Texture and depth: meet botanical artist Amber Halsall

Amber Halsall, Callicarpa Bodinieri

I’m delighted to present the first story that’s not about my own gardening for Cambridge Flower Journal. Meet Amber Halsall: a botanical artist who has been running workshops with Kettle’s Yard here in Cambridge lately. Amber shares what led her to focus on drawing plants and flowers; things that inspire her; and what she’s got coming up this year

I’m inspired by the natural world around me, always looking to portray subjects in a fresh, lively way.
I am passionate about teaching others and sharing my skills as I believe that art can have a hugely positive effect on our mental wellbeing. 

I have drawn and painted for as long as I can remember.
I didn’t go to art college initially but I was continually drawn back into painting in any spare time I had. In 1995 I gave up work to have my first child and decided to focus on my art career going forward. I had always drawn plants and flowers but a trip to Kew Gardens that year inspired me to follow the botanical route. 

I love plants with texture and depth.
Hydrangeas are a favourite of mine, as well as fading roses and magnolias. I also love to paint vegetables – the quirkier in shape and colour the better!  Finds from the woods are another favourite subject. I make artist books in my spare time: these are one-of-a kind handmade books filled with plant and landscape images, sometimes using stitch, beads and fabric. 

Amber Halsall, Bela blue hydrangea

I use a combination of graphite, coloured pencil, watercolour and acrylic inks in my work.
Sometimes I focus on one media, and sometimes I mix several media in one piece. I find the subject normally dictates the media to be used. I generally work on hot pressed paper but have recently started experimenting with a more textured surface. 

One of my favourite places to go is Kew Gardens.
Woodlands are also a place to find inspiration and I can often find something inspiring when I have been rooting around in my father’s vegetable patch. As I am not a particularly competent gardener, I have persuaded him to grow veg specifically for me to paint in previous years.

I’m running workshops and exhibiting work this year.
In May I’m leading a two-day watercolour workshop at West Dean. I’m also exhibiting work at the Mall Galleries from 5-10 July with the Society of Graphic Fine Art. Plus, my work features in an online exhibition this summer with the Society of Botanical Artists.

Amber Halsall, Moonglow

Katherine asked me to share something few people know about me…
One is that I am an art material addict. I love experimenting with new materials, trying to create something different that will stretch me as an artist. A second is that I once persuaded my whole family (four teenagers at the time) to walk the entire length of Hadrian’s Wall coast to coast. It took us approximately ten days and was an incredible experience and achievement. 

A huge thanks to Amber for sharing her story for Cambridge Flower Journal so early on in the project; I can’t wait to look out for her future work and to see how this artist’s style develops going forward. You can explore more of Amber’s beautiful pieces via her website. Keep an eye on future workshops from Kettle’s Yard, too!

Until next time,

🌞 Katherine

P.S. Are you a keen gardener/floral enthusiast based in Cambridgeshire? If you have a story to tell, please do get in touch.

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