Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Russell Scott’s Botanical Portraits Unearthed makes exhibition debut

The debut exhibition of artist-photographer Russell Scott’s series Botanical Portraits Unearthed takes place at CIRCA Gallery’s Darwin Room, opening 30 January 2014.

The series comprises 76 studio images of indigenous plants, photographed in ultra-detail between 2008 and 2013. Scott has selected nine pieces for his first display. Until now the Johannesburg photographer has been reticent to reveal these dramatically lit botanical works, despite the urging of many.

In his striking style each specimen is lit to dramatise its particular shape, colour, texture and translucency. He prefers to think of his evocative photographs as ‘…portraits of characters, as they are not always selected for being the finest specimens, but because they are variations of the type. It is necessary to isolate the plant from its environment to try and expose a unique personality’. Sometimes they remind him of plants that have been disrobed from their covers, as if nude portraits in a nocturnal setting.

Selecting plant material for photographic study is based on opportunities to spotlight plants that might otherwise be passed unnoticed, in ditches or building sites. ‘The glamour of exotic blooms is no more significant than roots, tubers and stems in suggesting the character of the subject’.

Scott is assisted by his artist wife, Philippa Hobbs, to identify, collect and nurture each plant back to health after acquisition. In the studio the plant is suspended or supported, or sometimes even hung upside down, with thread strategically holding parts of the plant in position. His sculptural sensibility is informed by the artworks he made as a young post-graduate from the Fine Art Department at Technikon Witwatersrand in the late 1980s, while his technical skill was developed over many years of working in the photographic and model-making industry. Despite Scott’s intensive, controlled shooting style, he allows minimal post-shoot intervention to an image, other than to enhance detail and to remove traces of the support rig.

Although the unusual specimens that capture Scott’s attention are from all over the country, most are gathered from the Highveld, some in downtown Johannesburg. At other times unidentifiable bulbs are discovered and planted speculatively and the surprise of the bloom is awaited.

For more click here.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

A Painter’s Guide to Composition | Using the Elements of Design for Stronger Paintings

by Richard McKinley from ArtistsNetwork

In Winter’s Journey (pastel, 14×20), all the elements and principles of design were orchestrated to create a composition that better portrayed my feeling about this lonely winter scene. How many can you identify?

No matter how beautiful the subject matter or impressive the application technique, if the composition of visual elements within a painting are not strong, it will ultimately be considered a failure. When we set out to paint, it is easy to become seduced by the subject matter. We fall in love with what it represents, forgetting that for a painting to work, it has to successfully communicate our feelings. For painters, it is not merely enough to accurately portray what lies before them, they have to arrange and manipulate the visual elements to create a cohesive outcome. These elements are akin to grammar. The better an author arranges the words and punctuation, the better the document will relate to the reader.

The Elements of Design: The terms composition and design are often used synonymously. While they do work harmoniously, they do represent different visual characteristics. Composition signifies the arrangement of the visual elements and principles of design independent of subject matter. Design elements encompass: Line, Shape, Color, Value, Tone, Texture, and Depth. Design principles are: Balance, Contrast, Movement, Rhythm, Emphasis, Proportion, and Unity. These elements and principles form the nucleus of an artist’s compositional tool chest. Every painting relies on them, but some will be more apparent than others.

Start From Sketch: When planning a composition, I like to start with a series of thumbnail sketches that allow for manipulation of certain design elements and principles. These doodles lay a foundation before applying any pigment to a surface. I experiment with and then indicate the placement of the main and secondary areas of interest, perceived horizon line, major shapes, and foremost value contrasts. Every change to a composition has the potential of conveying a different mood or attitude.

To avoid becoming compositionally predictable, I often experiment with various elements and principles of design, such as:
  • Line: Altering the movement of visual elements within a scene can lead the viewer’s attention to certain areas and create a better balanced visual flow.
  • Shape: Tweaking the relative width and height of objects can affect proportions, vastly changing how we relate to them.
  • Color: Adjusting the dominant color scheme, or weighing it towards a warm or cool color bias, can create unity and balance, as well as altering mood.
  • Value: Varying the placement of light and dark within the composition can create emphasis, contrast, or balance, depending on intent.
  • Tone: Modifying the intensity of colors can create emphasis, contrast, or unity depending on the mood or atmosphere being portrayed.
  • Texture: Accentuating the perception of texture can create rhythm and emphasis on certain surface areas.
  • Depth: Amending perceived distances can create an overall change in proportions, generating a sense of intimacy or separation to the subject matter.

Orchestrating a Painting: Arranging the elements and principles of design are like conducting an orchestra. One relies on sound and the other sight, but they both rely on orchestration. At times you must silence one section of a painting and make another louder, just as a conductor does when leading an orchestra. How we utilize the elements and principles of design ultimately leads to ovations or jeers.

Friday, 24 January 2014

News from Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden, Roodepoort

New Tree Route launched in Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden

An exciting new self-guided Tree Route, which features 50 indigenous trees, has been launched in the Garden recently. It allows visitors to get to know 50 spectacular indigenous trees in their own time. Be sure to buy your Tree Route Booklet at the Entrance or Nursery for R20; it will provide you with interesting information on each tree as well as a route map that will assist you to find each tree in the Garden. All trees included on the route are marked with numbered orange tree labels. These label numbers correspond with tree numbers in the booklet. You can even pay for the booklet online and redeem your copy at the Entrance by clicking here.

Monday, 13 January 2014

Enchanting Artist Studio

Don't forget to check the Resources page on our Blog for 2014 courses and useful new articles that have been added. For BAASA events the provisional 2014 Calendar is here.

Claire Basler is a French floral painter who lives and works in a former schoolhouse in Les Ormes, right outside of Paris. On a daily basis, she creates huge floral arrangements and puts them around her house, using them as sources of inspiration for her paintings. "In her garden, she witnesses nature's fight for life against the wind, the rain, and the sun," according to the Telegraph. "This is what Claire Basler portrays in her paintings: the strength and frailty of a flower, the reassuring nature of a tree, the metamorphosis of a simple poppy."

For more go to http://www.mymodernmet.com/profiles/blogs/claire-basler-paris-home-studio

Billy Showell UK Classes & Online Tutorials 2014

Class Dates for Tunbridge Wells, Epsom and Away

Tunbridge Wells 1
Tunbridge wells 2
Friday 9 May
Thursday 19 June
Wednesday 17 September.
from 1 June
from 16 May
more news
The all new online tutorials will be launched at the end of this month register your interest at