The Library of Obscure Wonders

art nature illustration botanical classes workshops

Winter Newsletter


Now winter is here, the leaves have fallen and the days are short. This is a good time to study the branches of trees, to observe and sketch how they connect to each other. Different trees have different types of branches, the oak for instance has knobbly branches and twigs.

Courses next term

The  Online course in Drawing and Painting nature starts again on Tuesday 19th January. It is a ten week course from 18.00 to 20.00. It is  in association with Imperial College and The South London Botanical Institute. Suitable for beginners. Follow this link for more information:

There will also be an offline course at Citylit running all day on Fridays for 6 weeks, starting on the 15th January. Suitable for both beginners and those with some experience.

Youtube Demo

I’ve put some more demo’s up on Youtube.

This link is to a demonstration I did on how to draw an apple using coloured pencils.


I’m not sure whats happening with real-life exhibitions at the moment but here is a good virtual exhibition of drawings of Oak trees.

Painting tip: The rigger brush is very good for painting tree branches in single strokes.

All course dates can be seen on the website

For further information email

Raksha Patel – the use of botanical art with humour and social commentary

The King of the Crop
The Endless Circle

A link to an interesting article on Japanese Flower Painting

Painting from Plants and Flowers

A new course at CityLit starting Monday 9th November. A chance to explore different media and painting techniques.

Starting next week…

It’s been ages since the last newsletter, mainly because nothing much has been happening as far as classes and activities go.  It has been a great time for going out and painting nature though. The tree outside my window is slowly turning a beautiful gold colour with the season. This month we have an online class starting, a Youtube demonstration video, and preparation for a tree project starting in the new year.

Classes and workshops

An Online course in Drawing and Painting nature  starts next Tuesday 13th October. It is a ten week course in association with Imperial College and The South London Botanical Institute. Follow this link:

 The Tree project will include free online workshops and discussions on painting trees and collecting stories about them. All of which will finally form an animation telling folktales about trees. I’m currently applying for funding for this project and will let you know more as things develop.

Youtube Demo

This is my first attempt at a Youtube video. I give a demonstration of how to do a flat wash, and how to do a graduated wash. I minted to do more soon. I hope it is useful:


Wildlife Photographer of the year is now on at the Natural History Museum, book tickets from the website:

The Hayward Gallery exhibition Among the Trees is only on till the end of October, so go and see it now:

Painting tip: Relax, watercolour works a lot better if you relinquish control occasionally.

New Classes

New real life classes starting this Wednesday evening (23rd Sept 2020) with Watercolour for beginners at Citylit

Online classes in drawing nature start at the beginning of October. More info to come.

A brief history of botanical illustration

Here is the pdf on the history of botanical illustration. brief-history

“The ancient Chinese, Indians, Egyptians, Babylonians, and Native Americans were all herbalists. The oldest known list of medicinal herbs is Shen Nung’s Pen Ts’ao or Shennong Ben Cao Jing (c. 3000 B.C.), a Chinese herbal that is probably a compilation of an even older oral tradition.”

University of Virginia

Newsletter October 19

Fossil Oyster
Devils Toe Nail – Oil on Canvas

This is the first post for quite some time. I had a difficult summer moving flat, but I’m now all moved into my new place, which is lovely, and ready to start looking at exhibitions again.
This month I’ve just been to a wonderful exhibition in the basement of the Hundred Years Gallery, Pearson Street E2. It is called The Floating Forest and is by Montse Gallego. If you are interested in the power of forests, trees and the beauty of hanging rice paper, Montse is well worth looking at, unfortunately I think the exhibition is only on till the end of this week. Free
I’m very interested in going to see the William Blake exhibition at the Tate Britain. The poet, artist and printmaker (1757-1827) spent his life creating mesmerising, tiny works to illustrate poems. histories and mythologies. This is one of the largest exhibitions of his work in a long time, it’s on till the 2nd February 2020 and costs £18
Gaugin portraits is an exhibition on at the National Gallery, from 7 October until 26 January 2020, it should be a good show and a bit different from the normal exhibitions of his work.
Helene Schjerfbeck (1862-1946) is a very famous artist in Finland  The exhibition at the Royal Academy is the first chance London audiences have had to see her work. Tickets cost £14.
Lastly, and going back to my days as an art student when I was a big fan of Phillip Guston, Co Westerick, another artist whose work is rarely seen in London, is on display at Sadie Coles HQ, Kingly street W1, until the 2nd November. These paintings remind me very much of Guston’s work, though the colour is more subtle. Free.
Classes and workshops
Monday classes are back on at Lordship Hub in Tottenham where we explore all sorts of subject matter in relation to watercolour painting. 11.30 to 1.30pm. Beginners are very welcome, as are those with more experience. It costs £10, or £8 if you book 3 or more sessions in advance. It is ‘drop in’ so there is no need to book in advance.
Thursday the 10th I’m starting a new 10 week series of evening classes in Drawing and Painting from Nature at South London Botanical Institute.This course is run by Imperial College London.
I’m running the Botanical illustration class stage 1 at City Lit this term starting on the 16th November. This class goes over 4 full days on Saturdays and gives you all the basic knowledge and skills you need to draw effective plants and flowers. soon to get a place.
Patterns in Nature is another course I’m running at City Lit this term. This looks at the geometry and patterns within nature, such as the honeycomb, cacti, shells and insects, and how these can be used to create effective designs for textile or print. It starts on 27th November, 18.00 to 21.00 and lasts over four weeks. tip: ways to create black that will be more interesting than just using a ready made black.1. Mix Alizarin crimson with viridian green in equal measure for a rich strong black. 2. Mix ultramarine with burnt umber.