Sunday, March 25, 2018

Ironing Out the Creases of Misunderstanding

Lapageria rosea 'Alba' 
watercolour on paper 1:1
Coral Guest
Courtesy of the Shirley Sherwood Collection

My current focus with the writing is to iron-out the creases that represent areas of misunderstanding regarding fine art classifications of botanical imagery. Over the coming year, this blog will offer you an occasional series of short definitions that stem from European Art History.

This is to make a contribution from a Fine Art point of view, as a means to bring together and compare the two sides of Applied and Fine Art, in the Botanical world. I will be describing elements of European history as this is my individual background. I am generally not qualified to research American Art History, but I long to see what might in the future be documented in this area. Artists from other countries will perhaps be much more capable of describing their own cultural circumstances than I could ever be.

Its natural that the Applied Arts sometimes have a different interpretation from the Fine Arts and within each country there are also differences in interpretation of meaning. Its worth remembering that Art History is always evolving and new historians often take an updated perspective based on new information and new experience. This helps to build the history and increase its power to inform.

Those of you who know me well, are aware that I generally work with accuracy through observational drawing and painting and that this is one of the core practises of my work as a Flower Painter. Threaded through this is the quest to express and understand how the Applied Arts and the Fine Arts inform each other through the Plant Kingdom and popular culture itself.

Its a fascinating subject that finds echoes in our history over and over again. I first noticed this as a student studying the paintings of Van Gogh and his discovery of the Japanese print.

Little snippets of information run in parallel with the more substantial insights. This week I was reading about the sad demise of the Society of Floral Painters, which was by all accounts a much loved and nurturing place for its members. The society was active for twenty years from 1996 to 2016. 

Further research allowed me to understand that this term Floral Art was, and still is in some countries, used to describe a specific type of freely painted flower painting that has no connection to science or illustration.

In the UK the term Floral Art means something very specific that is not related to Flower Painting in any way.

Floral Art is the term used by high level contemporary practitioners and masters of the refined art of floristry and flower arrangement.

Floral Art is exhibited at Hampton Court and at Chelsea, and other Flower Shows. This is included alongside aspects of horticulture. The Floral Art practitioners compete for medals at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, and can be found in a designated Floral Art Marquee. Its quite stunning to view.

Floral Art is even more popular than Botanical Art.

The National Association of Floral Arrangement Societies, NAFAS has around 55,000 members in the UK alone.

So, here we go with a little bit of misunderstanding ironed out. Names sometimes alter slightly, transfer to another subject, and are applied to something quite different. When an old and a new terminology lives in the same cultural space, misunderstandings can result. So I will iron out what I can.

Thank you today to all the Botanical Illustrators who wrote to me yesterday to endorse the Painting Flowers in Watercolour book of 2001. 

Its heartening to know that so many artists are aware that its values can be easily adopted by the Applied Arts and so have used its teaching of techniques to further their individual careers in Illustration and Design. This was part of the book's original purpose when it was first created so many years ago.

The book has a Forward by Dr Shirley Sherwood.

The book is included on the How To book reading list of the ASBA 

Its been a very great honor to serve the practitioners of Botanical Art in this way, particularly the Americans. 

The new website has an Information Page where you can find links to interviews.

A nice little addition now:

An image of the first Gold Medal certificate I received from the RHS in 1984, for Watercolour Paintings of Garden Flowers.