I’ve taken two wonderful botanical illustration classes through the remarkable program at the Denver Botanic Gardens. One of those was Color Mixing with Colored Pencil, taught by Susan Rubin, a wonderful teacher and contemporary botanical artist (photos from class below). She posted this Colorado Public Radio essay by Susanna Speier on Facebook recently on why botanical art still matters in the digital age.
One of the things that Susan told us in class was that the beginning of every century seems to see a resurgence in naturalist art and naturalist leanings. The sense of time moving forward and technological progress seems to invigorate — or necessitate – a return to nature. We’ve seen it in the 21st century in everything from an expanding interest in botanical illustration to textile prints and earth art and herbal medicine and small-scale agriculture and gardening.
For artists, whether the precision of formal scientific and botanical illustration appeals to you or not, nature is the first and ultimate source. I love abstraction and I love cities and the built environment, but the fundamental connection to nature grounds everything.
I’ve worked as a writer, editor, and author in the organic foods world for many years, and the connections between art and agriculture are rich and evolving (see a 2009 post about art and ag on my previous Red Thread Studio blog here). Australian painter Sophie Munns is a wonderful artist who explores these connections via her Homage to the Seed projects. She has several sites well worth your time, including this beautiful Tumblr blog from one small seed.
Sophie’s vibrant, luscious art touches on ideas about fertility, diversity, the chaos and order of nature and the magnificence of the plant world — all in a beautiful maze of patterns and color. Here is her Christmas card art for the Global Crop Diversity Trust:
Sophie Munns’ artwork for Global Crop Diversity Trust card
Art and agriculture is a theme I’ll likely explore more here – I’m on the advisory board of a new group that’s formed to possibly start a nonprofit organization fostering these connections, and I bought the site name artandag.com several years ago and plan to develop it soon. Stay tuned! And go explore Sophie’s work – she is an inspiration.