Thursday, 29 May 2014

Consider the Lilies - Illustrated Quote to Download

Please feel free to download and print this high-resolution, A4-size quotation
or pin it to Pinterest if you wish.

I have always been puzzled by this quotation from the Bible.

For one thing, although I am often happy to use flowers as a metaphor for our human lives, the fact remains that we are not ‘lilies of the field’ and unlike them, our clothing is completely separate from our bodies, it doesn't just 'grow' on us naturally!

And, as well as that, it seems to be in complete contradiction to a couple of the parables in the Bible, in particular, the one about the foolish virgins who didn’t bother to prepare their lamps and the one about making full use of our talents.

But then the Bible seems to be full of contradictions – as does life in general all too often! 

So if you are one of those hard-working people, who sensibly plans for the future and does their best to make full use of their talents while aiming for a certain amount of financial security, what can you take from this well-known quotation about the Lilies?

I'm not at all sure. But couple of ideas spring to my mind and I'd be interested to hear what you think.

First of all, maybe the quotation is questioning our habitual preoccupation with where we are heading, rather than where we are at the present moment. It may be that we focus a little too much on the future, so much so that we lose sight of today and all it offers. Maybe we are setting ourselves goals to achieve at some future date, when the important thing is to set up good habits for NOW. Are we making the destination so important that we forget to enjoy the journey?


And secondly, it occurs to me that the quotation could be referring to the way we think about our material status – ‘Solomon in all his glory’ – and maybe it's asking us to consider whether we really need to be so preoccupied with earning and financial worth and how we appear to the world - ie our outer 'clothing'? 

There is a book called, ‘Do what you love and the money will follow’. I haven’t read it but I’ve read the reviews and from my own experience, I understand the importance of being passionate about what you do for a living. 

So far, in my case, the money hasn’t really followed or at least, it hasn’t made me rich! 

And maybe it never will. 

But actually, I’m not too sure that it really matters. Looking back over the past four years, I can see that since I took the plunge and started devoting most of my time to Art and Design, my desire to buy things I don’t really need seems to have evaporated! My income is tiny compared to the national average but I don’t feel deprived – in fact, in many ways I feel quite ‘rich'. 

And I don’t have much time to go shopping anyway.

A third possible interpretation occurred to me. 
The lilies referred to in the quotation aren’t necessarily Lilies-of-the-Valley. In fact it appears that the word ‘lily’ often refers to any local wild flower in the Holy Land. A wild flower doesn’t have the benefit of a gardener to water, feed and generally dispense TLC – and yet, some wild flowers manage to be stunning! 

So maybe these words are reminding us that it’s too simplistic to think that we can produce the results we want entirely by our own hard work. It might seem desirable that life should be that straightforward, that those who work hard are rewarded and those who laze around are not. But that ignores the fact that much of what happens to us, for good or ill, is not the result of our actions. There is so much that is not within our control – the weather is a daily reminder of this! Maybe a hard-working person will get sick and unable to work; maybe a 'scrounger' will inherit a fortune from a relative he has neglected! Who knows. 
It's doesn't seem fair but that's the way it is.

Could this be what the quotation is all about?

What do you think?

Thursday, 22 May 2014

6 Good Reasons to Love the Humble Wallflower

A posy of wallflowers and forget-me-nots from my garden

Today I’ve decided to stray from the birth month flowers that this blog is usually about because my garden is still full of wallflowers and they’re one of my favourite flowers!

I think the wallflower is often under-appreciated, mainly because the dark red version, which seems to be the most common, can seem a bit dreary. 

And maybe it’s also because it’s so easy to grow – in fact it can seem almost like a weed when it finds its way onto a wall.

Wall in Swan Meadow, Abergavenny

But I am always pleased to see my first wallflowers in bud, knowing that by the time the flowers open, winter will finally be well and truly behind us.

Here are a few of the reasons why I’m so fond of wallflowers –

1. The colours of wallflowers can range from palest yellow through gold and fiery red to deep, dark, burgundy velvet. And the ‘Persian Jewels’ variety adds a whole range of pinks and purples to the mix. Glorious to paint, both in watercolours and in oil pastels!

2. I love the fragrance of a bed of massed wallflowers, even though it was one of the first fragrances to bring on my allergy symptoms!

3. Wallflowers bloom for a long period of time so their colour well and truly bridges the gap between the spring bulbs and the summer flowers. I think of them as mainly a May flower but in fact mine were beginning to show buds in March this year. 

They are so reliable that it’s hardly surprising that the wallflower stands for ‘intense fidelity in the throes of adversity.

