Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Art of Hiroshige

Cherry Blossom Time at Naka-no-cha in the Yoshiwara about 1848–49 (Kaei 1–2)
from the series Famous Places in Edo
Artist: Utagawa Hiroshige I, Japanese, 1797–1858;
Publisher: Fujiokaya Keijirô (Shôrindô), Japanese
Horizontal ôban; 24.9 x 37.1 cm (9 13/16 x 14 5/8 in.)
Woodblock print (nishiki-e); ink and color on paper

Throughout my Japanese Art project, I've become more and more aware that Hiroshige produced some really stunning woodblock prints and excelled at landscapes. So for my last post of April I'm going to focus on Ando Hiroshige aka Utagawa Hiroshige.

As I always do when studying a topic I've developed an information site Hiroshige - Resources for Artists.

Hiroshige was born in old Edo (Tokyo) in 1797 and died in 1858. He seems to have more names than most! Two important ones are Ando which was his family name and Hiroshige which was his "studio surname", given to him at age 15 just after he entered painting school by his painting master Toyohiro. Biographical information about him is pretty fragmentary - however he certainly seems to have been a very prolific artist. Some say he produced some 12,000 designs - but it's more likely to have been somewhere between 4,000-4,500. Besides design for prints he also illustrated 120+ books and produced designs for practical objects (eg c.350 fan prints) . He produced very many prints of views of certain popular locations. variations were achieved through the introduction or variations of obligatory features such as snow, moonlight, evening light, fireworks and cherry blossom. He also rang the changes on the different combinations of birds and flowers

Western interest in Hiroshige dates back to the end of the nineteenth century. In 1887, Van Gogh copied two of his works in oils and Hiroshige obviously provided inspiration for Whistler - in terms of both bridges (and fireworks!).
Hiroshige is a marvellous Impressionist
Pissaro (1893) - after visiting an exhibition of prints by Utamaro and Hiroshige
Another enthusiastic collector of Hiroshige prints was Frank Lloyd Wright.
In 1906, (Frank Lloyd Wright) staged the first ever retrospective of Hiroshige's work at the Art Institute of Chicago, describing them in the exhibition catalog as some of "the most valuable contributions ever made to the art of the world".
Hiroshige was particularly renowned for subtlety in his art which meant he could represent, for example, the nuances of the climate and seasons. He has been characterised as the artist of mist, snow and rain.

The Fifty Three Stations of the Tokaido
- the road between the two capitals Yedo (now Tokyo) and Kyoto, a distance of 323 mile

He specialized in landscapes and had a number of works in sets or series - famous ones include:
He worked with Kunisada (another artist who has become one of my favourites during this project) on a joint project Famous Restaurants from the Eastern Capital in which Hiroshige did the top half which was landscape and Kunisada did the bottom half which were actors.

The 53 Stations of the Tokaido (Hoeido Edition) - 1 Nihonbashi
published by
Takenouchi Magohachi (Hoeido) 1831-1834
format - Oban yokoye
( - click here to view the whole series with commentary)

Here's some highlights of the relevant links that I found:
Front Cover - Cherry Trees in Full Bloom at Arashiyama
- from famous Views of Kyoto c.1834
The Mann Collection, Highland Park, Illinois

Besides the websites listed above I've also got access an excellent reference book called Hiroshige - Prints and Drawings by Matthi Forrer.

This is a beautiful book produced by Prestel Publishing of Germany. It has excellent production standards and trouble has been taken to only include prints which could be taken from woodblocks which weren't produced on wood blocks which had been worn away.

The book was produced for an exhibition of prints and drawings by Utagawa Hiroshige the Royal Academy of Arts in London.

It's the sort of book which you can sit and look at for ages and continue to review for years. One can well understand the appeal that Hiroshige had for artists like Van Gogh and other nineteenth century painters.

If Hokusai is recognized for his bold compositions and clearly defined forms, Hiroshige is the master of the passing moment - the artist of mist, snow, and rain. The immense popularity of Hiroshige's prints meant that they were continually reprinted, wearing down the woodblocks. For this book, every effort has been made to reproduce only the finest early impressions. Each plate is provided with a commentary by Matthi Forrer who, in an introductory essay, examines Hiroshige's life and work, assessing his place in Japanese art and making important revisions to the generally accepted chronology of his oeuvre. Other essays draw attention to aspects of Hiroshige's life and work which have often been overlooked and place Hiroshige and his art in their social and political context. This volume also includes maps, a chronology, a glossary and a bibliography.
Publisher's synopsis
Matthi Forrer is Curator of the Japanese Department at the National Museum of Ethnology in Leiden. He is also the author of Hokusai: Prints and Drawings.

One of the things I particularly enjoyed about the book is that it includes pure drawings - these are ink drawings on paper rather than wood block prints. Hiroshige has a very sparse and almost calligraphic style of drawing. I'm guessing but knowing how Van Gogh's drawing style changed after he'd seen the work of Japanese artists like Hiroshige (see Van Gogh: drawing media and techniques) is that he may well have seen some of the sketches and drawings as well as the wood block prints. He certainly owned the Tokaido series.

