Wednesday, January 14, 2015

An Interview with the Plant Curator

                            Paeonia officinalis 'Rubra Plena'
                            watercolour on paper
                            private collection

In 2014 I came across the intriguing where I found a kaleidoscope of many good things, which are eloquently described on the website in the following way: 

All different kinds of artists use floral, botanical or nature-themed elements in their work, meaning print and digital publications are littered with images of plants. Plants in one incarnation or another are always relevant, always current, so there is an endless stream of material to choose from. Plant Curator selectively collects vegetative creations to build a digital athenaeum of plant beauty and application in the arts. Designers that work in nature or plant-related fields will find inspiration for design and content here. In this way we help botanical creatives learn from other botanical creatives. We also aim to give a botanical backstory, to show plants are not just graphical objects, employed for their diverse and inimitable morphology, but that they are our ecology. It is said that beauty is one of nature’s best tools for survival, but as our connection to nature becomes fractured, we see less of its wonder first-hand on a daily basis, making it easier to forget. The arts can help mend the scars, remind us of the magical beauty and essentialness of the natural world.

I recently completed an interview with the Plant Curator which is now published on the site. It was a pleasure to answer all the questions, which were presented to me as an equipoise of the general and the specific, the collective and the personal, and the practical and the philosophical, prompting me to reflect some more upon my ongoing work to express the Spirit of the Flower. It is a delight to be a part of the Plant Curator experience, and the interview is located via the following link:

botanical artistry│imagery│creativity 

The Marriage of Drawing and Photography

   Amaryllis 'Denver'
   Study of Anthers
   watercolour on paper
   Artists Collection

I grew up in a family of keen landscape photographers and as a child was allowed to use my Dad’s Leica camera to take my own pictures. I was also a part of the stable of Kodak children, appearing on adverts for knitting patterns and Kodak Colour Film, and was one of the kids who appeared on the yellow outer box of the Box Brownie Camera during the early 1960’s. I continue to be amazed by the invention of photography - for the enchantment of capturing of the moment and the magic of recording an instant aspect of life with its unique configuration.

Painting has its own history with Photography - via Impressionism to the Photo Realism and beyond, photography has been utilised in a myriad of ways.

A Painter will always be better able to use photography if they are also able to draw. As a statement, this is something those who have studied drawing will always maintain.  A Painter uses photography from a different standpoint to an artist who cannot draw. In essence, it is all about how the photograph is used, and not the fact that it is a photograph. The Fine Art sphere came to terms with photography and ran with it very early on in the 20th century, so there is no issue with it. Photography has given a great deal to Painting. Painting and Photography actually have a marriage made in Heaven.

The professional Botanical Illustrator has always needed to utilize photography to enable a project to be fulfilled in the time available. So why is the use of photography currently causing such discontent in the world of Botanical Illustration? 

In the world of Botanical Illustration, drawing has always been highly regarded as a skill. A number of those that use this skill have expressed to me their feelings of unhappiness when they see so many Botanical Illustrators using photography because they are unable or unwilling to draw. 

This maelstrom of discontent that has been forming as an undercurrent, will I suspect break forth in the not too distant future. This issue rests with the Illustrators and it is their responsibility to find a reconciliation within their kinship, particularly where awards are concerned, and especially with this year’s RHS Botanical Art shows about to begin.

As an Observational Painter, I personally take photographs as a back-up, but rarely use them, as I don’t especially like the differences between my observation and the photo image. I am not worried if my work has less detail than a hyper-realistic photo based painting, because observation has hyper-realism in other more energetic and spontaneous ways. I would not relish the idea of staring into an iPad all day; I would rather stare into the face of a flower.

Observational Drawing initiates the risk of failure. It’s easier and less stressful to paint from a photograph, where many of the unknown factors have been sorted out in photographic terms. So why work from life, why would I give myself the problems incurred in drawing? I work from life because it is demanding, because it is something risky, and because by working within the limited life span of a plant,  the magic of spontaneity has the power to make the impossible entirely possible.