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Exhibitions and Opportunities: A Quick Guide
Page under development - images and links to be added shortly

As your work progresses there are some opportunities that you should be thinking about. It is very important for an artist to get their work out into the public domain and to be recognised and to have work accepted into permanent collections, such as a florilegium or prestigious exhibition, such as the Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation, SBA annual open, ASBA International and many others. This page deals with various opportunities open to botanical artists.  

Society Memberships

There are a number of Societies that you may wish to be a member of from local to International, these in clude those with  open membership, such as the American Society of Botanical Artists or those that require application, which is judged on the merit of your work, e.g. the Society of Botanical Artists. There are lots of smaller societies too, don't dismiss these and most accept international members, examples include Association o Botanical Artists (ABA), the Botanical Society (Singapore) and many more, which I'll add later.

All societies charge an annual fee so you need to consider how membership of a society might benefit you in terms of costs versus benefit, for example:


Is the Society considered prestigious?

What do you actually get for your money? e.g. exhibitions, online and public, a web page, promotion via their social media etc. 

Do members gain exclusive benefits over non members? Does the society run member exhibitions, and do they make good sales?

What kind of media coverage does the Society have for events? 

Does the Society have and online discussion forum? 

Does the Society offer practical help and advice to artist members? 

The above are just a few considerations, look into what you want from a society. 

Florilegium Societies


Being part of a Florilegium usually means that you will donate a piece of work to that organisation. This might seem like a bad idea at f first glance, given that you are signing over the copyright and the work, so why would any artist do this?


There are a few reasons to participate in a florilegium project and again, you need to decide if it is right for you.

Usually a florilegium documents a specific collection of plants or plants from a geographic range. 

The purpose is educational to create a record

It will form part of a permanent collection 

Often a high quality publication of works is published

With most florilegium societies participation is by invitation or application. They tend to be run by very experienced artists and botanic gardens,


Active Florilegium Society include:


Chelsea Physic Garden Florilegium Society

Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh Florilegium 

The Florilegium Society at the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney  

Hampton Court Palace Florilegium

Grootbos Nature Reserve Florilegium South Africa 

Eden Project Florilegium Society 

Sheffield Botanic Garden Florilegium Society 

To view information about these projects:

The Highgrove Florilegium 

Transylvania Florilegium 

Do take a look at some of the work and artists involved in these Societies as there is much to be learned, I've been fortunate to be involved in a few of them and found the experience most beneficial. 


There are many exhibitions opportunities for botanical art and there are broader exhibitions which botanical artists can enter, but seldom do.

Exhibitions are your opportunity to showcase your best work to a wider audience and hopefully to sell, as well as an opportunity to make new contacts. 


I always recommend choosing which exhibitions you enter very carefully, choose quality over quantity.

Working on a small number of exhibition pieces each year by investing research and time can really pay off well when you wan to get into the best shows, rather than trying to do too much and entering lots of exhibitions. 

Make yourself a chart of which shows are coming up each year. I often work a year in advance and over two growing seasons, ans only usually enter one painting per show. 

Once you have made that list decide what type of show you want your work to be in and whether or not it requires a membership. 

Before Submission 

Are you ready? 

The first point to consider when considering when applying to a society or for an exhibition is whether your work is up to standard. Look at previous entries, how does your work fit in? be honest with yourself, ask yourself the question, is your work right for this exhibition, is it better, equal or not as bad as some previous entries?


Even if your work is rejected, it may not be because its not good enough, there are other reason, such as bad quality image submission, the wrong subject etc.


For exhibitions, you may be invited to submit several works, only submit your best. As an RHS judge once said to me, you are only as good as your weakest work. So never enter works if you don't feel they are up to standard. Paint one excellent work rather than three average ones.

Choose wisely, it's often simple a case of finding the right exhibition or Society. Some exhibitions are tough, with very small numbers of works selected, these will be hard, such as the ASBA Internationals, where only 40 or so works are exhibited, whereas the SBA open shows several hundred works (however this is much reduced compared to previous years, so its getting harder), also look at how many entries there are for these exhibitions, what percentage of the total are accepted and are there different levels for the exhibition, some societies will exhibit all entries online, in addition to those selected for the gallery. 


Next: Meet the criteria for exhibition because different exhibitions have different criteria, for example check:

How recent must the work have been completed, whether it's ok to have shown it previously, whether your chosen subject and size is admissible. Most exhibitions are fairly flexible but others are very specific and if you plan to enter something that you already have it may not be eligible. If painting something specifically for an exhibition or membership submission, always read the criteria very carefully. 

More to follow

Choosing Subjects


Subject choice is very important, of course so is quality and composition, but the subject can heavily influence a juries decision.


