Botanical painting – veritable vegetables with Mariella Baldwin

Botanical art

Ref: S2D11259

About this course

West Dean's Walled Garden is famous for its heritage vegetables. It has never been a better time to dip into watercolour and depict some of their fabulous collection which display such interesting forms and colour.

Course Description

Vegetables have been long overlooked as a subject for painting in recent years; but no longer. The interest in historical and unusual vegetables is burgeoning especially as more people turn to a vegetable based diet. 18th Century Dutch and Spanish still life paintings frequently took vegetables as their theme and they make interesting subjects to depict, especially winter roots; parnsips, leeks and beets.

This course aims to help gain confidence in the application of watercolour together with accurate observations skills. Whilst accuracy is vital to botanical painting, advice and tips will be given to simplify the drawing process, enabling you to proceed to painting as swiftly as possible.

The object of the course is to achieve an accurate drawing from which the painting will be made. The focus on painting will be layering colours to build up tonal values to describe the form, creating a three dimensional plant. Additionally and equally important, will be attention to colour mixing and theory; with a focus on achieving earthy colours, which nevertheless glow. Mariella will demonstrate various wet-in-wet and dry brush techniques for you to work out the ways to develop a personal style.

By the end of the course, you will leave with a series of course exercises and notes to accompany the painting, which will be useful for further painting projects. You will leave with a greater understanding of accurate rendition and colour theory. With reference to botanical paintings, both contemporary and historical, you will be equipped with inspirational ideas to progress your own practice.


Arrival Day - this is the first date listed above

Courses start early evening. Residential students to arrive from 4pm, non-residential students to arrive by 6.45pm.

6.45pm: Welcome, followed by dinner (included).

8 - 9pm: First teaching session, attendance is essential.

Daily timetable

Classes 9.15 - 5pm, lunch is included.

From 6.30pm: Dinner (included for residential students).

Evening working - students may have access to workshops until 9pm, but only with their tutor's permission and provided any health and safety guidelines are observed.

Last day

Classes 9.15am - 3pm, lunch is included.

Residential students are to vacate their rooms by 10am please.

(This timetable is for courses of more than one day in length. The tutor may make slight variations)

Course Materials


  • On this course the College will supply the plant material from the gardens at West Dean.

What students need to bring

Rag or kitchen roll for mopping up excess liquid
Florist’s pin holder for securing plant
A magnifying glass or a x10 lens would be useful if you have them but not essential
Artists’ quality watercolours if possible, and just a minimum of three colours:
Winsor and Newton: Permanent Rose, Winsor Lemon and French Ultramarine.  Or Schminke: Ruby Red, Lemon Yellow, Ultramarine Finest
Daniel Smith: Quinacridone Rose, Lemon Yellow, French Ultramarine.
Other useful colours:– Phthalo Blue, Phthalo Green, Burnt Sienna, Burnt Umber, Sepia, Yellow Ochre, Winsor Violet, Permanent Alizarin Crimson, Viridian
Please bring any materials you may have from the available to buy list


Available to buy

  • Available from shop:
  • Sketchbook or block of smooth cartridge paper
  • Tracing paper
  • HB/F and 2H pencil (if using a mechanical pencil size 0.3 lead recommended)
  • Putty rubber, plastic rubber and a ruler
  • Pencil sharpener or craft knife
  • ‘Hot Pressed’ watercolour paper 300 gsm - Arches, Bockingford for example - A3
  • A selection of ‘Miniature’ (short hairs with good tip) Da Vinci/Rosemary or similar watercolour brushes -  0, 3 and 5 - Kolinsky sable if possible
  • Artists’ quality watercolours if possible, and just a minimum of three colours:
  • Winsor and Newton: Permanent Rose, Winsor Lemon and French Ultramarine.  Or Schminke: Ruby Red, Lemon Yellow, Ultramarine Finest
  • Watercolour palette - preferably china - a white saucer will be perfect


Mariella Baldwin

Mariella Baldwin studied botanical illustration at the English Gardening School, London and received an MA in Visual Arts from Sussex University. Her paintings are held in collections both in the UK and USA. She is a painting member of Chelsea Physic Garden Florilegium Society. Her book 'Botanical Painting' was published in 2011.


Residential option available. Find out accommodation costs and how to book here.

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