Friday, April 24, 2015

25th anniversary exhibition of the Shirley Sherwood Collection

An exhibition to celebrate the anniversary of a collection seems to me to be an excellent idea - but I hadn't seen one before this week.

Work by Botanical Artists in the Collection of Dr Shirley Sherwood OBE
(Left) Brian Poole - Cardoon (Cynara cardunculus), Copper etching with watercolour
(Centre) Rosie Sanders - 'Greater Knapweed' watercolour
(Right) Phansakdi Chakkaphak- Caribbean Jewels Sapphire Blue (Scilla peruviana) - watercolour

Jonathan Cooper, Park Walk Gallery
(just off the Fulham Road)
A new exhibition opened this week at Jonathan Cooper, Park Walk Gallery in Chelsea.

It comprises Work from Botanical Artists in the Collection of Dr Shirley Sherwood OBE - and it celebrates 25 years since she began her collection.

She now has some 905 paintings and drawings by over 240 contemporary artists from 30 countries around the world.  That, as I think you will agree, is some collection!

What makes it very special is that much of it is work by contemporary botanical artists. Indeed Dr Sherwood has made a major contribution to the revival of interest in botanical art - not to mention a developing an art gallery dedicated to botanical art in collaboration with Kew Gardens.

She is, in short, a true patron of botanical art. To have your work chosen for her collection is very much seen as an accolade.

This however is not a display of her artworks in her collection - such as one might see at Kew. This is a selling exhibition.

You can view the e-catalogue or download catalogue.

The Artists

The artists chosen demonstrate the range of work in the collection and the artists who assembled in the gallery on Tuesday evening came from all over the world.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Are your sites mobile friendly - or are you facing Mobilegeddon?

Yesterday mobilegeddon was supposed to happen - here's why:
  • Did you know that some 30% of all search queries now come from mobile devices (smartphones and tablets)?
  • Google has said that it expects overall search queries on mobile devices to exceed PC volumes this year
  • Did you know that Google made a change yesterday which now favours webpages which are mobile friendly for smartphones (i.e. you can read and navigate them easily)?
  • Are you monitoring the traffic to your websites and blogs to see if the change has an impact on your sites?

Mobile is tomorrow

Well actually the big change was yesterday - but you know what I mean - we can't get away from mobile it's here to stay!

The importance of mobile devices has been growing year by year, quarter by quarter and month by month.  It's expected that by 2018 a third of the world's consumers will own a smartphone and buy/consume using it.

More importantly Google has been losing out to Facebook re its advertising income and needs to make websites more mobile friendly to get it back again!

So, bottom line, Google figures it's now essential that mobile friendliness is reflected in how it ranks websites in response to search queries. It wants its search queries to be satisfying its customers.

Yesterday Google rolled out a technical change to their search engine which means that - from now - all sites which are mobile compatible will get an uplift in search rankings.

You can read more about it  on the Official Google Webmaster Central Blog

Google also offers some extra help
To get help with making a mobile-friendly site, check out our guide to mobile-friendly sites. If you’re a webmaster, you can get ready for this change by using the following tools to see how Googlebot views your pages:
  • If you have a site, you can use your Webmaster Tools account to get a full list of mobile usability issues across your site using the Mobile Usability Report.
PLUS, yesterday it reiterated
To check if your site is mobile-friendly, you can examine individual pages with the Mobile-Friendly Test or check the status of your entire site through the Mobile Usability report in Webmaster Tools. If your site’s pages aren’t mobile-friendly, there may be a significant decrease in mobile traffic from Google Search. But have no fear, once your site becomes mobile-friendly, we will automatically re-process (i.e., crawl and index) your pages. You can also expedite the process by using Fetch as Google with Submit to Index, and then your pages can be treated as mobile-friendly in ranking.
As a result of this switch to favouring mobile friendly websites Google Says There Are 4.7% More Mobile-Friendly Websites Today Than Two Months Ago

It's important to note that this change will not affect the ranking of websites based on a desk-based search. However the ranking results from a mobile-based search are now likely to be completely different - and will become more and more important as ownership and use of mobile devices grows and grows.

If you think this doesn't affect you because your site hasn't got much mobile traffic.....

Has it occurred to you that your site hasn't got much mobile traffic BECAUSE if's not compatible with mobile devices?

Have you asked friends with sites which are mobile compatible what percentage of their traffic comes from mobile devices?

So how is it for you?

So if like me you've got a website which works fine on an iPad Mini. This is my portfolio site Pastels and Pencils

but that same website looks completely different on an iPhone - even my iPhone 6+

I might see the whole page but I can't read it easily
If I turn it into landscape Format on my iPhone 6+ it's better - but still not ideal.
The main text is still very small and more of the "above the fold" territory is lost to site
then, like me, you have a problem which needs to be solved.

