DONEGAL PAINTING WEEKEND 23 and 24 April, 2016.

Our painting weekend was at The Glebe in Churchill this time and what a real treat that was in the Highlands of Donegal.  We now have a growing Donegal membership, all established artists who love nature and plants and become botanical art enthusiasts, thanks to Sarah Lewtas.

The Glebe Gallery

The Glebe Gallery

Painting weekend participants

Painting weekend participants

The light was perfect at the tea room, our studio, and there was ample space for each one to spread out.  We walked the grounds to choose our plants, azaleas, skunk cabbage, skimmia, marsh marigold and more.  There is a coffee machine and we brought along our lunch.  Curator Adrian Kelly popped in and out to see if we had all we needed, we did!

Niamh Harding-Miller and Grainne Carr

Niamh Harding-Miller and Grainne Carr

Martha and Sarah Lewtas

Martha and Sarah Lewtas

We had been generously invited to dinner by Kerry Pocock who owns a gorgeous little cottage across the road from The Glebe, all attended.  Her cousin, Derek Hill, lived here for a number of years before he died.  Kerry comes here with her family.  We had drinks in front of a roaring turf fire in the sitting room when we arrived and lots of good chat and laugh over a delicious dinner.  Kerry had invited a local artist friend who brought Valencia orange almond cake which she had topped with sugared primula to mark the occasion.

Thekla Dunne

Thekla Dunne

Everyone was back painting at their table in the morning and we broke up around 4.30pm. It’s satisfying when an event is so appreciated, one member said that the weekend had rekindled her love of watercolour, another said it restored her faith in nature and womankind!  We’ve already booked a date for early October, members say they’re already looking forward to it.  Curator Adrian Kelly has offered us a tour of the house next time.

Dinner at Kerrys'

Dinner at Kerrys

AGM and Billy Showell Presentation and Workshop

The ISBA AGM took place on Saturday the 5th March in the Auditorium of the National Botanical Gardens. Outgoing Chairperson Alex Caccamo opened the meeting. Nominations for new committee were presented to the meeting.

The new committee members elected are

Jane Stark – Chairperson

Lynn Stringer – Vice Chair

Colette Roberts – Secretary

Breda Malone – Treasurer

Cathy Giles – Communications Officer

Helen Noonan – Committee Member

Marie de Lacy – Committee Member

A presentation of honorary membership was then awarded to Colette Edwards, retired assistant librarian at the NBG, whose enthusiasm, help and and support was so instrumental in the formation of the Society.

Presentation of honorary membership to Colette Edwards by Oonagh Phillips

Presentation of honorary membership to Colette Edwards by Oonagh Phillips

Billy Showell 1

The guest speaker this year was artist Billy Showell. Billy is based in Tunbridge Wells in the UK and is a renowned botanical artist and teacher. Billy generously shared her experience supported by a presentation of slides. We were very grateful for Billy to attend as she is terrified of flying but we were delighted she did as we thoroughly enjoyed her talk and later some of us got to attend a compositional workshop with her.

Billy’s aim through all of her work is to inspire people to get painting. We learned that Billy originally trained as a fashion illustrator and how she inherited her skills from her graphic artist father. She has always loved drawing and sketching but soon discovered although she gained a Degree in Fashion Design and Illustration from St Martin’s School of Art that she really had no interest in fashion. When she realised she wasn’t happy working in her fashion job she starting working with her husband who was a mural painter at that time. Through this work, Billy soon discovered how she loved painting flowers.

Workshop 1

Billy started painting things from her garden and used effects she had learned from her husband in mural painting. She was encourage by her parents-in-law who were artists themselves to start exhibiting her work. She sold her first paintings in Lincolnshire and her first show was of still life in oils painted on board – her inaugural show was a sell out! Time was of the essence for Billy was rearing her young children at the same time her painting career was taking off, and would wait for her children to sleep before getting a chance to pick up the paint brushes.

Billy decided to start teaching oil painting in a local adult education class but was disappointed when nobody turned up to her first class. She sought advice from her artist Mother-in-Law, a watercolour artist who told her to do watercolours instead of oils and who gave her the lessons and tools to start painting in watercolours. Billy said she found having the right tools made all the difference. She soon got her first watercolour commission to paint Tulips. Later on Billy would take on various projects and commissions including the humungous task of a commission of 60 apples which shows how Billy is not afraid of challenges and actually thrives on them.

It wasn’t long before Billy started to experiment with different compositions and enjoyed adding a touch of comedy to her paintings. The balance of objects is an important element of Billy’s compositions and she has enjoyed working with big flowers, graceful lines and long stems. Billy said sometimes she feels she is like a flower arranger on paper. Her paintings have gone through different phases and Billy is not afraid to experiment and said she didn’t mind if things went wrong. Her bravery and creativity is evident in all of the different compositions and styles she has painted through the years, including her much loved shoe, necklace and flower cup portraits. Taking inspiration from many sources Billy has great admiration for the Shirley Sherwood collection of botanical art at Kew Gardens and also Scottish artist Rory McEwen.

We enjoyed hearing how Billy built an art studio at her home which can cater up to six students at a time. She also offers online tutorials and has a new website coming out soon.  Billy travels far and wide through her work as a botanical artist and teacher and as a member of the Society of Botanical Artist and Society of Floral Painters. As well as teaching and painting Billy has released her own paint range with the renowned Sennelier brand and also her very popular ”Raphael Billy Showell Brush Range”.  We were also very excited to hear about Billy’s new book “Billy Showell’s Botanical Painting in Watercolour” which has been published this Spring with Search Press. Billy’s other books “Watercolour Fruit and Vegetable Portraits”, “A-Z of Flower Portraits” and “Watercolour Flower Portraits” are favourites of many botanical artists.

Overall it was a lovely day spent in the company of existing and new members of the Irish Society of Botanical Artists, with great anticipation for what the year ahead will bring for the Society.

Plandaí Oidhreachta, Heritage Irish Plants

The Irish Society of Botanical Artists and The Irish Garden Plant Society have joined forces in a project titled Plandaí Oidhreachta, which celebrates our Heritage Plants. It highlights the wealth of good Irish Garden Plants and celebrates the beauty of botanical illustration. In late 2016, the end product of the collaboration will be an exhibition of original paintings and the publication of an accompanying book.

The book will feature articles on a variety of plant themes that highlight Irish Garden Plants, especially those that have come into being since the year 2000. Our latest snowdrops, dahlias and sweet pea will be featured along with primroses, iris and daffodils, as well as other groups of plants, including garden plants selected from the native Irish flora.

As of August 2016, much of the work is complete: the paintings are finished and scanned, the sections on different plant groups have been written, and the design and layout of the book are well underway. If you’d like to find out more, including how to order a copy of the book, which will be published late this year, click here.

The book is now available to purchase online, please click on the following link Heritage Irish Plants: Plandaí Oidhreachta.