Wildflowers of Transylvania

In May I went to Transylvania on a workshop run by Işık Güner to paint the wildflowers of Transylvania, Romania. I am going to go right ahead and say it in the third sentence. I didn’t know Transylvania was a real place. I am ashamed to say that because, wow, I was completely blown away.

Romania had never been on my bucket list, honestly. But when I saw the workshop advertised on Işık’s instagram page, I knew it was an opportunity I couldn’t miss!

I emailed James, our future host, just to enquire about making payment instalments, as at the time it was a fair amount of money to part with, and had an amazingly welcoming email in reply, saying “thank you, we have reserved your place!”. So, I thought, “okay, I’m going to Romania!” and I do not regret that decision for second.

I flew from London Heathrow to Vienna, and then needed to transfer to Sibiu, Romania. Our plane was quite late leaving Heathrow (a stuck on the runway situation…) and so when we got off the plane I had an airport attendant waiting to guide me to the connecting flight. Waiting with the guide was Jackie, who was also heading to Sibiu for the workshop! So it was nice to have a friend to share the rest of the journey with. We got escorted in a private care across the airport tarmac to our next plane - we were in fact then early for our flight and were the first to walk onto the plane - like celebrities.

Of course, the inevitable happened. Although we were speedily transferred to our next plane, our luggage was not. I won’t bore you with the details, but we were reunited with our luggage 2 days later.


James and Rachel were our wonderful hosts. They live in the village of Copsa Mare. It is a beautiful small village, where everybody seems to know everybody. It’s inspirationally self-sufficient - eggs are exchanged for bread which is exchanged for fresh buffalo milk. The house is the old town hall, and they have converted a stable block at the back of the garden into a stunning art studio.


We had a choice of where to sleep - either in the charming “Ant & Bee”, in the house, or in the art studio. I slept in the art studio, which was a beautiful and comfortable space.

We spent our days either out on walks in the fields surrounding the village looking for subjects to paint, there was an abundance of orchids and other wildflowers, or in the studio documenting our findings. Lunch was always home cooked by Rachel, and if the weather was nice (which it mostly was!) we were able to sit outside in the garden to enjoy. And dinners were a relaxing opportunity to enjoy a glass of wine with James, Rachel, Işık and fellow students.

Some evenings, it had been arranged for us to go out for dinner - once to a local guesthouse and restaurant, and once to a local family (who own a vineyard) for a delicious traditional Romanian dinner and tour of their wine cellar (and a spontaneous wine tasting!)

It goes without saying that Işık is a fantastic teacher, and her demonstrations provided plenty of inspiration to improve and learn. I came away with tips about materials, techniques, and of course advice about creating true scientific illustrations.

James & Rachel also have a copy of the Transylvania Florilegium, which we were able to look through and marvel at with care. An amazing opportunity to sit and peruse an incredible body of work.


You can read more about Copsa Mare on this beautiful website dedicated to the village and the people that live there, here.

You can read more about future botanical illustration workshops that will be held over the upcoming months at the studio here.

Helen Cousins