My botanical art: How I started

Updated: Sep 25, 2019

When people look at my work, they say that they wish they were given the genes, or that they had the gift! Now I know full well that I had neither. I am convinced that the work I do is because ‘I want to do it’. That can work against me too as everything I do, I have to get right.


I will explain. I expect you are wondering why there is a sketch of Cinderella to the right of the page. But this is where my so-called drawing skills began. I obviously don’t have my first drawings and did this on my ipad app! Rather different to just after the war when there were limited supplies of paper in our house, but plenty of newspapers.

I was allowed to draw on the newspaper when people had read them. I used to have friends round to play and they often drew lovely pictures of ladies in fine dresses. They had paper models which they could dress up with lay-on-able changes of dress. I suppose this was a forerunner of the Barbie doll. They drew their own changes of wardrobe but I was hopeless and really envied their skills so when they went home, I practiced and practiced on the newspaper.

At school I loved art as long as I could draw with graphite. As soon as colour or imagination was introduced, I was hopeless. I wasn’t allowed to go to art school and had to do a ‘sensible’ job; nursing called.

Until I had children, I didn’t do any drawing or painting. In fact I didn’t start using colour until I was about 30. I started painting birds after one of my small children asked me to draw a chicken. Guess how many legs it had? You have it – four! Obviously, my observational skills were not the best.

I was so ashamed of myself that for many years I specialised in studying and painting birds. I noticed that if challenged by something like this, it often became something that I had to get right and, in the practicing, got hooked on the subject. In this way I realised that I did not have an innate ability, but just ‘wanting’ to do something became the enabler. This has always been at the forefront of any teaching. By the way, I taught myself to do this by initially copying other people’s work and I have taught others different art techniques since about 1976 whilst continuing with my ‘sensible’ job. I thought that one day I wouldn’t have to be quite so sensible!