by Deb Shaw

A New Blue

Blue pigment discovered at Professor Subramanian's lab at Oregon Stste University. Photo from Oregon State University.

Blue pigment discovered at Professor Subramanian’s lab at Oregon Stste University. Photo from Oregon State University.

Professor Mas Subramanian is a professor of materials science at Oregon State University, researching new materials that could be used in electronics. In 2009, one of his grad students, Andrew E. Smith took a mixture out of the furnace that had been heated to more than 2,000 Fahrenheit and found it had turned a brilliant, clear blue color. They had accidentally, serendipitously discovered a new blue pigment; the first new blue in more than 200 years. The last “new inorganic blue” to be manufactured was Cobalt Blue in the early 1800’s. Cobalt, however, was not lightfast and was toxic to boot.

Considered a “complex inorganic pigment,” the new blue is currently called YInMn blue, named for its chemical makeup of yttrium, indium and manganese oxides.

Subramanian, Smith and Oregon State University chemistry professor Arthur Sleight patented the YInMn material; Shepherd Color, an industrial pigment distributor is testing out the pigment’s application. Once the Environmental Protection Agency approves the color for commercial manufacturing, Shepherd is licensed to sell the pigment. So far, YInMn has proven to reflect heat more than Cobalt Blue and has proven to be remarkably stable; holding up against oil, water and sunlight better than other available blues. In addition to being light safe, none of the ingredients are toxic.

Once large manufacturers are using a pigment, the material trickles down to our art supplies. Keep your eyes open in the next few years for a brand new blue, which will most likely receive a sexier name for marketing purposes. And the team of “new blue” researchers are already working to create new colors by altering the mixture. They have created a purple by adding titanium and zinc and are expecting additional bright, vivid colors to follow.

National Public Radio (NPR) has an article online with interesting links about the new blue from July 16, 2016. Oregon State University has an in depth article about it as well.

Late Summer “Reads”: Links to Books and Online Articles and Podcasts about Color

Now that we’re hitting the dog days of summer, here are some interesting books, links and podcasts about color:

NPR has a series of free podcasts about color, called Color Decoded: Stories that Span the Spectrum. Read the articles, or listen or download them all from the link, or individually from any of the links below. Many of the following (in reverse order) are only a few minutes long, so queue them all up. Some of them have been featured on our BAGSC News blog previously. They’re fun listening while painting or drawing:

Each of the individual articles have links to other resources and stories about color: TED Talks, podcasts and news articles. It’s easy to journey deep into online color discoveries.

For those who prefer spending the end of summer curled up with a good book, here are a very few great reads about colors:

  • A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage, and the Quest for the Color of Desire, Amy Butler Greenfield, ISBN-10: 0060522763
  • A Red Like No Other: How Cochineal Colored the World, Carmella Padilla and Barbara Anderson, ISBN-10: 0847846431
  • Mauve: How One Man Invented a Color That Changed the World, Simon Garfield, ISBN-10: 0393323137
  • Color: A Natural History of the Palette, Victoria Finlay, ISBN-10: 0812971426
  • The Brilliant History of Color in Art, Victoria Finlay, ISBN-10: 1606064290
  • Rarest Blue: The Remarkable Story of an Ancient Color Lost to History and Rediscovered, Baruch Sterman, ISBN-10: 0762782226

Have a favorite book about the history of a color? Let us know in the “Comments” section.


by Deb Shaw

Not too long after Jim Folsom, published his free ebook, “A Botanical Reader for the Curious Gardener,” in February 2016, it mysteriously disappeared from iBooks, much to the disappointment of those who hadn’t yet had a chance to download it. The problem turned out to be some technical glitches.

Cover, "A Botanical Reader for the Curious Gardener", James P. Folsom, © 2016, all rights reserved.

Cover, “A Botanical Reader for the Curious Gardener”, James P. Folsom, © 2016, all rights reserved.

Jim used the opportunity to issue version 1.2 of “A Botanical Reader” as they got the ebook back online. The new version includes edits, expansion of the Botanical Calendar, and an enlarged Plant Trivia TimeLine.

BAGSC News covered the initial launch of “A Botanical Reader” [read the full article at:]

The ebook is downloadable for free through iTunes/iBooks, at  It’s listed in the category of Life Sciences, and is available on the iPad, iPhone and Mac. Search in iBooks under “A Botanical Reader” or “James P. Folsom” and it will come right up. The print length is 332 pages. 

