Botanical Illustration Live: Hawthorn at the Barnes Lecture

Story posted: Thursday, 3. November 2016 by Lizzie Harper

I recently did botanical illustration live for an audience at the Metripole Hotel in Llandrindod.  The event was the annual Barnes lecture, organised as a fundraiser for Radnorshire Wildlife Trust (RWT), and was open to members and non-members.  The success of “The Hedgerow Handbook” and “The Garden Forager” has meant Adele Nozedar (the author) and I (the illustrator) have been invited to do several of these events; they’re always great fun, and we were honoured and delighted to be able to present 2016’s Barnes Lecture.

Hedgerow handbook Garden Forager by Adele Nozedar illustrated by Lizzie Harper botanical and scientific illustrator

Hedgerow handbook Garden Forager by Adele Nozedar illustrated by Lizzie Harper

I arrived, and with the help of my other half (the cabinet maker Andy Dix) we set up a stall selling greetings cards, original watercolours, and copies of the book. I also had my sketchbooks and portfolio for people to flick through.

Lizzie Harper botanical illustrator Barnes lecture

Stall of books, original paintings and greetings cards, manned by Andy

Earlier in the day I went out into the fields and hedgerows to see what was not only growing, but looking good.  It was a no-brainer to settle on Hawthorn Craetegus montana since this year the berries are a glorious dark crimson, and are ridiculously prolific.

Lizzie Harper botanical illustrator Barnes lecture

Hawthorn in its autumn glory in a field in Hay-on-Wye

I chose a few sprigs, and then settled down, perched on the edge of the stage, to do a sketchbook style illustration of this wild plant.

Lizzie Harper botanical illustrator Barnes lecture

Sketchbook study of Hawthorn

I was asked to draw live into a “visualiser” which projected my drawings, in real time, onto a screen behind me as Adele talked about some of the plants featured in the books.

Lizzie Harper botanical illustrator Barnes lecture

Visualiser, drawing and painting equipment, and plants ready to go.

Adele was brilliant, regaling the audience with tales of foraging and folklore; suggesting all sorts of exciting alcoholic infusions, memories of traditional names and uses of plants we often overlook as weeds; she even got us to try and summon a hummingbird god (to be honoured, if I remember rightly, with flowers of Love-lies-bleeding or Amaranth).

I love listening to her as I draw, and despite being on a stage, and in effect “performing”,  it feels very much like I’m in my studio at home, listening to the radio and happily illustrating.

Lizzie Harper botanical illustrator Barnes lecture

Drawing hawthorn live

I had minor troubles because although there was a light shining directly onto the paper, it didn’t illuminate the hawthorn smoothly, so when I got to putting paint on the drawing it was a challenge to record the tones correctly.

Lizzie Harper botanical illustrator Barnes lecture

Lizzie Harper illustrating and Adele Nozedar talking at the RWT Barnes lecture

In theory, my finished sketch would have looked a little like the study from my sketchbook, however time was tight, so I got less detail down than I might have liked.

Over the years I have also completed finished botanical illustrations of hawthorn for clients, this plant gets requested quite often.

Lizzie Harper botanical illustrator Barnes lecture Hawthorn Craetegus montana

After a break where I got to chat to some of the folks that had come along, we sold a few copies of the book and some greetings cards; then it was back to work.  I did a sketchbook study of a geranium (again, not as fully worked as the study below) as Adele talked about lilac, nettles and ground elder, and took lots of questions.

Lizzie Harper botanical illustrator Barnes lecture

Botanical sketchbook illustration of geranium (from "The Garden Forager")

It was a really good evening; the audience were friendly and engaged, and RWT sold about 70 tickets, which means the fundraising event was a success.  For me, it’s always a treat to be on stage with Adele; she’s the perfect mix of wise, charming, and funny.  Guaranteed to relax me as I draw live in front of an audience.

On another topic entirely, I'm afraid I've had to turn off the "comments" button on my blogs due to spamming.  If you would like to give any comments or feedback, please do so on my Facebook page or Twitter account or email me at  Many many thanks; and apologies.


Category:  Scientific Illustrator out and about   |   Comments:  0   |   Viewed:  1167

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