Saturday, 31 December 2011

Report: December Visit to Brenthurst Library

The Brenthurst Library in Parktown is a gem in Johannesburgand on Tuesday 6 December 2011, 17 BAASA members were taken on a tour of the library.  For many of us it was a first-time visit and, I’m sure I speak for most, certainly not the last.
The library, designed by Hans Hallen, houses one of “the finest privately owned Africana collections”. The collection was started by Sir Ernest Oppenheimer and it was Sir Harry Oppenheimer who had the Brenthurst Library built. Today the Oppenheimer family continues the tradition of preservation and restoration, and of adding to the collection. The collection consists of books, maps, original artworks and sketchbooks, manuscripts - a veritable feast of materials and subjects.
Our visit was divided into three parts: a look at various botanical publications from the 1700’s, 1800’s and 1900’s – Redouté, Andrew’s Botanist’s Repository and other publications with illustrations/paintings by CJ Trew, Merian, Miller, Bateman and Bauer, to name but a few! Ooh’s and aah’s accompanied the turn of every page as we got some insight into both the style of painting, composition, etc, as well as the different printing and book-binding techniques.
The second part of the visit was to the gallery. To be in a room surrounded by original artworks and sketchbooks by such highly regarded artists was a feast for the soul! On the walls were works by Barbara Tyrell, Gill Condy and Lynda de Wet. In glass cabinets and taken out of the collection for us to peruse were the Pelargonium Watercolours & Pencil Sketches of Ellaphie Ward-Hilhorst, The wildflowers of the Port Elizabeth Area by H J Vanderplank, the Botanical Drawings of the Flora of Zimbabwe by Beatrice Drew and Mimetes by Thalia Lincoln, to name but a few!
Another highlight and treasure: we had the rare privilege of being able to see a Thomas Baines sketchbook up close. Though not botanical, it is an amazing record of one of his journeys and the inspiration for many of his works.
Finally, Alan Jeffrey took us through to the binding and restoration room that is full of beautiful old presses, with workbenches moaning under the maps, books and manuscripts being so lovingly restored and conserved! We were given some insight into the processes undertaken to restore maps, such as removing glue, repairing areas of painting, matching pigment, etc, and the importance of using acid free materials. What a great day job!!
This was a fantastic outing, and a big thank you to those who organised the visit, and to the Library staff for giving up their time.

Article and photo by Julie Herold.

To all BAASA Gauteng blog readers:
Wishing you a happy and productive 2012!

Friday, 18 November 2011

Beautiful Buffelskloof!

Some of our members recently had a working visit to Buffelskloof Nature Reserve.

Angie Hill wrote in to the blog: "This is just to whet people's appetites for the article that will appear in the BAASA National Newsletter that is coming soon. We had a fantastic trip, saw heaven on earth and everyone was very inspired to paint as much as possible."

Click on images to enlarge.
Fantastic flora

Buffelskloof people and places

Photos by Laura Batchelor and Angie Hill.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Meeting Report: Klipriviersberg Amble - 5 November 2011

