J.R. Shepherd had an extremely successful solo exhibition called Leafscape at Abbott & Holder in Bloomsbury, London in February 2017.
I asked Jess for an interview because I wanted to try and convey the pathway to a virtually sold out exhibition in central London, how it all happened and everything that led up to it.
This is a very long read - but reading it will hopefully be very helpful for all those who aim to become a professional botanical artist and have a sell-out solo show!
I met with Jess (as I know her) after the exhibition closed - but before it was taken down - for an interview (see below)
You can see my video of the exhibition below. It's a slow pan round the two rooms at the top of Abbott and Holder where the exhibition was held. You can see Jess in the video. All wobbles and creaks are down to my handheld videoing technique.
Note the red spots!
The Leafscape project
The reason I asked for the interview is that I was enormously intrigued by the fact that this wasn’t just an exhibition. It was an exhibition with a lot of added extras.
Leafscape was an absolutely HUGE project that Jess managed on her own. She had to:
Moreover it was also very successful i.e.
I was so overwhelmed after hearing about how far some of your had travelled to see the leaves. I had visitors from New Zealand, Canada, France, Italy, Japan, America and Australia. Some of you had driven miles in the storms, all the way from Scotland. It was utterly amazing seeing everyone in such a short space of time and to be able to listen to your stories and talk about botanical art and where it is going. I was visited by the second year students who are studying at the Chelsea School of Botanical Art and gave them a quick talk and then RHS weekend was a real buzz. I was lucky enough to see Rory's daughter, Samantha McEwen and eminent artists such as Rob Kesseler, Martin Sexton and Boyd and Evans and then Rachel de Thame popped with her daughter. Talk about a thrilling experience!
So who is this person who achieved so much - and how did it all happen?
This year I got permission from the RHS to video the RHS London Botanical Art Show 2017. This way those who aspire to enter in future - or have been thinking about visiting - can
my comments about the exhibition itself.....
RHS London Botanical Art Show 2017
This year's show was slightly smaller than the one in 2016. It was planned to have 29 artists (35 in 2016) from 10 different countries (10 in 2016). In reality due to two artists pulling out late on due to the serious ill-health of close family members, the exhibition was reduced to 26 artists from 8 different countries.
As both of the artists who didn't exhibit are also previous Gold Medal Winners, the number of Gold Medals awarded may also have been reduced. This year it was 9 compared to 13 in 2016.
Although the quality of work at the top end was good, initially I thought there was more variability in standards across the whole exhibition when compared to the last show in London. However when I did the medal count, this simply wasn't true in terms of medals the situation was as follows:
You can Download the list of 2017 awards (57kB pdf)
As always I was able to walk round the show and spot the Gold Medal exhibits before I saw the Medal Card attached to their stand. That's because there's something different about a Gold medal-winning exhibit. They stand out. They're unique. They're very high quality.
The RHS this year for the first time produced a board explaining how they assess the exhibits. While insiders and those with a copy of what used to be a hard to find document which listed the criteria knew what was important, this wasn't always immediately apparent to those visiting the show. Hence you'd get people liking exhibits because it was very pretty - and not realising that there were issues which meant that the exhibit got marked down.
So the key things which judges are looking for are:
I'm not sure everybody has quite got the message that it's not just about having a theme but rather it's about having a theme related to a specific plant family.
UPDATE: A very experienced exhibitor has written to me and suggested that the "of" (above) may have been a typo and SHOULD have been "or" as per the printed guidelines. In which case this is less of a change than it looked at first! I'm writing to the Picture Panel to check. However I'd observe that the higher medals do by and large go to exhibits with a strong botanical, horticultural or habitat theme.
For example, Kate Barling had a very pretty exhibit which was well presented and had great explanations of all her plants in labels underneath each one - and it won her a Silver Medal.
However, while "Climbers growing in my Devon Garden" might represent a coherent theme, it misses out on having an emphasis on
There was a clear lesson at the show for all those who find mixing and painting greens to be a bit of a challenge and that came in the form of all the green leaves in Bridget Gillespie's exhibit of Root Vegetables: Life Cycle where differences in green within and between plants were much more evident within this Gold Medal winning exhibit.
That for me is the value of visiting the show and why all those who can visit easily should make a point of doing so - and making the date of your visit non-negotiable!
I heard a new theme at this year's show. Judges telling exhibitors that they don't need to do so many paintings! Apparently, the Picture Panel judges are getting a bit anxious whether there is a new trend to submit more than six paintings.
I'm wondering if this is maybe a "new judge" thing because those of us who have been painting for the RHS for a long time AND those of us visiting RHS for some time well remember when the minimum requirement for an exhibit was EIGHT artworks (not six as it is now). Above is a photo I took at the 2011 show in the Lindley Hall - where each exhibit very clearly has 8 paintings.
