Meet the Artist
Susan Christopher-Coulson VP Society of Botanical Artists
- Written by Vanessa Champion Vanessa Champion
Interview with Susan Christopher-Coulson, Vice President, The Society of Botanical Artists.
Susan’s degree in Fashion and Textiles was followed by several years working in the London fashion industry. An interest in the plant world developed on country walks from early childhood when drawing also became a constant form of expression. She focused on developing drawings based on natural subjects, including botanical, and expanding her coloured pencil techniques, which have been her preferred medium since childhood. Their potential to create rich tonal depths as well as subtle transitions and translucent colours is a constant fascination as are the infinite possibilities offered by the botanical subjects, which she prefers to draw directly from live subjects.
Susan has won a variety of awards, including two Royal Horticultural Society gold medals and several awards from both The Society of Botanical Artists and The Society of Floral Painters.
First of all, I have to say, what a terrific image you shared with us, our office was blown away by the detail, the drama and the sheer amount of work that must have gone into that image. Can you tell us a little about the subject, why you chose it?
The anemones were a completely serendipitous find at my local florists. They caught my eye immediately as I was passing the shop - the colours in the petals were so rich and complex and I knew immediately that I had to draw them! Anemones are one of my favourite flowers – I love their quirky, often bendy stems with their ruffled green collars but I particularly love the velvety petal texture. Usually their colours are bright and clashing - but these ones were much more moody!
You work primarily or exclusively in coloured pencils?
I do tend to work exclusively in coloured pencil these days, mainly because that is what people know me for but I also like to work in pen & ink and other drawing media if time allows.
Does paper make a difference to you? Which of the Strathmore range has worked best for you? And why? Would be great to hear?
The paper does make a massive difference for coloured pencil work – different surfaces can change the character of the work. Mainly I work on very smooth Bristol boards but I chose to work on the Strathmore 400 series smooth because it has a little more grain than I usually use, which I thought would work well for the texture and depth of colour in the Anemone petals. I also like this paper for portraits and some nature study work where a slightly looser style and more diffuse colour can be beneficial.
You are a member of various associations icluding Vice President, The Society of Botanical Artists. Can you tell us a bit about the Society, it’s aims and submission procedure.
The Society of Botanical Artists is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. We have over 200 members and associates from the UK and overseas. Besides its commitment to education, one of the Society’s main aims is to promote the appreciation plants and their habitats through botanical art. In recent years botanical art has seen a resurgence in popularity worldwide amongst artists and collectors. In 2004 the President at that time, Margaret Stevens, in collaboration with the members, was commissioned to produce a book: The Art of Botanical Painting, featuring many step by step examples. Arising from the book’s success, the Society established a Distance Learning Diploma Course that continues to attract participants from around the world and other books have followed.
The Society holds an Annual Open Exhibition in London, where selected work from members and talented non-members is exhibited and since 2010, the Society has been invited to exhibit bi-annually at the Palmengarten in Frankfurt. There is a wide variety of styles and media on show at our exhibitions and many of the members hold Royal Horticultural Society medals for their botanical artwork.
For further information about the Society, how to join and how to exhibit at the Open Exhibitions please visit www.soc-botanical-artists.org.
Where do you work most of the time? Do you have a studio? What is it like?
I work mainly in my studio, which is a white space with lots of light where I can shut myself away. A view of the garden provides a welcome distraction! Although it is my sanctuary, part of it is often a bit of a transit camp with things accumulating in preparation for the next project!
What are you working on at the moment?
At present with a very imminent deadline, I am trying to complete work for the SBA exhibition!
If the unspeakable happened, and your studio burnt down, what would you grab and why?
I really don’t want to even think about any form of mishap to my studio! However - if the decision I had to make was for Desert Island Discs, the luxury I would choose would be my coloured pencils, drawing board, a supply of paper - and a really effective pencil sharpener! Just seeing the colours lined up in their boxes cheers me up!
And a bit of fun, if you were a Strathmore paper, which one would you be?
If I was a Strathmore paper I think I’d be the 300 series Bristol board smooth because it seems to be the most popular paper with my students at the moment!
My work can be seen at various joint exhibitions including the Society of Botanical Artists, The Society of Floral Painters and with Florum - all mentioned on www.floraleyes.co.uk (which I’m afraid is currently awaiting an update, although most of the venues are the same as last year – only dates are different!) I currently have work at Percy House Gallery in Cockermouth and at the John Noott Gallery in Broadway. My work is also in the collections of the Shirley Sherwood Gallery at Kew Gardens, the Lindley Library at the Royal Horticultural Society in London, the Sheffield Florilegium and at the Tudor House Gardens in Southampton.