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Botanical Illustrator's Handbook

Botanical Illustrator's Handbook

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Botanical Illustrator's Handbook

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5/5 (1 évaluation)
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274 pages
1 heure
Éditeur:
Sortie:
Apr 30, 2014
ISBN:
9781847977182
Format:
Livre

Description

The Botanical Illustrator's Handbook takes a closer look at how to accurately portray the riches of the botanical world. It tackles and explains many of the difficulties that artists encounter so they can extend and expand their choice of subject matter. Written by a respected artist and drawing on her wealth of experience, it offers new insights and a fresh approach to the wonders of botanical illustration.Topics covered include: advice on the labelling and quality of paper, and choice of pencils, paints and brushes; techniques for the mixing and handling of greens; chapters on magnification, managing detail and using scale bars; instructions for using perspective techniques, and painting complex structures such as pine cones and umbellifers, and tricky details such as hairs. Full of advice on labelling, quality of paper, artist materials and mixing techniques and superbly illustrated with 160 colour illustrations.
Éditeur:
Sortie:
Apr 30, 2014
ISBN:
9781847977182
Format:
Livre

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Botanical Illustrator's Handbook - Sally Pinhey

Lychees.

INTRODUCTION

‘I don’t know why you bother. I could do that in a hundredth of a second with my camera’ and ‘You have wasted your paper’ are among the most deflating remarks that can be made to a botanical artist. Yet we do bother more and more. It is true that photography is a quicker and therefore much cheaper means of illustration. Cameras and digital enhancement also improve so fast that every year it is possible to achieve more with them. Yet the artist’s eye sees in a different way to the camera; the artist can analyse and isolate and show flower parts more clearly and with greater charm. The artist can also show stages of development and different seasons in one illustration so that it contains a more useful body of plant information.

While photography may have robbed botanical illustrators of some of their markets, it has also contributed to some of their techniques, helping to capture fleeting information on fragile structures. In the same way that improvements in optical instruments since the eighteenth century promoted botanical interest and discovery, so time-lapse photography has aided plant understanding for both scientists and illustrators. Where a painting has invested a flower with a glacial china-like stillness, however, I tend to think that the source photograph for it might have served equally well.

Go to any specialist botanical art exhibition in a city or country area and you will see a breath-taking selection of meticulously-painted flowers and plants. The strength and depth of botanical art skill in many countries are a source of wonder and delight. These artists have practised for years and reached the point where work of a high quality can be shown. For someone who teaches the subject, as I do, the popularity of this art form is most gratifying. The work on show gives little hint of any underlying weaknesses. Yet talk to the artists and ask why they chose that particular subject to paint and another view of the range of skills may emerge.

Naturally artists have their preferred subject matter. This may be influenced by personal attraction to colour or shape, academic interest, what grows in their garden, or by process of elimination what they choose not to paint because it is outside their comfort zone.

How often has an artist longed to paint a flower and found it has wilted before even the first drawing is complete? How many paintings on display show an uncharacteristically reduced amount of foliage? How many flowers are shown only face on or in profile to avoid the difficulty of a three-quarter view?

A love of plants is a given for botanical artists, and a love of colour will draw many to the blowsy garden varieties. Yet most plants are worthy of attention and description, and many are quite challenging in terms of composition and pictorial qualities.

While the botanist’s description and botanical key will serve to identify a plant, the old adage ‘A picture is worth a thousand words’ holds true, especially if the picture is accurate. Botanical artists may yet hold the key to public plant awareness and conservation at a time when animals hold centre stage in research funding.

This book aims to deal with the difficulties that limit the choice of the artist’s subject. It should challenge and extend the perimeters of comfort zones, making the artist confident and versatile so that there is no plant that presents insuperable difficulties for botanical illustrating.

Bananas.

Much of the technique and comment here applies equally to all media, though the reader will notice the strong bias towards watercolour techniques. The main difference in approach is that watercolour is always painted from light to dark and for other media such as coloured pencil and acrylics the reverse is the case and highlights can be superimposed. I make no apology for thinking mainly in terms of watercolour. It is my speciality. For botanical illustration it is a tried and tested medium with all the versatility and delicacy necessary for our beautiful subjects. Nevertheless many of the concepts in the following chapters are applicable to most media.

Where standard English vocabulary describes a plant part or function perfectly well, it is used. Where special vocabulary is required, it is explained. The glossary covers both botanical terms and Latin names.