4. The wallflower represents great value both in terms of time and money spent. It is, strictly speaking, a biennial and I usually buy the plants in bundles from the greengrocer, in September, to plant out for flowering the following spring. But I find they are often bigger and bushier in the second or even the third year.  Over the years I’ve come to realise that the time to get rid of a wallflower plant and replace it with a new one, is when the plant no longer resists a gentle tug.

5. The wallflower is also a favourite with bees and as far as I’m concerned, that is a Very Good Thing.

6. There is also a true perennial wallflower and the Bowles Mauve does very well in my garden, though I’ve had less luck with the other colours. My Bowles Mauve flowers all year round, apart from taking a short break in February!

Ever since 1820, ‘wallflower’ has been the term used to describe a girl or woman who seems to be unable to find a partner and therefore, at a dance, she remains seated at the edge of the room, with her back to the wall. 

As such, it’s not a very flattering term. But in all other respects, I have great admiration and affection for wallflowers; so if I had to choose a to be a flower, a wallflower would be a strong contender!

If you had to be a flower, which one would you like to be?

to see some of my
on Gifts and Greeting Cards
(some of them suitable for Mother's Day!)

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Lilies of the Valley - the May Birth Month Flower

The flower for a May birthday is blooming right now in my front garden. It is, of course, the superbly fragrant Lily of the Valley.

Such is my love of the scent of Lily of the Valley that in previous homes I’ve tried over and over to grow them by planting the rhizomes in my garden - but, sadly, I never succeeded. 

So it was a wonderful surprise to discover, a month or so after I moved to Abergavenny, that I have a front garden half full of them!

Each year they take over more of the area under the gorgeous magnolia tree. And I’m happy to let them because very little else wants to grow there, apart from spring bulbs and wild violets.

(You can read about the care and conditions for Lily-of-the-Valley HERE – 
and the article also points out that they are both invasive and poisonous
neither of which is a problem as far as I’m concerned.)

image from

As you can see from this Lily-of-the-Valley Pinterest Board, this pretty little flower,that often hides it’s bell-shaped blooms beneath its large, sword-like leaves, was a favourite with the Art Nouveau and Art Deco designers and illustrators.

So I think that must have been somewhere at the back of my mind when I designed my first May Birth Month Flower birthday cards a couple of years ago.


But although these cards have been quite popular, especially for Mother's Day, I feel that they are a little more stiff and formal than my usual style. 

So, last month, I set about creating a new collection of Lily of the Valley patterns, hoping to find a way to retain the ‘vintage’ feel of the Edwardian era, while allowing my more ‘natural’, flowing style to come to the fore.

Here are a few of the sketches I made for the new ‘For the Love of Lilies’ collection for my Posh & Painterly store:

And here are a few of the Greeting Cards I’ve made – all in a choice of three background colours that keep reminding me of the costumes of period dramas such as ‘Downton Abbey’!

Here are the rest of the
'For the Love of Lilies' 
collection in my
Posh & Painterly store 

Thursday, 8 May 2014

From Small Beginnings: the Anatomy of a Pattern

As I write, my front garden is full of Lilies of the Valley and their wonderful scent greets me every time I walk down my front path! 

Unfortunately, much as I love the flower and its fragrance, I have to be careful as it’s the heavily scented flowers, in particular the white ones, that I seem to be sensitive to.  I have to keep my distance from the Mock Orange Blossom I’m so fond of and sitting in a room with a bowl of white hyacinths is enough to make think I’m going down with ‘flu. 

So it was probably utterly stupid of me to bring a posy of Lilies-of-the-Valley into the house. But I couldn’t resist and I ended up with a very blocked nose, a croaky voice and headache!

So I’ll have to be content with paintings and patterns of Lilies-of-the-Valley, using photos to sketch the motifs from rather than the flowers themselves.

Here, again, are my initial sketches, mostly doodled then traced more neatly whilst ‘watching’ the television.

From there I used my light-box (a converted broken-down scanner!) to transfer them to watercolour paper for painting.

Once the individual painted motifs were scanned, tidied up – a bit! – and their backgrounds made transparent, it was time for the fun to begin!

I liked some of them enough to let them stand alone on products:

And I have a particular liking for decorative borders -

And then there's a combination of free-standing motif and decorative border -

But I am a pattern-maker at heart and could happily spend my days fiddling with motifs to make patterns!

