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By Peter Stevenson MEMBERS of Volunteer Doctors Cyprus have treated around 350 people at their free clinic in Nicosia since it opened three months ago, while two more, one in Paphos and one in Polis are due to open today. Limassol also has a free clinic, which was opened only last month, and plans have been drawn ...
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SOME 10 days ago, foreign minister Ioannis Kasoulides raised expectations by announcing the possibility of a deal with Turkey for the opening of the fenced off area of Famagusta, for the return of its inhabitants. In exchange the Cyprus government would agree to the opening of Tymbou airport to direct flights. ...
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By George Psyllides PRIVATE auditors have expressed doubt the electricity authority (EAC) could be considered a going concern and have asked its board to draft a credible plan to tackle the problem, according to the auditor-general’s 2012 report on the semi-state company. Among other issues, ...
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Cyprus Internet Directory [ Interview by Jill Campbell Mackay ]

Interview by Jill Campbell Mackay

Blossoming in Tala

The intricate drawings of plants that appear everywhere from wallpaper to text books can take months of careful observation to complete. A master of this patient art now resides in Paphos

For centuries botany was the only science considered acceptable for the fairer sex to study, and it was women who went on to pioneer and excel in the art of botanical illustration. During Victorian times ladies were encouraged to develop such artistic interpretations of the indigenous flora and fauna of the land, although at a time when even the legs of a piano were considered provocative there were certain ‘no go’ areas when it came to the type of plants deemed suitable for them to study and illustrate.

Orchids were considered way too risqu? for the eyes and minds of ladies, and any lusty ferns had to be collected during the cover of darkness to ensure young ladies were oblivious to the active sexual organs this plant displayed during daylight hours.
Painters and illustrators have always been drawn to plants as much for their beauty as their utility, and this precise art form can be both educational and beautiful, capturing the relationship of the bud, flower, leaf, stem, seed capsule, root and bulb, everything in fact to do with the composition of the plant.

This is Helen Greenop’s world, one in which she has perfected as a professional botanical artist; an art form that requires great skill and attention to detail, coupled with a huge amount of technical botanical knowledge.

Over the past 20 years her considerable talents have been employed by both mainstream commercial and educational establishments although these days she prefers to concentrate on life figure drawing.

“From being a very young child I have always drawn. Even then I drew flowers and plants, then I completed my basic art foundation course in Carlisle and went on to the Chelsea School of Art, where I did a textile degree”. This involved working with plants as key design elements, setting off an interest in flora. “I also worked for some of the major fabric and interior design houses in London, designing everything from curtains to wallpaper and again the bulk of the designs were of fruit and flowers. So, I was being drawn into to it, so to speak,” she says from her Paphos home.

She was then selected as a volunteer with an expedition from Oxford University to study the rain forests of Dominica. The trip of a lifetime, it changed her from being scared of moths to being able to handle vampire bats along with a selection of deeply unattractive creepy crawlies.

“I survived this four-month adventure, even after being bitten on the arm by a Portuguese man of war which rendered me almost paralysed and in great pain.

Afterwards my botanical illustrations were included in a book on the illustrated flora and fauna of Dominica. With that experience under my belt, I applied to do a masters degree in Natural History Illustration at the Royal College of Art.” She then won the Daler Rowney drawing award, before working as a lecturer in drawing and design, and then freelancing for the Natural History Museum and the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew.

Leafing (sorry) through Helen’s portfolio it’s clear she is not only very talented but also resilient, with a steely commitment to work. Samples of her talent include delectable illustrations for Marks and Spencer gifts, product packaging, illustrations for calendars, stationery, tableware and books commissioned by the likes of Laura Ashley, Liberty, John Lewis and a luscious collection of wallpapers and fabric designs for the prestigious Designers Guild. Page after page reveals images of almost edible juicy fruits, finely drawn herbs and colourful exotic spices.

But how long do these intricate drawings take to complete? “Sometimes it can take a few hours or days, but often you have to follow a plant through its entire life period which means you have to wait until the leaf develops, then the flower and seeds so it can take months, even a year, to complete a full study of a specific species.”

Hanging on Helen’s walls are a selection of original pieces ready to go for exhibition. Among these are paintings of cherries and a perfectly formed study of a pine cone, offering a clean contrast between the meticulous and her broad handed charcoal figure study drawings. This is an artist who not only knows her way around the physical workings of a tiger lily, but also those of the human form.

Botanical illustration is very much ‘living’ art but it can so easily, in the hands of an amateur, be translated via pen brush and watercolour into just a deceased image of a once beautiful, living thing. Helen however, not only manages to create life from such static images, she positively imbues her botany with a true sense of liveliness.

(Source: Cyprus Mail)
Copyright © Cyprus Mail 2008 Please contact Cyprus Mail for the copyright terms of this article.

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