Today I have some of the Tips I received from my interviews with the RHS Gold Medal Winners at last month's RHS Botanical Art Show.
Later this week you will also have tips from the RHS Gold Medal Winners in 2017 too! This is because although I drafted most of it last year for some reason I didn't finish the post and publish it!
This is a LONG POST with lots of content - so you might want to get a hot drink and a notebook before you start to read!
It's been my habit, for some years, to ask each of the Gold Medal Winners who speaks reasonable English to tell me what would be the three tips they'd like to pass on to people aspiring to exhibit at the RHS Botanical Art Show. Some include ones I've heard before - but good tips are always worth repeating.
I have however omitted
TIP: Focus on what you are passionate about
Recommended by Laura Silburn and various artists. More than one artist told me this - in various ways. Variations include:
It is so much easier to complete a major project - such as a portfolio for an RHS Botanical Art Show if you are in love with your subject matter.
TIP: Being a grower helps a lot!
Recommended by Simon Williams Nepenthes
Simon Williams told me he has been growing carniverous plants since he was 16 - and loves them. He's invested in heated greenhouses. The advantages of being a grower are that you get to see your plants through a complete life cycle and can watch them through every season.
TIP: Keep a sketchbook
The Best Botanical Art and Illustration Instruction Books is the section on my website which I've devoted to developing a guide to the best instruction / "how to" books available for students and practitioners of botanical art and illustration.
There's an awful lot of books out there.
I hope you'll find my guide useful. Maybe bookmark it for later - or even link to it?
There's more below explaining how this guide to the best instruction books for botanical art and illustration actually works.
A guide to the best "how to" books for creating botanical art and illustration for students of botanical art and and those wishing to develop their knowledge and skills
What does this guide have to offer?
What I've tried to do is:
As a guide I've also included the average ratings out of 5 stars for each book (in the UK and USA). Plus a guide to how to interpret these ratings as they are various factors - detailed in my guide - that influence how many ratings a book has got to date.
All paintings are watercolours of botanical subjects and birds of Northern Italy by Mary Ann Scott.
Mary Ann is the author of one of the most popular books produced by the SBA for their Distance Learning Diploma Course.
Mary Ann started the Diploma Course course in January 2006 and graduated with a Diploma with Distinction in April 2008 which fast tracked her into membership of the Society of Botanical Artists in the UK.
Note: You can read my review of her book Botanical Sketchbook on this website.
Imagine a meeting between an artist from one of the countries with the greatest sensitivity towards the natural world, and an environment providing some of the the richest biodiversity in Europe.
This is what happened when Mary Ann arrived in Italy, the country with the highest number of plant and animal species in the European Union, and began painting the nature around her.
Well known in the UK as a botanical artist, Mary Ann is the author, with Margaret Stevens, of Botanical Sketchbook. Now, in Italy, she is taking on the numerous plant and animal species that surround her. Certainly, in the UK there are no lack of opportunities, but to be able to observe a Night Heron in detail, it is to Italy, and especially to the rice fields around Novara that one must come. And in the same way, if one wants to see a Scops Owl, the smallest of the European owls, it is the Mediterranean area which provides the most opportunities. For the exhibition, “Living Art, nelgiardino di Mary Ann” watercolours have been painted in which observable plants and animals have been described in a very precise and naturalistic way without, however, creating cold, impersonal images that are perhaps more suited to a textbook for the systematic identification of species. Here, on the other hand, every species retains its personality. At times, the subjects are isolated on a white background to emphasise form and colour; at other times a simple setting is provided, taking into account the preferred habitat of each species.
Although some of the watercolours may be seen as “still lives”, life’s movement is more than hinted at.
The nest, discovered on the ground, is described in detail with the elements which compose it; moss, pieces of bark, feathers, down, tell or suggest a story about a pair of small birds which, instinctively or perhaps from experience, have built a structure necessary for their reproduction. Then, who knows what may have happened? Perhaps the young birds had already flown away or perhaps the nest was torn from the branch by a strong gust of wind. We don’t know the rest of the story and therefore we must imagine it. Whatever our reconstruction of events, the fact remains that as an object this nest is beautiful.
We can make similar considerations for all the other subjects depicted in the exhibition. The watercolours give us suggestions without completing the story, leaving it up to us to contextualise according to our personal sensitivities.
All the works, however, emphasise the great beauty of nature. We know that biodiversity is in danger in most of the world. Many of us are using rational
arguments to try and convince those in power to intervene effectively. We know, however, that rational debate frequently fails. Works, such as those presented in the exhibition, might strike other chords; touch, enchant, even trigger irrational mechanisms of fascination in the mind . If such were the case, art would give no less a contribution to the battle for conservation than the most meticulous scientific research. And I write this as a researcher. It may not be impossible that in Italy, thanks to the work of artists like Mary Ann Scott, awareness may grow of the immeasurable
value of our natural heritage.
Katherine Tyrrell writes about botanical art and artists and has followers all over the world.
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