|"An understanding of the natural world and what's in it, |
is a source of not only a great curiosity but great fulfillment." David Attenborough
A curious mind is an essential part of being a botanical artist, so when I was asked by Howard Fox, botanist at the National Botanic Gardens, to get involved with the Ellen Hutchins bicentenary celebrations, I said
To be honest, at the time I really didn’t know much about Ellen Hutchins, other than she was Ireland’s first woman botanist and died two hundred years ago.
Reading about her life, I soon realised that she was really quite extraordinary. As well as being blessed with an uncanny ability to discover new and rare plants, she was also a talented botanical artist. In her short life (she tragically died aged 29), she managed to overcome great hardships and illness, and gain international recognition for her achievements. She had a number of plants named after her, and her work was included in a number of publications.
Her paintings of seaweeds which were on display in Bantry House for the festival are simply exquisite. She must have had superb eyesight because the detail is just astonishing.
You can read more about Ellen’s life here http://www.ellenhutchins.com/ellen-hutchins/
|A selection of Ellen's letters and books on display at Bantry House|
Madeline Hutchins, her great great grandniece, has definitely inherited some of Ellen’s drive and enthusiasm. For the past year she has been relentlessly tracking down Ellen’s letters and artwork from museums and herbaria. Together with Clare Heardman (Glengarriff Woods Nature Reserve) and Angela O’Donovan (Bantry Historical Society), they put together a really impressive programme of events for the Ellen Hutchins Festival in Bantry, co.Cork.
|Beautiful Bantry Bay|
It was a wonderful opportunity to throw my paints and brushes into the car and head to the beautiful west coast of Ireland. I had to smile because when you get to Cork, there is simply a big sign on the road that just says “To the West” and you just follow that road until you reach the sea!
The exhibition was being held in Bantry House, formerly the home of the Earl of Bantry, and still retains a lot of it’s former glory with sweeping vistas over the bay.
I was given the honour of opening the exhibition and also asked to give a botanical art demo.
|Ellen's work hangs on the walls above my table|
As Ellen was best known for her interest in algae, I thought it would be fun to paint some seaweed. My friend Elaine Mackey had given me some lovely bladderwrack, Fucus vesiculosus, to paint.
It’s twisted curling form was fun to do and it was nice to get out the earth colours once more.
|Bladderwrack study- This is a great subject particularly for the beginner artist as it has some wonderful shapes and doesn't wilt!|