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23rd Annual International

American Society of Botanical Artists at Wave Hill


Blackthorn up close

Prunus spinosa

Blackthorn has lots of associations for me: collecting sloes as a child to make sloe gin; many walks with blackthorn in the hedgerows, covered in beautiful blossom at Easter, then with berries slowly ripening through summer. The thing about blackthorn is that it grows in all the best places! 


It is also a wild relative of the domestic plum and you can see they’re related, but it’s rougher and wilder looking, spiky with smaller, harder fruit. 


For all these reasons I wanted to paint it.


I knew where to find my subject: there’s a nature reserve not far from where I live. The path leads up through an ancient yew forest to the top where there are Bronze Age burial mounds and wonderful views - and a beautiful clearing lined with blackthorn. On the way home from a day spent walking there I scoured the trees for a suitable branch with plenty of sloes.


Sloes are a beautiful soft blue when they’re ripe and gradually become darker and shinier as the weather erodes the bloom. I chose some that still had most of the powdery surface intact but with a little weather damage, revealing the darker color beneath.


I began by matching the blue of the fruit and gradually built up the color and form with lots of layers of paint. I used four colors in total, as I prefer to keep things simple, and adjusted the color as I progressed. It’s a slow process using small brush strokes to build in texture. The markings on the surface were added at the end with a less diluted paint.


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Read more about this artist’s work: 22nd Annual

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Prunus spinosa

Blackthorn up close

Watercolor on paper

9 1/2 x 9 1/2 inches

©2020 Liz Shippam

2024 ASBA - All rights reserved

All artwork copyrighted by the artist. Copying, saving, reposting, or republishing of artwork prohibited without express permission of the artist.

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