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Saturday, 26 February 2022

Jean Emmons

This week we owe thanks to multi award winning artist Jean Emmons, for providing us with a wonderful insight into her working practice.

Jean initially trained in abstraction and colour and came to botanical painting through her love of gardening and career in horticultural book and magazine illustration. She found plants to be the perfect subjects for studying light on form and embraces the challenge of their reflective and iridescent qualities.

Read on and enjoy! 


 Dahlia ‘Sonic Bloom’ watercolor on Kelmscott vellum

I live on an island near Seattle. The air here is often moisture soaked. While the constant rain makes people moody, the light is beautiful. Local painters and photographers call it “oyster light.” It’s like looking through a lens made from an opal, subtle pinks, grays, lilacs. Lots of low contrast, soft, neutral colors. Things glow from within. 

 View from the studio in winter 

Every week, I volunteer at our island no-kill pet shelter. Often, I am fostering some old or sick cats in my studio. The cats always help out and, with great dignity, humor and resilience, remind me of what’s important.

  From left: Lito in the art critic chair, Nori in her office, Crommie managing the inbox

Gardening gets me outside, even in the rain, wind and cold. I particularly enjoy growing oddly-colored plants: coffee-colored irises, smokey dahlias, gray-green poppies. Also, lots of carnivorous plants in big pots on my back deck. I admire them for their fantastic patterns and their resilience. They aren’t hard to grow as long as they have nutrient-poor soil. Though, sometimes the raccoons, who are looking for worms, pull them out of their pots. 

    Iris ‘Coffee Trader,’ Pacific Treefrog in Sarracenia, Papaver ‘Black Peony’

I enjoy painting from life, as I see a lot more than a photo can give me. I usually grow my subjects observing them in all stages of life. Plants are such a perfect vehicle for watching changing light on form. Light moving through translucent layers of tissue.  

When I was art school in the 70s, there was a rift between abstraction and realism. Things seem better now, as an artist needs to understand both. The best realistic work succeeds on an abstract level. Good structural underpinnings.

 

With botanical art, the focus is on the plant, not so much the artist. And, botanical art touches on so many vital issues.  Loss of plant diversity, loss of pollinators. Plants that are native in our area today, might not be in a few years.

 

 Darlingtonia californica (detail) watercolor on vellum stretched over a board


Pacific Northwest Mushrooms (detail) watercolor on vellum stretched over a board

 

People are interested in my color choices. I work with color intuitively, not in a conscious or deliberate way. The key is that I am always trying to see in black and white. When I reach for paint, I’m not reaching for a specific color, I’m reaching for a certain black and white value. One of the great ironies about color is that if you can visualize your subject in black and white, you will become a great colorist.

Underpainting for Dahlia ‘Black Jack’ on Kelmscott vellum. Looking for a full range of black and white values.

These past 10 years I have enjoyed painting on Kelmscott vellum. It is such a forgiving surface, as long as you never use too much water. I can paint something one color, then completely sand it off and paint it another color. Constantly change the composition. 

 I decided to sand off the leaf on the left with 400 and 1200 grit sandpaper and repaint it (on the right)

I love to use multiple layers, underpainting in unusual colors. The challenge for me is to pull it all back together after I’ve created chaos. Sometimes 60 layers or more of translucent washes and drybrush are needed. Many of these layers end up covered up. Yet, I hope the layers lend richness to my paintings that I hope people can sense, even if they can’t always see it.

There have been some bright spots in this difficult time. More time means I can paint 100 layers, instead of the usual 60. I lose myself for hours, painting the tiny folds and flares of irises and poppies. As I move my head a fraction, the color shifts and I see more. I am never done.

 Iris ‘Full Tilt Boogie’ in progress watercolor and gouache

 

Botanical art is a small but very international genre. Thanks to Zoom and close-up cameras, we’ve been able to observe each other’s working methods in studios from Paris to Tokyo. It’s brought our tribe of botanical artists closer together.

 

All artists today need so many skills that have nothing to do with making art. Writing, photography, public speaking, digital skills. And, being a good teacher requires even more skills.

