Sue Vize SBA
My passion for drawing
In September 2000 I felt an urge to learn something new and so found a 'Flower Painting' course run by the WEA at St Helen's House in Derby - sadly since closed as an adult education centre. The course turned out not to be flower painting after all but a full course entitled 'Botanical Illustration for Beginners'. The tutor was wonderful, so encouraging, and I suddenly found I was hooked. It opened up a whole new world - one where you were taught to draw exactly what you see instead of an impression, one where you were never told to 'loosen up', and suddenly a bit of twig took on a new meaning, dead leaves weren't just something you put in the compost bin, not one tiny bit of garden material could be over looked as each had the potential to be put onto paper and turned into a masterpiece.
The course progressed from working in graphite pencil to painting in watercolour. I did enjoy using the paints but felt that I preferred drawing in graphite so as soon as the course ended I returned to my favourite medium, feeling much happier with a pencil in my hand rather than a paint brush. A few years later I went to view an SBA exhibition at Penrhyn Castle, near Bangor in Wales. The pictures that caught my eye were all by the artist who was demonstrating that day at the exhibition. Her medium was coloured pencil and her work was amazing. It was the last day of the exhibition and very quiet so I was able to enjoy a long chat with her and came away inspired, and the minute I returned home my first set of coloured pencils were ordered.
I do still enjoy watercolour though and include its tuition in some of my workshops, but since I love drawing so much the main part of my work is in either graphite pencil or coloured pencil. A little enthusiasm goes a long way and now although I teach all medium as part of my weekly evening class, almost everyone who attends ends up a convert too!
My studio is a narrow boat called 'Driftwood' - a peaceful, perfect, moveable place where the phone doesn't ring and the internet doesn't work. I have ducks and swans for visitors, a log burning stove for warmth in winter and a deck to work outside on in summer - lucky me!
It is also the reason for a lack of entry to the 2014 SBA exhibition! Fifty feet of narrow boat, seven layers of paint sanded down in between each coat - broken nails, bad back, heat stroke, exhaustion - but it now looks fantastic, just needing the 'pretty bits' adding. Someone asked me if I was going to do botanical roses on it instead of the traditional boat painting........ probably not. It could be the longest paint job in history!
Botanical illustration requires hours of patience, a meticulous eye for detail, plus time put aside to record the plant before it withers and dies. Each painting or drawing can take many hours to complete, tone or colour being gradually built up in layers of light ‘washes’. It is not unusual for a more complex drawing to take in excess of 100 hours. Inspiration comes in many forms. When working in colour I consider all the lovely shades that the plant contains with the colour being the main attraction. Graphite drawing however has no consideration of colour, instead it is the intricate structure and detail of something that's twisted and dried up for the part that attracts. So....... pretty flowers in colour, dead things in graphite...... simple!
My constant source of plant material is usually found in my mum’s beautiful garden. No matter what time of year there is always something to be found worth drawing, and on a lovely summers’ day nothing is nicer than to be there to set up my pencils and paper and become ‘creative’, listening to the birds and the drone of the bees – the only downside is that you find it difficult to work amongst so many distractions!