About the Author
James P. (Jim) Folsom, PhD., rides the demographic peak of baby boomers, having been born in southeastern Alabama in 1950. His lifelong love of plants is reflected in a BS in Botany from Auburn University, an MA in Biology from Vanderbilt University, and a PhD in research botany from The University of Texas at Austin. Though his research has centered on the orchid family, with much of the research time spent in Tropical America (including a year in Colombia on a Fulbright Pre-Doctoral Fellowship), Jim’s botanical interests are wide-ranging. As Curator of the Botanical Gardens at The Huntington in San Marino, CA, he dedicates much of his effort to educational programs that increase public interest and understanding of the science, culture, and history of plants and gardens. He lives at The Huntington with his wife, Debra (also a botanist) and children Molly and Jimmy. Jim was recognized as a Friend of the Cactus and Succulent Society of America in 1996, a Member-at-Large of the Garden Club of America in 1998, and presented a Professional Citation by the American Association of Botanical Gardens and Arboreta in 1999. The Garden Club of America awarded him their Medal of Honor in 2007.

by Susan Jackson, posted by Deb Shaw

A new exhibit has just opened at the San Diego Natural History Museum in Balboa Park that botanical artists would find quite interesting. It is located in the Eleanor and Jerome Navarra Special Collections Gallery on the third floor of the museum. It is a permanent exhibition called Extraordinary Ideas from Ordinary People: A History of Citizen Science which features rare books, art, photographs, maps and historical documents that pay homage to the past, present, and future of citizen science.

The upper mezzanine features an exhibit that a botanical artist will not want to miss. On display are nine “Plant Portraits” by the early twentieth century painter, A. R. Valentien. He was commissioned by the philanthropist Ellen Browning Scripps to paint California wildflowers. Over a period of ten years, Valentien traveled around California creating exquisite watercolor and gouache scientific illustrations. Part of the collection of 1,094 paintings, all done on 13x 20 paper, will be rotated in this gallery. A book which includes photographs of all the paintings can be found in the gift shop, however, it is no substitute for seeing the real thing. Bring your magnifying glass.

The gallery also has original catalogs from Pierre-Joseph Redoute, William Curtis, Auguste Johann Rosel von Rosenhoff, and John James Audubon. These are huge volumes printed in black ink and then hand colored. They are a reminder of a time before photography when beautiful books were only available to the very wealthy. Although we frequently see prints that originated from these catalogs, there is something very special in actually seeing the originals.

More information about the exhibit and the San Diego Natural History Museum may be found on their website. There is also a short video about the Valentien Collection, which can be seen by clicking on the arrow located on the close up view of the Mariposa Lily. If you decide to visit, plan on spending several hours, because there are lots of other things to see as well.

The San Diego Museum of Natural History is located at 1788 El Prado, Balboa Park, San Diego, CA 92101. The Museum is open daily 10 AM to 5 PM, and until 8 PM on most Fridays this summer. Visit the website for ticket prices and specific daily hours; the Museum may close early on some days.

by Deb Shaw

We were working on the house, with KPCC (89.3) on the radio in the background. The Dinner Party Download (American Public Media) came on. They were re-playing an old episode (Episode 341) from March 25, 2016.

Graphic novelist Daniel Clowes was a featured guest. In answer to the statement “Tell us something we don’t know about you,” he told how he searched for years for the perfect pen — the pen that the comic artists he most admired must have used to create those beautiful lines. Much to his surprise, he found out it wasn’t a pen at all, but a watercolor brush, specifically, a Kolinsky Sable brush. It was a struggle for him to learn to be proficient with the brush. Once mastered, he couldn’t conceive of using anything else. Then he spoke about how we couldn’t get them here in the US for a period of time, and all about the Russian Siberian Weasel (including the scientific name).

A reference right there on the radio, about an obscure subject that consumed our artists’ community!



by Deb Shaw, with permission from David Reynolds

Melbourne-based botanical artist and filmmaker David Reynolds has created a one-hour documentary about six of Australia’s botanical and natural history artists. Titled Studio Sessions: Seen through the eyes of the artist, the documentary features interviews with Celia Rosser, Jenny Phillips, Dianne Emery, Terry Napier, Mali Moir, and John Pastoriza-Piñol.

Written and directed by Reynolds, the documentary offers insight into the artists’ approach. Each interview is filmed in the artist’s studio, giving the viewer an intimate look at the setting in which the artists create their detailed, accurate works.

Studio Sessions: Seen through the eyes of the artist. Written and directed by David Reynolds. © 2016, all rights reserved.