Below are three of Kathy Pickles's Clematis paintings. While for most people this would be half her exhibit, for Kathy this is just a quarter of her exhibit. There are nine more! However Kathy goes way back in terms of painting for the RHS. This was her seventh Gold Medal and she got her first back in the early 90s.
I gather the point being made is that the Judges have to look at each and every painting in an exhibit really carefully - and on average look at them all four times (or is that four different judges looking at each painting?). This is because the grade of medal you get is based on the weakest painting. While this may be a complete joy if the exhibit wins a Gold Medal, it's less so if the exhibit isn't up to this standard. However even Mrs Ishi who won a Gold for her roses was advised to paint fewer paintings next time if she wants to exhibit her roses again.
I think the other thing that influences this injunction not to paint too many paintings is that as the show gets bigger it will become intolerable for the judges if all the exhibitors start painting more than six.
I predict if it becomes a major problem, then it will be addressed by telling exhibitors when they arrive that they can hang six and that's it. So if you do paint more than six, think on - there may come a time when extra paintings won't help in any way.
Video of the RHS Botanical Art Show 2017
Below is my video of the exhibition:
I hope you enjoy it. Do let me know what you think.
(Also can I apologise, it was supposed to be in HD but didn't turn out that way for some reason I have yet to identify!)
If you're interested in entering The RHS Botanical Art Show in 2018, you will need to first be approved to exhibit.
More about the RHS Botanical Art Show 2017
Past blog posts include:
Over 50 botanical artists and flower painters and printmakers are participating in the annual Florum Exhibition which opens on Saturday - details below.
This is not an open exhibition, nor is it a strictly botanical art exhibition per se or a formal art society. Florum was started by the late Elizabeth Smail FLS FSBA whose aim was to create a colourful and inspiring mix of works celebrating plant life.
One of the ways in which this exhibition is different is that artists are invited to submit work and there's a range of different types of portrayal of plant life and media on display in the exhibition. Plus lots of prints and cards. All work is for sale .
I've got work in the show and will be stewarding at the exhibition next Friday 16th September if you'd like to meet me!
You can get a taster for the exhibition through my slideshow of last year's exhibition (on YouTube).
You can find out more about Florum on:
Botanical artist and tutor Julia Trickey GM SBA has produced a 5 minute video which has lots of tips and techniques.
It's based on a recent commission to produce small artworks for a display board showing which plants can be found in a rockery.
More Video Tips about Botanical Art
You can find more videos relevant to botanical artists (including ones by Julia) on my website page about Video Tips for botanical art. This has additional pages about:
You can see more videos by Julia on her YouTube Channel - Julia Trickey: short adventures in botanicalart
This is a wonderful HD video of botanical artist Angela Lober developing a painting for the Florilegium Society at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney to the Royal Botanic Gardens & Domain Trust.
It will be extremely helpful to all those aspiring botanical artists who want to learn more about the approaches and standards used by those contributing artworks to Florilegium Societies.
Do make sure you view full screen in HD to appreciate fully what's on offer.
The video was made as part of the celebrations of the 200th anniversary of the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney, Australia. These also include the exhibition of artwork by members of the Florilegium Society and the book produced for the exhibition.
The exhibition opens tomorrow. You can see Florilegium: Sydney’s painted garden
Venue: Sydney Living Museums at the Museum of Sydney between 30 July and 30 October 2016.
You can read more about the exhibition on the page on this website devoted to Botanical Art Exhibitions in Australia and New Zealand.
The video was produced to help highlight the bicentenary and the exhibition and includes images of the Norfolk Island Pine in the early years of settlement in Sydney,
Below is a link to a video on YouTube released a couple of days ago by the Society of Botanical Artists.
It's about the 2016 SBA exhibition - Shape, Pattern, Structure - at Central Hall, Westminster, London and shows you the range and quality of the work exhibited in this prestigious annual exhibition of botanical art.
The Annual Exhibition of the Society of Botanical Artists had its Private View on Thursday. I managed to get Billy Showell in front of her HUGE painting of peonies which were used as the feature image for the exhibition - on the flyers, catalogue and this year a bag too! If you get the opportunity do look at the 5 minute video below where she explains how she created this composition and extremely impressive painting.
The exhibition is at the Central Hall Westminster until Friday 23rd April (11am - 5pm each day). Entry is free and there are daily demonstrations and tours of the exhibition. Plus a great exhibition shop! I think the signed copies of Billy's new book might have sold out!
I was supposed to be writing up the exhibition and who won the prizes and Certificates of Botanical Merit yesterday and today. However I've been greatly preoccupied since Thursday evening by my left knee which is slipping sideways repeatedly and threatening to dislocate. Consequently I've been trying to find and buy a suitable knee braces for the last 24 hours!
Anyway this is to say that you'll find my review and the prizewinners and CBM people over on my Making A Mark blog starting tomorrow!
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Katherine Tyrrell writes about botanical art and artists and has followers all over the world.
© Katherine Tyrrell 2015-17
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