Wednesday, April 04, 2018

SPACE - The Final Frontier

Daisy Arc in Outer Dark 
Watercolour and Carbon on Paper
130x130 cm
Coral Guest
Private Collection

Studying large brush calligraphy in Japan was a major influence upon me as a young artist. This enabled me to bring the idea of space into my work. It is only through the practice and understanding of this particular art, and through combining it with the process of classical perspective, that I came to understand the nature of space around natural form.

After this awareness became my reality I wrote about it and taught this idea to others. Without this factor, the genre would perhaps still be in the old state of just using a neutral area of either white or black around the botanical form. Traditionally, the background has no meaning other than as a flat background.

Instead, we can observe space and hold it as a profound reality in our work, because it has been pointed out and understood and explained.

Being able to draw a plant in perspective directly from life with an awareness of real space, is a skill that brings an art work great authenticity. My early years as a professional artist were spent on achieving this capacity to do. Once achieved, the knowledge was imparted quickly to others, bringing enlightened moments to other practising artists.

I would not give my self the title of 'leading botanical artist', but I do regard myself as a pioneer artist in the Botanical Art field. I am often referred to as renown, or as an innovator, or as well known. Various artists who have been practicing as a professional botanical artist for less than ten years are currently claiming the status of being a leading Botanical Artist.  They may not be aware that by claiming this status they have probably assumed the automatic responsibility of taking the genre forward. This is perhaps quite a vast responsibility.

I currently remain in my observers esoteric space to offer an explanation of my understanding when requested to do so. This is simply because so many have asked, and because I am able to explain what has been done and why it was done.

I sometimes wonder why we don't have at least one articulate academic historian in the contemporary Botanical Art field who can determine what was achieved and when. A good historian who can research as a scholar would be so welcome. Surely, there is somewhere a young art historian who would like to have this kind of career within botanical art?

And so on we go. Forthcoming and interesting posts are waiting in the files, so watch this space dear readers.

Monday, April 02, 2018

The Botanical Art and Artists Book List

Paeonia lactiflora 'Bowl of Beauty'
Rapid Colour Study 2000 
Watercolour on Paper (Private Collection)
Coral G Guest

As the days in the UK somehow struggle to become brighter and warmer, spring is somewhere in the air. We who paint from life and in natural light wait for the flourish of springtime plants to arrive.

Whilst travelling, I am catching up on my online reading.

This is just to say a big thank you to the erudite Writer, Curator, and Artist, Katherine Tyrrell, for including my ancient book Painting Flowers in Watercolour - A Naturalistic Approach on her Botanical Art and Artist website. 

Its all the more appreciated for the fact that Katherine understands and describes the book's perspective. Her book list contains very thorough and comprehensive selection of books that are both well chosen for their speciality and their worthiness. Do have a look.

Katherine's website and Facebook page continue to grow and gain interest not only from artists but curators and collectors as well as all lovers of Botanical Art. She is much applauded for her commitment to bringing this blossoming art into the lives of many people and continues to achieve so much for Botanical Artists worldwide. Thank you Katherine!


Monday, March 26, 2018

The Pomegranate and Pop Art

The first Shadow Life Series was made up of small drawings of flowers and edibles. These were brought into the house at various times of the day. Drawn slowly over many hours, they include cast shadows upon a surface.

The second Shadow Life Series (below) was painted in 2017 in oil on canvas, as rapid colour studies using large brushes. The paintings are a tribute to the Pop Art painter James Rosenquist who passed away on 31st March 2017. On that day, I was gifted some pomegranate fruits. Thinking of Rosenquist, these were painted in a large format, and very quickly over the hours before and after midday. As a tribute to Rosenquist, the works have shadow within them but no shadow is cast by the fruit. They remain held in light.

Rosenquist was one of the originators of the vogue for large format paintings of everyday imagery and objects that formed part of the Pop Art movement. So when we enlarge imagery today we do so perhaps because the idea has been around since the 1960's when a few bright artists in the USA took a leap into something new and began to paint very large pictures for art gallery installations.

Rosenquist began his career as a painter of billboard advertisements and his work continued to be monumental throughout his career.  For a contemporary botanical artist, a large roll of paper is considered quite massive in comparison to the diminutive botanical drawings of the nineteenth century. But seen in the context of the Rosenquist work, the larger pieces of contemporary botanical art remain relatively minute.

