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The Botanical Room Part 24

Updated: Mar 1, 2023

February where have you gone? PUBLISHED 28th Feb 2023

More notes from the painting table and Framing

I have been in a whirl of mistiming this month.One highlight has been face planting the mud while walking the dog and litter picking at the same time, bruising my dignity in the process. Gravity, whose idea was that?

As I endeavour to catch up with my work at the computer, I fell upon (no pun intended)

a blog from my long, distant past, which I have resurrected for February. If it reads familiar, you have 'indeedly' been with me through thick and thin. Bless your cotton socks for that, you need a medal.

I mainly talk about framing, as at this time of year, many of us are planning to enter work in shows or wish to frame a piece as a beautiful house adornment or gift. If you are organised, you are blessed, I am not, and as such, I am always running late, so the discovery of a draft for this month's blog was a miracle. I hope it will be helpful in any botanical room.


First, I return to painting dark flowers, as this has been the main focus of my winter painting.

I love the shine, contrast and the subtle mix of colours you can add to the light.

These diagrams below may help illustrate how you will come to notice reflected light, and how the structure helps you express the contours of a plant. Of course, wet in wet is a volatile process so calm delivery of all dark colours should always be your mantra.

Stages are important, but most important is allowing each stage to dry.

Light will affect the warmth of the colours, daylight is cooler and your light will be bluer. Remember to sweep your colour on in the direction the flower is growing.

Often than not when I light a subject I try to add light that adds drama, some areas will be in deep shadow, some in extreme light, both of these areas need less detail in order to help build the impact of the light. (typo on image -extreme not extrme)

All images remain copyright of Billy Showell.

Hope these notes give you a little assistance in your own paintings.

'My mind is like a washing machine,

perpetually turning,

constantly muddling things up,

sometimes in a spin,

and always with one sock missing.'

I am always surprised and amazed at how my sons take control of their lives and destiny; I am taking inspiration from them. Somehow I have brought up 2 men who talk with conviction and elegance. Rather than working on the edge of chaos like their mother, they work out their lives in a calm and considerate way that I can only aspire to. Thank goodness their father's peaceful genes have risen to mould them, and my crazy genes have been suppressed. Long may that last.

My hubby and I have just had an invitation to dinner with my sons in return for us working like trojans in their pocket garden; it is funny how I am giddy with love for an invitation to work for them; in return for my back ache, I will get some lovely hugs and a scrummy meal as they are both superb cooks. We will bring Grayson, our whippet, and he will spend the day barking like a wild dog at the London cats, supremely unaware of their claws, as, thankfully, he has yet to have a run-in with one.

Don't be ditsy like me

It's not too late to try to exhibit with The Society of Botanical Artists!

This year I will be seriously pushed to enter work into the SBA show, there are only 3 days left, if I do manage it , I will have had to choose frames.

So I hope this following bit of information will be of use to those who are planning an exhibition or to exhibit a piece or two.

A look at Framing Botanical Art

To begin with, framing your artwork is very personal. You may agree or disagree with my opinions below. I am as guilty as the next person for making framing mistakes. Although I love some of my own framing choices, they are not always universally appreciated.

I studied frames from a past SBA show, looking to see what had sold and how it was framed, thinking that there would be a theme to pick up on; there were very few sold in the traditional, old-style, brown lacquered wood frames and a majority of sold works were in elegant, well-chosen frames, so that was a good indication that my observations on framing were indeed running true on this occasion.

Choosing how to frame your work

1. Use a framer you trust.Unless you are a framer or have a framer in the family, find a framer that frames works similar to your artworks and has their finger on the pulse as to what is in vogue.

2. Ask the framer what's on trend and what frames art lovers choose. People often reframe artwork to suit their interior decoration, especially fine, original art, as it is cherished, it will often be used as a starting point when choosing colours for redecorating (original art is rarely shoved in a drawer and forgotten but hung on the wall and appreciated).

3. Choose simple and good-quality frames; you can't expect buyers to respect and value your work if you don't respect and value your work enough to frame it well.

4. Check out what other artists are using, visit galleries and exhibitions and see the styles that look best; ask artist friends to recommend a framer; they are often happy to share a good contact.

5. When costing your work add the price of the mount and frame on top, and then you will know how much you value your work. If the framing costs more than your painting, then you are not charging enough for your artwork. Your time and skill and the love you put into your work are worth paying for; the work, if sold, will be cherished and adored, the new owner will have worked hard for their money, and they will respect that you have worked hard for your skills.

6. Your framer will have some suggestions on what will look good with your painting and are usually happy to discuss options, do try to keep it neutral and simple as fussy framing can detract from the work and indeed clash with simple modern interiors; they will also advise acid-free mounting to avoid discolouration to your work, this is very important in helping your art survive under glass.

Art glass is expensive but if your piece is going to go on sale for a large amount and you want it to be notice then art glass, with less reflection, is worth the investment.

7. Don't scrimp on the mounts, thick mount board or double mounting is slightly more expensive but looks much nicer. Do also try to match the colour of the mount/mat with the paper, coloured mounts at present are not much in vogue (this can change) generally they rarely enhance the delicate floral work that we do, however sometimes it can be lovely (try some mat options out with your framer).

Dirty, dull or poorly cut mounts will only lose you a sale.

