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:

Copyright of all images in this post belong to Rogerio Lupo



Friday, 14 August 2020

The Indonesian Society of Botanical Artists: An Interview with Eunike Nugroho

This month's Botanical Artists feature is about a relatively new organisation, the Indonesian Society of Botanical Artists (IDSBA), which was formed in 2017.  I asked one of the founder members, Eunike Nugroho, a few questions about the formation of the Society, their achievements to date, their vision for Botanical Art in Indonesia and how they have responded to the challenge of Covid19. Our thanks go to Eunike for such a wonderful and inspiring insight into this wonderful and forward thinking Society.

Eunike Nugroho with her painting of Amorphophallus titanum, exhibited at the first IDSBA exhibition, for Worldwide Botanical Art Day, May 18 2018

Q. How and when did you first become interested in botanical art?
A. It started in 2012 after my encounter with the botanical societies, the Florilegium Society-Sheffield and Northern Society of Botanical Art (NSBA) in Sheffield, England. At first I had no idea what botanical art is, I just wanted to learn something new, start doing art, and make friends while accompanying my husband doing his doctoral programs in the city. In fact, before that I had lost my passion and spent too long a break from painting (about 9 years) due to having so many tasks at work. I suppose experiencing the English spring for the first time also triggered my new interest. Seeing blasts of colourful blossoms in the city and the Sheffield Botanic Gardens woke me up; it made me realise the beauty of plants that I used to take for granted in Indonesia. After that, I found  my passion in art again, with a new passion for plants and botanical painting that later I brought back to my home country. 

Q.Why do you think botanical art and illustration is important and what do you think the role of the contemporary botanical artist is today? 
A. While botanical illustration is still important to support botany, e.g. describing new species or taxa, I think that contemporary botanical art has its own advantages, namely to promote plants to the wider audience/public in a better, more emotional way. Just like art can pull heartstrings to bring about actions, it could be more effective than written facts. Hopefully botanical art can raise awareness and support the existence of plants, especially those that are threatened, and their conservations.
IDSBA members on a field trip, members share skills in botany and art to raise awareness about their native flora
Q. Did you find it easy to learn botanical art and illustration?
A. Nothing is easy, it requires persistence but I found the passion and communities to keep me going.
Q. Did you train with any other organisation or study any courses? 
A.Not really, I learned from books, workshops by many tutors, societies’ painting days, etc. I happened to have an educational background in visual communication design/graphic design that I think somehow provide the foundations in learning botanical art.

Q. Do you belong to any other Societies?
A.Yes, I am a fellow of the Society of Botanical Artists (SBA), UK and member of the American Society of Botanical Artists (ASBA), US.

About your Society
Q.  What is your role in IDSBA? Who are the other founders and the President?
A. I am one of the two founders of IDSBA, along with Jenny A. Kartawinata. The current President of IDSBA is Andiriana Wisnu.

Q. Why did you decide form a Society for botanical art in Indonesia? Was it difficult?
A. The urge to form the society was related to the plan to hold Botanical Art Worldwide exhibition in 2018 which required a botanical art society for a country to participate, which Indonesia did not have. If you remember, I joined the first International Congress of Botanical Art in Pittsburg in 2016, where the idea was proposed. I recall a panellist mentioning my case, and whether someone from a country without existing botanical art society like Indonesia can participate in the exhibition. The idea was intriguing but overwhelming at the same time. It meant a lot of homework for me personally because at the time I did not know anyone or have friends to make it happen. I knew only one other Indonesian artist who did similar botanical art (not exclusively), but we had never met before. So I put the idea aside, the dream of having botanical art society or joining the worldwide exhibition.

After the congress, I started to give workshops in several cities in Indonesia, where I finally met people with the same passions in botanical art. We kept in touch via Instagram and later via WhatsApp Group (WAG).

In 2017, I met Jenny A. Kartawinata in person. She contacted me first after finding my name as a participant of the 15th international exhibition of botanical art and illustration by the Hunt Institute. She’s a member of ASBA and has been doing botanical art far longer than me. Her husband, Mr Kartawinata, is a senior botanist in Indonesia, former head of Herbarium Bogoriense, which exposes her to vast experiences and acquaintances in botanical affairs. We keep in touch by calls and e-mails.