Studio Sessions: Seen through the eyes of the artist. Written and directed by David Reynolds. © 2016, all rights reserved.

The DVD is available for pre-order through Reynolds’ website:  Cost is $30 AUD (there is a convenient currency converter on the site) with an additional $10 AUD for postage and handling outside Australia. The DVD will be available world-wide in both PAL and NTSC format and will be Region Free. (Here in the US, NTSC is the most common format.)

Shipping is planned to begin in early September, 2016. Once the DVD is released, pre-order customers will be contacted to arrange payment and delivery. After release, the DVD will be able to be ordered through an online store on the website.

by Beth Stone, posted by Deb Shaw

Passion Flower study, Olga Eysymontt, © 2008, all rights reserved.

Passion Flower study, Olga Eysymontt, © 2008, all rights reserved.

It’s time to register for BAGSC Founder and Member Olga Eysymont’s next series at the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden. Registration is through the Otis website. Here’s the link:

Don’t worry that the class description on the Otis website reads the same as Olga’s previous sessions. Olga says “For my returning students, I will be giving them other projects to work on.”

New students will explore the subject of plant families, with the goal of demonstrating both correct representation of the specimen, as well as a good compositional design. An emphasis on correct placement of light on form will be emphasized, in order to produce an authentic and realistic illustration.

“Botanical Illustration: Plant Studies,” in graphite, will meet for six Sundays, from 9:30 am – 3:30 pm, beginning Sunday, September 18, 2016,  and then on the following five Sundays: October 2, October 16, October 30, November 6 and November 20.


Register online through Otis College of Art and Design Continuing Education. All classes will be held at the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden. The course is non-credit, although certificate and credit options are available for additional cost.

The Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden is located at: 301 North Baldwin Ave, Arcadia, CA 91007.

Workshop Discounts

A $50 discount on the course registration is available until August 21. Senior discounts also are available; check with Otis to see if they can be used in combination with the early registration discount.

Class Materials:

14″ x 17” Strathmore Drawing Pad Series 400, Medium or equivalent. (You may use another brand, but please, no sketch or recycled paper.

14” x 17” Medium Weight Tracing Paper (any brand)

Drafting Pencil with Holder and Sharpener

HB and 2B leads (at least 2 each)

Eraser Stick

Erasing Shield

Drafting Brush

Mars Drafting Dots (masking tape)

Portable Task Light (Ott-Lite)

(Vis a Vis wet erase fine point marker, Clip, 8″ x 10″ Plexi and 8″ x 10″ format supplied by teacher for $10.00)

by Deb Shaw

Buzzfeed's finished DIY pencil holder, open. © 2016 Buzzfeed Nifty.

Buzzfeed’s finished DIY pencil holder, open. © 2016 Buzzfeed Nifty.

I don’t know about you, but I have a collection of palettes and pencil holders and pen holders and brush holders to rival the inventory in any art store. Some I’ve made, most I’ve purchased, and some have been gifts. They all look perfect at first glance, but then there is always something that looks better about the newest version, and, well…

Thank you to Amanda Krauss Nguyen for sharing Nifty’s Do-It-Yourself instructions on Buzzfeed for this easy and fabulous holder with the facebook group The Nature Journal Club. Full instructions are on the Nifty page:

by Clara Josephs, posted by Deb Shaw

BAGSC’s Fall general quarterly meeting will be held on Sunday, September 11 at the home of BAGSC’s president. BAGSC members also will receive this meeting notification in an email blast with directions.

Coffee will be served at 9:30 a.m. and the business meeting will begin promptly at 10. A highlight of the meeting will be the official unveiling of our new BAGSC website. Come to the meeting, get a tour of the new site, and learn how your images can be part of our members’ gallery. We also have several new workshops to announce.

Bring a lunch item to share. Following our potluck lunch, Kathy Morgan will demonstrate the use of carbon dust to create stunning botanical portraits. After studying with Olga Eysymontt, Kathy has mastered this unique method of painting known for rich, dark values and flawless transitions. You will have an opportunity to try working with the materials and get feedback from Kathy.

As always, carpooling is recommended. In addition to your lunch contribution, bring any painting you are working to show or to receive help from our members. Questions? Contact Pat Mark or Clara Josephs.

Looking forward to seeing you on September 11, at 9:30 a.m!

by Deb Shaw

By Arnold Gatilao - originally posted to Flickr as Root Beer Float, CC BY 2.0,

By Arnold Gatilao – originally posted to Flickr as Root Beer Float, CC BY 2.0,

I know, it has nothing to do with botanical art, but it’s been so hot and humid, that I felt duty-bound to let you know that today, Saturday, August 6 is National Root Beer Float Day.

