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by Deb Shaw

Midnight (Eastern Daylight Time), August 31, 2018 is the last day to register for the American Society of Botanical Artists 24th Annual Meeting & Conference in St. Louis!!

Come spend time with fellow botanical artists, take workshops, and attend lectures. Spend quality time at the Missouri Botanical Garden, one of the world’s top botanical gardens. Founded in 1859, the Missouri Botanical Garden is the nation’s oldest continuously-operating botanical garden and a National Historic Landmark.

The Foundry Art Centre in St. Charles, Missouri will host “Out of the Woods: Celebrating Trees in Public Gardens, the Third New York Botanical Garden Triennial” exhibition of botanical art along with a companion, adjunct exhibition “Out on a Limb.” A reception for conference attendees will be held Thursday, October 11, and will also feature the slideshow of artwork from the 25-country Botanical Art Worldwide exhibitions.

To register, look at the descriptions and information on the ASBA website. Then go to the Conference Registration website to register. Scroll down on the registration site to see openings remaining in various workshops and presentations. There are a lot of openings left in wonderful workshops!

If you’ve already registered but would like to add a class, contact the conference registrar to request the additions to your registration.

by Deb Shaw

John Cogley and Kathrine Taylor of Daniel Smith, gave a fascinating presentation on the pigments and processing methods they use to create Daniel Smith paints.

John Cogley, President/CEO and Founder of Daniel Smith, talks over some paint tests with ASBA Conference attendees.

John Cogley, President/CEO and Founder of Daniel Smith, talks over some paint tests with ASBA Conference attendees.

How rocks become pigments

The multiple-step process begins with the Daniel Smith geologist adventuring out all over the world to search for mineral resources. Acquiring material is rife with problems: countries may decide they no longer want to export minerals; borders close; or mines run dry.

Sugilite, rhodonite, serpentine, ryanite, garnet and more—mountains of minerals arrive for processing. Many start out the size of a person’s torso. John explained that they fracture the rock, rather than grind it. His analogy was the difference between table sugar and powdered sugar: fracturing the rock until it is very fine keeps the crystalline structure intact, so it refracts light. Grinding would make the pigments dull and lifeless, like powdered sugar.

The challenge in creating quality pigments is overcoming the electric static of the individual particles, which makes them want to attract and clump together. This natural tendency to agglomerate creates pigment “lumps,” which leave hot and cold spots in the paint application. Multi-stage machine processing enables the pigments to lay in an orderly row, giving maximum refraction and maximum color.

The rocks are squeezed in the first machine until they fracture. Successive machines gently hammer them, and then roll them through balls, until they are the size of grains of rice. From there, they are run through heavy, hardened steel rollers. The hardened steel rollers have a hardness of 7, and some of the rocks have a hardness of 8 or 9; so the massive rollers need to be replaced annually (at least!). Each roller costs upwards of $50,000.00.

Once the pigment is at its final size, the mineral is run through various solutions. Specific gravity separates out the impurities, and the pure pigment is ready to be mixed with gum arabic and packaged.

Daniel Smith only uses medicinal grade gum arabic for binding, as it is consistent in quality.

Each batch of color is tested and carefully recorded at Daniel Smith. Photo by Deb Shaw.

Each batch of color is tested and carefully recorded at Daniel Smith. Photo by Deb Shaw.

It’s all about the size of the particles

Different minerals are reduced to different sizes, depending on the color desired. For example, French Ultramarine has larger pigment particles than Ultramarine. This means that French Ultramarine particles have more surface area and will reflect more “red” back to the viewer than Ultramarine.

The smoother the pigment and the purer the pigment, the less granulation will occur when applying the paint.

Garnets in their matrix, on top of Daniel Smith Garnet Genuine test page. Photo by Deb Shaw.

Garnets in their matrix, on top of Daniel Smith Garnet Genuine test page. Photo by Deb Shaw.

Granulation, or reticulation occurs when three or more pigments in a color behave differently when applied to the paper. If you look at a greatly enlarged side view of a sheet of paper, it’s apparent that it isn’t smooth and flat, but has hills and valleys. The pigments in a  granulating color will separate out and settle out at different points on the paper, based on the specific gravity or density. The lightest pigment (frequently synthetic pigments) will “float” and stay on the top of the hill. The next heaviest pigment might flow downhill a little further, settling in on the “side” of the hill. The very heaviest pigment will sink all the way to the valley and remain there. The purer the pigment and the smoother the paper, the less granulation there will be.

Synthetic colors, such as the Quinacrodones, are very pure, very smooth, and have exceptional lightfastness. They are used by (and dictated by) car and other industries. In the Quinacrodone family, different colors are created by moving the bonds around in the molecule.

