"How Does your Garden Grow?"


This painting was inspired by the classic children's nursery rhyme, "Mary Mary". I loved this rhyme as a child, my mother was called Mary and I would wonder if she was Mary of the rhyme. She was always out in the garden so it seemed perfectly plausible. I also thought my Aunt was Princess Margaret, I had a colourful imagination or I was just easily confused.

I always thought that the rhyme was about Bloody Mary Tudor. I've checked Wikipedia, so bound to be right, and the rhyme could also be about Mary the mother of Jesus or Mary Queen of Scots. The oldest printed version appeared in 1744.

Mary, Mary, quite contrary,

How does your garden grow?

With silver bells, and cockle shells,

And pretty maids all in a row.

I added the bees and bugs to the painting as our precious ecosystem just wouldn't work without all their hard work pollinating. When I painted this image the catastrophic drop in world bee populations was all over the media.

How does your Garden Grow?" isn't a difficult painting but as there are 6 elements it takes longer than the images with a single element. Many of my early Guided Paintings had multiple elements, this is a reflection of the imagery and structure I have used in my own practice. My earlier career work, produced in textile and gouache often featured repetition and formalised elements.

After running these kinds of images for Guided Painting classes for some time I realised that using multiple image compositions made for really long classes. Students would get confused and tired. The single image paintings have proved to be much gentler, especially for beginners.

When the class first ran in 2014 a regular student brought along her husband's cousin to the class. She was a lovely lady and very accomplished in her work life, however, a painting class proved to be much further out of her comfort zone than she imagined. She struggled through the afternoon and became really quiet. Her finished painting was great, yet she seemed despondent. Later my student told me that her friend had hated the class, she couldn't cope with the lack of control and I nearly broke her. I felt terrible, I feel responsible when students have a poor experience, I genuinely like people to go home happy.

Trying something new as an adult can be more challenging than anticipated. Learning to paint even in a step by step class will push you. If you expect a relaxing time then you should readjust your expectations. You will learn a lot and you will come away with a much better understanding of many aspects of painting in acrylic, but it requires effort and self-belief.

I have met many adults who experienced art at school as somewhere between underwhelming and traumatic. An ill-advised remark from a teacher can ruin an otherwise creative student. So many adults will say to me, "I can't draw or paint", "I'm not creative"," I'm terrible".There is too much self-deprecation and negativity.

Producing a painting can be a very exposing experience and naturally, students can be very nervous. Unfortunately, those nerves and a negative inner voice can stunt the very creativity a person is trying to achieve and lo and behold we have a self-fulfilling prophecy.

These painting classes are about gradually building the image. It won't look great at every stage, you have to keep going. Do not panic. It will work, just take a leap of faith. The old adage " practice makes perfect" is perfect.