Larger Than Life with Martin J. Allen

Tuesday – Thursday, October 24, 25 & 26, 2017

9:30 am – 3:30 pm each day
Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden, Oak Room

Cost, BAGSC Members: $250
Non-Members: $275

Not a BAGSC Member? Consider joining. If you are already an ASBA member, you can join BAGSC for $15, thereby getting a $10 discount on the current class, all the benefits of being a BAGSC member, plus the full discount for future classes and events. An added bonus is the camaraderie and being part of a great group of local like-minded artists.

Not an ASBA member either? Join both ASBA and BAGSC at the same time and enjoy the wealth of benefits!

Maximum Registration: 16 students

To register: $50 non-refundable deposit (or full amount), check made out to BAGSC, with Martin J. Allen on the subject line. Please contact the BAGSC Education Chair to receive the address to which to mail your check.

Remaining balance due by Tuesday, October 10, 2017, check made out to BAGSC, with Martin J. Allen on the subject line, sent to the BAGSC Education Chair at the address provided.

Bring your lunch, or purchase lunch at the Peacock Café, on the Arboretum grounds, right above the Oak Room classroom, where the workshop will be held.

Questions about the Workshop? Contact the BAGSC Education Chair.

For more information about Martin (in addition to the Instructor's bio below), visit his website.

Workshop Description

Whilst it's great to have the skills to be able to paint something we have just picked from the garden, as we become more experienced as artists we start to look at the challenge of different ways to portray plants accurately. This three-day course with Martin Allen looks at how to take digital reference photographs and use them to enlarge small parts of plants to create an exciting new image. Martin will cover how to take useful photographs and the practical challenges of translating that photograph into a realistic image on paper using a straight-forward painting technique that can easily be refined with practice.


This is a BAGSC-sponsored workshop; there is no information about this workshop on The Arboretum's website. If you have questions, or need additional information, please contact the BAGSC Education Chair.

The workshop will be held at The Los Angeles County Arboretum, the Oak Room at the Arboretum.

The Arboretum is located at: 301 North Baldwin Ave, Arcadia, CA 91007.

Parking and Entrance:

Parking is free at The Arboretum. You do not need to pay admission at the front gate to attend the workshop. Walk directly through and let them know you are here for Martin's workshop.

Directions from surface streets, freeways and public transportation are available on their website, in addition to accessibility, hours and dining information.

"Every Berry", watercolor, © 2017, Martin J. Allen.

"Every Berry", watercolor, © 2017, Martin J. Allen.

Materials List for
Martin J. Allen Workshop

Please bring the normal hot-pressed paper that you are used to painting on (about A4 size – roughly 8” by 12” or bigger, and some small pieces of paper to test colors on) and all your usual watercolor paints and brushes (but please include a brush with a fine point). I usually have number six, four and two brushes. Bring pencils 2H, HB and 2B and an eraser.

I prefer that everyone brings materials that they are comfortable with, so that they can concentrate on the method of using them rather than stressing about using something unfamiliar. Don't worry about whether your choices are 'right' as different materials suit different artists (which I'll discuss)...and I will have emergency supplies that I can give you if I think you are using anything that is holding you back.

I'll also being showing and demonstrating what papers and paints I use.

Lighting is apparently not going to be ideal (to be fair it never is, unless you are in your own studio) and if you have such a thing as a “portable battery operated light” such as an Ott Lite, then you may find it useful. We will be working from photographs rather than real plant material because it is the easiest and quickest way to convey the information I want to teach. Real life is quite similar, but requires better lighting. We’ll discuss that.

There is a short account, with photos, of a class at Wellesley College on my Facebook page here:

Martin J. Allen

About the Instructor

I began painting plants in the autumn of 1992 whilst recovering from illness, studying with Colin Swinton. What was intended initially as therapy, quickly turned into a serious interest.

In early 1995 my first Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) exhibit was awarded a Gold medal (the second in 1997 also gained Gold) and in the same year RHS Enterprises Limited commissioned three autumn flower designs as part of their Collectors' Plate Series. Awards at The Society of Botanical Artists' exhibitions followed in 1996 and 1998.

I became a member of the then newly formed Chelsea Physic Garden Florilegium Society in 1995, taking part in their 1999 RHS Gold medal group exhibit, becoming a Fellow in 2000 and regularly writing articles on botanical art for their newsletter. I am now honoured to be an Emeritus Fellow.

I am represented in America by Susan Frei Nathan, Fine Works on Paper, and Forum Botanische Kunst in Germany.

In between paintings I work on local plant conservation, surveying wildflower habitats for local authorities and helping local communities improve their wildlife areas. It's a very rewarding job that I enjoy hugely. I recently surveyed some of the best wildflower-rich grassland in our area, along with condition surveys of our local ancient woodland.

Previously I worked at an environmental visitor centre designing and maintaining demonstration gardens, creating willow sculptures and wildflower habitats, giving advice on a weekly gardening phone-in on local radio for two years, and developing a tropical hydroponicum as part of a Lottery funded Millennium Project.

I hold a degree with Honours in Environmental Horticulture.