Artists & Illustrators Magazine is 30 years old!

Artists & Illustrators Magazine is 30 years old… Happy birthday!

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To celebrate this anniversary edition, they are publishing 30 painting challenges in their October issue, which is out now.

I am so pleased to be part of the celebrations, having written 3 of these 30 challenges: painting a botanical quince (number 1), painting a field study of a Japanese Anemone (number 5) and painting an autumn leaf (number 26).

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Challenge number 1

I remember writing my first piece for A&I magazine, in 2005. We were just minutes away from jumping into the car to catch a ferry to France for Christmas when Mr Flora’s Patch answered the phone. He said “It’s Artists & Illustrators Magazine for you…” It was completely out of the blue and I thought it was about my subscription, so I replied “We don’t have time, tell them I’ll phone them when we come back. “ But he wasn’t sure: “I don’t think it’s about a subscription…”

So I took the phone and was surprised to find out it was the editor himself. You would think that a big magazine like that would have someone to deal with subscriptions… But it wasn’t about that. Somebody had pulled out at the last minute and he wanted to know if I would be interested in writing a piece about botanical painting. The catch was that I had only one week before the deadline. So I ended up taking my paintbox to France with me and spent my Christmas holiday painting and writing between bites of Brussels sprouts and mouthfuls of chocolate bûche. A few days after sending in my article I received another phone call from the editor asking, “Did you enjoy doing this? Because I would like you to write more for us…” Since then I have written more than 50 articles and I have worked with 4 successive editors: the original contact was with John, then Lynne, then Steve and now Katie. Painting and writing are two big passions of mine so this is pretty much my idea of a perfect job.

I hope that you enjoy the 30th edition of this great magazine and good luck with the challenges!

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Instagram and interview

What a miserable, cold and rainy Sunday for Mr Flora’s Patch’s birthday!

We thought we would stay at home, doing some gardening and relaxing, avoiding the Bank holiday traffic and general busy-ness of the week-end, but our outdoors chill out plans are rather ruined…

Two bits of news today:

  • I started an Instagram account. Considering my general aversion to social media, this is unexpected. At the Hampshire Artists Open Studio exhibition in which I am taking part, there is an artist called Adam Lay, who manages the media side of the exhibition. He converted me to Instagram. He was very eloquent about it. I cracked. It officially went on line last night and so far there is only one picture and two followers, so it is looking a bit empty. If you have an Instagram account, please go and have a look and follow me; it will make me feel less Instagram-lonely…
  • The Bitterne Park Info website, a really good local website in the area I live in, published an interview and article about me today. If you feel nosy about what I like and dislike, what I read and listen to, you can find it here: Bitterne Parker Sandrine Maugy. They even asked me to tell a joke!

For reasons above I am off duty at the Lockerley exhibition today, but I will be there tomorrow from 10am to 12am and from 2pm to 4pm. Last chance to visit and see me paint this Dahlia ‘Summer Night’…

Dahliasummernightsquare

One last thing: I added a photo to my white lavender post… I won’t say what it is but it is cheeky beyond measure.

Happy Sunday!

Hampshire Artists Open Studios 2016

This year I am taking part in HAOS away from my studio! I have been invited to join a group called ArtSeen. For many reasons, it made more sense to exhibit with a group this year so I accepted their kind invitation.
The event will take place in Lockerley, a pretty village not far from Romsey.
This is my first textiles exhibition, so I will be selling the things I am making with all my Liberty and FrouFrou fabrics and linen, which is mainly bags and accessories.
I will also have some paintings on the walls, folios in a stand and some greetings cards in a rack.

The exhibition runs from the 20th to the 29th of August from 10am to 5pm and the exact address is Lockerley Village Hall, Butts Green, Lockerley SO51 0JG.

I will be there most days from 10am to 1pm demonstrating with my sewing machine, but do check with me first if you wish to see me!

If you would like to join us for the preview, please RSVP to artseen@artseen.org.uk

HAOS 2016 invite

I am looking forward to seeing some of you there!

