Anne Blackwell Thompson preserves foliage and flowers using centuries-old traditions. Then the Virginia-based artist turns her botanical treasures into bold compositions with contemporary style.
The artist and background: She grew up in Texas with a profound appreciation for the diverse landscape and studied educational psychology and art history at Texas A&M and Richmond College in London. In 2010, she apprenticed under botanical artist Stuart Thornton in Turin, Italy, before settling in Virginia to explore the many layers of nature in the Southern landscape.
The company: Blackwell Botanicals started in 2010 in Richmond, where Thompson maintains a studio and herbarium.
The goods: Flowers, foliage and seaweed that Thompson harvests, dries and presses on paper to create her highly sculptural, mixed media compositions.
What’s popular: The standard herbarium size of 11.5 inches wide by 20 inches high ($300, unframed). Also large-statement specimens, such as the elephant ear — or large vines and ferns.
Other favorites: Seaweed, which is not typically associated with botanical art, but is graphic and has an abstract quality.
Claim to fame: The Four Seasons Resort Lanai at Manele Bay in Hawaii recently purchased three of the enormous Taro pieces for its lobby. Taro (Colocasia), also known as elephant ears because of its gigantic foliage, is a huge part of the Hawaiian and Pacific Island culture.
What’s next: Thompson will be an artist-in-residence this year at Tuckahoe Plantation, the childhood home of Thomas Jefferson. She will explore the flora of the historical property.
Where to buy: Blackwellbotanicals.com
Artist and designer Susan Hable Smith creates large, monochromatic paintings inspired by the natural elements around her backyard studio in Athens.
The artist and background: She grew up in Corsicana, Texas, and studied art of all kinds at the University of Alabama, at Parsons School of Design New York City and in her world travels.
The company: Susan and her sister Katharine co-founded Hable Construction in 1999 in New York City. The design firm is still based in Brooklyn, but in 2009, Susan relocated to Georgia, where her new surroundings have become an integral part of her work.
The goods: Large, watercolor, ink wash and dye paintings on paper. Prices range from $1,200 (16 inches by 19 inches) to $3,800 (35 inches by 49 inches).
What’s popular: Colorful paintings with organic shapes and simple forms.
In living color
After landing her first solo show a year after graduating from college, Georgia artist Erin Gregory believed painting could become a full-time career. She has been busy selling her art ever since.
The artist and background: The Alabama native grew up in Mobile and Tuscaloosa and graduated from Auburn University in 2000 with a degree in painting. She has lived in Columbus (her husband’s hometown) since 2002.
The goods: Paintings in acrylic and water-based inks on canvas and occasionally on paper or wood. Subjects include florals, abstracted landscapes and figurative pieces with lots of color and contrast. Prices range from $500 for small paintings to $2,000-$8,000 from her large format (30 inches by 30 inches to 60 inches by 60 inches) pieces. In addition to selling original paintings, the online retailer One Kings Lane (onekingslane.com) sells a variety of high-quality prints of Gregory’s work for $200-$300.
What’s popular: Florals.
Claim to fame: The Internet, Pinterest and Instagram have been instrumental in her success these past few years and have driven business to her website and to the galleries that sell her work. Selling prints on One Kings Lane (onekingslane.com) also has been a big career booster.
Where to buy: www.efgart.com. Also at the Atelier Gallery in Charleston, S.C. (theateliergalleries.com); the Lyons Share Gallery in Fairhope, Ala. (lyonssharegallery.com); and this month at Stellers Gallery in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. (stellersgallery.com).
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