Blog Archive

Wednesday, 4 July 2018


 I cannot draw the plants without thinking about their survival.  They need pollinators. In the wildlife garden at work, we have a bee hotel and I have been amazed by what I have learned and as a result have become very interested in the solitary bees.   

There are 267 species of bee in the UK.  Everybody knows about the honeybee and the bumblebee, but most bees are solitary. That is, they don't live in social groups. In the case of the Red Mason bee, the males hatch first then hover around waiting for the females to hatch.  As soon as they do, they mate and then go.  The female then looks for somewhere to lay her eggs.  This is where bee hotels come in.  She crawls into one of these tubes and leaves a little ball of pollen, then lays an egg on top and blocks of the compartment with mud or leaves. She repeats this until the tube is full.  As the males emerge first, she lays these eggs last.  It's completely fascinating!  A female will lay 20-30 eggs in her lifetime.  They will stay in these tubes until next summer when the cycle will start all over again. 

Solitary bees are much more efficient pollinators than honey bees, as they drop pollen more easily.  Red Mason bees are one of the first to emerge and they are good for pollinating fruit trees, whose blossom appears in early spring.  Blue Mason bees come next and Leaf cutter bees (yes, they cut up leaves for their nest compartments) emerge later.   I haven't found out about anyone else yet!  I'm waiting for the wildlife gardener to come back. He knows everything. 

I do know that some of the bees make nests underground (Mining bees, of course) and some of the bees are really tiny and don't look like bees at all.  Well they do look like bees, but not bees as most people imagine. 

Life is great in a wildlife garden. It changes all the time.  There is always something new to learn. Pay attention next time you spot a bee "hotel" in your local park or nature reserve.  It's really interesting!

I have drawn a dandelion, one of the first spring flowers, giving us brilliant yellow after the grey of winter and providing early pollen for the bees that come early. 

Here is a red mason bee going into her nest.

Some of the holes are blocked off with mud, that she has got from the pond.  (See how it's all linked). 

Right I'm off to draw bees.  Hopefully I will have something to show you very soon.  I have exhibitions in September and November, so I need to look as busy as a bee.

Monday, 25 June 2018

Roots and bees

 We dug up dandelions. For two reasons, one I wanted them to draw and two, he needed to get them out of the allotment before they turned into a ball of seeds.  I've been drawing them ever since.  First of all they did turn into clocks.  Even when they are out of water and all dried up, the flowers turn into seeds.  The roots lost their flowers to seeds and the leaves died down and I put the roots in water.  They have now grown new leaves.

The roots are interesting.  I have drawn roots before.  I love the twisting and turning of them, as they find their way deeper into the ground.

Working through some ideas here, with monotypes and mixed media.  Crayons, water colours, pencil.

The circles on the drawing are inspired by the bee hotels we have at work.  The solitary bees are absolutely fascinating.  All together there are 267 species of bees in the UK.  267!  I am going to continue with research into the bees and drawing bee homes, but meanwhile thought I would catch up with quick post as it's been a while.

Monday, 9 April 2018

Fossils and prints.

 I've been making some prints, using colographs and plants, layering up the colours to see what happens; they remind me of fossils. Something to do with the hidden showing through.   I just love fossils, they are always fascinating.   I can't comprehend the billions of years that life has continued for and how I am looking at an ancient life form.  I have a few fossils, collected over the years, at Robin Hood's bay, mainly.  Awe.... really doesn't do it justice!   This is a rock I found on a beach in Cleveland.  There were loads like this, just full of fossils.  That North East coast is great and everyone goes to Dorset. Long may it continue!!

I found a poem by Lindley Williams Hubbell.  I hope it's ok to post an excerpt of it here.  Rather a lovely poem about fossils.  Captures the wonder.

.............. But these
Exquisite fern-like forms
Printed on the rock,
these fragile plants that have 
survived the storms
Of some odd billion years
Move me almost to tears

So I come here often 
to see these delicate stems
Breathed on rock like frost
crystals on a window,
But permanently
But forever.
This rock is my favourite book,
my favourite picture,
my dependable scripture,
My sense of wholeness, a 
billion years at my elbow.

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Updated writings about the plants I am drawing.

I have been updating and editing my writing.  Most has appeared on this blog before, but I wanted to include a little booklet at my exhibition.  Just describing the plants and why I like to draw them.

