A worldwide collaboration linking people with plants
through contemporary botanical art


Welcome to our first Newsletter of 2017.  It's probably far too late to send you Season's Greetings, but it's never too late to wish you a healthy, happy and successful year ahead.

This Newsletter is going to be a regular feature throughout the year bringing you exhibition information, updates and news from other artists, local and international, also working towards the Worldwide Exhibition.

You will all be familiar with Christiaan Lochner whose painting graces our Worldwide Exhibition  communication.  We chatted to Chris recently to gather some insights on how he came to be painting botanicals and what inspires him.  We hope you enjoy the interview below.

Interview with Christiaan Lochner
Chris, tell us how it felt when your painting was chosen to represent the South African section of the Worldwide Exhibition.
I was thrilled!  The Worldwide Exhibition is such an exciting event and it is a great honour to be involved in this way.

What can we expect from you for the Worldwide Exhibition?  Can you tell us about the paintings you have started or are planning?
Although a commission is currently keeping me quite busy, I am particularly interested in endangered species and would like to do work in this field.

How were you introduced to botanical art?
An interest in botany and art runs in the family, so I was exposed to these fields from a young age.  As a child my parents took me along to see the Biennales at Kirstenbosch and they made a big impression on me.  I think that after seeing botanical artworks one will always look at plants with a different eye and appreciate them more.

Have you attended any courses with botanical artists, if so, which ones and what did you get out of them?
Yes.  Several years ago I became interested in the field of scientific illustration and then I attended the workshop that Vicki Thomas presented for the Spring School series at the University of Stellenbosch.  Besides being a talented artist, Vicki is also a wonderful teacher and I learnt a great deal in that week.  Although I had been experimenting on my own before, learning from a master gave me a whole new understanding and skill set, along with a big dose of inspiration.

Other than botanical art, do you create any other art?
Although my main focus is fairly classic botanical illustration in watercolour, I am interested in working with other media and subject matters as they all teach one new approaches.  When I can, I attend meetings of the Western Cape Land Art Society. I find getting outside and engaging with the landscape a great source of inspiration.  From time to time I also assist calligrapher Andrew van der Merwe with illustrating illuminated addresses.

Are you working towards any other exhibitions or goals?
I would love to put together a solo exhibition in the next two or three years, but there are also many group exhibitions that I would like to take part in.  Since this work is time consuming, I try not to look too far forward.  I do, however, have my eye on the Royal Horticultural Society Botanical Art Show, but that might be a somewhat longer term goal.

As far as international courses go, I would love to take some classes with Sarah Simblet, but there are such fantastic artists who teach locally that one really doesn't need to travel too far for great quality lessons.

What is your training in art?
I obtained a BSc in Human Life Sciences from the University of Stellenbosch, but artistically I'm mainly self-taught.  Throughout the years I practiced drawing and experimented with painting, but taking workshops and later private classes with Vicki really allowed me to make a leap.  One needs to spend lots of time practicing on your own, but having a good teacher is invaluable.

What is your favourite botanical subject to paint and why?
There are so many plants that I love and would love to paint! I'm interested in plants from all over the world, but I have a particular fondness for our local flora.  Being surrounded by the Cape fynbos, we are just so spoilt for choice.

Do you paint out in the field or indoors using specimens you have collected?
Getting permission to collect specimens can be tricky and I have generally worked with easily available specimens that I can pick in a garden and readily find material for.  I have also used a combination of field sketches and photographs for plants that are unavailable or too large to bring indoors.

What is your painting space like?
Although I dream of having my own studio, I spend most of my time painting from a nook in my bedroom that receives good light. I try to keep it tidy, but it does tend to get overrun by collected rocks and dried plant matter.  I can't stop picking up dried leaves and other bits of organic matter.  I alternate between working with silence, music and audiobooks.

Do you have any words of encouragement for the many botanical artists who are working towards the Worldwide Exhibition?
This work is time consuming and some days it may feel like your painting will never be complete, but just keep going and eventually it will be done.  If you see something interesting or beautiful in  a plant, chances are no one sees it in the same way, so when you paint, you have the chance of sharing your unique point of view and inspiring others.  Don't underestimate that.

Thanks Chris for your time and affording us this insight into your painting world, we look forward to seeing what subjects you choose for the exhibition.

What plants will be permitted on the Worldwide Exhibition?
The World Steering Committee has canvassed the opinion of the participating countries on the inclusion of fungi, lichens and mosses.  While some countries have rejected their inclusion, it appears that the decision might be left to the individual country.  Left to our own decision we would advocate their inclusion.  We will let you know definitively when a decision is taken by the World Steering Committee.

Expanding our geographical area
We have received some queries around the inclusion of plants that are native to Southern Africa and not necessarily South Africa.  This we have deliberated and as we are the Botanical Artists Association of Southern Africa we have decided that we will allow plants from north of our borders from neighbouring countries, giving artists some additional choice to work with.  This does not include the Indian Ocean islands.

What about hybrids?
A question has been raised about the inclusion of hybrids for the Worldwide Exhibition.  We wanted to clarify this issue at the earliest opportunity.  The World Steering Committee has been clear on this from the outset and they have provided the following definition to work with.  Definition of a native plant : Any wild plant indigenous to a country, including natural hybrids, but excluding any cultivar, man-made hybrids or naturalised exotics.

An exhibition name change is going to occur
The World Steering Committee has been researching the title that will be used globally.  While we have been using the Worldwide Botanical Art Exhibition as a working title, which describes exactly what it is, it is likely to change to Botanical Art Worldwide.  We will slot in with the requirements in this regard and advise you when it occurs.

We are very pleased to announce that the Selection Committees have been appointed.  Ann Harris, Gillian Condy and Jenny Hyde-Johnson will make up the Johannesburg team.  The Cape Town and Durban selectors will be announced in due course.

To accommodate a number of schedules the selection dates for Johannesburg have moved.  The dates previously mentioned were the 4th and 5th of November 2017.  These dates have moved to Friday, 17th and Saturday, 18th NovemberPlease save these dates.  This gives Johannesburg artists an extra two weeks of painting time which means that the digitisation process thereafter will have to be really slick to meet the World Steering Committee deadlines.  Bridget Dunseith has very graciously agreed to host the selection at her home. Please check the blog calendar for details.

Coming soon …
In our next newsletter we will feature more detail on the gallery arrangements.