Shadow Life Series 2
Midday, no Shadow - Homage to Rosenquist
Punica granatum Colour Study
Oil on Canvas
90 x 90 cm

Shadow Life Series 2
Midday, no Shadow - Homage to Rosenquist
Punica granatum 
Oil on Canvas - Colour Study
90 x 90 cm


Sunday, March 25, 2018

Ironing Out the Creases of Misunderstanding

Lapageria rosea 'Alba' 
watercolour on paper 1:1
Coral Guest
Courtesy of the Shirley Sherwood Collection

My current focus with the writing is to iron-out the creases that represent areas of misunderstanding regarding fine art classifications of botanical imagery. Over the coming year, this blog will offer you an occasional series of short definitions that stem from European Art History.

This is to make a contribution from a Fine Art point of view, as a means to bring together and compare the two sides of Applied and Fine Art, in the Botanical world. I will be describing elements of European history as this is my individual background. I am generally not qualified to research American Art History, but I long to see what might in the future be documented in this area. Artists from other countries will perhaps be much more capable of describing their own cultural circumstances than I could ever be.

Its natural that the Applied Arts sometimes have a different interpretation from the Fine Arts and within each country there are also differences in interpretation of meaning. Its worth remembering that Art History is always evolving and new historians often take an updated perspective based on new information and new experience. This helps to build the history and increase its power to inform.

Those of you who know me well, are aware that I generally work with accuracy through observational drawing and painting and that this is one of the core practises of my work as a Flower Painter. Threaded through this is the quest to express and understand how the Applied Arts and the Fine Arts inform each other through the Plant Kingdom and popular culture itself.

Its a fascinating subject that finds echoes in our history over and over again. I first noticed this as a student studying the paintings of Van Gogh and his discovery of the Japanese print.

Little snippets of information run in parallel with the more substantial insights. This week I was reading about the sad demise of the Society of Floral Painters, which was by all accounts a much loved and nurturing place for its members. The society was active for twenty years from 1996 to 2016. 

Further research allowed me to understand that this term Floral Art was, and still is in some countries, used to describe a specific type of freely painted flower painting that has no connection to science or illustration.

In the UK the term Floral Art means something very specific that is not related to Flower Painting in any way.

Floral Art is the term used by high level contemporary practitioners and masters of the refined art of floristry and flower arrangement.

Floral Art is exhibited at Hampton Court and at Chelsea, and other Flower Shows. This is included alongside aspects of horticulture. The Floral Art practitioners compete for medals at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, and can be found in a designated Floral Art Marquee. Its quite stunning to view.

Floral Art is even more popular than Botanical Art.

The National Association of Floral Arrangement Societies, NAFAS has around 55,000 members in the UK alone.

So, here we go with a little bit of misunderstanding ironed out. Names sometimes alter slightly, transfer to another subject, and are applied to something quite different. When an old and a new terminology lives in the same cultural space, misunderstandings can result. So I will iron out what I can.

Thank you today to all the Botanical Illustrators who wrote to me yesterday to endorse the Painting Flowers in Watercolour book of 2001. 

Its heartening to know that so many artists are aware that its values can be easily adopted by the Applied Arts and so have used its teaching of techniques to further their individual careers in Illustration and Design. This was part of the book's original purpose when it was first created so many years ago.

The book has a Forward by Dr Shirley Sherwood.

The book is included on the How To book reading list of the ASBA 

Its been a very great honor to serve the practitioners of Botanical Art in this way, particularly the Americans. 

The new website has an Information Page where you can find links to interviews.

A nice little addition now:

An image of the first Gold Medal certificate I received from the RHS in 1984, for Watercolour Paintings of Garden Flowers.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

In Praise of the Hobby Artist and the Botanical Art Movement

Iris germanica - Midday - No Sunshine, Cool Light
Colour Study
Watercolour on paper
Coral G Guest

As many of you will know, my work has developed from the long European tradition of Flower Painting. 

Flower Painting is well documented by art historians and represented in museum collections, and it is always evolving.

I have chosen the fine art aspect with which to work, and to these ends, I have done so through observational painting and drawing. I have worked with the specific intent of bringing fine art techniques to the botanical art world in general, because I have a great admiration for Botanical Illustration. This lives within me along side my love of horticulture and its relation to the natural world of flowering plants.

The title Fine Art or Fine Artist, is generally used by universities, historians, museums, galleries and art dealers as a generic term. 

What we artists actually do is refer to ourselves as a Painter, Sculptor, Print Maker, Film Maker, Performance Artist, etc. 

