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?
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:
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Katherine Tyrrell writes about botanical art and artists and has followers all over the world.
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