Meanwhile in the WhatsApp Group, I and several friends from my workshops kept practising and supporting each other to paint botanical subject matters. At a certain point, not too far from the deadline of the Botanical Art Worldwide submission, I ventured to propose the event to them. Surprisingly they accepted it. So, everything else rolled from that, so to speak. The amazing (not to call it “crazy”) journey of forming IDSBA and preparing for our first exhibition can take hours to tell. In short, I think we are lucky to meet each other and somehow believe in each other, not to mention the “coincidences” (or blessings) that happened in our way.

The first team was also IDSBA committee right now: Andiriana Wisnu, Grace Syiariel, Deinitisa Amarawii, Elizabeth Soetopo, Youfeta Devy, Irene Ng, Fanny Agustina, Aida Makmur, Silvia Zulaika, etc.

Q.  When was your IDSBA founded? 
A.  Officially on 20 November 2017 at the Kartawinata’s house.

Q. Did you discover that many more people were interested in botanical art in Indonesia than you expected? or did you know that the interest and need for a society already existed?
A. Yes, although I didn’t expect it. I only realised the level of interests after I started doing workshops. My classes sold out in minutes. Later, after IDSBA was set up and the first exhibition announced, more people came and joined.

Members are very involved and love to share, here an Open Studio IDSBA event 2019
Q. Roughly how many members do you have? 
A.  At this time, we have about 100 members from Indonesia and aboard. We have members from Singapore, Malaysia, UAE, Turkey, and Canada. Some cannot speak Indonesian at all but they stay being a member for these years and they are quite engaged with the group’s activities. When needed, we converse in English too.
The participating member artists in Ragam Flora Indonesia, the first IDSBA exhibition, which was part of the Worldwide Botanical Art Day 18th May 2018, at Bogor Botanic Garden

Q.  Are members actively involved in helping to run the society.    
A.  Yes, I think we were so lucky to have helpful members who are willing to participate in our programs. We still communicate mostly via WhatsApp group on a daily basis where most of the members actively share their knowledge, skills, or information related to botanical art. For example, members with biological or botanical education help others to learn about botany, answer questions about plant identification, morphology, etc while artist members from various background and medium specialisation share their tips, tricks or insights in painting/drawing. I believe we complement each other.

Classes about botany, plant identification, morphology is mportant for IDSBA's artists, as shown in this class.   

Q. Did any other Societies, organisations or individuals inspire or encourage you to form IDSBA?
A. To be honest, I was not keen on organising, but encouraged (if I cannot call it forced) by my “workshop students” to initiate IDSBA. Beside the aforementioned names, I was also encouraged by Henny Herawati and Heranisvari and of course Mrs. and Mr. Kartawinata. Regarding the organisational matters, I took a lot of inspirations from ASBA. We look up to it when setting up our recruitment system, which is quite open and easy for anyone to join.

Eunike at one of her popular workshops, sharing knowledge and skills within a friendly environment is at the heart of  IDSBA

Q,  Indonesia is a very large country with many Islands, how do you promote the Society in such a large country?
A.  Since we are living in this era, when internet allows us to access and share things easily and globally, IDSBA is trying to make the best of social media or any feasible platform to promote our existence and botanical art in Indonesia. We also have offline activities in several cities, like painting days, workshops, mini trips, and many times we participated in education, art, or cultural events.

Q. What are the aims or plans for the Society and what do you feel is most important to achieve? Here are a few examples:  

Promote botanical art in Indonesia while promoting information about the importance and beauty of plants, particularly native Indonesian flora to the wider public. That’s the reason why we stick with native Indonesian plants themes for our annual exhibitions until now

o   Allow members to share and learn about their understanding of and illustration of plants in a botanically accurate way

o   Help members to improve the quality of their artwork by providing them with learning and sharing opportunities with other artists

o   Collaborate with other botanical or environmental organisations

o   Collaborate with botanical gardens

o   Organise annual exhibitions of members’ work  

Q. Do you have a structured annual plan for the IDSBA to help achieve your aims?
A. Sort of, but it’s not too strict. As a new society, we are still learning by doing. I think the committee is quite flexible while setting up the programs and plans that suit all of us.

