projects & collaborations
In this section you’ll find details about commercial and private projects, exhibitions and collaborations.
Gertrude Jekyll - local legend
This month I wrote a little article for my local parish magazine, The Bridge, on Gertrude Jekyll (1843-1932). She was a renowned garden designer who lived and worked at Munstead Wood, about half a mile from my home in Godalming, Surrey.
I chose her as the subject of my SBA Diploma final essay. Having recieved full marks for it, I drafted an abridged version for the local publication.
Gertrude's memorial stone in our local churchyard reads "ARTIST, CRAFTSWOMAN, GARDENER", so I wanted to focus on how her early training as an artist was fundamental to her success in modernising garden design. This mashup of creative talent and practical horticulture, with astute business acumen, not least by a woman during the Edwardian era, made her very interesting to me. She was also a prolific and engaging writer. Quite the polymath.
I researched her original notebooks, paintings, garden designs and many reference books housed in the Godalming Museum and at the fabulous new library in RHS Wisley.
It also struck me that, outside of horticultural circles, Gertrude Jekyll's global success during her lifetime is not widely known nowadays.
You can read my short article below.
(If the image is a little small, click through to The Bridge homepage where past editions are stored).
So it was extremely timely and rather exciting to learn this weekend that The National Trust has just purchased her estate at Munstead Wood, with plans to restore and open them up to the public. This will be a lovely addition to our beautiful corner of Surrey and give Gertrude the wider recognition she deserves.
It's only a mile from another brilliant 19th Century legacy created by passionate horticulturalist, Dr Wilfred Fox - The Winkworth Arboretum - which is also owned by the National Trust (and undergoing significant investment to build a large visitor centre).
I love the synergy of how these two contemporaries were driven to "paint the landscape with colour", one with flower borders, the other with trees. The public will soon be able to enjoy both estates in one day.
Exhibiting Excellence Award for Graphite - again! Plantae 2023
I'm just back from the Private View of the Society of Botanical Artist's big global exhibition, Plantae 2023, London, and I'm super proud to have been awarded the Exhibiting Excellence Award for Graphite for the second year in a row!
This year, I entered my fullsize sunflower drawing which I called 'Charlie's Sunflower' (60x85cm), dedicated to my son after he presented me with a decorated pot of sunflower seeds for Mother's Day last year (thanks Beavers!) We planted out 8 seedlings and one quickly took over to grow over 7foot tall, with a ginormous 40cm flowerhead. We cut down the disk in September to harvest the thousands of seeds, and Charlie said, 'You should draw that, Mum!" Errr challenge accepted, but it was a complete bugger. The devil is, as ever, in the detail..but that's why I LOVE bringing the detail into submission!
Akin to my 2020 drawing of a Romanesco in complexity, but four times the size, this took me 6.5months to finish! There are over 2k seeds, all drawn individually in layers of graphite (hard pencil first, then building to soft). The hairs on the bracts and stem were individually rendered by darkening negative space. I tackled using graphite dust for the first time (messy) and went through all my scalpel blades. You can see my work-in-progress shots on my Insta page (@katybennett.art)
Plantae 2023, at the Mall Galleries in London, was a complete joy! Over 360 beautiful botanical works in all sorts of media, from 186 artists around the world.
This year I was especially invested as I was involved with the organising! A couple of months ago I was invited to join the SBA council after I offered my digital and marketing experience. I assisted with 'The Hang', the name given to the day before an art exhibition (like 'the get-in' of my amateur theatre days). You can imagine the sheer scale of this - so many hundreds of paintings were stacked up, ready to arranged and then hung. Luckily, the highly experienced SBA co-Presidents had already designed the layout in advance using a Virtual Reality programme, then printed out each wall layout with corresponding names/codes.
There were themes: a garden wall, like an exquisite bloom-filled border; exotics, with some showstopper large piece; seeds and fruits; magnificent trees; jewel wall of small or miniature gems; the wall of cascading compositions (grapes, pomegranates..) which, for want of a better moniker, we called "the Pendulous Montage". It was great fun but I felt a LOT of responsibility. Each and every one of the works represented an extraordinary amount of time and effort, with many artists flying into London especially to be there in person for the 5-day show.
