Annual Meeting Wrap-Up
By Joyce Westner
Originally appeared in The Botanical Artist – Volume 14, Issue 4
How do you coax botanical artists to leave their habitats (meadows, forests, studios)? You lure them with an ASBA Conference! Arriving at the Pasadena Hilton was like showing up at a family reunion; your favorite aunt greets you boisterously, your newest in-law shyly introduces himself. So many familiar faces, so many newcomers. This veteran attendee was at her second Conference ever, but already felt like an old hand. An artist greeted me in the registration room; we’d bonded last year over our names, she a Newfoundland Joyce, I a New England Joyce. (I met an Arizona Joyce before long.)
Thursday morning, Portfolio Sharing opened the Conference; neophytes and award-winning catalogued artists generously laid out their works and answered questions. The room was filled with inquiries about which pink lit up that magnolia, how that white daffodil petal was created, what type of paper was used, which website service printed the gorgeous book of scanned images.
Down the hall an exhibit room housed vendors with products as varied as nature-inspired jewelry to watercolor tubes and kolinsky brushes (50
off list price), a service for turning your botanicals into fine dinnerware, classes in exotic places (France! Costa Rica!), and an edition of HRH Prince of Wales’ Highgrove Florilegium (zero percent off the £10,000 list price). Educational exhibits included invasive plants in California, and a display of posters of individual chapters’ year of activities. I basked in the glow of my chapter’s poster!
Which was the only basking to be done; not only were we too busy but it doesn’t “never rain in California.” It rained a little bit every day of the conference. Pen and ink sketchers with Dick Rauh had to run for cover at the Los Angeles Arboretum to protect their artwork. Cover at an arboretum isn’t hard to come by….no thunderstorms involved. Members Janice Sharp and Tania Marien take a break from viewing over 40 artists presentations at Portfolio Sharing Jean Emmons takes part in Pandora Sellars Master Class in Watercolor at the Huntington Gardens green houses Workshop participant displays new tatts! Every class member received insect temporary tattoos as well as guidance in creating sketches and watercolors of pollinating insects. The Botanical Artist Volume 14, Issue 4 - December 2008 Page 15
Thursday buffet lunch: New England chapter members wore witch hats decorated with autumn leaves and flowers, to remind everyone they’re hosting in 2011 – which could include sightseeing in Salem MA, the site of historic Salem witch trials and now home to Halloween events lasting all of October.
Thursday afternoon included open demonstrations, a casual affair with artists working on pieces and answering questions. Katura Reynolds who depicts plants for wall text at the Huntington Library painted seedpods and handed out temporary tattoos of her insect painting. (If you want to get tattoos of your poppy painting, just upload it to temptats.net.) Janice Sharp demoed Photoshop techniques and online publishing, Elaine Searle white flowers, Bruce Wilson graphite techniques, Irene Horiuchi engraving, Ruth Arthur colored pencil.
Thursday evening the Huntington Library glittered with members at the Small Works exhibit and reception; artists you may have seen mucking about in swamps looking for Calla palustris specimens cleaned up “real good” and enjoyed wine and sumptuous hors d’oeuvres. If anyone had wondered beforehand whether they would seek out a post-reception dinner, they were too well fed by the end of the evening to remember their question. We had a generous anonymous donor to thank for this feast.
But the true feast was the exhibit; not only the Small Works; the Huntington was also showing HRS The Prince of Wales Highgrove Florilegium original watercolors. The Small Works’ diversity juxtaposed against the large pieces commissioned by England’s Prince Charles enthralled those gathered that night. Both exhibits filled us up with beauty— beauty of nature large and small, wild and tame, of artists momentous and meek, accomplished and questing, of artworks ephemeral and enduring.
Tania Norris of the California chapter introduced the fireside chat—six artists/teachers who answered questions raised by Dr. James Folsom, Director of the Huntington’s botanical gardens. Pandora Sellars assured us there is no organization in England quite like ASBA. Anne-Marie Evans said, “I think this conference is the most exceptional I’ve ever been to.” Carol Woodin marveled that ten years ago she couldn’t imagine botanical art would be so central to so many people. Jenny Phillips reminded us not to be intimidated: “Be charged, be inspired to capture the intransience you see.” Russian artist Sasha Viazmensky agreed: “When someone says ‘I can’t do it’, I say ‘show me 200 wasted pages and then we will know’.” Lizzie Sanders noted that we each have 100,000 bad drawings in us so we better do them quickly and get on to do our good drawings.
Friday, Halloween, I took two classes, “Understanding Complex Forms in Nature” and “Deliberate Composition.” Three hours long, each class raced by while our energetic, lively teachers gave generously of their knowledge and skills. For the very first time I understand how Fibonacci numbers apply to plants, thanks to Lee McCaffree’s lucid explanation. I learned the way Hillary Parker’s paintings give voice to the plants, and how to express my own voice in my work.
Saturday I elected the J. Paul Getty Museum tour. The Museum’s Santa Monica Mountain location, Richard Meier’s architecture, the art collection and the gardens more than made up for bit of bus confusion. Behind the scenes we viewed an original Maria Sybilla Merian engraved book from the early 1700s, as well as single pieces in the collection, such as Albrecht Dürer’s staghorn beetle on vellum. Next time I see “Getty images” as the source of a published photo or artwork, I will recall the labyrinth of tunnels and workshops and secure archives on that Los Angeles hillside.
Saturday evening back at the Hilton, we bid on silent auction items, including originals donated by some Small Works exhibitors. I had the winning bid on notepaper and jewelry created by fellow artists, and was delighted to see that the item my chapter donated brought in twice the amount that it cost. Knowing that a significant portion of ASBA’s yearly budget comes from the auction made it easy to bid up.
The banquet that evening gave us a last chance to enjoy the company of our fellow artists, and applaud those receiving awards. Receiving the Diane Bouchier Founder’s Award for Excellence in Botanical Art was Dick Rauh, the ASBA Award for Service was presented to Meg Buck, and the biennial Award for Art in the Service of Science went to Alice Tangerini.
Leslie Walker announced the prize winners of the Small Works Exhibition – and we found that the Juror’s Award for Best in Show and the People’s Vote for Best in Show were both most deservedly won by Jean Emmons! Huntington Gardens Director James Folsom gave a slide show and keynote address on the color green, a witty explanation of the color, how it comes to be in plants (with a full vial of chlorophyll for demonstration), why we love it, and why it is so seductive to artists. Farewells were hard to say. There is nothing better for ASBA members than this Conference….unless it’s mucking about in swamps. See you in Phoenix (can we muck about in a desert?)!