Saturday, 21 June 2014

Introducing Coco...

Here she is in all of her glory! Who would have thought she could produce something so delicious?

So the time has come for me to get on with my botanical illustration piece for the Chelsea Physic Garden Florilegium Society. Every year, members and fellows of the Florilegium have to gift the Society/Garden with at least one painting of a plant from the Physic Garden. Over the decades of the society's existence, I think artists were generally allowed to pick what they wanted to paint from the garden, just as long as it hadn't been done before or wasn't in the process of being done, but this year, with the opening of the Garden of Medicinal Plants the Society has decided to focus on getting as many of the ethnobotanical plants documented as possible. This of course is joy to my ears, as economically useful plants are my favourite ones to paint. To me they have more personality and meaning.

Studying Coco in the Tropical Corridor at the Chelsea Physic Garden

After completing The Green Giant, I wanted to paint two other pieces to sit alongside it - a tea bush and a chocolate tree to make a triptych. So with this in mind I wondered if anyone had painted the chocolate tree at Chelsea Physic Garden and luckily no one had, so I put my name down pretty pronto!  I thought I could either hit two birds with one stone, or that the Chelsea piece would act as good preparation work.
Studying Coco in the Tropical Corridor at the Chelsea Physic Garden
There have been a number of times over my life when I have wanted to paint the chocolate tree. I have often tried to get up close to the one at Kew Gardens (and I still might use this tree for my triptych so it matches the coffee better) but the one at Kew is right at the back of the glasshouse and hard to reach without getting told off for stepping on the other plants. I also tried to paint the large one at the Eden Project, but at the time my now ex boyfriend was too busy trying to steal a pod and needed me to form a distraction further down the path. There is a big tree at Chelsea too (which I actually didn't know about until recently) in the tropical corridor, but as the Florilegium Society has strict guidlines on the size of paper you can use (yes, have had to 'downsize') I realised pretty quickly that what I needed to paint was a sapling, which ironically enough is what Caroline is too. 
The early stages of Chelsea Chocolate
So here is Coco the Chocolate Tree. I am calling this one 'Chelsea Chocolate' and am already really enjoying tackling the leaves. I am determined to get my leaves as good as Rory's one day and the only way is to look very hard at them. I didn't really look at the coffee leaves very well when I painted Caroline, but this time around I am making more of an effort. I am not sure if it is becuase of all the amazing colours that are present in the leaves of chocolate plant or if it is becuase I am keen to please the judges at the society!

What is so remarkable about the chocolate plant is that the new leaves are such an amazing colour of red/pink, which then changes to a yellowy lime green, which in turn changes again to a dark green towards the bottom of the plant. It's a real challenge to get this right in the painting, and as I have again chosen to paint this specimen with sunlight shining through the leaves, I have managed to make this doubly hard to myself (as per usual). I am not sure how three dimensional this painting will end up looking with all the multiple sources of light, but as I had to paint it in situ, I have little choice in the matter. Some members of the Florilegium can take cuttings home, but it seemed such a shame to prune any part off of Coco, so I made the effort of coming to her instead. 

Second day working on Chelsea Chocolate - the small size of paper is really hard work on. Plus I decided to work on Fabriano Artistico which I am not used to, just to increase the trickiness of getting this piece bang on perfect for the Florilegium! Call me a nutter.

1 comment:

  1. Challenging!! But already it's looking good, Jess. The colours are great