Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Interviews with RHS Botanical Art Gold Medallists 2016 - from Australia and South Africa

This is the second in a short series of short interviews  I did with the RHS Gold Medal winners for Botanical Art earlier this year.

These interview posts have been very popular with botanical artists around the world and the first this year was with the RHS Gold medal winners from Asia.

I've amended the latter post to include Akiko Enokido and her display of Classical Camellia Japonica. I had thought she was living in the USA but has in fact returned to live in Japan.

My next post in this series will be about the UK and European artists who won RHS gold Medals at this year's show.

This series follows on from my posts about


Julie Nettleton (Sydney, New South Wales)

Julie Nettleton won the award for the Best Botanical Painting: Xanthorrhoea resinosa Pers., Grass Three with Antechinus Stuartii, Brown Antechinus which you can see behind Julie in the photograph below. Her painting includes a tiny marsupial mouse.

Julie Nettleton with her Gold Medal winning exhibit of Xanthorroea (Grass Trees) 
at the 2016 RHS London Botanical Art Show. 
She won Best Painting in Show for "Xanthorrhoea and marsupial mouse"

Her display told the life story of Xanthorrhoea sp., Grass Trees’.  They're called this because they develop a trunk from the base of old leaves and can grow to about 2 metres high. Xanthorrhoea are Australian native plants that can grow for hundreds of years because they have can survive fires.

Xanthorrhoea sp., Grass Trees’ - a Gold Medal winning display by Julie Nettleton

The particular ones which Julie has been painting all grow in a small area of protected bushland scrub within the North Head Sanctuary at North Head (on the north side of the entrance into Sydney Harbour - the one on the left as the ferry turns left for Manly!).

Her display tells the life story of the grass tree and includes:
  • a plant with a new spike, 
  • two spikes growing taller and the flowers beginning to form, 
  • a close-up of the flowers on the tip of the spike, 
  • a view of the grass tree minus spike but including its skirt of old grasses, 
  • the tree minus the skirt after it's been through a bush fire - revealing the 'trunk' of the grass tree. Plus a mouse which lives in the grass
  • Finally a grass tree which has recently experienced fire and has no grass - but reveals its structure and interior.
What I particularly liked was that the artwork was extremely well designed as a whole and then within each artwork. This is undoubtedly due in part to Julie's training and background as an interior designer.

Sandra Sanger (Melbourne, Victoria)

This is Sandra Sanger's fourth RHS Botanical Art Gold Medal (previous wins were in 2008, 2010 and 2013) and this year it was for her display of ‘Orchids: Paphiopedilum and Australian Natives’.

You can find my first interview with her in 2013 in this post.

Sandra Sanger and two of her paintings of Orchids: Paphiopedilum and Australian Natives
Sandra Sanger and two of her paintings of Orchids: Paphiopedilum and Australian Natives

The Orchid Show is no longer exhibiting at the same time as the Botanical Art as happened last time Sandra exhibited with the RHS in 2013.

Sandra commented that the great advantage of orchids from a botanical art perspective is that they last for months and progress slowly as they open.

You would think that once you've won four Gold Medals that you might be able to rest on your laurels. However Sandra is a refreshing example of the artist as a constant student!

She is a great enthusiast for continuing to learn about how to paint botanical art. She goes to a minimum of two classes each year and likes taking Master Classes with more than one teacher. She finds she always learns something she didn't know before. She's also a big fan of meeting up with groups of other botanical artists and painting together.

Sandra is a very experienced exhibitor and has shown in a large number of shows in Australia as well as the RHS.

She puts a lot of emphasis into thinking about her presentation and how her work is mounted and presented. In terms of thinking about layout of her work she always works on the floor and looks at how the works relate to one another and flow across the wall in terms of both structure and colour.

In terms of travel, her framer mounts her work and then packs it into a special case for her. He cuts the correct sized shape in foam rubber so that the paintings have a good buffer against jolts and shocks during transport and also cannot move inside the case.

South Africa

Margaret de Villiers (Hermanus, Western Cape)

This was Margaret Villiers's second RHS Show and her second Gold Medal.  She won Best Painting at her first show in 2013.  She is a member of the Botanical Association of South Africa - which used my photos of her for their blog post about Margaret's Gold Medal!

Margaret de Villiers with her display of seven Ericas of the Western Cape Fynbos

Her subject matter is a continuation of her massive and major project to record all the Ericas of the Western Cape Fynbos!