This time I had in mind to make a pattern with a vintage look about it. To me ‘vintage’ brings to mind the late-Victorian/Edwardian era and the décor of iconic TV period dramas such as Sherlock (the old version, with Jeremy Brett!) and Downton Abbey. 

Of course, I didn’t want to simply copy the styles of that time but I think this one, my ‘main’ Lilies pattern, could look at home as curtain fabric at 221b, Baker Street, whilst retaining a slightly more modern feel. 


One of the things that appeals to me about pattern-making is that a single pattern can give rise to so many more – in fact, when it comes to creating coordinating patterns, sometimes I find it hard to know where to stop!

Here’s what appears to be a random pattern, but in fact it’s anything but random. In order to create a ‘tossed’ pattern that has an overall appearance of even-ness, ie, no overpowering directional lines that catch and hold your eye – the motifs have to be placed with extreme care. 
It’s one of the most difficult tasks involved in pattern-making and I must confess that I don’t yet feel I always get it right. It’s very much a question of trial and error - and experience - and I feel as if I’m beginning to get there a bit quicker than I did a year ago!

For my second coordinate, I created a kind of ‘polka dot’ pattern, but using a tiny version of one of the Lilies-of-the-Valley motifs in place of the dots.

By the time I had made some 'faux patchwork' patterns and a few of the mix'n'match combinations that I enjoy playing with– all in three colourways - my original sketches had yielded so many related patterns that checks, stripes, polka dots and other coordinates seemed quite unnecessary!

Serving Tray: Lily of the Valley, Blue Patchwork
Serving Tray: Lily of the Valley, Blue Patchwork by poshandpainterly

In the end, I found I had created more than 600 products on Zazzle, all from variations of a few Lily-of-the-Valley sketches!
And now it seems that the season of wonderful garden fragrances has well and truly begun! 

As well as the Lilies, I have roses blooming in my back garden. In fact the Alchemist was in flower in April and my Dreaming Spires is blooming prolifically as it climbs all over my Albertine. Sadly, it's much more visible from the house next door than it is from mine so I just hope my neighbours are enjoying the view! And it’s just as well that the Birth Month Flower for June is the Rose. 

Stay tuned and you may well discover some facts about roses that will surprise you!

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Surprised by Wales

When I took my ‘O’ level exams, aged 15, I made the classic mistake of not reading one of the questions on the Geography paper properly. 

So I wrote a well-argued essay that constituted one-third of the marks for the Regional Geography exam on ‘Why there are no sheep in Wales’.

As well as that obviously glaring misapprehension, I grew up believing that all Welsh people were 'not very bright', decidedly unfriendly and that most of them were called Taffy. 

Prejudice can be a powerful thing and my mother was certainly prejudiced when it came to the Welsh. I've no idea why!

But as a result, I had no real interest in visiting Wales until my eldest daughter’s love of horses and horse-riding led us to book a family holiday in Wales that included pony trekking. 

My first surprise, as we travelled westwards across South and Mid-Wales was that Wales was full of sheep! 

I’ve heard since that in Wales, sheep outnumber humans by three to one. 

My second surprise, of course, was the lovely warm welcome we were given in Wales, the absence of anyone called Taffy, and, as far as we could tell, no greater stupidity in evidence than anywhere else!

And the scenery was so breathtaking I could hardly stop taking photos even though this was well before the age of the digital camera!

While our pony-loving daughter was out trekking, we took her toddler sister to the coast and the first place we discovered was a tiny hamlet called Llangrannog, overlooking a pretty little bay.

So maybe that’s why, when asked to choose a Welsh Saint to illustrate to raise funds for this year's Los Angeles St David’s Day festivities, I chose the 6th Century Saint Carannog. He is said to have built his church here and there is a statue of him on the cliff-top, overlooking the bay. 

Or maybe it was because there was a dragon involved and I can’t resist drawing dragons.

In fact all the stories of the Welsh Saints are quite dramatic and bloodthirsty, with plenty of scope for illustration – a common theme being heads chopped off and then miraculously restored. Of course some of these embellishments are most probably metaphorical.

St Carannog, the story tells us, lost his travelling altar and his search took him across the River Severn to Somerset. There he met up with King Arthur, who had found the altar but would only return it to St Carannog in return for him overcoming the fierce dragon, probably in reality a barbaric local warlord, or according to some, a Druid, who was terrorising the villages in the vicinity.

St Carannog succeeded in taming the dragon without any shedding of blood and so the story ends happily.

Last year, I illustrated a Welsh Nursery Rhyme and the one I chose featured, not sheep, but goats! You can see it HERE 

I wonder what next year’s assignment will be!