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Plant of the month – July 2016 – White lavender

Order:Lamiales Family:Lamiaceae Subfamily:Nepetoideae Genus:Lavandula
Type: Hardy to tender, annual to perennial herbaceous plants or small shrubs
Propagation: Cuttings or Seed (won’t come true in hybrids)
Native to: Mediterranean Europe, Middle East and India

Every year I have a new craze for my garden, a plant I never noticed before or didn’t use to like, which suddenly becomes an essential part of my big plan. Last year it was Sedums, the year before that it was passionflowers, and before that all sorts of Buddlejas in different shades of deep purples. These come and go on a backdrop of all times favourites such as Hydrangeas, roses and the lovely Verbena bonariensis.
This year is the year of the lavender. Probably influenced by my recent holiday in Ardèche, where the vast and lush garden was full of thriving lavender plants that attracted more insects of all varieties than all the other plants. I realised that lavender is beautiful, resilient, low-maintenance, can go a long time in the sun without need of watering and to state the obvious it really does smell lovely.
Like most gardeners I have had lavenders hanging around in the garden for as long as I can remember. However, I have no idea what their second names are and even when buying them myself, I picked randomly without realising the wide range of colours or forms that were available.
I don’t even remember buying the white lavender I chose for this July “plant of the month”. Surprisingly, it has a prominent place, in a border by the patio, next to the path, so the smell flutters up in exquisite waves when we walk by and brush our legs against the flowers. The perfume is strong and spreads easily but it is less medicinal, more floral than the purple lavenders I am used to. Unfortunately, because I haven’t been paying attention, I do not know the exact name of my white lavender. I expect that because I got it from a garden centre, it is probably one of the most common white, ‘Arctic Snow’ or perhaps ‘Alba’.

white lavender 1

Now that my interest is piqued, I am looking online to see what specialist nurseries are offering. I am finding some real beauties! I restrained myself so far and ordered just 4 varieties for now, to see how they will do in my garden. In a couple of days I am even going to visit a lavender farm somewhere around Alton.
In the meanwhile, I shall follow the advice I gathered online while looking up “lavenders” and harvest the seed heads in September to fill sachets for the lingerie drawers and the linen cupboard…

Happy gardening!

Somebody else likes having white lavender in the garden...

Somebody else likes having white lavender in the garden…

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What DID happen to the Fabriano Artistico paper?

On the 12th of July there was an intriguing meeting at the top of a spiral staircase, at the R.K. Burt (paper suppliers) warehouse in London: a handful of botanical artists, the boss Mr Burt himself, as well as Giuseppe and Chiara, marketing directors from the Fabriano mill.

The aim of the meeting was for the artists to voice their concerns about the latest batches of Fabriano Artistico: it seemed that our beloved paper had changed, getting more unpredictable, rendering duller colours and generally messing up our washes. Botanical artists are a notoriously picky bunch, but when so many agreed that something was wrong with the paper, the Fabriano managers decided to act, with the help of Mr Burt and art blogger Katherine Tyrrell. I must say that I hadn’t been affected by this plight as much as some others, because Fabriano is not the only paper I use, so I am still working on old, trouble-free stocks.

The meeting

The morning was dedicated to an exposé on paper making by Clifford Burt. It was fascinating – that is a Mr Spock level of fascinating. My inner geek was in seventh heaven as we were shown slides of 19th century machines Brunel would have been proud of and the whole process was explained to us in detail. Extremely large cylinders, cast iron wheels, massive levers and gears, steam and dials, it was all there.

fabrianopapermaking

The 1850’s machines that are used to make the mould-made paper are also used to make bank note paper. As this is done on tender and renewed on a regular basis, the process has to be extremely efficient in order to stay competitive. Giuseppe finished the morning meeting by explaining the changes that were made to the machines recently: in order to facilitate the insertion of plastic strips in the security papers, a device was added to the machines at the beginning of the paper making process. It seems that this has upset the fragile balance of the robust yet delicate machine’s internal workings and they are now regurgitating an altered paper, deemed inferior by the old Fabriano Artistico fans.

Blind test

After a light lunch, we proceeded to a blind test of anonymous papers, coded for identification by the organisers. When Mr Flora’s Patch saw the photos, he laughed at me, saying I looked “dangerously excited”. This is pretty much exactly what I was. The blind test was tremendous fun and as it turns out was also worthwhile and productive. Chiara and Giuseppe were worried that we would all find different results, especially as we were working in different media. Going around the table, Ann Swan, Morryce Maddams and Katherine Tyrrell were working in coloured pencil; Polly O’Leary, Elaine Searle, Dianne Sutherland, Gael Sellwood, Sandra Armitage and Billy Showell and I were painting in watercolour.