8. Mounts should be cut for the final piece. Suppose you squeeze your art into a ready-made mount whose dimensions are wrong for the painting. In that case, you again tell people you don't value your work enough to get a mount cut specially for it.

I have often seen paintings squashed into mounts and frames that don't look like they were cut for the image: a classic indication of this is that the mount is too skinny on the top and bottom or too thin on the sides, or the edge of the image has been badly cropped. Make the mount with the painting in mind; a beautiful piece deserves a beautiful mount and frame.

In conclusion, although mounts and frames can be a pricey investment, your artwork deserves attention. It takes many years and lots of practice to improve and perfect your painting skills; therefore, your final beautiful works should warrant the protection and enhancement a beautiful frame will offer.

Simple, clean and well balanced framing doesn't have to be expensive,if it's considered well.

Here are some examples of frames and mounts from a show:

Below is a beautiful box mount created from mount board to give a deep recess for the painting. An added expense but becoming very popular.

This is a simple white wood frame with a double mount, classic and simple.

This is similar to the previous choice, but in pale natural wood, this has been a staple for the last 10 years or so.

* A quick 'by the way' on mount size and depth, make the mount a reasonable depth to give substance but don't make it too deep that it dominates the frame's internal space. If it makes the picture too big, it may get rejected due to limited and expensive hanging space.

A silver frame is nice and suits green and white pictures but be aware that they can damage easily at shows and are hard to repair. Notice the lovely thick mount board.

This is a brushed silver metal frame, again easily damaged. The generous double mount gives added depth.

This type of frame is affordable but can often look too casual. The very cream mount may also look like it is bought off the shelf and may be too warm next to the fine white watercolour paper. When I started out, I used similar frames and was often asked by buyers if they could buy the work unframed; it may have been that the frames needed to be better quality for the price and or that they preferred a different look for the walls of their home.

This type and colour of frame are not that popular with buyers at present, so be careful when choosing traditional frames, as you could be making your choice look old-fashioned. Of course, I may be alone in this view, and I will stand corrected if you have used this frame style and sold well.

This framing was beautiful. The generous mount/mat and simple frame complimented the work, and the silver slip worked well with the lilacs in the painting. The large mount/mat was applicable as it was a huge painting.

This frame also worked well with the painting, and the gold slip worked well with the warm colours in the picture. (Interestingly, both of the above were sold paintings)

This frame type (Above) is also out of favour at present; it might look nice in very traditional settings. Still, the reddish brown of the wood is not an easy colour to place in the décor of modern homes.

I like the generous depth of this frame; although the mount could have been a bit deeper, twice the depth would give it some importance (this is a personal choice, of course).

I love this frame; it is a frame within a frame, popular in galleries and suitable for acrylic and oil paintings.

I love the deep chamfer on the frame and mount; this is good simple, effective framing.

As you can see, there is a theme of pale wood and white frames on the sold work; this is good to know and may help when choosing your frames for your next show.

I have used black frames but have kept them slim and modern.

I hope you find this interesting and helpful I wish I had been advised when I started, and I hope you think it was worth reading. Wishing you much success with your painting and, indeed, framing; it's a tricky thing to get right. x

Finally this month, to add some sweetness to our lives.

I have been asked over the years to share my Nan's fairy cake recipe, which I have tweaked. They are greatly loved by those who come for tea at my house and are super easy to bake.

Billy's little Apple Fairy cakes

I use little muffin cases. You will need about 12-16 cases for this quantity.

Mix together in a mixer.

8oz /225grams gluten-free self-raising flour (or ordinary flour if you prefer)

7.5 fl oz sunflower oil

6oz/200 grams caster sugar

4 small eggs or 3 large ( I have used oggs a vegan alternative)

1 ½ teaspoons of vanilla essence

1 level teaspoon of baking powder

Stir in

2 tablespoons of natural yoghurt or cream if you prefer

2 large cooking apples peeled and chopped into small pieces

Divide the mixture between the cases.

Bake for 20 minutes in a medium oven on the middle shelf.

I use 160 degrees (310 Fahrenheit) in a fan oven (gas mark 2-3)

Leave to cool, then dust with icing sugar or decorate with butter icing.


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4 comentários

Thank you for this extremely informative piece. Obviously I'm going to copy it to my files. We see too that your running about, being busy, baking fairy cakes etc (no doubt) is helping the men in your life to stay relaxed and in control. Well done. I shall also try the fairy cakes - my guys prefer my baking to my painting.😊

02 de mar. de 2023
Respondendo a

Haha I hadn’t thought about that, not sure my crazy ways have been help to anyone but it makes life interesting😂


01 de mar. de 2023

Loved this Billy, such a lot of valued information and helpful hints along with your humour.

your sons are a credit to you and Simon.

thank you for the recipe, which I will be making soon. These delightful cakes were always so nice at a tea break during a workshop with you. I miss them, unfortunately old age hasn’t been very kind to me, so thank goodness for your online classes which I love.

Take care best wishes Christin.

ps don’t ever change you are a ray of sunshine 🌞

02 de mar. de 2023
Respondendo a

Dear Christine

We did have fun at bayham studio, I am missing the company of live face to face classes. So sorry you are struggling and really pleased the classes are keeping you inspired.


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