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Begin Again: Flat Files

Online Exhibition of Contemporary Botanical Art

May 17 – August 31, 2021

Begin Again: Flat Files, is an exhibition of paintings about the artist's movement through ideas as they begin a painting and explore the subject further at a later date. The Flat File is a set of long and wide drawers found in most artists studios, housing paper and vellum artworks laid flat and protected throughout the creative process, while holding the artist's ideas for resolution in place. Hence, we see the changes and additions, through tackling compositional dilemmas, over time. Many of the artists in this show have revisited their works, as represented in the multiple dates of completion. An introduction of insects finished Beverly Duncan's Eggplant, 2006, finalized in 2021 and her Plum Tomato began in 2009, changes made in 2019 and resolved in 2021. Victoria Braithwaite's Iris 'Jane Philips' was started in 2019, completed in 2021, the first in a collection of bearded irises she hoped to complete, but shelved due to other critical project deadlines, but completed during the lockdown. Karen Kluglein's Tamora Rose began with the rose head, later adding the stem and water droplets. Some artists prefer to start and finish a work through a series of consecutive painting sessions, an uninterrupted flow of the artist's thought process, as seen in Connie Scanlon's Heirloom Blueberry Branch #2 and in the singular, spontaneous moment captured in Elizabeth Ender's boldly rendered Sunflower II.

An artist statement page and the exhibition price list is located after viewing the artworks. 10% of all proceeds will be donated to Feeding America, our continued pledge to support our communities to end hunger and food insecurity.

Celebrating this exhibition, enter to win a painting from Susan Frei Nathan’s Flat File. Details about the drawing can be found at the end of this exhibition.

To navigate the exhibition use the forward and backward arrow buttons to the right and left of the text and images.

Victoria Braithwaite, Iris 'Jane Philips'

"Iris 'Jane Philips', a delicate and breathy Iris, sketched and colour-matched in situ at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, finished off in the studio from photographs and sketches. Started in 2019, this was going to be the first and smallest of a collection of bearded irises to hopefully exhibit at the RHS, shelved, first due to commission deadlines, then the lockdown and other projects being sidelined."

Victoria Braithwaite

  • Iris 'Jane Philips', 2021
  • watercolor on paper
  • 16.5 x 16.5 inches

Beverly Duncan, Ashfield Composition, Beauty from the Gardens: Eggplant, Japanese Anemone and Nasturtium

"I began this painting in 2006, inspired by the beauty from my late summer gardens. I was pleased with the composition as it unfolded, first the bold and solid eggplant, and then the more delicate stemmed flowers, curving away from the eggplant. Simple!

"Since then I have looked at the painting many times. I have often painted an addition to my earlier Ashfield Compositions that are simpler, with fewer specimens in the composition. Should I add more to this piece?

"With a nod to one of my absolutely favorite painters of flora and fauna of centuries ago, I decided to add the Ladybug Beetle, an insect I have added to paintings since the first of these gem-like insects crawled across a painting years ago."

Beverly Duncan

  • Ashfield Composition
  • Image taken from the artist's studio flat file: Beauty from the Garden ('Bella Rosa' Eggplant, Japanese Anemone, Nasturtium 'Moonlight'), 2006
  • watercolor on paper
  • 8.5 x 8.5 inches

Beverly Duncan

  • Ashfield Composition
  • Beauty from the Garden ('Bella Rosa' Eggplant, Japanese Anemone, Nasturtium 'Moonlight'), 2006, 2021
  • watercolor on paper
  • 8.5 x 8.5 inches

Beverly Duncan, Plum Tomatoes

"First painted in 2009, this Plum Tomato exhibited a more traditional composition with inclusion of ripe fruit, ripening fruit, flowers, buds and top and bottom leaves. I painted the plant exactly as it was positioned in front of me, with the left-handed stem over one of the tomatoes. I recall thinking at the time that I did not really like the pale green stem over the beautiful red tomato. However, I painted it true to life. Ten years later, in 2019, I finally gathered the courage to erase that pale green, intersecting stem and painted over the area to complete the red tomato. I had to test the colors to make sure they matched the original palette. Then, in 2021, I decided to add something whimsical. I have always admired Joris Hoefnagel’s, (Antwerp, Belgium, 1542-1601) paintings in which he incorporated fauna, usually an insect to complete the composition. Thus, I added a red, native Ladybug Beetle peeking out of the petiole of the compound leaf, just for the fun of it."

