Illustrator of the Month - January 2011

This week I received a thank-you card from a client for whom I did wedding flowers. She tucked in some prints of the professional photos, which are always nice to receive because photographing flowers is difficult without the proper equipment. Here's one of the shots. The wedding was, as the bride described it "Kawasaki Green and Aubergine", which in floral terms isn't exactly the easiest combination to pull off! But, I managed to make it work with green spider mums, button mums and used deep purple lisianthus and freesia. While the bride's bouquet was really graphic in design, (it was essentially green with a streak of deep purple through the middle like a stripe) I knew the cake was going to be polka dotted so I had some fun making the topper appear green with purple polka dots too. It was a fun wedding to work on! 

It got me to thinking about floral art. I really enjoy doing interpretive things with floral designs, and I enjoy painting using flowers as inspiration. I'm working on a floral-inspired canvas at the moment, though it's quite abstracted and perhaps not immediately recognizable as a floral painting. Outside of the classics like Georgia O'Keefe or the Impressionists, Floral art can get a short shift for being banal and decorative but I think it is one of the more pure forms of art, because flowers are so rich in colour. If I imagine more primitive times, I think you wouldn't often see rich purples, chartreuse greens or deep hot reds very often, if at all, as in most cases those would be found in summer months for a brief time as various flowers bloomed. There is something pure about seeking to capture that as an artist. One of my favourite kinds of floral art is botanical illustration.

A very famous, perhaps most famous botanical illustrator is Ernst Haeckel (1834-1919). He was a contemporary of Darwin and zoologist, naturalist, anatomist, biologist and natural history illustrator. He was actually responsible for creating the term 'ecology' among others, and wrote several influential books such as The History of CreationHaeckel was an outlandish figure, made controversial claims and found himself criticized for his theories at times.He was first to postulate a "missing link" between ape and man and was proven correct when Java man was found in 1891.

His first art book was published in 1862, and was called Atlas of Radiolarias. His technique is credited with influencing later art forms and design as well.

His publication Artforms of Nature (1904) contained 100 lithographic and autotype prints of a variety of organisms, all of them both scientific in nature as well as masterpieces of composition and detail. 

Deeply influenced by Jugendstil (the Art Nouveau movement in Germany), his work had influence on artists and scientists alike. His idol was Goethe, who maintained that art as well as science could unearth the truths of nature. 

Haeckel traveled widely, from Sicily to Ceylon, to the North Sea, and beyond. Sketchpads and watercolors accompanied his microscope wherever he went. His on-the-spot drawings of deep-sea vegetation, aquatic creatures, frogs, birds, and higher animals and plants were turned into more than 1000 engravings. 

I really would like a framed print of his work. If you would too they're easy to find. Here are some:
Buy the Art Forms in Nature book on Amazon.
Interested in studying Botanical Illustration? They have a certificate program in Denver at the Botanical Gardens.

ok, not floral art. but cool, right?

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