Viewpoint — (not your usual blog)

This is my botanical art blog. Here you will find posts on technical and administrative topics of interest to botanical artists. Please feel free to comment or drop me a line via my Contact page. If you’d like to know more about my work please visit my portfolio site.

Are digital thieves ripping off your paintings too?
Are digital thieves ripping off your paintings too?

Last week, purely by chance while conducting a Google search, I discovered that my Echinacea purpurea had been “stolen” by three clipart services and was being offered as a free high-resolution download. Further inquiries revealed that other botanical artists had...

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Resolutions and goals
Resolutions and goals

It’s the first week of the new year and, predictably, there’s all the usual talk about resolutions. However, resolutions are just a statement of intent; without specific goals to give effect to the resolutions, intent is unlikely to be implemented. For example, in a...

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Technique confusion . . . What is it and do you suffer from it?
Technique confusion . . . What is it and do you suffer from it?

A student recently told me that she thought that she and some fellow botanical artists in her group were suffering from “technique confusion.” She defined technique confusion as too many teachers with too many techniques and no one apparently able to address anything...

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My point about the all-important point
My point about the all-important point

I teach three mediums: graphite; coloured pencil; and watercolour. While they have their obvious differences in technique application and material content, they have one essential aspect in common—the point. In all three of these mediums you simply cannot produce...

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Botanical art as therapy
Botanical art as therapy

In today's fast-paced world, where the demands of modern life often leave us feeling overwhelmed and stressed, finding moments of tranquility and peace can be a challenging endeavor. Fortunately, we have botanical art. Because botanical art focuses on the precise and...

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How to price a botanical painting?
How to price a botanical painting?

How to price a painting has always posed difficulties for botanical artists. Unfortunately, there is no magic formula. In fact, just like botanical art itself, pricing botanical art is a combination of art and science. I had to wrestle with this issue again recently...

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Unplug and paint
Unplug and paint

I recently received an email from a friend and fellow botanical artist in which she said that she had become so distressed and disgusted at the political news currently on the airwaves, that she’d decided that painting was to be her sanctuary. She called it “unplug...

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Every painting has a story to tell
Every painting has a story to tell

Recently, in the process of painting the walls of our dining room, living room, and my studio, we had to take down and then rehang the many paintings we’ve collected over the years—most of them botanical art originals. In handling them, it dawned on me that every one...

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Don’t fall in love with a fugitive
Don’t fall in love with a fugitive

Fugitive watercolour pigments (those are the ones that can change colour or even fade away completely) can be very seductive. Some are easy to fall in love with. Take Opera Rose, for example. It came up on a social media post this past week and since discussion on...

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Copying. When is close too close?
Copying. When is close too close?

Today I was scrolling through botanical art posts on Instagram when I felt the kind of spine-tingling sensation described by people who believe they’ve seen a ghost. I was looking at a painting of a white phalaenopsis orchid that appeared to be one I’d completed about...

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To blend or not to blend? That’s the pencil question.
To blend or not to blend? That’s the pencil question.

A recent article by Robert McKinley on www.artistsnetwork.com addressing the topic of blending on paper (or canvas) to merge value transitions, caught my attention. And it’s not just because he references Leonardo da Vinci’s famous ‘sfumato’ blending application but...

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An opportunity to exhibit?
An opportunity to exhibit?

I’ve recently received enough questions about exhibiting to warrant an article on the topic. Most artists welcome an opportunity to exhibit, especially if there’s a possibility of selling a piece. And if someone is willing to open their wallet for your work, it’s...

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A commitment of Olympic proportions.
A commitment of Olympic proportions.

I frequently hear versions of this question: “What does it take to get to the next level? Please review my work and tell me where I need to improve.” I’ve been instructing for a long time now and of course I am in a position to do this. But my advice will not make a...

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Sketch your way to successful composition
Sketch your way to successful composition

In my recent Tech Talks on Composition Concepts, I pointed out that Mother Nature seldom, if ever, gifts you with ready-to-go composition. Throughout recorded history artists of all skill levels have wrestled with the best placement of content in their paintings. The...

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Value drawing in graphite is your key to success in colour
Value drawing in graphite is your key to success in colour

Some unfortunate offerings for botanical art study have emerged amid the surge in online educational opportunities. One of these is instructors sending their own drawings to students to trace as part of a course on how to create successful botanical art pieces....

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Mixed media
Mixed media

In March 2016, I wrote an article about Auriol Batten for the ASBA publication, The Botanical Artist. If you are unfamiliar with her name or work, Auriol was one of the most renowned South Africa botanical artists of her time. Her influence is still apparent today. My...

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It’s the process that leads to success
It’s the process that leads to success

Sengmany (Seng) Phommachakr of Ottawa has just been announced as the first recipient of the ASBA’s Lizzie Sanders Memorial Award, created in memory of Lizzie Sanders, a widely-admired botanical artist who passed away in 2020. Seng’s work is outstanding and it’s not...

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Colour value — a key to realism.
Colour value — a key to realism.

Realism is at the very foundation of botanical art. Ours is an informative genre committed to scientific accuracy with a high degree of detail. Anything less and it’s not botanical art. It’s inescapable. And the fact that it has to be achieved working with the...

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Alexander (Sasha) Viazmensky – “The Mushroom Man”
Alexander (Sasha) Viazmensky – “The Mushroom Man”

It was at an exhibition in 1998 at London’s Tryon Gallery that I first saw Alexander (Sasha) Viazmensky’s mushroom paintings. Aside from the overall quality of the renderings, two things struck me—the less-than-perfect specimens and the seemingly random placement of...

