"I had always liked painting and drawing, but it was the intricacy of botanic art which really suited me."
I have always loved gardens, plants and wildlife and so when I began seriously to draw and paint about 7 years ago, it was for me a natural progression to enter the world of botanic and wildlife art.
I was a producer/director, initially for the BBC, working on a gardening series among other programmes which nurtured my interest.
I started specialising in gardens and plant programmes for 196 Productions Ltd. Our first series was the Yellow Video for the National Gardens Scheme. We filmed over 30 private gardens which regularly opened to the public for charity. This led to the DVD series Gardeners’ Views, where we explored some visually stunning gardens through the eyes of their creators.
"It was my television work which nurtured my interest."
‘Life in the Garden’ followed – A series which looked at gardens that were planted to encourage wildlife. This was presented by Terry Underhill, an extremely knowledgeable plantsman and horticulturist with a lifetime's experience in all aspects of gardening, natural history and the environment.
So not only was I learning more about plants and gardens but directing the cameraman meant I was seeing the plant world more and more in close up. The beauty of the plants and wildlife was pushing me to start to draw in my spare time.
"The stories behind the plants and the plant hunters were filled with adventure and danger."
Terry Underhill’s knowledge of plants has been supplemented by his passion for travel and so the next series, ‘A World of Plants,’ was a natural successor. Presented by Terry Underhill and Frances Donovan, ‘A World of Plants’ looked into the stories behind the plants. Where they were discovered, who brought them back to Europe to be cultivated and how they were used. The stories behind some of the plants and the plant hunters were filled with adventure and danger.
I was enjoying my drawing, but as I never do anything by halves I started courses and found it was the intricacy of botanic art which really suited me. Thanks to botanic artists Mally Francis and Debbie Devauden, who have encouraged me to take on board all the various techniques from the start. My observational work has developed and I haven't looked back. I work in my studio with the plant sitting in front of me. I like to do my basic work, my sketches, tonal studies, and colour reference in this environment.
I take photos to use as a general reference due to the constant changing nature of the subject.
However it is my sketches which help me capture my composition and are constantly used as my blueprint.
I love painting with Daniel Smith watercolours and working in graphite for the preliminary studies. In the last couple of years, I have also begun to paint on vellum which suits my dry brush style of painting to a tee.
My work in filming plants and gardens continued with a number of documentaries made with the National Trust. Coleton Fishacre - ‘The garden by the sea’ the unique house and garden created by Rupert and Lady Dorothy D’Oyly Carte. The sheltered climate enabled them to plant a wide range of plants.
St Michael’s Mount – ‘The Jewel in Cornwall’s Crown’ the iconic symbol of Cornwall the island home of The St Levan Family.
Hidcote Manor Gardens - ‘The Quiet American Gardener’ Hidcote’s creator, Major Laurence Johnston, turned out to be a fascinating character. His love of plants and plant hunting made his gardens into an admired and inspirational garden. He created a groundbreaking garden framework in which to grow and show off his plants. The script was written by Penny David the author of ‘Hidden Gardens’.
196 also filmed Laurence Johnston’s French garden ‘Serre de la Madone.’ The plants and flowers in this Mediterranean garden are more exotic because of the microclimate of Menton. The script was written by Penny David.
"I work in my studio with the plant sitting in front of me. I like to do my tonal studies, and colour reference in this environment."
Away from gardens, we turned to the coast and we travelled around England, Wales and Northern Ireland to film the varied coastlines. This gave me ample opportunity to study plants and wildlife in their natural habitats. ‘Neptune’s Future’ presented by Kate Humble, was made again in collaboration with 196 and the National Trust. It tells the story of how the Trust is looking after over 600 miles of coast and the wildlife that thrives under its protection. The wildlife we encountered while filming was very special and included a short-eared owl, the endangered red squirrels, the Glanville fritillary butterfly and the arctic terns. Showing conservation in action, it reveals how we can combat the effects of climate change, regenerate rare natural habitats and allow species migration through the sensitive management of our land.
I love painting plants. I find drawing trees in graphite therapeutic and leaf painting in autumn is great fun. The disciplines of botanic art have proved a good grounding for illustrating all forms of nature. Recently I have been studying and painting birds using my botanic painting techniques. The kind provision of photographs from Cardiff based photographer John Lewis and my husband Bruce Rawlings, has helped immensely. I really enjoy capturing these charmers.
Many of my pictures are now available as a selection of cards and prints. They can be viewed on this website's Illustrations Gallery. Please keep checking this website for news. We will be posting clips from many of the series which I have directed in the Video Vault.