The risky existence of a botanical artist's spouse inspires a gallery.

Posted by Michael Best on August 18, 2012 0 Comments

I’m sitting in 9C on the isle. It has been a bumpy flight but now we are about to land and I have been handed a customs card.

There are a lot of pointed questions but nowhere does it specifically ask about whether or not I am 'smuggling' leaves, stems and flowers across international borders for my botanical artist spouse. One generally gets the impression that importing plant material without a permit is illegal but nowhere does it specifically warn against botanical art specimens concealed in toes of shoes, toiletry bags and other items of luggage. Besides, I tell myself, even if I run into a customs sniffer dog, it will probably have been trained to detect the kind of plants that people smoke rather than paint.

So, I cross my fingers and decide to not answer questions that have not been specifically asked. In the unlikely event that a customs officer should scratch around in the toes of my shoes and start asking questions, I will plead that being the spouse of a botanical artist constitutes mitigating circumstances. I'll go for pity. I’ll ask the officer how often he has had to buy takeouts to stave off hunger because his botanical artist spouse was too ‘in the zone’ to stop to cook or because a specimen was fading fast and had to be captured on paper before it expired completely.

If necessary, I'll ask the officer to imagine opening the refrigerator and having to wonder whether he was looking at tonight's salad or botanical art specimens. I'll ask how many times he has risked embarrassment at best and his liberty at worst, by being coerced into pocketing botanical specimens in places ranging from private gardens to national parks.

In essence, my dilemma at the end of this flight, as with almost every other flight, is that I am torn between facing the wrath of the law for ‘smuggling’ and that of my botanical artist spouse for not. “Good afternoon officer. Nice dog. No, nothing to declare!” Such is the risky existence of a botanical artist’s spouse.

As a botanical artist’s spouse I have also watched with fascination the painstaking patience and intense concentration that it takes to paint just a single leaf. It might be the only art form that takes almost as long to paint the subject as it took the subject to grow.

It is through all of this exposure over many years that I developed a deep appreciation for traditional botanical art and an admiration for botanical artists. It started me wondering how I could make my own contribution to the preservation of this classic genre firmly rooted in a unique combination of art and science. My interest grew after having had the good fortune to meet and get to know the iconic English botanical artist, Pandora Sellars. Then the concept of an online botanical art gallery gelled a few years later when we retrieved a series of Pandora Sellars prints that had been in storage for over twenty years.

That, briefly, is the story behind the creation of my online gallery, www.traditionalbotanicals.com, to promote accomplished botanical artists, collectible botanical art prints and botanical art workshops and tours.

I hope to have you visit frequently to view the exquisite prints, consider the workshops and classes and to read this blog. Let’s all do what we can to preserve traditional botanical art in its demanding, painstaking and often breath-taking detail in a modern world where slap-dash is all too frequently allowed to substitute for skill and effort.

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