Art in Bloom at Biggar Museum this September

Sharon Bradley is no stranger to staging beautiful exhibitions, both of her artwork and favourite flowers.

Art in Bloom...Sharon is delighted her groups work will be on show in Biggar Museum, alongside a host of well-known Scottish artists. (Pic: Sarah Peters)
Art in Bloom...Sharon is delighted her groups work will be on show in Biggar Museum, alongside a host of well-known Scottish artists. (Pic: Sarah Peters)

And she is now combining her passion for both by organising a month-long exhibition in the Gallery at Biggar and Upper Clydesdale Museum in September.

Sharon has taught the Biggar Botanical Art Group for more than ten years.

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A former Botanical art tutor at the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh, it would be fair to say she knows her onions...and all the other vegetables, plants and flowers too!

Botanical artwork...Pomegranate by Clare McGhee will be just one of the artworks on display in the exhibition. (Pic: Sarah Peters)

Indeed, her botanical art classes are the only ones available outwith the city’s Botanic Garden.

As spaces in the group are limited to ten, there is always a waiting list to join.

However, Sharon’s existing students can’t wait to share their art with a wider audience.

For it is hoped Art in Bloom, which runs at the museum from September 2 to 29, will draw art lovers from all over Scotland.

Botanical artwork...Pomegranate by Clare McGhee will be just one of the artworks on display in the exhibition. (Pic: Sarah Peters)

Explaining why, Sharon (60) said: “Through my work as a tutor, I’ve come into contact with many award-winning artists so I was in a position to invite some of them to join the exhibition.

“Usually, people would have to travel to London or even further afield to see their work.

“So this is a bit of a coup for both members of the group and the museum.

“Several group members are also Friends or volunteers at the museum so we wanted to attract as wide an audience as possible.

“Our art group members are really excited that their work is being exhibited alongside gold medal winning artists.

“And we’re hoping that they will introduce a far bigger audience to the museum.”

Given the calibre of artists exhibiting, that is certainly likely.

Royal Horticultural Society gold medal winning artists Clare McGhee and Margaret Walty have agreed to take part, along with fellow Scottish artists Victoria Braithwaite, Moy Mackay and Clare Robinson.

And sculptor Susheila Jamieson will also be joining in the fun.

But in the art world, who you know counts...

Sharon explained: “Moy Mackay is very well known and you’d probably never get her to Biggar – unless you know her mother, Mary, like I do! It definitely helps!

“I personally called Moy and she was more than happy to take part.

“In fact, all of the artists have been very generous with their time and some have also agreed to make personal appearances.”

Starting on Saturday, September 2, and every Wednesday and Saturday thereafter during September, the exhibition will become interactive – hosting meet the artist fun days from 11am to 4pm.

Sharon said: “There will be demos by the artists, who will explain where they draw their inspiration from and some of their techniques.

“We’ll also be encouraging members of the public to have a go – but in a fun way.

“We might have mums and dads competing against each other or families just enjoying sitting down for a few minutes and giving botanical art a try.”

Local art group members and visiting artists will share their tips with visitors, both about botanical art and the mediums used – pencils, coloured pencils and watercolours.

“No-one will be forced into it but it will be fun for those who want to try.”

Pencils, paper and the crucial rubbers will be provided.

Magnus Linklater, the chairman of Little Sparta Garden Trust, will also be chairing a talk on Ian Hamilton Finlay’s pride and joy, the modern, contemporary garden he lovingly designed.

Now overseen by the Trust, the garden contains more than 270 of Finlay’s artworks in specially created settings.

The talk will be held on Thursday, September 7, from 5.30pm to 6.30pm.

Tickets, priced £5 including a glass of wine, must be booked in advance from the museum.

And one last date for the diary, on Saturday, September 23, Rosie Gow from Rowan Design flower show in Biggar will demonstrate tied bouquets.

One lucky visitor who enters the free draw will go home with the flowers!

Most of the artwork on display during the exhibition will be for sale.

* Entry to Art in Bloom is free but if people choose to visit the museum too, it will cost £5 – although the ticket can then be used to gain free entry throughout the month of September.

Tutor’s success is two-fold

As you would expect from someone who has painted them for a lifetime, Sharon Bradley knows flowers!

But when she moved with her husband Jim and their daughter Victoria into a new build in Biggar 25 years ago, they had no garden to speak of. During a family holiday around the same time in the Lake District, the family popped in to Dalemain House and Sharon instantly fell in love with their blue poppies.

Luckily for her, the owner of the house was only too happy to give her some cuttings. Sharon said: “Sadly, I managed to kill them all off but I tried for years and years until I finally succeeded.

“Now they grow in my garden without me trying too hard.”

And it’s her beautiful blue poppies which Sharon is now renowned for in gardening circles. Since 2012 she has been invited to display them at Gardening Scotland every year and has won five gold medals at the prestigious event.

Sharon said: “I’m now known as an “authority” on the blue poppies, which is wonderful.”

But Sharon is also an authority on her first love – botanical art.

Having left high school with an art higher, she didn’t start pursuing her passion until she was in her mid-twenties.

Sharon decided to take a course in botanical art at the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh and eventually went on to become a tutor there.

A published artist, her work has adorned exhibition spaces as well as botanical magazines and scientic periodicals.

But Sharon has now decided to retire to devote more time to her art classes, gardening and family life, including her grand daughter Olivia. She added: “I never thought I’d teach art because it was my hobby but I discovered there’s a great deal of satisfaction in helping bringing other people on.”