 

In a way, I think the most important skill for a botanical artist is to be 

well-organized. Scheduling time for the work, organizing a studio, setting up a palette, having everything ready to go. I think a lot about the French culinary term, “Mise en Place” because our time is so limited, the genre so labor intensive, and our subjects so ephemeral. 

 

Lastly, an artist should not be deterred by the occasional rejection.  My advice to anyone new to botanical art, cultivate flexibility and a thick skin. 

 

During the Pandemic, I’ve worked at gaining some fun new digital skills. Also, I’ve been delving into gouache and egg tempera, as I’d like to have the option of using background color.

 

For more information see http://jeanemmons.com

Instagram: jeanemmonsbotanicalart

 

All images © Jean Emmons

Thursday, 17 February 2022

Introducing the Botanical Art Society (Singapore)

We previously published a blog post about the Indonesian Society of Botanical Artists (IDSBA) and now we introduce another relatively new Society, who were inspired by IDSBA, the Botanical Art Society (Singapore) or BASS. Founded in 2019,  just ahead of the pandemic, this may not have seemed like the best time to start a society but his hasn't held them back at all, instead they embraced the technology to keep their members engaged and became active with Zoom Workshops as well as an active WhatsApp BASS chat group. 

Read this Q & A to find out about their journey and achievements to date as well as their second major exhibition, a collaboration with IDSBA, the Thai Botanical Artists and the Philippine Botanical Art Society. The exhibition titled Flora of South East Asia is scheduled for November this year and is open worldwide, you just have to join one of the four Societies.

Sketching at Singapore Botanic Gardens.  Front: Angela Lee; Back: Janessa Sanio, Sharon Kong


Why and when did you decide form a society for botanical art in Singapore? Was it difficult?


We were incorporated as a formal Society in June, 2019, after a few Singapore-based artists (some who had completed the SBA Distance Learning Diploma Course) got to know each other.


Did you discover that many more people were interested in botanical art in Singapore than you expected? or did you already know that the interest and need for a society already existed? 


We had a core group of people interested in botanical art, which was initially quite small.  But as we get more publicity and the awareness of our group grows, we are attracting more and more members.  Many are very new to botanical art. 


You also welcome artists from further afield? Can you tell us more about how to join


Although the majority of our members are from Singapore, we also have members from Indonesia, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Vietnam, UK, US and Canada.  Information on joining can be found on our website: www.botanicalartsocietysingapore.com/membership

Roughly how many members do you have?  


We have about 100 members now. 


Are members actively involved in helping to run the society. 


We have a Management Team of four that activity plan activities and manage the Society.  We also have 5 Committee members and a group of members that help out when needed in running the activities. 


Did any other Societies, organisations or individuals inspire or encourage you to form BASS?


The IDSBA (Indonesian Society of Botanical Artists) has been an inspiration to us from the beginning.  We have a group of BASS members who are also members of IDSBA and vice versa.  They started a few years before us, and we always look to them for ideas, inspiration and advice.  Our Societies have also done joint Zoom painting days together, and we often open workshops for each other.


What are the aims or plans for the Society and what do you feel is most important to achieve? 


Our aim is to be an inclusive society, supporting botanical art enthusiasts and artists.

We also promote an interest in botanical art in our community, and want to help create better awareness about our native flora.


Do you have a structured annual plan for the BASS to help achieve your aims? 


 Every year we come up with a schedule of activities for our members.  These include sharing sessions by our members and workshops by members and outside teachers to help improve member’s knowledge about plants and botanical art and help improve their technical skills. 

We often run activities to get our member’s creating art – like twice-yearly postcard exchanges and casual zoom painting sessions.

We also plan community outreach events in coordination with local organizations like the Singapore Botanic Gardens and Hort Park, such as workshops and outdoor sketching sessions that are open to the public.

