Nov 20 2008

Contemporary Botanicals, Mixed Media

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Today, I want to share with you some botanical paintings that I feel go far beyond the tradition of botanical painting.  Each of the artists that I include here have taken the image beyond the “oh, what a pretty flower” category… into contemporary statements of beauty that incorporate multiple mediums.

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Sara Gilbert: acrylic with collage on canvas

Sara Gilbert’s paintings might seem like traditional renderings of botanical subjects if it were not for her addition of collage papers and decorative patterns.  Somehow these textural and decorative additions add a completely new dimension to the artworks.  Her artist’s statement explains her thoughts about these poetic expressions:

“I’m fascinated by flowers, mosses and small blossoms. They are at once so fragile and yet so enduring–a reflection of the human condition. The orchid, for me, is especially evocative. Its seemingly endless forms suggest human values, often so different yet often so historically repeated.”


“I work to express this complex biological reality in my acrylic-collages by juxtaposing realism, ornamentation and textural abstraction to create images that blend contemporary sensibilities with historical motifs and photographs, and incorporating modern versions of ancient materials and pigments.”

The textural qualities of these works are especially evocative (click any image for enlargements).

View more of Sara Gilbert’s paintings at saragilbertart.com

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Michael Mew: mixed media collage paintings

Michael Mew creates mixed media collage paintings that frequently focus on botanical subjects (other times, he focuses on toys and other ephemera of modern society).  In his artist’s statement, Michael explains how growing up in  a suburb of Los Angeles affected his choice to employ found objects as collage materials. He says that the alleyways that ran between houses for trash pick-ups “afforded the opportunity to explore. My wanderings took place as I walked the alleys studying the cast offs and picking up discards.”  Later, his “adult indulgences” turned to flea markets.  “It was these finds that I used to combine and create assemblage art, which has now been transposed into my current collage work.”

Michael Mew continues, “My amalgamation of images comes from an untidy place in my subconscious. On the surface it appears that I pick images at random but in fact they interrelate on many levels in many places, and then not at all in others. My interest in surrealism allows this loose association to be acceptable and even desirable to my working process. My interests in science, astronomy, world religions, and alchemy also play a part in how things fall together. I use images as visual embodiments of cultural “ clichés” in combinations or odd juxtapositions with the ambition of reinventing a setting and setting up an invention.”

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Linda Womack: Botanicals in Wax

Also known as hot wax painting, encaustic painting is a technique that  involves using heated beeswax to which colored pigments are added. The liquid/paste is then applied to a surface — usually prepared wood, though canvas and other materials are often used.

The encaustic technique was notably used in the Fayum mummy portraits from Egypt around 100-300 CE.  It had fallen into disfavor for centuries as other media were more favorably explored (especially oil painting), but has recently enjoyed a resurgence since the 1990s.

Linda Womack,
I think that the current popularity of the medium of wax painting is partly due to the fact that the textural qualities of wax itself is so alluring for contemporary artists who have a love affair with their materials.  I’ve only played with it a bit myself, but I can testify to the addicting qualities of the medium.  It’s fascinating to create these layered surfaces with melted colors.  And its not completely controllable (which is probably why I wandered back to my oils and acrylics).  But I want to pay some tribute to those who do it well, so I nod to fellow Portland artist, Linda Womack, who plays the role of teacher and inspirer as much as she is an artist in her own right.

Linda states, “In my work, I am infatuated with the details of the natural world. My work gets up close and personal with the bits you flick off your coat and the stuff that crunches beneath your shoes. I capture these images then drop them into unfamiliar worlds that pair calm and chaos.”

The paintings that follow are from her “Continuum” series:

What I love most about these paintings is that, in their abstraction of forms, they seems to speak more about the process of growth as much as they do about the forms of flowers, or unfurling leaves.  Each seems to be an expression of gestation and and “becoming”.  For me, they feel like a “God’s eye view” into an intimate universe.

Linda teaches encaustic classes in cities across the US, and in her private studio in Portland, Oregon. She is the author of Embracing Encaustic: Learning to Paint with Beeswax. View more of her works on her website.

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One more little treat for those of you who like encaustic painting:

Amy Stoner: encaustic and printmaking

Amy is also a Portland artist who uses hot wax to create her botanically-inspired mixed-media artworks.  One difference between her and Linda Womack is that Amy’s works usually begin with a drawing or image created through printmaking techniques (etchings and linoleum block prints).  The images are frequently drawn or printed onto thin rice paper, then immersed directly into the beeswax, adding a subtle layer of semi-transparency.  Amy then adds other colored wax, often incorporating words (or single letters) into her pieces.  Sometimes the pattern of the wood panel that she paints on is also allowed to emerge through the transparent areas of wax.  I love how fun, simple and contemporary these pieces are!

To learn and view more of Amy Stoner’s artworks, visit her blog.

Art Inspiration Articles:
View the index of all of my articles that are created specifically for class projects: www.robinurton.com/blog/?page_id=540

2 responses so far

2 Responses to “Contemporary Botanicals, Mixed Media”

  1. Linda Womack says:

    Hi Robin,

    Thanks for the wonderful review of my work! I love the other artists you profiled as well and have been having a great time exploring your blog. I finallly got a link posted on my blog here: http://embracingencaustic.wordpress.com/ . I’m sorry it took me so long but vacation, Christmas and SNOW all took their toll. I hope you have an inspiring 2009!

    Take care,
    Linda Womack

  2. Thank you so much for sharing these wonderful artists and the examples of their work!

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