Being a Fine Artist is considered a 'given' when we use these terms.

I am simply a Painter and Draughtswoman who paints flowering plants and landscapes, and so for the vernacular definition I use the term Flower or Landscape as a prefix to Painter. This is a norm in the Fine Art sphere.

When it comes to Botanical Art and the issue of definitions, I remain inclusive of all definitions and all terms that surround the representation of flowering plants. 

What are my reasons for this? 

I have believed for some years that what we have been building is an art movement and art movements embrace all the Fine Arts and all the Applied Arts, and many other variables and eccentricities. If we exclude any one aspect, we would be reducing the effectiveness of the Botanical Art Movement. 

In 2012 I first mentioned to my students, and through this blog, that we have an art movement emerging as a reality. At that time, I gave an interview on the Renaissance of Botanical Art to the highly thoughtful Tania Marian, and this had the imperative effect of making me ask myself if this reality will become far more than any of us ever anticipated. I feel that the critical mass point has now been reached and we have gone beyond it.

I come from a particular way of seeing things that the Fine Artist holds, I see history building through the fine and applied arts. I am also focused more on the flowering world itself than on definitions of art. My attitude to definitions is inclusive, because everyone has a respected place.  

I'm often asked this intriguing question:

Is Botanical Art a Fine Art or an Applied Art? 

Rather than answering this question, it is maybe best to say that if botanical artists want to be a part of the bigger picture of the art world, it may be necessary for each artist to address this point individually by becoming fully aware of their intent and purpose, and the fundamental difference between the Applied Arts and the Fine Arts.

The Applied Arts are Illustration, Design, Graphics, Digital Design etc. There are many excellent and detailed explanations to be found online, far more than I have the capacity to write about here.

The term ‘Applied’ refers to the arts that are applied to everyday objects, or education, or are created for a specific purpose, perhaps to serve science. For example, an illustration has a purpose to illustrate something in particular. This is the domain of the designer and illustrator who works to a brief.

There are limits and limitations to a brief, and there are boundaries to be worked with in the world of Applied Arts. 

Some artists work in both Applied and Fine Arts, for example an artist may divide their time by working as both an illustrator and a painter.

The Fine Arts, in contrast, have no boundaries, other than the ones the artist chooses for themselves. This is often why Fine Art is not the first choice of many art students. The applied arts are often considered less of a risk both emotionally, and also when it comes to earning a living.

A Fine Artist has the responsibility of understanding their own philosophy and their history, in order to recognise the context and meaning of their work.  This operates in co-ordination with their talent and abilities and allows them to know where they are going. A cutting edge fine artist has to be able to balance their spontaneity and creative impulse - which is mostly emotional - with their intelligence and their critical thought.

A painter works each day through self-motivation, which is something that often causes many to feel that they are falling through a black hole of doubt, because they have no given boundary to hold them in place psychologically. We move forward into the unknown.

My own work relates the flowering plants to our deep and meaningful experience of beauty and how we connect this to horticulture and popular culture. This thread runs symbolically through much of the history of Flower Painting in Europe. 

It is the manifestation of this intent and purpose that I have been committed to sharing for some forty years. I remember as a young artist, my tutors at art college drilling us in the need for originality and the need to think it all through with a critical eye and intellect and then to share it with all without discrimination. 

One aspect of my motivation has been to share Fine Art painting and drawing techniques with the artists who work in the Applied Arts, and also for those who work both as serious amateurs and as hobby artists. I wrote the book on Flower Painting because I felt that the non-professional Botanical Artists of all disciplines have as much right to learn high level techniques as those studying in art schools to be professional.

The techniques developed are now used by professional Illustrators of all kinds, as well as the Flower Painter. This is perhaps why it has been so popular because it is useful for both applied and fine arts. The techniques are not limited to Flower Painting. The techniques are universally applicable, and the book champions this idea.

The high end of the Fine Art genre is a tough place to live in. To simply say, I am a Fine Artist  is not enough because the work is critically inspected in relation to its history and the bigger picture of contemporary art. Its a different ball game.

In the Fine Art sphere, we can do and say as we please, because there are no boundaries. 
But, this is something we were woken up to as students as being a false sense of security.  

As one very good lecturer once said to us at art college:

‘They will have you for breakfast out there if you have not thought it through’.

This of course is true, and in order to maintain and evolve standards we work each day remembering this.

