The idea of an artist beginning a work and reworking the image over time is particularly challenging with botanical art. Since many of the artists in this exhibition initially are inspired to paint live plants, often captured during their short lifecycle, it is essential to sketch in situ in the landscape or with the specimen in the studio. However, when an artist decides to shelve the work, they need to recall the information through notes, sketches and color keys to be true to the original knowledge the plant shared with she/he. Time can be on the artist’s side, a moment of contemplation can solve a compositional dilemma, bringing a good work to that next level as well as creating a more nuanced and magical experience for both the artist and collector.
Karen Kluglein’s Tamora Rose, 2021, watercolor on illustration board
Ranunculus II, 2014
colored pencil, pencil on paper
14 x 11 inches
Check out www.sfnbotanicalart.com this Spring for SFN’s first Flat File exhibition. Artists often begin a work of art then put it aside, storing it in their flat file cabinet, designed to store works on paper, hence “flat” file. I am interested in why the artist leaves the work rather than completing it. I have requested artists revisit paintings started then shelved. Stay tuned for past/present pieces from Carol Woodin, Victoria Braithwaite and Elizabeth Enders amongst many others. Together we will explore the artist’s mind and witness the evolution from ideas to finished works.
Elizabeth Enders spontaneously captured the simplicity of the Rhododendron’s upright leaf structure pointing to the warmth of the air still lingering late into the Fall season of 2020. She notes the leathery leaf texture with watercolor and includes the bud, a welcome note in its bright green stage of development. A work full of hope and anticipation for the bloom, a welcome sign of nature’s life cycle.
watercolor on paper
14.5 x 11 inches
Carol shares this story behind the painting, “I lived next door to a property that turned into a farm and brewery over the course of several years. The first thing to happen was the planting of hops in an open, sunny meadow. The structure of supports had to be constructed in a labor-intensive process as I watched the struggle to drive tall posts into the rocky ground. The hops were planted next and over the the following few years they grew with increasing vigor. This painting was conceived as part of a project called Journey of Plants in the Netherlands, and it was how plants have traveled around the world. There is no better example that than hops! So I went into their hops field, and from the millions I picked this particular grouping. Hops are very fragrant and the flower cones are a bit sticky because of the pungent oils (lupulin) they contain. Every time I look at this painting I smell the hops!” Carol’s close observation of the leaves, vine and seed cones are explored throughout this cascading composition as hops are a climbing plant. Drink it up!
Arrowood Farms Hops, 2018
watercolor on Kelmscott vellum
10.5 x 9 inches
The artist studio is a workplace where ideas come to life. These botanical artists use the studio as a place for story telling through the medium of graphite and watercolor on paper and vellum. In Beverly Duncan’s Ashfield Composition, The Seasons #3, she describes the place where she collects the specimens, Ashfield, Massachusetts, and the native plant life within it. We journey through this piece from left to right: White Ash fruit, False Solomon Seal fruit, European Cabbage butterfly, Japanese Anemone flower and buds, Snow Drop flower and bulb, American Beech Winter Branch and a Nine-spotted Ladybug Bettle. Duncan uses her studio, a sacred space, where she delicately lays out her collection, composes and paints each part with the care of a living, breathing organism, cherishing her most intimate relationship with the natural world through every brush stroke.
Kelly Leahy Radding’s Bluff Point Rose Hip tells the story of her work as a Piping Plover monitor on Bluff Point Beach in Groton, Connecticut. She walks the beach surveying many species of birds and as the artist states, “seeing the plants is just a wonderful bonus.”
Connie Scanlon’s story began with the decision to paint three peas in a pea pod or “Solace”, evolving from the natural composition of the specimen. Scanlon gravitates towards subjects which include the number three, as this reminds her of her three children. An intimate moment unfolds between the subject and viewer, as if we should knock before looking. There is often a romantic conclusion from her works.
Please visit www.sfnbotanicalart.com to view all the works included in the online exhibition. Wishing you a very happy and healthy holiday season!
A Piece of North Woods, 2013, by Kelly Leahy Radding is a highly accomplished contemporary botanical painting depicting a stumbled upon habitat of the Great North Woods region of New Hampshire. Radding shares her experience here, “It was a beautiful September blue-sky day in the North Woods of New Hampshire, the kind that has you looking up at the clouds much more that you look down at the ground. I was following the quirky flight of a bright yellow Cloudless Sulphur butterfly feeding on late blooming flowers, when my eyes fell upon this tiny, white, spiraling flower growing in a moist, roadside ditch. I looked closer. It was a small colony of Nodding Tresses orchids nestled amongst the mosses. Upon further inspection I saw a whole miniature ecology living out its life in a small space of disturbed earth.
Artists often find artistic inspiration and influence from other artists whose work they admire. One of my influences has been the natural history works of Albrecht Dürer. I had the immense pleasure of seeing my three favorite paintings in person at the Albertina Museum in Vienna, Austria. One of them, Great Piece of Turf, 1503, is an epic visual poem of the teeming plant life in a diminutive patch of earth. As soon as I realized that I was looking at my own “Great Piece of Turf”, I knew I had to paint it as an homage to Dürer. Choosing to paint it on a piece of vellum made me feel even more connected to Dürer as it was a surface he also used.”
Although inspired by the German painter, Radding often infuses her work with romanticism, accentuating a plant’s sensuality. As seen in this piece, her stylistic interpretation, flawless composition and expert painting technique draw the viewer in to this microcosmic habitat one never wants to leave.
Representing Lizzie’s exceptional botanical art since 2003, I recognized the importance of her work and the need for the world to experience it. She blended the historical significance of botanical documentation with a contemporary aesthetic. Sander’s was universally alone in this quest, her works are distinguished for their minimalist approach, every brushstroke has a purpose. She brought the crisp light from her Edinburgh studio into each articulated stroke, producing masterpieces with an expert command of the dry brush technique. The result was always a detailed description of the plant with a nod to science while intentionally rendering a 21st century composition. I would compare her work to Rory McEwen, the Scottish botanical painter, both were drawn to paint the plants at the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh with a modernist viewpoint. The results were unforgettable botanical paintings, accurate in their content and transporting fine art. Both artists left us too early and we are forever wanting for more. My hope is the Royal Botanic Garden mounts a similar exhibition to McEwen’s, celebrating Sander’s incredible oeuvre.
In the world of contemporary botanical portraiture, Jean’s in-depth understanding of color and its application mesmerizes the eye and
excites the mind. The artist’s intentional cropping and placement of
the specimen with the negative space below was carefully choreographed for the viewer to feel like they are looking up at the tree with nature hovering overhead.
Watercolor on Kelmscott vellum
14 x 17 inches