Inspecting and reviewing work at the Ragam Flora Indonesia exhibition 

Q. Please tell us about some of the important things the Society has achieved to date, exhibitions, events, publications, sponsorship, media coverage etc. 
A.  Founded in late of 2017, we already had held 2 annual exhibitions. The 1st “Ragam Flora Indonesia” exhibition (which was a part of the Botanical Art Worldwide) was held on 18-20 May 2018 in the Bogor Botanic Gardens in cooperation with the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI). It was a beautiful coincidence that the botanical art day, 18 May 2018, was also the botanic garden’s 201st anniversary, which I believe helped us get the venue, which led to opening networking opportunities with other botanical organisations.

The 2nd “Ragam Flora Indonesia” exhibition was held on 6-13 September 2019 in Bale Banjar Sangkring Art Gallery in Yogyakarta. This time it was in cooperation with the Faculty of Biology of Gadjah Mada University (UGM), one of the oldest universities in Indonesia. Since the second exhibition, we are lucky to have continual supports from The Tjiasmanto Conservation Fund. Later, it got us involved in a monograph project (forthcoming) as well.
Our exhibitions and events were covered by national television, radios, magazines, web sites, such as CNN Indonesia, Harper’s Bazaar Indonesia, National Geographic Indonesia. 

IDSBA have achieved much since their inception, having their exhibitions and events covered by national television and media, here and article by National Geographic Indonesia 
Media coverage at the Ragam Flora Indonesia exhibition 
Participating artists, Ragam Flora Indonesia 2 September 2019, Bale Bajar Sankring Art Gallery Yogykarta. Combining art and science through a collaboration with the Faculty of Biology, Gadjah Made University. 
Spacious gallery allowed at the Gadjah Made University

Q.  I know you planned to have third exhibition, 'Botanical Art for Friendship 2020', in Jakarta this year - in collaboration with the Korean Society. How did this collaboration come about? 
A.  At first, the Korea Botanical Arts Cooperative (KBAC) proposed a collaboration and asked for possibility to do an exhibition in Indonesia, which we happily accepted it. From our side, fortunately our previous exhibitions had introduced us to nationally prominent art curators, who helped us to propose our exhibition at the National Gallery of Indonesia, one of the most prestigious art venues in Indonesia. It is under the Ministry of Education and Culture. Later last year our proposal was accepted and our exhibition is supposedly set on this 9-28 June 2020, showing selected artworks of both countries’ native plants. 

Q.  Sadly Covid 19 has caused much disruption to exhibitions and events all over the world. Can you tell us what you have done to keep your members engaged in botanical art during this difficult time? 
A. Before this Covid 19 pandemic, we have offline regular painting day/meet up, some trips to botanical gardens or botanical institutions, and monthly online sessions. Due to the circumstances, we are focusing on online activities like painting/drawing challenges and BMB (Belajar Mandiri dan Berbagi, which means Independently Learn (then) Share), an online session using Zoom platform. Now we have more frequent, almost every weekend, meetings. Surprisingly the interest in joining the sessions is rising. Before, we only have about 20 members joined the session, now 35-50 members participate. Furthermore, the pandemic brought quite many new members to our society. I think the pandemic has blessings in disguise. We are happy that many members in different cities are now able to meet online and learn botanical art or about topics from their home. I am personally delighted to see many members, even the new ones, show progresses in their skills and knowledge.

In response to Covid 19 IDSBA have been pro active in focussing on more online activities, such as painting/drawing challenges and BMB (Belajar Mandiri dan Berbagi), which means 'Independently Learn (then) Share', which they share as online sessions using Zoom platform. Although IDSBA  always did communicate well using technology and social media, so this was a natural progression for them and they hold regular classes. Here Just one example of a Zoom class, as advertised on their Instagram. 

Regarding the BMB, each session has a specific theme, whether theoretical or practical, and it lasts about 1-3 hours. The practical sessions are usually followed with a homework; whose result can be posted on social media using a specific hash tag like #idsbadirumahaja on Instagram. So far we’ve learned and shared many things, e.g. painting leaves, mixing colours, ballpoint pen drawing, graphite, mixed media, tone and lighting, herbarium, artwork digitalisation, the history of botanical art, leaves morphology and more. All the slides or videos were archived and made accessible to the members. It is a fun way to learn!

