Art of the Plant catalogue!

Posted by Michael Best on June 27, 2018 0 Comments

Most often the sole lasting legacy of an exhibition is its catalogue. Long after the memories of the event have faded, there's the catalogue to to be pulled down from the book shelf to enjoy, inspire, and remind. Years from now we'll be particularly grateful for the design skills of Karen Humphrey and Alex Sakarev that went into producing this exceptional catalogue for Canada's contribution to the world-wide botanical art exhibition of May 2018. 

Here's a brief description of the content and how to order the catalogue directly from Karen's studio . . .     

This unique limited edition set documents a landmark exhibition of work from Canada’s leading contemporary botanical artists, held at the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa.
Each set includes a 64 page full colour catalogue and a 34 page full colour Artists booklet—both protected in a custom die-cut slipcase. A double-page spread in the catalogue is devoted to each of the 30 artists represented in this exhibition and also includes, in the artist’s own words, the source of their inspiration. The 34 page Artists booklet gives a brief career background of each of the artists along with their works in the Art of the Plant exhibition.

LIMITED EDITION OF 500 8” x 10” sets
Designed and printed in Canada

Orders may be placed by email directly through Karen's studio, Peartree:
Please provide your name, address and contact information.Someone from Peartree will respond to your email. 
Shipping charges will apply and quote will be provided.
Payment may be made using Visa, MasterCard
or e-tranfer upon confirmation of order.

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Scanning your work — by Margaret Best

Posted by Michael Best on October 06, 2017 0 Comments

Nowadays submissions to exhibitions are done online, usually by email with a digital image of your work attached. I'm recommending that the image should be a high-quality scan. 

If you don't have your own scanner, you should engage the services of a good imaging service to scan your work. This isn't always easy. I've struggled to find good imaging services over the years and I have experienced the very best and the very worst. I’ve wasted a lot of money on people who lack the skills and experience to produce a high quality scan.

A few years ago I purchased my own quality scanner – an Epson V600 for illustration work. It had become too expensive, time-consuming and stressful to get my paintings scanned and emailed on time to meet publication deadlines. This scanner is designed for paintings up to  8.5 inches  x 11 inches. Larger paintings I take to a professional service with a bigger flatbed scanner. This is of course more expensive than scans on my trusted V600, but it doesn't make sense to invest in a bigger scanner for just the occasional bigger painting.

There are many scanning services available in most cities but you need to know a few things before you hand over your precious painting. Not many have fully experienced staff who will know exactly what you need. Beware the ones that tell you that you have to pay extra to have the scanned image ‘colour corrected’. This simply means the operator does not know how to create scanner settings to capture your work well. You’re then required to pay someone to ‘correct’ poor scans that do not match your original.

An image captured from a hand-held device like an iPhone or iPad or even a digital camera is simply not good enough. It will not secure the finer and more subtle details of a painting. The most telling signs of a non-professional image is the greying of corners or parts of the image background as seen in the image on the left taken with the latest, high quality camera in my iPhone. The image on the right was processed on my scanner with no colour correction required. I hope these images speak for themselves and that you will not waste time on an amateurish image of your work. You want to give your entry its best possible chance with the jurors.

Be warned that experienced jurors can also tell if you have ‘tampered’ with a scan in Photoshop trying to clean up your careless edges or doing sundry other touch-ups. Submit an untouched, quality image in a 300 dpi file 8 inches in height. Remember too, if your painting is selected, the submitted image will be used for the exhibition catalogue. You want it to look its best anywhere it's shown.

Finally, some imaging services will encourage you to have a digital image taken with a high- quality camera with a  professional lighting set-up. Not only is this an expensive alternative, but I’ve had mixed results with it. I found that the colour interpretation was not accurate and the detail level was so high that the paper texture and stray graphite marks were visible. This excessive degree of detail is distracting. 

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Remembering Pandora Sellars.

Posted by Michael Best on July 26, 2011 0 Comments

Tuesday, 9th May 2017, was a sad day in the long history of botanical art . . .  Pandora Sellars passed away. 

In 2011, I posted the article below, Spotlight on Pandora Sellars, on this blog. At the time I quoted from the catalogue of her exhibition at Kew in 1990 because I couldn't think of a better way to describe her. I still can't. So here, in remembrance of a most remarkable botanical artist and person, is that post again . . . 



Pandora Sellars teaching a workshop.

Where to begin to tell the story about this icon of contemporary botanical art? The lists of exhibitions in which she has participated, the publications in which she has appeared and the recognition that she has enjoyed, could on their own fill the body of this article.

