Tuesday, March 22, 2011

How to enter the RHS Botanical Art Show

This post is about how enter the Annual Botanical Art Show held by the Royal Horticultural Society in the Horticultural Halls in London.

Although this blog focuses on how to enter major art society exhibitions and art competitions in the UK I've never previously highlighted what you need to do if you want to exhibit in the RHS Botanical Art Exhibition (see yesterday's post RHS Botanical Art Show & Five Gold Medal Winners )

RHS Botanical Ar Exhibition 2007:  "Ten Walks in Virginia"
a sample of drawings from Lara Call Gastinger's RHS Gold Medal winning collection
Drawings copyright Lara Call Gastinger
Photo copyright Katherine Tyrrell
What's the purpose of the exhibition?

This is an exhibition of botanical illustration.  The emphasis is on botanical accuracy and excellent technique. The aim is to create an exhibition of of botanical art by between 20-25 artists, with each exhibiting round about eight works.  

Who can enter?

This is an open exhibition.  Anybody can enter.  People selected to exhibit can live anywhere in the world and the exhibition frequently has an international flavour. 

What sort of art is eligible?
Consideration will only be given to works that are primarily of botanical interest, and paintings and drawings should be at least life-size.
What's suitable
  • a botanical subject of your choice
  • artwork with a coherent theme (artists typically give their exhibition a name)
  • illustrations of botanical interest
  • artwork which maintain a very high standard of botanical accuracy
  • (preferably) artwork where the subject matter is life size
  • artwork of any dimension (within reason)
What's not suitable
  • work which might more accurately described as floral art
  • work that lacks botanical accuracy or is misleading
  • minitiature artwork
How is the art judged?

Overall, it's a balance between botanical accuracy, artistic effect, quality of technique and overall presentation.
Exhibits of groups of drawings or paintings are assessed first and foremost as botanical illustration. Judges should assess both the individual quality of the drawings / paintings and the quality of the way they are presented as an exhibit. They should assess the overall impression and how this has been achieved both in relation to its botanical content and artistic effect.
This is an exhibition which very usefully sets out PRECISELY what the judges are looking for and will mark up.   See
The composition and overall design - of both each piece and how the series works as a whole is seen as very important.  

To a certain extent, at this level, excellence in draughtsmanship and skills in painting are almost taken for granted.  It's what takes excellent work to the next level that makes for a Gold Medal as opposed to a Silver Gilt, Silver or Bronze
The following may be regarded as positive features in assessing an exhibit:
  1. good draughtsmanship and, when applicable, good painterly skills
  2. that the depiction of plants or plant material is botanically accurate
  3. that each picture is well composed
  4. that the space allocated in which to hang the pictures is well-filled without being overcrowded
  5. that the exhibit has an overall unity
  6. that any written information is accurate and well presented and includes the Latin name
  7. that any frames, mounts or other accessories used are appropriate in style, scale and condition
  8. that the design of the display enhances the appearance of the drawings or paintings
They are also very clear about what loses you points
  1. that the exhibit does not conform to the rules for exhibiting as published in the relevant Manual or Show Schedule
  2. that the depiction of plants or plant material is botanically inaccurate or horticulturally misleading
  3. that the composition or execution of any picture is not satisfactory
  4. that the space allocated in which to hang the pictures is not well-filled or is overcrowded
  5. that the exhibit does not have an overall unity
  6. that any written information is inaccurate or not well presented
  7. that any frames, mounts or other accessories used are not appropriate in style, scale and appearance
  8. that the design of the display detracts from the appearance of the drawings or paintings
If you look at the work by Carolyn Jenkins you can see why it won the best exhibit award.
  • Each of the paintings are extremely well designed while having a very strong theme around botanical illustration with sections and stages of development in each paintings.  
  • It's also framed and well presented and the overall series of paintings have an overall unity. 
Note that it's by no means essential to frame work.  However what the judges are looking for is a top notch level of presentation even if the works are just presented in mats which are perfectly acceptable.  You also can't do a mix of framed and mounted only.

RHS 2011 - Camellias by Annie Hughes
How do I enter? 

Those artists not already known to the selectors have to pass an "admission" test by submitting a portfolio of four works. 
  • UK residents have have to submit actual artwork (which does not have to be framed but must be mounted). 
  • Artists living overseas can submit fine art prints instead at this stage. 
The portfolio is then used to assess whether the work of the artist is of the standard required for this exhibition.  It would appear that the work does not even need to be what you would submit to the exhibition as works do not need to be on a theme.

Around about 20 artists are then selected and invited to have a space at the exhibition.  Woe betide the selected artist who then pulls out - you cannot then submit work for two years!

What's the deadline for entry? 

The closing date for submitting a sample of work for consideration is 30 June 2011 (for exhibition in 2012). 


The following Royal Horticultural Society medals are available for award:
  • Gold Medal
  • Silver-Gilt Medal
  • Silver Medal
  • Bronze Medal
In addition, the RHS may purchase work from artists, particularly gold medal winners.


1 comment:

  1. Dear Ms Katherine
    your article on How to enter the RHS botanical art show is indeed an eyeopener. amateur artist and botanist like me have to distinguish clearly what is botanical illustration and what is floral art. topic like this help to moderate our views and help to concentrate on developing our skills in the right directions


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