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Try topiary today!

| August 25, 2016 | 0 Comments

Well-known surrealist British artist, Richard Saunders, has taken to the gentle art of topiary to honour the memory of his beloved Russian Blue cat, Tolly.

Topiary is the art of training plants (typically evergreen shrubs and trees) into intricate or stylised shapes and forms. There’s another twist to this topiary tale. Saunders hasn’t gone about the English countryside trimming trees. Instead, he gives Tolly a green coat, enlarges him and inserts him digitally into rustic settings.

The first digital topiary Tolly was based on a photograph Saunders had taken of Hall Barn, in Beaconsfield in the UK. Tolly’s giant green likeness was “comped in”. It didn’t take long for the picture to go viral, getting 325 million views on Facebook. Says Saunders, he had to explain that the images were not actually real, but were in fact his expert digital renderings.

Now Tolly is everywhere, thanks to the many photographs Saunders took of him during the cat’s long life. The enormous green feline can be seen drinking from a lake at Painshill Park in Surrey, on the wall at the postern gate at Hertford Castle, asleep on the beach at Cudmore Grove in Essex and visiting his master’s garden in the countryside of Hertfordshire.

Saunders uses many digital techniques, such as creating “displacement maps” with Photoshop where reflections in water are required.

Perhaps your school has one or more shrubs that could become topiary friends for your students? Maybe the art department could collaborate with the school’s gardening team to create a permanent exhibition? Visitors may be delighted to see mythical creatures, endangered species or fauna endemic to your region or that your pupils may be studying dotted around the campus. Then, get your students to go digital with the topiaries.

Category: Spring 2016

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