Monday, June 19, 2017

RECENT NYT ARTICLES OF INTEREST … The Review section of June 17's New York Times had several interesting art-related articles … You need to know that I am very technology-challenged, and this is my first attempt at blog posting … so if this is entirely unreadable, I apologize … and will try again ... "The Art of Adventure" by R.M. Peck … is a review of "Explorers' Sketchbooks", a new book by Lewis-Jones and Herbert. Mr. Peck quotes William Beebe, an American naturalist and explorer of the early 20th century: "All about us, nature puts on the most thrilling adventure stories ever written." Included in the book are a handful of female artist/explorers: Maria Sybilla Merian is a name familiar to many; but unfamiliar to me were Gertrude Bell (who drew shards of found pottery) and Marianne North. Ms. North, a friend of Darwin, circle the globe - twice! - in the early 1800s on a 'mission to paint as many different species of plants as she could find.' I'm not sure I will read the whole book, but I will try to learn more about Ms. North and her work.
"On the Trail of Art Looters" by Amanda Foreman … is a brief exploration of looting art for profit and propaganda. A photo (above) of part of the Arch of Titus in Rome show a menorah looted from the Temple in Jerusalem during Rome's sack of that city in 70 A.D. It is mind-boggling to imagine that this might be an actual and accurate depiction of the menorah taken from the great Temple. Another bit of art history mentioned in this article: In his looting of Italian art works, Napoleon took the four horses from the front of St. Mark's Cathedral in Venice. He intended to mount them on his Arc de Triomphe in Paris. However, when he was defeated at Waterloo, a condition of surrender was that France return the horses to Italy. And they were returned. Restitution.
And, finally, "When Two Hands Were Better Than One" by John Wilmerding claims there is strong evidence to prove that Degas actually painted part of the background (the windows) of Mary Cassatt's painting "Little Girl in a Blue Chair". He says the two artists openly shared ideas and compared paintings. To Cassatt's surprise, the painting was not accepted to a major show. I, personally, wonder if it wasn't accepted because she was a woman (please know that the article doesn't actually say this). Cassatt and Degas were very open about their interaction … but I also wonder whether 'two hands' might not be better than one when it comes to getting art accepted into a show. Worth thinking and wondering about ... And that's all … just some food for thought … P.S. The painting WAS accepted into later shows.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Explaining Differences in Paint Colors with the Same Pigment Number

Linda Working on a Color Chart
Thanks again to all who attended our Jan. 30 meeting!

A question came up about paints with the same pigment number that are different colors. Linda Koffenberger, (who teaches art at NCBG and has a professional background in paint color mixing), answered our question here:

"The first example is Ultramarine Blue, which comes either with a red bias or a green bias.  Both are coded as PB29.  The reddish-toned Ultramarine is usually sold as French Ultramarine and the cooler, greenish-toned one is sold just as Ultramarine Blue.  Originally Ultramarine was a mined pigment made from Lapis Lazuli and was the most expensive pigment there was.  Then in the 1800's, a way to manufacture it was invented.  The process uses silica (or sand) and "Ultramarine poor in silica" has the greenish-tone and the "Ultramarine rich in silica" as the red tinge.

The second example is Yellow Oxide, a naturally occurring mineral.  Its chemical name is iron(III) oxide-hydroxide.  It is sold under the name Yellow Oxide, however, and the code on the tube is PY42.  The thing is this mineral can be any where from yellow to dark-brown and even black.  So the pigment manufacture tries to blend batches to make the color uniform from one tube to the next.  But another manufacture may have a slight different blend so the color varies from manufacture to manufacture." 