 

Sketching in Singapore Botanic Gardens:  Back: Loh Xiang Yun, Melissa Tang, Sunanda Widel, Madeleine Vinuya, Franck Ernult. Front: Carrie-Ann Lee, Kelly Bassett, MC Pang, Debbie Teo


One tool we have found to be important is our BASS Chat group.  It is an opt-in WhatsApp chat group amongst the members. It has really helped create a community and allows members to ask questions about plants and art and chat about anything botanical art-related.  Especially when our physical meet-ups are limited, this has been very nice.

 

BASS Members decorating a tree at Singapore Botanic Gardens with Member’s artwork printed on waterproof cards.  Ai Hwa Goh, Carrie-Ann Lee, Leok Yee Lau, Aarati Govinda Rao.

 

Please tell us about some of the important things the Society has achieved to date, exhibitions, events, publications, sponsorship, media coverage etc. 


Our first exhibition, Past & Present, Plants of Singapore Botanic Gardens was held at the end of 2020. It showed our member’s art in the SBG Library along with special outdoor displays of their artworks next to historical illustrations of the same species.  https://www.botanicalartsocietysingapore.com/exhibitions/past-exhibitions


Poster from the first BASS exhibition November 2020

 

The Straits Times published an article and video about the Society in 2021 which was very well received and helped us gain a lot more awareness.  You can access them here: https://www.straitstimes.com/multimedia/photos/botanical-art-where-science-and-craft-meet

 

We ran a special project in 2021 “Tropical Fruit” where we invited our members to create artwork which we used to print a 2022 Calendar, decorate a holiday tree at Singapore Botanic Gardens, and for an online exhibition: https://www.botanicalartsocietysingapore.com/exhibitions/tropical-fruits

 

 

2022 Calendar made with Member’s artwork.  Artists clockwise from top left: Angelina Chong, Kelly Bassett, Sharifah Osman, Sharmini Markandu, Angelina Cheong, Sharifah Osman, Aarati Govinda Rao, Sharmini Markandu, Centre: Sunanda Verma Widel.

 

We know you have a joint exhibition planned, The Flora of Southeast Asia, this is in collaboration with the Indonesian Society of Botanical Artists and Thai Botanical Artists. How did this collaboration come about? 


For our next exhibition, we decided to go big!  We approached the Singapore Botanic Gardens with the idea to hold a multi-country exhibition and they were quickly onboard.  We wanted to limit it to flora native to Southeast Asia and therefore invited the Indonesian Society Botanical Artists, Thai Botanical Artists and Philippine Botanical Art Society to join the exhibition.  We have worked together to set the Call for Entries and judging criteria; and each Society is helping in different areas (for example producing graphic artwork, catalogue, the online exhibition etc).

We want to draw attention to the importance of the region’s native flora and also the high standard of botanical art that is being developed here.

The exhibition is open to artists worldwide, you just have to join one of the four Societies.

 Call for entries deadline is 15th April, 2022 and the Exhibition will be held 15 November, 2022- 15 February, 2023.

 

Call for entries poster for the forthcoming exhibition at the Singapore Botanic Gardens,  November 2022


This exhibition is being held at Singapore Botanic Gardens, this is a new venue at the site? Please tell us a little more about it?


Flora of Southeast Asia (FSEA) will be held at the Botanical Art Gallery at Singapore Botanic Gardens. It is housed within a refurbished, conserved building built in 1906 called Inverturret.  Original features like the wooden staircase, shutters and hand-blown glass windows have been beautifully preserved. 

The building is in what we call the ‘Black & White’ style.  This type of building was built by the British from the 19thcentury and were often homes to high-ranking officials.  It combines Tudor style with tropical Malay features such as being elevated off the ground with pillars for air circulation; wide verandas to reduce light and heat, and high steeped roofs to control rain and give more ventilation. 

The Gallery is the first permanent display for botanical art in Singapore and visitors can see a selection of the collection of more than 2,000 botanical paintings, sketches, line drawings and even original printing blocks.  

Along with the permanent collection, temporary exhibitions happen year round. FSEA will open on 15 November, 2022. 


Sadly Covid 19 has caused much disruption to exhibitions and events all over the world. Can you tell us how have kept members engaged in botanical art during this difficult time? 


