Thursday, May 21, 2015

Society of Botanical Artists - Diploma Assignments

Students of the Society of Botanical Artists' Distance Learning Diploma Course come from all over the world.

Over time, rather than being isolated in their studies and studios, they've come up with a few ways to keep in touch over the 27 months as they work their way through the various assignments and their portfolio and the work for assessment at the end of the course.

One is the Facebook Group for Botanical Artists (3,426 members as of today - and climbing all the time). Another is blogging and there are now quite a few botanical art blogs!
Along the way some of those studying for the Diploma decided to share what they were doing and how their assignments were going on their blogs.

Then they started to share the feedback they got - plus tips for how to do things - and the process they were using to develop their artwork....

I've been watching and reading some of these blog posts for a long time. It suddenly struck me that they were a resource that could be lost if not made a tad more accessible. (For example, just as they are always lost forever if similar posts are made on Facebook - because that archive is not easily accessible if at all)

Hence why I've now created a new page devoted to blog posts about SBA Diploma Assignments on my new website Botanical Art and Artists.

Each of the assignments is listed in order:
  • they include the outline of what is involved in each assignment
  • this is followed by blog posts which relate to this Diploma assignment (note the numbering has changed of late)
Artwork produced by the SBA Distance Learning Diploma Students
- as seen at this year's SBA Annual Exhibition
So if you're starting the SBA in January 2016 - or have already started and are a bit stuck with your current assignment - why not go and have a read of some of the blog posts!

I'd like to thank all the ladies whose blog posts have been included on the page. The name of the blog is indicated in italics.  Those whose names are highlighted in red were awarded a Distinction for their Diploma.

  • Vicki Lee Johnston DipSBA(Dist.) (Vicki Lee Johnston - Botanical Art- Lives in Western Australia - and of course all the seasons are out of synch with the course! Vicki graduated from the Diploma Course with Distinction and I found her posts very helpful.
North America - Canada & USA
  • Laura Ashton DipSBA BAC (Laura Ashton Illustration and Design) - Lives in Canada. In 2014, Laura Ashton was awarded a Diploma with credit and the Jantien Burggraaff Memorial Award for progress. In 2015 she became a member of the Botanical Artists of Canada. 
  • Lori Vreeke (Art by Vreeke) - Lives in California, USA. Her assignments are completed in coloured pencil
  • Helen Cousins (Petals and Paints) Started January 2014 and due to complete early in 2016. Helen is currently studying medicine in Southampton. Helen's posts are excellent in providing feedback on how her assignments were marked thus providing lots of information for those currently studying or thinking about doing the Diploma course.
  • Jarnie Godwin AssocSBA DipSBA(Dist.) (Sketchbook Squirrel) - Jarnie was awarded a Distinction for her Diploma work
  • Jessica R Shepherd DipSBA (Inky Leaves) - Lived in London and now lives in Spain
  • Dianne Sutherland (Dianne Sutherland - botanical artist) - Dianne was awarded a Distinction in 2011; she's one of the Moderators of the Facebook Group and has been an artist and illustrator for 30+ years.

I learned a lot from this exercise

Vicki Lee Johnstone - with her Diploma with Distinction
The first thing I learned is that it's not difficult to predict who will be awarded a Distinction from their assignment work during their course of studies - and often from an early stage. 

It's something to do with the commitment and the approach to research and preparation. 

It's also something to do with the character of an individual who does NOT choose the easy option but rather chooses a challenge.  

It reminded me very much of the character of and the processes employed by the artists I meet who win RHS Gold Medals for their botanical art.

The next lesson I learned is that just as the standard of Diploma work produced at the end of assignments has progressively improved in recent years, so too has the standard of work produced for the Diploma assignments.

What struck me very forcibly is that it's never too early to start taking this form of art seriously and that putting time, effort and research into the process of producing an artwork pays off in the long run.

Before long they're going to have to start a pre-Diploma Certificate Course to get people up to the standard they need to be to take on the Diploma!

The final lesson was the sheer pleasure to be gained by following somebody's journey and watching them improve how they work and what they produce as a result of a structured process of learning. As somebody who has a degree in Education and qualified as a teacher a very long time ago, that's an experience I never ever tire of.

and finally......

This Diploma course has had a hugely positive impact on the calibre of work shown in the SBA's Annual Exhibition.

It also generates tuition fee income for the society which is paid over in fees for those who teach and assess the course.

I'm just left wondering why more art societies don't develop their own Diploma Courses......

A Making A Mark Interview with Margaret Stevens is the interview I did back in 2009 with the past President of the SBA Margaret Stevens PPSBA, FSBA. Margaret was the first Director of the Course. She was also the person who got it off the ground and the person who wrote the four SBA books which are set texts for the Diploma Course. It's an education in how to get an art society involved in improving standards of artwork.


  1. Thank you so much for including me on the site Katherine.
    This is a most valuable resource for SBA students and hopefully will provide inspiration for those contemplating further education in the art field, no matter the genre.
    I appreciate the work this must have taken to read through all the blog posts and compile into such an orderly reference.
    I hope readers will enjoy following the journey.
    "It's never to late to be who you might have been" George Eliot

  2. Thank you very much for making all of this possible, Katherine. Although I'm not a blogger, I have been able to stay in touch with a few of my compatriots. . . and the happenings at the SBA, of course.
    I cannot even imagine what it took to compile all of the information and I, for one, appreciate your blog very much.
    You are truly and inspiration to me.

  3. It's always interesting to read your observations, Katherine! Thank you for promoting botanical art, and those that practice in it. We are indebted to you for the wealth of information you make so easily available. Thanks for including me in the listing as well.


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