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?
Following on from yesterday's post (see VIDEO: Lizzie Harper compares painting on different watercolour papers), Wendy Hollender contacted me to tell me she had also produced a video about testing different papers.
Her video (and blog post) display
Some comments on the video before you watch it:
Perhaps the most important conclusion she makes is that taking time to get to know a paper properly is necessary if you really want to make a proper assessment. In other words she could work with all the papers in the list if she adjusted how she worked.
So here's the video (which you can also view bigger via YouTube - click the YouTube bottom right in the video when you start it).
Her blog post provides more details about Evaluating Hotpressed watercolor papers for botanical drawing. It covers:
Both this video and the one from yesterday are now included on my page in the Education section about Paper for botanical artists. This also offers guidance on how to test paper.
The most important advice I have to offer is that only YOU can work out the best paper for your work. That's because everybody works slightly differently and what works best for one artist will not suit another.
So take your time and do some testing:
DO YOU HAVE A VIDEO OF YOUR PAPER TESTING?
If so, please do let me know.
If it adds value to the ongoing debate I'm happy to share it via this blog and my website.
I have a serious botanical art book addiction. There's nothing nicer than getting stuck into an hour or more of browsing through what's on offer from vintage booksellers with a good collection of botanical art books.
Well nothing nicer than the book you bought turning up and being so much better than you were expecting! There's something about books produced in the past which yells "quality" and if you've got a "very good" or "as new" version then I'm in heaven.
However what's better still is the fact that botanical art book owners tend to be very nice people - and they pass on extras in their books that they don't tell you about until you get them.
Which is how I come to be the owner of some seriously archival class documents about Mary Grierson (1912-2012) (who I currently have listed on the 20th Century Botanical Artists page on the website) when I purchased a copy of her book An English Florilegium
The image at the top of the page is of the exhibition catalogues for three solo exhibitions - which probably each deserve a blog post in their own right!
They are- from left to right:
Of late I've become seriously appreciative of catalogues from exhibitions of botanical art. They tell you so much about the scope and nature of the art but also details of the artist which often never reaches formal publication in a book. For the serious student of botanical art, I'd very much recommend paying serious attention to exhibition catalogues.
You might also like to think about you and your work are recorded in solo exhibitions - for posterity and future collectors!
About Mary Grierson (1912-2012)
Mary Grierson in brief:
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Note: Spink is Spink & Son Ltd who at the time were located at 5 King Street, St James's, London SW1Y 6QS. They are now located at 69 Southampton Row, Bloomsbury, London WC1B 4ET. However, the gallery which sold botanical art closed just after the turn of the millennium.
The two new exhibitions at the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art in Kew Gardens for the Spring and Summer opened on Saturday. This evening there is a Private View, which I'm attending.
The exhibitions are:
British Artists in the Shirley Sherwood Collection
This is one of the paintings in the exhibition. Many will recognise the image above as the one which features on the cover of Contemporary Botanical Artists - which was the very first book about the Shirley Sherwood Collection.
It's a painting of a blue water lily by Pandora Sellars who is a botanical artist much admired by Dr. Sherwood. Indeed the very first painting in her collection was by Pandora Sellars. She participated in many botanical art exhibitions and had a solo exhibition at Kew in 1990. She was also awarded the Jill Smythies Award for excellence in botanical illustration by the Linnean Society in 1992.
This particular painting exemplifies one of the main ways which Dr Sherwood supports botanical art. This painting is the result of a commission by Dr. Sherwood back in 1993, and was painted from specimens supplied by a tropical nursery and was completed in 1995. As is often the case with commissions, it's impossible to get the entire painting done in one season. In this case the blooms were done in one season and the leaves in the next. The design is particularly strong with the shape and form of the lily pads providing a backdrop for the flowers.
In the book it's referred to as Nymphea capensis although the title Kew has given me is Nymphaea nouchali var. caerulea. Apparently they're synonyms as Cape blue water lily, Nymphaea capensis is no longer regarded as a distinct species and has been sunk into the Nymphaea nouchali genus.
Another work by Pandora Sellars in the exhibition is Pontederia cordata.
Other artists in the exhibition
The Shirley Sherwood Collection currently includes 330 works by 86 British botanical painters. The range of artwork within the collection enables an exploration of the changing style and approach of botanical artists, through experimentation with medium and scale over the years.
Other artists in the exhibition include:
This is the first of three posts with information from interviews with the nine RHS Gold Medallists at the London Botanical Art Show 2017.
I've been interviewing RHS Gold Medallists since 2011 and you'll find a list of previous interviews at the end of this post. This post covers five artists who won medals in 2017:
Upcoming posts will cover
Keiko Fujita GM (Japan - Tokyo)
Keiko Fujita GM lives in Tokyo, Japan. She's been a botanical artist for the last 19 years and prior to that was an interior designer. Her art career started by studying at art school and then her son started to study ecology at his junior high school. His homework involved botanical paintings and that's the point at which she became interested in botanical art. Subsequently she found an adult education night school which provided a class. She is a member of the American Society of Botanical Artists.
Her exhibit is about the Growth of Bamboo in Japan. She chose bamboo as it's a famous plant associated with Japan. Everybody knows about "Bamboo" (eg that it's very invasive) but nobody knows the different species!
She first had the idea for the exhibit seven years ago and started doing her research, finding plants and planning her exhibit. She finally started on the painting two years ago and each painting took about 3-4 months to do.
The paintings she produced:
Mariko Ikeda GM (Japan - Tochigi) - Winner of Best Exhibit 2017
Mariko Ikeda GM's Pandanus won Best Exhibit in Show and, unsurprisingly, it had lots of people looking at it and talking about for the duration of the show! (It's more commonly known as the screw pine).