How Hiroshige worked

There are very limited records of the way that Hiroshige worked - but this is a summary of some of them - as derived from Matthi Forrer's book:
  • His illustrations seem to be mostly based on first-hand observation (i.e. original sketches - see sketchbook in British Museum). There is a debate about exactly how much was done in this way but sketchbooks and diaries have survived from journies he undertook and there are also stories of his travels.
  • He strives for realistic portrayals - since not everybody has the opportunity to visit places - but does not attempt to incorporate every detail.
  • He chooses vantage points which help tell a tale and he omits anything which detracts from the story. His view was that 'everything lacking in taste and grace must be omitted'.
  • He appears to have been fascinated by climatic and atmospheric conditions which prevail across the seasons.
Paintings are based on the form of things. So if you copy the form and add style and meaning, the result is a painting.

To depict a beautiful view the artist must know how to combine with one another each of the elements that constitute the view.
Hiroshige 1849 Drawing Manual Ehon tehikigusa
I can go along with that!

I'm currently struggling with developing my drawing of the Japanese Gateway at Kew and I rather think I need to go back and study some of Hiroshige's work again in relation to his treatment of trees and bushes.

Note: May is scheduled to be a 'rest' month from projects - and it'll start with a week off from blogging as from next Monday (I want to finish the outline on my book and get it underway). During May I need to get on with artwork visiting gardens now that the better weather has arrived (this is me being optimistic - it's cold and raining outside). However, I'll probably try and do some more blog posts about composition and Japanese prints - as well as writing chapters!


Tuesday, April 29, 2008

10 Tips for How to Sketch People

Cheers Boston!
(sketching fellow travellers at Logan Airport, Boston, USA September 2006)
8" x 10", pen and sepia ink and coloured pencils
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Drawing and sketching people is an invaluable way of developing a wide range of artistic skills. 

I've been drawing people for very many years - family, friends, people in cafes and restaurants, life class models - and other artists. People often tell me how much they like the sketches I make of people I come across on my travels with a sketchbook - which I find a bit odd as most rarely have faces!

Anyway, I've decided the time has come to write a bit more about sketching people. So this blog post is about 10 tips on how to sketch people – or at least my understanding of how I sketch people.

This post is also a condensed version of an article I'm drafting - and this time I'm aiming to create a priced publication (once I've sorted out the mechanics!). To that end I'm looking for 10 volunteers to form a review panel for this latest Making A Mark Publication. More about this at the end!

First some basics - then the top tips.  The basics come from Sketching for Real - Introduction. The sketches throughout the post include some which have been posted on this blog before and some which are new to the blog.

What is a sketch?

A sketch, in art terms, can be:
  • a way of practising and refining your skills in drawing and mark marking
  • an exploratory drawing – exploring how something works/might work
  • a quick drawing – e.g. sketching in public tends to be time-limited rather than open-ended
  • a rough description – it’s OK if they lack detail; don’t fill the page or are not even completed
  • a record of something you’ve seen
  • a record of one or more aspects of something you want to develop into a painting e.g. a colour study
  • a preliminary study – for a later painting (done before you start to check how your painting will work rather than as an underdrawing on your final support)
A sketch may be an imaginative or a creative interpretation of reference material – but it does not involve meticulous copying of a reference photo.

Very often a sketch is a study of a subject that the artist can see – and consequently involves working and drawing from life.

Why sketch?

Sketching broadens and enhances your basic skill base.

As you practice and progress, sketching helps you to:
  • Develop your freehand drawing, mark making and observational skills
  • Draw something everyday – an exercise which will bring fluency and confidence to your drawing
  • Get a better record of the colours and tones you see
  • Practice how to crop a scene and compose a picture
  • Develop finished artwork without relying totally on a reference photo
So now I've identified what a sketch is and why sketching can be a good habit to acquire, we'll look at the 10 tips for how to sketch people.

10 Tips for How to Sketch People

These tips are NOT of the 'get rich quick' variety. They're essentially principles which make much more sense through application. However the real benefits really only come when they become ingrained habits through lots of practice.

#1. Take a class in life drawing!

This is my #1 top tip because this one tip produces the most benefit in terms of learning how to look, understanding how the human body works and how to draw figurative shapes and values. If you want to know more I've got a guide about Life drawing and Life Class which can be downloaded for free from my website.

#2. Find a place where people linger

There's no point in making life difficult for yourself. Sketching people who are settled or who move only a little or slowly makes sketching people a lot easier.

