As summer draws to a close, we mark the final quarter of artist Jo Dowers’ residency at Denmans Garden and the anticipation of her forthcoming exhibition…

Over the summer months the garden changes dramatically from week to week. With the heavy rainfall in July the growth has been especially vigorous, and I have found myself attracted to the more overgrown, wild, and tangled areas of the garden, trying to portray the feeling of looking up or through the intertwined stalks and leaves, endeavouring to capture the beauty of the understated.

In particular, I am drawn to the fennel, teasels and golden achillea, again to be found in the beautiful walled garden, a particular favourite area of the garden for me. Their height, pattern and shape appeal to me in helping create a sense of structure to my compositions which have been one of the main challenges in portraying the garden especially when there is such an abundance of plants and flora together…

It is still such a pleasure to sketch in this favourite spot, there is a feeling of being cocooned in a secret garden surrounded by the plantings, with John Brookes’ signature giant terracotta urn and the striking palms giving structure and shape, and I am again reminded of Hitchens quote “Don’t try to find a picture. Find a place and discover the picture in that.”

Over the year I have enjoyed experimenting with different styles and techniques. I have always wanted to try cyanotype printing, one of the first and oldest photographic printing processes most notably used by the botanical artist Anna Atkins who in 1843 became the first person to illustrate a book using photographic images. The process uses exposure to ultraviolet light to create stunning cyan blue prints making it perfect for leaves, seed heads and grasses and I am looking forward to further experimenting with this printing process.

When exhibiting my work, I often receive comments about the ethereal quality I invoke and have been told recently by someone purchasing a piece of artwork that it speaks to her soul.

I do hope that my artwork has an uplifting quality and feel that watercolour naturally lends itself to creating an expressive, atmospheric effect especially when using layers of wash to create a feeling of light and depth.

 Sometimes I will get to a stage where I am not completely happy with how the piece is going and will wash it off under the tap, leaving a subtle tint of where the paint has been; though at times I can regret doing this wishing I had continued working in on it just that little bit longer….

Working in this way, I often begin a painting without a clear idea of what the end result could be and have to trust in the creative journey of exploration, frustration and sometimes self-doubt, as well as a lot of time spent looking, thinking and playing with a viewfinder until the finished piece evolves – which could take hours, days or weeks!

I have enjoyed returning to painting in a looser, more abstract style but have found it surprisingly challenging, trying to avoid the temptation of putting in a leaf, flower shape or branch; simply using colour, tone and mark making to create the painting. I am however determined to continue to pursue this way of working, with the focus on the process rather than the finished piece.

Being Artist in Residence at Denmans Garden over the past year has provided a wonderful opportunity to discuss my work with visitors to the garden as well as at the monthly workshops that I give there and for the final months of this process, I am looking forward to the gradual move into Autumn – taking in the changing light and wonderful colour of the season’s leaves and berries, as well as bringing my collection of work together for the final exhibition in November. I hope to meet many of you there!

Jo’s exhibition, ‘A Sussex Garden’ Reflections of an Artist’s Year at Denmans Garden will run fromFriday 3rd November – Friday 22nd December 2023

10am-4pm daily in Midpines Café. Exhibition entry is free. For further information go to:


More details on Jo’s latest workshops and how to book can be found on our events page:


Jo is recording her experiences and observations about her work at Denmans and elsewhere on her blog and Instagram page. For more information on Jo go to  @jodowers


For more information, please contact Louise Campbell 07540892364