Pandora’s initial enthusiasm for drawing and painting plants has been ascribed to her rural childhood in the Welsh Marches in Herefordshire, England. Her home was close to the Wye Valley and the Black Mountains where she had access to a diverse and fascinating array of flora. At art school she designed printed fabrics and concentrated on a career in teaching but all the time kept on painting plants. When her late husband built a heated greenhouse, the exotic plants that he collected became Pandora’s inspiration, particularly the orchids for which she is now so well known.

It is difficult to describe this hugely talented, delightfully gentle person in a way that does her justice. The closest I can come is by quoting the introduction that was published in the catalogue of her exhibition, Pandora Sellars botanical painting 1974 – 1990 at the Kew Gardens Gallery in 1990…

“For many years, Pandora Sellars was, to me, a somewhat mysterious figure whose name was mentioned with great reverence by my colleagues in the Botanical World who would regularly use ‘spectacular’, ‘incredibly accurate’, ’amazing detail’ and similar expressions to describe work of hers which they had seen. Showing my usual level of respect for scientists’ views on artistic matters I ignored those comments until I saw a copy of Frances le Sueur’s Flora of Jersey, which was illustrated by Pandora Sellars, and also an original painting of hers on the wall of a friend’s house in Suffolk. My conversion was immediate and, once I had looked in some detail at the paintings she had been doing for publication in the Botanical Magazine from 1982 onwards, I joined the ever-growing band of those using highly complimentary words when referring to her paintings.

Soon after joining the staff of Kew in 1986 I met Pandora for the first time, saw more of her outstanding work and resolved that Kew, one day, must give her an exhibition. At that time the Kew Gardens Gallery was no more than a nice idea five years from fulfillment. In fact we opened the Gallery in November 1988 and, at the same time, began discussions with Pandora about an exhibition at Kew. Her schedule of commissions prevented her from exhibiting in our first year but we were delighted to work towards our spring exhibition in 1990.

When, in the middle of last summer, she arrived with her first paintings for the exhibition, I was stunned by what she had produced. It was not that area of paper that she had covered nor the number of paintings which impressed me – for her style is detailed, painstaking and consequently slow – but it was the sheer overwhelming quality of her work and her remarkable ability to incorporate a number of plants in a set piece which looked like a ‘corner of nature’ which took me by surprise. These set pieces were real botanical theatre with living subjects which seemed a million miles away from the traditional association between flower painting and what is called English still life.

 Her pictures have come in steadily over the past twelve months, each consignment as eagerly awaited as the last and each building on the last in virtuosity. None disappointed.

Looking over the twenty or so works painted specially for this exhibition one is immediately aware of being in the presence of a consistent and superior talent in the delineation of plants: the fidelity to nature is absolute; the quality of draughtsmanship unwavering; the use of colour impeccable and the representation of texture without equal. Just as many of us first respond musically to large-scale works such as symphonies, so it is the large-scale ‘plant symphonies’ which instantly attract and are most accessible. Chamber works often appeal later as knowledge and appreciation matures. Similarly one moves from admiration for the large complex paintings to a deep respect for the elegant but simple plant portraits which have formed the main body of her work for over ten years.

As must be obvious from this short introduction I have the highest possible admiration for her work and I remain to be convinced that the world has ever known a botanical painter with a greater talent than Pandora Sellars. Ehret, Redouté, Turpin, Lilian Snelling come close. Fitch, prolific, liberated and wonderful in his way approaches, and several living artists come even closer but for me, only the brothers Bauer occupy, with her, the corner of the botanical world in which one can truly say that no one has ever done it better. But, were the Bauers so good at painting leaves?”

I don’t believe that anything more needs to be added other than to steal a glimpse of Pandora in her studio where so much brilliance has been given expression...

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Calgary botanical art exhibition

Posted by Michael Best on August 27, 2016 0 Comments

The Botanical Art Guild of Southern Alberta's exhibition Botanicals by the Bow has been hanging at Fort Calgary this summer. As you can see from the images, it is an impressive display of members' work.



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A quote to note . . .

Posted by Michael Best on November 25, 2015 0 Comments

"Protect art. It is the antidote to the innate barbarism of the human race."

- Peter Adolphsen.

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Winter in Canada and your botanical art specimens are under a meter of snow?

Posted by Michael Best on November 25, 2015 0 Comments

The Canadian winter wasn't designed with botanical artists in mind, was it? But wait, at this time of the year there are plenty potted Hippeastrums (Amaryllis) to be found in the stores. They're interesting botanical art specimens all the way from their bulbs up to their colourful, exotic flowers.