The Big Draw, Covent Garden 2007
copyright Katherine Tyrrell
Here are some suggestions:
  • cafes, bars and restaurants,
  • waiting rooms of any kind
  • train stations and airports
  • art galleries
  • people watching an event
  • parks and places where people sit in the sun
  • artists sketching/drawing/painting plein air or in studios

# 3. People ALWAYS move - so learn to draw FAST!

There's no way of getting round this one! Tips on how to sketch quickly can be found in Sketching for Real: Assignment 1 - So you want to learn how to sketch...... Also learn to be philosophical about the fact that you'll have a lot of "starts" which don't go anywhere in your sketchbook. My rule of thumb is I lose about 25% of the sketches I start - and I draw very fast!

#4. Sit in one place and construct a scene

So - you've accepted that people will come and go so and you've learned how to sketch quickly. You still need a strategy for how to deal with the comings and goings. My own personal strategy is to sit in one place and construct a scene around a pivotal person.

Private View, RSPP 2007
8"x10" pen and sepia ink and coloured pencils
copyright Katherine Tyrrell
I try and select somebody who looks interesting and as if they might stay still long enough for me to get the bare essentials down - size, shapes, relationship with the background and, in particular, the horizontals and verticals. I then construct the scene around that person as people come and go. They don't all have to be there at the same time!

Remember you are sketching and not drawing a portrait. I've noticed a tendency for people who are starting to sketch to just sketch individuals as isolated objects and for them to ignore the backgrounds and context altogether. The next three tips are about addressing this.

#5. Draw shapes and values not detail

Squint to see values. Start by working out the rough size and shape of the big shapes that you can see - in value terms. You can then work within these - again using value shapes. Using line to describe the edge of some aspect of detail can then be surprisingly effective if most of the drawing is value shapes due to the contrast between the two. I always enjoy sketching the 'squiggley' bits of folds in clothing.

Diners at the Club Gascon
8"x10", pencil in Moleskine sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

#6. Make connections

Here are some of the connections you can make
  • look for connections between people in terms of relationships and body language
  • identify the big shape that is the group of people. If you can't see an edge then don't draw it.
  • join up shapes which are the same value e.g. connect shapes associated with an individual to the background if they are the same value
  • make the connections between different zones more obvious. Overlap figures and objects to demonstrate who is in the foreground, the middle ground and background.

#7. Remember proportions

Use the background to help with scale. Sight size and measure proportions accurately if you have the time If you don't, then choose one line to act as a baseline for keeping everything in proportion. I always try and find a vertical because I have a tendency to have leaning verticals and it acts as a check.

'S' painting in Tuscany
pen and sepia ink in sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

#8. Seek out repetition

People who repeat movements are good subjects to draw. You have to work out what the sequence is and how often it repeats. Artists very often make wonderful models for learning how to draw people who are animated as most tend to have a neat and repetitive routine of movements when drawing or painting. The painter in the above sketch had two distinct patterns of movements. I watched for a while and decided which one gave maximum sketching time.

#9. Avoid drawing faces and feet!

If you draw a likeness, then you should really obtain a model release. Practice likenesses with family and people you know rather than with strangers. Squint when you look at faces and then only draw what you can see - which will be values. You'll be surprised at how little detail there is.

Feet are often drawn bigger than they actually are. Check the feet in the sketch below - would you have drawn them this small?

Figures in the Piazza San Marco, 
Venice - sketched from Quadri's
pen and sepia ink
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

#10. This is not an exercise in portraiture

It's worth reiterating that you need to remember that you are sketching and not drawing a portrait or trying to be wholly accurate.

Think of yourself as a visual journalist, there to record what you see - when you squint! Be discriminating - you don't need to draw everything. A lot of people's sketches are not complete.

If you get a good vantage point, try drawing lots of little people on one sheet of paper. Drawing small is always interesting as you have to work out what are the important characteristics to keep which mean they don't all look like stick men or the same. You can also change the colour of clothing to make sketches better!

A review group

I'm currently drafting a guide to sketching people. This will expand upon the tips given in this post and the intention is that it will become a priced publication.

I'm looking for 10 volunteers to help me by becoming a review group. It goes without saying that all volunteers will receive a free copy of both the draft and the final version! It doesn't matter how much experience you have of either sketching or drawing people as I'm interested in the views of people with a range of backgrounds.

I'd like to work with at least some of the people who comment frequently on this blog - you know who you are! I'm probably going to invite a few people - but if you're interested please say so below and I'll get back to you. Alternatively if you'd rather e-mail me you can find my contact details in the right hand column.


Monday, April 28, 2008

"Art Business - Resources for Artists" has had a major revision

Three Black Parrots
16" x 12", pencil in Muji sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Art Business - Resources for Artists has had a good old spring clean and revamp! I've sorted, turfed, given it a good vac, moved the furniture around and generally 'fluffed'!

It's become a massive site since I started it back in August 2006. During that time it has collected its own group of fans, consistently receives good ratings and plaudits from people who come across it and has consistently been in the top 100 art sites on Squidoo.

