On until mid-June at Edinburgh's Royal Botanic Garden is the exhibition Sylva, marking the 350th. anniversary of John Evelyn's book Sylva: A Discourse on Forest Trees, with artwork taken from the recently published The New Sylva: A Discourse of Forest and Orchard Trees for the Twenty-First Century by Gabriel Hemery and Sarah Simblet.
Sarah Simblet was commissioned to produce 200 drawings for the book, and the selection on display shows something of their range, accuracy and great beauty. "Nearly 50 species have been meticulously depicted, from mature trees [see the Cedar of Lebanon above] to small seedlings, with detailed studies of botanical parts. Associated animals, insects and woodland flowers of the surrounding ecosystem have also been included, as well as insights into the forestry process and the future of our forests."
Watch the short film to see Sarah Simblet at the RBGE discussing her work, while below is an extract from her notes on the drawings which explain her working methods:
"Live plants were always held in my left hand while I drew them with my right, so that I could directly translate my experience of their texture, weight, and balance, closely analyse their structure, watch their movement and perceive their scent. Drawn lines were made in response to all sensory experience, and touch is as important as sight.
Tree and landscape drawings were begun on site in pencil, usually in freezing temperatures, which slow muscle control in the hand, so lines are only gestural and pushed from the shoulder to establish a composition. Ink was applied later in the warmth of the studio, where the pencil drawing was gradually erased. ...
Every drawing was created with dilute Japanese ink on especially thick drawing cartridge paper, so that the surface could take the pressure of reworking and remain flat. Each one was built up in numerous layers. All lines, including the appearance of brushwork, were achieved with a single, steel-dip pen using both sides of the nib..."
Do go and see the finished pieces if you can.