(NOTE: Fynbos means "fine bush". It's the popular generic name for the varied “fine-leafed” plants. 9,300 of the 30,000 species being indigenous and unique only to the Western Cape region of South Africa - this link is to information about the Fynbos Biome).
Fynbos, or the Cape Floral Kingdom, is the smallest of the worlds six plant kingdoms, covering only 0.4% of the earth’s surface. According to its size it is the most species-rich plant kingdom, consisting of some 8600 species, of which 68% occur nowhere else in the world.
Margaret told me that there are over 800 Ericas in the world and 400 of them can be found in the mountains of South Africa.  Her view is that it's impossible for a photograph to carry the amount of information contained in one of her paintings - which is of course one of the main reasons why botanical illustration continues to be regarded as important even in the age of the camera.

Margaret is painting to teach and to tell a story about a unique area of flora!

I hadn't realised until I got home after my first interview with Margaret at her first show in 2013 that Ericas from South Africa had been a theme of paintings by Franz Bauer during his time at Kew Gardens as  'Botanick Painter to His Majesty'.

Margaret uses the classical approach pioneered by Bauer of painting the plant as the major image - but then also including all the dissections and the images of the differentiating characteristics along the bottom edge of the painting.  It's an excellent approach for including all the information required.

Classical Bauer approach to recording Ericas of the Western Cape Fynbos by Margaret de Villiers GM
Many of the Ericas that she paints are brought to her by local people who know she wants specimens to record.  Her preference is to see how they grow on location - she needs to find out what sort of vegetation they grow alongside. However carrying a sticky erica down a mountain is apparently not an easy job!  She tends to take a bottle with a little bit of water.

When she takes a specimen she takes a photo and then works her way through a checklist of things she needs to record to capture the differentiating characteristics of each Erica.

She was keen to emphasise that she has the support of a small army of amateur botanists and she regards her Gold Medal as belonging to the whole team associated with the project.

It's a sentiment I've heard from other botanical artists in the past and I'll doubtless will again.

The Hermanus Botanical Society are also very proud of her - see below.

Image from the Hermanus Botanical Society Facebook Page on 14th March 2016

How to enter

You can find more information about the RHS Botanical Art Show and how to enter it on the
RHS ​Botanical Art & Photography Shows page on my website

Previous Years

You can take a look at the art which has won a Gold medal in previous years in my blog posts below. The first set is about tips I've had from Gold Medal winning artists. The second set are interviews with those same artists. Both show images from the shows.

More Top Tips for winning an RHS Gold Medal

These are now summarised on a page in the Education section of my new Botanical Art and Artists website - see Tips and Techniques

Interviews with RHS Gold Medallists and Reviews of the Shows

Monday, May 23, 2016

Arts and Crafts at the RHS Chelsea Show 2016

The artists - painters, printmakers, carvers, sculptors etc - exhibiting at Chelsea this week - in THE show in the Royal Horticultural Society's calendar are detailed below.

Various fairs - besides art fairs - are used by a lot of artists to develop connections with art collectors as well as sell their artwork and the various ways in which it can be reproduced. If you've thought of using a non-art fair or major event to market your art, you can get a pretty good idea of the type of artist who shows at such events by reviewing the artists listed below.

Links to their websites are embedded in their names.

