Well what a year it has been. Little did we know in early March just one year after the launch of ABBA, that the next nine months would see the world change, probably forever. It has seemed a little surreal but as a primarily online botanical art group, ABBA has thrived which might have something to do with long periods locked up in our homes with less of the hustle and bustle we normally have to deal with.
In this newsletter we thought it would be a nice touch to just run over what has been achieved this year for a small association. We hope you have a few moments to read the following post so grab something warm or cool, depending on which part of the world you live and catch up with what has happened with ABBA this year.
Believe it or not ABBA is still only twenty months "young" but our membership numbers have grown spectacularly. Given that the initial ABBA membership comprised the 40 odd artists who had exhibited at the World Wide Day of Botanical Art in May 2018 membership now is in the hundreds and distributed across 27 countries. Giving free membership for a year as a gift to botanical artists certainly helped but since that initial gesture finished in May our numbers continue to grow at a rate of one a week. We also decided in these tough financial times, to drop the membership from £45 per year to £25 and this will not change for 2021. Membership runs for a full 12 months regardless of the time of year you join so if you are thinking of joining ABBA we would love to hear from you.
We are now reaching the stage where we are going to need some more help and even though we have a great "backend" so to speak there is always room for help, particularly with some of the proposed initiatives we are thinking about for next year. If you are a member, supporter or just an observer and would like to get involved with a very friendly team, we would love to hear from you so just drop us a line via email at email@example.com .
Communicating with You
You may not be aware but what you are reading now is our newsletter, our main means of communication with our members and supporters as well as the front of our website. With every blog we try to bring something a little bit different to our readers as shown with our recent conversation about the definition of the terms botanical art and botanical illustration that was deliberately aligned with our current members exhibition, Purely Botanical? So far this year we have posted sixteen articles that varied from tips on starting botanical art as a beginner to our recent in-depth articles on a definition of terms. We are always looking for new material so if you would like to contribute or you have a suggestion for a single or series of articles, then please drop us a line. Look out for a series on vellum early in the new year.
Our other means of communication is by direct personalised email to our members for special events of for invitations that are relevant only to our members. For example, calls to submit work to our exhibitions. Our other means of communicating with our members, supporters and followers is via social media which reaches a wider audience.
Farewell & Hello
This year also saw our Founding President Gaynor Dickeson and our Founding Secretary Robin Dickeson both retire from active engagement with ABBA to start a new life in Norway. Gaynor and Robin were both instrumental in developing the concept of ABBA as a botanical art society for every one, every where and every ability. If you would like to find out a little more about Gaynor and Robin go to our blogpost "Tusen Takk". We wish them all the best with their new adventure and we are sure a new Scandinavian branch of ABBA will prosper and we are looking forward to seeing entries of the Norwegian flora from Gaynor in our future exhibitions.
Another retiree from the ABBA Team was Anne Girling, our Champions Coordinator who has been with us from the beginning in 2019. Anne played a key role in developing the model for our Champions and we have taken this to the next level with our online Zoom series as described below. Thank you Anne for your thoughtful input and above all your valuable time. We wish you well for the future.
Our current President Elaine Allison has seamlessly taken up the reins and has overseen both the spectacular growth of the ABBA membership and the expansion of the ABBA Team. Elaine is really looking forward to 2021 and it has been a struggle to hold her back from spouting about the exciting new initiatives planned for the coming year.
ABBA & Social Media
A major advance this year has been the formation of our Social Media Team hosted by Marie Batters, Emma Van Klaveren-Finlay and Martin Allen. Although we did have a Facebook page it was used primarily to promote the regular blog on the website and not as a showcase in its own right. Marie, Emma and Martin kindly agreed to take on the task of promoting ABBA to the world by the social media channels of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and from the outset the success of these channels has been a nice surprise. ABBA now has over 2800 Facebook and 1136 Instagram followers after just six months. As Emma, Marie and Martin report:
"As we started the year Emma and Martin were spreading the word via Facebook and Twitter, sharing useful links to events, not only held by ABBA, but throughout the Botanical art community.
In June, Marie joined the team and we added Instagram to our social media portfolio, enabling us to share more of our members' artworks across the various platforms.
Emma also launched a series on our Facebook page, discussing the different tools artists may find useful.
We're really excited to be able to share your artwork with a wider audience, from exhibition highlights of our 'Purely Botanical?' exhibition to monthly features, such as 'Plant of the Month' which we launched in August, and our new rolling seasonal Facebook banner, launched in November.
As we start to plan for next year, we are looking forward to not only sharing more of your amazing artworks, but we also have lots of ideas for future content that we hope you will enjoy.
Emma, Martin and Marie,
Your ABBA Social Media Team
A new initiative in 2020 is our card competition where the winners are decided by our members. For 2020 Susan Gubbay, Sandra Doyle and Anne Girling were the winning artists and each was offered the prize of 50 printed cards. We hope to run this again in 2021 so look out for this around the middle of 2021.
