The spear thistle

Cirsium vulgare – Janet Watson

Cirsium vulgare, ©Janet Watson

I took up botanical painting in my retirement after teaching. I was one of the first students to take the RBGE Diploma in Botanical Illustration. About a year after the first graduation at RBGE, Chris Beardshaw, who presented us with our diplomas, asked each of us to illustrate one month of his monthly articles in the English Garden magazine. I was asked to illustrate a spear thistle and earwigs (2 separate illustrations) for the Sept. 2012 magazine.

I searched round the countryside between Doune and Dunblane where I live and found that the farmers cut them down. Eventually Alexa Scott Plummer (another Diploma guinea pig) gave me a huge spear thistle growing on her land in the Borders. It was a huge plant which more than filled the refuse sack in which I had to get it home. I potted it up in a very large pot. I made a drawing quite quickly but I spent nearly a month trying to paint it in watercolour. I just couldn’t get the fuzzy effect of the numerous hairs on the leaves. Eventually I tried coloured pencils and completed the illustration in less than one week!

I’m a keen gardener and I grow most of the plants I paint in my garden. In recent years I’ve painted commissions of fungi, Primula auriculas of various kinds, hellebores, snowdrops and the Madame Gregoire Staechelin rose. I’m also proud to have painted Thymus vulgaris for RBGE where it is housed in the Botanics Cottage. Most of my work is done on commission.