Botanical Beauty at WSHC

Recently we had the pleasure of a visit from the botanical artist Ann Swan, dropping off the remaining material which will form her artists’ archive here at the Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre.

Ann's artistic archive
A selection of items from Ann’s artistic archive

Ann is based at her studio in Rowde and has loved pencil drawing since she was a child, but her love of gardening and plants came later when she was almost 40 and recovering from a prolonged bout of illness.

At first she began drawing flowers in graphite (she had some lovely get well bouquets) and then decided to try a cabbage after seeing a painting in a glossy magazine. This was a first step, leading to many more alongside applying for an Enterprise Grant to help support her full-time artwork.

Ann went on to enter work to the Royal Horticultural Society and Society of Botanical Artists, her first success being a Silver Gilt Medal in 1999 and then three golds in 1991, 1993 and 1997.

Kew Gardens asked Ann to submit drawings for an exhibition in 1994, one of her pieces being bought by Shirley Shirwood OBE, the British writer and botanist. The Duke of Edinburgh was also impressed by her work on display at the Chelsea Flower Show and has acquired several pieces.

Anne's first drawing
Anne’s first drawing

Ann is now a leading expert on botanical art using pencil and coloured pencil. After much experimenting, she has developed a method of using an alcohol-based solvent with coloured pencils, perfect to add life and vibrancy but also giving the ability to let the detail shine through. She also painstakingly uses coloured pencil alone, building up the layers to achieve detail and depth of colour.

Ann’s garden and her work are inextricably linked, the garden’s style also reflecting her sensitivity to the minutiae of plant life; so many details to be gleaned from hidden nooks and crannies; contrasting styles and colours.

The house once belonged to the Bartholomew family of Wadsworth Brewery, Devizes, and the Victorian greenhouse contains beautiful vines and tomatoes alongside many herbs. Ann sometimes uses a camera with a macro lens to help her see deeper and bring even more detail to life.

Ann has a true ability to show the beauty in nature, to amaze us with the everyday; the majesty of the humble Brussel sprout and cabbage. Her works bring a sense of colour and joy. You could spend many a happy hour studying the exquisite detail to be discovered in just one piece.

The magnificent Brussel sprout
The magnificent Brussel sprout

The Creative Wiltshire project has given us a unique opportunity to create artists’ archives; to document an creator’s journey with pieces of work from the very beginning through to diaries, books they have published and other material which will be used by students and others to help them find their own path and to be inspired by the many, varied and talented creative people living in Wiltshire; a fitting tribute to Ann who loves teaching and sharing her knowledge too. To find out more about Ann’s work, her workshops and book on botanical painting with coloured pencils, please visit

Ann Swan in her studio
Ann Swan in her studio

Our artist archive to date includes Roger Leigh, Caroline Day, David Rolt, and Penelope Ellis.

If you would like to view any of the artist archives or other material acquired as part of the Creative Wiltshire project please visit and contact

We’ll be happy to help you explore the creativity that Wiltshire has to offer!

Julie Davis

Creative Wiltshire Project Lead





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