Tuesday, 29 July 2014

SBA 2015 - In Pursuit of Plants Exhibition

The mixed media artwork above is titled 'Strelitzia nicolai' by Linda Hampson SBA (a past BAASA member).

The next London exhibition of the Society will be held from 17 to 25 April 2015 with a receiving day of 23 February.

Intrepid plant hunters, imaginative plant breeders, avid gardeners, keepers of national plant collections, physicians reviving medical lost knowledge, innovative entrepreneurs, botanical artists, hungry humans (and animals, birds, butterflies and insects): they are all In Pursuit of Plants.

Secrets on capturing the character of trees - Sarah Simblet

Secrets on capturing the character of trees
Learn the secrets of capturing the character of trees from this video interview with artist Sarah Simblet, illustrator of 'The New Sylva', talking to Jacqui Pestell at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.

Monday, 21 July 2014


A retrospective exhibition for Jean Powell, who has been a stalwart member of BAASA in the KZN region since its inception.

Botanical Artists Association of Southern Africa Gauteng Region

Sunday, 20 July 2014

A week in Umbria, learning from Ann Swan, and other treats

The view of Precis from my bedroom window at Il Collaccio

June 2014
Text and pictures: Penny Mustart

My wildest, sweetest dream would have been to spend a week in Italy, learning from pencil colour botanical art guru, Ann Swan. A small windfall encouraged me to enquire about the possibility, and somehow all the arrangements fell in place. Thus, in early June this year I found myself flying via Istanbul to Rome where I spent the night to recover from the inevitable lack of sleep in the cramped seating arrangements of economy class.

The next morning I transferred back to the airport to meet up with Ann and the rest of the group who had flown in that day. After a quick coffee and introductions we sped northwards in the pre-arranged minibus. Despite coming from various countries – Slovenia, Australia, the UK, and South Africa – we soon became friends sharing a common interest. An hour later we drove through a long tunnel in the Apennines and arrived in the hilly Umbrian landscape on the other side.

Winding along narrow, winding roads in valleys at rapid speed was somewhat daunting for me at first, but the beauty of the surrounding wooded slopes in magnificent Umbrian countryside helped me to relax, and to realise that my dream was becoming real. This was just the beginning; it just got better each day!

On arrival at Il Collaccio, an Agriturismo (holiday farm) situated in the foothills of the Mount Sibillini National Park mountains, we were welcomed with a glass of Prosecco. After a late buffet lunch, we walked down to the Locanda, a small lodge with 11 rooms on the upper floor, and the studio occupying the ground floor. The rooms had their own balconies, and on opening the heavy wooden shutters of my room I saw a breath-taking view of the distant mountains and nearby wooded hillsides in which the village Precis (pronounced Praychee) was perched.

During the next six days we spent the mornings in the studio where Ann would give us instruction with demonstrations on many of her techniques of pencil colour art: how to do leaves (back and front views), hairy stems, underpainting, how to consider composition and anything else that we asked her to show us.

It was fascinating to see Ann work so confidently and with clear instructions to us as to what she was doing. Since she had the habit of referring to pencils that she was using by their numbers and not their names – for example FC 278 and PC 922 – we had to nimble up our minds to do the associations with them being Faber Castell Chrome Oxide Green and Prismacolor Poppy Red. After practising various techniques it would be coffee time, or lunch time, and so the mornings sped by.
Ann busy with her own work, with Margaret Matthews and her dog, Maisie, looking on. Margaret travelled from the UK in her camper van with Maisie
In the afternoons we were free to do as we wished, go for a walk, swim or just relax, but of course we spent them working in the studio while Ann sat on the veranda busy with her own work, though she was only too willing to be interrupted to help us. Ann is an amazingly talented and interesting person, very forthright and with a great sense of humour. I liked her immensely, and learned a lot from her.

To learn more about Ann, why not go to her well-developed website www.annswan.co.uk? Click on her blog to view her recently finished, awesome “Black Swan” irises. If you scroll further down to a post of 30 April, Ann gives a well-illustrated step-by-step demonstration for achieving a shiny green leaf.
Mealtimes are worth a mention: at the lodge’s restaurant Al Porcello Felice (The Happy Pig) we had wonderful Italian food including a great variety of vegetables, prosciutti, cingale (wild boar), dishes incorporating black truffles for which Umbria is famous, wonderful coffee and after lunch we regularly had a gelato (no shame here, we each had one, every day!). At our evening meals we would linger on to talk and laugh to a late hour.

