Saturday, 24 May 2014


"Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. 
Live the life you have imagined." 
~Henry David Thoreau

Five years ago I read something that changed the course of my life. 

It was an interview given by Margaret Stevens, former President of the Society of Botanical Artists, to Katherine Tyrrell for her excellent Making a Mark blog. In the interview, they discussed the SBA Distance learning Diploma Course that Margaret was running. You can read the full interview here 

I remember feeling very excited reading about this course. I have always painted but never had any formal training. Inspired by a visit to the Shirley Sherwood Gallery, I had been dreaming of taking up botanical art, but didn’t know how to begin. As I was living in Egypt at the time, this really seemed like the perfect solution- a botanical art course from the comfort of my own home.

To apply for the course, you need to submit a sample of your work. They do state that this is not a course for beginners, so I really wasn't  sure if my work would be good enough to be accepted. 

However nothing ventured, nothing gained!
Encouraged by a friend, I sent off my application form, daring at my own audacity to dream so big. 

clementine (Citrus ×clementina) done before the SBA course

Clementine studies done during the course. I had started to learn about disappearing edges here.
A recent study of a calamondin fruit (× Citrofortunella microcarpa)

Fortunately my application was successful, and I took to my studies like a duck to water. I loved doing the course. The feedback from the tutors was informative and insightful, and very quickly I could see improvements in my work. I cringe now when I look back at my submission efforts, but sometimes it’s good to look back and realise how far you have progressed.

The SBA DLDC course taught me to me methodical, observant and patient. These are preparatory studies for one of the assignments (mixed flowers)

Studies of red and yellow dates (Phoenix dactylifera) done before the course
Red dates (Phoenix dactylifera) 2013  It's quite gratifying to see the improvement!

I finished the course in 2012 with a distinction, a wealth of botanical knowledge and best of all, a circle of friends who shared my passion for art and the natural world.
I could have stopped there, but still I dreamed. The SBA have been both encouraging and supportive to me, and I really wanted to become a full member. It isn’t easy to do. Getting a distinction meant that I needed to submit six paintings to become an associate member, and then a further five the following year.

Starting out, this seemed like an impossible ambition, but this week, my dreams came true.
I flew to London and was presented with my Society of  Botanical Artists Certificate of Membership!


 It was fantastic to meet my fellow students who also became full members, Janet Pope and Sarah Wood. Both of these women are wonderful artists who have already begun to win prizes for their work, so I felt really honoured to be standing beside them.

The new members (photograph by Angeline de Meester )

I stood for a moment looking around the room at all the amazing artists who had come to London for the AGM- artists whose work I have long admired, artists whose names are now as familiar to me as the colours in my paintbox, artists whose work fills me with both inspiration and awe… they are all SBA members. I dared to dream, and it came true.

If you are interested in studying botanical art, the SBA Distance Learning Diploma Course might be the right course for you. Applications close on September 30th 2014, so application forms and a sample of work must be received by the Course Director by then. You can read more about the course here-

"Four steps to achievement: 
Plan purposefully. Prepare prayerfully. Proceed positively. Pursue persistently."
~William Arthur Ward


  1. Hello Shevaun ...Hearty congratulations on your full membership to SBA. That is an amazing feat. I am glad that you included your before AND after studies. If you look closely at your before studies they are also amazing. The after studies glow in their intensity and one can see the beautiful progress you made during the course. WOW! Wonderful, wonderful work. You should be so proud.

    1. Carole, that is such a lovely thing to say. Thank you. I wanted to include the older studies just to show the progression. I really didn't think I would even get on the course, let alone become a full member. It's amazing! I hope that by sharing this, other people will take that step. If you don't try, you will never find out.

  2. Well done Shevaun! Total dedication and hard work, you are an inspiration!

    1. Jess... you're so sweet! We've come a long way together. Thank you.

  3. A very well deserved recognition for your amazing work Shevaun. It's nice to see how your paintings have evolved from excellent to perfection! I admire your skills, your hard work, your methodical studies, your sense of beauty and best of all your kindness. Congratulation!!! You could be a great tutor ;)

    1. Thank you Maria. What a really nice thing to say. I wish you the best with the SBA course and hope that you get as much satisfaction and enjoyment from it as I have done. Hopefully it will be you getting your certificate as a full member in a few years time. I'll be there to cheer you on!

  4. Shevaun - it's been wonderful both to be the stimulus for your success - although credit for that really needs to go the kindness of Margaret in giving me that interview - and then to be able to follow you through every stage of the Diploma and your subsequent successes.

    For other readers I got this wonderful letter from Shevaun fairly early on telling me how she's signed up for the course after reading the interview and I've been featuring her on my blog ever since. I'll never ever forget the purple carrots done under fire of the uprising in Egypt - and then seeing them again a couple of weeks ago in the SBA show!

    I wish you well in your next assignment - an RHS Gold Medal! :) I've got a few tips about those as well...... ;)

    1. Katherine, I have a feeling that I'll be thanking you often over the years to come. You really have done so much to promote botanical art over the years. Your blog is just brilliant. It wasn't just me who was inspired by that interview...I have met so many people since who have said the same to me. As for the RHS, well, I am already really excited by our little talk at the have such brilliant ideas! I met Gael Sellwood this week (she won a gold medal and the best in show at the RHS) and she recommended that I read your blog too!! But best of all is that I now count you as a friend... that is worth more than any gold medal.

  5. Dear Shevaun, let me first of all congrat you with your achievement. Wow, must feel very excited that you accomplished this!
    I know it's nice but also hard to study at home. I did interior design and had 3 children to look after.
    Please keep on writing and drawing (or should I say painting?)
    Because I think a whole bunch of people are enjoying your blog!
    Wish you a colourful creative day!

    1. Maria, thank you so much- I need encouragement like that! I have to say that keeping a blog has been great for me because it really keeps me focused. I'm glad that you are enjoying reading the blog- I hope you feel inspired to get painting too!

  6. Shevaun, I can relate so much to this. Your words are very inspiring and encouraging to others to dream big. I still am pinching myself that I not only got into the course, but completed it! (I felt like I was on the brink of disaster through much of the course because of the huge learning curve required.) Seeing the progression of your work is a visual treat--from good to fantastic! Thanks for the post.

    1. Janene, I really think that the SBA course has done us both proud. This year has certainly been an incredible one for me and like you, I'm constantly pinching myself! I am sure that many good things lie ahead for you too. Best of luck and thank you for your support.


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