However, I've recently been concerned that the growth now meant it was also cluttered and disorganised. The first module in particular - aimed at the emerging artist had become very long. Plus the module devoted to my blog posts about the art business and related matters had become very long

So I've reorganised the modules, introduced some new ones, moved information around so it now sits in the module which it best fits and deleted some material completely so it can go on another site. I've split the Making A Mark blog posts up into sections.

New modules I've added relate to:
  • Being a Professional Artist
  • Marketing and Selling Art
  • The Art Economy
  • Selling Art through Galleries
  • The Daily Painting phenomenon
There is a new Table of Contents at the beginning of the site (see below). Looking at that provides a quick overview of contents. Click any link in that table and it will take you straight to the section you want to visit. I'm beginning to think it needs a 'back to the top' function!

In broad terms, information is now organised as follows:
  • Information for those getting started
  • Reality checks for experienced artists
  • Being a Professional Artist
  • The Business of Art - Useful websites
  • Marketing and Selling Art
  • Websites and Blogging
  • Copyright
  • Pensions
  • Geographically specific links
You can find out about....................
just click on a link to go straight to that topicArt Business - Resources for Artists
Swan Song
16" x 12", pencil in Muji sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Now for the interactive bit!

Let me know what you think about:
  • the new structure of the site - Does it seem sensible? Can it be improved?
  • the content on the site - What's missing? What do you want to know more about?
I'm always happy to take suggestions for new links. If you'd like to make a comment or suggestion you have a choice. Either use the comments function on this post or post it as a comment on the site.

Don't forget:
  • Bookmark: You can bookmark all my information sites through one handy bookmark Making A Mark of Squidoo. This contains all my information sites and groups them by category.
  • Update on news: If you'd like to receive news about major updates which I don't announce in this blog then you need to do one of two things
    • Become a member of squidoo and "favourite" any of my information sites or become a "fan" then you automatically receive an e-mail anytime I do a "squidcast" about major updates to a site.
    • subscribe to the RSS feed.
You can be a member of Squidoo without creating a site - although you might be tempted to create a home for all your useful reference sites - which is how mine started!

About The Parrot Tulip Drawings

I drew flowers all last week while visiting the botanical art events - so here are a couple of the drawings I did. They're more sketches than drawings as I didn't use archival paper. I was trying out a new Muji sketchbook which measures 16" x 12" (407x320mm). The size is nice to draw on but a pain to scan as I need to stitch the scans together and then remove all the weird colours which emerge when scanning graphite!

You can see more drawings of flowers by viewing the online galleries for flowers and plants on my website Pastels and Pencils

Sunday, April 27, 2008

27th April 2008: Who's made a mark this week?

James Lloyd and Iris
standing in front of Iris and me,

the portrait which won the RSPP's
Ondaatje Prize for Portraiture

It's not every day that your father paints your picture.

And it's not every day that you get taken along to a very big gallery space which is packed out with lots and lots (and lots!) of people because somebody wants to announce he's won a big important prize with your picture and to give him £10,000 and a gold medal.

This is my drawing tutor James Lloyd and his daughter Iris standing in front of his painting Iris and me, which won the Ondaatje Prize for Portraiture this week at the annual exhibition of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters at the Mall Galleries. You can read more about Iris's big day in James Lloyd wins The Ondaatje Prize for Portraiture.

I'm very sure Iris is going to remember having her photo taken at the big gallery with all those people when she grows up. If she's got any sense she'll engage her Mum as her agent right away to start negotiating with Dad for a new rate for her model fees!

Thanks to Jack at the Mall Galleries for the photo. My apologies to Leonard Rosoman (an artist I much admire) whose fine painting just behind James had some very insistent red which I've 'doctored' out.

The chef and his shadow
Ilaria Rosseli Del Turco

Expressing your views on your blog about other artists' work means that other artists always know that people are looking!

One of the really nice things about having this blog and writing about other artists whose work I see in exhibitions is that some of them then write to me. I had a lovely letter commenting on my blog from Ilaria Rosseli Del Turco whose portrait painting The Chef and his shadow in also in the RSPP exhibition.