If you get them early enough you can do a series of drawings at various stages of development from just the bulb through to the plant in full bloom. It may be a bit too late to catch the bulb just stirring into life, but you should still be able to catch it at a few stages before flowering.

Yes, there would be more specimen choices if you were in say South Africa or Australia right now, but you have Hippeastrums to draw and they have no chance of a white Christmas - so who should be envious of whom?


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Attention all artists, other creative people and people who don't yet know they're creative (because we all are).

Posted by Michael Best on November 01, 2015 0 Comments

Elizabeth Gilbert's latest book, Big Magic, is a must-read for all artists of all kinds. Nothing more needs to be said except that if you download the audio version (which she reads herself) you can listen to it while you paint.

If it doesn't inspire you, a trip to the doctor to check for vital signs might be a good idea.

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A quote to note . . .

Posted by Michael Best on September 08, 2015 0 Comments

"You can learn a skill but you cannot learn a passion. That comes from within."

- Richard Branson 

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Progressing between workshops . . .

Posted by Michael Best on September 08, 2015 0 Comments

Have you ever left a botanical art workshop fired up with enthusiasm and then just not found the time to practice the new skills you learned? Do you find that life gets in the way of making time for what you would love to do?

The fact is that even the best of instructors can only teach new skills and inspire you to progress; the actual progressing is up to you. And that is where establishing effective practice habits becomes essential. But how?

Gretchen Rubin has the answer for you. She has just written an instant best-seller, Better than Before. It addresses the matter of developing effective habits and shedding the bad ones. There is no magic formula on offer, instead it's a process that starts with discovering how to recognize the internal and external forces that motivate you and hence affect your life.

As a first step, Rubin offers a quick test to complete online by clicking here. It's revealing and might even elicit a smile as she peels away layers of self-denial and maybe even guilt. It only takes a few minutes to complete the test but they could be a few of the most beneficial minutes you ever spend.

The next step would be to read the book and learn how to adjust your habits. Among other benefits, life should stop getting in the way of your botanical art progressing between workshops.

Gretchen Rubin's book cover . . .



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A quote to note . . .

Posted by Michael Best on August 26, 2015 0 Comments



“There is no summit in art; there is only continuous climbing!”

- Mehmet Murat ildan

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Lethbridge botanical artists excel at weekend workshop

Posted by Michael Best on August 26, 2015 0 Comments

The booked-out weekend botanical art workshop with Margaret Best, Drawing With Dimension, on 22nd and 23rd August at the magnificent Casa arts center in Lethbridge was, by all accounts, a great success.

It can now safely be said that Botanical art has taken root in the Lethbridge region.

The pictures tell the story . . .


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Art and memory

Posted by Michael Best on July 15, 2015 0 Comments

The BBC program, Trust Me I'm A Doctor, has produced an episode on a study on memory loss. One of the conclusions reached is that attending art classes has a positive effect on the brain and memory.

It's a fascinating report that can be found by clicking here.


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Botanical art workshops change location in Lethbridge.

Posted by Michael Best on July 13, 2015 0 Comments


A botanical art workshop with Margaret Best ( has been scheduled for Lethbridge for the weekend of the 22nd and 23rd of August.

This time the host is the Allied Arts Council of Lethbridge at the magnificent new Casa building at 230, 8th Street South. You can find more about this modern, integrated arts facility by touring the web site at Also, if you Google "Casa Lethbridge" and select "images" you'll find a selection of very impressive images of the inside of the building. It's hard to imagine how a building like this, specifically designed for the arts, could do anything but inspire artists.

Registration for the botanical art workshop, Drawing with Dimension in Botanical Art, opens tomorrow, 14th of July and is being handled by the Allied Arts Council of Lethbridge. Registration is in person or by phone ( 403 327 2272). Early registration is recommended as participation is being limited to 14. The Casa web site has a detailed description of the workshop but if you have any questions you may email me from the "contact" page of this web site or call Casa at 403 327 2272.

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Botanical art takes root at the Dundas Valley School of Art.

Posted by Michael Best on July 10, 2015 0 Comments

Text and images extracted from the DVSA Facebook page with permission . . .

Learn more about the DVSA at



                                                          Margaret Johnson

DVSA even has international students. Margaret Johnson, of Sarasota Florida, travelled to Dundas this week specifically to take Introduction to Botanical Art with botanical artist and instructor, Margaret Best.

"This is my fourth class with Margaret. I so admire her teaching. She's a world class educator and well known internationally."

