Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Society of Botanical Artists - The Botanical Palette exhibition

A 'slice' of "The Botanical Palette"
the 22nd Annual Exhibition of the Society of Botanical Artists
Central Hall, Westminster 18-27 April 2007
copyright: art - the artists; photo - Katherine Tyrrell

I visited the 22nd Annual Exhibition of the Society of Botanical Artists (SBA) yesterday. This year, the Society is celebrating the publication of its second book and its title is reflected in the title of the exhibition "The Botanical Palette".

The Botanical Palette
published by Harper Collins
in association with the SBA and the Smithsonian Institute
(read my book review NEW: The Botanical Palette: Colour for the Botanical Painter)

This year the exhibition starts with a special section reflecting the colour palette of botanical painters. Part of this section of the exhibition is shown on the back wall of the photo at the top of this post. Examples of botanical art have then been hung to reflect the colour spectrum beginning with pure white and moving through all the colours in sequence right through to black.

I understand that this year the Society has had more submissions of work for the exhibition than ever before and, for the very first time, it has had to designate work as 'Accepted Not Hung'. However, the SBA has managed to include 768 drawings and paintings, 9 miniatures and 30 sculptures in the exhibition - and all work is for sale. Not all work is of the 'strict' botanical style and some of it is relates to 'flowers and gardens' which is the normal theme of the exhibition. This year I saw much more variation in style and approach than ever before.

You can see work from the exhibition in the Gallery on the Society's website. I'd like to offer the SBA very many congratulations for being the only art society this year (so far!) which has managed to load images of work in the exhibition on to its website and made them available to view at the same time as the exhibition! It's just as much work to do it afterwards - and so much more beneficial to have images available in time for the exhibition. Would that more art societies followed the SBA's lead in this respect!

A display of work by students of the SBA Distance Learning
Diploma Course

The exhibition also has a display of work by the students of the Distance Learning Diploma Course
(see right - apologies for the dim photo but no flash was used and the bright light illuminating the work was a challenge for adjusting levels in PS).

No doubt the increased number of entries to the exhibition in part reflects the enormous success of its Distance Learning Course and the high quality work of the students and those who have been awarded the Diploma. Three courses have now been completed and some 200 students from all over the world are currently engaged in courses 4 and 5. I've started discussions with the SBA about doing a longer post about the Diploma Couse later in the year.

As you'd expect there is much botanical art work of a very high standard in the exhibition. The Society boasts many winners of prestigious awards including the coveted RHS Gold and Silver Gilt medals and members' paintings are owned worldwide by both major institutions and collectors. There are also pictures which conform to the 'flowers and gardens' theme of the exhibition. Watercolour is very much the favoured medium of many of the artists and many display huge skill in the execution of their work. Other media are also used and of the framed drawings and paintings on display there are works in graphite pencil, pen and ink, coloured pencil, gouache, oils, pastels, collage and, finally, etching and aqua tint. In addition to framed works the show often includes a number of jewellery and glass artists whose work also contains a botanical content.

Society of Botanical Artists: Prize Winners in 2008

Libby Carreck
These are as follows:
  • The St Cuthbert's Mill Award for an outstanding watercolour painting has been awarded to Libby Carreck SBA for her Phalaenopsis. (on the front cover of the catalogue and the book). Her other works in the show were etchings. Fiona Strickland was the runner-up - I found her work to be simply stunning. I'd love to know more about this artist.
  • The Joyce Cuming Presentation Award: went to Eiko Hamada - for her Brassica capitata (aka 'Cabbage') with Margaret Brooker as the runner-up for her Loquat
  • The Margaret Granger Memorial Silver Bowl: (this is awarded to a member within 2 years of becoming a full member) Sylvia Balch SBA SM - for a suite of work primarily rhododendrons
  • The Daler Rowney Choice Award: awarded to Wendy Cranston FSBA for a suite of work in gouache, sepia and watercolour
  • Ling Design Greeting Cards Award: Barbara McGirr NDD ATD SBA for her Freesia and Amaryllis. Her work was notable for the saturation of her colours.
  • The President's Award for for artists concerned with the environment - this was awarded to Yvonne Edwards SBA SGM CBM Yvonne had two lovely watercolour paintings of an Autumn Mandrake and a Beetroot - with its flowers.
  • The President's Award for Work in Other Media - to Helen Hanson SBA for her etching and aquatint of Sea Air
  • Certificates of Botanical Merit are awarded to artists have been awarded to:
    • Yvonne Edwards, SBA SGM CBM for her Dandelion which I loved
    • Ann Swan, SBA GM. for her her Prickly pear. Anne works in coloured pencil and is a former winner of the President's and People's Choice Awards and her work this year can be seen on the left hand wall of the top picture.
    • Brigitte E M Daniel SBA GM CBM (whose work on auriculas can be seen in a photo on my blog post about the RHS Winter Show here)
    • Carolyn J Worby SBA SGM CBM for a Decaying Magnolia Leaf. All Carolyn's work (seeds and leaves) on display was done in pencil. Her award-winning work was very fine.
    • Annie Morris BSc, SBA SFP SGM I very much liked both her Rowan and Mistletoe
    • Bridget Gillespie GM - for Helleborus orientalis 'Queen of the Night'
    • Sandra Wall Armitage DA(Man) NDD SBA for her Helleborus Collection
    • Beth Philip SBA - for her Rubus phoenicolasius (or 'Japanese wineberry') I particularly liked the design of her watercolour painting of Solarnum lycopersicum
    • Brenda Watts SBA GM CBM for her classic Seed Heads and Berries
  • The People's Choice Award will be announced at the end of the exhibition. For the record I voted for Paul Fennell's Brussels Sprouts (which you can see on the website and on the back cover of the catalogue - see right) as the colour saturation and modulation are remarkable - plus it's a veggie and you all know how I like my vegetables! He also contributed work to The Botanical Palette.
Brussel Sprouts
Paul Fennell SBA

