About the Arty Plantsman


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

My aim here was 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….

I am based near Lancaster in North West England. Sometimes it doesn’t rain.

What I won’t be talking about:

  • The day job – out of professionalism and because it isn’t worth it.
  • Family – out of respect for their privacy, but also fear.

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 also have a quirky sense of humour that demands an occasional outlet.

Mental health issues are something I blog about a lot. A childhood blighted by bullying has left a lot of damage and I am still trying to find myself. It has also left me with a strong sense of independence and belief in the rights of individuals to live the life they want.

I am intolerant of intolerance. I saw enough bigotry in my childhood and try to be as kind and open minded as possible. My Myers-Briggs type is INFP. This means I run a mile from small-talk but am very comfortable in talking about real or personal things.

This blog has helped me make friends with people around the world. I owe it, and them, a lot.

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 photographer, 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. Hence the exclusion of ‘wannabe gigolo’ from the above list – I’d be too tired even if offers were forthcoming, plus my wife might read it.

If I had the time (and spousal approval) I would also be into: aquaria, reptile keeping, tarantulas, electric guitar, tropical orchids, reading more poetry, trying other art techniques, antiques, fossils, minerals. I am basically a small boy at heart, minus some of the more disgusting habits.

Anyway – the art stuff:

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, was also a huge influence and her lovely feedback 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.