New work

‘The human being is the most adaptable animal’.

This was one of my Dad’s favourite sayings, usually quoted as he stood washing dishes looking out the kitchen window at the birds, the hedgerows and the fields here on the outskirts of Kilkenny in the south east of Ireland. He had a fascination for nature, people and all of life so who knows what thoughts he mused over as he reached for his synopsis of Darwinian theory.

Had he lived, Dad would have been ninety this past week. I’ve wondered over the past few months what he would have made of the huge challenges we have been faced with. I think, like so many, he would have been wise, resilient, resourceful, self reliant but empathetic and very conscious of others. He would have adapted. We’ve all had to adapt, to change our plans, our ways of working and being – with the hope of better things to come.

Wintering Out- Acanthus mollis

Wintering Out – Acanthus mollis ©️Mary Dillon

As a botanical artist, I am fascinated by the notion of temporal change in the plant world. Every moment in the life cycle of a plant is just that, a moment in time, even when it seems that all life has left the plant, change continues to occur. The dynamism of growth, from the first sprouting of a seed to the last moment of change in colour and form of the dying plant, utterly captivates me. 

While walking in Birr Castle Demesne last winter, I was captivated by the shiny gloriously coloured seedpods of the acanthus as it faded back into the herbaceous border. Moving from warm yellows to greens and into inky deep blues, I was drawn in both by the colours but also by the complex twisty spiked forms. From the first moment this acanthus caught my eye, I thought of the Seamus Heaney anthology ‘Wintering Out’. How apt that his words ‘if we can winter this one out we can summer anywhere’ have encouraged us during these challenging days.

Nerines bowdenii

Nerines bowdenii ©️Mary Dillon

Initially, I intended to make a botanical illustration of Nerines bowdenii. However, life and other commitments prevented me from following my original intention. I kept the flowers in my studio and after about two months I realised that they had continued to change into the most mesmerising colours and forms. I was completely blown away by their beauty as they became more and more frail and delicate in the process of dying.

Bountiful- Punica granatum ‘Nana’

Bountiful- Punica granatum ‘Nana’ ©️ Mary Dillon

Bountiful- Punica granatum ‘Nana’ is twice life size. It captures some pomegranates with one dangling precariously from a tree. I found them growing in El Poble Nou, Barcelona, where I was teaching botanical art during autumn 2019. I just couldn’t take my eyes from the jewel like seeds glistening in the fruits. Having completed numerous sketches in situ and taken lots of colour notes and photographs to record details, I began to work on the painting back in my studio at home in Ireland.

It’s been a work in progress over the past few months when life has changed for us all. It brought me to the warmth and colour of the streets in Barcelona and to other pomegranate trees, particularly those I’ve seen in Skiathos in Greece where I first fell in love with pomegranates. It’s brought me to the warmth of the people I’ve met in those places. It’s been a place of solace and focus, a beckoning force taking me to a place apart when there was nowhere else. It’s been a place of joy and solace as I worked in my studio listening to stories on the radio of sickness and death – of resilience, togetherness and hope.

Wintering Out – Acanthus mollis, is currently showing in ‘Through the Artist’s Eye – Birr Castle Demesne’. www.birrcastle.com

Nerines bowdenii and Punica granatum ‘Nana’ will both be shown in ‘Exploring Botany – Botanical Art from Europe and Japan, Past and Present’, The Manggha Museum of Japanese Art and Technology, Krakow, Poland. The exhibition will open when current restrictions have been lifted in Poland. www.manggha.pl

Learning the beautiful art of painting plants!

 

What is it about flowers and plants that stirs us, that makes us stop in our tracks to take a second look? Is it colour, form, or the complexity or simplicity of their structure? For many of us, seeing a flower will evoke a memory, bringing us to another time or place.

 

Nasturtium, MD
Nasturtium, MD

 

Sweet Pea, MD
Sweet Pea, MD

 

White Tulip, MD
White Tulip, MD

 

Each of us will have our own personal response to this question. That’s the wonder of what makes us just as, if not more diverse and intriguing as these beautiful objects of interest that capture our imagination. If you are like me and you also love to paint then you too will be compelled to learn the art of painting plants!

 

 

Fuchsia magellica, Deora De, Mary Dillon
Fuchsia magellica, Deora De, Mary Dillon

 

Life throws us lemons every once in a while and happily for me some time ago, just when I most needed a focus, I embarked on a course in botanical art and illustration. For me the SBA distance learning diploma course was a huge challenge, stretching me in ways beyond my expectations. In time, painting botanical art proved to have powers of healing both in body and spirit!

 

 

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Canna ‘Black Knight’ WIP Mary Dillon

 

 

Learning the skills required to paint botanical art was invaluable. Albeit from a distance, I reaped the benefit of constructive criticism and unwavering encouragement from experienced tutors, like Margaret Stevens, Founding Director of the SBA course, among others. Simon Williams became the new course Director in the latter months of my studies, ably forging the way forward for the course.

 

Having spent many years as an Arts Educator both with students in post primary school and in providing continuing professional development for teachers, I firmly believe in the value of face to face tuition. While the SBA diploma course fulfilled so many of my needs, I felt I needed to learn directly from others too.

 

I’m grateful to inspiring artists and teachers, Susan Sex, Fiona Strickland and Robert McNeil for their generosity of spirit marking them out as true teachers. Just as we learn to love from those who love us, I feel we learn to teach from those who teach us.  Margaret, Simon, Susan, Fiona and Robert all belong to a wide group of artists and teachers, whose wish is not just to keep their artistic talents to themselves, but who want to share their experience with others, simply because they love painting and plants!

 
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Botanical Painting Days

In recent times, I’ve enjoyed the privilege of guiding people as they explore this beautiful art form.
Whether you’re a beginner or experienced and keen to learn some new exciting approaches to painting plants in a systematic and enjoyably relaxing way, these days are for you.

Come along and join me!

Where:         Kilkenny City

When:           Saturdays, March 28th, April 18th and June 6th. 10am – 3pm

 

If you’d like to join me for a day painting flowers and plants,

Contact :        +353872224260 / dillonmary@eircom.net

 

 

Painting Tulipa 'Rococo' MD
Painting Tulipa ‘Rococo’ MD