Being in Singapore, we have had quite strict regulations all along.  We quickly pivoted to Zoom back in 2019 and just learned along the way what works and what doesn’t.  We have held, and still do hold, many sessions and workshops on Zoom.  While not ideal, it has allowed many more participants per workshop and also has allowed us to bring in teachers from all over the world.  We have had been privileged to welcome Eunike Nugroho from Indonesia, Dianne Emery from Australia and Lara Call Gastinger from the US. And we have many of our own artists hosting informational sharing sessions, art Jams and workshops as well.


To find out more about BASS: 


Website: www.botanicalartsocietysingapore.com

Facebook: Botanical Art Society (Singapore)

Instagram: @botanicalart_singapore

Email: botanicalartsg@gmail.com



Images from the beautiful Singapore Botanic Gardens. 
 


 

 

Monday, 19 April 2021

An Interview with Rogerio Lupo

The Botanical Artists Facebook group are delighted and most grateful to award winning artist, Rogerio Lupo, for taking the time out of his busy schedule to answer these questions for us. I'm sure you will agree that his answers provide a remarkable insight into his work and he also shares some exciting news about his new courses .... read on.

                                   Alstroemeria stramonia – detail.   

   

 1. First of all, please tell us a little about your background... such as where you grew up, are now  based as well as any other career and other interests?

 I was born and grew up in São Paulo - SP, Brazil. Although it’s a huge city now, by that time there still were many natural locations near my house. I also had many experiences in the countryside during my childhood, when I began to get involved with and fascinated by nature. Currently, I live in the countryside of Itatiba, a relatively small city near São Paulo (approximately 50 miles away). I don't have a parallel career, but apart from art, my other interests involve gardening and cultivating trees, studying music, science, philosophy, religions, and last but not least the so-called "spirituality" (I'd rather use the terms non-duality, transcending the mind or something like that…).

Alstroemeria stramonia – graphite and Polychromos Ivory on Canson Mi Teintes. Colored flower made separately in acrylic, both illustrations were blended with digital media.

2.      When and why did you become interested in botanical illustration? What was it about this field that captured your interest?

 

That was early in the '90s, during my days in the college where I studied Biological Sciences. As I entered the program of initiation to research in the laboratory of Systematic Botany, I loved flipping through the books in the lab's library, especially the ancient collections "Flora Brasiliensis" or "Pflanzenfamilien" (from the XIX Century), which contain fantastic woodcut or copperplate engravings, and lithographs, all black & white. Those would strongly inspire my quest for a refined hatching technique with pen nib & ink.

 

Another book that inspired me and triggered my interest was "Botanical Masters", curated by William Stearn and released in the early ‘90s. The magnificent watercolors in this book, made by some great botanical artists of that period, led me to feel a sort of fresh and ineffable sensation that I hadn’t experienced before with any other form of art. Trying to describe the indescribable, I'd say that I felt as though the pictures had life on their own. I mean it was not about the life of the plants depicted there, but rather the life of the very pictures. These experiences got me irremediably hooked by the botanical art and natural sciences illustration ever since. 

 

Microlicia inquinans – detail. Graphite on white paper.



3.      Was it difficult or easy for you to get into this field of work? 

It was easy for me due to the conditions of my life then. I was already working in a very active laboratory of systematic botanical research. I had got familiar with their needs and all their daily activities. Most students in there were doing research for master's or PhD programs and were keeping an eye on the evolvement of my drawing skills, as I was also studying classical art in parallel with the biology and beginning to make illustrations for my own botanical research. I was also working some hours by week in the laboratory of birds taxonomy and occasionally visiting the laboratory of bees research, where some of my colleagues and friends were working. Eventually, my artistic work transcended the botanical realm and I soon began to receive commissions from many biological fields simultaneously.

Pseudobombax longiflorum – detail; acrylic on gessoed canvas paper.

 

4.      Tell us a bit about any training or education in botanical art 

 

There has been a blend of my personal interests that led me to be “unintentionally” educated, so to speak, in botanical art. I attended classes of classical drawing and painting during the years of college, taught by the Spanish professor Ángel Martínez in quite a traditional and ancient way. As I was simultaneously initiating the botanical research, the knowledge of both those areas got naturally integrated within me. 

