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Best with passion for botanical art

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Margaret Best measuring a pandanus (screw palm) for a botanical drawing (Photograph supplied)

There are artists who like to go with the flow, painting whatever they feel.

Margaret Best is not one of them.

She has always loved drawing, but precisely. Plants are her speciality. Every leaf and shoot, even the fur on the leaves and stems are in her pictures.

In 1999 she went to a botanical art exhibit in England and was blown away,

“I was always more drawn to realism,” said the South African, who has lived in Canada for nearly 40 years.

“When I saw that exhibition I was delighted to know I shared this compulsion to capture detail with somebody else — the artist whose work was exhibited. When I spoke to her personally I discovered there was this whole movement of artists around the world that do this too. It was comforting to know that I was not that crazy after all.”

She began teaching the art form worldwide. For the past seven years, she’s come here twice a year to coach at the Bermuda Society of Arts.

She’s also helping to arrange Bermuda’s participation in a worldwide exhibition of native botanical art that takes place next year.

More than 19 countries are expected to take part.

Ms Best describes botanical art as “meditative, calming and soothing”, but admits it has its challenges. Some plants last a long time in water; others flop as soon as you pick them. Some are plain ornery.

“Working from a photograph is a big no-no,” she said. “It’s always better to work from real life.”

Out of the hundreds of plants she has drawn she’s most proud of her pandanus, also called screw palm or screw pine, because of the difficulty involved.

She spotted the plant in Palm Grove Gardens in Devonshire. The fruit has a habit of exploding when you least expect it and she had to wear gloves to get anywhere near it. Its pineapple-like shape is also awkward to draw.

“It’s not native to Bermuda but I thought that was probably the closest I would get to it, so I might as well draw it.

“It is covered in long, fine prickles. You have to watch yourself around it. I drew it over the course of two visits to the island. One year I did the fruit and the next time the tree.”

Ms Best will participate in the Botanical Art Worldwide from Canada next year. The exhibit is organised by the American Society of Botanical Artists.

“I’ve been a member since 2001,” Ms Best said. “I was one of its earliest members. The rules are you have to have some relationship with the country whose plants you’re drawing.”

Images of native botanical art will be beamed back and forth between the exhibitions around the world, so that everyone can enjoy them.

Margaret Best's picture of a pandanus (screw palm) (Photograph supplied)
South African botanical artist Margaret Best (File photo)