There are various ways to impress a jury,  bear in mind a digital submission is viewed on a screen, judges may look at hundreds (I know because I've viewed over 900 entries for one Society exhibition!), it becomes very tiring, so when I see a plant that's unusual, it always captures my attention, conversely when I see 20 of the same subject it becomes a little dull and predictable, choosing a very common subject means you have just made the job of being selected even harder because you are competing with the others painting that same subject. In a smaller exhibition it's highly unlikely that more than one of the same subject will be exhibited and even in a large exhibition there are unlikely to be, say more than a couple of the same subject. So unless you have an interesting angle or know that yours is the best - think wisely about common subjects. Iris cultivars, hellebores, cardoons and tulips are very common as are acorns and various dead or dying flowers. They are popular because they're attractive subjects but there is a limit to how many will be shown. 


You might also think that a 'big' painting gets you noticed, whilst this is may be true, and the organisers want some large works,  the cost of wall space at exhibitions is very expensive, so the organisers consider the space allocation versus potential return on sales/ commission, thus there is only so much room available for large paintings. Again, this can make it more competitive. 

Jurors are considering a few different aspects and they usually have to consider what might sell as well as what makes a balanced and impressive exhibition, Look at a catalogue and see the range of sizes as well as different media. 

A plant with a story is always interesting and it should be representative of your interests and style as an artist too. Ultimately you want people to recognise your style and to notice your work. Style can be found in subject choices, in your composition or techniques. Take time to look at other artists whose work is instantly recognisable and ask yourself why. Often to get yourself noticed you need a body of work, which is why I recommend developing a portfolio as part of this course and beyond but recognise too that it can take a long time to develop your own style, so don't worry too much but do always look for projects that fire your imagination.


Preparing Artwork for Submission

Lighting, photographing, scanning and editing  

One of the main reasons for being rejected from any submission is actually the quality of a digital image, these days most initial submissions are digital so do pay attention to the quality of the image.

Capturing a good quality image 

First of all you need a high quality scan or photograph of your artwork. It must be in focus and have a clean background and be large enough to see detail. Sometimes a scan doesn't pick up very delicate graphite well to a photograph is too dark, so good even lighting is all important. Using a professional service is always the best option but its not always practical or affordable. 



Today we are very fortunate with a range of fairly low-cost technology to capture out images. Even some smart phone take Raw images now and have high megapixel cameras, the new iPhone has a 42 megapixel camera. But no camera will take a good photograph if the light is bad and the camera needs to be on a tripod or fixed in some way to prevent camera shake. A good entry level camera is another option but an additional cost, such as the Canon EOS M10.


Quick scan using iPhone Notes feature

Surprisingly some people actually use the Notes app on their phone which has a scanner option - this creates a white background, but I can't vouch for the image quality or colour but its surprisingly clean. Go to notes on an iPhone. open new, choose the photo icon, then scan document, hold over the image and it will capture it. 



Home scanners that are affordable are mostly only up to A4 in size, which is too small but software can allow stitching of images, for me that's just a step too far. I use a Epson Perfection V550 photo scanner and its pretty good, sometimes results are not good and other times there are great but for larger works I photograph them. Scan at an absolute minimum of 300 dpi.



Lighting is so important, I've tried all sorts and most recently settled on the use a photo light tent, this is the type of box used for product photography, such as those made by Neewer, who make a large range of photographic equipment. The artwork is placed inside the box and there is an opening at the top for the camera, (use the top not the front opening) it has two led light rails inside, so lighting is pretty even. Whatever you use the the lighting needs to be white, daylight lamps around 5,500K with a CRI (colour render index) ideally over 85. Other lights that can be used are Soft Box lamps and ring lamps and ring lamps. 


Your image needs to meet the quality and size specifications, you will need a decent photograph or image this image may need cleaning up to make it closer to the appearance actual image with a clean background. Make sure that you know what these specifications are and use the right software or apps to size and edit the image. There are many online sites for image sizing. I use Photoshop to edit but there are other options, such as Snapseed and Adobe Express others, I will add links.  

DO NOT over clean your image or be tempted to up the contrast or other features that make it noticeable different to the original. All images submitted digitally will need to be presented in real life, so if the image looks very different it is likely to be rejected at the final stage. 


Consider prices carefully 

Are you taking everything into account?  

There can be a lot of expenses in exhibiting and while its nice to sell work there needs to be a balance between what's a reasonable price for the work and you also need to make some money in order to make your business sustainable. Costs include: materials, your time (always a difficult one), entry cost, submission cost, framing if required, delivery and collection, insurance, commission, VAT, tax....all need to be considered, so you ned to think about how this exhibition will benefit you because chances are, very little money will be made. 


Be consistent with pricing

Look at what the organising body are doing for you too, will your work be published in a catalogue 

Check the document on professional development 

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