I set up this Blog in 2009, when I first had the opportunity to travel to China to paint plants discovered by the Irish plant collector Augustine Henry in the late 1800’s. The biodiversity in China is astounding, and I returned in May 2010 to continue recording some of the flora.

When I’m painting, it’s difficult to keep a website up-to-date, and my postings can become quite sporadic.

But I want to be able to show what I’m creating, so I try to get my work professionally scanned – if you go to the “Illustrations” tab, you’ll see some of the work I did in China.

But here’s a bit of the background to how I came to be here…

I have been painting botanically since 1997 and helped to set up the Bath Society of Botanical Artists in 2002. For two years I taught introductory classes in botanical art on a freelance basis. I exhibit regularly with BSBA and the Society of Floral Painters.

Prior to developing an interest in botanical art I trained as a photographer and film-maker, working in Los Angeles during the 1980s. Back in the UK I changed direction, working almost exclusively in the environmental and social voluntary sector.

In October 2008 I applied for a travelling fellowship from the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust (www.wcmt.org.uk) to paint plants discovered in China by the Irish plant collector Augustine Henry at the end of the late 1800’s.  Henry was a very interesting person – a physician and customs official –  who became fascinated by botany and spent all available time researching botanical species. He developed a close relationship with Kew, and sent literally thousands of herbarium specimens to Kew, discovering a great many new species.

Many of these plants have been introduced widely, including Emmenopterys henryi, a tree which is now rare in its native country, and protected. And it was this tree that caused me to travel half-way across the world to try to find it, in the wild, and paint it in flower.

That was an interesting journey – I didn’t quite achieve what I set out to do, but I realised that the actual journey was the achievement, not the goal.

After several weeks pursuing my original objective – and getting quite frustrated – I spent the next three weeks of the eight fellowship at Kunming Botanical Gardens painting medicinal plants – some of which were discovered by Henry. I couldn’t have have had better support – everyone was extremely helpful.

I then headed north. Through Dali and Lijiang to Zhongdian (Shangri-La) where I made good connections with the voluntary sector. The area is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site for Biodiversity and it seemed that there might be some synergy there somewhere in the future.

December 2009 I flew back to England, but returned to Yunnan province in May 2010 to work with The Nature Conservancy(TNC) and Laojunshan National Park to produce a Flower Trail Guide. For all sorts of reasons this didn’t work out.

I then had an invitation to create a portfolio of Botanical Illustrations for a community medicinal plant garden through the Institute of Systematic Botany, University of Zürich, in the town of Shaxi, between Dali and Lijiang.

This resulted in a portfolio of over 20 botanical illustrations of Bai medicinal plants to compliment the development of a community medicinal plant garden. The illustrations will be used for educational and publicity purposes.

I’ve also painted Tibetan medicinal plants.  Whenever I get a chance, I’ve headed up to Zhongdian, the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) in the north of Yunnan province. I would like very much to set up a project to teach Tibetan children to draw and paint Tibetan medicinal plants, as a way of re-connecting them with their environmental and cultural heritage.

But I’m now back here  – and making a living in England from botanical illustrations is extremely difficult. Whilst I believe the opportunities are greater in China, time will tell…

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