Jo Dowers, Denmans Artist-in-Residence

The first couple of months as Denmans’ Artist in Residence have flown by and I am sure that they will continue to do so as we move into the New Year. Much of my work tends to be studio based so it has been a real joy to spend time painting plein air in the garden.

When painting in this way you are totally absorbed by the sights and sounds of your natural surroundings, noticing the dew on the sage & the blackbird that comes and perches on the topiary while you sketch. It also limits your choices, making you paint in a far more spontaneous way, essentially producing an immediate response to what you are looking at. Watercolour in particular is a wonderful medium for painting loosely & intuitively, often giving surprising results!

There are many challenges and opportunities when discovering how to portray the garden in paint, from the vast variety of shades of green, the shapes and textures of the leaves and plants to how to convey a feeling of depth and light. There is the decision of whether to paint a whole scene or zoom into individual plants and flowers.

In search of direction, I continue to be inspired by the loose work of the French watercolourist Raoul Dufy as well as the beautiful watercolours by Paul Klee from his travels to Tunisia and Ivon Hitchens’ impressive large scale semi abstract paintings with his loose, expressive brush marks and fabulous use of colour.

As a rule, my work tends to begin with small watercolour and ink sketches, becoming more abstract as they develop into larger acrylic pieces focusing on pattern, shape and colour. At Denmans you are spoilt for choice from the beautiful range of warm golds and oranges against cerulean blue skies moving into the softer purples and blues of the winter light.

I continue to be drawn to the walled garden with the fabulous giant terracotta urn providing a sense of structure as you enter the garden and then following the gravel path a little further along, I have become fascinated by the topiary triangle & circular dome hedges. On closer inspection you slowly begin to notice the repetition of shape and form, not just of the topiary but also of the wonderful planting which links the garden together.

2023 is going to be an exciting year.  I am looking forward to the onset of spring with all the fresh, bright florals it will bring to the garden and recording this as we move into the summer months. In Picasso’s words “Painting is just another way of keeping a diary”.

I thoroughly enjoy sharing my passion for watercolour and will continue to give creative watercolour workshops in the Botanic room at Denmans throughout 2023 with various technique driven workshops often inspired by the seasons. This begins in January with a “Winter Landscape” class followed by an “Introduction to ‘Loose Watercolour Florals’” in February.

Jo is recording her experiences and observations about her work at Denmans and elsewhere on her and we will include further updates on the garden’s website blog as the year goes on.

For more information on Jo go to  @jodowers
For information on Jo’s next series of watercolour workshops at Denmans Garden and how to book go to