by Bonnie Born Ash
Susan Frei Nathan, lecturing at the Huntington. Photo by Leslie Walker.
Susan Frei Nathan, ASBA Board Member and gallery owner specializing in contemporary botanical art, presented a workshop to BAGSC members on Thursday morning, April 28 at the Huntington Library. She summarized her career working with antique and contemporary botanical prints, watercolors, and drawings. In 2002 she established Susan Frei Nathan Fine Works on Paper, which represents botanical artists, offers consultation for private and corporate collections, and provides professional services including appraisals and expertise on conservation. Susan reviewed the current market values for botanical art and cited examples of sales prices for antique and contemporary botanical art.
She advises artists who are new to botanical art begin with small works and hone their skills. As technical ability improves, artists may challenge themselves to larger, more complex works. She recommends that artists choose subjects for which they have a passion, consider a “specialty,” and create a series of works of the same subject, all with the intention of developing a “body of work.”
With the intention of selling work, Susan advises artists to focus on regional plant life, the most popular subjects to collectors. Artists need to be aware of conservation issues in their choice of materials, and provide detailed descriptions for their mixed media works. She recommends that works on paper be handled with care – use cotton gloves. In finding the right gallery to represent your work, familiarize yourself with the galleries in the community that represent natural history related work. To exhibit your work publicly, consider ASBA juried exhibitions, the New York Botanical Garden, The Hunt Institute International Exhibition of Botanical Art and Illustration, and check Susan’s website for additional links.
As Curator for the Sutton Collection, Susan described the development of the collection and discussed the exhibition at the Hunt Institute, Botanicals: Environmental Expressions in Art, the Alisa and Isaac M. Sutton Collection. We were delighted to each receive a copy of the exhibition catalogue at the conclusion of Susan’s presentation. The workshop was followed by individual meetings with artists in half-hour sessions to discuss technique, composition, color and subject matter.