Testing of pigment, showing the original pigment "rock" with the swatch test. Photo by Deb Shaw.

Testing of pigment, showing the original pigment “rock” with the swatch test. Photo by Deb Shaw.

Testing the paint

The Daniel Smith chemist carefully tests each batch of paint. An equal amount of pigment and distilled water (one part pigment to one part distilled water) is mixed and one full brush load is then painted on a sheet of cold pressed watercolor paper. The brush is then fully loaded once more, and stripes are painted on the lower portion of the paper to see each successive reduction in color strength as the paint is used up.

Gifts!

Daniel Smith generously handed out brochures showing their watercolor lines; a “Try It” sheet of 66 dots of watercolor; and nuggets of Turquoise from Arizona. Treasures!

Different pigment and mixing tests on cold pressed paper, and turquoise nuggets from Arizona. Photo by Deb Shaw.

Different pigment and mixing tests on cold pressed paper, and turquoise nuggets from Arizona. Photo by Deb Shaw.

TIPS

If your cap breaks

Call or email Daniel Smith. They’ll send you more, no charge.

If your tube of paint dries up

1) Unfold and open the crimped end; 2) add a little distilled water at a time until you get the desired consistency; 3) if desired, you may also add a little bit of gum arabic; 4) you may also add a tiny drop of glycerin.

If you have any questions/problems with that one tube of paint

There’s a batch number at the bottom. Include that number with your comments or questions and the folks at Daniel Smith will be able to look up that batch and help you out.

Use distilled water

Tap water is pure and safe to drink, but contains chemicals and minerals which may affect the paint and how it behaves. Use distilled water to ensure you have as much control as possible.

by Beth Stone, posted by Deb Shaw

Prairie Milkweed (Asclepias sullivanti). Photo by Beth Stone, © 2014.

Prairie Milkweed (Asclepias sullivanti). Photo by Beth Stone, © 2014.

Here are just two pictures from a beautiful fall day spent at the Plains Conservation Center. Our most informative and enthusiastic tour guides were Martha Narey and Susan Smith. Martha provided each of us with a booklet including background about the conservation center, plant lists…and several pages of various drawing papers! In addition to the last few wildflowers of the season, we saw a lot of wildlife. There were prairie dogs, rabbits, coyote, pronghorn (similar in appearance to antelope), prairie dogs, an immature bald eagle, a golden eagle, hawks, great horned owls and prairie dogs.

The Plains Conservation Center exists to bring the natural wonder of the prairie into the realm of personal experience by: preserving a remnant of the eastern Colorado High Plains, educating the public about its natural and cultural heritage and nurturing sound conservation and environmental ethics.

Russian Thistle (Salsola australis). Photo by Beth Stone, © 2014.

Russian Thistle (Salsola australis). Photo by Beth Stone, © 2014.

by Deb Shaw

The presentations from ASBA Grant Recipients is always one of my favorite sessions at the ASBA conference. It’s inspiring to hear the many different ways members reach out into the community using botanical art as a vehicle.

Jan Boyd Haring presents Estelle De Ridders project during the Grants presentation at the ASBA conference. Photo by Deb Shaw.

Jan Boyd Haring presents Estelle De Ridders project during the Grants presentation at the ASBA conference. Photo by Deb Shaw.

This year was no different. Moderator Jan Boyd Haring presented for our own BAGSC member Estelle De Ridder. As we know here in Southern California, Estelle’s project is to assist with the creation of reusable plant identification cards featuring illustrations of plant life cycle phases for the top 35 native plant species of the Madrona Marsh Preserve in Torrance, California. [See our previous blog posting about Estelle’s exhibition and opening in December of this year.]

Jody Williams presented her project: extending the reach of ASBA’s “Following in the Bartrams’ Footsteps” exhibition to the St. Francois Mountains of Southeastern Missouri. Jody documented and illustrated the plants listed by the Bartrams in the diverse habitats of the St. Francois Mountains by finding, drawing, painting and lecturing about the plants.

Lisa Coddington went from her home base in New Mexico to teach botanical art workshops to elementary students, K – 6 on the island of Grenada with a support partnership involving the Peak Institute. She overcame teacher wariness and students’ shyness to have a final art exhibition created by enthusiastic students, many of whom hadn’t known about their local plants and fruits, or how they grew.

Marsha Bennett with members of the Southwest Society of Botanical Artists funded a five minute video highlighting their Citizen Scientist project, scientific identification and documentation of the flora of the Phoenix Mountains Preserve, a permanent rotating exhibition of artwork of the flora, and public education outreach.

Thank you all!

by Gayle Uyehara, posted by Deb Shaw

Carol Govan delivered a fast-paced, exciting lecture about botany. Photo by Gayle Uyehara.