A Root Beer Float might be a refreshing incentive to keep working on your art. I usually have tissue down to protect the areas of my artwork, and I wear light cotton gloves with the fingers cut off. It’s been so sticky and humid, however, that I’m now also laying a folded cotton tea towel under my arm and hand.

Add your tips to working in hot, humid, sticky weather in the comments section please. And enjoy a Root Beer Float and your art!

by Deb Shaw

Hunt 15th International Exhibition of Botanical Art and Illustration
Every three years the American Society of Botanical Artists (ASBA) holds its annual conference in Pittsburgh, PA to coincide with the Hunt Institute’s International Exhibition. This year is no exception: the 15th International Exhibition will open on September 15, and will run through December 15, 2016.

The Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation established the International Exhibition in 1964 with the purpose of supporting and encouraging contemporary botanical artists. The upcoming exhibition features 43 works by 43 different artists from 15 different countries. A few selected works from the exhibition can be viewed on the website.

Cover of the Hunt 15th International Exhibition Catalog. Cover art: Soft Tree Fern, Dicksonia antarctica [Dicksonia antarctica Labillardière, Dicksoniaceae], watercolor on paper by Laurie Andrews (1936–), 2008, 76.5 × 56.5 cm, HI Art accession no. 8078, reproduced by permission of the artist.

Cover of the Hunt 15th International Exhibition Catalog. Cover art: Soft Tree Fern, Dicksonia antarctica [Dicksonia antarctica Labillardière, Dicksoniaceae], watercolor on paper by Laurie Andrews (1936–), 2008, 76.5 × 56.5 cm, HI Art accession no. 8078, reproduced by permission of the artist.

As always, the exhibition is accompanied by a full-color catalogue containing reproductions of all of the artworks, as well as biographies and portraits of the artists. Collectively, the 15 catalogues of each exhibition features 1,172 contemporary botanical artists from around the world.

The opening reception on October 13, from 6 pm – 9 pm is open to the public, and also is a highlight of the ASBA conference. The curators of the exhibition will give a short introduction to the exhibition in the gallery at 6:30 pm. Catalogues will be available for sale at the opening.

The Hunt Institute is located at: 4909 Frew Street, 5th Floor, Hunt Library. The exhibition will be on display on the 5th floor of the Hunt Library building at Carnegie Mellon University and will be open to the public free of charge. Hours: Monday–Friday, 9 a.m.–noon and 1–5 p.m.; Sunday, 1–4 p.m. (except 20 November and 24–27 November). Because the Hunt’s hours of operation are occasionally subject to change, please call or email before your visit to confirm. For further information, contact the Hunt Institute at 412-268-2434, or email.

Early Bird Registration for the 22nd Annual ASBA Meeting and Conference CLOSES AUGUST 7, 2016!
The deadline for early registration discounts for the 22nd Annual ASBA Meeting and Conference closes on August 7, 2016. Early registration fees (on or before August 7) are $360. Register now online. After August 7, registration jumps to $425. Registration closes September 4, 2016, no exceptions.

Join ten other BAGSC members who have registered for the conference so far. See old friends, meet new friends from all over the world, learn new techniques and get inspired.

The conference will be held at the Wyndham Pittsburgh University Center, just a few blocks from Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Garden, The Carnegie Museum of Natural History, The Carnegie Museum of Art, and the Cathedral of Learning at the University of Pittsburgh. And, of course, there is the Hunt 15th Annual International Exhibition—one of the world’s most prestigious exhibitions of botanical art and a must-see.

BAGSC member Margaret Best will be teaching a one-day workshop on watercolor, “From the Ground Up.” BAGSC member Deborah Shaw will be giving an up-to-the-very-minute lecture about how to protect your images on the web, along with some tips and tricks and a list of helpful and fun apps.

There are still openings in various workshops, including graphite, colored pencil, and pen-and-ink. There are many fascinating lectures available at no additional charge. And there are openings available for a field trip to visit Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater.

Read about the conference, sessions and instructors on ASBA’s website, make your selections, then go to the online registration site to register.