 

Professor José Rubens Pirani, my mentor in botanical research, appreciator of art and an excellent amateur draughtsman himself, guided me through the essentials of a good illustration and through the rules that science preconizes for an accurate and harmonious botanical drawing, including positioning, light, cleanness, clarity, composition etc.  

 

When I began my career back in 1998, I also attended a workshop with Cecília Tomasi. She was tutored on botanical watercolor by Christabel King in the Kew Botanical Gardens, in a program for Brazilian illustrators conducted by the Margaret Mee Foundation. From Cecília I learned the basics for the specific techniques of the contemporary botanical watercolor. Everything else I learned thereafter came from appreciating and investigating illustrations in ancient and contemporary books and from experimenting with techniques by myself.

Most of the techniques I use, like pen nib and ink, colored pencil or acrylic painting, came as a result of self-teaching, still in a time when the internet was barely a thing and information was hard to find even in books, at least in my country. That was a time when the magical paths of life, and how they always lead us to what we need, were more evident. There is a kind of cosmic google, not so clearly perceptible these days.

 

Microlicia cogniauxiana – detail; sketch done by using a stereomicroscope with camera lucida – graphite and Polychromos Ivory on Canson Mi Teintes.

5.      If you could choose botanical artist from any period past or present, to watch over their shoulder when working.... who would you choose and why?

No doubt I’d choose Pierre-Joseph Redouté. I believe he will always be a great inspiration to any botanical artist. He was able to create or improve techniques only to achieve some artistic purpose. He had quite an accurate view of his subjects, an incredible sense of composition, delicacy and harmony, an immense sensitivity to the light and colours and a sick dedication to the detail. Besides all those artistic qualities, he conducted even his very life story with art, being able to wander as an itinerant artist, living a precarious life for ten years and learning with other masters since the day he left his parents’ house at the premature age of only 13 years old. Now that would definitely be an inspiring life to watch.

6.      Tell us a little about your work. How do you describe yourself as an artist?

 

Well, that’s funny because even now after decades of my career as an illustrator, I still get a little surprised when people introduce me or refer to me as an artist, as if I had just realized that when they say it… “oh yes, I’m an artist!... Am I?”. Maybe I see myself as a wanderer, more than any other name. Perhaps one characteristic of mine can fit well into what we typically find in most artists, which is my facility to find some sense of harmony and unity when I’m making art – by the way I aim for that also in the process of living.

 

I guess I could better describe myself as a seeker though, because either as a biologist or an artist, I’m always in some kind of quest or investigation. Curiosity moves me way more than passion. So, when I draw from life, I’m always keen on finding out how some beautiful light could show up in a drawing or painting. I’ll also turn an object around for hours before I can decide the best position to draw it. This will play a major role in the general composition too.

 

Cedrela fissilis fruit – acrylic on gessoed canvas paper.


The same obsession with the details of an organism goes for my quest for technical aspects of the media with which I work. I need to comprehend empirically, experientially and finally theoretically how they work. And I like to do it all in this order so as to give myself the opportunity of having insights about the techniques and their functioning, before going through their theoretical essentials and then eventually confirming my glimpses and insights. 

 

This is a way of developing trust in my own intuition and my ability to investigate and learn by myself, thus getting to a more personal and creative approach and avoiding the limitations imposed by the “rules” that are eventually recommended out there about any technique. Sometimes these rules come from the theoretical essentials of the medium, sometimes they’re just part of other artists’ experiences, but none of those should represent a technical limitation to anybody, in my opinion. 

 

Hoffmannseggella angereri – detail; Polychromos and Caran D’Ache Pablo colored pencils on Canson Mi Teintes.

 

7.      You use several different mediums including graphite, ink and colour pencil, do you have a preferred medium and surface to work on? which are your favourite brands? 