Alliara petiolata

Jack-by-the-Hedge/Hedge garlic/Poor man's mustard/garlic mustard.  Take your pick.   

I found this in the wildlife garden at Roots and Shoots.  It was growing under an oak tree.  Earlier in the spring (March time) I had seen it growing in the woods at Northwood Hill. It had made me feel that spring was really on the way and was therefore, very cheering.   You find it in these woodland locations, because it really doesn’t like the glare of the sun.  Over wintering rosettes of leaves can often be found and eaten, even in the depths of winter.

The crushed leaves taste rather like Garlic and mustard. (Surprisingly!)  As it is so abundant, it is ok to pick it and eat it. You can make a delicious pesto with it (so I read, I have never tried it).  It’s best eaten raw and when very young. The older leaves are tough and not so nice.  The leaves look pretty in salad.

I think it's rather a comely plant.  It starts as small heart shaped leaves and grows quite tall, so that in summer it grows to over a metre.  It has groups of tiny, white, four petalled flowers growing from the top of the flower spike. When the flowers finish they leave thin, green pods containing the seeds.

The plant can be made into a poultice for treating cuts and wounds and is also used in medicines as an anti-asthmatic, antiseptic.  It can treat worms and bronchial complaints.  It also helps with rheumatism and gout and has diuretic properties. 

Agrimonia eupatoria

 Described as “a pretty yellow spire of flowers”, this is a bright and joyful plant in the summer.  This is growing in the Roots and Shoots garden too.  In the summer it has small, but numerous flowers, arranged closely on long, slender stems, growing up to 60 cms.  It is sometimes called “Aaron’s Rod”.
It is an all round miracle plant too.  According to the Bach Flower Remedy school of thought “the lesson of this plant is to enable you to hold your peace in the presence of all the trials and difficulties until no one has the power to cause you irritation” and
“to soothe all those tormented in body or mind and bring them peace”.   Shouldn’t we be prescribing it to world leaders? It’s all so simple.

In Saxon times, this was lauded as a plant to heal warts and snake bites!  Yes another plant for snake bites.  In the times of Chaucer it was mixed with mugwort for a bad back and "alle" manner of "woundes".  In fact it's an all round good sort.  It has been said to cure jaundice and other liver complaints.  I found a blog that quotes someone called Gerard who says "A decoction of the leaves is good for them that have naughty livers".  I must do more research.  I'm sure I know people who have "naughty" livers.

The flowers can be used for making a yellow dye.  

In the autumn the flowers give way to seed pods that have tiny hooks. Common names for these are cockeburr, sticklewort or stickwort.  Walk past it in a cardigan and you'll be an unwitting carrier of this plant, taking it far and wide.  

Senica Vulgaris

This little plant pops up all over the place.  It is a small little annual, with little disc floret in bright yellow. These quickly turn to seed (bit like a dandelion) which break up in the wind and distribute the seeds far and wide. It survives throughout the year and can survive ground frost.  It’s a keeper then!  This is why it is considered to be invasive.  It is still a wildflower though and I won’t hear of it being called a “weed”.  As Ralph Waldo Emerson says: a weed is “A plant whose virtues have not been discovered”.  It is a native  plant and is a member of the family Asteraceae.

The name Selenico is probably derived from senix (which means old man).  The flowers turn white and look like hair and when they blow away they leave a bald plant.  
Groundsel has a place in our folk lore -  'A little plant called groundsel was a good cure for a head ache'.  Of course, it is useful for many other human conditions: for gout, it was recommended to ‘pound it with lard, lay it to the feet and it will alleviate the disorder’. 
Don’t try to eat it though, it’ll make you sick.  In the days of yore, it was used to ‘purge’ the stomach.
I like it because when I take a print on the gelli plate, it is perfect! Somehow this plant, that looks like nothing much, has extraordinary detail. The little flower heads are just perfect.

Taraxacun officinale

Dandelions, the first flower we can identify when very young, along with buttercups and daisies, of course.  Another weed, that allotment lovers, love to hate.  Deep roots, promiscuous seeds and very, very good at rapidly colonising a bare patch of soil.  Or even a densely populated patch of soil! 

There are a few different species in this family.
 I wasn't fond of them when I had an allotment.  Other allotment holders hate you if you let your dandelions run wild.  

