Retired teacher’s hobby lands her RHS artist-in-residence role

  • By Ewan Gawne & Chris Long
  • BBC News

Image source, Caroline Jane Buckley

Image caption,

Ms Buckley said she found it “relaxing and absorbing to draw and as I have always loved nature, it was an obvious choice”

A retired teacher who took up botanical illustration as a hobby has become an artist-in-residence for the UK’s leading garden charity after her work “bowled over” a judging panel.

Caroline Jane Buckley’s coloured pencil drawings won her £1,000 and a year-long commission to work for the Royal Horticultural Society’s Plant Review.

The 57-year-old said she was “over the moon” about taking up the role.

Editor James Armitage said her work was “an original way” of rendering plants.

Image source, Caroline Jane Buckley

Image caption,

Mr Armitage said her “very striking” composition, which included dahlias, crocosmia and rose hips, left judges “bowled over”

The former geography and science teacher, who lives in the Lancashire village of Edgworth, said she had always had a keen interest in art, but she had not had chance to fully pursue it before.

“I studied an art foundation course 39 years ago, but then changed career direction,” she said.

“I had little time to draw whilst teaching and bringing up my family.

“It was only after retiring that I had the opportunity again.”

Image source, Caroline Jane Buckley

Image caption,

The artist said living in the West Pennine Moors meant she was blessed with “endless subject matter”

She said she found it “relaxing and absorbing to draw and as I have always loved nature, it was an obvious choice to draw the plants around me”.

“I attended a botanical art course at Higham Hall in Cumbria and joined the Sheffield Botanical Gardens Florilegium Society and a botanical art group at Holehird Gardens in Cumbria.”

That led to her studying for a diploma from the Society for Botanical Artists (SBA), which she was awarded in May, gaining the highest mark available.

She said the course gave her “the skills to tackle botanical illustration”, including the “more scientifically accurate aspect” that aims to show the “diagnostic features of a particular plant species” and the ability to “produce a lovely composition” for something like a greetings card or a painting.

Image source, Caroline Jane Buckley

Image caption,

Mr Armitage said the artist’s work captured “the spirit and personality of the plants, not just the details”

She said that living in the West Pennine Moors meant she had “endless subject matter”, as she was “surrounded by beautiful countryside with plenty of woodland, pasture and open moorland”.

However, she said she also loved to “study plants in their habitat” and had a favourite spot among the “Ainsdale sand dunes on the Lancashire coast”.

She added that using the pencils gave her “more control and precision” to illustrate fine details in “very vibrant” colour, but she never expected to win when she entered her picture into the charity’s inaugural competition to find a new artist-in-residence for its quarterly botanical magazine.

Image source, Caroline Jane Buckley

Image caption,

Ms Buckley said she had had “little time to draw whilst teaching and bringing up my family” but had returned to it after retiring

However, Mr Armitage said her “very striking” composition of red and orange late summer flowers, which included dahlias, crocosmia and rose hips, left judges “bowled over” with its technical quality.

He said her use of coloured pencils was “such an original way of rendering the plants” and gave her work an impressive level of “precision and exactness”.

He added that botanical art “can be a little dry”, but Ms Buckley’s work captured “the spirit and personality of the plants, not just the details”.

An SBA representative said the organisation was “thrilled” that a “talented foundation member” had won the commission and Ms Buckley’s work would add “a touch of artistic brilliance” to the magazine’s pages.

Ms Buckley said while she was only just getting her head round winning, she had already started sketching cherry trees for the Spring 2024 issue of Plant Review.

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