Apples and pears artist Helen Campbell
PUBLISHED: 01:16 25 April 2012 | UPDATED: 21:18 20 February 2013
Botanical artist Helen Campbell is working with Westons to preserve Herefordshire's fruitful heritage
As the Heritage apple and Perry pear orchards at Westons Cider in Much Marcle come into full flower, Helen Campbell will be busy photographing, documenting and painting the blossoms for a unique commission.
The self-taught botanical artist is collaborating with Westons Cider to create a mini pomona capturing and recording for posterity the blossoms and fruits of many of the varieties of trees in their orchards.
Helens natural talent lay dormant until about two years ago she started painting, in watercolour, plants, flowers and fruits photographed on the many trips she makes to country houses and orchards. She has since won several awards and one of her paintings was chosen for the Bankside Gallerys 2012 contemporary watercolour exhibition. Working from photographs is extremely unusual for a botanical artist and probably frowned upon, she says. However, I dont have time to work from life and working the way I do has massive benefits. I can take my time with the illustration and with botanical art detail is everything.
I love painting apples and pears its my fort, so I contacted quite a few cider producers in the area with the idea of a commission and it was sheer fluke that Helen Thomas, Westons managing director was interested.
Helen started working on the commission in October last year. Helen Thomas provided me with a very old map so I could find the eight different varieties of Perry pears in the orchard. I had to catalogue the trees, snip samples and record which were which. It was a lengthy process.
When Helen had selected each fruit and documented the variety she then took it back to her studio to photograph and to produce the final original watercolour. So far, as part of an ongoing two to three year project, she has completed five original paintings. A number of fine art limited edition gicle prints from these will soon go on sale in the Westons visitors centre and this May and June she is back at Westons to photograph the blossoms of the pears she has already painted and to catalogue and paint some of the apple blossoms.
I work in watercolour as it captures the detail of the fruit and flowers so well, she said. Traditional botanical illustration has been around for centuries, but I prefer a less scientific approach, depicting the subject as I see it. To me it is important that I capture the flower or fruit in its natural environment, undisturbed, so I take several digital photographs with a macro lens and spend several days building up a final image to paint from. Mastering photography has become quite an important part of the process.
Helen Thomas has been delighted with the early results of the project, having been particularly keen to document the Perry pears. We have some lovely old orchards and we dont know what varieties are in them, so its an ongoing project to document them, we will have our own pomona collection. With old orchards, trees fall down and are lost, so I thought it was a lovely idea to do something like this for future generations. There is a lot of interest in Perry pears and it is rare to get to see them documented, its normally apples.
Helen Campbell will be artist in residence at Westons on May 6 and 7 as part of Blossomtime Weekend, which promises to be a great day out for all the family, with a self-guided orchard walk, cider mill tours and tractor and trailer rides through some of Westons orchards for the very first time, in addition to the popular dray rides with Nobby and Senator, their resident shire horses who will be out on Sunday. The event is being held as part of the Big Apple at Blossomtime. Now in its 24th year this is a special opportunity to enjoy the spring countryside in the Herefordshire parishes on the Marcle Ridge, where the orchards are famous for their cider fruit and excellent eating apples.
A collection of small rural events which celebrate the areas tradition of apple growing and cider making include a competition for craft cider and perry makers. At Putley Village Hall on May 6 (2pm to 6pm) and May 7 (noon to 5pm) the public will be able to taste the entries and judge for themselves. Fine craft ciders and perries will also be on sale, there will be tastings of locally-reared pork sausages, apple teas and entertainment from Leominster Morris. Short screenings on the vintage moviebus will celebrate Herefordshires cider industry on film. Leaflets will be available for self-guided orchard walks and a programme of guided walks includes one around Dragon Orchard with South Herefordshire Dowsers. n
For more details about Blossomtime events visit www.bigapple.org.uk and to see more of Helen Campbells work visit www.helencampbellart.co.uk
* Westons has agreed a sponsorship partnership with the England and Welsh Cricket Board for Stowford Press to become the Cider of England Cricket enabling the company to promote Stowford Press at Englands home international matches.