Saturday, May 30, 2015

History of BISCOT Exhibition and Medal Winners 2015

For those interested in:

I wrote to Hazel Morris, the BISCOT Artist Co-ordinator to find out more about the history of the exhibition, how it fits into the structure of the Royal Caledonian Horticultural Society (RCHS) and the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh PLUS how people can submit work for exhibition.

You can find her explanation below which I've edited for this blog.  Any mistakes are all mine!

I've also summarised the rules and regulations and other information about how to enter at the end

BISCOT (Botanical Images Scotia) medal winners 2015

I don't have any images of the exhibition. I'll add them in here if I get any.

This year’s medal winners are as follows:
Hye Woo Shin in April 2014

Gold and Best Picture in Show

I've met Hye Woo Shin on a couple of occasions at RHS exhibitions. She's a delightful lady who produces absolutely stunning botanical art and amazing presentations. I'm not in the least bit surprised to hear she's won Best in Show.

In the absence of any images from the show I've included the last photograph I took of her a year ago in the Lindley Hall in London when she also won a Gold Medal and Best Exhibit in Show

Silver-Gilt Medal

Silver Medal

  • Alex Scott-Plummer (UK) – Silver

Bronze Medal

  • Jeffrey Banks (UK) – Bronze - an ex-student of the RBGE Diploma in Botanical Illustration
  • Morag Lorimer (UK) - Bronze a member of Edinburgh Society of Botanical Artists  and an ex-student of the RBGE Diploma in Botanical Illustration 
  • Anne Rabbitts (UK) – Bronze

It's disappointing to find quite so many good botanical artists without a website.


What is BISCOT? 

BISCOT (Botanical Images Scotia) is a sub-committee of the Royal Caledonian Horticultural Society. Its purpose is to organise and run an annual competitive exhibition for botanical artists.

In effect, it's a Scottish version of the RHS Botanical Art Show but on a smaller scale.

It was founded to:
  • provide a platform for home grown talent 
  • to enable world-wide links with other botanical artists. 

To date, the exhibition has attracted entries from USA, Israel, Nepal, France, Germany, Italy, Turkey, Australia, South Africa, Nepal and the Netherlands and this year South Korea.

What's the History of BISCOT?

In the summer of 2004 a very successful exhibition of botanical paintings was held at Paxton House. All the artists were connected to painting courses held at the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh.

A few of the artists involved, prompted by the recent success of the RCHS’s Gardening Scotland Show, discussed the possibility of creating an exhibition of high calibre in Scotland.

A small voluntary committee was formed and made a proposal to the RCHS council who received it enthusiastically. The new exhibition was awarded £500 towards set-up costs.

The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) collaborated with the endeavour and agreed to help by making space available within the RBGE offices to hold committee meetings and assessments of paintings.

The BISCOT Exhibition

The first exhibition took place in June 2005. Annual competitive exhibitions of botanical paintings and illustrations have been exhibited on an annual basis at Gardening Scotland.

The BISCOT exhibition is now exhibited in two locations on an annual basis.
  • it starts at the RCHS Gardening Scotland at Ingliston in Edinburgh
  • after the show closes, the exhibition moves to the RBGE John Hope Gateway Building and, once hung, is on display for a further two weeks.

BISCOT Education

In addition to the competitive exhibition BISCOT now features an educational section adjacent to the exhibition.

In 2015, this part of the exhibition features the work of Gulnar Eksi  and shows nine of her paintings which were commissioned by the RBGE for a new book ‘Plants from the Woods and Forests of Chile’ by Martin Gardner, Paulina Hechenleitner and Josefina Hepp, (with a Foreward by H.R.H. The Prince Charles, Duke of Rothesay).  This book is due for release in the autumn of this year and there will be a major exhibition of all the paintings commissioned for it then at the RBGE. Information about this and the book will be on the RBGE website.

Gulnar has already won a gold medal from the RHS when she exhibited some of these paintings in London.
Gulnar Eksi at the RHS Botanical Art Show in February 2015
where she was also exhibited her paintings for the book and won a Gold Medal and Best Painting in Show


There are no monetary prizes. Awards are:
  • 'Medals' in gold, silver-gilt, silver and bronze categories (as with the RHS, the 'medal' is a certificate)
  • Mary Mendum Medal for an exceptional exhibit

The Mary Mendum Medal is in honour of Mary, who was a taxonomist and gifted botanical illustrator who worked at the RBGE from 1987 until her untimely death in 2004. A silver medal was struck which was funded by her family and the Binks Trust. The medal is only awarded when a truly exceptional exhibit is presented.

The BISCOT website

The BISCOT web page was set up inside the RCHS website and contains our rules and regulations.

How to exhibit at BISCOT

These are the rules and regulations for exhibiting work at BISCOT. I've summarised them below and highlighted key points. The document also includes an application form got assessment of botanical works.

