In between all the chaos of the course I took up an invitation to attend a botanical painting workshop with renowned teacher Anne Marie Evans, who had flown from the UK to teach at the Botanical Art School of Melbourne. I had finished the final assignment and was in the midst of preparing for the long haul of diploma portfolio works - so yes, why not add a week of intense concentration and art for a change? I had to travel to Melbourne to attend the masterclass so include lack of sleep, time difference and staying with family in a confined area to the mix. It was an exhausting week but it was nice to catch up with old friends at the BASM and to meet new artists from many different areas and all walks of life.
|Peonies - the challenging subject|
My friend Sigrid Frensen had spoken often of Anne Marie and her teaching method - and although I could have done with a break from painting - it was a great opportunity to focus on technique, botanical structure and depicting plants in the most accurate and informative way to enhance the artwork. Anne Marie has a method referred to as her 'six stages of painting'.
Anne Marie spoke about the lack of art education specifically geared for botanical artists which refer to plant structures and how to show them in an informative way - making the viewer see the fundamental characteristics to each petal, leaf, stem etc., by its accurate portrayal. Her method assists the artist to ensure all aspects of the plant are well depicted in order to give the viewer as much knowledge as possible in the botanical illustration.
Anne Marie Evans is a wonderful teacher, a very elegant lady and very generous with her time and the phrase "...does that make sense" was heard often in her quest to ensure the student was on the same wave length. She spent a lot of time with each student and made sure that everyone was seen to. Anne Marie also ensures there is no talking in class, a welcome relief - with around twenty students it can get a little distracting so everyone benefits from a quiet classroom with only the teacher's voice to be heard.
We spent a lot of time drawing the flower, observing the overall shape and how the petals form and develop from the centre, also ensuring we depicted that well enough so that the viewer could understand clearly the structure. Anne Marie said to treat it as though you are showing the viewer something they have never seen before and that there is no doubt about what you have illustrated and its accuracy. Form was terribly important in the early stages of the painting and we spent a great deal of time working on showing the form in each petal.
Anne Marie is a wealth of information and reflected back to the early masters of botanical illustration - Redoute and Bauer among them - and used many pictures to give examples of how the form was shaped in a painting using great shadow and light. It was stressed often how important it is to go truly dark in the shadows as she felt that three dimensionality was missing in many contemporary botanical works. This was just a brief introduction to her method - and there are many techniques to assist in creating such form - most of which are covered in her well respected book.
I had also managed to secure a copy of "An Approach to Botanical Painting" - authored by Anne Marie and Donn Evans in 1993 and no longer in print. It is highly collectible and I was lucky to purchase one at a reasonable price from a fellow botanical artist.
It arrived from the UK the day before we left - I took it to Melbourne and Anne Marie kindly signed it for me, which makes it even more valuable, but I won't be parting with it any time soon! I need to spend some time going back over the wealth of information Anne Marie Evans touched on. We spoke quite often during the week and she has intentions of writing another book in the near future to add to this edition. I am always a diligent student and take on board what is being explained - no doubt her voice will be ringing in my ears as I progress with the diploma portfolio works over the next few months.
Anne Marie refers to quotes often (as do I) and this is one which resounded with me:
"There is scarcely a person so void of genius as to fail of success, if he apply earnestly to one branch of study and practise it continuously"
Leonardo Da Vinci