Teaching is an extraordinary thing, I observe and learn a great deal as I share the information I have previously absorbed along the way. So often I feel like a conduit, passing things on to others. Can it be that the act of drawing and painting is similar?
Botanical artists take information from the plants in front of us, observe the structure, colour, form and beauty of the flower, pass it through our eyes, our brains, our hands, and paint it for others to share. The thing is each artist mingles up in the mix her or his own emotional and intellectual response to what they are seeing. It becomes so much more than a direct visual representation. It is a visual conversation that is recorded by the artist for others to share.
It is no wonder we all feel protective of our efforts to portray plants we love, each painting is also a painting about ourselves.
Being asked to teach botanical art outside of my home environment is always exciting … I agree with delight, and then I start to think. What can I say to fellow botanical artists to stimulate and help them with their artwork?
A successful short lecture takes a great deal of analysis and research. I love being totally submersed in the subject: questioning the rules, looking at other artists’ works, analyzing how it was achieved from a technical basis and recognizing the sort of emotional response I get as a viewer.
There are so many types of botanical artworks: careful scientific studies, grand displays of plants in vivid glorious colour, gentle little observations of plants most people would overlook, and all sorts of things in between. Once I have found a theme that interests me, I tag all sorts of images and gradually sort them into categories, discarding some along the way until I have about twenty slides which demonstrate my analysis best. When the time comes to speak alongside the slide show, I find it easier to ad lib straight from the heart, but can only do so because of the deep interest I have in looking at the world of plants through my own and other artists’ eyes.
The joy of all this preparation is that I learn so much myself, and have a visual feast along the way.
My next teaching session is in a couple of weeks in the UK, so I hope I can bring something worthwhile to the artists. Wish me luck and clear thinking!
Great botanical art works well from a distance and draws you in with the detail.
How lovely of Poetry to make me a part of their Spring range, I am extremely touched. The dresses are gorgeous and are wonderfully silky to wear, it’s so exciting for me. I hope you like them too!
Wendy Burchell on the left is the Chairperson of BAASA in Cape Town, and Basia Hitchcock is the Deputy. They have been a great support to me with the organization of the Plant Exhibition in September at Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. Riva Katz is an amazing and dedicated Treasurer who keeps trying to hand on her job and we keep giving it back to her, she is our treasure!
BAASA has branches in Gauteng and KZN too, and is a great way to meet fellow botanical artists and get information about classes, informal art sessions, equipment and what’s happening in the world of botanical art. It has been wonderful to see the growth of the organization since the first meeting Claire Linder Smith and I had at my home in Newlands nearly two decades ago. At that point we had all been working as illustrators, isolated and virtually unknown. Well, how things have changed!
The Plant Exhibition is a BAASA initiative and a number of world class artists will be exhibiting their work, alongside new talent.
I am proud to be a member of BAASA and very glad to have passed on the chair to so many wonderful artists who have continued to grow the organization. Tamlin Blake, Phil Scott, Marilyn Noakes, Jenny Brice, Jennifer Johnstone, June Goode, Basia Hitchcock and now Wendy Burchell have all enriched our experiences.