In order that the illustrations exactly explain the text, they are mostly my own. The few that are not are either archival examples or shown with the name of the artist beneath. In a few instances similar illustrations are shown side by side in a ‘spot the difference’ quiz style. Given the reduced scale of the illustrations for publication, the differences are very slight, yet they are still worth finding both to illustrate the concept in the text and to highlight the minute differences that make a good work a better one.

You may well ask how I have travelled to this point myself. Is anyone born with a head start in botanical art?

My earliest memory is listening to the ‘skritch, skritch’ of Cotoneaster horizontalis on the outside of the frosted glass of the stoop where my pram was put. I can remember the flavour and texture of the chewed off Rexine of the pram cover on which I pulled myself up, and then sucked. I have no idea how old I was, but I knew the plant as a friend and was later able to put a name to it.

Identifying plant families from shared characteristics has always come easily and yet there are always surprises in store and masses more to learn.

I do know I was seven when my grandmother took me to the RHS gardens at Wisley. (She was one of their earliest members, and I have since placed a memorial to her there.) The lilac was in bloom and I deduced from the shape of its leaves that they were lilac bushes that surrounded the tennis court of a home which I saw only on alternate summers, and had never seen them in flower. Many years later I learned from a cousin visiting from Canada that Kashmiri plant illustrations by another cousin, Dr Marion Smyth, were stored at the Kew Herbarium, and I went to see them. These illustrations, done in the field in note books during World War 2, were all carefully annotated for exact time and place, giving today’s scientists useful ecological information. Was this an indication of inherited interests that would shape the course my life? By means of constantly exercising choices and making small daily decisions and greater ones less often, we adjust the courses of our lives.

Early training and career in social work heightened my awareness of the importance of art as a therapy. Later, married life took me to Italy where for three busy and formative years I travelled, painted and exhibited. Later opportunities to travel permitted indulgence in my concerns over forestation and land use. Exhibiting regularly in RHS shows offered access to seeing the best, and fostered respect for an organization instrumental in defining excellence. Eighteen years as a serving magistrate gave me training and habits in balanced evaluation and fair judging. A lifelong interest in plants and ecology directed my paintings and studies, exploring the parallel world of plants.

My teaching was initially student-led. In the broad art field if someone wanted to know something, I studied and worked out the answers for them. Being to this extent self-educated, I was aware of which insights were really helpful and what delivered the ‘eureka moment’. It was only after teaching for over twenty years that I qualified formally, and now spurred on by regulations, college requirements and anxiety to do the best for my students, hope to go on improving.

This book addresses all those unfinished or would-be paintings in portfolios or on wish lists. For the person with all the skill to observe, compose a picture, draw and apply colour well, there may still be some new territory to conquer.

Colour chart.

CHAPTER 1

UNDERSTANDING YOUR MATERIALS

‘He who has begun his task has half done it’

Horace 65-8BC Epistles

In the artists’ search for the magic sword that will solve all their problems at a stroke, the most lively talk among them is often discussion of the latest piece of kit or colour available. Many groups have among them a kit junkie who will buy and try out all the latest bits of kit. Such a person is your friend. I hope this chapter will amplify and give some background to his or her discoveries. If we understand the organic nature of our materials and the procedures through which they become available to us, we can make better informed choices for our own requirements.

Paper

Paper is the most important of all materials. Even with the best quality paint and brushes it is hard to achieve anything on unsuitable paper. Good quality paper is expensive because it has been specially made for your medium in a complex process.

While the Western world was still using papyrus and parchment, over two thousand years ago the Chinese were developing paper, and by the second century were producing it commercially. There is evidence of pulp mills in Samarkand in the eighth century, and manufacture was taking place in Italy in 1220. Paper was in common use in Germany by 1400, coinciding with and enabling the new printing techniques. Leonardo da Vinci was very careful with it, wasting nothing.

Paper is usually made from wood pulp, but the higher the percentage of other fibres – for example cotton, linen, flax, recycled rag or hemp – the better the quality. It will be stronger, and less acid. First the fibres are made into a slurry, which is thoroughly beaten and mixed. It is then spread and dried, and as the water content is reduced it becomes thinner. Then it is pressed.

Thou hast most traitorously corrupted the youth of the realm in erecting a grammar school: and whereas, before, our forefathers had no other books but the score and the tally, thou hast caused printing to be used; and contrary to the king, his crown and dignity, thou hast built a paper mill. Shakespeare, Henry V1, Part2

Since the nineteenth century in

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