Lucy T. Smith from Kew wins Flockton Award

Did you know that Botanical Art is flourishing the in the digital age? Although scientific botanical illustration pre dates the invention of cameras, today’s illustrators are increasingly using graphic tablets and inkjet printers to render their exquisite and accurate artwork.

While the technology might be changing fast - the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney’s 2017 Margaret Flockton Award Exhibition continues to honour this scrupulous art form and seek outstanding talent. This year they decided to open up the field even further by accepting digitally crafted images from far flung regions around the globe.

As it turns out - Australian-born Lucy T. Smith -  who made an outstanding analogue submission of a Papua New Guinean palm won top prize. Now Lucy is based in London as botanic illustrator London’s prestigious Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, but she cut her teeth documenting the flora and fauna of North Queensland.

Lucy’s career began in earnest in the 90s when she began illustrating plants growing in the Melaleuca woodlands for her Honours project at James Cook University. Lucy then freelanced as a zoological and botanical illustrator, producing paintings of palms and drawings of dugongs.

This year, it was Lucy’s analogue depiction of Calamus pintaudii, a new palm from Papua New Guinean palm which won her first place in the 2017 Margaret Flockton Award.

“Lucy’s illustration, a relatively unassuming work at first glance, is actually almost perfect in every facet,” said Botanical Illustrator at the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney and Flockton Award Judge Catherine Wardrop.

"Technically it has extraordinarily clear pen work, revealing the artist’s discipline and experience as she layers forms and features without congestion. It combines complete scientific accuracy with a wonderful winding composition that makes the most of a very complex and quite nasty thorny subject.”

Smith’s family members accepted her award on her behalf on Saturday 6 May when the Award Exhibition opened at the Maiden Theatre at Royal Botanic Garden Sydney,

“I am proud and honoured to receive this award today,” Ms Smith said.

“My big thanks must go first to the Maple-Brown family for generously sponsoring this award every year. The piece for which I have been awarded first prize, Calamus pintaudii, represents one of around 35 new species of climbing palm which I have illustrated for the Palms of New Guinea project. Instructed by Dr Bill Baker at Kew, it was a challenge to make a beautiful image from what was quite a scruffy herbarium specimen! In Bill’s words, we were getting to the end of the Calamus descriptions and thus into the “dregs” of the collection. 

“As we so often work from “challenging” herbarium material, us botanical illustrators are used to rising to such challenges and I was able to see beauty in this specimen’s curving rachillae, fibrous old ocrea and the always satisfying repetition of spines and flower bracts. I am glad that the judges agreed!”

Held in honour of Sydney’s first female botanical illustrator Margaret Flockton, the 14th annual Margaret Flockton Award’s FREE public exhibition is open now and runs through until 28 May 2017 at the Maiden Theatre, Royal Botanic Garden Sydney. Find out more here.

Exhibition details

  • Dates: Saturday 6 to Sunday 28 May 2017
  • Where: Maiden Theatre, Royal Botanic Garden Sydney
  • When: Open 10.00 am to 4.00 pm daily, in conjunction with the Botanica 2017 Exhibition
  • Cost: Free entry, selected works for sale direct from artists.