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Capturing Seasonal Plants: Botanical Illustration

With Lucy T Smith

26 April 2022 - 28 April 2022

3 day course 10am - 4pm

During this three day course, award-winning botanical artist Lucy T Smith will be teaching you how to Capture Seasonal Plants; record plants from life and explore them in detail using the techniques of botanical art sketchbooking.

Plants will be drawn and painted from life in the fields around Clayhill Arts. Later these will be taken back to the studio, where you will study them in more detail using magnification aids. By taking the plants from the field to the classroom, you have the opportunity to explore the complexities of the plants and develop an understanding of the different approaches needed to draw and observe from life.

You will be learning how to use sketchbooks to capture seasonal plants and how to use this as an ongoing process for your drawing and botanical illustration practice. The drawings that you will be creating for your sketchbook will become your own personal library. They can be used as a starting point to explore the plant life around you when you return home.

The sketchbook drawings can contribute towards later finished works, or be used for ongoing reflections. They can form the basis of a perpetual botanical journal which is something you can revisit season after season. This will allow you to take the time to notice what has been happening in the world and landscape around you.

At the end of the three days you will:

  • Have a sketchbook full of illustrations that explore scale as well as the technical details of the plants
  • Gained a greater understanding of how to use a sketchbook for your drawing practice
  • Built a journalling technique that helps you capture information about botanicals such as measurements, quick sketches, notes and colour studies which you can refer back to

Download the full Course Itinerary here

Lucy T Smith

Lucy T Smith is a professional botanical artist from Australia, now based in London.

For the past twenty years she has been a freelance botanical illustrator for the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, producing work in both pen and ink, and watercolour. Lucy has now contributed over 600 pen and ink illustrations to Kew's illustration archives, alongside over 20 watercolours for Curtis's Botanical Magazine.

She leads Kew’s botanical illustration courses and teaches internationally. In her botanical artwork she loves to combine scientific rigour with the beauty of plant forms and composition. Her botanical illustrations are widely published and held in collections worldwide.

She has received many awards during her career, including the Margaret Flockton Award, the Linnean Society’s Jill Smythies Award for scientific botanical illustration, and Gold Medals from the Royal Horticultural Society.


All our course days run from 10am till 4pm

We start the first day by getting to know one another and going through the learning objectives for the coming days. Then we get underway with a demonstration of drawing techniques using plant material previously collected – demonstration to include measured drawing; discussion of plant growth and structure: “the bigger picture." You will then begin drawing using plant material previously collected/provided in class – this is a warm-up for our fieldwork. After lunch, you will be working in the field. This will start with a group walk in the fields to find your suitable subject matter. After choosing your location you can begin drawing, with Lucy supervising and advising on your approach.

The second day starts with a demonstration of drawing techniques, discussions and reflections on your initial experiences of working in the field. You will then move on to flower structures and drawing detail, choosing what to include, the introduction of microscope techniques, adding colour to sketches: “detail”. After a short break, you will be introduced to colour mixing and matching to specimens you will then work on material provided or collected from their plants, looking at colour matching. After lunch, you will continue working on location with your chosen plant/s, and tutor supervision.

On this final day, we will start with a demonstration of detailed microscope techniques. You will continue working on the plants in the field, but (with supervision) collect parts of the plant to bring back to the classroom and examine and draw in more detail if you wish. After lunch, you can choose to work either on location or in the classroom, with 1-2-1's available with Lucy. We end the course with a final class discussion and reflection on the work created.

We have a fantastic accommodation offer onsite, and would recommend staying here for the fully immersive Clayhill experience. All our accommodation is reserved for the students for the duration of the course and you will have a bedroom of your own. Our rooms have been converted from a series of old cattle sheds and from an old milking parlour and retain characterful features such as exposed wooden roof timbers and stone walls. Each bedroom has its own tea and coffee making facilities and outdoor seating area.

We also have an onsite laundry should you need to use these facilities during your stay with us. WIFI is available throughout the complex, heating and hot water is supplied by biomass technology, electricity by solar technology and all of the water around the site is fed by a natural spring.

Accommodation is offered at £80/night. If you would like to make your stay here more comfortable, you can also buy single additional nights before or after the course. (Please note - Any additional nights before will include catering in the evenings, and additional nights after will include an evening meal and breakfast the following morning)

All courses at Clayhill Arts are fully catered, and our locally-sourced food is included in the price of your course ticket. If you do choose to stay with us a bespoke evening meal as well as breakfast and lunch will also be provided.