(Note: GM means Gold Medal (RHS); CBM means Certificate of Botanical Merit)
Exhibition Details

The Exhibition venue is The Lecture Hall, Central Hall, Westminster, Storey’s Gate London SW1. It is open every day from 10.00am to 5.00pm (including Sundays) Sunday 27 April. Admission is free but the catalogues cost £5. Again I'd like to congratulate the SBA on having the best catalogue of all the ones I've collected this year to date. It's well laid out and in addition to the listings it contains a number of colour images on work on display on the the central pages. It makes an excellent record of the exhibition as well as containing much useful information.

There are daily demonstrations by SBA members working in different media.

Exhibitions in 2009

Botanical artists in Europe might like to make a note to check the SBA website for future announcements about their plans to have an exhibition at Palmengarten, Frankfurt in 2009.

The dates for the 23rd Annual 'Flowers and Gardens' Exhibition in 2009 are 24 April - 3 May at the same venue, Central Hall, Westminster SW1. Exhibition entry schedules are available from Mrs Pamela Henderson, the Executive Secretary. There's usually a call for entries inserted into the usual UK art journal. Submission Forms for the Botanical Palette Open Exhibition are sent out in the latter half of January 2008 and the Receiving Day is in February.

And finally.........I gave my new camera a good work-out on the flower beds in St James Park and I think I'm getting the hang of it. I'm certainly ecstatic at the results - partly because fortuitously I caught the time when the sun was low in the sky and got backlighting and 'before and after' sun on some glorious parrot tulips.

Here's an example of some fritillaries (which I always think of as the Mackintosh flower - see Flowers in Art... and Charles Rennie Mackintosh) which were growing about 30 feet away on the edge of the lake. I then got home to find that Cosmo had sent my new pot of fritillaries (for drawing) flying and the flowers were no more!
Fritillaries in St James Park
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

[Update: I went back today, after the RSPP Private View and filled in the inadvertent gaps I found when writing the above post. Overall I also noted a lot more coloured pencil work. I also understand the exhibition has been very busy today and sales have been very brisk with the value of total sales by the end of Wednesday afternoon exceeding those for the whole exhibition last year. Obviously any "economic slowdown" isn't being felt in the botanical art world!]


  1. Look at all that greenery! What more appropriate way to spend Earth Day than to visit such an amazing gallery of work! Lucky duck :)

  2. Thank you for showing this wonderful exhibition, it really is an inspiration. Sorry about your fritillarys, I've been hunting for these for my own garden for many years without success!

  3. That Distance Learning course is always so tempting Katherine, and so expensive :(

    I love your photograph of the Fritillaries (you still haven't posted about which camera you bought). I planted some this year, having never seen them before and being absolutely enchanted by the idea of check flowers. Only a couple bloomed and, as they were much smaller than I expected, I photographed them but haven't yet gotten around to painting them.

    I have a real mental block about cutting flowers from the garden for the table, or for art. It's strange, since I will happily buy cut flowers.

  4. Very nice photograph. I love to paint and photograph flowers because they're like finger prints, two are never the same : >


COMMENTS HAVE BEEN CLOSED AGAIN because of too much spam.
My blog posts are always posted to my Making A Mark Facebook Page and you can comment there if you wish.

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.