Meriel Thurstan

Meriel Thurstan

Meriel Thurstan

Botanical Artist

Co-founder of the South West Society of Botanical Artists

I have always drawn and painted from an early age, but particularly at boarding school when a session in the studio was a good excuse for avoiding sports. My wish to go to art school to study fashion design was squashed by my parents so I trained in domestic science (exam question: ‘Make up a breakfast tray for your two small sons who are confined to the nursery in quarantine for measles’) followed by secretarial college (typing, Pitman’s shorthand and double-entry book-keeping in a ledger with black and red ink pens).

I was introduced to botanical painting by Mally Francis when I was living in Cornwall and went on to be awarded bronze by the RHS for an exhibit of different coloured potatoes and silver for fungi found growing at the Eden Project, where I was working at the time.

In 2006 one of Rosie Martin’s students suggested that we needed a society for botanical artists in the region and Rosie told me that I was the one to do it.  At our first meeting, chaired by our current President, Professor Sir Ghillian Prance, I was elected as chairman and Rosie as Artistic Director.

Rosie and I went on to run courses as the Eden Project and Dillington, and we have since written six ‘how-to’ books on botanical painting, one of which has been translated into Swedish.

I am passionate about encouraging other botanical artists to increase their skills, and to this end I organise group entries to RHS botanical art exhibitions by our members. Many of them have gone on to exhibit solo – and achieve high awards – having ‘dipped a toe in the water’ by first of all exhibiting as part of a SWSBA group.