It takes a gifted artist to become a great teacher and those who dare to teach never cease to learn.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Wild Flowers - a sketchbook by Charles and John Raven

Cirsium heterophyllus by Charles Raven. Drawn in Vihti, Finland July 21, 1934. 
Wild Flowers - a sketchbook by Charles and John Raven. Edited by H.J. Noltie.- Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburg. -ISBN 978 1 906129 85 9 

This attractively bound publication reproduces for the first time, 137 color drawings from a remarkable collection of 3860 watercolors and represents 2109 species in the British flora. The drawings were made between 1930 and 1955 and are largely the work of a remarkable father-and-son team: Charles Raven (1885 – 1964) a theologian, naturalist, historian of science and Vice Chancellor of Cambridge University, and his son John Raven (1914 – 1980) who  specialized in Greek philosophy and an outstanding botanist. Their plan was to paint and document the entire British flora, which they completed over a period of 25 years. 

In 1942 the Ravens wrote ten chapters (Charles wrote eight and John two of them) which were intended to accompany a selection of their drawings and explain how the collection was made. It started as a family holiday project which became something of an obsession, with Charles painting, and John traveling round the country collecting specimens. These writings are included in the current book. As a curiosity nine of the chapters describe the flora and travels on the British Islands and one of them, chapter eight is a description of “An Idyll of Suomi – Finland 1934”.

Charles participated in a conference in Finland and was invited to stay afterwards a couple of days at a lake in Vihti, “small for Finland, very large to an Englishman” (p.147) with the bishop because his sons were also interested in plants. An interesting detail is that the 13-yr old Samuel didn’t yet know English, and Charles didn’t know Finnish or Swedish, so the conversation was carried out by using Latin, which Samuel had learned primarily from the scientific names of his herbarium specimens (!) -  This chapter is the only one to have been previously published. It was included in the book because the plants in Finland appeared to be very similar to those in Scotland (”The structure of the land is exactly like that strange corner of Scotland…”, p. 144)
In addition to the 137 color drawings/paintings the book includes a selection of the 53 surviving letters from John to Charles Raven plus a substantial introduction on the Raven family and the drawings written by Henry Noltie.

This is a very interesting work of 216 pages recording and describing not only the British plants but also the culture and environment, and is warmly recommended.
At the moment this book is available only at the publisher, Amazon does not give any date for its expected availability in the US.  

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

GNSI 2012 Conference in Savannah, GA 2012

(Marjorie Leggitt's sketching kit and sketches from the techniques sharing session, please click to enlarge)
The Guild of Natural Science Illustrators (GNSI) 2012 Conference and Annual Meeting was held in Savannah, GA. It was hosted by Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) with Kristie Bruzenak as the conference chair. The three first days were packed with presentations mostly with three equally interesting parallel sessions making my life really busy while running in between the different talks and trying to triplicate myself.  
The first keynote speaker was prof. Jodie S. Holt from University of California, Riverside. She took up the common problem of "plant blindness"  in her presentation titled "Do you see plants?". Dr. Holt was also the botanical science consultant on the film Avatar and she described her experiences while the imaginary environment was created. Other highlights were the talks by  Juan Velasco and Oliver Uberti, both from the National Geographic Magazine. It was really interesting and fascinating to hear what hides behind the exclusive illustrations in the magazine. Tania Marien had a informative talk about Rumphius, the first person to document and describe the plants found on Ambon, Indonesia in the 17th century. Mark Catesby and his art was discussed in another session, as was Hoefnagel and many others. The digital methods were touched in many informative ways and the old traditional methods including camera lucida were not forgotten. We learned how to compile children books and make dummies. As always, the GNSI meeting was inspiring, with the added benefit of meeting old friends and new. This meeting was extremely well organized and the program was superb. The three conference days were followed by three days of workshops and field trips. Unfortunately I needed to return to Colorado. 
In the annual meeting we had the opportunity to announce Denver Botanic Gardens' juried exhibition for GNSI members. For the preliminary information about that, please click here or the image below.

For more photos from the conference please click here or go directly to the BI-facebook.. 

Friday, July 13, 2012

2012 BI get together at the Martin's

(Please click to enlarge)
BI get together at Vanessa Martin's beautiful home has become an annual event. Vanessa has a large backyard with lots of beautiful flowers, trees and bushes to sketch, draw and paint. See some more pictures from this pleasant event last Saturday by clicking here. Some 10-15 people participated this year. Vanessa is a student in our Botanical Illustration Program.
Thank you Vanessa!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Barbara McKee at Boulder Arts & Crafts Gallery

(watercolor by Barbara McKee, please click to enlarge)

Yesterday evening Boulder Arts and Crafts Gallery had opening reception featuring Barbara McKee's playful botanical art. If you are in Boulder please visit this exhibit, it is absolutely recommended.  

(From Boulder Daily Camera, July 6, please click to enlarge)

Friday, July 6, 2012

Complementary Colors

(Three completed plates per student - at least)

It is always rewarding both for the instructor and the student if the final plate gets completed - think how it feels if every student has at least three finished plates in the end of the 15-hour course -
We just finished Complimentary Colors-course, which is an advanced level color layering class and was focusing on colors on the color wheel which create brilliance. The students also learned to differentiate the hidden complements and how to use them to achieve the best results. Instructor was Susan Rubin. Please see more photos from this class in the BI-Facebook by clicking here.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Healing Plants Opening Reception!

[Verbascum thapsus by Randi Raak, click the image to enlarge]
The Art of Healing Plants opening reception today, July 3rd, 5 - 7 p.m.