By Heeyoung Kim
Heeyoung Kim, a botanical artist from Illinois, has been awarded a gold medal from the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) at the 2012 RHS Botanical Art Exhibition in London.
Twenty-five botanical artists from six countries (Australia, England, Japan, Scotland, Turkey, and USA) were selected by the RHS exhibition committee. Artwork is judged as a group of drawings or paintings making up a complete exhibit. If one or two works in a group are of a lower standard than the others, this affects the way the entire exhibit is judged. Particular credit is given for botanical accuracy, exact color reproduction and attention to detail. Higher awards tend to be given to exhibits illustrating a particular theme or plant family. Gold medals are awarded only to exhibits of outstanding and consistent excellence. Seven gold medals were awarded this year.
Heeyoung’s collection of paintings focused on the common, rare and endangered plants of the American prairie. Since the late 1800s, the fertile tallgrass prairie has been converted into an intensive crop producing area. This region of the US is called America’s “breadbasket” or “corn belt”. What was once the largest ecosystem of the American continent with a biodiversity rivaling the richest rainforests, has yielded to commercial agriculture leaving its flora and fauna in peril. Heeyoung is devoted to documenting these rapidly disappearing plants. She draws public attention to this environmental issue by exhibiting her paintings both locally and internationally.
In this year’s RHS show, Heeyoung exhibited six watercolor paintings and two mixed media paintings featuring watercolor and graphite. Each were drawn and color recorded in situ and finished in the studio after extensive research and observation. Sometimes it took years to follow up on the full life cycles of a plant. Other times it took years of waiting for rare plants to grow and to bloom. Heeyoung says, “It was a great joy to be able to paint the unearthly beauty of Fringed Gentian (Gentianopsis crinita) and the two iconic yellow flowers of the prairie, Prairie Dock (Silphium terebinthinaceum) and Compass Plant (Silphium laciniatum).”
This was the reaction visitors had to Heeyoung’s paintings at the RHS show. Visitors understood what a gold medal represented and repeatedly expressed enthusiasm and appreciation for the story Heeyoung was telling and how she told it through her paintings. For two full days, Lindley Hall was filled with the joy and the excitement of botanical artists, art lovers and plant lovers in attendance.
Heeyoung says the RHS exhibition was a great learning experience through which she gained confidence as a professional botanical artist.
Heeyoung teaches botanical art in the Chicago area at Noyes Cultural Arts Center, in Evanston, Illinois. Eager to be involved in any kind of activity involving plants and art, whether it be speaking with other artists and plant enthusiasts, sharing her work with garden clubs, or conducting technique demonstrations to art groups, Heeyoung believes showing her artwork and sharing her enthusiasm in every possible way helps make people more aware of the current crisis facing native plants.
View Heeyoung’s paintings of America’s prairie plants at www.PrairiePlantArt.com.