Botanical Painting

Teasels and Berries
(above) is a lovely botanical painting by forums member Elvira (user name) that should inspire artists to explore this unusual and interesting genre.

Botanical art has a long history. The depictions of flowers and plants first appeared in ancient herbals to help identify them for medicinal use at a time when verbal descriptions could be dangerously misleading. In the 18th and 19th centuries, an important part of botany was illustration that combined careful, scientific observation with an aesthetic appreciation of the beauty of flowers and plants. This tradition can still be seen in contemporary botanical art.

Teasels and Berries, with its rich range of textures and colors, is a delight for the eye. The painting follows the conventions of botanical illustration by showing plants and flowers artfully arranged on a white background. There are no shadows to suggest that the specimens are lying on a flat surface, but instead they appear to be arrayed in a shallow, evenly lit space.

The composition is basically symmetrical with some satisfying variations that keep it from becoming static. The main stem forms a central axis around which the plant heads, flowers and berries are arranged; the leaves at the bottom form a stable base. Teasels are easily identified in this painting by their prickly stem and leaves and their flowers that have formed a head that’s dried to a prickly bulb. The heads of the teasels are not arranged symmetrically, but hang over to the right.

The variety of textures, colors, shapes, and sizes in this floral arrangement gives the eye plenty to explore. The placement of the berries alternates between large and small as well as between blue and red, directing the eye in a circular pattern around the composition with no obvious exit points. Note how Elvira placed the small purple berries on the left against leaves of a complementary color—yellow—and how on the right, the red berries contrast with green leaves.

The one small criticism I would make is that the heads of the teasels themselves are rendered a bit lightly, which, in contrast to the leaves on the bottom, makes them appear less substantial. A darker and more detailed treatment would have made them a stronger and more satisfying center of interest.

In Teasels and Berries, Elvira captures not only minute, identifying detail but also the sensual appeal that makes flowers and plants an enduring subject for painters.

Click here to read about Greg Albert and his approach to critiquing.

Artwork for the Art Clinic is chosen from work posted on the Art Clinic forum, which is part of the Artists Network message board. (You must log on as a registered member to post on the Art Clinic forum.)

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