Monday 16 January 2017


I've been asked by the Hortus botanicus in Haren (the Netherlands) to give some courses about Botanical Illustration. I put together a full program of different courses throughout the year, starting next April.
If you want to join me there you can look at the schedule on the website of the Hortus (in Dutch).
For more information you can contact me via


Sunday 17 May 2015

Red List Plants

You might have wondered where I've been and what I've been doing for the last few months. Well, it has been hectic and busy. I didn't want to blog about this project until it was finished. And finishing it took quite some time. I already blogged that I had a tennisarm again. That didn't help at all. But I had a deadline and with that darn arm I kept on working. Now, I'm very happy to say, all the paintings are finished!!! So let me tell you what this project is all about....

About half a year ago Karin Hoogterp, who works at the botanical garden "De Kruidhof" in Buitenpost, asked me if I would be interested in doing an exhibition with them. I love the gardens and I knew Karin from some previous adventures. She told me about the project "BeschermDe Planten" ("Protect the Plants"). This year the garden will (like many other botanical gardens in the Netherlands) focus on plants that are on the Red List of endangered plants in the Netherlands. To tell and show people more about the importance of protecting endangered plants is the main goal.
I selected ten plants of the Red List growing in De Kruidhof to portrayal them. The list is long and many of the Red List are actually growing in Buitenpost in the botanical garden. I'll tell you something about them but let me show you first the entire series.

It's nice to see them all together like this. I was very fortunate to have already two of the list that I have painted some time ago. Maybe you remember the Allium ursinum (top row left), which I painted for the SBA exhibition a few years ago. The other one is even older. It's Scilla siberica (top row right). It was done when I started with coloured pencil and I made it on cold pressed paper.

Anyway, with those two ready I could focus on the the other 8. I thought I'd start "easy" with Tulipa sylvestris (top row, middle). It's yellow and I don't like yellow. But since this is the only wild tulip we have in the Netherlands, I thought it should be on my list of 10 too. I wanted to show the elegance of the tulip. And I had asked myself if I should add more tulips in the painting. I decided not to. Not sure if that was a wise decision but on it's own it looks good enough. Perhaps with more time and with real plants to work with, I would have done a different composition, using more flowers and maybe also the bulbs. But this is it and it's not ugly.

I then started the Calla palustris. I thought it would be great fun but when I started to paint I ruined the leaves. I started again and it turned out terrible once again. At least I thought it looked terrible:

The striped leaves drove me crazy and so I put it away for a few months. Finally last week I got it out again and for half an hour tried again to save it. It didn't work. So again, I started all over from scratch and in a few days finished it. Not super but good enough.

For each of the plants I had to think what I wanted to show and what would be the best way to do it. One of the things I constantly had to keep in mind was that I had a limited amount of time. When I started on the Geum rivale I had to make concessions. Normally I would have painted more flower stems. That's how they grow together, like a round clump of leaves and flowering stems. But the flowers are a bit complicated, the seeds are even more difficult. So I decided to do just one stem with several stages of flowering and a line drawing of a leaf in the back. It worked. Although in this scan you can't see the effect very well.

One of my favourite plants I have in my own garden is Geranium phaeum or Mourning Widow. It looks so beautiful between all the spring flowers. So naturally I wanted to paint this one too. Like the Geum rivale it's often seen in gardens but in the wild it's a very rare plant. It seems strange since they both behave a bit like weeds. The nice thing about this project is that now I know these plants also grow in the wild here. I never realised that before. I always thought to these plants as garden plants and I had never noticed them in the wild. I hope people who will visit the exhibition will realise the same thing.
Anyway, the Geranium was a lot of fun to paint. The dark red is always a favourite colour so this was a real treat. I kept the composition happy and airy. Even though the widow is in mourning I didn't want to make this a serious and heavy one.

And what was next? Tragopogon porrifolius. What??? I know, it sounds like some sort of dinosaur. It actually is the Latin name of Purple Salsify. Another plant I chose for a reason. This plant grows only in a few parts in the Netherlands. One of the areas it grows is very close to where I live. In the western part of the province of Groningen. The plant has a few things that are worth showing. The nice coloured flowers of course and the huge seedheads. A real adventure to paint those.

After the Purple Salsify I felt like doing the rose. There are several roses on the Red List but I picked Rosa spinosissima (Burnet Rose) because it has been one of my favourite roses for many years. To be honest I have never seen it in the wild before, only in botanical gardens. Especially the black hips look very attractive to me. So I sketched the rose, put it on paper and added the colours with coloured pencils. It looked so good that I had to come to the conclusion that adding the black hips would not make this drawing better or more beautiful. The flowers and black hips don't appear at the same time on the plant so I had to do a separate twig with hips. An extra twig would not look good in this drawing. Perhaps I'll do this rose again, making a different composition and with the hips on another twig. For now, just the flowers and a LOT of prickles.

I tried a bit to do the more difficult plants at the end. Rosa spinosissima was complex. All the prickles, white flowers, small leaves... but it made me confident enough to do another plant with very light flowers: Aconitum vulparia or Wolf's Bane or Yellow Monkshood. Gosh that plant was fun!!! Loved the colour, loved the dancing movements of the stems and at the end, I also loved the painting itself.

