About the Arty Plantsman


Welcome to the blog of Darren Sleep BSc (Hons), DipSBA (Dist).

New intro October 2017: Below, you can see the original intro for my blog. Things have changed recently and I am publishing more general posts about life, mental health, humour. I am a gentle soul and hope you find my site a calming place to visit. Please leave a comment and say hello.



My aim is to record my observations as I move on from the Society of Botanical Artists diploma course toward exhibiting my work and maybe even selling some….

It won’t all be about art. Underpinning my art is a long-standing love of plants and the natural world. With this in mind, when I’m not posting arty things I will be posting about plants or the places I visit. I am based near Lancaster in North West England.

What I won’t be talking about:

  • The day job – out of professionalism.
  • Family – out of respect for their privacy.

At the moment, art is taking a back seat. After two years on the SBA DLDC course, coinciding with my wife completing a degree and postgraduate certificate, the garden is a mess and we need to catch up. Also in summer 2016 we built a new greenhouse and re-potted my now worryingly big collection of bulbs. Inside the house we are having a reorganisation so that I can have a more permanent studio space.

I am pretty much interested in everything*. I’m a biologist by training, chemist by profession, plantsman by inclination, artist at heart. When not doing the above I am a gym-goer, archer, (bad) guitarist as well as a keen reader and sci-fi/horror movie geek. Combining all the above has left me with a somewhat tired and bewildered demeanor.

Having failed ‘O’ level art at the kind of comprehensive school where having a brain or being arty was like having a target pinned to your chest, I didn’t pick up a pencil for many years. In my 40s I attended many weekend courses at the now sadly defunct Alston Hall College, taught by botanical artists Susan Christopher-Coulson or Julie Small. Both have been a great encouragement and inspiration and led to my completing the SBA course and graduating with distinction. My main course tutor for coloured pencil work, Janie Pirie, has also been a huge influence and her lovely feedback has helped me overcome my lack of confidence in my own work.

I work in pencil, either coloured or graphite and approach botanical art from the starting point of my scientific background. My work is quite illustrative in style and I try to get a great deal of accurate detail into my pictures. I refuse to ever draw lemon grass again after it almost sent me mad last time (all those tiny parallel veins!).

I still have a day job so art is confined to my spare time. This makes me wary to accept commissions, though you can always ask! It would take at least eight weeks to finish even a modest sized piece.

*Main exceptions to my interests: Team sports, children, politics, money, most TV, chart music, social media, celebrities. Basically any normal topic of conversation. This could explain my lack of a social life, which allows me time to draw.