Monday, December 12, 2016

"Color in Nature" exhibit in Southern Pines

One of our Circles members, Miriam Sagasti has some gorgeous work in an upcoming exhibit: “Color In Nature”, opening Friday, January 6, with a reception 6 to 8 p.m. The exhibit is on display through January 27. The Campbell House Galleries are at 482 East Connecticut Avenue, Southern Pines, NC. For more information visit

Sunday, November 6, 2016

ASBA Annual Meeting and Fiona Strickland

Maryann Roper
November 3, 2016


For the first time (ever), I went to this year's American Society of Botanical Artists' (ASBA) Annual Meeting.  My main reason for going was to see the Hunt Institute's Triennial Exhibit, opening in conjunction with the ASBA meeting. It is one of the best showcases internationally for contemporary botanical art.    

The meeting itself was also inspiring. A special treat was a session called 'Techniques', with Fiona Strickland as one of the featured artists. You can see her work in the Member Gallery on the ASBA website, and at the website for the Jonathan Cooper Gallery in London, where, until November 12, she has a show of her botanical watercolor paintings. Her paintings are remarkable for their incredibly detailed drawing and for their bold color.

In any work of art "...the viewer and the painter have a dialogue..."
Fiona Strickland

I love to hear how other artists paint ... for inspiration and for practical tips. From my notes, here are some of her thoughts.

  • She stores/organizes her paints by their level of transparency. And prefers to use only the most transparent colors.
  • To help find colors, and to have a visual of each color always on hand, she has made a paint chart that corresponds to the location of each tube of paint (Winsor & Newton) in her storage trays. She also keeps handwritten charts with additional information about each color (transparency, lightfastness, etc).
  • She uses Winsor & Newton sable brushes, mostly Size 2.
  • She takes 'hundreds' of photos of her subject: for reference and for accuracy ...and because it often takes 3 or more months for her to finish a painting ... and the subject may be long gone by then.
  • She spends a lot of time observing the subject and tries to show 'something unexpected' about it in her composition.
  • She does a VERY detailed drawing and lifts much of the graphite after transferring it, using a 3H or 4H pencil on the watercolor paper. She spends a lot of time to make her drawing exact.
  • She begins with a pale wash in a small area. And tries to pack as much information (details, color changes, shading) as possible into each small space.
  • She works - almost to completion - one small section at a time
  • She always uses complements, never blacks, for shadows and shading.
  • Because her paintings are often large (her subjects are often larger than life-sized), she uses a tilt table. She puts her paper on a foam core board in order to be able to turn it without touching or creasing it.

An interesting point, to me, was that, despite the accuracy and details of her drawings, she made the point that her paintings were not primarily about science ... but more about making an emotional connection with the viewer.
An interesting point, to me, was that, despite the accuracy and details of her drawings, she made the point that her paintings were not primarily about science ... but more about making an emotional connection with the viewer.

Another impressive lesson was the time she spends in observation and drawing ...she doesn't rush into painting.

Finally, the larger-than-life size of her subjects allows each subject to make a huge impact on the viewer ...because she draws in such detail, the size allows the details to be seen and appreciated.(It was also interesting to me that about half of the paintings in the Hunt Institute Exhibit were also larger-than-life sized.)

If you have the chance to see her work in person, or attend a workshop that she is teaching ... it will be well worth your time!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Facebook group for Triangle area botanical artists

Some of you may know about this already, but there is a Facebook group of botanical illustrators & artists who have studied or taught at the NC Botanical Garden. It is a closed group, so you will need to request to join. Or, email and I will make sure you get an invitation to join.

This is a member-run group, not officially connected with NCBG.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

NEW North Carolina Circle of ASBA!

In addition to having the most diverse plant species per state size in the U.S., North Carolina also has, not surprisingly, a rich tradition of botanical art and illustration.

Many local botanical artists have shown an interest in forming a community to share ideas and grow further as artists. As a result, in August 2016, we’ve formed the North Carolina Circle of the American Society Botanical Artists.

All botanical artists in our state, with any level of expertise or background, are welcome to join our group.

Glass Flowers

One of our members just shared an article about an amazing show - The Ware Collection of Blaschka Glass Models of Plants on view at the Harvard Museum of Natural History Boston….