I chose to paint Rosa rubiginosa, also known as Sweet Briar or Eglantine, for this unique exhibition as I wanted to celebrate this beautiful ancient hedgerow plant, a fragment of a landscape dating back over a thousand years which is now lost to us.
I am fortunate Rosa rubiginosa grows in a hedge along a footpath near to my home in West Suffolk. I have closely observed its seasonal transformations as it intertwines with its thorny companions Blackthorn and Hawthorn, during my daily walks with my lurcher, Tilly.
Rosa rubiginosa forms part of an endangered wildlife habitat. Hedgerows are ecologically important for food, shelter and nesting cover for a wide range of species. Hedges provide connecting habitat corridors within the landscape, which might otherwise become fragmented with sites becoming increasingly isolated. Sweet Briar is a vital early nectar source in spring while later in the year the rosehips are food for many birds and small mammals.
This painting is from a new body of work where I am exploring aspects of different roses including the fragrant Rosa damascena and Rosa Chandos Beauty. The rose for me appears to hover between the earth and air elements and has a fascinating medicinal, personal, social and historical symbolic potency.
I use rose seed oil as the base oil in a moisturiser, which I then mix with essential oils. The seed oil is very rich in vitamin E plus many other vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids, which together make a lovely nourishing oil.
My creative process is often a multi-layered response including cultural, environmental, medicinal, symbolic and spiritual considerations. Some subjects have over time developed a personal symbolism, boundaries and edges or how things meet being one such example. Both formally and as a narrative, this has informed my painting.
I began by spending time on meticulous observations, using various Plant Observation techniques. I then made lots of graphite pencil drawings and gradually the composition started to evolve. I used a new paper, a Hot Pressed watercolour paper called ‘Moulin du Roy’, which had its challenges but does have a lovely smooth surface.
In this piece I have focused on Rosa rubiginosa’s interesting branch structure. Inspired by its wayward growth habit I have depicted the branches as both hanging down and reaching skyward as they stretch up above the hedgerow.
Relishing the rich, vibrant colours and forms of the autumn hips, I hope I have also conveyed the way they seem to quietly communicate with each other.
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