Erythrina zeyheri
What a stunning day we had on our visit to the Jewel of the South. The weather was everything we could have wished for: beautiful, clear blue skies and a cool breeze to take the edge off the heat. While we waited for everyone to arrive we lazily watched a mongoose scampering along towards the riverbank. Then we set off and, as we ambled along, we were stopped in our tracks every few metres - in true botanical fashion – by the abundance of flowers crying out to be looked at.
The Highveld Grassland spring flowers are at their best after the winter burn and before the summer rains set in, and, contrary to popular belief, it is fire that provides these grasslands with their rich floral diversity. Without fire to rid the vegetation of moribund grass, many of the bulbous plants cannot survive. Furthermore flowering has to happen rapidly in order for the flowers to be found by those pollinators that use visual cues to locate them and before the grass grows tall and hides them. Although we were too late for many of the spring flowers like Boophane and Scadoxus, these were beginning to set seed and provided us with another aspect of their life cycle.
Shortly into the Reserve there was an area that had burned towards the end of winter and Judd flitted from flower to flower exclaiming excitedly at what he had found. The hillside was like a cultivated garden, with dense stands of Ajuga ophrydis, Becium obovata, Indigofera spp, Rhyncosium, Gnidia and several species of Hibiscus and Ipomoea to mention but a few. In order to get close enough to photograph some of these required some people getting down real low and dirty!
We then crossed the river, stopping to watch some white-fronted bee-eaters on the way, and went in search of the Scadoxus that Lea had seen flowering there the weekend before. But alas, when we found them, they were already passed their best. Judd spotted a rocky slope that looked promising, so we took that direction to see what we could find. We were rewarded for our efforts when Moira spotted a Eulophia clavicornis var clavicornis. A short while later Moira again summonsed us to an area where there were numerous Erythrina zeyheri in their flowering prime. Now that was a perfect spot for a little bit of ‘in the field’ artistry, but sadly ours, for this time, was confined to photography. It was a wonderful culmination to our morning’s excursion and we headed back to the plaintiff call of the Diderik’s cuckoo.
After tea and eats in the cool shade of some trees, a satisfied group said “Goodbye” to a very pleasant morning spent in this bit of wilderness in the midst of our bustling city. Thank you to Judd Kirkel for his enthusiasm in sharing his knowledge with us and to those members who took the time to join us. It was truly balm for the soul!
Klipriviersberg floral collage

Getting down and dirty!

Photos and report by Angie Hill

Glimpses of the 2011 Johannesburg Botanical Art Exhibition

Click on images to enlarge!

Promoting the exhibition:
Morningside Shopping Centre website

Poster behind perspex - poster design by Kim Johnston
Morningside Shopping Centre Facebook page

Billboard outside shopping centre

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Meeting report - Laura Batchelor's dioramas

Laura was contacted by Nico van Rooyen Taxidermy to paint dioramas for the "Action Africa" section of a natural history museum they were providing animal installations for - Museum Satwa, Batu, East Java, Indonesia. 
The museum, mini zoo and hotel accommodation was funded by a local Batu philanthropist whose community would benefit from an educational museum. African animals formed a significant part of the exhibitions, probably because of the species diversity found here. It took only six months to complete the museum. The African elephant statues on the outside of the museum were larger than life and were constructed by local artists from photographic reference - they had probably never had the opportunity to see a real African elephant!
Laura regaled us with stories of her experiences of working on a very busy construction site, working on dioramas that were not fully curved but angled, and the huge pressure to complete the job within thirty days, as this was the maximum time for which visas are issued. Adding to the tension at the end was the fact that the very friendly and hospitable hosts insisted on taking them on a tour to the volcanic hot baths a distance away - but these proved very helpdul in relaxing aching shoulders! But she survived to tell the tale and we so enjoyed listening to her story. To those of you who missed Laura's talk - eat your hearts out.

Report by Angie Hill

Laura painted the dioramas in November of 2009.

Click on images to enlarge them.

Batu, Java arrival - Museum Satwa taking shape - the view on arrival
Hippo pool: completed with glass in place. 15 m wall length.

3rd Diorama, also 15m. My site office!

Day 1 - starting on the Buffalo diorama - 11 m long. Step one was to dot in horizon line and hills. one had to step back and assess illusion of perspective from various angles as back wall of diorama was flattened.

End day 3 : We had just over a week to complete each diorama. The headgear became necessary when painting ceiling but one got totally spattered all the same.

Dio 1: Right hand side
Foreground artists creating a mud bank.
Dio complete: 
After we returned home the mounted animals were installed. 
Thomas works with Katharina at Nico van Rooyen taxidermy in Pretoria

Monday, 19 September 2011

The Di Carmichael Prize

Thanks to Paddy Balsdon for sending in this wonderful piece of news about the "Di Carmichael Prize"

Click on brochure to enlarge!