Carvers and Sculptors

This is very obviously a show which is very popular with sculptors who I guess will be endeavouring to attract the attention of those with large gardens in need of a statement piece!
  • Martin Cook - carves stone for memorials (best known for the Bali Bombings memorial on Horseguards) and gardens. He's also made the The Shard Garden with Gary Breeze for the late publisher Felix Dennis.This year he's exhibiting one of the main attractions in the 'Fresh' category - called "The Antithesis of Sarcophagi Garden".
a representation of a world turned inside out; a garden inside a sculpture; desolation verses life; civilisation versus nature. 
Iris Torus by David Harber
The Iris Torus....inspired by the reflective facets of a cut diamond and the play between positive and negative and solid and void. The end result is dramatic, with the fragmented, laser-cut mirrored surface emulating the iris of an eye
  • Hesmondhalgh Sculpture - Brendan Hesmondhalgh is a Yorkshire based animal sculptor who works primarily in clay, wax and bronze.
  • Robert James Workshop Ltd - produces Literary Bronze Garden Sculptures
  • Eleanor Lakelin - Eleanor Lakelin uses a lathe and carving tools to make vessels and sculptural forms in wood.
The provenance of materials is of particular importance to Eleanor and she likes to share the story behind each piece of work. In order to create ethical and sustainable work, she has made it her challenge to only use wood from trees felled in South London or elsewhere in the British Isles.
  • Christopher Lisney Sculpture - He lives and works in Gloucestershire and describes himself as an artist blacksmith. He has specialised in garden sculpture since 1999 and likes making original, quirky, large scale sculptural metalwork. A regular exhibitor at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.
  • Hamish Mackie Sculpture - Sculpting since 1996 with work in public and private collections around the world. He specialises in sculpting and casting movement in wildlife in bronze. Also works on commission and has a prestigious client list
“Observing animals in their own environment is essential to understanding the subject’s physical and instinctive traits. For example, the disposition of a captive predator is very different from that of a predator the wild.”
  • Nicholas Moreton - a working sculptor since 1986, based in Northamptonshire. His stand will incorporate a carving studio plus finished works
  • James Parker Sculpture - a Scottish artist who started making sculptures in 2007. Worked initially with slate using drywall process and now works predominantly with slate or glass but also produces mixed media works. Exhibiting sculpture suitable for gardens
  • Michael Speller - contemporary bronze sculpture. Started a second career as a sculptor after being successful in business - which in turn started with studies at Chelsea School of Art 1996 – 2000. Work in collections all over the world and some prestigious commissions.
  • Stonebalancing - Adrian Grey is an exponent of the art of stonebalancing and he also sells prints of his stonebalancing efforts which are susceptible to change when the tide comes in!
  • Kinetic Seed Sculpture by David Watkinson
      Straysparks Creative Metalwork
      - creating handforged metal sculptures. Shortlisted for best new product design at RHS Chelsea flower show 2011/2013/2015
    • Jan Sweeny - produces wildlife sculptures in bronze
    • Paul Vanstone and Coombe Sculpture Garden - Original sculptures by a prizewinning sculptor exhibited in a garden setting.
    • Edward Waites and Gladwell & Patterson - a sculpture garden of works by Edward Waite who specialises in animals and wildlife
    • David Watkinson - Kinetic and Static sculture - I rather like the idea of a sculptor who looks to natural forms and how they move to create a stimulus for sculpture. I rather like his sycamore seed kinetic sculpture which uses ball bearings so it can move easily in the wind.

    Painters and Printmakers

    Friday, May 20, 2016

    Complementary colours and other schema

    In the past few days a blog post about A modern approach to complementaries by Delphine Doreau which by I highlighted on Facebook has attracted a huge audience and very many shares.

    Delphine made an RGB colour gradient in a circle and then inverted the same colour gradient at 180 degrees inside the circle - so that each colour matched up with its complementary in terms of RGB colours.

    Huge interest in this blog post

    So for those of you who don't follow Making A Mark on Facebook, you can find the link to the article at the top of this post.

    More schema for representing Colour

    My own collection and compilation of information about Colour is "in transition" to a new website at the moment.

    However below are a few more links about colour from my 2008 major Colour Project which might be of interest to artists.

    Making A Mark - the Colour Project (2008)

    a colour chart of complementary colours in coloured pencils
    • Hues - a systems perspective Jul 8, 2008 ... Hues: primary, secondary and tertiary colours; How to represent colour ... Colour harmonics - complementary colours, analogous colours etc.
    • Describing a colour space - there's more than one colour wheel! (10 July 2008) About a Matrix of Theories about Colour Space - which is the method I've adopted to categorise some of the people who have tried describe colour in terms of spatial relationships - to describe a colour space.
    • A Matrix of Colour Space Theories (pdf file) (2008) Table of colour theories organised by approach to colour theory - additive, subtractive and partitive
    • Complementary Colours and mixing neutral colours (15 July 2008) How to identify complementary colours in the context of different shapes which explain colour theory
    • Analogous Colours (Jul 16, 2008) This post is an attempt to redress the balance on the paucity of online information about analogous colours - but it also recommends other sources of even better advice and information!
    • Colour Schemes: Split Complementaries, Triads and Tetrads (18 July 2008) Discusses and explains three colour schemes used by professional artists:
      • Split Complementary - a colour plus the two colours either side of its complementary colour 
      • Triad - any three colours which are equidistant on the colour wheel
      • Tetrad - any four colours which are equidistant on the colour wheel

    • Why your colours onscreen don't look the same when printed (10 March 2011) Have you ever wondered why your images onscreen don't come out looking the same when printed? This post discusses: how the CMYK model works; why RGB files don't look like CMYK files and how to convert an RGB file to a CMYK file for printing purposes

    and finally

    For those who like their colour information in book format....