Mariko took a botanical illustration class with Jenny Phillips in Sydney in 1999. Then studied Art and Design at University followed by a Ph.D in the Sciences of Art at the Graduate School of Comprehensive Human Sciences at the University of Tsukuba. Recently she took a botanical illustration class with Mikeo Ishikawa in 2015.
She lives in Tochigi and has been a Botanical Art Instructor at the Gakushuin University Lifelong Learning Centre in Tokyo since 2006. She's a member of the Japanese Association of Botanical Illustration and the American Society of Botanical Artists. However she has not exhibited widely.
Last night I left Leafscape, the first solo exhibition of watercolour paintings of leaves by Jess Shepherd (aka JR Shepherd), at the Abbott & Holder Gallery in London with the knowledge that she had sold 19 of the 31 watercolour paintings of leaves in the exhibition.
You can see photos of some of the paintings in this review and you can see them all on the Leafscape page on Abbott and Holder's website. For the record:
The exhibition is on at Abbott & Holder, 30 Museum Street, London WC1A 1LH until 6pm Saturday 25th February 2017.
The story started when Jess was an Assistant Curator at the Shirley Sherwood Gallery at Kew and spent an entire summer in 2013 with The Colours Of Reality exhibition by Rory McEwen. Rory of course painted leaves towards the end of his life.
They proved to be a huge inspiration for a botanical artist who was already interested in and painting leaves. - I remember well the Monstera, the Broccoli, the Cos and the absolutely enormous 'Green Giant" coffee arabica plant!
Last year, I spent some time with Jess while she told me her plans for this major solo exhibition. I do very much remember trying to talk her out of planning to exhibit at the RHS Botanical Art Exhibition (next week) at the same time as she had this exhibition!
Over the last year I've watched as the project to develop the paintings for the exhibition gathered apace. Followed by the crowdfunding Kickstarter initiative to develop a properly printed book/catalogue for the exhibition.
In celebration of the Leafscape exhibition, I would really like to produce a limited edition, linen bound, hard-back book that presents all of the paintings and the environmental soundtrack of all the outside sounds from where each leaf was growing at the time it was found.
Her target was £8,500 which would allow the book to be published.
However, the Kickstarter was a roaring success, she got 439 backers who pledged £24,867 to help bring this project to life - and I was one of them! As a result the hard back copies of the book had sold out before the exhibition even opened!
She now has another Kickstarter going for a softback follow up of the book and the copies are limited to 500. 71 have already gone so click the pic below to go there if you're interested.
I talked to the Gallery Director last night about Jess and her Leafscape project and exhibition. He told me that they are very happy with the sales on the PV night but that these were not unexpected.
The reasons why they were very happy to back Jess and give her an exhibition were that:
Those of us who contributed to the crowdfunding for the book will be getting our books very soon as per our commitment.
I highly recommend that anybody coming to London next week for the RHS Botanical Art Show on Friday and Saturday also make an effort to travel across to Museum Street and see this exhibition. Let it kickstart your efforts towards a solo exhibition!
Look out for another blog post from me about Jessica Shepherd and how she got from behind the desk in the gallery at Kew to having a solo exhibition in a gallery in Museum Street opposite the British Museum.
This summer, Jess is going to be the artist in residence at River Cottage HQ during June and July. Lots more leaves to paint there!
When she finally gets to exhibit at the RHS, I just know it's going to be spectacular!
If you'd like to follow Jess in future ventures see:
I've now got all the names of those exhibiting at the RHS Botanical Art Show which will be held in the Lindley Hall in London later this month.
TODAY - I'm going to highlight the Trade Stands - which have introduced a few new names for me. Those teaching botanical art might like to note the numbers that relate to education and learning about botanical art.
TOMORROW - I'll be detailing the names of all the artists from all over the world who have been selected to exhibit at this years RHS Botanical Art Show in London. Some of them will be winning medals later this month!
There's details at the end of this post of dates, times and how to get there.
Botanical Art Societies
Both botanical art societies will be detailing what they have to offer for their membership fee and their different approaches to membership arrangements.
NEW South London Botanical Institute - Founded in 1910 in Tulse Hill, the South London Botanical Institute has a beautiful botanical garden and herbarium and runs a wide range of courses, workshops, school visits and events for all ages.
Education - tuition, diplomas and certificates
Those exhibiting with trade stands are split between individual tutors and organisations which offer taught Diplomas in Botanical Art.
The following are three Gold Medal winning botanical artists who are also botanical art tutors who have been teaching for many years. You can expect demonstrations and answers to questions you may have.
The following all offer a Diploma Courses in Botanical Art and will be able to show you what's involved and what they have to offer - plus (probably) artwork by students
For more about opportunities to learn more about botanical art see my Education section about tuition, courses, classes and workshops across the world
Various Arts and Crafts
Hannah McVicar - is a printmaker and illustrator who specialises in botanical screenprints. She also teaches courses in how to screenprint and will be demonstrating screenprinting live.
Rachel Dein - Rachel practices nature printing in concrete. She creates plaster cast tiles that record all the texture, pattern, and delicacy of plants and flowers
Save Me I'm Wild - this is about a concern for the loss of wild plant habitats. They produce Fine Art Prints and handmade cards
The Pressed Flower Guild - The Guild aims to raise the general standard of pressing flowers by enabling members to meet and share expertise and experiences.
Yateley Papers Ltd - will be offering block-printing taster sessions. Starting at 11am, classes are limited to 4 per session and on a first come first serve basis.
Maybe I'll see you there?
Location: RHS Lindley Hall, London SW1P 2QW (see map below)
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Katherine Tyrrell writes about botanical art and artists and has followers all over the world.
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