Friday, June 08, 2012

Review: Rosie Sanders "Against the Light"

Rosie Sanders and her painting of Cannas 2
watercolour painting on Arches paper
118 x 178cm

I've previously written on this blog about Rosie Sanders and large scale flower painting - so it was an especial pleasure yesterday to go to the Private View of the Against the Light exhibition at the Jonathan Cooper Park Walk Gallery in Chelsea to meet with Rosie Sanders and to see her very large watercolour paintings of flowers.

The "Against the Light" exhibition opens to the public on 8 June and continues until 23 June 2012.
Interested in the play of light and its effect on the colour, pattern and surface of the flowers, Sanders uses dramatic lighting to recreate the glow of sunshine through the petals. For this exhibition she focuses on the changing stages in the life cycle of flowers
Once a botanical artist has "proved" their technical levels of excellence (eg RHS Gold Medal - Rosie has five) it's what they then do next which particularly interests me. I personally very much like botanical artists who push the boundaries of botanical art and take their art to the next step and create something which is very distinctive and unique to them.  These are the artists whose work is immediately recognisable.  Rosie is certainly one such artist.  
A new exhibition of large-scale watercolours of flowers, painted from life. Sanders striking close-ups of flower heads in watercolour are painted on a hugely magnified scale, and can be as large as 5ft across and up to ten times bigger than the flowers she is depicting.
You can see just how large her watercolour paintings are from my photographs.

I already knew that it was her habit to work on full sheets of Arches 640 gsm paper (which she doesn't stretch).  However there are paintings even bigger than that in this exhibition.  Rosie told me she had a commission for a painting that was even larger than a whole sheet and decided to do more afterwards.  She had to cut paper from a roll for this and then stretch it afterwards (turned over and spray and sponge the back evenly / let it settle / tape down and let dry / then release tension and trim tape).

Against the Light
watercolour on Arches 640gsm, 102 x 154cm
© Rosie Sanders

I particularly liked the paintings of the cannas and the amaryllis - the two largest paintings in the show.  One of the interesting aspects of painting even larger is the compositional conundrum it can create if your flowers are to remain 'of a size' with others in an exhibition - and how that might be resolved.

It was therefore very interesting to see how Rosie tackled the compositional challenge - and also to appreciate the quality of light in both paintings.

A Rose in Winter, (dying) Delphiniums and Tulipa
watercolour on Arches 640gsm
© Rosie Sanders

Rosie first started painting large paintings when commissioned to produce a large image.  Her initial design had been a triptych - which the client liked but wanted as one painting.  Having done one she did more and her paintings are now much admired and sell for large sums!  Her work has been compared to that of Georgia O'Keeffe although to my mind Rosie tends to paint the whole flower rather than parts of flowers as O'Keeffe did.

I'd recommend anybody interested in floral and botanical art should go and see this exhibition if they can.

Magnolias © Rosie Sanders
Magnolia x soulangiana 1 and 2
watercolour on Arches 640gsm
© Rosie Sanders
More about Rosie Sanders

Rosie Sanders (b.1944) lives and works in Devon. She is a member of the Linnean Society and has won several awards including the Royal Academy miniature award and five Royal Horticultural Gold Medals.

There is a Rosie Sanders blog on her recently updated website - with an RSS feed so you can subscribe to it in Google Reader.

Rosie also teaches

  • She runs courses from her home in Devon - in June, July, and November.
  • She also has a new teaching DVD Painting A Leaf with Rosie Sanders - and you can see a speeded up extract on YouTube (see below).  The video covers four different types of leaves - an apple leaf, a furry leaf, a shiny leaf and a variegated leaf.  It covers the setting up and the colours used as well as the approach to painting each different leaf.

  • Rose Sanders -
  • Jonathan Cooper Park Walk Gallery - was established in 1988. Since then the gallery has gained a reputation for championing contemporary artists specialising in figurative, botanical and wildlife art who have gone on to become leaders in their fields. 
    • The gallery is open Monday – Friday 10am – 6.30pm and Saturday 11am – 4pm. 
    • Free Admission. 
    • Park Walk Gallery, 20 Park Walk, London SW10 0AQ
    • General Enquiries: +44 (0) 207 351 0410
PS  For what I did next see Croissant and cupcake at Gail's, Fulham Road Chelsea

More about Botanical Art


  1. That so awesome
    i whises i cut go to this Excibition. Thank you for all the Informations in this Post.
    And happy Painting

    from Switzerland

  2. lovely work - I wish I could get down to see this but not possible just now :>(

  3. Great post - thanks for posting this Katherine otherwise I would have totally missed the exhibition. I had no idea it was on. I love Rosie's work - so inspiring. Still saving up to do a course with her in Devon!


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