 

No, it’s really hard for me to choose one medium as my favourite, as I sense some special pleasure with every medium I use. Some pen nibs with the right ink, running fluidly over certain papers, can induce an indescribable satisfaction. The same goes for a good graphite or colored pencil on any high-quality paper with the perfect tooth, and for the high-quality watercolor pigments applied with great pencils over some insanely well manufactured paper. It seems to me that besides the visual excitement, art is quite a tactile experience, and some papers and surfaces can confirm that, as we’re eventually able to guess when the material is good only by touching and caressing it. 

 

When it comes down to brands, I worship and pay eternal tribute to the vintage pen nibs Joseph Gillott #290. I also appreciate the Speedball Hunt #100, always using Talens Indian Ink. 

 

The graphite most commonly present in my pencils case is Staedtler, but I like Bruynzeel as well, Cretacolor, Koh-I-Noor. I’m right now especially fond of the Staedtler Mars Lumograph Black, as it’s a different quality of graphite akin to the charcoal pencil, which prevents the typical gleam that occurs on the halftone and dark areas when we work with graphite. 

 

Regarding colored pencils, I like the Faber Castell’s Polychromos, and also Caran D’Ache lines Pablo and Luminance. As for blenders I like Derwent and Koh-I-Noor, but the Caran D’Ache’s blender looks useless to me, at least the one I tested.

 

For watercolors I found great affinity with the Canson’s cold pressed grain fin Moulin du Roy, which unfortunately was discontinued. I like Talens and Winsor & Newton paints, and synthetic brushes like Keramik and Condor.

 

For acrylics I use Liquitex paints on canvas papers like Canson’s Figueras or Hahnemühle’s Akrylmalkarton. I eventually cover the canvas paper with gesso and sand it before painting. I also prefer synthetic brushes.

 

                                                                  Microlicia cogniauxiana – detail; pen nib and ink on Bristol Board.


Microlicia cogniauxiana – pen nib and ink on Bristol board. Collection of the Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation.


8.      What is the most challenging botanical illustration that you have ever undertaken and why? 

 

When I work with pen nibs to illustrate with hatching, the intricate and ultra-textured surfaces are very friendly and forgiving subjects, though it seems it would be the opposite. What is actually challenging for me in this technique are the smooth surfaces like that of a perfectly spherical fruit, or else of a long smooth leaf… 

 

Hence when the filling in with the hatching needs to be flawless, any break of the general pattern will spoil the needed uniformity. The challenge is increased because you have to keep focused either on the line you draw at the moment and on the general shading, that is, the totality of the set of lines. Once you get to the end and eventually notice that the tone of shading got lighter than what you were aiming to achieve, there’s no improvement or correction possible, not without impairing the evenness. You can try and intertwine new lines or do some cross-hatching, but be prepared to give up the quest for harmony of the general pattern. 

 

                                    Amazonian “Igarapé” with Manicaria saccifera palm – graphite and Polychromos Ivory on Canson Mi Teintes.



9.      Do you have any subjects that are of specific interest to you and why?

 

My interest is usually very broadly distributed and perhaps even overly scattered. As to some specific interest, I can only think of my attraction for representing the sunlight on plants and/or animals, as well as illustrating landscapes and microlandscapes (which is how I name the illustration of a small area of the ground with all its natural elements). Awkward as it seems, those subjects are not much present in my work thus far, as I’ve tended to prioritize commissions and my personal projects ended up postponed. 

 

                                                                       Pseudobombax longiflorum – detail; acrylic on gessoed canvas paper.

Vellozia giuliettiae – detail; pen nib and ink on Bristol board (detail from the Margaret Flockton award winning illustration below) 

10.  What’s the most valuable lesson you ever learned about illustrating plants?

 

What comes to mind is not specifically related to plants, but to illustrating, making art and figuring out technical issues. I’d mention the occasion when I decided to definitely figure out all my issues with the pen nibs and their inconsistency. I was decided to find peace in the process, as it had been causing me anguish for some years then.

 

I learned that what we really and sincerely want and need always comes naturally and magically to us, be it the knowledge, the necessary inspiration or even the materials. 