Beverly Duncan

  • Plum Tomatoes, 2009, 2019 and 2021
  • watercolor on paper
  • 11.25 x 14.5 inches

Elizabeth Enders, Ranunculus II and Sunflower II

"Ranunculus came out of the flat file after being shown in a museum exhibition, it was first drawn and finished during one sitting in 2014. It took shape with the pencil lines, some broken. The colors followed, filled in with colored pencil, after that there was nothing more to be done.

"The Sunflower started off in India ink, then watercolor filled in the lines of the blossom, yellow petals and the dark brown, black and purple of the center. The Pandemic had directed the choice of subject. The sunflower is a strong and hopeful plant, reminding me that we will return one day to a more normal life of flowers and peace."

Elizabeth Enders

  • Ranunculus II, 2014
  • colored pencil, pencil on paper
  • 14 x 11 inches

Elizabeth Enders

  • Sunflower II, 2020
  • watercolor, pen and ink on paper
  • 14.5 x 11 inches

Karen Kluglein, A Single Tamora Rose

"This Tamora rose was in my garden covered with water droplets, I immediately gravitated to paint it. As I embarked on this journey, I had only completed the flower when interrupted by other projects. The single blossom with lots of white space was in my flat file for over a year. The dilemma became as to what to add for a pleasing composition. Luckily I had photographic references of the living plant along with a familiarity in painting this type of plant, which further informed the structure and color. I kept the painting simple adding only its stem and leaf."

Karen Kluglein

  • Image taken from the artist's studio flat file: A Single Tamora Rose
  • watercolor on illustration board

Karen Kluglein

  • A Single Tamora Rose, 2021
  • watercolor on illustration board
  • 11 x 8.5 inches

Kelly Leahy Radding, Dancing In An Irish Wind

"I was standing in the vibrant green headlands of Dunmore Head, on the Dingle Peninsula in Ireland. A bracing westerly wind was steadily blowing off the North Atlantic Ocean. I could taste the salt of the ocean on my tongue, and the brisk gusts carried a scent that I could only describe as the 'essence of the color green.' In the middle of this terrestrial verdant sea, these glowing white flowers were dancing in the wind.

"When I first conceived this painting I thought it was all about the exotic white calla lilies, so unexpectedly out of place. I learned later that they have naturalized all over Ireland, having escaped from tidy Irish gardens.

"I began this painting in 2011 with the intention of painting in my usual technique on vellum; many layers of very transparent colors to build up the volume and form the flowers and leaves. I quickly found it very frustrating; my paint was not laying down on the vellum in the manner with which I was accustomed to. Now I've come to acknowledge that each piece of vellum is different and requires a light shift in technique to paint on it, but this piece seemed to be an altogether different surface. To make matters worse, this particular piece of vellum was also very wavy; it would not lay flat no matter how long I kept it under weights. I didn't see a way to solve my issues, let alone complete the painting. I abandoned it to my flat files.

"Over the years I have expanded the mediums I work in to include gouache, casein and egg tempera, all water-based, but with varying degrees of opacity and transparency. When Susan floated the idea for this exhibition, I immediately knew that this painting was the one to pull from my flat file.

"On revisiting the work and close inspection I discovered I had chosen to paint on the rougher, more suede-like side of the skin, instead of the very smooth, glass-like side. I have to believe I chose it for the skin's pattern variegation and tone, but realized the texture was the primary reason my paint was misbehaving. I started with the leaves in 2011, now I dove right in to tackling how to paint the white flowers on this warm, buff colored skin. I squeezed out some Daniel Smith Titanium White Opaque watercolor onto my palette and grabbed a Titanium White Winsor and Newton watercolor stick.