A fine artist is never reduced to working within a prescriptive definition of their work that someone else has thought up for them. A prescriptive set of rules is a kind of anathema to a Fine Artist, because a fine artist works with intent and purpose as an evolving aspect of creativity.  Its not until you see the work of an artist who has achieved this that you realise what it actually is.

Definitions and rules are a necessary aspect of the Applied Arts, and this is what makes it purposeful in itself.

In contrast, and in order to be true to themselves and to forfeit the imposition of a prescriptive definition, a fine artist has to face not only the art world and society around them but also themselves, from within. 

Of course, each artist chooses the creative area that fits their talents and their personality. We all have a place, this is the privilege we have in our civilisation.

So, here is another interesting question:

Which is the easier route to individual happiness, is it the Applied Arts or the Fine Arts?

The answer to this, in my opinion, is neither - which I mean in a positive sense.

The one who has the easiest route and perhaps the happiest, is someone who has less expectations of financial success, is outside professional competitiveness, and yet can belong to a Society and be part of a wave of interest in their subject.

This someone is the Hobby Artist.

Monday, March 05, 2018

The Fabulous Launch of the New Website

'The site features selected works representing Coral’s amazing 40-year career as a painter and draughtswoman'  ~ Tania Marien



This is a very huge thank you to everyone who has enabled the new website to be seen by so many people worldwide.

The response has exceeded all my expectations. After months of work, the magic came to a conclusion in a spectacular way that took original page views to over a 1,000 a day.

For myself, as a quiet and somewhat reclusive type of artist, this was a joyous and humbling experience. The key seems to have been in planning the launch with the aim of reaching the audience in tranches so that the initial momentum could maintain a wave.

The work on the site became a kind of pilgrimage to review aspects of a forty year career, to explain and piece together my ongoing mission to evolve the art of the New Flower Painting. I hope to add a little more to its ongoing history. The story in the bigger picture is not yet over, and what I cannot do the artists of the future will achieve.

Deepest thanks go to the existing and the new audience that the work now has, and, for the many messages of enthusiasm and good will - around 600 - that have been received. It has been a moving experience to read so many appreciative comments. Viewers have described the many moments of beauty they experienced from the site and how it has inspired them to look at more Flower Paintings, to practice the art themselves, and to spend more time in the company of Flowering Plants.

My gratitude goes to all the artists, and art lovers, who have shared the news of the site and their enthusiasm for it, on their media pages. Much appreciation goes to the goodwill and generous responses that have been received from the Collectors, Societies, and Institutes, who have Flower Paintings in their homes, archives and galleries.

Times are changing for websites and this example is no exception.  This  new botanic site is aimed at being a kind of online publication of a biographical timeline in words and pictures. It is a series of events in the life of one Flower Painter.

In recognition of this approach, writers and educators are now reviewing websites as something that stands up as a kind of monograph.

The first person to run with this idea with respect to my new botanic site, is the erudite, and most eloquent editor of Artplantaetoday in the USA, the award winning Tania Marien.

Tania has written a fabulous review of the new site. Deepest thanks go to Tania for bringing so many viewers and lovers of the plant kingdom, to the New Flower Painting.

If you would like to flag up the site or review it, please do contact me through the Information/Contact  page of the website, so we may point our readers in your direction.

Thank you again, to everyone who has participated with such generous and positive responses to the new site.



Friday, February 23, 2018


Placed in natural daylight

Painted directly from life

Depicted life-size  

Through spontaneous inspiration

Its fast

Its magical

It is..... 

The SEED                                                

Many of you who know me will recognise the Study Works from a project on Seeds that began in 1993, which became a series of rapidly drawn and painted observational images. 

Visit the second half of the Study Work page at the brand new website and see these wonderful natural forms.

As more seeds come forward, from far away storage and into the bright natural light of the studio, the project is growing again and emerging from its rest. Watch this space for gradual and intermittent snippets of news, as we work in the silence of the studio.

Above:Seed Pods from Papua New Guineawatercolour on paper1993

View the new website and take a tour of the extraordinary paintings and drawings. Read all about it at the wonderful world of  CORALGUEST BOTANIC



It is important that you read the Copyright Notice below.


This website, including images, information, and content are the copyright of Coral G Guest and associated copyright holders. It is prohibited to reproduce or copy, adapt, modify, pin or otherwise use any of the images, text, or information herein, in any manner or form, recreational or commercial, without specific written consent.