Dandelion's flowers open in the morning with the sun, and close in the evening. It is one of the first flowers to bloom in early spring and one of the last go dormant in winter.  It prefers cooler weather so will not flower so much during the summer.  Dandelions are vital to the bees as they provide nectar early and late in the season. They are very beautiful too.  I have been looking at them closely.  I want to see them under a microscope and I want to see what their pollen looks like.  I love the feathery seeds when they disperse. They are a perfect design, perfect!  I haven't met anyone who didn't enjoy blowing the dandelion "clock" when a child.

Dandelions can adapt to any terrain and although they prefer loose soil, they can grow between the cracks in the pavement and out of walls. They certainly have a staying power, and grow back in their sunshiny glory even after being attacked by the lawn mower.

I read lovely piece of writing about the staying power of the dandelion. This is the end of it. It is by someone called Donna Doyan.

"I hope we can be different. I hope that we can stretch our roots 
deep enough that the strongest poison can't reach our souls. I hope that we can overcome the poisons of anger, fear, hate, criticism and competitiveness I hope that we can see flowers in a world that sees weeds."  

I have eaten the leaves in a salad and I enjoyed them. They are rich in vitamins A, C with lots of iron and calcium too.  Apparently dandelions give off ethylene gas, which ripens fruit.  It is said that fruit farmers let them grow under fruit trees for this purpose.  

Viper’s bugloss
Echium vulgare

I came across swathes of this, growing in Deptford at the Creekside Centre.  It is beautiful.  The flowers start out as pink and turn blue.  The plant provides food for many insects including Buff-tailed and Red-tailed Bumblebees, Large Skipper and Painted Lady Butterflies, Honey Bees and Red Mason Bees.

William Cole offered that "Viper's Bugloss hath its stalks all to be speckled like a snake or a viper, and is a most singular remedy against poyson and the sting of scorpions" in his 1656 work "The Art of Simples" (medicinal herbs were called Simples, as the practice of using herbs medicinally was called Simpling).

Try not to eat it in large quantities though, it might affect your liver!  That's if you can get past the very hairy stem......

Red campion
Silene dioica

I like the fact that Silene dioica takes its name from the merry god of the woodlands, the old rustic god of the dance of the wine press.  He could tell a good tale.

Each plant has flowers of one sex only (dioica – two halves), so that two plants are needed to make seed.  It provides nectar for bumble-bees and many butterflies, for instance orange-tips and small whites.

Apparently the crushed seeds can be used for snake-bites, another name for it being Adder’s flower.  As far as I know our indigenous snakes are not particularly poisoness and I have already drawn two plants that boast the ability to cure their bites.  The boiled roots can be used to make a soap.

Sweet William
Dianthus barbatus

Sweet william is a native of Southern Europe and parts of Asia. In the wild it has red flowers with a white base.  The flowers are edible and may have a medicinal use.

It is an ornamental plant, but I have included it because I like it and because it has been here since the 16th century. The exact origin of its English common name is unknown, but first appears in 1596 in botanist John Gerard's garden catalogue. Sweet william attracts bees, birds, and butterflies. Sweet william is a favourite name for lovelorn young men in English folkloric ballads, which is quite sweet.

It is part of the family, commonly known as pinks.  Pink actually refers to the crimped edges of the flowers. (pinking shears) and only became known as a colour in the 17th century, so there is an interesting fact.  

My mother loved a 'pink' and I can remember her picking them and holding them under my nose to inhale the sweet spicy scent.  It is a smell that will always be associated with hot summer days.  A happy smell.  The ones I remember don't look much like my Sweet williams, but they are related.  I remember the pale green, sage coloured leaves and that the flowers were less clustered.  The Dianthus family is quite big, but they all look fairly similar when you look carefully.  

Ivy Broomrape
Orobanche hederae.  

Ivy Broomrape.  I assume that the "rape" bit of the name refers to its taking over the host plant. (Etymology of rape 14c: past participle of Latin rapere "seize, carry off by force, abduct"). 

We found this plant on Greenwich Peninsula in June.  We went looking for it specifically (it had been spotted the year before), as I was slightly fascinated and intrigued about a plant that grew, parasitically, on ivy.  Ivy, being the bane of my life.  One day I might need to be cut out of it, like Sleeping Beauty. It threatens to cover my garden, my house and is probably heading for my car!

There was fine specimen on this ivy.  Just next to where they have pulled down the former Sainsbury's. (The one that won lots of design awards, but apparently is no longer fit for purpose.  But that aside, the plant was there). 

