The foundation of master botanical drawing lies in the artist’s passion for the subject. Botanical artists mostly begin with outlining the plant’s anatomy while infusing the line with the indescribable quotient of inspiration. Their honed technique brings the plant to life on paper or vellum. The artist is conversing with the viewer through the line, a complex discussion of the plant’s structure and beauty, weaving in and out with a master’s attention to efficiency. The line breathes life into the plant, the use of shading amplifies value and as the artist marries both, fireworks! DaVinci said, “The painter who draws merely by practice and by eye, without any reason, is like a mirror which copies everything placed in front of it without being conscious of their existence.” ”Where the spirit does not work with the hand, there is no art.”
Meet us in September at www.sfnbotanicalart.com for an intimate look at Denise Walser-Kolar’s exquisite fruit drawings.
Here, the artist focuses on part of the plant normally hidden under the petal of the rose. As we explore the painting, we come across a tiny worm munching on leaves, juxtaposing life with its expiration. This awakens us to the story of this plant’s evolution. Walser-Kolar composes the withering plant’s stages of life through gestural movements within the stems. She adds drama with the variegated vellum, an intentional choice to marry the subject to the substrate. Her masterful ability to capture the leafs structure, building color through a dry brush technique, inventively pulling the vellum through the worm holes, contributes to the painting’s overall mood. One relishes the opportunity to see part of the plant world unintended by nature. From beginning to end, a love story of plant and person.
My Dad’s Garden (Morden’s Blush rose hips), 2020
watercolor on vellum
10 x 9.5 inches
Susan Frei Nathan Fine Works on Paper is excited to welcome and represent Susan Rubin. The artist uses maps as her substrate combined with a mylar overlay depicting the specific botanical species to its origin. This botanical work is inspired and informed by its history. Rubin recounts,”It was revealed accidentally, in the process of Kosher certification for Coke, that one of the primary ingredients in the ‘secret’ flavor of the soft drink was Nutmeg. The history of Nutmeg from the Banda Islands, also known as the Spice Islands, begins at least 3500 years ago, expands to the world via the Spice Road, and includes centuries of battles waged by the Dutch and British to control the cultivation of the prized spice.”
“From the series of work entitled “Spice”, this botanical drawing with the iconic Coke bottle is a reminder that plant comes with a place and a past, while universally enjoyed.” Rubin’s particular brand of story telling begins with an intriguing subject, identifying its source and combining the the two elements for further exploration. Whimsically enriching our understanding of a familiar, everyday object. What goes well with Coke’s Coca Cola in New York City? The answer can be found in another of Rubin’s drawings to be featured this week on www.sfnbotanicalart.com, stay tuned!
Nutmeg, Myristica fragrans: Banda Islands, Eastern Indonesia, 2008
Colored pencil on Mylar over map, 9 x 8 inches
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.