We tested the papers from different brands and different batches for resilience, ease of lifting, colour saturation, behaviour of washes and glazes as well as reaction to different techniques.

fabrianomeetingtest

The results

I was actually surprised at how consistent the results were: we all identified our favourite as the old Fabriano Artistico Hot Pressed. We also all had problems with the more recent batches. This was exactly what Chiara and Giuseppe wanted: a clear description, illustrated with our painted swatches and notes – which they took away back to the factory- giving them a much better idea of what has changed and what they are aiming for with their modifications. As they described it, their job is now to reverse engineer a paper that will be back to the pre-2014 standards. They gave me the impression that they truly cared about this and that they would work on it until they can give us our old favourite paper back, which I trust they will. A quick tip on the 2016 batch: I tried painting on the back and it gave me much better results than painting on the top. So while we wait for the 2017 batch, this might be a way to alleviate our predicament.

My thanks again to the organisers of this enlightening day, to Clifford for hosting the event, to Chiara and Giuseppe for listening to us and to the other guests for the good company.

Happy painting!

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Lazy like a Sunday morning

I know that it’s not the exact title of the song (sorry Lionel), but it is how it feels this morning… I love a lazy, sunny summer Sunday morning breakfast in the garden.

breakfastgarden

This 31st of July 2016 is a perfect morning on the South coast of England.

The sky is a flawless intense cobalt blue, and at 10am the sun is not yet strong enough to burn but just enough to warm your skin. There is a gentle breeze swaying the Verbena and scabious but leaving the roses and Hydrangeas as still as in a photograph. The lavenders and scabious are buzzing with all sorts of insects and multicoloured butterflies, all excited at the freshly opened flowers.

butterflyscabious

Even the birds look lazy this morning. They perch on the feeder but spend more time looking around, having less than usual frantic conversations while occasionally pecking a seed, more often than not dropping it on the head of the grounded pigeon.

I treasure these fleeting peaceful moments, when you indulge in the beauty of your surroundings and take time to appreciate nature, even domesticated as it is in a suburban garden, in all its exquisiteness and magnificence. It brings to the front the good things in your life, forgetting for an instant the sad and painful times we all have scattered through our existence, as well as the terrible current state of the human world.

This morning my world stops at the garden’s walls and it’s full of sun, filled with a thousand flowers, humming with bumblebees and fluttering with a dozen butterflies, turquoise dragonflies, a few sleepy sparrows, a cooing dove and my dad’s homemade jam.

My little paradise on Earth for a few hours…

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Which is the best eraser?

I often get questions that start with “This is a stupid question but…” or “This may sound stupid…”

Stupid questions are the essential ones; the questions people are worried about asking because they think everyone else knows the answer. But they don’t! And they really wish they did, so don’t be afraid to ask…

Our second question – asked by Bing Aling on my YouTube channel- is about erasing, an all important part of drawing:

Which is the best rubber to use?

eraser pile

A collective pile of erasers from my holidays in Ardèche

I have several rubbers for different purposes, but the one thing they have in common is that none of them are made of rubber. A rubber rubber can smudge a lot and make the paper irretrievably dirty. A plastic rubber on the other hand, erases smudges well and leaves the paper clean. However, if used too much or too hard, it can damage the paper. This is where the putty comes in. A putty rubber is much softer than a normal one, but doesn’t erase strong marks.

Here is my platoon of erasers:

erasertypes

  • Plastic rubber (PVC and phthalates free): for larger areas and stronger marks. Be gentle with it to avoid damaging the paper
  • Tombow Mono Zero: still a plastic rubber, and still PVC free, this allows for tiny marks, such as lifting highlights or even some veins
  • Putty rubber: a lot softer than the others, this is good for large areas of soft marks, including brushing lightly on top of a painting to erase pencil lines, as demonstrated at the beginning of this video on my Flora’s Patch YouTube channel:

There are several types of putty rubbers, with different degrees of softness. I like the Maped grey, very soft and gentle. It does get messy on a hot summer day so keep the plastic wrapper to avoid melting squidgy mess under the fingernails.

Keep the questions coming; I will answer them, whether directly or with a blog post or video.

Happy painting!

