Mixed media

December 11, 2022

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 article briefly documented her life as a botanist and her remarkable contribution as a botanical artist to the accurate depiction of the extensive native plants in her world. She painted almost right up to when she passed away in 2015 at the age of 97.

What I’d like to do here is highlight her use of what we term mixed media—integration of two distinct mediums carefully employed in giving expression to her life-long commitment botany and botanical art. She used both of them, graphite and watercolour, very deliberately to convey critical information about the plant.

Her carefully-crafted compositions ensured that the plant components in watercolour remained the dominant feature. This secures the full focus of the viewer thereby fulfilling the key intent of botanical art.

Her low-key graphite components depicted the plant setting essentially as a subtle but supportive backdrop. To ensure absolute accuracy Auriol travelled to every subject’s natural setting when the plant was in full bloom. When time was of the essence in capturing the bloom’s colour, she would sketch, colour match, and take colour slides of the surrounding area to aid accuracy back in the studio.

You can appreciate how this was no mean feat when you consider that she completed a hundred large paintings for her impressive book, Flowers of Southern Africa.  The mixed media content was considered a daring departure from the perceived norm and it turned heads at the time (as all such departures do). Today botanical artists, myself included, are exploring it more. My interest in this approach stems from my long-standing love the of the graphite medium that has endured since I first explored art as a child. Now I am integrating it with both of my preferred colour mediums—watercolour and coloured pencil—in a way that supports interpretation of the plant.

I am moving into teaching graphite more extensively in 2023. My aim is to help artists already enjoying either or both of the colour mediums to invest some time in a monochromatic medium. The purpose of this investment is to not only deepen an understanding of the relationship between colour and value, but also to foster a love and appreciation of the beauty of graphite.

The title of my next booklet to be released in early 2023, is quite simply, The Value of Colour.

I hope that you enjoy my rosehip small work dabble in the combination of graphite and watercolour that I am using to send warm wishes and thanks to everyone around the world who has expressed their joy derived from my e-booklets.