Working in the field: ASBA’s new code of ethics for botanical artists

My copy of The Botanical Artist, the American Society of Botanical Artists’ journal, arrived last week. There was a brief notice about the society’s new Code of Ethics for artists working in the field. Artists are encouraged to output and sign the document, then carry it with them in the field as a sort of diplomatic letter of passage for working in ecologically protected areas.

The 7 major principles for botanical artists working in the field are:

  • Follow all rules and regulations when working in a botanical garden or conservation area, and obey any instructions given by staff or officials while on working on site.
  • Do not dig up or disturb any plant on site, for any reason, unless given explicit permission by the land owner or staff/officials of the conservation area/garden in order to dissect or identify the plant.
  • Minimize disturbance to the habitat and ecosystem of the area. Walk carefully; place tripods, stools and other tools with care. Avoid damaging soils, other plants, seedlings.
  • Minimize disturbance in the vicinity of the plant. Create a minimal work footprint to avoid damaging any other species or specimens.
  • Inform the landowner or your contact for the site if you observe any disturbances to the natural environment while working.
  • Do not reveal the location of protected areas to other people. Refer them to the person or organization who granted you permission/guided you to the site.
  • These principles hold not only for working with native plants in their natural sites, but for all plant life in all locations.

All very common sense, right?

All of this is the kind of stuff you learn as a kid camping with the Scouts, or your first hikes with your family and friends. Why do these concepts require enunciation and publicizing to a group of people who ought to already be aware of the basics of conservation and outdoor activities?

Of course, we now live in a world where “nature deficit disorder” afflicts an increasing number of children, and where an increasing number of young adults are worried and concerned about “the environment,” yet very few of them have actually spent any time outdoors enjoying nature.

Perhaps it speaks to the number of people who are drawn to botanical art as urban and suburban garden and art lovers, but who have little background in outdoor pursuits.

This year I’d like to devote a few posts to minimizing your impact while hiking and painting in the outdoors. Unfortunately, there will also be examples of idiots who flagrantly destroy the natural environment in their pursuit of outdoor enjoyment. Look for the category “Leave No Trace” and tag, “Outdoor etiquette” to read more about how you can enjoy plein-air painting on public lands while treading lightly!

ASBA’s Core Values page and the society’s Code of Ethics for fieldwork can be found at the ASBA website.

Ready to work: A brief studio tour

A panorama view of botanical artist Wren Allen's studio, with paper storage, flex-arm lamps and a drawing table.

Where the magic happens: My studio.

Sometimes I think there are 2 kinds of people when it comes to organizing a creative workspace:

  • People who like a clean, empty desk at the end of the day;
  • People who let stuff pile up while they’re working on a project and clean up before starting the next one.

I’m in the latter group. 😉

One of the first things I did after finishing up the drawing module portfolio was to clean off my drawing table and work surfaces, re-organize my pencils, throw out dead specimens, and generally build an atmosphere of calm before the next storm of creative chaos hits.

A drawing table with slant board, flowers and a drawing pad in Wren Allen's studio.

Ready to get back to work. A new drawing board to help prevent neck crunching plus some inspiring subjects to draw!

Enjoy it now, it won’t last long! 🙂

The fruit of winter’s labor: A painting of red Indian corn

"Red Indian Corn" colored pencil and watercolor on paper, 30" x 22", by Wren M. Allen.

So many details! Working on this 30″ x 22″ mixed-media (colored pencil and watercolor on paper) painting, “Red Indian Corn,” challenged and developed my rendering skills.

I’m so pleased to share this image with you all! This depiction of an ear of red Indian (or decorative) corn has been challenging me all autumn and winter long. First came the difficulty of composing the contour drawing, with the wildly flying dried leaves of the husk. Then figuring out how to render the glossy texture and subtle colorings of the kernels became an obsession. My final quest was balancing the pale, dramatic movement of the husk against the weight of the darker column of the cob.

This particular ear of corn ignited my inspiration over the other corn cobs I bought at an Española farm stand because of its wild, waving leaves curving around the vertical cob in a perfect example of Matisse’s “arabesque”. My working title, in fact, was “Wild-Haired”.

At the beginning of March, I realized I might actually be able to make an exhibit submissions deadline if I could complete the image. All my creative time this month has been devoted to this beauty, instead of blogging or working on my classwork for Lisa Coddington’s spring bulbs course. Time well spent, I’d say! 🙂

A great weekend to all!

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