There are 193 ASBA members who have registered so far. Come join us in Pittsburgh!

by Deb Shaw

Forest of Fontainebleau, Cluster of Tall Trees Overlooking the Plain of Clair-Bois at the Edge of Bas-Bréau; Théodore Rousseau (French, 1812 - 1867); France; about 1849 - 1852; Oil on canvas; 90.8 × 116.8 cm (35 3/4 × 46 in.); 2007.13

Forest of Fontainebleau, Cluster of Tall Trees Overlooking the Plain of Clair-Bois at the Edge of Bas-Bréau; Théodore Rousseau (French, 1812 – 1867); France; about 1849 – 1852; Oil on canvas; 90.8 × 116.8 cm (35 3/4 × 46 in.); 2007.13

In addition to all the other exciting exhibitions to see in Southern California this summer, The Getty Center currently has a wonderful exhibition titled Unruly Nature: The Landscapes of Théodore Rousseau. On display until September 11, 2016, the exhibition brings together seventy paintings and drawings loaned from museums and private collections from all over the world. It is the first comprehensive exhibition about Rousseau in North America, and the largest Rousseau exhibition since 1967 in Paris.

Personally, it is my favorite type of exhibition, containing working sketches, master works and problematic works spanning Rousseau’s entire career as an artist. Regardless of how you feel about Rousseau’s work, this is one of those spectacularly curated exhibitions that allow us to see into the artist’s techniques, working styles, and artistic demons.

Although severely under-appreciated by the art establishment of his time, Théodore Rousseau was a pivotal figure in the history of art. A leader and founder of the Barbizon School of Painters (named for the village of Barbizon, France, near the Forest of Fontainebleau where he spent much of his career), Rousseau pushed the Romantic art movement towards Realism, and laid the groundwork for the Impressionists who followed.

Rousseau found refuge from external and internal turmoil in nature, in the forests, trees and landscapes around him. The 1800s were a time of rapid change, and a source of anxiety and disappointment for everyone: wars raged across Europe and abroad; the industrial revolution became entrenched in daily life; and Rousseau suffered so many rejections from The Paris Salon, he was given the nickname “le grand refusé” (“the great refused”).

Closer to home, his wife suffered from debilitating bouts of mental illness—called “insanity” at the time. As his wife’s mental health grew more precarious, he took her for treatment. While absent, a young man who was a friend of the family and staying in his Barbizon home committed suicide there. Rousseau’s father (who outlived him), became financially dependent on him and Rousseau’s own health deteriorated. After his death, his lifelong friend and fellow artist, Jean-François Millet, assumed responsibility for Rousseau’s wife.

Rousseau was somewhat of a mystic, and said the trees spoke to him. He took his sketchpads into the forest and drew directly from nature. Unlike other artists of the time, he treated his sketches with the same reverence as he treated his art—as artistic works in their own right. In an effort to capture light and dark, mood and texture, Rousseau used mixed media on a variety of surfaces, allowing his gestures and painterly marks to add to the energy of his art.

Forest in Boisrémond (recto); Cottage in a Forest (verso); Théodore Rousseau (French, 1812 - 1867); 1842; Black chalk on laid paper (recto); graphite (verso); 28.1 × 45 cm (11 1/16 × 17 11/16 in.); 2002.3

Forest in Boisrémond (recto); Cottage in a Forest (verso); Théodore Rousseau (French, 1812 – 1867); 1842; Black chalk on laid paper (recto); graphite (verso); 28.1 × 45 cm (11 1/16 × 17 11/16 in.); 2002.3

Rousseau’s sketches in the exhibition are immediate and visceral. It is wonderful to see how he blocked in the perspective and ignored overlapping lines (which, of course, no one would notice unless you were looking carefully).

One of my favorites in the exhibition is a pairing of a sketch next to the finished oil painting on one wall of the gallery. The detailed sketch, [Under the Birches, Evening, 1842, Black chalk on brown wove paper, Toledo, Museum of Art, Frederick B.and Kate L. Shoemaker Fund, 1976.8, Catalogue number 20] is lively, serene and pleasant. At first glance, the finished oil painting, [Evening (The Parish Priest), 1842–43, Oil on panel, Toledo Museum of Art, gift of Arthur J.Secor, 1933.37, Catalogue number 21] looks to be a faithful studio rendering of the sketch, except that the mood of the painting is substantially different. It’s not simply the addition of color that creates the quiet melancholy. Closer examination between the two reveals where Rousseau changed the mode by subtly changing the details. He removed some leaves from this branch, reduced the size and altered the round shape of one of the trees, slightly reduced the width of the trunks, emphasized the crooks and turns of the trunks, and more, to achieve the effect he wanted, without changing the habit or growth patterns of the trees themselves.