Please note - we do not have an alcohol license but you may bring alcohol onto the premises for your own consumption and to share with the group if you wish.

To read more about our food offering, follow this link. About our catering

This would be suitable for those with some experience/interest in drawing who would like to improve their accuracy and learn about the basics of botanical/scientific illustration techniques. Lucy will teach the concepts of measured drawing, namely drawing a plant life-sized. She will also teach enlargement of detail, and reduction of subjects if that is necessary to capture them on the page; in each case, we will record the scale of the object.

• An A3 sketchbook is included with the course but please bring your own drawing materials. • Pencils – Minimum two pencil hardnesses: 2H for fine detail, HB or B for looser sketching. • Something to sharpen them with: ideally a blade for a really fine point for detail, otherwise regular sharpeners. • Eraser – a white plastic eraser, e.g Staedtler. • Watercolour – a basic palette suitable for many different subjects. E.g. Winsor & Newton brand: Permanent Sap Green; Permanent Rose; Winsor Yellow; Winsor Lemon; Alizarin Crimson; French Ultramarine. • These can be purchased in tubes and a small portion is given to students if they bring their own ceramic plate (white) or ceramic palette with multiple wells. • There will be some samples of watercolours and pencils for you to experiment with, but it is good to bring your own materials that you are used to working with so you can best practice. • We will have a variety of measuring devices - A clear plastic ruler and a pair of dividers (the type you get in a geometry set – allow you to take a measurement from a plant and transfer it directly to the page). • Along with Petri dishes which are good for examining plant material under the microscope

Yes! We provide refreshments throughout the day and a home-cooked lunch which is freshly prepared in our Granary kitchen. Lunch is served around our communal dining table, offering you a great chance to get to know everyone on the course and share in the making processes you have been developing throughout the day. Please advise us of any dietary requirements before arrival.

Yes! All of our bedrooms here at Clayhill are en-suite so you will have your own private space to retreat to and relax in after spending your day in the meditative space of the Studio. We provide you with your own towels and bathroom products for use throughout your stay and you can enjoy the extensive grounds well into the evening. If you do choose to stay with us a bespoke evening meal as well as breakfast and lunch will also be provided.

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We have also set up a payment plan so that you can spread the cost of the sessions over the next 4 months. You will find the option for doing this as you enter the checkout page.

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Working with Deborah and Michael was such a pleasure. They understood the project from the beginning, what the needs of the makers and our audiences would be, and acted as thoughtful ambassadors for the project when we were not able to be there. Every aspect of the exhibition and events was facilitated in such a calm and confident manner, which made my job of coordinating a group of artists so much easier! The whole event became a pivotal moment for the project, bringing people together in a way I could never have anticipated, and which has altered my thinking about the future of the project. Thank you for making us feel so welcome.


The weekend I spent at Clayhill Arts was a very welcome change of scenery to my otherwise urban setting. I felt calmed yet invigorated by the surroundings, and the accommodation was beautifully tasteful and very homely. The main space is wonderfully considered and very versatile - an ideal space for creativity and dynamic discussion. I left on the Sunday feeling energised and inspired by the experience of staying at Clayhill.


As a singer it has been one of the best spaces to sing in with generous reverberation and acoustics.  It is a space which complemented the type of instruments I was working with and the songs.


I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed being at your venue. It is a lovely and inspiring artistic space. The food was fantastic, homely yet unusual. I really enjoyed the day.


As an artist retreat, the venue at Clayhill Arts provided a warm and welcoming environment, allowing a safe and constructive space where individuals creative needs can be met. 


We were lucky enough to be able to take over the whole venue for a weekend, using the Granary as our base for experimentation, discussion and shared learning. The informality of the accommodation, and the relaxed surroundings, put everyone at ease and offered a space where cooperation and encouragement evolved naturally.


Everything was wonderful! This is a beautiful place. Thank you, we really enjoyed our stay.


Clayhill feels remote which is great but it also is close to Cannington which has everything, so supplies can be bought without travelling a great distance...I also really enjoyed that it is still a working farm, because it feels productive and there is such a lot of life around us which is very inspiring


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