Art Blogs

Thanks to Tracy Helgeson (Works by Tracy Helgeson) for some of the suggestions below. It's always great to see art bloggers recommending the blogs that they enjoy reading - and I'm always very pleased to pass on the ones that appeal to me when I take a look.
  • Randel Plowman in Northern Kentucky is making A Collage a Day. I'm always intrigued by how people start and how they know/choose what paper and other materials to use when making a collage. I wonder if it's the birds or his skill as a collage artist which means that these are a sell-out?
  • Kimberley Applegate describes her blog Joie de Vivre as being about trial size paintings posted often. It contains a wealth of repetition around the painting of chairs and paintings. Some are better than others but they all make you look! I loved the Thiebaud painting/George Nelson chair combination.
Other items on art blogs this week included:
When I was sketching last week, I noticed how confident I had become in making marks on the paper. I noticed that I was having an internal dialog with myself about composition, values, etc. It made me realize just how much I have benefited from my blog.
Rose Welty
Here's a few more in Vivien Blackburn's 'Drawing from Memory cartoon strip' project - as featured last week. I'm wondering about when I'm going to pull out the proverbial and have a go at this!
  • Jeanette again with A day in my life in Newfoundland
  • Maggie (Greywaren Art) sketched out her Thursday - complete with novel-writing, two small children, two dogs, a cat, a husband and cookie dough!
  • Anita (Anita Davies) - used a manikin for a neat twist for her cartoon in Monochrome
  • Following on from last week, even Dermott (living with Robyn Sinclair in Castiglion Fiorentino) rose to my challenge to respond on the question of whose bum looks biggest in a cartoon strip - see Dog with Opposable Thumb
Art Business and Marketing
  • In Clueless about art? the Guardian highlighted a new online lending library for contemporary art. This is the site they were referring to Art-Switch. I liked the synopsis (below). I can imagine a lot of people responding to that. For artists who are interested this is the Letter to Artists - which certainly seems to press a number of the right button - plus they have a nice section on Care for your Art.

Art-Switch is a library of original art where you can easily borrow or buy art at trustworthy prices you can understand. If you think finding original art is full of risks and hassle, Art-Switch is for you: it’s the only no-risk and hassle-free way to enjoy original art.

Art Competitions

You can download the prospectus for the 2008 Annual Exhibition of the Pastel Society of America from the Exhibitions Page. The exhibition is to be held in the National arts lub between 5-20th September. Doug Dawson will be admitted to the Hall of Fame.

Art Exhibitions

I saw some statistics this week that suggested that more people went to museums last year than went to football matches. I wish I could find that reference - but here's a page that lists the top 10 free tourist attractions in 2007 - and it includes 7 museums of which 3 are art galleries. Tate Modern came second with 4.9 million visitors and the National Gallery came fourth with £4.5 million.

This is by way of introducing a rather longer exhibitions section than usual!

At a time when the notion of the book is challenged by the advent of the screen and computer, this exhibition aims to show the extraordinary ways in which the book has been treated by leading artists of today and the recent past. Blood on Paper will focus on new and contemporary work, and on books where the artist has been the driving force in conception and design. The past twenty years have seen outstanding work by some of the most influential and respected artists of our time.
V&A Museum
I've been a very busy this last week with botanical art and portraiture and visits to exhibitions and posts about exhibitions:
The Mall Galleries Ladies
4" x 8", pencil and coloured pencil in Moleskine
copyright Katherine Tyrrell
Art materials and techniques
Artist's Studios
Book reviews
Blogging and websites
  • Here are the winners of the Webware 100. These are the 100 best Web 2.0 applications, chosen by Webware readers and Internet users across the globe.
    • Over 1.9 million votes were cast to select these Webware 100 winners, The categories include browsing, commerce and events, communication, productivity, publishing and photography and video.
    • You can see all the winners in one place, or page through the winners one-by-one in the Webware 100 Navigator. Rafe's analysis is worth reading.
    • DeviantArt made it into the top 10 sites under 'social' which is hardly surprising given it's the largest online art community in the world - with a big focus on manga/anime, cartoons and comic books and fan art.
  • Marsha Robinette (The Extraordinary Pencil) experienced one of the less nice aspects of blogging and Blogger this week - which she explains in The Extraordinary Pencil was held Hostage by Blogger!!
  • While I'm sympathetic to what Marsha went through, as one who has had content repeatedly stolen from this blog and inserted in spam blogs I do know how intensely annoying sploggers can be - and I am very much on Blogger's side in relation to them trying to do something about it. But Blogger really does need to get its act together on customer service as well. I really am very fed up from knowing that Google actually makes money from having spam in the system, from reading about how much money Google makes (see below) and then experiencing - as Marsha did this week - how very little of that moola they invest in the sort of customer support that Blogger needs to have. After all, the small technology companies can manage pretty fast response times - so why can't Google? Anybody else out there having problems with clumsy attempts to catch spam?
Google reported revenues of $5.19 billion for the quarter ended March 31, 2008, an increase of 42% compared to the first quarter of 2007 and an increase of 7% compared to the fourth quarter of 2007.
and finally.........

If you've ever had your art or design ripped off there is now a site which fights back. Check out You thought we wouldn't notice.
Welcome to 'you thought we wouldn't notice' a site dedicated to pointing out those thing's that give you that feeling of 'haven't l seen that somewhere before?"
It posts images of 'copies' and copyright rip-offs which I guess the 'originators' thought would pass unnoticed. It's also an open blog, anyone can post their story. You need to read the About page before posting which includes the reasons why you shouldn't post work on the blog.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Volume 1 of The Highgrove Florilegium is published

This week the first volume of the Highgrove Florilegium was published by Addison Publications. In this post I'm looking at
  • the definition of a Florilegium,
  • the publication of the first volume of the Highgrove Florilegium
  • Historical Florilegia
  • Contemporary Florilegia in the making
The Highgrove Florilegium (Volume 1)

What is a Florilegium?