Especially if your website does really weird things to the size of some of the images on my website when the space has been specified by pixel size rather than percentage!!

Essentially this change relates to smartphones rather than tablets - as the FAQs make clear. 

However my view is that if you are having to tackle mobile friendliness from scratch you need to tackle both the iPad/Tablet view as well as the Smartphone view.

How to become mobile friendly

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Review: 30th Annual Exhibition of the Society of Botanical Artists

Entrance to the Annual Exhibition of the Society of Botanical Artists

The Society of Botanical Artists is relatively young compared to those national art societies which started life in the 19th century. However this youngster is in robust health and currently going from strength to strength.

As it reaches its 30th Annual Exhibition it seems an appropriate time to take stock of the progress made promoting botanical art and in displaying botanical artwork at its annual exhibition.

30th Annual Exhibition - In Pursuit of Plants

The theme of this year's show is In Pursuit of Plants. You can see it in the Aldersgate Room, in the basement of Central Hall Westminster until Sunday 26th April 2015. The exhibition is open every day between 11am and 5pm and admission is free.

This is a short video of the opening address by Sandra Armitage, the President of the SBA about this year's exhibition and the preparation for next year.

The topic for next year's exhibition is "Shape Pattern and Structure" which will be 15-24 April 2016.

Highlights of the exhibition

I think the thing most worth commenting on is the improvement in the standard of the student work.  The work of students in their final year of the Distance Learning Diploma Course is, as always, exhibited in a corner of the exhibition. (The students graduated from their course last Friday evening). Every year I've seen some stunning work alongside work which appeared very promising.

This year I was amazed to find a display which is truly outstanding in the breadth and depth of the quality of the work.  So much so, that much of the student work on display was an awful lot better than rather a lot of the artwork I used to see in the early days when I first started visiting this exhibition each year. (I started coming in 2006 and you can now find links to all my past blog posts about the SBA exhibition on the Botanical Art and Artists page of this blog.)

Monday, April 20, 2015

Society of Botanical Art: Certificates of Botanical Merit 2015

This post includes news about which artists won the coveted Certificate of Botanical Merit from the Society of Botanical Artists in 2015.

My next post will include a review of the SBA's 30th Annual Exhibition.

Sandra Armitage, President of the SBA
providing an introduction to the exhibition and Awards Ceremony

Certificates of Botanical Merit

The Certificates of Botanical Merit are an esteemed award as the standard required is that associated with botanical illustrations for scientific purposes.

Hyacinths (graphite) - £1,600by Guy William Eves SBA, FCPGFS, CBM (2011)

The pencil artwork of Guy William Eves is very fine. On Saturday he demonstrated how he works with a Linen Tester (a tool with considerable magnification) to achieve the very fine detail evident in his work. This particular work demonstrates the growth of the Hyacinth. Flowers do not need to be exotic or esoteric to warrant am award for botanical merit.

For those unable to get to London to see the show you can see more of his work at the Aldeburgh Gallery (14-20 May; and 15-21 October)

Hairy Bittercress by Maria Herkert
Cardamine hirsuta - Hairy Bittercress (coloured pencil)  - ££450
by Maria Herkert
I really liked this one. The plant sits in the centre and its various attributes and dimensions are unpicked around the plant. I have to confess I do like the name too. It goes to show what can be achieved with one plant - even when it's one considered to be a weed by most gardening websites!

Aconitum japonicum var. montanum
(watercolour) £1,800
by Yuriko Kojima SBA, CBM (2013)

A slightly unusual composition - but all the parts are included from roots to blooms to dissected parts. I like the way the flower stem leans just as it would do in a garden.

I'd love to see more of Yuriko's paintings but sadly she has neither a website nor a member's page.

Fruits of Magnolia sprengeri var. diva 'Westonbirt' 
(watercolour and graphite) £1,495
Beth Phillip BSc (Hons) Dip.Ed, SBA, GM, CBM (2008, 2010)
This is such a splendid painting by Beth Phillip! It's definitely one of the stand-out images of the show and it won a prize as well as a CBM. One of the things I really like about is the very controlled use of analogous colours portraying the amazing complexity of the seeds and seed structure.