"I began to use my paints more the gouache and egg tempera, alternating between transparent and opaque layers, using the paint stick to enhance the beautiful, opaque, dimensional whites of the flowers. I added white to my watercolors to paint the leaves, the more opaque paint giving a dimension and earthy weight to them that balanced the delicate white flowers. I used transparent watercolor as glazes over the opaque passages to change color temperatures and add movement. As I worked on the painting, it dawned on me that, although the flowers were truly stunning, the memory I was attempting to capture was the bigger picture. It was about the sensation of being surrounded by so much wild greenery, and of dancing in that Irish wind. I associated the wavy vellum with the wind."

Kelly Leahy Radding

  • Dancing in an Irish Wind, 2021
  • gouache on vellum
  • 21 x 17 inches

Connie Scanlon, Heirloom Blueberry Branch #2 ('Stanley')

Scanlon often paints subjects with the hidden agenda of including her children and grandchildren within the artwork. Rather than figurative portraits, she gravitates towards subjects with three or more objects within the composition, weaving the number of her children and grandchildren into her story. Blueberries are the perfect subject for this agenda, especially with her intention to paint the heirloom blueberry plant 'Elizabeth' after her first grandchild, Elizabeth. Unfortunately, she missed the moment of its utter ripeness, forcing her to pivot to a different blueberry, the 'Stanley.' As Scanlon shares the story, The USDA botanist Frederick Coville wrote a report, "Taming of the Wild Blueberry," published by the USDA, which sparked the interest of a cranberry grower, Elizabeth Coleman White to collaborate with Coville and cultivate the first blueberries from the wild. Their first crop was harvested in 1916 and named after Coville’s son, Stanley. Heirloom blueberries have seeds that are possible to regrow and pass on from one generation to the next, a perfect alignment with Scanlon's objective.

Connie Scanlon

  • Heirloom Blueberry Branch #2, 2020
  • watercolor on Kelmscott vellum
  • 17 x 12 inches

Carol Woodin, Three Fritillarias

"Sometimes art, especially botanical art, has to pause halfway through. I started this painting a couple years ago, making a color study and graphite drawing. Capturing the composition and details about the flowers and leaves. I put it away as the season was flying by, and got it out last spring when the Fritillarias were in flower again. But I missed some of the details, and didn’t understand the complicated colors of the flowers well enough. This year the flowers bloomed like crazy! I had dozens of these little fritillaries, so the timing was perfect to finish them up!"

Carol Woodin

  • Image taken from the artist's studio flat file: Sketch of Fritillaria painting, 2019
  • pencil and watercolor on paper

Carol Woodin

  • Three Fritillarias, 2019, 2021
  • watercolor on Kelmscott vellum
  • 11 x 14.5 inches

Price List

  • Victoria Braithwaite
    Iris 'Jane Philips', 2021
    $1,900
  • Beverly Duncan
    Ashfield Composition: Beauty from the Garden, 2006, 2021
    $900
  • Beverly Duncan
    Plum Tomatoes, 2009, 2019 and 2021
    $950
  • Elizabeth Enders
    Ranunculus II, 2014
    $2,500
  • Elizabeth Enders
    Sunflower II, 2020
    $2,200
  • Karen Kluglein
    A Single Tamora Rose, 2021
    $1,300
  • Kelly Leahy Radding
    Dancing in an Irish Wind, 2011, 2021
    $5,100
  • Connie Scanlon
    Heirloom Blueberry Branch #2, 2020
    $3,800
  • Carol Woodin
    Three Fritillarias, 2019, 2021
    $2,800

To enter our drawing to win a painting from Susan Frei Nathan's Flat File, please fill out the form here. The winner will receive the painting shown below: Beverly Duncan's Two Tulips, 2009, leaf added 2015, watercolor on paper, 7.5 x 14.5 inches.

Beverly Duncan's Two Tulips