What's a 'florilegium' you may well ask? I'll try and explain. In essence, it's a formal botanical illustration record of a collection of flowers.
Florilegium (plural Florilegia) is a Latin word for a collection of 'flowers' (excellent excerpts), from the corpus of a considerably larger oeuvre. It was adapted from the Greek anthologia or anthology, with the same etymological meaning.
Wikipedia - Florilegium
and a slightly different perspective as to its etymology from World Wide Words
A collection of writings; a portfolio of flower pictures.
This Latin word is from flor–, a flower, and legere, to gather or collect. In that language it didn’t refer literally to flowers, but to little flowers of composition, choice poems or epigrams by various authors (it’s the exact Latin equivalent of the Greek anthology, which derives from anthos, a flower, and –logia, a collection). However, florilegium first appeared in the English language in 1711 in a sense nearer the literal one: describing a collection of flower illustrations.
World Wide Words - Florilegium
According to Christopher Mills, the Librarian at Kew Gardens, the term florilegium is now generally accepted to have been first employed by Adriaen Collaert (1560-1618) in his work simply entitled ‘Florilegium’ published in 1590.

I'd make the additional observation that the meaning of the word in terms of both historical and contemporary florilegia seems to suggest that another aspect of the use of the word relates to it meaning a record of plants associated with a particular place (see both historical and contemporary examples below) whether that be static or visited on a journey.

What is the Highgrove Florilegium?

Painting and horticulture are two major interests of the Prince of Wales which are combined in The Highgrove Florilegium. This started as a project in 2000 to mark the Prince's achievements in his garden and to provide a historical record of the plants. The first volume was published this week after six years work - in his 60th birthday year.

The Highgrove Florilegium will comprise two volumes of 120 watercolours which record the plants in the gardens at Highgrove, which is the family home near Tetbury in Gloucestershire of the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall.

The garden at Highgrove is entirely organic and represents a physical embodiment of the Prince's environmental philosophy that it is better to work with nature than against it. (Note: You can apply to tour the garden at Highgrove in parties of 25 people but there is currently a two year waiting list)
The watercolour paintings of plants in the garden have been produced by some of the best contemporary botanical artists including Fay Ballard (see my posts here and here) Gillian Foster Katherine Manisco, Kate Nessler and Jenny Phillips. Anne Marie Evans, MA FLS, the artist who developed the diploma course in Botanical Painting at the Chelsea Physic Garden leads the selection panel who ensure that the paintings meet the highest standards. I've got access to the complete list if anybody is interested in who else is participating in this project.

You can see slideshows of the works included in the Highgrove Florilegium if you click here and /or here.

There will be a limited edition set of a facsimile of the Highgrove Florilegium in two volumes in a leather half-binding available on subscription at a price of (take a deep breath) £10,950. You may wonder about the price. Well, the production process is very interesting - with an emphasis on quality in terms of both archival quality standards, craftsmanship and hand finishing. Each set will also be signed by the Prince of Wales and it's expected that the second volume will be published next year. All royalties from the publication will be donated to the Prince’s Charities Foundation to support its activities
The images will be printed in England on especially-made archival paper by the stochastic lithographic process, the most up to date and appropriate technique for reproducing the delicacy and detail of watercolour paintings. The text will be printed using Somerset paper, again, in a special making for this publication. Richard Shirley Smith’s drawings of features from the Highgrove garden have been incorporated into endpapers for the book and vignettes for the text. The pages will be collated and sewn by hand in the Yorkshire bindery of Stephen Conway, who runs one of the few craft binderies in England. Victoria Hall in Norwich is marbling the sheets of paper for the sides of the book by hand. The spine and foredge are covered in red chieftain goat skin and especially cut tools have been made for James Brockman, the eminent designer book binder who will hand finish the books in gold leaf
Addison Publications - The Highgrove Florilegium.
The Daily Telegraph has provided a very informative article about the development of the Highgrove Florilegium - Highgrove: the Florilegium returns. The New York Sun also had an article A Modern British Florilegium which related to the recent show of watercolour drawings from the Highgrove collection in New York.

Interestingly, according to the preface written by the Prince of Wales, the Florilegium will be used as archive to help teach botanical art at his School of Traditional Arts in Hoxton - which is in the same building but two floors down from the Princes Drawing School which I go to for my drawing class each week. Maybe I can go there in future to learn more about botanical art?

Florilegium in history

Florilegia had their heyday in the 16th and 17th centuries. Some examples include , and Besler's Hortus Eystettensis, a 17th-century work that contains 367 engraved plates depicting more than 1,000 flowers.