 

Some decades ago, as I began seeking good nibs, by pure chance I found a seller that had an old stock of the vintage Gillott #290 nibs (I had no idea then that they were the best nibs ever created). I purchased a lot of them along a year until the stock was finished, but I never knew how to take good care for them. As years passed, lots of nibs were screwed, incrusted by ink, spoiled, rusty. 

Years later, the information that alcohol could remove dry acrylic paint from brushes led me to try removing old incrusted ink from the nibs. It worked, so the first step was done. They could now look almost like new again. I suspected I could also sand and polish the nibs in order to reform and recondition them, but how? My attempts had not been very successful until then. 

 

So I decided to definitely discover how. I was determined, and sat at my microscope to investigate the nibs in detail and intuit how to proceed. As I was trying and sanding, inspirations would come to me like: “do it this way” … “sand it on this spot, in this direction”… “this is how the nib works”…. “improve the tip, make it become perfectly symmetrical without any burr” … 

 

Since the internet was barely a thing yet, I suspect I was virtually accessing another web of knowledge. All the intuitive hints I received had worked, and some weeks later I would have my issues with nibs terminated at last. The pieces of information I “received” from who-knows-where made so much sense that I figured out not only how the nib works, but how and why it is manufactured in a certain way. Some time later I perfected my procedures and found out how to improve the nibs’ consistency, increasing the viscosity of the ink by reducing its temperature, hence also retarding its drying on the nib. Then I could work in peace, finally. That was a sort of “artistical enlightenment”. And it actually led me to increasingly higher levels of well-being and tranquillity while working.

 

 

11.  Last year you undertook a tour of the USA teaching. Could you tell us a little more about this tour and do you have future plans to do more? 

 

That tour began by the very kind and generous invite from Mervi Hjelmroos-Koski in 2017, who was then the manager of the School of Botanical Art and Illustration of the Denver Botanic Gardens in Colorado. I didn’t accept the invite immediately because I wanted to first translate my free guidebooks to English so that I could make the best of the workshops and help students start studying some fundamentals prior to my arrival, as I always like to do in my classroom courses. 

 

For the English translation I had the kind, generous and valuable help of Bobbi Angel revising my texts. One year later, Mervi could schedule my visit to happen in 2019. I activated then my network to let everybody know we were planning this trip, asking people whether they wanted to take advantage of my visit to have my courses in their institutions too. As many people declared interest, we organized my itinerary inside the USA in a way that would make the best use of time and aerial travels. 

 

I taught workshops on Graphite and Pen Nib and Ink in four different cities in California, Colorado and Virginia and spent some 40 days in the US, living unforgettable moments with the students, friends and so many generous people that welcomed me as a family member everywhere I went. The mere memory of that journey fills my heart with joy and gratitude all the time.

 

Indeed, after that I received new invitations and was organizing workshop tours in different countries in 2020, but of course the pandemic interrupted all plans. There is the perspective and the desire of coming back to the US on another tour in the future, and to continue with the plans for the other countries, but this is in standby while we wait for the apocalypse to come to an end. 

 



12.  We know you won the Margaret Flockton Award in 2010 and 2013, Can you tell us a little about this achievement. How did you feel to get the news that you had won?

 

Yes, regarding the overall life situation, both awards occurred by stunningly magical ways. In 2010 I sent my artworks to the competition, choosing two of them among the ones I liked the most, and then I went on living my life without any expectations. 

 

On late February, I was preparing to take a very risky step in my personal life, trusting that I’d be able to face the consequent financial challenge. Before going to bed on that day, I felt a little insecure and thought: “I wish life could give me a signal to confirm that I’m doing the right thing”. But then another thought came: “what do I mean? The opportunity coming up in perfect timing (a new house, precisely the one I wanted) is already the signal!”. I went to bed, confident that I would be able to put up with the financial challenges: “I’ll work for that”, I thought. 

 

The next morning, I opened my email box, just to see the message that I had won first prize. I was totally oblivious of the competition! Perfect timing again!