Ironically, Margaret Johnson's grandmother was born in Dundas. "I was here last year to visit Dundas and the Niagara region and enjoyed my stay. I thought it would be fun to do something in my grandmother's home town."

Her impressions of DVSA? "It's a wonderful setting. Looking around I see some very adept instructors and students."


More workshop pictures from the botanical art workshops conducted by Margaret Best at the Dundas Valley School of Art this week . . .


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A quote to note . . .

Posted by Michael Best on July 07, 2015 0 Comments

"Let two persons go out for a walk; the one a good sketcher, the other having no taste of the kind. There will be a great difference in the scene as perceived by the two individuals."

- John Ruskin. 

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The importance of drawing.

Posted by Michael Best on July 07, 2015 0 Comments

Making a Mark recently drew its readers' attention to an article posted by the School of Life.

You don't want to miss it. Click here.


Seeing . . . really seeing.


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A quote to note . . .

Posted by Michael Best on July 03, 2015 0 Comments


"All artists are willing to suffer for their work. But why are so few prepared to learn to draw?"

- Banksy

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Waterton botanical art workshops popular again this year.

Posted by Michael Best on July 02, 2015 0 Comments

This year, the sixth consecutive year of botanical art workshops by Margaret Best at the Waterton Wild Flower Festival, two workshops were offered for the first time. The first was a two-day introduction to botanical art and the second was a three-day workshop for intermediate-level botanical artists. Both were very well attended.

In the introductory workshop the live specimen was the Alberta Rose (Rosa acicularis) and in the second workshop participants were offered a variety of wildflowers (sustainable specimens) borrowed from the Russells' ranch, Hawks Nest, just outside the park boundary. The Mariposa Lilly seemed to be the most popular specimen with the Alberta Rose a close second. The feedback from participants indicated that the workshops were, as in previous years, enjoyed by all.

Jane Hewitt working on her Alberta Rose . . .       Jacinthe Lavoie chose a Mariposa Lilly . . .



The view from the classroom . . .                              Yvonne Gaudet chose an Alberta Rose . . .   


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Waterton Wild Flower Festival - the best display of blossoms so far.

Posted by Michael Best on July 02, 2015 0 Comments

This was the twelfth and, by all accounts, the best Waterton Wild Flower Festival.  The weather was great, the animals did not disappoint (I saw ten bears, two foxes, two coyotes, deer and lots of birds) and, oh yes, the flowers were plentiful and spectacular.

Thanks to an early Alberta spring this year the hillside on the Russells' Hawk's Nest Ranch just outside the park from where we borrowed the in situ live specimens for the botanical art workshops, was awash in blossoms. In addition to an assortment of blue, yellow, red, and white indigenous flowers, there seemed to be a white Mariposa Lily every few inches. And an army of  Brown-eyed Susan's seemed to be keeping watch over everyone.

All of this did not escape the notice of authors Ian Wilson and Jacinthe Lavoie who are spending the summer in Waterton documenting the flowers, animals and scenery for their second book on Waterton. It should hit the shelves in February. Their first book on Waterton, Wild Flowers of Waterton Park, is still in heavy demand (scroll down to an earlier post for information on how to order it). 

Ian Wilson's shot of Brown-eyed Susans taken during the festival . . .



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Sustainable specimen management.

Posted by Michael Best on July 01, 2015 0 Comments

One of the challenges facing botanical artists is management of live specimens located in the "wild". In an ideal world an artist would locate a live specimen, settle down and draw and paint it in situ. But we don't live in an ideal world, certainly not as far as live botanical art specimens go. In situ completion of a botanical art painting is seldom an option (hence the practice of journaling) because of weather, to name just one major consideration.

A picked specimen will often fade and die before the exacting task of capturing it on paper can be completed and working off a photograph is anathema to serious, traditional botanical artists. That leaves just one reasonable option - bring the live specimen somewhat in situ into the studio.  

Many plants can be carefully dug up keeping the ball of soil around bulbs and roots intact and placed in a suitably-sized plant pot. Properly maintained, they can live comfortably this way while the botanical artist conducts his or her slow, exacting craft. Proper maintenance includes keeping the potted plant in conditions as close to its natural conditions as possible. For one thing, putting it outside overnight and, for another, giving it a break in the sun during the day, particularly if it is a plant accustomed to substantial sunlight. And don't forget to water it.

Once the specimen is no longer required it may then be returned to its natural habitat; preferably the exact spot where it was found. If it cannot be the exact spot then finding an alternative where the plant can thrive would be the responsible thing to do. No plant should have to give its life for a painting.


                                                                   Sustainable specimen.

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