New Exhibitors: Selection and assessment

Like the RHS, before you can exhibit you first have to establish that you are an artist who has the ability skills and technical competence to handle a range of technically challenging subjects in botanical art.

Which means that first you have be assessed - and that assessment takes place at least a year before an exhibition which you can submit work to for display.
Artists wishing to exhibit may apply to the Botanical Images Scotia (BISCOT) assessment panel which consists of the current year’s exhibition judges. They convene once a year in May, prior to Gardening Scotland to assess work.... Assessment results are sent out at the end of June.

The date for the next submission will be in May 2016.

  • Four pieces of work which demonstrate the artist’s standard of work must be submitted for consideration.  
  • Artists residing in the UK are required to send original work. 
  • Artists who reside outside the UK, may submit a CD or memory stick of their work in ‘jpeg’ format of not less than 3 Mega Pixels, and does not require to exceed 5 Mega Pixels in resolution.
  • See Judging criteria at the end of the Regulations. If the required standard is achieved, artists will be able to apply for space at a future exhibition.

If approved to exhibit, you must then exhibit within five years or apply again to exhibit.

Note that passing the assessment procedure does not guarantee a place in the exhibition since space is limited. However there are methods adopted to make life fair for all artists.

If BISCOT is anything like the RHS you will find the standards go up over the course of five years!

Submissions to BISCOT - Rules and regulations

Artwork Requirements
  • Paintings and drawings of plants must be at least life-size unless this is impractical. 
  • A scale must be included if the subject is different from life-size. 
  • Exhibits are to be two dimensional original botanical artworks. 
  • Written information e.g. plant names, included on exhibits must be accurate and considered as an integral element of the work.

Presentation Requirements 
  • Works MUST be individually presented on lightweight board, with an acetate window mount. (Further details in the information sheet) 
  • Mounts to be white/off-white/antique white or similar colour and of dimensions which add to rather than detract from the unity of the individual display.
  • Each work must be numbered and labelled with both the common and Latin name of the depicted plant/s in black and white on cards affixed below each work. 
  • Works must NOT be framed (re Gardening Scotland display)
  • All works must conform to following sizes when mounted/matted: 30cm x 40cms | 50cms x 70cms | 60cms x 80cms. Failure to adhere to these dimensions will mean your works can only be exhibited at Gardening Scotland and not at RBGE (where the works will be framed in RGBE loan frames for the RGBE exhibition)
  • No advertising or promotional literature is allowed other than the artist’s name, address/e-mail address which will be shown at two locations in the exhibit i.e. at the top left hand and bottom right hand corners of the artists’ displays.

Artwork Preferences
  • Two generally accepted categories of botanical painting are considered for selection:
    • Botanical illustration - with scientific bias, showing relevant details, and
    • Plant portrait - not necessarily for scientific identification purposes.
  • Preference will be given to works using watercolour as the main medium but this does not preclude the use of coloured pencil, gouache, graphite or ink.

  • Choice of subject matter is left to the artist but a theme e.g. a particular plant family or other relevant theme attracts a higher award. 

  • Digitally enhanced and other mechanically achieved works, e.g. etchings, are not acceptable. 
  • No work may be removed (or substituted by another) before the end of both exhibitions. 

Awards Criteria
  • To be considered for an award eight works must be displayed. 
  • At least four of these works must not have been previously exhibited in a competitive exhibition. (I'm assuming they mean ANY competitive exhibition)
  • The judges give special consideration to the accuracy of botanical detail, colour and composition. 
  • Any less well executed painting/drawing among those shown by the individual artist will affect the level of the award given. 
  • The appropriateness of the final mounts with regard to the works and their relationship to each other in the presentation will be considered
  • The overall composition and placement of the works shown in the space provided is also important since each display of an artist’s work will be considered as a complete exhibit. 

Additional requirements
  • The exhibition must be manned at all times by at least two exhibiting artists. This is the sole responsibility of the artists who may nominate a substitute if they are unable to attend.

All the normal requirements apply re mailing artwork, liability for damage and insurance of artwork

Details of the size of the display boards are available on the information sheet.

Judging criteria

The botanical illustrations exhibited have to describe the plants they show accurately in  form, colour and detail, and all works are judged using the same criteria whichever ‘category’ they are in. In addition there is an aesthetic component which may be described as the quality of the work. It includes composition, contrast, delicacy of line and how it describes the forms etc. These are also vital components and allow the judges to grade the awards.  BISCOT Information Sheet
The words are those of the BISCOT Committee. The bold is added by me.

BISCOT Committee 

Our committee consists of a small group people who run the exhibition on a voluntary basis. We are all botanical painters, and use our paintings for cards or prints which we pay to have professionally printed ourselves and sell. A part of the proceeds from each sale goes to help fund the running of the exhibition. 
They'd love to have some assistance from younger artists who are computer literate and who can help with a website and social media presence!

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