It is, as I mentioned, parasitic.  There are a few Broomrapes, most of them are host specific and this one will only grow on ivy.  These parasitic plant lack chlorophyll and are therefore, lacking in colour.  They vary between sex-aid pink and pinky-cream.   Adding the description I found on the internet 
 "reddish purple, glandular hairy and swollen at the base" it makes them sound unspeakable.

The seeds will germinate when they are contact with the host roots.  The seed grows into the root and develops an underground tuber, from which the plant develops.  The hairs are sticky, which is thought to detract non-flying insects.  Bees are encouraged, though, for pollination.  It’s actually quite pretty, despite the description above!

There are many other Broomrapes, and something called Toothwort that appears in early spring, parasitic to hazel, apparently.  I'll be there next April, looking for it! 

Monday, 15 January 2018


31th Jan-4th Feb 2018
An exhibition of drawing and monoprints by Anita Gwynn.
In medieval Latin a florilegium (plural florilegia) was a compilation of excerpts from other writings. The word is from the Latin flos (flower) and legere (to gather): literally a gathering of flowers, or collection of fine extracts from the body of a larger work. It was adapted from the Greek anthologia (ἀνθολογία) “anthology”, with the same etymological meaning.
My artistic practice helps me to look outside of my own life and to see the world. It helps me to relate to it with curiosity and to understand that I am part of it and not separate from it. Ecology and stewardship are important to me, and since my research as an artist, I have come to see that we do not exist in isolation, but as part of a whole. Without plants we wouldn’t survive.
Lewisham Arthouse 140 Lewisham Way, New Cross SE14 6PD
31th Jan-4th February 2018
Wednesday 31st January at 12-6, Thursday 12-6, Friday 12-6 and runs until Saturday 9 pm.
The private view is Saturday evening 7-9.

Saturday, 30 December 2017

FLORILEGIUM - A gathering of flowers.

I've been wondering what to call my upcoming exhibition.  Thought of various titles.  I am showing a collection of work made over the last 4-5 years and most of it is related to flowers, mostly wild, some not so wild.  I have also started including the environment in which I find myself and so 'Bloom' didn't quite work and neither did 'A flower is always a flower.'

Florilegium seems to fit the bill.  I'll enlighten you!

In medieval Latin a florilegium (plural florilegia) was a compilation of excerpts from other writings. The word is from the Latin flos (flower) and legere (to gather): literally a gathering of flowers, or collection of fine extracts from the body of a larger work. It was adapted from the Greek anthologia (ἀνθολογία) "anthology", with the same etymological meaning.

So Floregium: A gathering of flowers; or a collection of FINE extracts from the body or a larger work seems appropriate.  

Some drawings I made last year were of roses.  Roses as they slowly dried up. They were beautiful.

The exhibition is at Lewisham Arthouse 140 Lewisham Way, New Cross SE14 6PD

It opens on Wednesday 31st January at 12-6, Thursday 12-6, Friday 12-6 and runs until Saturday 9 pm.  The private view is Saturday evening 7-9.

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Organising a jigsaw

 It's always hard, after Open Studios, to get the studio back into working shape.  But I'm there now.  Here's a panarama shot of one side of my studio.

I have been working on my small prints and thinking of ways to make them work as a whole.  I think I am getting there, although I have now started a whole new batch.  The idea is coming, it's a process that I am working through, the organisation of ideas.  The making of more ideas.  Hopefully the wall will be fuller by the end of the week.  With more bits of the jigsaw to fit into place.  I will know when I get there, but it might take a while.

I am also working on a book idea.  This is the start.  More jigsaw bits on a hazy horizon, waiting for me to slot them all into place.

Working towards an exhibition in early February too.  I will be updating on this.

Friday, 29 September 2017

OPEN STUDIOS TOMORROW! 30th September/ 1st October 12-8 12-6

Come to Lewisham Arthouse tomorrow.  12-8 
Sunday 12-6.   30 Artists. Plus performances.
Lewisham Arthouse
140 Lewisham Way
SE14 6PD

Bar. Jerk Chicken. Life. Fun. Art. Love. Sense.
ART and more ART.
Yes I've had wine.

Who you calling common?

Who you calling common?

starling sketches

starling sketches
Ongoing work...waiting for a breakthrough!

The Waters of March

The Waters of March

It's the joy in my heart.

It's the joy in my heart.

Collected Items

Collected Items
the broken, the wrinkled and the uneven