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Plant of the month – June 2016 – Rosa ‘Jasmina’

Order: Rosales       Family: Rosaceae     Subfamily: Rosoideae

Genus: Rosa          Type: Perennial        Propagation: Seed, plant propagation, cuttings, grafting

Native to: Mostly Asia, some Europe and North America

This rose is a spectacular rambler with such vivacity that I have to hack through it after the first flowering in order to stop it from invading the whole garden. She happily climbs up and runs along the wall, over the patio screen and flowing onto the trellis, shadowing the pavement on the other side. I can see that she is now making her way towards the arch, cunningly overtaking the passionflower, the honeysuckle and the Rosa ‘Calypso’.

The first flowering didn’t last very long this year because the rain spoiled the tightly wound flower. Once the water gets in, the flowers get heavy, droop and then rot quite quickly.

rosajasmina

There are many reasons for my liking this rose so much: the pale, delicate pink blush is the very picture of an English rose; the profusion of luminous blooms brightens up the patio, even in the shade; the sweet perfume is dizzying; the flowering goes on all summer, as long as I deadhead regularly and trim the long shooting arches; the sparrows love to play hide and seek in the tight foliage, feeling protected by the thorns and the intricate network of branches.

I also like the fact that it overflows over the garden wall. Sometimes as I walk to my car, I see people walking by on the pavement stop and stand on tiptoes to smell the blooms. I have even seen some of them cut a stem and take it away. I don’t mind… I like to share the beauty of Jasmina and it saves me some work when pruning time comes.

So if you are looking for a rambler with strong stems and an abundance of flowers, I would definitely recommend Rosa ‘Jasmina’. May she give you happiness for years to come.

Happy gardening!

Article in Artists & Illustrators

I have an article in the Artists & Illustrators magazine summer edition.

The article is what they call a “masterclass” and the subject is a sunflower. Here is a preview of the first 2 pages:

sunflowerarticle1

Happy reading!

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A list of slug-proof plants

As my garden is completely organic, slug pellets are prohibited. The organic status makes sure we have plenty of birds and lots of happy bees, but we also have a healthy population of snails and slugs. We also heard from the Hampshire Wildlife Trust that hedgehogs are dying by the thousands, killed by second-hand poisoning, after eating poisoned slugs and snails. The consequences are dire: apart from the tragic all time low in hedgehog numbers, this in turn causes a proliferation of gastropods.

Because we don’t like to kill things, even ugly squishy slimy slugs, death traps are not an option either in the Flora’s Patch garden.

As for snails, I actually quite like them, especially the small stripy ones.

The only way left is to plant things they find disgusting or too hairy or spiky for them to climb on. Over the years, the strategy seems to have paid off. The population has naturally been reduced by the lack of delectable food supplies. However, in this year of 2016, slugs seem to be doing particularly well, with a democratic surge that seems to defy the laws of nature.

Fortunately, there are plenty of plants that the snails and slugs will not eat, enough to make a beautiful, nature friendly garden.

Here is a list of plants I have successfully grown so far (I will update each time I find something new):

Agapanthus

Allium

Aquilegia

Bergenia

Bluebells

Buttercups

Daisies

Erigeron

Eryngium

Erysimum

Euphorbia

Ferns

Forget-me-not

Fuchsia

Geranium

Grasses (the ones I tried anyway…)

Honeysuckle

Hydrangea

Japanese Anemones

Hellebores

Jasmine

Lavender

Lilac

Mallow

Muscari

Paeonies

Passion flowers

Pelargonium

Penstemon

Poppies

Roses (Thank goodness, a walled garden without roses is like a kiss without a moustache- that’s a French saying, I’m not sure how well it translates…)

Scabious

Verbena bonariensis

Veronica

Wild primrose

Wild strawberries

Wild violets

If you are a Hosta collector, it might be a problem…

Please feel free to use the comments if you know plants that can be added to this list.

Back to hedgehogs: we have a walled garden, so no hedgehog can find his way in. We are looking to kidnap one from somewhere but no opportunity has so far arisen.

HEDGEHOG APPEAL: if you know a hedgehog in need of a home, please let us know. The garden is walled all around and completely safe and there is plenty to eat. They might have to fend off the odd attempt at stroking or cuddling or being fussed at, but they are spikily well equipped against this kind of things. Thank you…

In the meanwhile, if you haven’t already seen this, it’s worth having a look. If I do get a hedgehog, I will definitely try to feed him carrots:

YouTube link:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vn0flJnBXD0