Morning! This is my first studio blog post so I’ll be introducing myself quickly then diving into the depths of my recent collaboration with Botanical Being

My name is Laura and I create botanical art and illustrations inspired by the quintessential English countryside I am surrounded by in Suffolk and the Norfolk Broads. I like to use wild plants often found on the road side and am inspired in particular by native British wildlife. You can mostly find me walking the dog in the Suffolk countryside or exploring the Norfolk Broads on our boat – where I simply paint and drink coffee on the back deck, no hard work sailing for me! I began creating my botanical art as a hobby and slowly it has grown, with more and more private commissions which I like to call ‘garden portraits’ and I have recently launched my first print collection. One print from the collection of 3 titled ‘British Wildflowers’ has been specifically created in collaboration with the wildlife charity Plantlife and £5 of each sale goes towards helping regenerate our natural biodiversity and bring back English meadows – 97% of which has disappeared since the 1930’s.

Having joined Waveney and Blyth Arts group I have recently been looking to expand my practice and techniques. I occasionally use a bit of technology to create my botanical prints which are illustrated on the iPad and whilst this has added another layer to my art practice I have found it a bit clinical and therefore, have been looking for ways to further explore my subject matter.

For this reason, I have recently had an afternoon exploring how to make botanical inks with Botanical Being (Wickham Market, Suffolk). Her studio/gallery space is stunning and immediately smells of the wonderful handmade soaps and fabric dyes created within the space. It is filled with botanical treasures and her own hand dyed eco-fashions and homewares. Throughout the afternoon I learnt how to create ink using foraged plants and bug extracts. Using natural treasures such as walnuts, horse chestnut, cochineal and even chlorophyll we created a surprisingly vast range of coloured inks which I am lucky enough to have brought back to my home studio to experiment with.

The inks we created range from yellows (made from Coreopsis), sap green (with extracts of chlorophyll), walnut browns (created using walnuts and horse chestnuts) and warm pinks and purples (from Lac and Cochineal). I was amazed at how Mother Nature offers such vibrant colours, all from sustainable, mostly local sources. I have to say that, being used to using gouache with my watercolours, the inks took some getting used to using. As I usually work with block colours initially and then fill in areas of shadow and highlights. However, with the inks I soon discovered, as with most things, less is more and I needed to be much more delicate than I usually am with the synthetic paints.

However, by slightly changing my approach to a more traditional watercolour technique I think I could push these inks to the limit and get the most out of their natural colours. I am initially going to create a more detailed colour profile of each ink – one we named “Knobbler Black” because it is made from Knobblers. Knobblers are a tiny gall wasp that lays its eggs on an oak tree and the knobbler forms a cocoon around the grubs, these are filled with tannins which adds a velvety darkness to the ink. I will then begin to experiment with how I can use the inks in my botanical artwork, perhaps painting on washes with finer penned details.

Perhaps because I have recently not been used to playing around with my style, I am a tad concerned with how the these experimental pieces will sit with my existing portfolio of botanical illustrations, most of which are bold and very colourful. But I may try adding some final flashes of colour with my trusted gouache and even using my recognisable gouache backgrounds underneath the botanical inks. I’m very excited to be able to experiment and develop my artistic style further and what better way to do that than with sustainable eco-materials I helped make!

This is certainly going to be an interesting journey…

Please do keep checking back to see how Botanical Being and I have been experimenting and if you have any questions please do comment. Thanks for reading my first post!