Read on for more information...
Letter from Di's daughters to Paddy:
"Hi Paddy

 We thought you would want you to see this email that our cousin Helen (lives in England) received from the Course Director of RBGE Diploma in Botanical Illustration at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh for an award she and her family are making on September 23 in memory of Diana Carmichael which will be held annually. Helen and her family
decided to do this when Mum passed away rather than sending flowers or making a donation as they wanted Mum's work to live on and make this award in her memory, to know that it is now a reality and just a few short weeks away before a student earns the priviledge of such an award is incredible is wonderful for all of us.

We are so touched and the event happens at a time when we are coming up to the first anniversary of Mum's passing on Oct 2. This will be good to think of and to know that each year a student whose abilties meet the criteria of the award will receive a Diana Carmichael medal!


Carol and Fiona"
Letter from Jacqui Pestell,Course Director RBGE Diploma in Botanical Illustration, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh to Helen Rodgers (Di's niece):

"Dear Helen

Leigh Morris the Head of Education, is absolutely delighted about your very generous and kind offer to initiate the prize in honour of your aunt Diana Carmichael.

I took a group of Certificate students into our library a few weeks ago and viewed the Highgrove Florilegium. We were delighted to see the paintings by your aunt in such a beautiful book which will last for ever and give so much pleasure. From what I understand your aunt really seemed to be so passionate about painting/ printmaking, and ways to portray her love of the natural world.

I have spent a lot of time considering what the criteria should be for this prize, and I have come to the conclusion that we should award the prize to a Final year Diploma student who:
‘Shows a great passion of the natural world, with exceptional drawing and painting skills, demonstrating clear enthusiasm for investigating the collection of plants chosen.’
For the second year of the Diploma students are required to focus on a group of plants and make five finished paintings, along with a body of supporting work – drawings, paintings, botany etc. They attend regular tutorials through out this year and are supported in their work by myself and Botanist/ Horticultural staff of the RBGE.

On completion of our course students go on to become artists/ illustrators, tutors and teachers. Some have exhibited at the Royal Horticultural Society London RHS, and the Botanical Images Scotia - BISCOT. Some work is held in the collection at the Lindley Library, London. Other students have had work put forward for the Curtis Magazine, Kew and for other botanical publications.
I think it would be a great honour to be awarded this medal in memory of Diana Carmichael.

The RBGE Graduation day is held here on the Friday 23rd September. We will send you the invitation, and the dress code is smart/ casual.
It would be wonderful if you could present the prize.
I look forward to hearing from you,
Kind regards

Jacqui Pestell
Course Director
RBGE Diploma in Botanical Illustration
Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh"

Monday, 12 September 2011

American paint demo - feedback and photos

Suellen Perold’s Introduction
to the Daniel Smith Rangeof Paints

by Ann Harris

Suellen, from the USA, has family connections and regularly visits South Africa. Through contact with BAASA, she gave a talk on the Daniel Smith range of paints, which are largely of unknown to us. Suellen, an enthusiastic botanical painter herself, has tried and tested the paints in her work. She introduced us to the colours through colour dots on art paper as well as leaving an extensive palette with more generous squeezes of paints.
Of interest to me was the Quinacridone Rangeof colours, which are particularly transparent and seem to glow with light. After making swatches, I zoned in on two colours, Quinacridone Coral and Quinacridone Pink. The Q. Pink is a good lightfast substitute for W & N fugitive Opera Rose and the Q. Coral caught my attention for its clear, coral tones. I know that I am going to use them on my flowers and specifically roses! I have checked out the Daniel Smith range of colours in MichaelWilcox School of Colour and found that all the colours I looked up had glowing reviews on permanency, application, quality and manufacture.
Helene Joubert looked up their website and found that they offer colour dot sheets of various ranges, priced from £4 to £9 for the full range. This is the way to test colours and beats a printed colour chart hands down! 
Through a friend I have ordered a tube each of Q. Pink and Q. Coral and await their arrival in South Africa with anticipation. It would be nice to find a supplier in South Africa.

