Işık Güner

THE INSIGHTS OF A BOTANICAL ARTIST

Born 1983, Ankara, Turkey.

I originally graduated in Environmental Engineering, but instead of this I chose this entirely different path for my life and have been working full time as a botanical artist for over 10 years. I am very glad I made this decision, though as the child of a botanist father and growing up surrounded by wild nature made my decision easy.

I can confirm that being a botanical artist is very exciting, fascinating and engaging, as well as challenging. To develop such skills requires constant and dedicated practice, followed by more and more practice to hone my techniques. This I have done and am still doing. One of the most fascinating aspects of the work with plants is that each and every plant is different, so in effect this makes you start all over again with every different species.

For every painting I do, I might need to develop a new technique to apply just for that particular subject, prepare a new mix of pigments to match the colour of a plant you have never seen before or figure out how to apply the texture accurately. Each plant require a different approach, and this makes me feel, I will never get bored with this work, it is truly endless and delightfully easy to get lost inside within the intricate details of nature.

HOW MY LIFE EVOLVES

My early exploration in the botanical world started with some of the bulbous plants of Turkey, such as, Iris, Fritillaria, Colchicum and Crocus. During these early times I have started to explore watercolour and develop my drawing skills, but much more important was, I was having so much fun!

So to carry this joy and my skills further I looked for inspiration and I found at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. I first visited this amazing garden in my early 20s and since then I have never stopped visiting! I remember one time, when I was just practising on watercolour, a man came into the room and threw a flower on my desk, and asked “Would you like to paint this?” The flower was Lapageria rosea, the national flower of Chile, and the man was Martin Gardner. He trusted this young artist and gave her a very exciting opportunity to really develop her skills and to be part of one of the biggest projects and commitments of her artistic career to date – 'The Plants from the Woods and Forests of Chile'. This first painting was one of thirty-nine illustrations I prepared for this book and now after eight years of hard work, we have achieved the completion of a truly extraordinary and fascinating book that reveals (at least a part of) an amazing flora! The project was in effect my graduation in botanical illustration.

During the life of the project my life has changed significantly and I have started to live with a giant portfolio, a suitcase full of only my art materials, and my camera. Then a journey starts with endless travelling. All this time, I was going on and on again between Scotland, Turkey and Chile, and it was not easy to have a proper schedule of all these journeys, because they were entirely depends on the flowering times of the species that I was going to work. So quite a bit of time, I was using emergency exit of the country to catch the flowers on time!

During these great years in Edinburgh, when I was developing my skills, improving my technique and learning a lot about botany, some other wonderful opportunities were coming to my way. In 2010 my paintings were selected by the Royal Horticultural Society ‘Botanical Art Exhibition’, and this was very exciting! I don’t remember exactly how old I was, but I was very young when I first visited RHS exhibitions in London. Since then I have had an interest in art, in botany and in science. The exhibitions blew my mind, they inspired and I looked wide-eyed at every painting. Even so I wasn’t planning to be a botanical artist, after all I was going to be an engineer! But then there I was after all those years, ready to exhibit my own work at the same exhibition. I also exhibited in 2014 and in both exhibitions, managed to win not only a coveted gold medal, but also ‘Best in Show’ awards for my paintings of ‘Araucaria araucana’ (2010) and ‘Gunnera tinctoria’ (2014). I have also exhibited at the Royal Caledonian Horticultural Society (BISCOT) several times and was twice awarded with the prestigious ‘Mary Mendum Medal’.

WATERCOLOR FOREVER

When I am working on my illustrations I use watercolour as medium. For me it is the one and only choice. I love the delicacy and transparency of the colours, which is perfect for creating lifelike nature illustrations. I started my art with this medium and I don’t think I will never give it up. Perhaps I am a little too conservative about this, not to even try something else, but for me watercolour is just so perfect for my work. I often use W&N Artist’ Value, I love those pigments. In my paint box I do have a number of different pigments, including favourites I know well such as Green Gold and French Ultramarine (and although it the latter has some unwanted texture in it, we are getting on very well lately. ) And I know very well how they will react with each other, how they will move on the paper, how they will change colour when I gently put more layers of colour on top.

NOW

Since 2006, I am moving constantly. I have lived in Barcelona, in Istanbul while I am working in Edinburgh. I had workshops in many different countries. I have travelled from one place to another, chasing after plants. I was a nomad for 3 years of my life. I did try to fly from Chile to China on those times. Finally after these three years, I have chosen my base and settled in one of the most amazing locations on earth. Fırtına Valley, north east of Turkey, where the mountains are. Now, I am living in a little cabin where I call ‘studio’ in the middle of nature, on top of a mountain, and I am painting as much as I can.

Exhibitions

2017 SZBG, Shenzhen – 19th International Botanical Congress
2017 SHBG, Shanghai – International Flower Exhibition
2017 Blok Art Space, İstanbul – On Botany
2017 Benmore Botanic Garden – Flora of Nepal Exhibition
2016 Kathmandu – Flora of Nepal Exhibition
2016 RBGE, Edinburgh – Flora of Nepal Exhibition
2015 RBGE, Edinburgh – Plants of The World Exhibition
2014 ITU RSG, Istanbul – First solo exhibition
2014 RHS, London – Awarded with a “Gold Medal” and “Best Painting of the Show” for Gunnera tinctoria
2013 BISCOT, Edinburgh – Awarded with a “Gold Medal” and “Mary Mendum Medal” (may not be awarded every year)
2011 BISCOT, Edinburgh – Awarded with a “Gold Medal” and “Mary Mendum Medal” (may not be awarded every year), also “Best Painting of the Show” for Araucaria araucana
2010 RHS, London – Awarded with a “Gold Medal” and “Best Painting of the Show” for Araucaria araucana
2009 BISCOT, Edinburgh – Awarded with a “Silver Medal”

Other publications

2016, L’Orchidophile, Artiste voyageuse engagé
2015, Curtis’s Botanical Magazine, Volume 32, Part 2, June Discocalyx dissecta 
2013, Curtis’s Botanical Magazine, Volume 30, Part 2, July Gundelia tournefortii 
2012, Thai Forest Bulletin, No.40, November, Sombrania albiflora 
2010, Royal Horticultural Society, Rhododendrons, Camellias and Magnolias, Current Taxonomy- A new species: Rhododendron trancongii (Ericaceae)
2007, Willdenowia, new species of Ferulago (Apiaceae)
2007, February The Magazine, Bagbahce
2006, February The Magazine, Bagbahce
2005, October The Magazine, Bagbahce
Line drawings for the revision of Vaccinium (Ericaceae), Philippines
Line drawings for the revision of Seseli L. (Umbellifereae), Turkey

Her first book, for children was published jointly with other three authors in 2006 and titled ‘Bitkileri Taniyalim’; to learn about plants. It is published by the NGBB.