The SBA received some fantastic feedback, with many of the artworks sold, so we're in the process of collating feedback to make the next one even more successful.
Exhibiting in my first show - TWO awards!
I was thrilled to win TWO awards for my crazy alien vegetable drawing of a Romanesco cauliflower/broccoli, at the SBA Plantae exhibition at Mall Galleries, London, in June.
"Roman" won a prestigious Certificate of Botanical Merit, which are independently judged to recognise "noteworthy work, observing precise, scientific standards, and which contribute to botanical art in both a technical and artistic way". I've since been told that I can use the letters CBM after my name (one for the back pocket, I feel).
He also won the Exhibiting Excellence Award for Graphite.
I spent two full months drawing Roman, from March to April 2020, at the very start of the Pandemic. I remember my husband and mum saying I was mad to tackle it in the first place, but I was determined to impress my tutor with a complex and rarely-attempted subject. Then lockdown hit, I was 6months pregnant and having to homeschool a 6 and 4 year old. I was knackered. This assignment seemed unconquerable. I strongly considered deferring my Diploma for a year (this was only Assignment 2, with two more year's work to go, and I was due to give birth within a few months!) From the news, it felt like the world was ending. I doggedly sat up every single night, scratching away at the infinite fractal florets of this weird broccoli-cauliflower lovechild. In many ways, this drawing came to be my escape - a rather desperate, obstinate symbol of not giving up when everything else seemed to have spiralled into grim chaos. I also believe, when the universe seems against you or life is hitting you hard, going macro into Nature's Design, especially the perfection of Fibonacci spirals, can bring a lot of comfort. SO, that's why this broccoli alien creation became very important to me. It was also a ginormous boost, at the time, that I achieved 10/10 in all 9 marking categories (a rare 100%) which spurred me on through the birth of Kit, more hideous lockdown homeschooling, and some incredibly tough assignments.
Back to the show - Plantae'22. It was the first show I applied for and I was still a student, so I was delighted to have two pieces accepted in Jan'22 (the other one, my rose and clematis complex composition, won me the de Jäger commission, details below!)
I was super excited about seeing my work hung on the walls of a prestigious London gallery, alongside the art of people I've admired and studied for the past few years. At the Preview Evening, the galleries were packed and buzzing with the thrill of an in-person show after a couple of years' Pandemic hiatus. When my friends and I spotted the bright little Awards stickers next to Roman, I was completely gobsmacked. Suffice to say, we had *a few* glasses of champagne to celebrate. I couldn't help thinking how this milestone exhibition was going to be a very tough act to follow.
de Jager fine bulbs
June 12, 2022
This was a very special project with de Jager fine bulb company for their Autumn 2022 catalogue cover, focusing on a drift of lovely, violet Chionodoxa spring flowers ("glory of the snow") . The 154-year-old company has a Royal warrant and stands for exceptional quality and longevity of bulbs for the finest gardens.
The commission was offered to me as a student of the Society Botanical Artist's Diploma course. I was honoured to be chosen and jumped at the chance to be mentored through a rigorous commercial process with tight timescales. I was delighted to see my work in beautiful, glossy print!
I learned so much about composition and layout, meeting an exacting brief, and working with my SBA mentor and the client's design agency. The owner spoke with me to say how happy he was with the digital design and is now the owner of the original painting.
Luxury Home Fragrances
November 6, 2021
I was thrilled to be asked to illustrate a new candle by Romaine London, a luxury fragrance brand I have admired for some time.
Sarah, the founder, has created a truly gorgeous candle scent, Grand Fir and Eucalyptus, that conjures up crisp wintery walks. The collaboration felt perfect, combining my love of nature, art, and beautiful fragrance.
I designed the label to align with her brand aesthetic - celebrate the forms of her high-quality botanicals, in detailed monochrome, maintaining an uncluttered composition for a sophisticated feel.
View the time-lapse video of my painting process below.
"Katy's talent at capturing the patterns, shadows and intricacies of flowers and foliage is incredible. The forensic detail combined with creative flair in her botanical artistry is truly remarkable." ~Sarah