Sunday, July 11, 2010

Botanical Art - what a trip!

Cyclamen persicum 2010
4 in x 5 in
Watercolour on Arches 300 lb cold press

My first botanical art piece - and also my first complete watercolour! I just came off a 5 day introductory course on botanical watercolour painting with amazing artist Kerri Weller.   What a week - 4 students total, 3 of them watercolorists (2 of them very experienced) and me - an abstract painter and graphite portraitist with a fear of watercolour.

But Kerri's approach, patience and teaching style quickly pushed my phobia to the back of my head (where it belongs, in a nice little cage with a huge lock), and let me absorb as much information and technique as possible, so I could produce the little gem you see above.  Kerri - you rock!

The class was intense. Kerri is a strong taskmaster - she knew we had to learn the basic botanical techniques in order to be able to produce a painting that would allow " accurate description of a plant for scientific purposes in order to identify a specimen to genus , if not species, level."  (quote from Botanical Artists Exhibition 2007 ). 

This is not simply artistic interpretation (the painterly, aesthetic view)  but artistic accuracy with conscious design to make the paintings aesthetically pleasing.  One of our challenges was to draw and paint from live specimens which were drawn to 1:1 scale.   No photographs here, folks, just the living plants sitting in front of us on our tables.  Even the colour had to be as accurate as possible.

The first day was handling the paint and brushes, and mixing colours.  Oh those greens - who knew greens were so hard to depict accurately? Value scales, types of washes (aargh, one of my downfalls! I'll have to practice washes A LOT).   Oh, and STEMS (yep that's it folks - stems).

Day 2 - leaves. Day 3 - flower heads. Days 4 and 5 - put it all together for a complete specimen, our choice (we had 'easy' flowers to choose (from Kerri's garden) - iris, lily, geranium, pansies.  I bought a cyclamen from the local grocery store.)

At right is a photo I took of work in progress.

I must say, I like this type of painting.  It's intense, focussed, and immensely satisfying.  I'm adding it to my repertoire of media (personally, it's the only type of watercolour I want to do).

If you get a chance to take a course from Kerri, I highly recommend it.  She's an amazing artist and a very very nice person to boot!

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