Since it has been such a challenging year, particularly with respect to social distancing, we have decided that we would have to change the role of our ABBA Champions. Originally proposed as regional ABBA representatives the idea was Champions would organise local events supported by ABBA. This idea was not going to work under the present circumstances so two of our members came up with an idea of running a series of online sessions with a limited number of participants. Designed to make it more personal, a bit like a "paint & prattle", Annie Morris and Pam Taylor volunteered to run a trial online Zoom session "A Countryside Sketchbook". Oversubscribed within 24 hours the first online session was a great success with participants from around the world regardless of the local time.
Annie and Pam could be considered the Thelma and Louise of botanical art since they form such a great combination. Annie moderates the sessions and talks about painting in watercolour while Pam displays her great knowledge of the natural world. Since these sessions are limited to groups of 12 it really does mimic a small gathering of like minded individuals who just enjoy chatting about botanical art.
Such was the popularity of these sessions Annie and Pam agreed to run two more sessions, Autumn Fruits and Seeds and "The Fascinating World of Leaves" all booked out within 48 hours.
We will be running some more of these events in the new year so look out for these over the next few months - but you will have to be quick to grab a place.
Talking With You
One key feature of ABBA is seeking feedback from our members so that we make sure we are providing what our members want in a botanical art association. In January this year we held our second survey seeking feedback on a number of issues. If you missed out on the survey then a summary of the results were published here.
One of the new suggestions was a means whereby artists could sell their work online. As it turns out our website has an e-commerce module but we would require support to develop and manage this initiative as it could involve some commitment. If anybody is interested then please contact us and we can see what an online shop would involve.
2020 has seen an explosive growth in the number of entries for our online exhibitions. Given that ABBA has only been in existence for a very short period we have already held five exhibitions. It all started with "In Ruskins Footsteps" for the World Wide Day of Botanical Art in May 2018 followed by "Our Local Talent " then "Our Founding Artists", "Our Winter Warmer" and our main exhibition for 2020, "Purely Botanical?" In total we have exhibited over 200 pieces of artwork from our members with our current exhibition overscribed to the extent that we had to ask the artists for their first and second preference if they submitted more than one piece. Purely Botanical? also broke some new ground by including a number of different mediums, digital and 3D together with fungi and algae that are not normally classified as botanical art. Hence the question mark at the end of Purely Botanical? What does define botanical art or botanical illustration?
One key guiding ABBA principal is that the association is formed for artists of every ability so we guarantee that regardless of what level you are on your botanical art journey you will have at least one piece of artwork displayed in any exhibition we curate.
If you have not visited all our exhibitions then get your glasses on, put it on a big screen and enjoy all five in our online gallery.
Our "conversation" about the definition of terms botanical art and botanical illustration sparked a lot of interest that was kicked off by by a simple definition of terms which was then followed up by the Purely Botanical? exhibition and then a live webinar with Martin Allen. Attended by over 60 members, whose viewing time zones ranged from 5am in the morning until 10pm at night, Martin put forward the arguments for and against using the traditional definition of the term botanical art using artwork from the exhibition as examples. Martin then graciously agreed to put his talk into words and this blog was published early this month.
If you missed Martin's talk and would like to see it then the webinar is available on our YouTube Channel. If there is enough interest for further live webinars then let us know and we will see what we can do.
ABBA YouTube Channel
Yes ABBA has their own YouTube Channel that we will use to add short videos on topics we think maybe of interest to our members and supporters. Our first two videos are part of a series demonstrating some simple botany Three B's. Episode 1 - Simple Flowers and Three B's - Episode 2 - Complex Flowers both accompanied by blogs. There is a third botanically themed video in the pipeline just waiting to be edited.
You can subscribe to our channel so you will be notified of any new videos as they are posted and if you would like to see a short educational botanical art topic then please let us know. Or, if you would like to volunteer to produce one we would be very happy to help in any way we can.
The key for 2021 is building on the fabulous year that was 2020 so that all our members and supporters can get as much from the association as they wish. We know there will be a follow-up exhibition Purely Botanical II? early in the new year that will incorporate the remaining artwork from the current exhibition and we are currently planning on a major exhibition around October - November 2021. We think this will be an exciting challenge for our members so look out for details in the new year. There will be plenty of notice so as long as your creation takes no more than 6 months to compose and execute then you should have plenty of time.
We are also looking at some small exhibitions that will be themed around some topics that are yet to be determined and don't forget the card competition.
In addition to our online exhibitions there will be more webinars and short videos and if we can get some more help the possibility of starting an online gallery for sales of our members artwork.
When we were putting pen to paper so to speak, we think we have, in a quiet way, achieved a lot and it is all thanks to our members and our supporters. So a big thank you from the ABBA Team and we look forward to a healthy and hopefully a little more normal, 2021. Things however will never be the same and if ABBA can help with a little ray of sunshine every now and again, that would be fantastic.
So thank you again for your invaluable support in 2020 and we look forward to a long and enjoyable association and we wish you a happy festive season and a peaceful 2021.
The ABBA Team
If you have any questions about the year or any other queries then please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.