Rousseau was able to complete sketches and drawings outdoors with no problem, but agonized over whether or not a canvas in the studio was finished. A fellow artist and neighbor in Barbizon, Jules Dupré, would sometimes sneak into the studio and take a painting away to prevent Rousseau from overworking it. Many of his canvases have areas that are executed in great detail, while other areas are barely developed.

In the exhibition it is readily apparent (and delightful) to see Rousseau’s finished paintings that are clearly overworked, against those which are not. His overworked paintings are beautifully executed, but clearly have all the life sucked out of them. A brilliant visual lesson for all artists who labor over the “is it done?” question!

Rousseau loved music, especially Beethoven, Mozart and Schumann. Like Beethoven, Rousseau’s inspiration came from long walks in the woods. The Getty has free headphone and players available for use while viewing the exhibition that plays music by composers who inspired Rousseau. Los Angeles Philharmonic guest conductor Nicholas McGegan curated the playlist of works by Mozart, Beethoven, Schumann and others.

In my opinion, Rousseau’s trees are portrayed with weathered wisdom and a great melancholy sadness. They are trees that speak eloquently to our time as well as his.

“I listen to the voices of the trees… I discover their passions.
The artist’s soul must become filled with the infinity of nature.”
­­­—Théodore Rousseau


Unfortunately, the Studio workshop and my Tree Drawing workshop at The Getty in conjunction with the Rousseau exhibition are past. The Getty still has, however, upcoming events related to the exhibition, including:

Mozart, Weber and Schumann
Conductor Nicholas McGegan leads the Los Angeles Philharmonic in a program of music inspired by the personal taste of Théodore Rousseau, a true “mélomane,” or music lover. Videos made in collaboration with the J. Paul Getty Museum will provide insight into the artist’s relationship with the music that fired the passions of his Romantic generation.
Thursday, August 18, 8:00 p.m.
Hollywood Bowl

“The Great Landscape Painter of our Time”: Théodore Rousseau and the Imaging of 19th-Century France
Simon Kelly, curator of modern and contemporary art at the St. Louis Art Museum, explores Rousseau’s central position in 19th-century French landscape painting. Kelly questions the dominant narrative of plein-air naturalism surrounding his work, instead arguing for a more complex view of an artist producing deeply meditated imagery, drawing on a broad range of interests that includes literature, music, and philosophy. Kelly also places Rousseau’s output within the context of the Barbizon artistic colony which included his close friend, Jean-François Millet.
Sunday, August 21, 2:00 p.m.
Getty Center: Museum Lecture Hall


The exhibition, Unruly Nature: The Landscapes of Théodore Rousseau, has been co-organized by the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles and the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen.

The J. Paul Getty Museum is located at: North Sepulveda Blvd and Getty Center Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90049. Hours and fees can be found here.

by Deb Shaw

One of 512 Unique Blueprints created by the artist and team to distribute at the Field Office.

One of 512 Unique Blueprints created by the artist and team to distribute at the Field Office.

Artist Mel Chin has a new Land Art project in Los Angeles, entitled The Tie that Binds. Created for Los Angeles’ CURRENT:LA Water Public Art Biennial, the project invites visitors to connect to the site of the Bowtie Project, to understand water conservation in Southern California and to join hundreds of other LA residents in owning a work of Land Art we can grow in our own yards.

The Bowtie Project envisions a transformation of a stretch of the LA River. Once a railroad yard, this rare, 18-acre part of the River was left completely in its natural state, never transformed by engineers or concrete. Currently overgrown with invasive species, the site is still home to some native plant species, fish and birds.

TTB plot 111-CF, Bowtie demonstration garden and South LA mirror installation.

TTB plot 111-CF, Bowtie demonstration garden and South LA mirror installation.

The Bowtie Project is part of a plan to restore this area of the LA River as an natural, urban state park. The Tie that Binds imagines the future Bowtie Project and the entire city sustained with water-saving, California-native landscapes. Compelled by the beauty of the site and belief that this is a place that should be owned by everyone, The Tie that Binds invites the public to “mirror” this future landscape in hundreds of individual lawns throughout Southern California.

To introduce the project, eight, small Land Art gardens are planted at the Bowtie site to serve as “models”. A field office on site is staffed by “MirrorMakers/Espejeros” and is open Thursday–Sunday evenings through August 14. Private and public locations in diverse neighborhoods of Southern California have already planted exact replicas or “mirrors” of one of the Bowtie Project garden demonstrations.

demonstration garden and Brentwood mirror installation.

TTB plot 184-DJ, Bowtie demonstration garden and Brentwood mirror installation.