On one of the days we went on an outing to a medieval, walled hilltop town, Montefalco. It was marvellous to have coffee in the central piazza, all to ourselves. Unlike neighbouring Tuscany, Umbria is not overridden with tourists.

We visited a church with wonderful frescos by Benozzo Gozzoli, and later travelled to a nearby wine and olive farm for tastings. On another afternoon we visited the nearby Mount Sibillini National Park, driving up a scenic, winding road to 1400 m altitude where a magnificent plain, the Piano Grande, opened up. The plain was ringed with high (>2000 m) snow- capped mountains.
photo by Debbie Lill
It abounded with flowers: wild peonies, gentians, many small orchids and other flowers unknown to me. Unusual for a National Park, but very beautiful, were fields of bright yellow canola interspersed with rows of tall wild grass, red poppies and cornflowers.
photo by Debbie Lill
On the last two days I worked in haste on a poppy composition in order to have something to show for the week, and on the last evening all our art works were put on display for Ann to critique – “be afraid, be very afraid” she warned, but this was in jest and she gave each of us valuable advice and generous encouragement.
Ann giving critique of our works
My efforts
On our departure for Rome and the flight home, I felt tearful to end such a wonderful time and to say goodbye, ciao, to new friends.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Create a radial colour chart & photographing your artwork

Here are two links to some useful information:

How to make a radial colour chart

Click here for the link.

Video on how to photograph your artwork

Click here for the link.

Monday, 14 July 2014

​ Campaigners weigh in as world-renowned botanical research centre faces budget reduction of £5m

Saturday 12 July 2014

The Observer

​It has achieved fame for being the world's greatest centre for botanical research, a place where the planet's rarest plant and tree species are preserved and studied. But now Kew Gardens, established more than 200 years ago, is set to become the focus of an international battle following an intervention by renowned biologist Jane Goodall, who has denounced a recently inflicted budget cut as "unbelievably stupid".

Goodall, who carried out pioneering work on the behaviour of chimps, has written to the environment secretary, Owen Paterson, urging him to hand out £5m to restore the centre's budget in the wake of financial cuts imposed by the Department for Environment and Rural Affairs. "To read that 125 professional staff members are set to lose their jobs because of cuts in government funding is shocking," Goodall says.

In an interview with the Observer, she revealed that she had made contact with several Kew scientists while researching her book, Seeds of Hope. "There is a tremendous feeling of anger and frustration there and I share it. This an unbelievably stupid thing to do. This is the mother of all other botanical research centres. Britain should be proud of it, not dismantling it. It is like tearing up the union jack. That is why I wrote my letter. I want my protest to go viral. I want thousands and thousands of people to protest as well."

Goodall's anger is shared by other noted figures. Sir David Attenborough, a former Kew Gardens trustee, said the cuts were scandalous. "Kew is one of the world's most important botanical institutes and this country depends on it for all kinds of things – for publishing surveys of our plant life, carrying out botanical research and pinpointing imported plants and other species that customs cannot identify," he said. "To treat it like a playground that can be taxed or not, depending on how you feel, is simply an uncivilised, philistine act."

The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, south-west London, became a centre for plant research as a result of work by scientists including Joseph Banks and Joseph Hooker, a friend and collaborator of Charles Darwin. The garden is now a Unesco world heritage site that attracts more than two million people a year to its historic buildings and spectacular plant collection, the world's largest. Kew research is considered vital in understanding climate change, conservation and crop improvement, while its other site – at Wakehurst Place, West Sussex – houses the Millennium Seed Bank, a conservation project that aims to preserve plants worldwide.

Many campaigners now believe these efforts are under threat, a claim denied by Richard Deverell, Kew's director. "Yes, we will probably lose the jobs of around 40 scientists in addition to other staff members because of these current cuts and, yes, further budget cuts are scheduled for next year. But I am confident that by then we will have found new ways to raise money," he said.

