If you are interested in buying or commisioning artwork, or would like to  know about upcoming art workshops, please feel free to drop me a line.

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HomeBonnardLife in Colour- Madrid

Life in Colour- Madrid

Ferdinand Bauer's Colour notebook, Royal Botanic Gardens Madrid
Ferdinand Bauer’s Colour Chart, Royal Botanic Gardens, Madrid
“To move, to breathe, to fly, to float,
To gain all while you give,
To roam the roads of lands remote,
To travel is to live.” 
Hans Christian Anderson

I have just returned from a week of light, colour, laughter, friendship and fabulous art in Madrid.

Marta Chirino Argenta, Passionflower
Passionflower, graphite and pastel colour by Marta Chirino SBA
I was staying in the home of my good friend and fellow SBA member Marta Chirino. Marta is the botanical illustrator for the Royal Botanic Gardens of Madrid, and her work is simply exquisite.
As well as working for the Botanic Gardens, she also has a large spacious studio in her home where she explores her more creative side. What a treat it was to be able to spend time with her and to see how she works.

Marta and I holding one of her paintings at  the Lucia Mendoza Gallery
Marta is a born teacher, endlessly patient and extremely generous with her knowledge. Her botanical art classes are always booked up quickly, so I was thrilled to be invited to attend a workshop in her home. Marta’s classes are generally focussed on drawing (she is the queen of the sensual line), so I decided to bring colour to the classroom. 

Explaining how a colour chart can help you match up the colours of your subjects
The many shades of red in a rose petal

I soon had her students making colour charts and painting fruit. 

What fun we had, despite my lack of Spanish! At times it seemed more like a party!

Madrid is a city rich in culture, and there were so many wonderful places to visit. Each day brought fresh inspiration. A trip to the Royal Botanic Gardens is definitely a must for the botanical artist.

Ferdinand Bauer's Colour Chart, Royal Botanic Gardens, Madrid
Ferdinand Bauer’s Colour Chart, Royal Botanic Gardens, Madrid
 I was thrilled to learn that Ferdinand Bauer’s colour notebook is kept in the archives. Ferdinand Bauer (1760-1826) is widely considered one of the world’s finest botanical artists. He went on many voyages of discovery, recording all the new and exotic flora. As it was difficult to carry all of his equipment whilst out in the field, he designed a wonderful colour notebook with every shade of colour carefully numbered. He made beautiful pencil drawings of his specimens, noting the numbers of the corresponding colour. 

Ferdinand Bauer's Colour Notebook, Royal Botanic Gardens Madrid
Ferdinand Bauer’s Colour Notebook
Upon his return from his travels, he completed the colour illustrations. The colour chart has since been lost, but a smaller earlier notebook was discovered amongst the papers of a botanist called Haenke(1761-1816) in the archives of the Botanic Gardens. The librarian told us a lovely story of how Haenke was once shipwrecked, and left the ship with nothing but the colour notebook clutched in his hands! I don’t blame him… it’s beautiful. The colours are still vibrant after 200 years. I was kindly given permission to photograph the facsimile.
Marta and Santos, a happy partnership!
It was also a pleasure to meet Dr Santos Cirujano Bracamonte, the botanist who has worked with Marta for the past 27 years. They have collaborated on numerous publications together, including the complete Aquatic Flora of Iberia. We talked at length about the relationship between the botanist and illustrator, and the important role that each plays in telling the story of the plant.

Pierre Bonnard- The Palm http://www.wikiart.org/en/pierre-bonnard/the-palm-1926
I loved seeing all the art in the city. As well as visiting the magnificent Prado, we went to see a truly inspirational Bonnard exhibition. I’ve always loved the work of Les Nabis and their use of colour and pattern.  Bonnard’s concept of colour being the composition is a really exciting approach, and both Marta and I were fascinated by the vitality and vigour of his palette. 

We had many long conversations about how to develop an artistic theme and yet remain true to our botanical roots! I tell you, my mind was buzzing with all these wonderful ideas!

Martin Chirino sculpture
One of Martin Chirino’s sculptures in his garden
The highlight of the week though (yes, even better than the Bauer notebooks!) was meeting Marta’s father, world renowned sculptor, Martin Chirino and seeing his work. He is extremely charming, incredibly talented and full of fascinating stories. He told me over lunch that to be an artist means to “allow yourself to be seduced by an idea, and to be driven by that desire to capture it”
Words of wisdom!

Martin Chirino sculpture, private collection
One of Martin Chirino’s exquisite spiral sculptures
Madrid was definitely an adventure that captivated my imagination. I met so many lovely generous people, ate delicious food and lived my life in colour!

Marta and I are now considering holding Botanical Art Holidays  in Spain next year. If you are interested in joining us, please contact me at shevaun.doherty (at) gmail.com 

“Travel and a change of place impart new vigour to the mind”

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