    Wednesday, May 18, 2016

    Victoria and Albert Museum pays tribute to Engineering as Design

    We think of the Victoria & Albert Museum as being an art museum very much associated with design and decoration. Maybe not so much with engineering.  Yet that's the subject of its new season of exhibitions and exhibits.
    The V&A Engineering Season highlights the importance of engineering in our daily lives and considers engineers as the ‘unsung heroes’ of design, who play a vital and creative role in the creation of our built environment.

    Elytra Filament Pavilion

    The V&A Museum now includes a new exhibit - The Elytra Filament Pavilion in the John Madejski Garden at the centre of the Museum.

    It's based on the lightweight fibrous structures of the forewing shells of flying beetles known as elytra and the entire structure has been fabricated by robots.

    The pavilion is the outcome of a project which integrates architecture, engineering and biomimicry principles. It examined how biological fibre systems can be transferred to architecture the pavilion is the result of four years of research.

    View of the Pavilion from above
    What's especially interesting is that it's intended that the pavilion will grow and change its configuration over the course of the V&A Engineering Season. Changes made will be in response to anonymous data on how visitors use and move under the canopy. This, as well as structural data, will be captured by real-time sensors installed in its canopy fibres.

    In effect it's a structure which will mimic human behaviour.

    The Pavilion in profile
    The robot creating the cell structure prior to installation
    The canopy of the Pavilion is made up of 40 hexagonal component cells. On average they weigh 45kg each and take an average of three hours to make. These cells and the pavilion’s seven supporting columns were created by a computer-programmed Kuka robot in a four-month construction process at the ICD’s Fabrication Hall in Stuttgart (see above)

    The newly-commissioned site-specific garden installation 'Elytra Filament Pavilion' is by experimental engineer and architect Achim Menges with Moritz Dörstelmann, structural engineer Jan Knippers and climate engineer Thomas Auer.

    Future exhibitions and events

    You can find out more about the Engineering Season - which runs from 18 May - 6 November 2016 on the V&A website.

    The season features an ambitious series of displays, large-scale installations, events and digital initiatives dedicated to global engineering design,

    Over Arup and Total Design

    Explore over 100 years of engineering and architectural design and discover the untold design stories behind some of the world’s most iconic buildings. 
    Sydney Opera House under construction (6 April 1966)
    © Robert Baudin for Hornibrook Ltd. Courtesy Australian Air Photos
    Once upon a time I wanted to be an architect. However I could never get my head around physics and decided that being an architect wasn't such a such a wonderful idea if I couldn't understand the technicalities relevant to structures and building mechanics.

    Which is why I have the utmost respect for all architects and structural engineers who can make magic out of space.

    Over the years whenever I saw a building project which seemed to be particularly novel or just BIG, Ove Arup would invariably be the name decorating the 'credit' signboards outside.

    Despite his name, Arup he was born  and brought up in England - to a Danish father and a Norwegian mother. He became known as a British engineer who ended up with the title Sir Ove Nyquist Arup, CBE, MICE, MIStructE (1895 - 1988)

    Engineering the World: Ove Arup and the Philosophy of Total Design (18 June – 6 November) is an exhibition which will explore the work and legacy of the most significant engineer of the 20th century.

    Monday, May 16, 2016

    Jerwood Drawing Prize 2016: Call for Entries

    The 22nd Jerwood Drawing Prize, the largest and longest running annual open exhibition for drawing in the UK, is calling for entries from artists.

    The deadline for registering up to three entries is 5pm on Monday 27 June 2016.

    The Prize aims to promote the breadth in drawing practice and celebrate excellence in contemporary drawing in the UK. This post contains images from last year's exhibition.

    EXHIBITION: You can see The Jerwood Drawing Prize 2016 exhibition at the Jerwood Space, 171 Union Street, London SE1 between 14th September and 23rd October 2016. It will then tour as an exhibition various venues across the UK (details to be supplied).

    PRIZES: There are some significant prizes - for drawing which will be awarded at a ceremony on 13th September.
    • First Prize – £8000
    • Second Prize – £5000
    • Two Student Awards of £2000 each

    Jerwood Drawing Prize 2016

    Who can enter?

    The Jerwood Drawing Prize is open to
    • artists resident in the UK
    • everybody who works with drawing from students to established artists.
    Only artists who have registered online by 5pm on 27 June 2016 will be eligible to submit their drawings to the Submission Centre.

      What can you enter?

      As usual, the competition says precisely nothing about what it considers to be drawing. You consequently are given the latitude to interpret it as you see fit.

      Eligible works MUST:
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