Suellen Perold

Demonstrating Daniel Smith watercolours

Monday, 22 August 2011

Feedback from the coloured pencil workshop

Comments on Kim's "Draw a Mushroom in Coloured Pencil" Workshop - 6 August 2011:

thoroughly enjoyed Kim’s workshop, and found it very informative as I have never really done any coloured pencil work. I liked her information card that we all were given, it showed just
how much preparation she had put into the day. Kim was also very hands on and
generous with her knowledge. Pearl’s studio is such a good venue. I think we all
enjoyed ourselves and the time flew by! - Sue Cochrane

I thoroughly enjoyed Kim’s workshop.  I think the Polychromos coloured pencils are
an underrated medium and can give really good results if you’ve had a bit of
practice with them.  Kim is a talented artist and was well placed to introduce
what was a new medium for many of us.  I enjoy Kim’s unpretentious style and I
will attend any future workshops that she conducts as I would like to do more
work in coloured pencils. - Karen Bryden

Ah-ha....... I never knew pencils could be so difficult !!!!!! -
Wendy Lottering

Not my medium of choice, but it was great to just set
time aside and play. What better way to spend a Saturday than in the wonderful
setting of Pearl’s studio, to be drawing in the company of friends and to meet a
couple of new members? I was also impressed by Kim’s teaching.  - Gill Condy

It was wonderful to discover a new medium and find that you can get such richness of colour from coloured pencils. I also discovered that changing the medium doesn't change the
way you do things - if you keep making one 'mistake' with watercolours you will
do exactly the same thing  with coloured pencils - so don't blame your medium! -
Angie Hill

Click on image to enlarge

Photos by Angie Hill

Sunday, 10 July 2011

July Meeting - The art of Claude Gibney Davies

 Click on images to enlarge
Photos by Samantha Haacke

On the cold and gloomy morning of Tuesday the 6th of July, a small group of botanical artists battled through Pretoria traffic to congregate at the Transvaal Museum (now called the Ditsong Museum of Natural History). We were to be greatly rewarded for our efforts...
Soon we were whisked away to a back room by the museum librarian, Tersia Perregil where we were first entertained by a talk given by resident orinthologist, Greg Davies (no relation to Claude), who told us the amazing and tragic tale of Claude Gibney Finch-Davies, a character possessed by his obsession for birds. 
Then we were allowed to pore over about 30 exquisite original Claude Gibney Finch-Davies artworks which Tersia had carefully laid out for us.
The bird paintings are hard to describe - each an individual jewel - each one displaying a perfect balance of painted realism and stylization to best represent each bird's unique feathering and colouration. Just utter perfection!
It was wonderful to see such meticulous attention to detail, and it left us all awestruck, and wondering about his working methods and techniques.

Thanks to Gill Condy for arranging this rare treat, and for introducing us to CGFD, bird artist par excellence!

~ Samantha Haacke

Read more about Claude Gibney Finch-Davies: 
  • Wikipedia entry - click here!
  • Click here to read the Getaway magazine article "The madness of a collector" by Don Pinnock (published in 2001)

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

June 2011 Meeting: Paddy Balsdon Workshop

This was such a fun workshop to do and was quite different from our usual art get-togethers. It must be the first workshop where everyone left with a completed project!

Paddy arrived with all the necessary bookbinding materials to make a portfolio big enough to hold quarter-sized sheets of artwork, including an array of eye-catching fabric colours. After first fortifying ourselves with essential refreshments we set to under Paddy’s expert tuition to cut, paste, stretch and burnish. There was much muttering under the breath as we tried to cope with two hands when we really needed four, not to talk about glue that mysteriously found its way to the wrong side of where it was supposed to be. How on earth did it end up on my elbow instead of the back of my fabric? And when the muttering stopped there was absolute silence and concentration – another first for a BAASA workshop – while breaths were held and the project turned over to reveal a work of master craftsmanship (well from our perspectives anyway). Never mind that some of us cut our corners too short or suddenly decided we should have a label in a strategic place to conceal a mishap (there’s always a fix for ‘mistakes’).

