20 Feb

Reinhild Raistrick, long standing IBA member and dedicated botanical artist, spent six years from 2016 to 2022, recording the ten species of orchids to be found on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne. Reinhild returned each year at a slightly different time in order to capture the flowering period of each plant. Time was spent on site doing a detailed drawing and testing the colours, in order to complete the painting in the studio. A return to the site enabled the background or habitat to be included.

With the culmination of this extended project, ending with an exhibition at Kew Gardens during their 2024 Orchid festival (details and link below), we asked IBA members to pose a few questions to their accomplished fellow IBA artist.

"What planted the seed of the idea to paint all ten orchid species on the island?"

In all the years that I have visited Holy Island, it has usually been in the Spring/Summer and of course being a Botanical Artist, I was drawn to paint the stunning flowers around me. This inevitably led on to recording some of the orchids. Six years ago I met the warden of the Lindisfarne reserve, in order for him to take me to the site of a very rare orchid. This orchid is endemic to this island and grows nowhere else. It was given its own special name of Epipactis sancta [holy].He then suggested that I record and illustrate all ten orchids. So started the wonderful journey.

(Q: Georgie Kuna)

“Did you have any close wildlife encounters… things like birdsong, seals, singing out on the rocks, or unpleasant encounters… bird delivering calling card, unexpected downpour...?”
Yes, inevitably when you are sitting working in the field, you have the most wonderful surprise encounters. I like to think that I have taken myself into the world of my chosen plant. I hear the Lark’s rising crescendo, I smell the damp grass and see the agitated Curlew as she tries to distract me from her precious eggs. All this settles down as I sit motionless and silent, no longer a threat, but now part of the environment. I have entered a sacred space. On Holy Island you are often serenaded by the basking seals on nearby banks. A hauntingly beautiful song which drifts across the island.As a Botanical Artist and teacher, I cannot recommend enough the joy and importance of working outdoors in the presence of your chosen subject. No 'calling cards' from the birds overhead, thank goodness, but I did have a visit of an inquisitive Roe Deer, who came fairly near to investigate. There is a small group of deer who live on the island. Very shy and rarely seen.

(Q: Doreen Taylor)

What challenges did you face while painting?

Challenges of painting in the open are of course the weather: rain, wind, hot sun.Also of course the discomfort of sitting on the ground. Easier for younger bones!

(Q: Matthew Peace)

“What made you want to paint orchids of Lindisfarne? 

I have always been drawn to our native orchids and once did a series of East Anglian Orchids, which were exhibited at the RHS Paintings Show. So the opportunity to paint the orchids of Holy Islands was very exciting.

(Q: Matthew Peace)

Do you have a favourite orchid? 

My favourite orchid was possibly the very rare Epipactis sancta. It is a rather diminutive little orchid, easily lost in the undergrowth, and yet so precious.

(Q: Matthew Peace)

“These are beautiful paintings; are there decorated illustrations of orchids in the Lindisfarne Gospels?”
Such an interesting question Sally. I would love to think there are decorated orchids, as the writer was surrounded by plants on his island. The colours used in the manuscripts were produced using vegetable as well as animal and mineral pigments.I believe images of flowers and duck’s heads were shown in the very early sketches of the Lindisfarne gospels created by Eadfrith, the bishop of Lindisfarne, so there might just have been an orchid in amongst the Celtic design.

(Q: Sally Tollhurst)

“As Lindisfarne has such a special spiritual atmosphere and history, I wondered how that aspect was for Reinhild in connection to making her beautiful paintings?”
Many years ago I stayed on the island for a week’s Spiritual Retreat. This was such a meaningful time that my husband and I have made it our annual pilgrimage. We rent a cottage and once on, we do not come off the island until the end of our stay. The island is cut off by the high tide and once the Day Visitors have left, it becomes a true haven of peace.So yes, this truly spiritual place has influenced the time I have been able to spend working in situ on the amazing ‘holy’ orchids.

(Q:Julia Groves)

Most cherished moment while painting?”

Most cherished memory is the silence and the starry nights and simply being in a ‘thin’ place.

(Q: Matthew Peace)

Many thanks to Reinhild for taking the time to answer these questions, and huge congratulations on completing such an inspiring and important project.

'Orchids of Lindisfarne' can be visited for free on Tuesdays and Thursdays, 10am - 4pm, from Feb 6th to April 11th 2024, at The Library Reading Room, Herbarium Building at Kew Gardens

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