However one of the other reasons it stands out is the actual magnolia it portrays and the quality of the formation of the seed pods ! It's always worthwhile seeking out of an exceptional specimen if your aim is to produce excellent botanical art!
Known locally as the ‘Diva’, the goddess magnolia tree at Westonbirt is the tallest specimen of its kind in the British Isles and is a champion tree; an accolade awarded by the Tree Register of Britain and Ireland.
Foresty Commission - Westonbirt Arboretum

Clematis vitalba - Old Man's Beard(watercolour) £380
by Sally Pond DipEGS(Dist.), SGM, CBM (2013)
This work was Highly Commended for the Joyce Cuming Presentation Award as well as achieving a CBM.

The design used for this work is delightful. There are no wonderful colours to draw the eye, the painting has to rely entirely on the skills of the artist to design a painting which builds on the typical growth habit of "Old Man's Beard" to produce a painting which is excellent. The use of two stems, rather than one stem, which crossover is critical to the end result. The placement of the "beard" in the sweetspots top left and bottom right is also very helpful to its overall impact.

My only surprise is that this work has not already sold when I took the photograph - it's delightful.

Pinus wallichiana 
(graphite) £400
by Eiko T Takano SBA SGM, CMB (1993, 2000)
This Bhutan Pine is native to the Himalaya, Karakoram and Hindu Kush mountains,
Pinus wallchiana has tufts of long, blue-green needles. This graphite drawing very much focuses on the structure of the plant and its needles and pine cones rather than on the colour and shows emerging cones as well as fully mature ones.

Wendy Smith's One and a Half cones of a Scots Pine (x4) (pen and ink) £500 is the final work to win a CBM and despite touring the exhibition three times I seem to have missed this one.

More about Certificates of Botanical Merit

You can read more about who's won Certificates of Botanical Merit in the past on my page devoted to botanical art which lists all the posts from previous years devoted to the CBMs.

[Note: 've also updated my previous post with an image of artwork by Carmen Lyons which won The Derwent Award for outstanding pencil art]

and finally...... 

It would appear that there was a mix-up on catalogue numbers and my work which got an Honourable Mention for the new Strathmore Prize for innovative composition is actually Grey, Green and Pink in Yuma (ie not Echevaria Laui) which makes a lot more sense to me in terms of 'composition'!

So here it is - hopefully those cactus spines look a tad 3D!

Grey, Green and Pink in Yuma
(coloured pencil) £350
by Katherine Tyrrell

Next up is the review of the Annual Exhibition itself.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Prizewinners at the Society of Botanical Artists' Annual Exhibition 2015

Yesterday's Private View of the Annual Exhibition of the Society of Botanical Artists was yet again an occasion to meet old friends as well as view some wonderful art in a very well hung exhibition.

This year the exhibition has 603 drawings and paintings in the main display and 18 miniatures and 3D works. These were selected from well over 900 entries.

The layout seems to me to be working better than last year with fewer 'skied' pictures which meant fewer problems with white outs from the lighting.

The theme this year is "In pursuit of plants" and as always it's always fascinating to see how this has been interpreted by the different artists. (Next year the theme is "Shape, Pattern and Structure" which I'm very excited about as it's all the things I like about plants!)

I'm going to focus in this post on the main prizewinners and
  • give a more considered opinion of the work in the show in my post on Sunday
  • highlight those who won a Certificate of Botanical Merit on Monday.
That's because knowing more and more people every year, one ends up spending more time talking and less time looking and because I'm going back to see the exhibition again this afternoon to see the demo about painting on vellum and review the exhibition again so I can pick out the pieces I want to highlight. So sorry not to provide more about the exhibition overall at this stage!

I'll also be highlighting the Tours and Demonstrations dates and members involved at the end of this post

The Exhibition is open from 11.00am to 5.00pm every day between 17 to 26 April 2015 at Westminster Central Hall, Storey’s Gate, London SW1H 9NH.

But first the prizes - and this year, for the very first time, I get a mention!!

Society of Botanical Art - 2015 Awards

Gardener, writer and broadcaster Matthew Biggs to open the exhibition and was very enthusiastic about the standard of work on display. He also presented the prizes.

The Joyce Cuming Presentation Award

This is a legacy from Joyce Cuming – a sterling silver Almoner’s plate. The winner receives a certificate.  It is however one of the awards which are most prized as this one also produces a list of people who were Highly Commended during the selection process.

Gael Selwood accepting her award - the silver plate of
The Joyce Cuming Presentation Award
The winner this year was Gael Selwood GM SBA PGCE, FEATC Cert HE(BotIll) for Hydrangea macrophylla 'King George' from her 2014 RHS Gold Medal winning exhibit of autumn and winter hydrangeas (at Malven).

Gael Selwood holding the Joyce Cuming silver plate high above her head
with her watercolour painting of Hydrangea macrophylla 'King George'

Those Highly Commended included the following artists (attribution is in the caption to the image)

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