Institute of Analytical Plants Illustration (IAPI)

I have mentioned this organisation before. It is a very good group to get involved in, particularly for botanical artists and botanists. But have a look at the website and see for yourself  http://www.iapi.org.uk.

Yesterday, Robin and I drove up to Northampton for one of the regular meetings. They meet once every two months in different parts of the country and generally decide on a topic, get specialists in to talk to us, or as yesterday, use the very experienced members.

Last year we went to one of the meetings where Grasses was the topic. Yesterday, winter twigs was the subject. I have already described my feelings prior to and after the ‘grasses meeting’ and this time, prior to the day, I also thought winter twigs might be boring. If you have followed my blog you might remember that I was thrilled about what I learnt about grasses and yesterday was exactly the same. How could I even imagine that the subject could be boring!

I have found that when I am doing botanical painting, the result is usually better if I have studied the subject properly and not just painted it. For each of my RHS exhibits I did an awful lot of research and actually got quite hooked on finding out more about the subjects. I am also convinced that the research helped me get medals.

I am meant to be writing up notes on the meeting to get into the minutes, but I am doing this instead!

When we arrived at the meeting place, we were confronted with a table of twigs with numbers on and a sheet of paper with numbers on. The intention was to name the plants from which the twigs came and possibly include the scientific names as well. That was throwing me in at the deep end, but it wasn’t uncomfortable. We were there to learn. But I have to say that I didn’t identify many. Everyone was discussing and helping everyone else with this or that twig they thought they recognised, but couldn’t quite place. I was really amazed at some people with their wealth of knowledge whilst others were similar to me – although not quite as bad.

Roger Reynolds had put together the collection and created the list. Peter Mitchell talked to us about what we should be looking for to identify a twig.  He described the different types of tree shapes and growth habits; how the branches grew; the bark on the tree and the twigs; colour; texture; marks on the bark (also describing what they were there for); length of internodes; appearance of the terminal bud; how the buds repeated themselves round a branch; bud size and shape and a multitude of other things. So much made sense – but should I be surprised?

I think that one of the things I found most useful were the questions you need to ask yourself when faced with a unidentified twig.

Of course all the twigs in the selection were discussed in detail and we discovered what distinguished one from the other and why.

In the afternoon we had an opportunity to draw from the twig selection. I bought a couple of simple new microscopes which I intend to encourage my students to use. We used these to start some drawings and I tried to take one or two pictures of the detail from the hazel twigs, with male catkins and female buds. Unfortunately the pictures of the catkins through the microscope didn’t turn out too well, but I can vouch that the detail was very beautiful. I will be drawing or painting something from them at some point – although perhaps not just right at the minute.

Isn’t it funny how in botanical art and illustration, there is always something that is challenging you to do its portrait?

Hazel. The female bud seen through the microsope.
Hazel. The female bud seen through the microsope.
Hazel female bud from a different tree.
Hazel female bud from a different tree.
Hazel female bud. Notice the bud scales. The number can help determine species.
Hazel female bud. Notice the bud scales. The number can help determine species.
Hazel female buds in situ on the twig. Photo taken without the microscope.
Hazel female buds in situ on the twig. Photo taken without the microscope.
Hazel catkins
Hazel catkins
Enlarged section of a Hazel catkin.
Enlarged section of a Hazel catkin. Hugely intricate
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Palmengarten botanical art exhibition – second weekend

Sue Henon our SBA member in Germany, has been ably manning the exhibition at Palmengarten, Frankfurt’s botanical gardens. She has been there every day and will do so every day except Monday’s until the exhibition ends. They have been very long days for her as she doesn’t actually live in Frankfurt but has to travel in on a daily basis. The SBA is hugely lucky to have her there and willing to give up a solid month of her time for us. This of course excludes all that she has done in the months leading up to the exhibition, that she will use in breaking down the exhibition and overseeing that pictures get safely into the right hands – buyers and artists.

During the exhibition, Sue, together with a botanist from the gardens, is giving some tours and talks about the pictures. The botanist of course talks about the topic of the exhibition, poisionous and medicinal plants, in relation to the pictures that are exhibited there. Sue talks about the botanical art, the different types of medium that the artists have used in their pictures and how It is applied. She also discusses the history of botanical art In Germany.

I understand from various quarters that these talks are enthusiastically received. I am told that the visiting public have appreciated getting a better understanding of botanical art and afterwards look a lot more closely at the pictures.

But, I think you are more interested in seeing some more of the artwork that is in the exhibition. I notice that yesterday one of the pictures fell out of the blog for some reason. I had also wanted to give you a better idea of the botanical art in situ in the Palmhouse. It is a beautiful area for exhibiting these pictures.

Artwork by Sue Henon
Artwork by Sue Henon
Artwork by Josie White
Artwork by Josie White
Artwork by Hazel Rush and Penny Stenning,
Artwork by Hazel Rush and Penny Stenning,
Artwork by Sarah Wood, Sue Linton and Janine Walkky
Artwork by Sarah Wood, Sue Linton and Janine Walkky
Artwork by Yuriko Kojima, Janine Walkky and Gael Sellwood
Artwork by Yuriko Kojima, Janine Walkky and Gael Sellwood

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We have deposits on 24 pictures.

Botany and botanical art is very exciting!

On Friday and again on Sunday afternoon after church I was able to continue with my Acanthus ( in case you wondered what my new picture was all about). I finished the sketch and transferred it to the paper I am using for the final work. A warning, the following picture is not the whole composition as it will contain a third element – hopefully. It is a large project, but hopefully it will go well.

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On Saturday my husband and I drove up to Leicester, visiting briefly the University botanical Gardens. But we also went to an IAPI meeting on Grasses. Now many of you might wonder what was so special about grasses – and I did too. But, with just one lecture and some amazing views through the microscope, I am converted.

There were so many different types for different types of habitat and temperature zone. They may look very ordinary, but up close they are absolutely beautiful.

Think of a colour wheel and pointillism. If you mix the three primaries, you get a grey shade, depending upon the mix. Optical mixing of colours means that you don’t mix the colours on your palette, but by placing colours side by side, your brain mixes the colours together creating a third colour.

Now back to the grasses. When a grass is waving in the wind, depending upon the type, all you might see is a greyish or beige-ish colour in the frond. Well, at the height of the season, those ‘fronds’ are the ‘flowers’ (inflorescence) of the plant and contains the male and female parts.

I looked at these under the microscope and saw some tiny, really beautiful flowers. Most of all, the colours were amazing ( I know I’ve used the word again, but have to). The one I was looking at had wonderful reddish purple and green parts with the tiny style and stigma in purple sticking out of the tip. The colours glowed.

Unfortunately the pictures I have taken do not reflect the beauty that I saw under the microscope, but hopefully they will give an indication.

Back to optical mixing of colours. Bearing in mind the smallness of the inflorescence, even though the colours were individually very beautiful, they were small surfaces to the naked eye and therefore had the same effect as pointillism – the colours became optically mixed to a dull grey! Could this be natures way of protection?

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What do you think? I know the photo does not do the plant justice, but hopefully you can see the promise of the intricate and beautiful design.