Mel Chin invites Southern California to help realize this Land Art work. Those who commit to growing a The Tie that Binds mirror garden receive a free, unique, artist-designed blueprint, a list of native plant species, and instructions on how to grow a garden that requires little or no watering. These gardens will fulfill the potential of a living sculpture that is collectively owned by the public.

Carolina Miranda wrote a wonderful article for the LA Times about the site, titled “Why Mel Chin is giving away the land art design of his subversively charming CURRENT:LA native garden.” You can see additional photos of the installation, as well as photos of the installation with Miranda’s trusty research assistant, Bonnie, the American Staffordshire Terrier.

MirrorMakers Yrneh and Margo with Roger, a new Tie that Binds blueprint holder (Photo credit: Amanda Wiles, © 2016).

MirrorMakers Yrneh and Margo with Roger, a new Tie that Binds blueprint holder (Photo credit: Amanda Wiles, © 2016).

Visiting The Tie that Binds
The Bowtie Project is an 18-acre post-industrial site owned by California State Parks and is located at 2780 Casitas Ave, Los Angeles, CA, 90039. Please enter through the yellow gate and follow directions for parking. The nearly 3/4 mile site is accessed by walking; accommodations will be made for any who need assistance.

The Tie that Binds field office at the Bowtie Project is open 5:30 pm until sunset, Thursday – Sunday through August 14, 2016. Mirror Makers/Espejeros are onsite to talk with visitors about the project.

About the Artist
Mel Chin is from Houston, Texas and is known for the broad range of approaches in his art, including works that require multi-disciplinary, collaborative teamwork and works that conjoin cross-cultural aesthetics with complex ideas. He developed Revival Field (1989-ongoing), a project that pioneered the field of “green remediation,” the use of plants to remove toxic, heavy metals from the soil. A current project, Fundred Dollar Bill/Operation Paydirt, focuses on national awareness and prevention of childhood lead-poisoning through art-making. Mel is also well known for his iconic sculptures and installations, works that often address the importance of memory and collective identity, and for inserting art into unlikely places, including destroyed homes, toxic landfills, and even popular television, investigating how art can provoke greater social awareness and responsibility.

Mirror Garden Host Blueprint Holders from Long Beach (photo Amanda Wiles)

Mirror Garden Host Blueprint Holders from Long Beach (Photo credit: Amanda Wiles, © 2016.)

The Tie that Binds: The Mirror of the Future is produced by Mel Chin in partnership with California State Parks, The Bowtie Project, and Clockshop. It is is commissioned by Department of Cultural Affairs for Current: LA Water Public Art Biennial 2016, and is made possible by the support of the Department of Cultural Affairs, The City of Los Angeles, Bloomberg Philanthropies, and the Ralph M. Parsons Foundation.


by Patricia Mark, posted by Deb Shaw

Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Gardens LogoThe Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Gardens (RSABG) is opening an exhibition entitled On Location: California Native Plants in the Movies. The opening reception will be held on Friday August 19 from 5 pm to 7 pm, at Johnson’s Oval at RSABG. Remarks will be made at 5:30 pm and light refreshments will be served.

On Location: California Native Plants in the MoviesLearn how native plants have shaped movie culture—from Vertigo to Star Wars—in this fun exhibition where botany meets the box office. Discover film stills, posters and other memorabilia from movie culture that spotlight a cast of native floral characters.

RSVP requested by Wednesday, August 17 to

RSABG members are free
Guests of RSABG members: $20 per person
Please contact the Development Office to pay for your guests, via email, or by calling (909) 625-8767, ext. 258.

The Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Gardens are located at: 1500 N. College Ave, Claremont, CA 91711.

Note: if you are interested in sponsoring this exhibition, sponsorships are still available. Contact RSABG via email for more information.

by Deb Shaw

Prunus dulcis, Almond, watercolor by Margaret Best, © 2016, all rights reserved.

Prunus dulcis, Almond, watercolor by Margaret Best, © 2016, all rights reserved.

BAGSC members Margaret Best, Akiko Enokido, Asuka Hishiki, Mitsuko Schultz, and Deborah Shaw have been accepted into the 19th Annual International American Society of Botanical Artists (ASBA) and The Horticultural Society of New York.

Jurors Susan Fraser (Director, Mertz Library,The New York Botanical Garden), David Horak (Curator of the Aquatic House, Brooklyn Botanic Garden), and Catherine Watters  (Botanical Artist) chose 48 artworks from 258 submissions. Works in the exhibition include artists from the United States, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Japan, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom.

