Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Review: Florum 2012

Susan Christopher Coulson won the first Elizabeth Smail Memorial Award at the Florum Botanical Art Exhibition 2012 in Sevenoaks.

The late Liz Smail's sister who presented the award said that Liz had always emphasised colour and composition when teaching her students.  She then confessed to knowing little about art - but made sure she used the two imperatives about colour and composition to guide her in choosing an artwork to receive the Award for the first time.  She did well!

The Elizabeth Smail Memorial Award
“Colour mutation - Rosa mutabilis” (£995) by Susan Christoper Coulson
Coloured Pencil
I saw the exhibition at the PV on Friday night - and this review has been slightly delayed by three things:

  • very good weather - we were out all weekend!
  • the Press preview for the big Autumn exhibition at Tate Britain yesterday
  • not forgetting - I mislaid the catalogue which had all my notes - including the vital ones which say "feature this artist as well as the listings of artists, titles and prices!  (I live in dread of doing this. I've never yet done it but have one or two close calls - and this was one of them!)

However I do want to emphasise that all botanical art lovers in the South East only have until Saturday 15th September to see the Florum Exhibition in Sevenoaks.  I gather sales have been brisk - however there are lots of very attractive high quality prints as well as originals.

Can I suggest you take a look at last year's review - see Exhibition Review: Florum 2011 - in Sevenoaks - for what I like about this exhibition, plus tips which other art societies might want to copy, as these are essentially unchanged.

View of part of the exhibition - there's lots to see
what you can see in this photo is only about a third of the exhibition!
More views of work in the exhibition below

Exhibiting Artists

Florum is unique amongst the botanical art exhibitions that I'm aware of in that it's an "invite only" exhibition - and that 'invite' is not limited to the strictly botanical illustrator.

The exhibition includes 333 pieces of artwork of various media - although the majority are paintings.  You can see examples of work from some of the more than 60 artists who are exhibiting in three galleries on the website: gallery onegallery two; and gallery three.

Many artists are also members of a variety of other groups including The Linnean Society, the Royal Watercolour Society, the Pastel Society, the Royal Society of Miniature Painters as well as the Society of Botanical Artists and/or the Society of Floral Painters (Society of Floral Painters blog).

Exhibiting artists use a variety of media and a variety of styles.  You can see some examples above and below.

Artwork by Karen Birchwood
Mixed media
typically priced £285
Artists whose work caught my eye

There are a number of new artists this year - but I'm not sure which these are.

Karen Birchwood's paintings of flowers and gardens are very decorative and appealing to the eye.  They also look very good when displayed with one another!  

Karin is a former textile designer who is now a full time painter who participates in a lot of exhibitions and obviously has a faithful following.  Her work is mainly in acrylic and mixed media, on canvas, board or paper. 

She has preferences for a palette of particular colours - which you can see on in the garden/flowers page on her website - which have the happy knack of looking good with one another.

I love Wendy Cranston FSBA's paintings in gouache.  The only thing that stops me from buying one is the fact I would have to buy two or three as I just love seeing them hung together!  Her control of her media, composition within a square and colour palette are three of the reasons I like her work. That and that fact it doesn't look like anybody else's.  I'd love to be able to show you her website - but I don't think she has one.

Gouache paintings of fruit and wisteria by Wendy Cranston FSBA
work is typically priced at £195
Penny Stenning is a member of the Society of Botanical Artists - who wins Certificates of Botanical Merit - a Fellow of the Chelsea Physic Garden Florilegium Society, and also paints for the Eden Project.  Her work impressed me - she has a meticulous approach to drawing her subjects.  However the reason she's getting a mention is that she caught my eye with the composition and colour of two different works hung in different parts of the exhibition - her watercolour paintings of Sage and the weeds you can see below.

Some weeds of cultivation (£400) watercolour painting by Penny Stenning SBA
Again Penny is an artist with no website - the link is to her page on the SBA website.  If you're interested Penny teaches botanical illustration - details of how to find her curses are on the SBA members courses webpage.

Old Year, New Year (£330) - watercolour by Sue J Williams
Sue J Williams SBA is also a Fellow of the Chelsea Physic Garden Florilegium Society and also caught my eye with a couple of pieces and Variations on a Theme.  The latter because its format was something I had in mind for a piece of botanical artwork about alliums and it was interesting to see another artist's interpretation of how best to use it.

There is lots to like if you like printmaking in this exhibition.  This year I was particularly struck by the simplicity and the complexity of Helen Hanson's Summer Fields.

Summer Fields (etching/aquatint £290) by Helen Hanson 



  1. A really great post Katherine. I can't make the exhibition myself this year, so many thanks for featuring so many of the really beautiful works that caught your eye.

  2. Thanks for this spectacular review Katherine - I haven't been able to get to Seven Oaks so your illustrated article as been very much needed (and enjoyed) by yours truly. I hope you manage to sort out your commenting problem on google soon. Many thanks again. J


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