"This would include improving our retailing and catering income and also our consultancy work by exploiting and selling our scientific knowledge, our intellectual property and our horticultural skills. I think that has tremendous potential. We have not done all we could have in the past in raising money this way, and I am confident that once we have completed this year's staff restructuring we will be able to make up for future loss of income this way."

But this was denounced by another celebrity Kew campaigner, former newsreader and former Kew trustee Anna Ford. "Defra was always snipping away at Kew and telling us we had to sell our science. But that is simply wrong," she said. "Botanical science is not a product to be sold. It is a reciprocal relationship. Kew gets samples from other countries and in return we provide information about how to conserve and protect such plants in their homeland while we are also learning about their essential properties, including their medicinal uses.

"Money should not enter into this relationship. Kew would not have been able to assemble its collection if it had not freely provided its botanical expertise – in an exchange for samples – to other nations. So it is wrong to try to raise money this way. The real trouble is that this government clearly doesn't give a tinker's cuss about Kew."

Last month a petition demanding the restoration of Kew's budget – signed by more than 100,000 people – was handed to 10 Downing Street, while 34 MPs signed an early-day motion expressing alarm "that vital international conservation work would be threatened should further cuts take place" at Kew.

"It is certainly not too late to act," said Attenborough. "If the government could accept what a dreadful thing it is imposing on the gardens, they could undo that damage with a stroke of the pen."

guardian.co.uk Copyright (c) Guardian News and Media Limited. 2014 Registered in England and Wales No. 908396 Registered office: PO Box 68164, Kings Place, 90 York Way, London N1P 2AP

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Willie Schlechter Course - Kirstenbosch Molteno Library

Article and photos by Wendy Burchell

From lt to rt: Jenny Pharoah, Heather Gaspar, Willie Schlechter, Wendy Burchell, Sue Abraham, Helen Meyer, Helen Estcourt. Seated: Olwen Gibson.
In response to requests for more practical courses at BAASA we invited Willie Schlechter, bronze medalist at the 2013 Kirstenbosch Biennale, to give a three day, botanical water colour course at Kirstenbosch Molteno Library.

Despite icy weather, we attended each day with enjoyment and enthusiasm, and learnt so much from Willie's techniques and approach. He reinforced principles we have learnt from Vicki Thomas and others and gave us some extra tips which helped enormously.

We started with a forty minute exercise of drawing our chosen plant in pencil, without looking at or lifting our pencils from the page - a wonderful way of making you look carefully. The resulting drawings were not lifelike, but beautiful marks on the page.

In the next exercise we could look at our drawings, but couldn't lift the pencil off the page.

We drew our plants straight onto Arches HP paper (if brave enough) or drew and then traced onto Arches paper using a light box. Beginners and experienced artists were excited to start painting on the first day, with several, pale washes of cadmium lemon, then cadmium yellow. Emphasis was placed on blending the washes well, leaving out the highlights, but blending them into the surrounding colour. Allowing the paint to dry between layers was essential. Adding more pale washes of "local colour" green, then grey shadow areas (mixed from three primaries only) revealed some lovely, leafy branches. By the third day of painting we had all produced good likenesses of our chosen leaves. A perfect three days of painting, sharing ideas, water colour paints and friendship.

Below are some of the works produced.


Monday, 7 July 2014

Inspiring Kew

Inspiring Kew

The exhibition will showcase contemporary and historic paintings, and other material from Kew’s extensive Art, Archive and Library collections. It will include a recently acquired and never previously exhibited painting of a rose produced by Princess Charlotte, eldest daughter of George III, at Kew in 1789, together with work by one of the great masters of the golden age of botanical painting, Franz Bauer.

Paintings that resulted from the HMS Endeavour voyage of 1768 will be displayed alongside contemporary botanical illustrations by Lucy Smith that were made during her 2001 journey from Australia to Indonesia on a replica of the Endeavour. Kew continues to inspire people to travel, collect, write and paint. Rachel Pedder- Smith’s astonishing eighteen-foot-long Herbarium Specimen Painting, previously shown in the gallery in 2012, will be exhibited. For more go to http://www.kew.org/visit-kew-gardens/whats-on/inspiring-kew

Rachel Pedder-Smith's Herbarium Specimen Painting