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Amanita muscaria
Amanita muscaria

It’s a question that could be mistaken for the beginning of a bad joke . . .  What do an Australian botanical artist, a Welsh botanical artist, a Russian botanical artist, an American botanical artist, and a Canadian botanical artist have in common? The answer is,...

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Descriptive geometry in botanical art
Descriptive geometry in botanical art

Giovanni Cera's geometric drawing of a quince bud. Giovanni Cera of Florence is a retired architect and botanical artist who sometimes goes by the English moniker he has adopted, Johnny Wax—a direct translation of his Italian name. I first made contact with Giovanni...

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A fascination for fungi
A fascination for fungi

The banner on the land-on page of my botanical art educational website is my painting of Armillaria mushrooms. Placing it there was a conscious decision and, inevitably, has prompted questions. “Are you aware, Margaret, that fungi are not classified as plants?” and...

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Green categories — do you have all five in your world?
Green categories — do you have all five in your world?

  I delight in sharing special botanical art pieces by special botanical artists as a source of inspiration and pleasure. On this occasion the spotlight is on coloured pencil artist, Christiane Fashek of New York. The release of my two latest e-booklets, Going...

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The green irony
The green irony

Isn’t it ironic that the prevalent colour in the plant world is also the toughest for many botanical artists to capture accurately in their paintings? As more and more artists rely on digital devices nowadays, this struggle for a natural-looking interpretation of...

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My way or the highway is the wrong way.
My way or the highway is the wrong way.

Selecting specimens at a Going Green workshop in Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia. “Botanical art instruction” is in one particular way an unfortunate term. ”Instruction” implies “command”, that is, being commanded or instructed to do something in a particular way.  And...

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The most problematic primary pigment
The most problematic primary pigment

Yellow is the most problematic primary pigment. So much so that many botanical artists avoid painting yellow subjects entirely. It's problematic for a number of reasons. It’s tough to get yellow to look just right in the layering process because the full colour...

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Botanical art colours and controversy
Botanical art colours and controversy

Matching colours accurately is a key component of botanical art, so why is it controversial? For decades I've taught accurate colour matching, first in an industrial setting to the staff of printing companies and, more recently in the past almost twenty years, to...

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Resurrecting a pre-pandemic 2019 new year message.
Resurrecting a pre-pandemic 2019 new year message.

A New Year message I was recently reminded of an email I sent as a New Year message for botanical artists in 2019. The person who mentioned it said that she had come across it in her files and found it to be as inspiring now as it was then. This made me dig into my...

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Infusing truth into a botanical drawing
Infusing truth into a botanical drawing

Drawing from a live specimen infuses truth into a botanical piece. To know me is to know that this is not news. I have always strongly believed in drawing from a live specimen. You will find me emphasizing this throughout my workshops and e-booklets. It will also be...

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Climate change — can the boreal forest save us?
Climate change — can the boreal forest save us?

Irish-Canadian author and botanist, Diana Beresford-Kroeger, makes a compelling case that the boreal forest can help save us from the human impact on climate change. She certainly convinced me it’s possible in her riveting book, To Speak for the Trees. And, as she...

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The personal aspect of colour interpretation
The personal aspect of colour interpretation

Iris. ©Jean Emmons     I was planning to offer more commentary about botanical art colours in my next post, though I was still pondering the topic. But that was before Jean Emmons’s presentation at the ASBA’s 27th Annual Meeting and Conference, Online in October. It...

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Why the source of the plant’s colour matters
Why the source of the plant’s colour matters

Different colour interpretations. The source of the plant's colour matters. There are many reasons why contemporary botanical artists like me do not paint from digital images or photographs. We paint from live specimens. We respect the traditions and the history of...

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Colour memory is important
Colour memory is important

Some of what you'll see about botanical art on social media can be misleading or confusing. Most of the time I ignore it. Recently, however, a post about colour crossed a line. It was time to correct a few misconceptions and share some important colour information. I...

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Committing to a leaf a day
Committing to a leaf a day

Here's an idea—particularly if you're having difficulty finding time to draw and paint—committing to a leaf a day. I'm suggesting a daily regime of sketching at least one leaf a day. While normal daily commitments can rob us of time to paint, it's not difficult to...

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An artist’s worst nightmare—a painting lost in transit
An artist’s worst nightmare—a painting lost in transit

Every time I hand a painting to a courier I do so with trepidation. This week my trepidation was justified. I shipped my painting for the ASBA's Abundant Future exhibition with FedEx Express. En route from my home in Chester Basin, Nova Scotia to The New York...

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Don’t leave home without them
Don’t leave home without them

A small sketch book, mechanical pencil, and eraser. These are essential travelling or out-and-about companions for any botanical artist. You know what's going to happen on that one occasion that you don't have them handy—you'll come across that unusual flower,...

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When is sharp sharp enough?
When is sharp sharp enough?

From left to right: sandpaper block from Faber-Castell; wooden pencil sharpened in the regular way; sharpened mechanical pencil; pencil sharpener; wooden pencil with half inch of graphite exposed; Exacto knife for shaving the wood off the pencil. When I'm working in...

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Remembering Pandora Sellars
Remembering Pandora Sellars

It has been four years since Tuesday, 9th May 2017, a sad day in the long history of botanical art. For it was on that day that Pandora Sellars passed away.  In 2011, I posted the article below, Spotlight on Pandora Sellars. At the time I quoted from the catalogue of...

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