Here are some links to Florilegia in history
  • Jardin du Roy by Pierre Vallet (c. 1575-1657), a record of Henri IV's garden
  • Besler's Hortus Eystettensis (1613) - a copy of which I saw at Kew last Saturday (Kew opens the world's first dedicated botanical art gallery) - contains 367 engraved plates depicting more than 100 flowers and provided a catalogue of the rare specimens growing in the spectacular gardens created in Bavaria by Prince-Bishop Johann Konrad von Gemmingen of Eichstätt
  • Banks' Florilegium - this consists of seven hundred and forty three botanical line engravings, after the watercolours which were drawn to record the plants collected by Sir Joseph Banks and Dr Dabiel Solander in Madeira, Brazil, Tierra del Fuego, the Society Islands, New Zealand, Australia and Java on Captain James Cook's first voyage round the world, 1768-1771.

Florilegium around the world

A number of places in the UK are currently developing florilegia. For example,
The primary aim remains the portrayal of the Garden's entire collection and, as there are more than 5000 plants listed, current members are still merely laying the foundations of a vast project! From the members' annual submission of paintings and pen and ink drawings, work is selected by an independent panel to maintain highest standards. Over 200 watercolours and 120 drawings have currently been accepted. All plant material is grown in the Garden and Herbarium specimens are also prepared. The Head Gardener and his team continue to instruct and help members, willingly providing both cuttings and advice when requested.
Chelsea Physic Garden
In addition, the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew employs botanical artists to record plants at Kew. The current Kew Magazine has an interesting article - Making Masterpieces about this which is available in readable pdf format.

So - are you involved with a Florilegium Society or maybe making a formal record of the flowers in your garden? I'd love to hear from people involved in similar projects.

Friday, April 25, 2008

BP Portrait Award shortlist announced - a woman will win!

The National Portrait Gallery have announced the four artists short-listed this year for one of Britain's most prestigious art prizes - the BP Portrait Award. The backgrounds to both artist and portrait are explained below. The portrait they painted in the above montage is indicated in brackets after their name, the title of the work and the media and size.
  • Simon Davis for Portrait of Amanda Smith at Vincent Avenue oil on board, 650 x 398 mm (top left). Simon Davis RP was elected to membership of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters in 2006 and now exhibits with them every year. He's got an unusual portrait of a fisherman Mick Mahon, Newlyn in this year's RSPP exhibition which opened this week at the Mall Galleries. He is also a member of the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists and has won a number of previous awards. Davis exhibits with the Red Rag Gallery and with other leading galleries. He was born in 1968, trained as a graphic designer and illustrator and has worked as a professional illustrator of contemporary comic books published in the UK and USA. His portrait is of a friend and he says it was inspired by a portrait Toulouse Lautrec did of his mother.
I had previously painted a number of closer-in portraits of Amanda,' he says, 'but this time I wanted the composition to have a calm and contemplative feel to it with a lot of space around it.
Simon Davis
  • Peiyuan Jiang for Untitled oil and acrylic on canvas, 700 x 800 mm (second row). Peiyuan Jiang is 24 and the youngest finalist. He's currently studying for an MA in Fine Art at Chelsea College of Art and Design. He exhibited in the 2007 Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours Annual Exhibition at the Mall Gallery, London, and the 2006 RBSA Friends Exhibition at the RBSA Gallery, Birmingham.
Ever since I saw the BP Portrait Prize last year I'd intended to enter and had been looking for a subject. I only know a little bit about this woman, the small things you glean from being housemates.
Peiyuan Jiang
  • Robert O'Brien for Hannah O'Brien oil on board, 300 x 400 mm (top row, centre). Robert O'Brien is not a watercolour artist in his fifties living in Vermont - as indicated by the Guardian! Robert O'Brien is a figurative portrait artist living and working in London and Gothenburg in Sweden. He started studying for a degree at Buckinghamshire Chilterns University and in his final year was given the opportunity to study abroad at Stenebyskolan, Sweden, where he graduated in 2003 with a BA in Design. His portrait is the smallest in the final and is of his grandmother who died on October 26, 2007. The sittings, which were kept short because of her poor health, took place in a Care Centre in Hayes, Middlesex.
I've always thought of my Grandmother as a strong, determined woman who overcame great hardships and difficulties in her life and that is how I wanted to portray her.
Robert O'Brien
  • Craig Wylie for K oil on canvas, 2100 x 1650 mm (top row, right) Craig Wylie was born in Zimbabwe in 1973 but now lives in the UK and has a studio in London at Hackney Wick. In 1996, he graduated with distinction in fine art from Rhodes University in South Africa. He has exhibited widely and is a gallery artist with Park Gallery. He also paints still life and floral works. The portrait is of his girlfriend Katherine Raw - who was also the subject of a portrait K.R. hung in the 2005 exhibition. This year's portrait is nearly three times larger than the next largest painting.
On one level the viewer's intrusion into the sitters emotional state is tacitly accepted. On another it is positively rebuffed.
Craig Wylie
The competition was judged from original paintings by this year's panel
A woman will win

A portrait of a woman that is......

