An Interview with Lynn Stringer

Magnolia campbellii, Lynn Stringer

Magnolia campbellii, Lynn Stringer

Lynn Stringer, one of our founding members, recently exhibited at the Royal Horticultural Society London Botanical Art Exhibition, winning a silver medal for excellence. Lynn was one of thirty artists selected and the only one representing Ireland. The standard of work exhibited at the RHS is extremely high with a strong emphasis on botanical accuracy, artistic effect, quality of technique and overall presentation.

First of all, congratulations! Thats quite an achievement. How did you first become interested in botanical art?
I’ve always loved illustration of all kinds. I did Fine Art at the Dublin Institute of Technology as a mature student, specialising in painting. A few years later I read an article on Susan Sex’s paintings for “Ireland’s Wild Orchids” and saw that she gave a one week workshop in the Burren every year.  I went down with a friend and was hooked!

Where did you learn your botanical art techniques? Who has been your biggest influence on your career?
Probably Susan. I had good drawing skills from college which definitely helped, but working with Susan, it was like a light going on as she went through the materials and techniques that she uses. Using good materials makes painting a good picture so much easier. I also read every book and article I could find on the subject and still do. The magazine that ASBA send out four times a year is great for hints and tips. Susan recently lent me a great book – Christina Brodie’s book Drawing and Painting Plants. Seamus O’Brien, head gardener of Kilmacurragh has also been a great help.

What paper, brushes and paints do you use to create your art?I use Fabriano hot pressed paper and needlepoint kolinsky sable brushes from Cornellisons in London or from Kennedys in Dublin. I also find cheap small wedge shaped brushes are great for lifting paint and cleaning up the line of a stem etc. After buying different paints over the years I’ve tended to come back to Winsor and Newton and Daler Rowney. I’ve started to become much more interested in the staying power of paints as well and have realised that some paints I’ve used in the past don’t have as much permanence as others and might fade in the future. I’m starting to read labels a lot more. I’m addicted to Rowney’s Olive Green and use it far too much.

What theme did you choose for your RHS submission and why?
Kilmacurragh and the Plant Hunters. A few years ago I decided I wanted to work on a long term project, rather than just randomly picking plants from the garden. Kilmacurragh is nearby in Co. Wicklow and is under the management of the Botanic Gardens. It has recently become a Botanic Garden in its own right and has a hugely historic plant collection. Seamus O’Brien is the head gardener and is so enthusiastic about the plants in the garden. Many of them have links to some of the great plant hunters of the past including Hooker, Lobb etc. Seamus suggested the theme. It’s really something to be handed a bloom to paint which has been cut from an ancient old tree and told that this tree was grown from a seed that Hooker collected in the Sikkim Himalaya and sent back to Kew in the 1840s.

Magnolia delavayi by Lynn Stringer

Magnolia delavayi by Lynn Stringer

Could you tell us a little about your RHS experience? What was the feedback like from the RHS judges?
It was really good. A bit of a blur to be honest as it’s such a rush getting to London and getting set up. The Standard was extraordinary with artists from South Korea, Thailand, Australia, America, Japan etc. Of course I’d love to have received a gold medal (there were eight given out from a total of 29 artists) but to be honest after seeing what the standard was like I was very grateful for my silver! One of the Judges, Gillian Barlow came around everyone afterwards. She’s an artist herself and she gives all the comments that the group of judges made. They very much look on the group of paintings as a whole and the general feeling about my work was that one piece didn’t fit in well with the others and perhaps was a bit overpowering compared to the others. Funnily enough the painting they liked the best – Magnolia campbellii was one I nearly didn’t bring and the one they were less keen on – Magnolia delavayi was one I was very attached to.

RHS Botanical Art Exhibition (photo Julie Whelan)

What advice would you have for Irish artists who would like to submit work for the RHS?
When you have your paintings completed, get another artist who hasn’t seen them before to look at them with fresh eyes. As artists we are so attached to our own paintings it’s really hard to see them objectively. Gillian made a few other comments to me which were so obvious once someone had pointed it out. They also pulled up artists on ‘outlines’ especially on white flowers. She told me they were a special RHS bugbear!

Now that you have won that coveted medal, what are your plans for the future?
To go back for the gold! But I might need a few years rest first!!

Thank you, Lynn, for taking the time to answer these questions. Best of luck with all your future plans.
I want to say a special thanks to Culture Ireland for their support. They provided a partial grant towards my costs – they help people to exhibit in other EU countries. Their website is

More of Lynn’s work can be seen on her website
Lynn will be giving a free demonstration of her botanical art techniques at Malahide Castle Visitor Centre on May 19th. Spaces are limited so booking is essential.
Further information about submitting for the RHS can be found on their website.

Here are some great tips on how to achieve a gold medal at the RHS Botanical Art Show.