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The Botanical room part 10

'It's the most wonderful time of the year'


So go the song lyrics, but it's that time of year when we start thinking about all the people we haven't seen through the year. Of course, we have the perfect excuse at the moment. Even so, every time Christmas starts creeping up on me, I regret not catching up with some of the people I promised to catch up with last Christmas in my card greeting. Isn't it always the way.

I'm not one of those people that particularly likes writing letters. It's not because I don't have anything interesting to say. It's because my writing is so illegible, and my typing is so painfully slow.

I have come up with a solution. I discovered I could dictate into my phone. It opened up a new world of fast communication; however, isn't there always a 'however'? I also discovered that you have to be very careful not to send the communication before checking it through thoroughly. I would detail some of the messages that I have accidentally sent, but they are too toe-curling to repeat.

My sons think it is hilarious; initially, they were mortified when I started talking into my phone. They would say mum is chanting her incantations again. As teenagers, they thought this was the height of ridiculousness; as adults, they are incredulous that I continue to do it. In my defence, I didn't grow up with a phone, so my thumbs are not as speedy as they could be. It's a generational thing.


I think I've mentioned before that my father was the most fantastic calligrapher. He was trained from the age of 14 to write all classic font designs. His handwriting was beyond beautiful, and sadly, I didn't inherit that exquisite skill. Dad did try to improve my handwriting. He taught me how to properly hold the pencil and suggested that I imagine him looking over my shoulder every time I picked up the pen. That way, I would remember to hold it correctly. It worked, I did hold correctly; however, it made no positive effect on my handwriting style.

Even today, my handwriting can be small, large, loopy, squiggly, and every other description between. In fact, it could have been written by lots of different people on different days. It has not held me back in life, but it is a constant disappointment to me.


One thing I did inherit, though, was my ability to illustrate. Dad illustrated his Christmas cards every year and a card for nearly every birthday too. They became 'a thing'. If he missed an opportunity to paint one, we would all exclaim, 'what's happened? where's the card?

Both my brother and I illustrate our own cards most years. My brothers' cards are hilarious and smothered in jokes, they are hilarious, sadly I don't think I have one on file to share, perhaps another time.

An example of one of Dads cards- you can see he was a professional.

This is a card he designed for mum, she was obsessed with clearing the leaves, and with a November birthday, this was a popular topic. This was one he did late in his life.

Dad's cards were legendary. He would tease me about being a vegetarian

Our first home as a young couple, when we were muralists (Ken was a friend and chauffeured at our wedding, the plaque is an 'in joke')


My cartoon sketches started as little gift cards of ladies with umbrellas to gift and sell.

Once my boys came along, I loved how the children would adore dressing up; we found all sorts of ways to create outfits from stuff around the house. They were a delight to illustrate.

Charlie the Fireman ©BillyShowell


William the Pirate ©BillyShowell


Most of the leaves have fallen now, and winter is truly here; it is an excellent time to see where one would want to plant evergreens as the gaps are more noticeable now. After our second year in the country, we are now very aware of the yearly tasks that need attention and our limitations. I have lots to do but can't help myself and am often sidetracked to collect the fallen treasures. It is a beautiful time to collect the natural gifts, leaves from the trees, or feathers and seeds, to study the beauty of a winter find.

Feathers, leaves, twigs and lichens are all fantastic things to illustrate as they often stay the same for a long time and can be evocative of the season.

Study on the go ©BillyShowell

The studio is built, and the puppy is a teenager and house trained, so there are no excuses not to crack on with the paintbrushes. I have tried to include "found object' paintings on my tutorial site, as that is how I started my adventures in botanical art. Being without a garden is not a problem; take yourself on a country walk and see what beauty has fallen from the trees and lies on the ground for you to find and enjoy.

Dry Magnolia grandiflora leaf ©BillyShowell


Finally, with a small outtake of breath, I would have the same resolutions as last year, lose weight, get fit, and stop biting my nails this new year, as I really thought that by now, I would be stick thin, running every day, and have beautiful nails. That is why I hate new year resolutions, so I will make no promises this year. I will, however, make a big wish for us all to be able to get together again soon and that we all keep well and most of all, happy, as that is the panacea is it not?

I finish this blog by wishing you all wonderful holidays and joy in whatever you do to celebrate winter and celebrating the new year. Let it be wondrous, kind and generous.

Warm wishes

Billy xx

Reindeer and mistletoe ©BillyShowell (a new tutorial on my school of botanical art)








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