eye-catching ways to present yourself. The average punter’s attention span is quite short, so we need to get noticed, and be seen regularly, to stay in people’s minds.

Good luck to the ISBA. This wonderful dynamic group should have the media sitting up with their ears pricked!

Wild Strawberries by Yanny Petters

Wild Strawberry by Yanny Petters (image copyright Yanny Petters 2013)

Floral Alchemy by Yanny Petters

Self Heal by Yanny Petters (image copyright Yanny Petters 2013)