Q.  Will the exhibition be rescheduled or are things still uncertain? 
A.  The exhibition will be rescheduled. We’re still waiting for the new schedule by the National Gallery of Indonesia. 

Q. Please provide links to the Society website and social media links  
A.  Website:  Facebook: but the most up to date/active social media we have is Instagram account at

Thank you again to Eunike and IDSBA for participating in this article and for providing images. I'm sure you will all want to go check out their Instagram account now! 

All images copyright of IDSBA and their members. 

Saturday, 4 July 2020

The Florilegium at the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney

By Dianne Sutherland for the Botanical Artists Facebook Group

In this first of a new series of articles by the Botanical Artists' Facebook Group, we asked Beverly Allen, President of the Florilegium Society at the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney about the Society. She very kindly provided us with information about their projects to date and images from their beautiful new publication 'Botanic Endeavour'.

Sydney Florilegium Publications

About the Florilegium Society at the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney

The Florilegium Society at the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney, was formed in 2005 to create a collection of contemporary botanical paintings of plants in the living collections of the Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust, this self-funded society is endorsed by the Trust and relies on the hard work and enthusiasm work of volunteers with a passion for botanical art. 
Original paintings and the copyright are gifted by participating artists to the Trust, which is held in the Daniel Solander Library in the National Herbarium of New South Wales - the oldest botanical research library in Australia, which holds one of the most important collections of botanical and horticultural reference, from Dioscorides’ De Materia Medica (1150) to Robert Brown’s Prodromus Florae Novae Hollandiae et Insulae Van Diemen (1810) and from Ferdinand Bauer’s Illustrationes Florae Novae Hollandae (1813) to Banks’ Florilegium (1980–1990) and Rosser and George’s The Banksias (1981).

'Florilegium’, simply means a gathering of flowers, from the Latin flos (flower) and leger (to gather), it was first used in 1590 to describe a publication that focused on the beauty of plants rather than their medicinal value. Florilegia flourished from the seventeenth century to the late nineteenth century, during which time they portrayed collections of rare and exotic plants. The worldwide resurgence in botanical painting over the last 40 years has resulted in the creation of many fine contemporary florilegia. Contemporary botanical art spans a wide range of styles and intentions, from scientific botanical illustration through to plant ‘portraits’; describing and celebrating the design and beauty of plants with a precision and level of detail sufficient for the subject to be identified. 

The Artists

Botanical artists are invited to participate in the Florilegium, to date 75 artists from several countries have now participated in two major projects. Their works record plants in gardens of both botanical and historic significance or highlight the diversity of the countries native flora, including plants that are now rare and endangered.
Artists are provided with detailed plant lists to choose from along with contacts at each garden or site where the plants specimens can be sourced, this collaboration with gardens ensures provenance for the specimens. The paintings depict plants at life-size unless noted otherwise on the painting. The specified medium is watercolour on archival quality paper, paints used must have the best colourfastness ASTM I or II. Artists work to specific sizes for the finished works, either landscape or portrait and this works well for continuity within the collection and for exhibition purposes. Each artists' approach varies somewhat, some show the plant in its entirety while others focus on a specific aspect, sometimes habitat and fine morphological detail are included. The artist biographies are included in the publications and reveal a wide range of artistic endeavour and a variety of professions. Thus far the Florilegium Society have produced two publications and organised two exhibitions, the second exhibition is currently on hold due to Covid19. The see the list detailing full collection of 134 works and for participating artists click here.

The PROJECTS: The Collection, Exhibitions and Publications

The First Project: Florilegium: Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney: Celebrating 200 Years (2016)

The Society’s first project came to fruition in 2016 and marked the bicentenary of the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney with 89 paintings donated to the Trust. Florilegium: Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney: Celebrating 200 Years was published. It provided a historical overview of the Gardens, and each colour plate was accompanied by the plant description and text relating it the history of the Gardens. The publication accompanied the exhibition of works.

Inside The Florilegium: Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney: Celebrating 200 Years, featured illustration is by Kate Nolan.

