About the Arty Plantsman


Welcome to the blog of Darren Sleep, DipSBA (Dist).

My aim here was to record my observations as I move on from the Society of Botanical Artists diploma course toward exhibiting my work and maybe even selling some….

I am based near Lancaster in North West England. Sometimes it doesn’t rain.

What I won’t be talking about:

  • The day job – out of professionalism and because it isn’t worth it.
  • Family – out of respect for their privacy, but also fear.

It won’t all be about art. Underpinning my art is a long-standing love of plants and the natural world. With this in mind, when I’m not posting arty things I will be posting about plants or the places I visit. I also have a quirky sense of humour that demands an occasional outlet.

Mental health issues are something I blog about a lot. A childhood blighted by bullying has left a lot of damage and I am still trying to find myself. It has also left me with a strong sense of independence and belief in the rights of individuals to live the life they want.

I am intolerant of intolerance. I saw enough bigotry in my childhood and try to be as kind and open minded as possible. My Myers-Briggs type is INFP. This means I run a mile from small-talk but am very comfortable in talking about real or personal things.

This blog has helped me make friends with people around the world. I owe it, and them, a lot.

I am pretty much interested in everything*. I’m a biologist by training, chemist by profession, plantsman by inclination, artist at heart. When not doing the above I am a photographer, gym-goer, archer, (bad) guitarist as well as a keen reader and sci-fi/horror movie geek. Combining all the above has left me with a somewhat tired and bewildered demeanor. Hence the exclusion of ‘wannabe gigolo’ from the above list – I’d be too tired even if offers were forthcoming, plus my wife might read it.

If I had the time (and spousal approval) I would also be into: aquaria, reptile keeping, tarantulas, electric guitar, tropical orchids, reading more poetry, trying other art techniques, antiques, fossils, minerals. I am basically a small boy at heart, minus some of the more disgusting habits.

Anyway – the art stuff:

Having failed ‘O’ level art at the kind of comprehensive school where having a brain or being arty was like having a target pinned to your chest, I didn’t pick up a pencil for many years. In my 40s I attended many weekend courses at the now sadly defunct Alston Hall College, taught by botanical artists Susan Christopher-Coulson or Julie Small. Both have been a great encouragement and inspiration and led to my completing the SBA course and graduating with distinction. My main course tutor for coloured pencil work, Janie Pirie, was also a huge influence and her lovely feedback helped me overcome my lack of confidence in my own work.

I work in pencil, either coloured or graphite and approach botanical art from the starting point of my scientific background. My work is quite illustrative in style and I try to get a great deal of accurate detail into my pictures. I refuse to ever draw lemon grass again after it almost sent me mad last time (all those tiny parallel veins!).

I still have a day job so art is confined to my spare time, but I am usually happy to accept commissions. It would take at least a month to finish even a modest sized piece due to time constraints.

*Main exceptions to my interests: Team sports, children, politics, money, most TV, chart music, social media, celebrities. Basically any normal topic of conversation. This could explain my lack of a social life, which allows me time to draw.