That confirmation moved me to tears…

After waking up inside this dreamy situation, I realized how gratifying and uplifting it was to have my work chosen and awarded among so many other incredible artists and their artworks. I wouldn’t ever be grateful enough, as that was the acknowledgement of many years of hard work in the pursuit of excellence.

 

Vellozia giuliettiae – pen nib and ink on Bristol board. Winner of the Margaret Flockton Award, Australia, year 2010.


As to the 2013 competition, the prize also brought along a lot of significance that transcended the scope of art and professional life. The year of 2013 was an ephemeris and the Margaret Flockton Award would celebrate ten years of existence, so they allowed all previous winners to participate. I sent my work, the aerial delivery got belated, but my package made it to Australia just 40 minutes before the deadline. 

That award was even more gratifying, because the presence of the previous winners’ artworks provided a very high quality to the competition. The aspects that transcended the artistic and professional significance of this prize, permeating even spiritual experiences and difficulties with material life, could not be reported here as they would require too much explanation. But it’s worth it to say that I feel such huge events and achievements of our life as being always connected to inner circumstances and deeper sincere quests.  


                                Vellozia perdicipes – pen nib and ink on Bristol board. Winner of the Margaret Flockton Award, Australia, year 2013.


Vellozia perdicipes – detail; pen nib and ink on Bristol board.




13.  You are a very generous artist and have produced lots of wonderful free materials.  You obviously believe it’s important to share with fellow artists and those interested in the genre. Why do you feel this is important? 

 

It’s clear to me that I do that out of empathy. As a young student and seeker of artistic knowledge, I lived in a time before the internet, when it was really difficult to gather some diversity of information. We had to rely on the experience of one artist only, or else just of a few people who could provide us some hints. But most of the time I felt clueless when I was researching on non-conventional techniques and specific approaches. The instance with the pen nibs mentioned above is an example of that. 

Thus, my tendency to freely distribute didactic material is an attempt to alleviate a bit of the suffering of beginners in their search for answers and clarifications. When I do that, what permeates my mind is mostly the awareness that my experience can spare a lot of time and work for the students. Eventually a simple word, a tip, a clue, can prevent the students from spending days or even weeks making experiments, going through trial and error before they find out more appropriate procedures to get the results they are aiming for.

 

14.  Please tell us about any new projects that you would like to share? 

 

I just accomplished my project of offering the graphite online course in English, so the videos are already entirely subtitled, and my personal guidance is also provided in English. This course can be continued, from the second module forward, with the study of colored pencils, or pen and ink. But watercolor and acrylics are also always requested by students.

 

Thus, beside the project of dedicating more time to represent the sunlight on nature and the landscapes, I plan to create in the next years an online course on the fundamentals for naturalist illustration in watercolor and another course on acrylics. 

 

                                                               Xylopia aromatica – fruit; acrylic on gessoed canvas paper.


15.  Finally, do you have any advice for those starting out in botanical art/ illustration?

 

Some people — myself included when I was a beginner — get afraid to “dare” illustrating plants before they acquire some technical knowledge… before they hear some specialist’s advice… before they have some minimal requisites — all of which seem quite abstract and have undefined source, since nobody knows where such rules come from, yet they can block people from starting. 


So, my advice for beginners is: get to practice, no matter what. 

Half an hour of questions grounded in experience worth way more than a year of questions grounded on suppositions and guesses. Honor your own questions and value your experiences.

 

When a student begins to understand even the “simplest” things like, for instance, the various gradations of graphite, the relationship between a well sharpened pencil and the smooth texture of a drawing, or between the hard hand pressure and the undesired gleam of graphite drawings… then there are some teachings that can be already transmitted to the slightly less experienced students. I mean it. 

 

No experience is invalid or worthless, including the disastrous ones. Welcome even the disasters in, so you learn how to avoid them. But do take actual and effective measures to avoid them…


Hippeastrum striatum – watercolor.



If you would like to find out more about Rogerios work and courses please see the following link: 


https://rogeriolupo.blogspot.com/2008/11/links-list-for-english-speakers.html


Copyright of all images in this post belong to Rogerio Lupo