I wonder if it's a first that all four portraits in the short-list are of women?

The fact that there is no female artist in the short-listed finalists (as in 2007 and 2005.........) is certainly not a fact I'd want to celebrate - hence the irony of the title of this post. There was one female finalist in 2006 and one in 2004 and a female artist did win in 2003 so it's not all bad news!

I'm not criticising the panel - I'm sure they picked what they saw as the best. Rather I'm suggesting that many more women artists need to enter competitions like this and the exhibitions with prestigious awards like the Ondaatje (as covered yesterday - see end). There are certainly many women artists who are extremely competent portrait painters and yet, as demonstrated for example by the membership of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters the portrait world seems to be overwhelmingly dominated by artists of the male gender! (Note: women members represent 6% of the elected membership of the RSPP)

Who will win?

I'm wondering which artist/portrait will win. Having spent last night wrestling with contre jour lighting I'd have to say that Craig Wylie set himself the biggest challenge - the other three seem to me to have fewer difficulties to overcome in relation to lighting. However I'm not wholly convinced that Peiyuan's skin tones are consistent with a painting from life in an outside environment.

Simon Davies demonstrates how one can be inspired by a painting by another artist - and yet still paint your own painting in your own style. Speaking personally, although I like a number of his portraits, I have to say I prefer the washy style of the original.

The artist's mother - Comtesse Adele de Toulouse-Lautrec at breakfast, Malromé Chateau (c1881-3)
Toulouse Lautrec

Finally, I found while writing this post that the portrait which continually draws me in the most is Robert O'Brien's portrait of his grandmother. Its a macro perspective which doesn't aim to flatter in a cosmetic sense and reminds me somewhat of Sue Rubira's work. She's an example of a very fine woman artist whose watercolour portraits are excluded from this competition because of the limitations as to media.

What are your thoughts as to which looks like a winner?

Prizes: The prizewinner will be announced at an Awards Ceremony on the evening of Monday 16 June (5 days after the exhibition opens on Thursday 12th June).

The winner of the BP Portrait Award receives a cash prize of £25,000 and a commission from the National Portrait Gallery worth £4,000. The second prize is £8,000 and the third prize is £6,000. In addition there is a BP Young Artist Award of £5,000 for the work of an entrant aged between 18 and 30. Peiyuan Jiang and Robert O'Brien are both eligible for this award. I've already done a little number-crunching for you. In principle, I think this means that the maximum value that could be awarded is to an artist aged under 30 who wins the BP (£34,000) and the least any of the above artists is leaving with is nothing (an artist aged under 30 who comes 4th).

Press coverage of the finalists and this year's award is listed in the links at the end.

Who entered? The rules for who can submit were changed a year ago to make it open to all artists over the age of 18. This year there have been a record number of entries from non-UK artists and those over the age of 40. Here are some of the facts
  • 1,727 registered entries were received.
    • 780 (45%) were from artists aged 40 or over.
    • 536 entries (31% of the total) came from outside the UK.
  • 55 portraits have been selected for the exhibition which runs at the National Portrait Gallery from 12 June to 14 September.
    • 38 from the UK (that's 3.2% of the UK entries and 2.2% of the total entries)
    • 17 from abroad (3.2% of the overseas entries and 0.98% of the total entry)
As you can see slightly more than 3% of the portraits submitted will be hung in the exhibition. An artist submitting from overseas has 1 in 100 chance of being hung in the exhibition, while a UK based artist has a slightly better chance - 2 in 100! Obviously lots of people have either thought these are better odds than winning the Lottery or haven't actually calculated them based on last year's entry.

This year's finalists all currently live in the UK although two have come to the UK from overseas. All, as highlighted above, are male. Maybe next time the NPG could provide statistics about gender?

About the BP Portrait Award

This is the 29th year of The Portrait Award at the National Portrait Gallery and the 19th year that it has been sponsored by BP. It's very much an event which is aimed at encouraging artists to focus upon, and develop, the theme of painted portraiture within their work. I know, from the amount of hits that my blog gets relating to my previous posts about this exhibition, that there is an awful lot of interest in this competition and the entry rules.

The exhibition opens on 12 June and runs until 14 September 2008. It's always an interesting exhibition and very well worth a visit if you are coming to London over the summer.

Another portrait in the news

A portrait of Tony Blair painted by Phil Hale was unveiled yesterday. It's not the most flattering of portraits and looks to me rather as if the relative proportions of body and head weren't sized correctly. Here's the coverage from the BBC News and the Guardian. If I've got the right link for the artist I'm very curious as to the reason why this artist was picked given the nature of other work on the gallery site.

and finally.....

For those of you who read yesterday's post about the exhibition at the Mall Galleries James Lloyd wins The Ondaatje Prize for Portraiture the technical hitch has been overcome and I've now got images of the 3 of the 4 prize-winning portraits added into the blog post.