The ISBA AGM took place on Saturday the 5th March in the Auditorium of the National Botanical Gardens. Outgoing Chairperson Alex Caccamo opened the meeting. Nominations for new committee were presented to the meeting.
The new committee members elected are
Jane Stark – Chairperson
Lynn Stringer – Vice Chair
Colette Roberts – Secretary
Breda Malone – Treasurer
Cathy Giles – Communications Officer
Helen Noonan – Committee Member
Marie de Lacy – Committee Member
A presentation of honorary membership was then awarded to Colette Edwards, retired assistant librarian at the NBG, whose enthusiasm, help and and support was so instrumental in the formation of the Society.
The guest speaker this year was artist Billy Showell. Billy is based in Tunbridge Wells in the UK and is a renowned botanical artist and teacher. Billy generously shared her experience supported by a presentation of slides. We were very grateful for Billy to attend as she is terrified of flying but we were delighted she did as we thoroughly enjoyed her talk and later some of us got to attend a compositional workshop with her.
Billy’s aim through all of her work is to inspire people to get painting. We learned that Billy originally trained as a fashion illustrator and how she inherited her skills from her graphic artist father. She has always loved drawing and sketching but soon discovered although she gained a Degree in Fashion Design and Illustration from St Martin’s School of Art that she really had no interest in fashion. When she realised she wasn’t happy working in her fashion job she starting working with her husband who was a mural painter at that time. Through this work, Billy soon discovered how she loved painting flowers.
Billy started painting things from her garden and used effects she had learned from her husband in mural painting. She was encourage by her parents-in-law who were artists themselves to start exhibiting her work. She sold her first paintings in Lincolnshire and her first show was of still life in oils painted on board – her inaugural show was a sell out! Time was of the essence for Billy was rearing her young children at the same time her painting career was taking off, and would wait for her children to sleep before getting a chance to pick up the paint brushes.
Billy decided to start teaching oil painting in a local adult education class but was disappointed when nobody turned up to her first class. She sought advice from her artist Mother-in-Law, a watercolour artist who told her to do watercolours instead of oils and who gave her the lessons and tools to start painting in watercolours. Billy said she found having the right tools made all the difference. She soon got her first watercolour commission to paint Tulips. Later on Billy would take on various projects and commissions including the humungous task of a commission of 60 apples which shows how Billy is not afraid of challenges and actually thrives on them.
It wasn’t long before Billy started to experiment with different compositions and enjoyed adding a touch of comedy to her paintings. The balance of objects is an important element of Billy’s compositions and she has enjoyed working with big flowers, graceful lines and long stems. Billy said sometimes she feels she is like a flower arranger on paper. Her paintings have gone through different phases and Billy is not afraid to experiment and said she didn’t mind if things went wrong. Her bravery and creativity is evident in all of the different compositions and styles she has painted through the years, including her much loved shoe, necklace and flower cup portraits. Taking inspiration from many sources Billy has great admiration for the Shirley Sherwood collection of botanical art at Kew Gardens and also Scottish artist Rory McEwen.
We enjoyed hearing how Billy built an art studio at her home which can cater up to six students at a time. She also offers online tutorials and has a new website coming out soon. Billy travels far and wide through her work as a botanical artist and teacher and as a member of the Society of Botanical Artist and Society of Floral Painters. As well as teaching and painting Billy has released her own paint range with the renowned Sennelier brand and also her very popular ”Raphael Billy Showell Brush Range”. We were also very excited to hear about Billy’s new book “Billy Showell’s Botanical Painting in Watercolour” which has been published this Spring with Search Press. Billy’s other books “Watercolour Fruit and Vegetable Portraits”, “A-Z of Flower Portraits” and “Watercolour Flower Portraits” are favourites of many botanical artists.
Overall it was a lovely day spent in the company of existing and new members of the Irish Society of Botanical Artists, with great anticipation for what the year ahead will bring for the Society.