All that brainpower used up lots of energy, but not to worry, there was plenty to eat. Thanks to all who attended and brought food, including warming soup, and thank you Paddy for a most rewarding workshop. You enabled us to take home something that is immediately useful.

- Report and photo by Angie Hill

Monday, 4 April 2011

Artist of the Month - Kim Squire Johnston

Introducing our Artist of the Month of April: 

Q and A with Kim Squire Johnston:

1.      Please tell us about the project you are currently busy with.

At the moment an Erythrina, Sabie Star and a series of Hibiscus flowers in colour pencil just for fun. I am also busy with planning for future exhibits and themes.  

2.     What is your art background? Where did you receive training?

I attended the University of Pretoria where I studied Information Design which was a 4 year degree course for Graphic Designers. I also attended Pro Arte and there I did art specifically design, graphics and painting.

     What is your aim for the 2011, and beyond?

This year my focus is on establishing my Coloured Pencil Art School and painting for the Johannesburg exhibition coming up in October. I am also busy planning my work for the Kirstenbosch exhibition for next year. 

     Do you have a favourite subject that you particularly love to paint?

Not as yet. I am very new to botanical painting so I am still exploring the vast amount of different subjects. But admittedly I am drawn to plants that we don't often see, the rare and unusual plants. 

     Is there a particular plant that you would love to paint but haven’t had the opportunity yet?

There are so many! I would love to paint the Aloe polyphylla in its natural habitat.

     What is your most dreaded job, or aspect of being a botanical artist?

I don't think there is any job that I can dread because I am just so happy to be able to paint and hone my craft. There are however some tough challenges (like plants with lots of details) and usually I end up having a good old giggle when I have lost my place.

     What is your favourite brand of paints, brushes and paper?

Winsor and Newton paint (I have one tube of Talens Rembrandt and it's great), Raphael Kolinsky sable brushes (series 8408) and the Kolinsky Sable brushes that I bought from Green and Stone are very nice brushes! And of course Arches HP 300gsm.

     Do you have a particular artist/or artist’s whose work you particularly admire and receive inspiration from.

I love Susannah Blaxill's work, probably because of the detail and the graphic nature of her work, to me, she doesn't paint plants she describes them.
The other artist that I admire is Jenny Philips, she has a wonderful way with texture, I would love to learn from her. Some ladies a little closer to home would be Ann Harris, Gillian Condy and Jennifer Johnston Davidson.

     What is your favourite botanical art book at the moment?

This is a hard question, Ann Swan's "Botanical Painting with Coloured Pencils" is a wonderful book but I have read that so now I'm on the prowl again. 

 Do you have a favourite botanical ‘art tip’ that you can part with?

Experimentation is key so do roughs and draw, draw, draw. I also believe that you can never know everything so I am always looking for books to read and learn from. And if that doesn't help then I'm looking for people that I can learn from. I can never have enough knowledge. 

Kim in the field

Watercolour. Click to enlarge

Watercolour. Click to enlarge

Watercolour. Click to enlarge

Coloured pencil. Click to enlarge

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Sandie Burrows on preparing for a major exhibition

Sandie Burrows' talk on how she is preparing artwork for the 2013 RHS botanical art show was very well attended.
Sandie lead us through her working process right from the start, from getting all the exhibition information, to making sketches in the field, to how she has achieved the final layouts of her 8 paintings.
The amount of work she has done in preparation for her final work is astounding, and her level of dedication is truly awe-inspiring.

