A creative day out at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh - watercolour technique with artist Sarah Knox and introduction to Climate House
By Mary and Eoghan
What a wonderful opportunity to learn a new subject, art - painting in the hallowed grounds of Botanic Gardens under the directorship of 2 wonderful people - Sarah Knox, a watercolourist and painter, and Holly, the Edinburgh Art Festival community engagement manager. It was Holly who organised the trip, taking a group of us from Wester Hailes on a cultural, arty, crafty outing to the Botanics. I can't think of 2 more suitable people to accompany and guide us on this trip. We arrived there on an autumnal September day with the Botanics bathed in sunshine and warmth.
The whole scene was set up for us when we arrived with paint brushes, sticks, watercolour palettes, palette knifes and boards between park benches in a quiet vista of the gardens between rows of trees bearing fruit and apples, interspersed with plots of delicate flowers, heads held high in lilacs, crimson and yellow reaching up to a clear blue sky almost taking one's breath away. We learnt to paint with various implements, flat brushes, round brushes, sticks, pen and ink - all creating a kind of sepia print to produce various depths of lines, shades and thickness to create a 2 or 3 dimensional result - apiece of nature- a tree, a flower a scene. We did much more of course, visited Inverleith House, where Natalie and Gabi from RBGE Creative gave a talk about their current initiative Climate House, we also saw a female Artist at work painting with oil colours with a knife. We rounded off our trip by visiting a gallery of artists work called 'Think Plastic', concentrated on, the much maligned materials such as plastics which were re-made into various artifacts, jewellery etc.
For just one Day, all seemed to be right with the World after experiencing a little bit of Paradise, thanks to the generosity of not 1 but 2 great artists who approached this vast subject from different perspectives.
A visit to the Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh is always a delight. However, this can often be even further enhanced when there is an associated artistic adventure in mind. That is what happened when we met up there with Holly from Edinburgh Art Festival and landscape painter Sarah Knox, who had kindly agreed to run an art workshop for our group based on inspiration gained from being in the gardens. We enjoyed a series of ink and watercolour exercises, including a quick "warm up" session where drawings were attempted of nearby objects without looking down at the paper. After some quick handy hints from Sarah, the ink and watercolour paintings involved each participant selecting a nearby object and using these as their subject matter. Colourful flowers and trees with lovely bright red apples proved particularly popular here, and I used my time responding with poetry. What also became clear was that despite some protestations to the contrary on the part of a painter or two, there were quite a few very impressive end results here indeed!
A quick picnic lunch followed during unexpected lovely weather and it was then a short pleasant stroll over to nearby Inverleith House, which although currently closed, served as a great backdrop for what proved to be a very interesting outside and suitably socially distanced presentation by Gabi and Natalie who both work for the Edinburgh Botanic Gardens in a creative capacity. They updated us on a major new project that the Botanic Gardens are embarking upon whereby the arts, in all their forms, are to be combined with ecological matters to help increase awareness and action on imminently critical climate change issues. As part of this, Inverleith House has been renamed Climate House and many relevant exhibitions and other events are planned. Excitingly for us, we were delighted to also learn that much closer working with areas such as Wester Hailes is to be encouraged and several examples of future joint working and ideas and information sharing possibilities were discussed, some of which will hopefully come to fruition in the not too distant future. Some of this has in fact already started to happen through the production of several poems based on the visit by some of the participants using their paintings and other imagery from the day.
Finally there was a quick look round the current 'Think Plastic' exhibition there which had an interesting mix of factual and artistic details. Then all off home after what was collectively agreed as a fantastically productive day for all concerned and everyone is now looking forward both to the next such visit, and what emerges from our Climate House / Wester Hailes discussions on the day.