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February Garden Botanic Art

Anne Jaeger

Botanic Art

Gregg Frederickson sees the beauty in a flower.  I mean he reeeeally sees the beauty in a flower.  Frederickson’s keen strokes force your eye to see it too. Like so much slight of hand, working in pastels or pencil he commits what he “sees” to canvas.  Then in light, shadow and color he captures that beauty for us to view though his minds eye.  Frederickson is among 60 Botanical artists chosen for the very first Exhibition of Botanical Art on the West Coast. These shows are usually held back East. So, it took three years to talk the American Society of Botanical Art into allowing a juried show in Portland this weekend. Make no bones about it, the art is exquisite.  Carolyn Devine, Education Director at the Berry Botanic Garden in Southwest Portland is one of the judges giving out ribbons.  And I’ll tell you, she has her work cut out for her!  Carolyn says “For the preliminary judging, we looked for botanical accuracy” in each of the 188 entries.  Then if the picture “reproduced the reality of the plant in structure and form” the judges upped the ante.  They noticed everything, “Wow!  There are eight stamens in that lily! Of course there should be six and I’d allow four if it looked like it were eaten.  But eight??” says Devine.  Botanical drawings must combine art and science, form and function. To win a ribbon the artist must be accomplished at both.  Merely imitating nature is not enough, the plant still has to “look as fresh as a daisy” from every angle. Take a gander at Gregg Frederickson’s piece, for instance.  He describes the cactus type Dahlia in colored pencil as simply “a three dimensional ball of orange and yellow” but you can just tell he knows every detail of that flower just before bloom. A flower might only last a few hours or days, but botanical art is in its prime forever.  To make a living now, Frederickson combines his love of gardening and passion for art by creating outdoor botanical paintings for fences, screens or anywhere else.  He likes to think his company Garden Graphis “magically transforms your favorite annual into a perennial” because the artwork is completely waterproof. His outdoor work starts at $175 dollars. And most the botanical art at the Home and Garden Show will be for sale as well. (Frederickson’s “Dahlia” runs $1,200 dollars.)  Now if that sounds steep consider the market.  It’s always been that way. Even the man considered the “worlds greatest flower painter”,  Pierre-Joseph Redoute was only able to make a living in the 1800’s by becoming the official court artist for Queen Marie Antoinette and Empress Josephine.  So to do it, you gotta love it. And if you’re a man, you gotta be pretty secure about it, too. I guess that’s why Redoute was cheeky enough to tell Napoleon “Painting flowers may be something small, but it is what I do best, because it is what I love most.”  You’ll see why at the Northwest Exhibition of Botanical Art featured daily in the Showcase gardens at the Portland Home and Garden show.

To Do List:

*Plant bare-root roses.

*Hunt for slugs.

*Buy or order seeds.