Carol Govan delivered a fast-paced, exciting lecture about botany. Photo by Gayle Uyehara.

Carol Govan’s Thursday “Wow, Botany Is Exciting” workshop really was that, WOW!

Carol contacted the class participants a few weeks earlier and sent us a very informative email and handout with all the technical terms we would learn so we wouldn’t have to stop and look them up during class. She also told us to relax but hang on tight because the workshop was structured from her 8-week course at Wellesley College Botanic Gardens. In three hours we learned the parts of a plant and their function in a humorous, informative manner that only Carol can deliver.

After we learned the names of the plant parts, we quickly sketched the specimen before us and labeled them. “Quick” being the emphasis and it was amazing how many things we had captured in our short observation. What a treat this class was!

Learning the plant parts. Photo by Gayle Uyehara.

Learning the plant parts. Photo by Gayle Uyehara.

Carol’s botany workshop built on this newbie’s vocabulary in a manner that will allow me to pick up a book and know what to look for in the field. She pointed out several older reference books because of their descriptive words of the plant rather than their non-visual clues like DNA and chemical properties.

Toward the end of class, Carol demonstrated how she uses sketch paper, hard pencil and grid frame to capture a quick but accurate gesture composition of a plant; keeping in mind the negative spaces she creates. The grid was only a few marks on paper and frame but gave her a visual clue about placement on the paper.  From there she does a quick contour drawing which she will work with the rest of the time—while making any corrections to her gesture drawing. The color she adds as part of her sketch is made from a three-color palette made up of the primaries. She mixes up her watercolor swatch on a white plate to include the shadow and highlights.

Carol finished up this delightful workshop by telling us how she uses her sketches to create a composition and showed us examples of her finished pieces.

Let me mention again what a treat this class was!

I am sure that I will think of her many times as I  continue on my botanical art journey. Thank you Carol!

by Beth Stone, posted by Deb Shaw

Laurence Pierson demonstrating her beautiful egg tempera technique. The camera/light in the foreground is the one mentioned in the article. Photo by Beth Stone.

Laurence Pierson demonstrating her beautiful egg tempera technique. The camera/light in the foreground is the one mentioned in the article. Photo by Beth Stone.

At the Denver Botanic Gardens, Laurence Pierson demonstrated egg tempera on gesso panel. She mixes dry pigment with water using a colour shaper, adds a bit of alcohol if the particular pigment requires it to dissolve, and mixes in a bit of egg yolk.

Laurence’s background is in painting icons, typically on wood panel prepared with gesso and often including gold leaf. She applies her skill with tempera to botanical subjects with beautiful results!

The camera used in this photo seemed particularly effective for teaching, see the Ladibug DC192 on http://www.lumens.com.tw/product_1.php?big_id=1

Ladibug lamp detail. Photo by Beth Stone.

Ladibug lamp detail. Photo by Beth Stone.

Iris painting in egg tempera by Laurence Peirson. Photo by Beth Stone.

Iris painting in egg tempera by Laurence Peirson. Photo by Beth Stone.

Laurence Pierson's palette looks like a jewel box. Photo by Beth Stone.

Laurence Pierson’s palette looks like a jewel box. Photo by Beth Stone.

Laurence Peirson mixing egg tempera. Photo by Beth Stone.

Laurence Peirson mixing egg tempera. Photo by Beth Stone.

by Deb Shaw

Tania Marien's James White Award

Tania Marien’s James White Award

The ASBA announced their annual awards last night at the closing banquet. Tania Marien was presented with the James White Service Award for her dedication to botanical art, in recognition of her distinguished support of botanical art.

Lesley Randall's ASBA Award for Scientific Botanical Illustration

Lesley Randall’s ASBA Award for Scientific Botanical Illustration

Lesley Randall was presented with the ASBA Scientific Illustrator Award for Excellence in Scientific Botanical Art, in recognition of her outstanding achievements as a scientific illustrator.

George Olsen was presented with the ASBA Diane Bouchier Artist Award for Excellence in Botanical Art, in recognition of his outstanding acheivements as a botanical artist.

Unfortunately, the three award winners were not present to receive their awards in person. When Tania and Lesley’s names were announced, however, the BAGSC table cheered loud enought to hear back in Southern California. Congratulations to the award winners for richly deserved recognition!!

posted by Deb Shaw

There were some amazing portfolios on view; always fun to get right up close and personal to the work, and to be able to talk with the artists. (Photo by Beth Stone of a few cards and handouts.)

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On the 20th anniversary of the ASBA, founding member Diane Bouchier gave an inspirational speech during the annual meeting luncheon about the importance of what we do: to ourselves, and to the world around us. (Photo by Gayle Uyehara.)

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