A few points from her talk:

  • Draw, draw and draw! Drawing is the foundation of everything, you can never get too much practice.
  • Draw in the field from live specimens if at all possible. Go into your garden if you don't have a natural habitat nearby, or visit your local botanical gardens.
  • Make use of your local botanical garden. That is what they are there for. Visit the herbarium and ask for help!
  • Draw as much detail as possible, focus on botanical accuracy and recording as much information as possible.
  • Take plenty of reference photos.
  • Don't worry about the format of your prep drawings/sketches. Draw on any scrap of paper if necessary.
  • Keep all your drawings/sketches/photos/scraps of info together in a file. (Keep a file for each species). In this way your drawings and sketches are easily accessible for future reference, and you'll never know when you'll re-use them (rearranged in another format) again.
  • Take plenty of reference photos.
  • Use herbarium specimen to get proper scale of plant when out of the field.
  • Use prep drawings and sketches to "patch together" a preparation drawing for final painting.
  • Don't be scared to chop off and rearrange bits (stick together bits of paper!) to achieve a more pleasing composition when preparing for your final drawing. Although you must be careful to remain botanically accurate (don't put bits where they wouldn't normally grow, for instance!).
  • Use a tracing paper overlay marked with the "golden ratio" to make sure that your focal points are in the right spot.
  • Artworks for exhibitions must have "wall appeal"!
  • When paintings are to be hung as a group consider how they they will look together. Plan the layout of each painting so that it works well as a set. (Hanging of paintings iis then very important - paintings have to be hung in a certain arrangement.)
  • In a group hanging attention must be paid that focal point is in a different place in every painting. Careful attention must be paid to the visual weight of each artwork, and  how this works in the group as a whole. You want the viewer's eye to move about the group in a certain way.
We wish Sandie well in finishing her work, and look forward to seeing the final artworks!

One of Sandie's detailed botanical drawings from her Impatiens collection. Click to enlarge.

Gill thanking Sandie for her talk.

RHS Exhibition of Botanical Art - find links to guidelines and regulations at the bottom of the page

Photos and review by Samantha Haacke

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Katie Lee Drawing Workshop led by Gill Condy

 The Katie Lee Drawing Workshop led by Gill Condy, 
Pretoria 15th of February 2011 
Gill in action.
"Remember that no finished work is perfect. It is as good as it can be at the moment it was drawn, with the limitations of your technical skills". - Katie Lee

This was a solid “back to basics” workshop emphasizing the importance of observation and doing thorough preparatory sketches, which is something most of us overlook in the hurry to produce a finished botanical painting.
Gill led us through the book from start to finish, highlighting all the most pertinent points. And although we didn’t do much drawing other than shading a few tonal exercises, the workshop was very worthwhile for all the information and quite a few “ah ha” moments it provided.

Just a few of the points discussed:
  •   Observation takes time – try not to hurry this stage! Try to use as many senses as possible to get to know your subject.  
  • Use notes to trigger a dialogue between verbal and visual.
  • Note the most important characteristics of the plant – these should be evident in the final work, otherwise you have failed in rendering the plant.
  •  How to properly light your subject, and how light is “read”. The importance of light in relation to focal point.
  •   All subjects, no matter how complex, can be broken down into basic forms (sphere, cylinder, cone etc).
  •   All about graduated shading and building layers of tone.
  • The different kinds of preparatory sketches – line (descriptive), tonal (creating form), textural, and pigment/color study – and why each one is important. The finished painting should be a sum of all of these.
  •   How to draw bending/arching leaves and ribbon shapes. (We got to make a bendy acetate leaf which is a useful aid).
  •  Drawing mid ribs, side veins and growth lines. Shading lines should follow direction of growth.

The book! Very practical ring binding lets you lay it open flat while open on an exercise.
Printed on high quality paper which will stand up to good use.

    The book places a lot of emphasis on tonal studies, and systematically working through tonal shading exercises, with the aim of making technique in suggesting form second nature. I think any drawing exercise is worthwhile, and this book’s exercises, although they seem a bit laboriously obsessive at times, will make one a better observer, and definitely a stronger drawer.

    “Drawing is the foundation of creativity, and technique is the foundation of drawing.”  - Katie Lee

    Review and photos by Samantha Haacke