Camellia japonica 'Hakuho', Heirloom Camellia "Hakuho', Akiko Enokido, © 2015, watercolor on vellum.

Camellia japonica ‘Hakuho’, Heirloom Camellia ‘Hakuho’ ‘White Phoenix’, watercolor on vellum by Akiko Enokido, © 2015, all rights reserved.

This year’s exhibition is in a new venue: it will be hosted by the New York Design Center and installed in their bright, airy, contemporary gallery space, 1stDibs, on the tenth floor. The Horticultural Society of New York, New York Design Center, and ASBA are designing special outreach events and programs, to be announced in September.

The opening reception will take place on Thursday evening, November 3, 2016 and will be on display through December 30, 2016. The catalog of artwork images will be posted on ASBA’s website the day of the opening. A full-color catalog will be published and available on ASBA’s website, as well as at the 1stDibs Gallery and at The Horticultural Society of New York. For further information please contact ASBA’s Exhibitions Director.

1stDibs is located on the 10th Floor of The New York Design Center, 200 Lexington Avenue, New York, New York, 10018. Gallery Hours are 9:30 – 5:30 Monday – Friday.

Solanum lycopersicm, Dancing Duo 34-A, Portrait of an Heirloom Tomato, watercolor by Asuka Hishiki, © 2016, all rights reserved.

Solanum lycopersicm, Dancing Duo 34-A, Portrait of an Heirloom Tomato, watercolor by Asuka Hishiki, © 2016, all rights reserved.

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis, Hibiscus, watercolor by Mitsuko Schultz, © 2016, all rights reserved.

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis, Hibiscus, watercolor by Mitsuko Schultz, © 2016, all rights reserved.

Opuntia spp. Fruit, Tunas or Prickly Pear Cactus Fruit, watercolor on vellum by Deborah Shaw, © 2016, all rights reserved.

Opuntia spp. Fruit, Tunas or Prickly Pear Cactus Fruit, watercolor on vellum by Deborah Shaw, © 2016, all rights reserved.

California Poppy, 50"x28", © JW Fike, 2015. Photographed in Miramonte, CA.

California Poppy, 50″x28″, © JW Fike, 2015. Photographed in Miramonte, CA.

by Deb Shaw

There are a wealth of exhibitions this summer in Southern California that are botanically instructive and inspirational.

One is in South Orange County. Soka University in Aliso Viejo is currently showing JW (Jimmy) Fike’s solo exhibition, Photographic Survey of the Wild Edible Botanicals of California, now through August 26, 2016.

Even though his medium is photography, rather than traditional painting or drawing, the intent behind Fike’s large, stark, beautiful photographs is similar to any botanical artist or illustrator:

“Within my system the plant is excavated, arranged in the studio, photographed, then illustrated digitally in such a way as to render the edible parts in color while the remaining parts, less emphatically, read as contact prints.” [Quote from Soka University website.]

Henbit, 28"x20", © JW Fike, 2014. Photographed in Miramonte, CA.

Henbit, 28″x20″, © JW Fike, 2014. Photographed in Miramonte, CA.

After Fike meticulously composes and arranges his specimen to emphasize key plant characteristics, he photographs it and then begins illustrating in Photoshop. Each piece may take up to three or four months to illustrate. (Sound familiar?) Each photograph references scientific illustration, contact prints, and photograms:

“I’m referencing the history of contact prints and photograms from the dawn of photography,” said Fike, noting 19th century English botanist Anna Atkins and pioneering photographer Henry Fox Talbot. “Some of the very first photographs were plant specimens on sensitized paper.” [Quote from LA Times article, Haunting flowers: The eerily beautiful California botanical art of J.W. Fike.]

Fike exhibits a symbiotic collection of edible plants from a geographic area. He has photographed more than ninety plants in “seven different states and plan to continue the survey until I’ve created a collection that spans the continental United States.” [Quote from Soka University website.]

Soap plant, 110" x 64", © JW Fike, 2015. Photographed in Miramonte, CA.

Soap plant, 110″ x 64″, © JW Fike, 2015. Photographed in Miramonte, CA.

Fike’s exhibition has been covered in the LA Times, and on Botanical Art & Artists by Katherine Tyrrell. His photographs and other articles can be found on his blog.

Soka University’s Founders Hall Art Gallery is located at 1 University Drive, Aliso Viejo, CA 92656, 949-480-4000,
Exhibition now through August 26, 2016
Free Admission
Monday thru Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Map and directions


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