Botanical Artist Katy Bennett & Our Winter Fragrance Grand Fir & Eucalyptus
We talk to botanical artist Katy Bennett about how art has transformed her life, and the intricacies involved in capturing nature’s dazzling details.
Currently studying with the Society of Botanical Artists, she stepped away from her career as a technology company director to focus on her passion for art. Like so many busy working mums, it was hard to find time to focus on her own interests. It took a milestone birthday, moving from London to the Surrey countryside, the birth of her third boy and a global pandemic, to realign her priorities follow her dream of doing what she loves.
Botanical art combines scientific accuracy and creative interpretation, which suits Katy’s technical brain, obsession with detail and eye for design. She is quickly gaining a reputation for beautiful realism in her commercial illustration and private commissions.
She creates colourful and unique illustrations for a variety of clients, using multi-media to bring her botanical creations to life. Here she gives us a peek into her life and artistry…
How did you come to switch from technology boss to artist?
I’ve loved drawing and painting since I was tiny, but didn’t pursue it beyond Art A’ Level. Things took off with a London tech sales career, then children came along, so there wasn’t much time for my hobby. When we got pregnant with son number three, I knew I wanted to rebalance my career with my family life, plus I’d been feeling an undeniable, growing urge to reconnect with my creative side. It felt like now or never and I didn't want to hit retirement and wish I'd taken the plunge earlier, so I took a year after the birth to pick up my art again.
I decided to focus on watercolour first, because my dad is a big collector of Victorian watercolours and I’ve grown up with the glowing colours and sense of light. My grandmother loved her portable watercolour set on her many travels around the world. I’m self-taught, from a lot of books, videos… and practice.
What attracted you to botanical illustration in particular?
I realised I was mostly drawn to nature subjects that held meaning for my family –
conkers, bees, tomatoes, roses, daisies. My style has always been detailed and accurate, tending towards obsessive, so it occurred to me that Nature's macro intricacies could be a sweet-spot for me. I feel really peaceful when I am studying plant subjects. They are endlessly fascinating – and sit still longer than people!
It turns out that botanical art is having a massive renaissance, probably due to the “eco” zeitgeist. Even more so since the Pandemic when we all fell back in love with the outdoors and nurturing gardens and houseplants.
I discovered that there is a dedicated global artists’ group, highly respected and based in the UK, called the Society of Botanical Artists. They offer a challenging 2.5-year diploma which teaches the many conventions of botanical art, from how to dissect and label a subject, to composition and colour-matching. It is entirely distance-based, which fits with my home life. I hope to graduate Spring 2022. I’m loving the rigorous learning journey of the assignments, which complement my private work and commissions.
How would you describe your artistic style?
I am a realism artist, depicting what I see with great accuracy and detail. My design flair comes with strong lighting to demonstrate form, plus I like clean, modern compositions which focus on my subjects. I love strong colours and a touch of drama!Take us through your creative process
The amazing thing about botanical art is that you are continuously inspired, often in little everyday moments such as my boys finding a beautiful autumnal “rainbow” leaf walking to school. I try things out in my sketchbook and spend time studying and researching a subject, then work on colour mixes and composition.
When I’m fully prepped, the actual painting process is…. slow! My watercolours usually take many, many hours of building up thin, transparent layers of paint to build up tonal form and glowing colour. I add detail with a tiny brush and check the finish with a magnifier.
Do you have any new projects you’re working on at the moment you can share with us?
I have a couple of Christmas projects in hand, and I am also working on a series of gorgeous private commissions – plant portraits matched to personalities. These are great fun! Alongside these I have some big projects which are taking many months.
What’s your favourite fragrance from nature?
In my garden I love roses, lavender and sweet peas. In my home, it depends on the season, but I love classic vanilla, fig, citrus, and the smell of a real Christmas tree.
As the season starts to change, what would you say is your favourite thing about winter?
Oh, so many things! I can’t wait for all the ritual milestones of the season, which my boys are already taking about – bonfire night, choosing the tree, carol singing, huge roast dinners. My friends and I always have a wreath-making party with mulled wine, using foliage we collect from local woods. One thing that takes me right back to wintry childhoods and which I missed in London – the smell of woodsmoke, at dusk, coming home from school to a lovely warm house.
More about Katy and the beauty of botanical art…
If you would like to find out more, follow Katy on Instagram @katybennett.art or visit her new website wwwkatybennett.art
Experience our collaboration with Katy, the limited-edition Grand Fir & Eucalyptus candle featuring a bespoke illustration by the artist herself