Having done that one, I only had one more plant to do. And I've postponed it all this time. I even asked myself why I told Karin I would do two different kinds of this plant. I must have been crazy. But I really thought the list of 10 should have at least one wild orchid. Here in this part of the country we have several wild orchids growing. I decided to do two of my favourites. They are both Epipactis orchids. The first is the Marsh Helleborine (Epipactis palustris), a true beauty, the second is the Broad-Leaved Helleborine (Epipactis helleborine), which colours and length may vary depending on the place where it grows. But they are orchids and orchids have complex flowers. So I just started painting and I think it turned out ok. As a small extra I painted a small wasp on one of the flowers. The reason for that is that the Dutch name is Wespenorchis, which means Wasp Orchid.

Anyway... that's it. I'm going to bring my work to the botanical garden this week and some postcards will be sold in their shop. I loved doing this series but am very happy I can now do some other drawings too and most of all, give my arm that well deserved rest.

Wednesday 21 January 2015

Ink Flow

I've had a tennisarm for quite a while and it's driving me crazy. Yup, that's one of the reasons why I didn't post something new. Although it's getting better everyday I still can't use it well for painting and drawing like I want to. I have a pile of work waiting for me with a deadline so it's hard sometimes not to get too frustrated. To take my mind of this project waiting for me to continue (and finish in time!) I had to do something to keep me busy.

A friend of mine advised me to take my new ink and my dipping pen and start making quick sketches. No time wasting on observing every little detail, making numerous studies before I really started... no, nothing of that this time. Just sit and sketch with pen and ink.

The first drawing wasn't free at all. I did a sketch first and traced the pencil lines with the dipping pen. The result was nice but not much more than that:

Pyrola rotundifolia (Round-Leaved Wintergreen)

The drawings after this one were much better. Now I must say that I have done this in the past but had totally lost it over the last ten years or so. It's such a relief to let myself go again and not to worry about the mistakes. I HAVE to accept that mistakes will happen and that I can't undo them. I always enjoy much more the sketchbooks and the direct sketches and studies of other artists than their "finished" work. It sounds silly but it never occurred to me that my own sketches might have that same kind of charm.

So for these drawings, I'll show you three here, I made the drawing with my dipping pen (a Speedball pen with Hunt nib 22, extra fine) and three kinds of ink: J. Herbin 'Cacao du Brésil' and 'Vert Olive' and Winsor & Newton Matt Black Calligraphy Ink. Also did wet-in-wet washes with those inks for shape and depth.

Rose hip

Dried Beech leaves in winter

Iris siberica seedpods
Winter subjects with dried old dead stuff is perfect for doing these sketches. So for this the timing is good. Although I really rather have my good arm back and draw for the next exhibition...

Sunday 23 November 2014

I like big bulbs and I can not lie

Next year the society of Dutch botanical artists will get the opportunity to show their work in the Shirley Sherwood gallery in Kew Gardens, London. The mission is to show lots of paintings and drawings of bulb flowers. Naturally it will have the tulips. I guess there is no avoiding those. But I definitely didn't want to portrait tulips, Narcissus, crocuses or hyacinths. There are so many flowering bulbs worth looking at and many much more appealing than the regular narcissus and tulip. So I picked two of my favourite bulbs. Large and gorgeous. First Fritillaria persica:

I did it in coloured pencil and I love how this flower moves like a dancer, swaying her hips.

The second one is Galtonia viridiflora. Not a very common bulb but I have had them in my garden for years and just love the green/cream coloured elegant bells. This one I started in watercolour but half way decided it would look better in coloured pencil.

Hope they both will be admitted for the exhibition in London and that many of you will be able to visit the exhibition. Of course I'll post the announcement of the opening and exact dates here and on Facebook. Until then I'll get started with my next (fun) project. More about that in future posts too ;)

Tuesday 23 September 2014


Zantedeschia 'Schwarzwalder', that's her name. I'm sure it's a she. All those delicious curves. And I think that her name doesn't suit her at all. Far too butch for how she looks. So let's just go for Calla. That's what everyone calls her anyway.

I made Calla for the 30 day challenge on Facebook. You can read more about it in a previous post. Because many people are very partial to "black" plants and flowers I decided to post this one here too. I did it this evening using watercolour and coloured pencils. Black colours are wonderful to mix and to paint with. So deep and rich.... hmmmm....

Sunday 21 September 2014

Kunstformen der Natur 2014

Yesterday was the opening of the exhibition "Kunstformen der Natur 2014". Ria Penthum, Martin Horneman, Ron Offermans and myself show our work inspired by the beauties and wonders we can all find in nature. Ten of my works are in this exhibit and most of them are for sale. Besides us are also some pages shown from the book "Kunstformen der Natur" by Ernst Haeckel, the inspiration of the show. The exhibition can be visited until the 15th of November at Atelier Horneman in Groningen.

Sunday 14 September 2014

Arum italicum - finished

So, as promised, here's the finished Arum italicum in coloured pencil. Always a bit of a challenge to scan the reds but this time my scanner did fairly well. I'll send it soon to my friend in England. Hope it will bring a smile to her face :)