The Exhibition, Sydney

Sydney Living Museums held a major exhibition of the 89 works, titled,  Florilegium: Sydney’s Painted Garden – at the Museum of Sydney from April to September 2016, attracting over 30,000 visitors. It explored the botanical and horticultural development of the Gardens and its influence on private gardens, public parks and landscapes of New South Wales since 1816. The exhibition and book were awarded the 2017 Heritage Award for Events and Publications by the National Trust of Australia (NSW). Click here for more information on the exhibition.

The Museum of Sydney exhibition 2016 with large scale poster of Magnolia grandiflora by Jenny Phillips 

Stunning large scale prints of the works on the walls accompanied the paintings

The Exhibition travels to the Shirley Sherwood Gallery, Kew 

In 2018 the exhibition travelled from Australia to The Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art in Kew Gardens, where it was reframed and exhibited from March to September, Dr Shirley Sherwood OBE is Patron of the Society. The exhibition attracted attracted 96,020 visitors.  It highlighted the history and the scientific achievements of the Gardens. The book was republished in partnership with Kew Publishing for the UK, Europe, Asia and North America.

Beverly Allen speaking to a packed house a the Shirley Sherwood gallery opening in 2018 

The Second Project: Celebrating the Banks and Solander Collection (2020)

The most recent project focuses on the historic collections by Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander and coincides with the 250th anniversary of the voyage of the Endeavour, when plant samples were first collected and illustrated by Sydney Parkinson alongside fellow landscape artist by Alexander Buchan and draftsman Herman Spöring. 

The Endeavour arrived at the southeast tip of Australia and sailed along the coast in 1770, the crew made  many land excursions including Botany Bay, which was so named because of the sheer number of plants there. 
To paint from life is the ideal for botanical painters and illustrators but the transient nature of plants is both an inspiration and a challenge for the artist. It's hard to imagine the overwhelming challenge faced by Sydney Parkinson during the voyage, he painted more than 400 sketches of subjects while the ship was in Australian waters alone and completed 925 sketches in total of which 676 were unfinished often working into the night by candlelight. Buchan died early in the voyage at The Society Islands, which increased Parkinson's workload. To read more about the works from the whole voyage and artists who completed the final works visit the Natural History Museum, where you can also view the surviving artwork from the collection. Sadly Sydney Parkinson never got to finish the project and like many on the voyage, he and Spöring died of dysentery off the Coast of Java on the return journey.

The Sydney Florilegium project revisits subjects from the Banks and Solander collection with 45  new paintings created by contemporary botanical artists. These new paintings are intended to draw attention to the collections by Banks and Solander and to the digitization program currently underway that will make the 1.4 million specimens in the Herbarium available to everyone one the Gardens website

The majority of the Banks and Solander specimens represented in the new works were collected at Botany Bay and the remainder from several locations in Queensland. Fresh plant material was sourced in many ways; with the co-operation of the botanic gardens in Cambridge, Oxford and Kew in the UK and a specialist nursery in California as well as from the three Gardens of the Trust in Australia. One artist sourced seeds from Western Australia and grew them in Cambridge; another painted from plants on the Amahlongwana River in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. In Australia, some material was obtained from specialist nurseries and grown on at home; naturally, many grow in Sydney and the areas of collection in Queensland. 

For my own involvement I travelled to the Mount Annan Botanic Garden twice, to paint Erythina vespertilio and was assisted with samples of seed pods, the first occasion when the tree was not in flower, although I did find it at other locations in the north. I captured the plant the second time around the following year while visiting Sydney.

The Botanic Endeavor book cover featuring the work by Elaine Musgrave 

As you can see each illustration sits alongside the newly digitised herbarium images in this beautiful new publication. Below, you can see a small collection of images from the new book showing the double page spreads.
Banksia marginata by Margaret Pieroni 

Erythrina vespertilio by Dianne Sutherland
Woollsia pungent by Julie Hocomb 

The Exhibition: Celebrating the Banks and Solander Collection  

The exhibition was due to take place at the Lion Gate Lodge at the Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney from 25 April to 17 May 2020.  Preparations were well underway for the hang when the Covid 19 global pandemic began, so the exhibition is currently on hold, despite the lockdown the Society managed to finish the publication which is now available. There are just 600 copies available, see information in this link to purchase the book 

Many thanks to Beverly Allen,  President of The Florilegium Society at the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney for providing images and information for this article, all artwork copyright belongs to the Florilegium.