BISHOPS Castle-based artist Sarah Gillard had probably her strangest commission in 2018 when she was called on to do a painting of a rare tropical vanilla plant that took her to Kew Gardens in London.

The award winning artist who lives in High Street, was asked to paint the Vanilla Panifolia flower for LittlePod, an Exeter based company that buys and sells natural food ingredients, including vanilla.

“LittlePod having seen my work wanted a painting rather than a photo,” said Sarah.

Sarah researched a number of botanical gardens around the country and received a confirmation email from Kew Gardens who said they grew it but could not guarantee it would be in bloom on any particular day.

But she decided it would be worth the risk and set off for London after first obtaining the artist’s permit needed from Kew.

Arriving at Kew she was directed to the iconic Palm House, the world’s most important surviving Victorian glass and iron structure.

A member of staff directed her to the plant and luckily the flower was in full bloom, something extra special as it only flowers for one day.

It hung as a vine draped over a tree about eight feet off the ground and Sarah found herself working in a Wet Zone rainforest environment and was grateful to staff who helped provide boards and crates for her to balance her palettes and easel on and prevent them from slipping through the metal holes in the flooring.

“I was cordoned off with barricades in order to give me some space. Groups of children from various schools arrived en mass and peered over the barriers. One of the teachers was explaining about the life of the vanilla plant but all eyes were on me,” said Sarah.

“There were a few positive comments from enthusiastic pupils and members of the public. At one point a great water droplet fell onto one of my sketchbooks and without thinking I clutched the painting to my chest, a big mistake as I looked in horror at a very smudged flower!.

“After such perseverance, and hours later, I packed up and gave a sigh of relief as I stepped out into the cool autumnal air and stunning colours of Kew, all in all very pleased with the result considering the steamy challenge” added Sarah.

.Sarah comes from an artistic family and studied initially at Banbury College going on to work for Liberty Design and the Conran Shop, Her first solo exhibition was at the Lyric Theatre in London and her work has been published in such magazines as Country Living.

Sarah will also have a solo exhibition at Bank House during the Bishops Castle Arts Festival in February and she currently has work for sale at Reindeer in London and via the Bridgeman Art Library.