My name is Shevaun Doherty and I’m a botanical artist from Dublin, Ireland (Follow me on Instagram, Facebook, and my blog!) I have always loved painting and nature, but as so often happens, life took me on a different path. Deep in my heart, I knew that I was destined to paint. It wasn’t until I moved from Dublin to Egypt in 2005, that I finally had the chance to paint full time. I had always painted in oils and pastels before, but with the dazzling light, I decided to teach myself watercolours.
I was really inspired by artists like Cathy Johnson, whose wonderful watercolour journals are about enjoying the process and capturing the moment. Her observations on nature are beautiful, and she is incredibly generous in her sharing of knowledge online. For a beginner like me, the ability to hide in my work in the cover of a sketchbook became the ultimate freedom. Even today, I start all of my work with the idea that it is a study. If it works out, great. If not, it’s only a study!
Egypt has the most wonderful flora and fauna, and a history that is closely bound in the natural world. My young daughters would bring me ‘treasures’ that they found in the garden, and we would try to find out the story behind each one.
For example, in late September each year, the gardens would fill with butterflies, hundreds of them suddenly appearing. My daughter found one floating in the pool and brought it home for me to paint. Reading up, we learned that these were Painted Lady butterflies, and they fly over 2000km from Europe to North Africa for their annual migration.
How they did it was a puzzle for scientists, but they recently discovered that these butterflies ascend to a height of 500 metres (1640 feet) and “windsurf” all the way down to North Africa at speeds of over 45km an hour (27/mph)!! It’s not just a one-way migration either, because many of the butterflies make the return journey too. How cool is that?
It was this fascination with nature that led me to botanical art. On a trip to London, I went to the recently opened Shirley Sherwood Gallery in Kew Gardens. I remember staring spellbound at the precision and the skill of botanical art, and knew that this was something I wanted to do.
I signed up for a Distance Learning Course with the Society of Botanical Artists, which was great because it meant that I could do my assignments whilst living in Egypt. The course was one of the best things that I have ever done. It opened the doors of discovery to me and has enriched my life in so many ways.
I was living in Cairo when the Revolution happened in 2011. It was such a strange experience. There was no telephone service and no internet. State TV showed peaceful scenes, whilst satellite stations showed mayhem. There were reports of mass looting and the jails being opened. I filled my fridge, locked my doors, and painted purple carrots, listening to the constant drone of helicopters in the sky above. It was very surreal.
Now I’m back living in Dublin once more, and art has gone from being a dream, to being something that I do every day. I exhibit internationally, and give workshops and demos. However, I have never lost that wonder and respect that I have for the natural world, and I hope I never will. Art really helps you to see it. You can read some of my art stories on my blog, or follow me on Facebook!